Dalit Debate: Anti-Brahmanism is a (colonial) construct of the last two centuries

The article was written by Uday Lal Pai in 2007.

(posted on March 12, 2015 at this site)

My intention is to provide content for debate against Anti-Bhramanism.

Those who historically murdered, looted, raped and pillaged and destroyed are today forgiven in modern India in the name of forgetting the past. What’s more those who destroyed our cultural heritage, universities of cosmic wisdom and architectural wonders are provided with all luxuries and comforts in India. But Brahmins, who historically dedicated their lives for the sake of dharma and the welfare of the society, are still persecuted in modern India for their falsely alleged sins of the past.

Indian Brahmins, we are taught by the modern historians, have been oppressing the lower caste population in India. Brahmins are described as cunning, parasitic exploiters and creators of the iniquitous caste system. The theory of “5000 years of Brahmin oppression” is used to include every other caste in the backward classes list and religion, provide them unrestrained reservation and justify that.

This story is repeated so loudly and so frequently that it is also treated as the truth.

Much scholarship and intellectual labor was put into this thesis before it acquired its present momentum and currency. Anti-Brahmanism was a construct of the last two centuries.

They say Brahmins never allowed others to read and write. The word “Brahmin” reminds every one of arrogant, dis-respective, communal and abusive extremists who whip the lower caste people or Dalits till they die. That’s a vivid picture that paints your mind when you hear that word. The anti-Brahmin movement gained momentum when leftists, priests and religious leaders from hostile religions, separatists and casteists of different hues took this from Britishers.

Academia has always held the position that Brahmins exploited and continue to exploit everyone else, that they authored the Hindu scriptures just to ensure their own highest position in the social hierarchy, and that they are responsible for so many problems in India.

But these arguments lack historical validity and logical consistency. It is merely a case of “repeat a lie a hundred times and it will become the truth”.

– Let’s think without any inhibitions and conditions. Make your intelligence and thinking unbiased and open to accept the reality. Let’s look at real facts founded upon truth. Should we lend our thinking facility to others?

– If you have an open mind and if you can think with clarity and logically, you would understand that 95% of Bhramins were innocents and gentle. It is amazing to see that how fiction can become truth in the course of time. You don’t need big brain to make out that anti-Brahmin story was planned and planted by hostile religious invaders, colonialist and missionaries of conversion and by politicians to keep the public blind and at the same time rob Indians off everything.

The fact is that Brahmins were neither rich nor powerful at any point of time in history. They are not the Samurais of India. Every animal in the forest wants to hunt deer and eat them. The Indian Brahmins are like deer (stag) in the forest. Indian Brahmin community has become like Jews of Nazi times. Is this acceptable? The destitution of Hindu Brahmins has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.

For many past centuries, mostly Christians and Muslims were ruling India. Do we have to blame Brahmins for everything that went wrong in India? Brahmins have never ruled India.

Brahmins were always poor class! They never ruled India!

-Can you quote any historical evidence to prove that Brahmins were kings or ruled any Indian kingdom? (Chanakya had helped Chandragupta Maurya to build a united India. After becoming the emperor of India, Chandragupta fell at the feet of Chanakya and requested him to be Rajaguru and stay in the palace with all luxuries. Chanakya’s reply: ” I am a Brahmin. My karma is to teach students and live on what they get by the way of begging. So I am going back to my village.”)

Can you find any single instance or story of rich Brahmins in history or in the mythology (purana)? Which purana mentions about a rich Brahmin? The story of Sudama (Kuchela), the poor Brahmin, is a well-known episode from Lord Krishna’s life. Incidentally, Krishna (the most popular deity of Hindus) belonged to the Yadava sub-caste. The Yadavas are currently enumerated amongst the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in India.

– If Brahmins were as arrogant as they picturized to be, how come they worship Gods from lower caste? Lord Shiva (Highest Hindu God) is often termed as a Kirata in the Puranas. The Kiratas would currently fall in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category in modern India. Krishna (see above paragraph) was an OBC.

To be able to oppress others requires positions of power. The Brahmin’s traditional occupation was that of a temple priest or purohit officiating religious functions. Their sole income was Biksha (alms) given by the landlords (non-Brahmins). And another section of Brahmins were teachers (guru) without salary. Were those the most powerful positions?

– And have you forgotten the term: ‘Garib Brahmin’ (=Poor Brahmin). Pick up any Indian storybook, you will see that term quoted as a virtue. The highest stature of the society was occupied by the Brahmin ascetics and their only way of survival was alms given by people. [Of course there are exceptions, but it cannot be denied that poor Bhramins were honored. Brahmins were asked to live at a minimum and devote themselves to pursue knowledge. Ref: Alvin Toffler, an American writer and futurist, “Hinduism propagated poverty as a virtue.”]

As a matter of fact, most of the oppression of Dalits (lower caste Hindus) was committed by the land-owning class (Zamindars) and not by Brahmins. OBCs also oppressed the Dalits. But Brahmins became the scapegoat.

– Do you know the priestly class among Brahmins is only less 20% of Brahmin population? Some of them might have been greedy or villains, as the priests or clergy in any other community/religion. (However, in the small state of Kerala, Namboodiri Brahmins were rich due to a different socio-political system.) But they never had the power that clergy of other religions enjoy.

Nobody asked non-Brahmins not to read. Brahmins by and large are in pursuit of knowledge. This made them powerful (not in material way). This stems jealousy among others. Whose fault is it anyway?

– If the reading and writing was confined to Brahmins or if education were open only to the Brahmins then how do you have Valmiki composing Ramayana or Thiruvalluvar composing Thirukkural? Or the numerous works on bhakti by non-Brahmin bhakti saints etc? Brahmins never prevented others from learning. Please note that Ved Vyas who edited four vedas and wrote Mahabharata was born to a fisher-woman.

– Even if you look at people Vashishtha, Valmiki, Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Mahavira, Tulsidas, Kabir, Vivekananda none of them were Brahmins. Are these not the people whose teachings we consider most valuable? If none of them were Brahmins why cry so much about Brahmin didn’t allow you to learn?

-The most powerful of the dharma shaastra is the Manusmriti written by Manu. It is the only scripture that gives Brahmins a high status. But Manu was not a Brahmin – he was a Kshatriya. Gita, that describes caste system, was written by Vyasa, who was born to a backward caste fisherwoman. All ancient literature gives highest position to Brahmins, because of the virtue and ethics they upheld.

Brahmins were the seat of non-violence!

-The poor hapless Brahmins were beheaded by Arabian invaders, crucified in Goa by the Portuguese Inquisition, vilified by British missionaries, and morally crucified today by their own brothers and sisters. Did anybody fight back?

Aurangzeb massacred 150,000 Brahmins and their families in Benares, Ganga gnat, Haridwar, etc…He made a mountain of skulls of the Hindu Brahmins and their children which was visible from 10 miles away. Aurangzeb has gone on record , making a pile of Brahmin “janeoos” (holy thread) and making a bonfire of them (after decapitating innocent Hindu Brahmins who refused to convert to Islam. Did any Brahmin fight back?

-The brutal and fanatic barbarians from Portugese mercilessly persecuted and killed millions of Konkani Brahmins who refused to get converted, in Konkan-Goa. Can you show me a single example of a G.S.Brahmin killing a Portuguese?

(When the Portuguese came to India, St. Xavier wrote to the king of Portugal, his patron, “If there were no Brahmins, all pagans would be converted to our faith.” He hated them with a hatred that evangelists alone are capable of. He called them a “most perverse people.” Brahmins became a persecuted people. Thousands of Konkani Brahmins (Gaud Saraswat Brahmins) were persecuted and left Goa. They lost everything. Was there any GS Brahmin to fight back?)

-The foreign invaders killed thousands and thousands of – Sarawat Brahmins – in Kashmir and Gandhara desa-regions-(part of today’s Afghan-Pakistan included) area. There is no sarawat Brahmin in these regions now. Can you quote a single incident of a saraswat killing an invader? Let alone killing, any violent act from sarawats?

(Pundits, the original inhabitants of Kashmir were tortured and driven out of their dwellings in Kashmir by Islamic militants trained in Pakistan. Genocide of Kashmiri Pundits has reached its climax with terrorism succeeding in ‘CLEANSING’ the valley of this ancient ethno-religious community. To escape persecution, more than 500,000 Kashmiri pundits had to leave their homes in the Valley and out of that; more than 50,000 are still languishing in uninhabitable refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Militants killed a lot of pundits and raped their women. Can you show me a single pundit who involved in violence to fight back?)

-Dr. Ambedkar, the father of Indian constitution, quoting Muslim historians, says the first act of religious zeal by Mohammad bin Qasim, the first Arab invader, was circumcision of Brahmins. “But, after they objected, he put all above the age of seventeen to death.” During invasions, forced conversions and Mughal periods, hundreds and thousands of Brahmins were beheaded. Can you show a single instance of a Brahmin killing a human being in any other religions?

In early 19th century, Tipu Sultan’s army descended in Melkote on a Deepavali day and massacred 800 citizens, mostly of a sect known as Mandyam Iyengars. Sanskrit scholarship had been their forte. [To this day Melkote does not celebrate Deepavali]. That slaughter rendered Melkote a near ghost town. Its environmentally connected life was broken, kalyanis – water retaining structures- went to ruin, water shortage became endemic, and the hills went brown. Sanskrit lost a home.

In fact the non-violent Brahmins were pure Vegetarians and eat Satvik food which does not instigate them to do any crime. Brahmins never ever defended themselves.

Please reflect upon today’s pathetic state of Brahmins!

-Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are Brahmins? Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins working as coolies at Delhi’s railway stations? 50 per cent of Patel Nagar’s (New Delhi) rickshaw pullers are Brahmins.75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. The percentage of Brahmins that live below poverty line is almost 60.

Thousands of Brahmins kids immigrating to US for jobs and they make good software engineers or scientists. Why didn’t the government of India think about such brain drain that too when India lacks manpower?

– The per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka state finance minister in the state assembly sometime back: Christians Indian Rupees (Rs) 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.

At Tamil Nadu’s Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest’s monthly salary was Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice some time ago. The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests’ reputation as ‘haves’ and ‘exploiters.’

Even if we agree hypothetically what we had learnt under the colonial-missionary-communist aegis that Brahmins were oppressors, can a civilized society accept the way politicians behave with Brahmins? If your forefather had committed a crime why should you be punished?

Some Brahmins certainly would have manipulated caste system – just the way they do in political parties or religious groups. It may be true that the past is not a clean tale for entire Brahmin community. A minority Brahmins hands may have covered in blood as it can be. And yes, it’s a closed community who doesn’t allow easily outsiders inside their homes and don’t maintain any sort of interactive relationships outside the community.

But should we generalize the whole community for the mistakes done by a small section among them? Didn’t we forgive those foreign invaders from Arabia who killed hundreds and thousands of Indians and destroyed entire ancient culture and looted the rich India? (Remember India was the richest nation before foreign invaders reached here)

How long do we stereotype people? Why the hatred? An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

Being a Brahmin in India seems to be a double-edged sword. If a Brahmin succeeds, then his entire caste will be perceived as privileged and not in need of assistance. But if a Brahmin commits any aberrant deed, his faults will be projected onto his entire community, leading to more public condemnation of the entire Brahmin caste. The moment Brahmins were able to do something about it, the whole society turns and gangs up on them to prevent them from getting what they deserve claiming that Brahmins suppressed them in the past – as if as miniscule and non-violent a community as the Brahmins could have kept these horrors away from wealth and power or anything leading to it.

The world has a very short memory. The world has forgotten the contribution made by Brahmins to our society. It was not just learning Vedas, Maths, Astronomy and political science, but the sacrifice they have done for entire human kind by developing Ayurveda, Pranayama, Kamasutra, Natyasastra and Yoga. If Brahmins were selfish, they would have patented all those things.

If Brahmins were selfish, they would have put at least their byline below those thousands of ancient scripts. Brahmins sacrificed their life for the well being of human being with a single motto that: “Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu” (May all the beings in all the worlds be happy)

In turn, the world is trying to crucify them, for no fault of them.

The intended or actual meaning of Brahmin is one who has knowledge about Brahman, the ultimate and impersonal divine reality of the universe from which all being originates and to which it returns.

The very concept of Brahmanism is so noble and attractive that it is time that we decided to keep it above dispute. There have always been deliberate attempts to confuse the concept of Brahmanism with the caste of Brahmins in India.

Let us understand the simple fact that all members of the Brahmin caste are NOT Brahmins. Similarly, all Brahmins need not necessarily belong to the Brahmin caste.

There are four type of Brahmanism (1) Brahmana – one who is born to brahmana parents, (2 Dvijaha – one who has received the samskaras starting from garbhadhana, (3) Vipraha – one who has received knowlege and (4) Shrotriyaha – one who has all the above qualities.

– Going by our classics and epics, it is very clear that the original Brahmins were definitely the ones that would command respect in any society. Brahmanism had a clear belief that the knowledge is power in the real sense. Brahmacharya which means a discipline followed with specific purpose of understanding the senses and thus taking control of the senses.

Brahmanism also wanted that the peace should be all encompassing, all creatures and all belief systems and all regions.

I am not supporting caste system, the real meaning of which is disappeared now. Our ancestors wanted to create a knowledge-based society in the name of Brahmin, that’s gone now. Alas! A huge majority of Brahmins turned to be non-vegetarians now. And I know in the name of Brahmanism some illiterate people who cannot pronounce rituals and mantras correctly performing pooja and other religious activities and making money only.

Modern Brahmins having abandoned their traditional way of life and being cut off from their traditions, suffer from an unjustified guilt complex and have swallowed this suppression propaganda uncritically. Caught between the greed of the masses, the unscrupulousness of the politicians and the malice of the real exploiters, they are persecuted mercilessly in modern India.

Are Brahmins not humans? Don’t Brahmins desire comforts, luxury and wealth for themselves and their near and dear ones, the way all people do?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Swapankumar Mazumder
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 22:53:36

    It is indeed a historic description with entirely factual circumstances/incidents etc. I have no reason to DISBELIEVE SUCH HISTORIC STATEMENTS.



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