Sthānika Brāhmanas are old Tuḷu smārtha Brahmanas, who are the original inhabitants of ancient Tuḷunadu also known as Parasurama Kshetra. Sthānika Brāhmins are followers of Advaita Philosophy and practice the Panchayatana form of worship. They are disciples of the Sri Sringeri Jagadguru Samsthanam from the time of Sri Adi Shankara. They are the Pratistapanacharyas/founders of almost all temples of Tulunadu and were the chief priests, Tantragamis until 1845. Sthanikas of south canara are also called as Subrahmanya sthanikas as Kukke Subrahmanya was their main center and was under their administration till the end of 16th century.
Sthānika Brāhmans history in Tulunadu dates back even before 380BC. From Historical records (stone, copper plate inscriptions and literature) ranging over a period of more than twenty centuries till the end of the 18th century, we can deduce and establish the facts, the origin, the history and the importance of the Sthānika brāhmins in the history of Tulunadu.
The word Sthānika is a sanskrit word and has meanings such as ‘Chief priest of a temple’, ‘Fixed worshiper’, ‘Manager or Administrator of temple’ ‘One who holds managerial position’, ‘Governor of a place’, ‘Dispenser of justice’, ‘Tax collector’, ‘People of local place’ etc. Sthānika Brahmins acquired their name owing to their managerial positions such as ‘Chief priest of a temples’, Temple administrators, tax collectors etc.
In South Canara Sthanika post was given invariably to Brahmana`s as known from a large number of inscriptions. Some of the epigraphs state that the Sthanikas were learned scholars in Sastras for that; they received honour and high respect from other Brahmanas. As the post was hereditary and applied to a section of Brahmanas, the Brahmanas who migrated to Tulu nadu in later periods addressed them as Sthanika Brahmans and this eventually became a caste unlike in other parts of south India.
Mode of administration and social-religious functions (Till the end of 16th Century A.D.)
During the days of yore when Dynasties like Pallavas, Pandyas, Cholas, Cheras, Hoysalas, Kadambas were ruling the southern india, the official matters of the state were being conducted from the temples and the person who managed these along with priestly duties were called as Sthanika. Practically every government servant serving in a given region, in the medieval days, was connected with the affairs of the temple in that area. The caste label Sthānika applied to a section of Brahmin community in present day South Canara can be traced to this official designation of Sthānika. Apart from administrative functions Sthanika brahmana’s main duties in temples included Perform Veda parayana, Perform Agnihotra/Agni Aupasana, Prepare Havishyanna [naivadyam] and light lamps from that sacred fire.
17th Century A.D. to 19th Century A.D.
Sthānika Brāhmins were highly respected by, for their character, knowledge, proficiency, and efficiency. During the first quarter of the seventeenth century A.D., the Sthanika brahmans in tulu speaking region of coastal Karnataka lost their reputed position because of the acute Saiva-Vaisnava rivalry, the changed political set up, the British revenue policies and as they joined their hands in freedom fights supporting the local rulers of that time.
In 1836 Dewan Lakshminarayya a Sthanika brahmin started the first Non-cooperation movement in south canara and prepared a plan to revolt against the British rule with the help of the king of Kodagu. At this time the administration of temples was with Sthanika Brahmins and had an influence over large section of the people. The Sthanika Brahmins who were at the helm of affairs in anti-British movement, were sacked from their traditional posts and their hereditary trusteeship of the temple was also cancelled. A large number of people from the community also have been hanged to death by British and the community became economically poor.
20th Century A.D. onwards
Today Sthanikas being well educated and economically well positioned joining their hands establishing unity among the different subsects of Dravida Brahmans and continues to be disciples of Sringeri Sharada Peetham