The name Gosain signifies either ‘gao-swami’, meaning ‘master of cows’or ‘goswami’, meaning ‘master of senses’. They are followers of Shankaracharya, a sage of the ninth century who revived Shaivism in south India.
They form a distinct community and are sparsely distributed in almost all parts of the country. The mendicants wear an ochre-coloured dress and a necklace of rudraksha beads and bear three horizontal lines on the forehead to represent Shiva’s trident.
The Gosavi have their own folk-songs based on the stories of Mirabai, Kabir, Brahmananda and Tukarani, and devotional songs (bhajan) are sung to the accompaniment of their own musical instruments, like the tal (khanjari), tambura and surpata. When they go begging from door to door, they accept only sidha food. They make use of the facilities of education, health, banking, media and communication.