Why do Tamil Brahmins become Chartered Accountants in large numbers

Left is Srirangam Temple, Trichy and right is Brihadesvara Temple, Tanjore.
  • Six CAs and an Assamese IIM tell why Tamil Brahmins take to CA in large numbers. What are benefits of mantra chanting? Did Brahmins dominate school education?    

When I joined Hindustan Levers, as a Management Trainee Finance, in the late 1980s found that majority of fellow trainees were Tamilian Brahmins (Tam Br). Not knowing why Tam Br became CAs in large numbers, I subconsciously became envious of the community. During my career, I got to know of many very competent Tam Br CFOs (Chief Financial Officers).


Historically, the Tam Br community has shown a strong presence in the chartered accounting profession. This article explores the social, historical, and professional factors that have potentially contributed to this trend. This article does not seek to generalise a whole community.


The question to former colleagues and friends was, Why did Tam Br took to CA in large numbers. Feedback is from Tam Br CAs and one Assamese IIM graduate. 


Since a couple of Tam Br referred to the impact of centuries of chanting on their minds, this article tells impact of Mantra chanting. Lastly, it asks if Brahmin students dominated Tamil Nadu schools in the pre-British era? 

From the feedback say that most Tam Br took up CA because it was inexpensive, there were no reservations, education focus in community, belief in logical analysis, strong in Mathematics, role models in family and friends.  Read on for individual views.


1. CA with over 35 years of experience, Global Citizen

The CA course is high on the preference list for Tam Br since there is no caste based reservation. For academically oriented students who lose out admission opportunities to Medical and Engineering courses due to reservation, the CA course is a good option.

As such, in TN, for several decades, English education has been an aspirational symbol. This was further accentuated by the anti Hindi movement. This gave students a big advantage in the CA exams which were in English medium.

Has chanting by generations of Brahmins improved their brain power?

It is generally believed so. Read more on this later.


2. CA with over 30 years experience from Mumbai

There are many reasons why Tam Br take to C.A.


1. Tam Br have always been in forefront/pioneers in sunrise professions - like lawyers (in the 30s & 40s), government servants (in the 50s), bank officers (in the 70s), IT (in the 90s), also among the first to migrate to the US. This has partly to do with foresight/vision and educational accessibility.

2Tam Br were always strong in Maths and CA was regarded as one of the Math-based professional courses. Getting good marks in Maths was a big social compulsion. If you performed badly, it was social taboo in those days. So there was probably lot of peer pressure to perform better in Maths.

3. Tam Br have always been the “Kulkarnis” (Maharashtrian surname) and “accountants” so CA was a natural progression.

4. CA cut across reservation/ Dravidian political/ social bias issues, and opened up better opportunities in the private sector and independent practice

5. In early days itself, CA attained the status of a dignified profession. In my family of CAs, the first was my grandfather in the 30s, followed by my father, me, a whole army of cousins, my Mammas-sister-brother in law-wife etc.


3. Lady CA from Chennai with over 20 years work experience

The reservation system in Tamil Nadu makes it very difficult for Tam Br  children to get admission into Engineering or Medical unless they live up to the really high cut off. CA has no reservation requirement. This is a big factor.  


The eco system is very nurturing; there are good coaching classes, lot of firms to do article ship; many audit firms are owned by Tam Br and the familiarity of friends and family choosing the profession creates the aspiration to be part of this.


A lot of Tam Bram students come from middle class families and for these children the prospect of earning some small money and working through article ship while studying in parallel is very enriching. Even if they take time to clear their exams many times they get absorbed as paid assistants in their audit firms and this gives them financial independence till they clear CA.


4. Senior Partner with a leading CA firm-Global Citizen

On the whole, this CA culture in today’s times doesn’t hold. Now it’s more like wanting to be the CEO of Technology company like Sundar Pichai-to varying degrees. 


In any case, the surviving population of Brahmins in Tamil Nadu is further collapsing. So Tam Br as a brand is getting diluted culturally and quantitatively. And the group is losing its roots, heritage, and Vedic wisdom.


Another Chennai based professional said that while an increasing number of Tam Br are taking to Technology, CA is still a coveted profession.   


5. Assamese view of an IIT-IIM graduate who has worked in several industries over 35 years

Tam Br are naturally good at careers that need structured logical analysis and maths. This is instilled in them by their traditionally rigorous upbringing where the parents insist from early childhood on their doing well in exams, by which they mean Science and Maths. You absolutely have to become an engineer or a doctor or a CA. 


Also, because of the reservation/ discrimination they face from politics in Tamil Nadu, their best hope is to crack an all-India entrance test, because they don't stand a chance in the state's entrance exams. Having been trained to think precisely and work thoroughly and diligently, taking care of every little thing, including all the small print, CA is an ideal profession.


6. Senior Chartered Accountant in Chennai

I took commerce in 1966 because all my cousins who passed B.E. were without a job for two years.  The reservation policy did not help. In CA course only merit matters.  Hence I moved to CA.  All my uncles and Cousins were engineers. I was the first to move to commerce. With divine blessings I excelled in CA exams. Encouraged by my success few of my cousins followed me.


7. CA-now Corporate Trainer with 30 years experience from Mumbai

Inexpensive, no reservation, and they pass! On reading feedback 1 said, He is right about this, 2-3 decades back.


But as recent as 2013 the partner of a leading Mumbai CA firm mentioned casually that he re-routed his son to an M Sc Finance overseas. “I am not sure he has the grit to do CA.”


Out of 60 odd batch mates in Commerce circa (elder son, 2014) only 6 kids (Tam Br) tried to become a C.A. 2 cleared, in part, due to strong at-home motivation of Dad, who is also CA.


The reality is that next generation kids do not want to work hard, do difficult courses so avoid CA. They prefer easier courses where passing is guaranteed. Actually, the next generation are well provided for, unlike their parents who had to struggle, so the desire/need to work hard has fallen.


Tam Br have a high quality gene pool - Paying attention to detail, qualities imbibed by genes due to thousands of years of Vedic mantra chanting.


So what are the Benefits of Mantra chanting?

According to this article in The Times of India, “Scientists found that certain brain parts activated when we recite mantras. Chanting mantras like Om reduce anxiety. They improve your power of concentration.”


According to article in Withinhealth.com, “Mantra chanting results in better cognitive function and improved memory amongst others.” Mantra chanting uplifts consciousness and higher capacities of the superconscious mind.” Source “It’s believed that the sound vibrations produced during mantra chanting stimulate and balance the chakras (energy centres of the body). In western medical terms, mantra chanting has been shown to soothe the central nervous system and there is even some evidence that it can boost the immune system and help overcome addiction.” Himalayan Yoga Institute


Read   Scientific Evidence of Health Benefits of practicing Mantra Meditation + Harvard Divinity Bulletin on benefits of Mantra chanting

Trinklet seller at Mahabalipuram impressed me with her selling skills.  


Tam Br took to CA is large numbers because entry to course is merit based, there is no discrimination due to excessive reservations and cost of education is lower. Being essentially a middle-class community, the financial aspects are important. Not to forget the community’s fondness for Maths and natural tendency towards education.  


This discrimination has resulted in a flight of talent from Tamil Nadu. Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and All India Services are the biggest beneficiaries not to forget U.S.A. Neverthless, parties in Tamil Nadu must be thanked for increasing the number of Chartered Accountants in India. 


Although not backed by data, based on conversations say that an increasing number of Tam Br are taking technology jobs although C.A. is still a coveted profession.


Did Tam Br students dominate school education in pre-British India?

Noted Gandhian and author Dharampalji went through British and Indian archives to reproduce reports, of surveys undertaken by the British in Bengal, Punjab and Madras Presidency (1800-1830), in his book The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the 18th century 


According to the collectors’ reports reviewed by Governor Sir Thomas Munro on 10 March 1826, of the 30,211 male school students in Madras Presidency, 20 percent were Brahmins and Chettris, 9 percent were Vaishyas, 50 percent were Shudras, and 6 percent were Muslims. Others constituted 15 percent. Read excerpts


“Madras Presidency, during the British regime, covered a vast expanse of the southern part of India that encompasses modern-day Tamil Nadu, Northern Kerala, Rayalaseema (AP), Coastal Andhra, districts of Karnataka and various districts of southern Odisha.” Source


Further Author, ex-British Council Scholar and Spiritualist Dr Satish Kapoor wrote in Hinduism: The Faith Eternal that spirituality is not confined to higher castes or classes or gender. Veda Vyasa was born to a fisherwoman, Tiruvalluvar, the Tamil poet-saint, to a weaver. Tirupann, the Alvar saint, was panar, an untouchable etc. Pg. 71


Read   Congress strategy is to divide Hindus by Caste


It is not my intent to state that Tamil Brahmins are perfect, actually none of us are. 


I wish to thank friends for sharing insights and help improving my understanding of Bharat. 


Also read

1. A comprehensive history of the Dravidian Movement in Tamil Nadu

2. Who are Scheduled Tribes

3. Creating a Saiva Vaishnav divide in Tamil Nadu

4. Were Backward Classes always suppressed in India

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