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Author: Dayanand Deswal दयानन्द देसवाल

Kayastha, also spelt as Kayasth and Kayesth (कायस्थ) is a caste or community in India, considered to be members of the scribe caste, and have traditionally acted as keepers of public records and accounts, writers, advisors and administrators of the ruling Hindu kings/ Muslim Nawabs.

Traditionally, Kayasthas have occupied the highest government offices, serving as ministers and advisors during early medieval Indian kingdoms and the Mughal Empire, and holding important administrative positions during the British Raj.

In modern times, Kayasthas have attained success in politics, as well as in the arts and various professional fields.

Short brief

After the Muslim conquest of India, Kayasthas mastered Persian, which became the official language of the Mughal courts. Some converted to Islam and formed the Muslim Kayasth community in northern India. Some surnames of such converts are Azmi, Kazmi and Naqvi.

One of the most notable Kayasthas of the Mughal period was Raja Todar Mal, Emperor Akbar's finance minister and one of the court's nine Navaratnas, who is credited with establishing the Mughal revenue system. He also translated the Bhagavata Purana from Sanskrit into Persian.

In Bengal, Kayasthas had been the dominant landholding caste prior to the Muslim conquest, and continued this role under Muslim rule. Indeed, Muslim rulers had from a very early time confirmed the Kayasthas in their ancient role as landholders and political intermediaries. Bengali Kayasthas served as governors, prime ministers and treasury officials under Mughal rule.

As a result of their exalted status amongst Muslim sultans, many Bengali Kayasthas became zamindars and jagirdars. According to Abul Fazl, most of the Hindu zamindars in Bengal were Kayasthas.

Prominent Kayasthas

Some common surnames among Hindu Kayasthas are: Mathur, Gaur, Saxena, Nigam, Karna, Surdhawaja, Kulshreshtha, Asthana, Ambastha, Bhatnagar, Sinha and Srivastava.

Among known Kayastha personalities are : Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, Jayaprakash Narayan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Prem Chand, Shatrughan Sinha, Mahadevi Verma, etc.

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