Havyaka Brahmins

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Havyakas are always cheerful, and never need lipstick.

Havyaka Brahmins are a sect of Brahmins mainly found in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala.


The Havyaka people originated in the second Kadamba dynasty (9th century), when the Brahmin King Mayuravarma brought them down from chilly Uttar Pradesh to join his kingdom, shine his crown, and process minor licence renewals. Havyakas are quick to tell anyone that "we were invited here." There is an inscribed stone at Sagara that has the R.S.V.P. While this migration explains the Havyakas' unusual skin color, it doesn't explain how they can pronounce the Dravidian retroflex L sound while North Indians can't. What explains the unusual tooth color (bright red) is the betel nut.


The Havyakas' language is Havigannada, a Tamil-ish, Malayalam-ish, Spanish-ish dialect of Kannada. The Havyakas are divided into three types, depending on whether they speak in the original accent, the Shimoga accent, or the Mangalore accent. The original accent is incomprehensible to the other two types. Those familiar with Halegannada (Old Kannada) would recognise some cognates, only no one is. Contributing to the confusion is that speakers of Havyaka Kannada address women using the neuter gender, as though they were coconuts. There is no offense meant, surely.

The best way to speak to someone who uses a different accent of Kannada is to strike up a conversation in German or Chinese. Maybe they studied it in school.

Away from the coast, Havyaka Kannada verbs have lost their future and even present tense. It takes complex phrasing to describe how things are, or are likely to become. However, Havyakas are pretty reliable at talking about how things used to be.

Written Havigannada is a Branch Dravidian language comprising a set of doodles that mostly look like sex organs. There are vowels, consonants, and doodles that don't go either way, with a few extras representing sounds no one makes any more. A typical letter is several doodles snuggling up to one another and represents a syllable, and that is as close as Havyakas come to being Korean.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Havyakas can be found in the Uttara Kannada, Shimoga and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka, as well as the Northern Kasaragodu district of Kerala — in short, wherever the betel nut grows, but doesn't grow very well.

Most Havyakas are found farming betel nuts for chewing (gutka) and evading prohibition in most places where they live. Some of them study hard for 40 years, then become chartered accountants, move to Bangalore, and sign annual financial reports. Some of them become politicians, and almost always contest from BJP, which is the only party that people in coastal Karnataka will vote for.

From Bangalore, it is only one hop to London (and two to New York City), two other places where you find a lot of Havyakas, though not on the ballot.


A sensible cook would strain this stuff out before serving the dish to the guest. The actual food is on the other table.

Havyakas are strict vegetarians, who not only eat vegetables but eat every part of the vegetable, including parts that are supposed to be cut away and thrown out. Visitors who bite down on a stem or a pit should discreetly remove it from the mouth and set it aside on the edge of the plate. Your cook is not a klutz but merely demonstrating mastery of the culture.

Havyakas are known (but only among themselves) for culinary masterpieces like appe huli, bhootgojju, todadevu and tellevu (types of dosa), and karakali (poi chutney). The average Havyaka 10-year-old won't eat anything but tellevu, and occasionally avalakki, since eating tellevu during festivals violates the inscrutable rules of musure. An Englishman can imagine Havyaka cuisine by visiting any local curry house but sneaking in about twenty packets of sugar to stir into everything.

My Big Fat Havyaka Wedding[edit]

As the wedding pauses for a palm reading, the bride discreetly checks to see if the groom has calluses that might hint at manual labour.

Havyaka parents always find it hard to get a local wife for their son — especially if he is not in a lucrative job in Bangalore. Because they also want their daughter to be married to the highest-paid software engineer or chartered accountant in the world, even if she only studied B.Com at the local college.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Havyaka boys who happened to be at home looking after Dad's tiny, unprofitable betel-nut farm regained hopes to marry, thinking in vain that their counterparts working in Bangalore would be laid off.

The real point of finding a bride within the Havyaka community is not just preserving the Brahmin traditions, but also to have a wife who can cook tellevu and appe huli. Those searching for a Brahmin bride in outlandish states like Uttar Pradesh find that she can't even pronounce them.

The Havyaka people observe the gotra, identifying as households by tracing their male lineage and trying to marry outside their own gotra (especially if he is getting nowhere with that hot cousin). However, they adopt surnames that do not reflect their origins but their professions. One would think they would not spend so much time trying to change their professions.

See also[edit]