THE CASTE SYSTEM
Decline and Fall of Buddhism
Dr. K. Jamanadas
How Hindus enjoyed Brahmanic slavery?
Inhuman qualities of Hinduism like graded inequality, ban on inter-dining, forced endogamy, polluting touch, and restrictions on occupation are enumerated as evils of Hindu caste system. Dr. Ambedkar has described the genesis of caste and its horrors and its place in a Hindu's life. The perplexing question is, how did the multitude of masses tolerate the domination and atrocities of the priestly class. Out of many reasons is the theory of karma, which was, propagated which more or less castrated the society and deprived all the masses from the motivation to revolt. The acharyas preached that the reason for man to be poor is the deeds of his past lives, the 'purva-karmas'. One is born in a low caste and remains in misery because of his past 'karmas'. The varna system, caste system, high and low, poor and rich, touchables and untouchables, all these are due to past karmas. This one theory has made all the Hindus the slaves of Brahmins. And the caste governs the whole life of a Hindu, and because this system started with the start of decline of Buddhism, and grew stronger day after day and brought India to the state she is in now, it becomes the subject matter of our study.
Rigvedic Society had three Varnas
As is well known, there is no mention of "caste" i.e. "jati", in any of the Vedic literature, and is mentioned for the first time in "Nirukta". It is believed by some scholars that at the time of compilation Rig Veda, there was no system of Varnas in Indian society, and that much after Rig Veda was compiled the "Purush Sukta" was appended to Rig Veda and that was the begining of Chaturvarnya System which degenerated later into caste system. Even if we ignore "Purush Sukta" for the time being, this view can not be correct as words Brahmin, Rajanya and Vaisha occur in Rig Veda a number of times. But Shudra occurs for the first time in Purush Sukta, thereby proving there were only three varnas at the time of Rig Veda. [Ambedkar, W&S:7:132]
Date of Purush-sukta
The fourth varna, i.e. of Shudras was added by "purusha- sukta". Though all scholars agree that Purush sukta is a later addition, the exact time of its compilation has not been mentioned by them. Bhadant Anand Kausallyayan tells us that the word "Purushottam" occurs for the first time in Pali texts and was first only applied to the Buddha. [Anand Kausallyayan, "bhagwat gita aur dhammapad", p.27.]
After one hundred and fifty years after the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha, the word "Purusha" occurs for the first time, in Brahmin books, in Katha Upanishada. As has been amply proved by the scholars like L. M. Joshi and Dharmanand Kosambi, all the Upnishadas are later than the Buddha. A. L. Basham and William Berry assign B.C. 400 - 200 to Katha Upnishada.
Thus the concept of "Purusha" is Buddhist and was incorporated in Katha Upanishada for the first time as a concept of obsolute and kind god-head about century and half after the Buddha. Later this was developed and incorporated in Rig Veda as Purush- sukta. Why this became necessary? Principal M. M. Sao of Buddhist College believes that Brahmins managed to kill two birds in one stone thereby. It was a planned attack to destroy the egalatarian Buddhist society. It was designed, firstly, to stop Kshatriya revolt against Brahmins by accepting Upnishadas, the creations of the Kshatriyas. Second purpose was to stop the flow of Shudras towards Buddha's Dhamma, by incorporating them in Varna system as the fourth varna. [Sao M. M: 1998: 3]
The sexual behaviour of Aryans
Noted Communist Leader Shripad Amrut Dange, narrates the tragedy of unfinished book of Rajwade titled bharatiya vivah sanshte cha itihas, whose first chapter was published in a magazine 'chitramaya jagat' in May 1923 from Poona. It narrated how the ancient Aryan society did not have the marriage institution as we believe it today, or rather had no marriage institution at all. The barbarous Aryan society considered no relationship like brother-sister, father-daughter. All his observations were based on Veda samhitas and evidences from Mahabharata. The subject matter of the book was to explain how this kind of uncontrolled sexual relationship progressed. But the very first chapter caused turbulence in Maharashtrian elite and the publisher was threatened with dire consequences, leading to stoppage of printing of this book. Shri Dange tried to publish the book but could not succeed. It was ultimately published rather in uncompleted form for the first time in 1976. [p.seven - "bharatiya vivaha sanshthe cha itihas", (marathi), Introduction by Dange] Dange wonders why Indian scholars have not discussed the diverse marriage systems, that is, sexual relationship of a man and a woman in ancient Aryan society, in spite of reading the Vedas and the sanctions of even Manu to these marriages. Though the books of Darwin, Latourneau and Bashophen were available nobody tried to write the history of Hindu Marriage Systems, and when Rajwade tried to do so in 1920-23, the publisher was threatened to death. There are numerous lawyers who argue the marriage litigations in courts. Why none of them took up the subject of types of marriages, ban on sagotra and sapinda marriages? [introduction p. fifteen] Dange tells us that Rajwade was the first person to deal with the subject of state-varna- caste-class relationship explaining when, where, why and how the Aryans created Varna and caste. [p.17, introduction]
People could transgress from one varna to other. But this rule had changed. More population was an asset for self procreation and preservation, which was the aim of primitive sexual relationship. Rajwade has explained how the priests had to satisfy the sexual demand of any woman approaching them at the time of yajnyas, then and there in open ground, in presence of Vedic fire. This gave rise to terms like "ayonija", usually applied to Sita and Droupadi, meaning born outside the house - the original meaning of yoni being house. [Rajwade, ibid. p.39] After the results of community procreation, where every male could procreate on every female, were known and knowledge of incest grew, the restrictions were put on the uncontrolled sex. The examples seen in Vedas in Yama Yami dialogue and Vedic rites in Yajnyas which were meant for distribution of production and became a subject matter of divine prayers and charity. When the means of production increased and the tools and skills grew, there appeared different social occupational groups. But there were no differences among them and no ban on inter marriage among the different Varnas and on procreation of 'sankara' i.e. hybrid progeny. When such a varna system was progressing leading to prosperity of society the traditional skills developed and a ban on inter-marriage came making water tight compartments.
Conversion from three varna society to four varna society was a great revolution in Aryan society, says Rajwade. This was done by coming of the shudras who until then had no rightful place in three varna society. Shudras who were thought to be untouchable and impure until then were now considered touchable and pure. Of course, the shudras had the obligation of following the Laws of three upper varnas. "Because of entry of shudras into Chaturvana system, society got transformed from savage society to rural one." As shudras did all the jobs requiring manual labour there was a lot of leisure time for Vaishyas to do business, Ksatriyas to look after defense of country and Brahmins to develop learning, leading to tremendous prosperity of Aryans in Northrn Kuru. The author of Purush Sukta boasts about growth of horses, cows, goats and lambs, enlargement (upbruhan) of four Vedas, and occupation of all lands around Vairajya, since the creation of four varnas. [intoduction p. 18]
The Buddha discarded Varna System
Thus we see from above description that Shudras were made the beasts of burden with all the forced labour duties and no rights. And this occured, as early as, the times of Buddha. Naturally, He revolted against the system of Varnas and that the Buddha discarded varna system of Brahmanism and castes arising out of it, is well known. The Caste System became more strict after the fall of Buddhism. Ferguson observes that Buddhists had no caste and that caste:
"... revived when a second upheaval of local superstition under Aryan influence on the decay of Buddhism brought Shaivism and Vaishnavism to the surface, together with all the monstrosities of the modern Hindu pantheon." [Fergusson: 1971: 63]
Ashokan Society was integrated
Like every other society, India also had different groups of people in the society, living in proximity with one another, practicing different customs, manners and worshiping different local Gods and Goddesses. It is accepted that, in such situations, the process of unity passes through stages unless purposefully stopped. The first stage is political, where people live under same king and same state under the same laws. This is only superficial unity. The second stage is religious harmony, where people have same worshiping symbols and follow similar methods of culture such as language, dress and other external symbols. The last stage is the social integration, where society becomes one by inter-marrying. This forms the coherent integrated society. Such was the society created at the Asokan times by the teachings of the Buddha. The people were following various professions but they were free to marry each others. This was the free Indian society.
Dr. Ambedkar has explained that within such a society, though there was exogamy of gotra, based on primitive totemic structure i.e. people were marrying only outside the gotra, there was no limit of endogamy and no restriction of choice of caste. At such a stage, Brahmins segregated themselves and stopped marrying outside their varna. Others imitated. So some closed their door and some found it closed agaist them. [Ambedkar W&S:1:18] Swami Dharmatirtha is explaining similar situation:
"Though the scheme of caste hierarchy had not been generally accepted by the kings and the people, the priests had irrevocably separated themselves from the bulk of the community as the Brahman caste and developed their distinctive characteristics and interests and ideals which have from those ancient days down to the present always remained antagonistic to the progress of the nation as a whole. ..." [Swami:1946:62]
Thus the present Caste system, if it deserves a term of "system", is a post Buddhistic phenomenon coming to prominence after fall of Buddhism around tenth century, though its roots existed since Buddha's times.
How Occupations became castes
Brahmanism ammmended their laws through Kalivarjya, hostilities against Buddhists were started, a religious crusade started through physical force by Rajputs created by Brahmins, Philosophical propaganda arranged by Kumarila and Shankara, Buddha was given a place in avataras as a stategy, Vaishnava Alvaras and Shaiva Nayanaras started "bhajan parties" and started "singing out Buddhism", Puranas were edited and re-edited to incorporate new revival of Brahmanism, and myths created to capture the Buddhist places of worship and to retain the usurped ones. That the "kalivarj" is the method of Brahmins to tackle with the Buddhist influence over the masses and impose their own supremacy. They changed their laws without actually condemning them. All laws and rules, were amended including Civil, Criminal, Revenue and personal laws. Dr. P.V.Kane has enumerated 55 such changes. [Kane: 1965: II.994] These can be placed in three groups, and are discussed by us elsewhere. [K.Jamanadas:1991:131]
Kings had no legislative powers
Brahmanism is not limited to Brahmins alone. It has a vast canvas and it is seen in all spheres of human activity but more prominent in political sphere. The politics of this country is run on the Manu's constitution since centuries. It is important to understand that the kings and emperors of ancient and medieval India did not have any legislative powers. They were only executives of the so called divine laws made by the priestly class. The wars they fought were for defending the laws of the "Dharmasastras" codified by Manu and others, on the advise, rather orders, of their "purohits". As a matter of fact, they had an obligation to enforce the code of conduct as dictated by the Brahmins. That is why we find that King Rama had to kill Shambuka, who was transgressing the Law of Chaturvarnya. At the most, the king could only legislate on revenue matters, that too, as per the rules already laid down by the Brahmins. He had some judicial powers, but that too, he could not pass judgment against the law given by the Brahmins. It may be interesting to know that some scholars now claim Shambuka belonged to "Teli" community.
Who suffered in Kalivarjya
In Kalivarjya, one of the main laws was against sea voyage. That is how the sea worthy races of Pallava and Chola countries suffered. All the trade that was being conducted through the sea stopped. Who suffered? Not the Brahmins, surely. The first group that suffered was that of ship builders, mostly the working class dealing with metal and wood, i.e. the carpenters and black smiths. All producers of exportable goods suffered most. It will be clear, if we take a look at the products of export that most of the products of export were based on the agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and forest economy. Even the textile industry which had reached a high acclaim in foreign lands, was based on cotton, silk and wool. All these occupations were in the hands of working classes, who were all doomed to be shudras. All these industries suffered. All these castes in the village economy suffered. All these groups, which were prosperous during the Buddhist rule, were degraded into castes, due to imposition of rigid caste rules. Details are given in Chapter on Science.
The mobility of the professions was stopped. Telis, who extracted oil from oil seeds, Malis, who grew vegitables, the Dhangars, who reared the goats and lambs, Sutars, who made and repaired the farmers implements, Kumhar, those who supplied earthen pots to villagers and Mahars and Mangs who protected the villages from strangers. All these professions became hereditary and social intercourse among them stopped. All these people who belonged to the same stock, as proved by Dr. Ambedkar, started observing endogamy, stopped intermarrying and became victims of "Sanskritization", i.e. the process of claiming higher status in caste heiararchy than to discard the system of castes. The purpose of imposing Kalivarjya was not only to suppress Buddhism, but also stop the economic growth of OBCs, which is not properly realised. Brahmins knew the latter would imitate them, as originally, kalivarjya was technically meant for Brahmins.
Supremacy of Brahmins
Brahmins, not only created a caste out of the varna, keeping the same name of caste as that of varna itself, and different names for others, but also claimed superiority. Swami Dharmatirtha explains:
"... They claimed to be a superior race of men, by their very origin entitled to demand and enforce submission from all other sections of society, they asserted their right to the exclusive possession of all religious learning and leadership, they contended that the worldly power of the king was subject to the spiritual authority of the Brahmans, and that in vital respects such as the liability to taxes and punishment they were to be exempted from the operation of the ordinary law of the land, their religious practices and customs assumed a distinctive shape, and the sacred thread they began to wear always marked them off from the Indian peoples whom they treated with haughty contempt, they held it was below their dignity to engage in the ordinary avocations of life such as agriculture, trade, arts and crafts." [Swami:1946:62]
Brahmin has vested interests
They developed vested interests. They wished others to remain uneducated, ignorant and supersticious. Swamiji explains:
"In fact, the Brahmans became a nation by themselves, interested in the religious and social domination and exploitation of the people of India. Their interest demanded, not the propagation of religion, but the keeping of it as a secret and a monopoly. The unification and education of the people became antagonistic to their policy, which demanded division into castes and submissiveness to the priestly authority, suppression of all aspirations to rise in culture and power, and encouragement of superstition for the profitable plying of priestcraft. It did not matter much to them who fought and won, and who ruled the country, whether they were Aryan kings or Indian rulers, or foreign conquerors. They sided with party which favoured Brahman superiority and domination. Therefore, although the Mahabharata war was waged for the liberal ideals of the Bhagavad Gita as opposed to the orthodox creed of Brahmanism, and though it ended in a victory for the former, it no less effectively served to destroy the power of the Kshatriyas, the leaders of the opposition to Brahmanism." [Swami:1946:63]
Brahmins were most powerful
For those who have a misconception that Brahmins were doing selfless service without caring for monetary benifits, here is what Swamiji observes:
"The Brahmans cared not only for honour and the gifts, which were not withheld, but wanted to be the highest power in the land, above the people and the king, to be the law-givers, the king-makers and the king-killers, as they had been accustomed to be. They were, in spite of Buddhism, still holding tremendous worldly powers, they were a wealthy community, and could carry out their imperialistic designs in numerous ways." [Swami:1946:95]
Duty of king was to worship Brahmins
For those who blame Rama for killing Shambuka, it would be sufficient to say that Ram Raj was a rule of Brahmins based on Chaturvanya, and it was duty of king to work for welfare of Brahmins. Bhandarkar has following to say:
"In the Mahabharata Bhishma says to Yudhishtra, "the highest duty of a crowned king is to worship learned Brahamans; they should be protected as one protects oneself or one's children, and be respected, bowed to and revered as if they were one's parents. If Brahamans are contented the whole country prospers; if they are discontented and angry, everything goes to destruction. They can make a god, not a god, and a not-god, a god. One whom they praise, prospers and one whom they reproach becomes miserable." [Bhandarkar R.G., Peep into Early History of India, p.65, quoted by Swami:1946:95]
This was not an empty claim. The threat to masses from the Brahmins was not
imaginary. It was real, and often practiced, as Swamiji puts it:
"This audacious claim which the Brahman writers of the Mahabharata so boldly
made could not have been a meaningless or baseless self-adulation only. It contained
a good deal of truth. The Brahamans were a terrible power for good and evil,
for evil more often good, like the feudal Baron robbers of Europe. The Murder
of King Vena for the violation of Brhamanical laws was not a solitary instance
of the tyrannical power of the Brahamans. Their right to kill troublesome or
disobedient kings came to be boldly asserted and exercised through the council
of ministers in which Brahmans generally held the highest position of authority.
The domestic revolutions,"throttling in bed," usurpation, and other inexplicable
calamities, which are a feature of the period of national kings may be, in most
cases, traced to the working of the invisible hand of the Brahmans operating
through the Brahman-dominated councils. Thus the power of the priestly class
over the kings was almost unlimited and could be served to keep the kings within
legitimate limits. [Swami:1946:96] Brahmins ruled over masses also not only
Thus they ruled the masses directly as well as indirectly, as is mentioned:
"The authority of the Brahmans over the people was no less effectual. In the administration of the big cities as well as of the small villages throughout the country Bramhanical influence was supreme. [Swami:1946:96]
Free Lands and houses to Brahmins
"It was the practice of the King in early times to establishing every city, with gifts of free quarters and rent free lands, a body of learned Brahmans with a prescribed course of duties mainly religious. The Brahman assembly thus constituted had primarily to attend to the moral and spiritual welfare of the people" [Radhakumud Mukerji, Local Government in Ancient India, p.16, quoted by Swami:1946:96]
Secular powers were also exercised by Brahmins
"These assemblies exercised lay powers also, such as protection of grazing grounds, watercourses, looking after temples and places of public worship and the like. In the villages the Brahman Sabhas were the supreme governing body." [Swami:1946:96]
Brahman Sabhas had power over all castes
"The Sabha was the assembly of the Brahmans in which other castes had no place. as has been abundantly demonstrated by the evidence adduced, the sabha was the supreme governing body of the village, but the village was not of course, inhabited by the brahmans alone but by people of other castes as well." [Radhakumud Mukerji, Local Government in Ancient India, p.309, quoted by Swami:1956:97]
"From the royal court down to the small village, the Brahmanical power was a thing to be dreaded. It went still further and whenever they got an opportunity they began to set up Brahman kings, and we find that such rulers were placed on the throne in Kashmir, Magadha, Assam and other places." [Swami:1946:97]
Dharma Sastras recasted in Muslim Rule
Dharma sastras are the basis on which the Brahmanic leaders control the populace, and give it a name like Hindu dharma. Though the name "Hindu" has no relevance for the period before Muslim arrival, now a days every body who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsee is called as a Hindu, though from time to time, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Lingayats call themselves non- Hindus. These books which actually control the masses were completely recast during muslim rule, as Swamiji observes:
"No less than sixteen writers have composed Dharma Sastras ... 'Some of them undoubtedly belong to the Puranic times or even earlier, but chapters have been interpolated in these works in recent times after the Muhammandan conquest.' (R. C. Dutt, Later Hindu civilisation, p.72) The Dharma Shastras of Yajnyavlkya, Vyasa and Parasara were undoubtedly produced or recast after the Muhammadans became masters, and the authors assumed the names of the famous Rishis of ancient days to give their works an appearance of antiquity." [Swami:1946:126]
Laws amended to establish Brahmin supremacy The Dark age of India actually started after the death of Harshavardhana in seventh century and start of so called Rajput period. Swamiji observes:
"In the Dark Age between the eighth and the tenth centuries after Christ, when the Rajputs and the Brahmans were engaged in North India in stamping out Buddhism, by destroying all that was Buddhistic - buildings, books and even monks - the famous Brahman teacher Kumarila Bhatta was carrying on his campaign in favour of the Vedas and their sacrifces and in later centuries by many famous writers such as Padmagupta, Bhatta Narayana, Hayadeva, Madhava, Purnaprajnya of the Kanarese country, Sayanacharya of Vijyanagar and others. Under the rule of the Sultans and the Mughals when the only refuge of the Hindu masses was their gods and goddesses, Brahmanism found it easy to impose itself on the credulous and fear-stricken population. "It is indeed a remarkable fact, that under the adverse political conditions of the rule of the Sultans, Hindu society evolved new means of self-protection against alien influence by means of rigorous domestic legislation as embodied in some of the most important Smriti compilations which were all produced during this period. Thus Madhavacharya, Visveswara Bhatta, Candeswara, Vacaspathi Misra, Prataparudra, Raghunandana and Kamalakara, all flourished during this period and fixed Hindu social and domestic manners and customs in different parts of the country by their writing. "... Under the Mughal monarchy, as a literary historian of India so aptly remarks, "Brahmanism remained with its undying vitality of intellectual life to continue its own course unmoved." (Radhakumud Mukharji, Local Government in ancient India, pp 15-16)
"The unfortunate truth, however, is that what was self- protection, nay self-glorification for Brahmans was damnation for the rest of the Hindus." [Swami:1946:127]
Means employed by Brahmins to enslave Hindus
Swamiji observes that Brahmanic hegmoney in all its heartlessness, and the cruel restrictions and worst superstitions came to be started from the time of the Rajputs and were legitimatised and perpetuated during several centuries of Muslim rule. To make it clear he enumerates some of the typical recommendations and commandment of the Shastras of this period. He observes:
(1) They insist on the observance of caste distinctions which are made more rigorous and oppressive than before,
(2) They prohibit inter-marriages, inter-dining and other kinds of social intercourse among the castes.
(3) They condemn as degraded caste persons those who follow numerous useful arts and crafts, such as goldsmiths, blacksmiths, washermen, weavers, carpenters, traders in various articles of daily need and so forth.
(4) They enforce the observance of various degrees of pollution and untouchability among the castes.
(5) Some communities are branded as impure and therefore to be shunned, as Mlechchas and Chandalas.
(6) Muhammandans, Christians, the Chinese and the Japanese, and other civilised peoples are treated insultingly as impure communities whose contact will cause pollution.
(7) Not only punishment for offences, but also the rewards of labour are to be regulated according to caste distinctions. "The wealth that is stolen by the Brahman tends to well being in the next life; the wealth that is given to the sudras tends to hell." (Sukraniti ii, 811-812)
(8) They prohibit sea-voyages which are to be punished with expulsion from caste or degrading penances.
(9) They encourage idolatry in all its debasing forms.
(10) Temples and their premises are glorified as spots of divine manifestation and visits to them are treated as a sure way to God's grace.
(11) Gods and goddesses are described in numerous fantastic forms with many heads and hands, in the shape of animals and semi-human beings, sleeping on snakes and riding on rats, possessing wives and children, some of whom sit on the heads of their lord, and doing things which decent men should shun - pictures which now furnish models for advertisements of beer and cigarettes and stories which disfigure the nation's life.
(12) They recommend self-immolation in fire or water for sinners. They sing false praises of Brahmans, of their sacred origin, of their exalted nature, of their extraordinary powers to bless and to curse, of the terrible effects of their wrath, of the great merit of making valuable gifts to them and of the necessity for all other men to do reverence and be submissive to them.
(13) There is no good result that cannot be achieved by making golden images of Ganesa, Vishnu, Asvins, Kubera, Indra, etc., and after worship, presenting them to Brahmans. "There is no sin, no incurable disease, no domestic calamity and no loss or injury to property which can cannot be washed away by such gifts." (R. C. Dutt, Early Hindu Civilization, p. 78)
(14) They recommend self-immolation of widows on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands, enforce child-marriage and prohibit re-marriage of widows." [Swami Dharmatirtha, p. 128 ff.] Punishments and Ordeals on Caste
There are many who even today, think that ancient system of village panchayats was much better suited to Indian conditions than the Britisher's system, specially misguided by Gandhi and Vinoba, this opinion grew. There are some who condemn the Indian Constitution solely because it, as they think rather mistakenly, was based on British system. It is a gross mistake to think so. As a matter of fact, the coming of the British and introduction of their laws was a major step in introduction of the "impartial justice by a third party" by the British, as the old system was prejudiced by caste bias and favourable to BKVs (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishyas) rather than SCAs (Shudras, Chandals, Adivasis). Swami Dharma Teertha gives many examples of ordeals and punishments based on caste always favouring Brahmins, and severe and deadly for others, so does M.M. Dr. P. V. Kane. The main question is why did the masses accept these. Swamiji explains:
"To support and exemplify these and similar injunctions and superstitions were written the fanciful Puranas - indeed they are still being concocted as occasions arise to praise the sanctity of a temple or sacredness of a bath or a place of pilgrimage. No story was considered too false, too obscene or too cruel to be propagated as a Purana or Mhatmya." [Swami:1946:131]
False philosophies created to support immoral acts
Swamiji explains how another powerful weapon in the armoury of the priests was philosophy. Before temples came into vogue, Brahmanism was opposed to the liberal teachings of the philosophers represented by the Upanishads and the Sankhya system. But with the rise of the new Hinduism, after the fall of Buddhism, the priestly class made the philosophy a very convenient and extremely useful tool by developing it as a fine art of dissimulation and in the process, the ancient sages were quoted to justify practice and rituals which were diametrically opposed to their doctrines. Image worship started by Buddhists came in handy for them as God was everywhere and could be worshipped in a multiple ways, as long as supremacy of the priestly caste was maintained. This was done by interpreting Caste distinctions as a divine law which no human being could dare to alter. He concludes by observing:
"... Every unmeaning ceremony was supported by some metaphysical theory. Animal sacrifices, drunken hysterics, and obscene festivities all had their place in spiritual culture because God could be approached in any way, according to the faith of the worshiper. There is no vile practice, no injustice, no superstition, no cruelty, no immorality which could not be and has not been justified and advocated on philosophical grounds." [Swami:1946:140]
Modern Brahmins distorted religion
" 'The priests of a religion who advise, encourage and permit crimes to be committed which they could prevent, take upon themselves the whole responsibility for the evil, and in this the modern Brahmans are so much the more to blame because they have done their best to distort and render unrecognisable the primitive religion of which they constituted themselves, the guardians and which however imperfect it may have been, was far from possessing the monstrous character which it acquired later in the hands of its avaricious and hypocritical interpreters. The Hindu system of religion is nothing more than a lever of which the Brahmans make use habitually for influencing the passions of a credulous people and turning them to their own advantage.' (Abbe Dubois, "Hindu manners, Customs and Ceremonies", p. 613)" [Swami:1946:140]
Swamiji further exclaims:
"The caste, the temple and philosophy are the pillars which support the huge system of Brahman imperialism called Hinduism." [Swami:1946:141]
Buddhism tried to save masses from Brahmanic slavery
Swami Dharmatirtha explains how the dark cloud of priestly supremacy ominously shaped itself during the age of the Vedas and gradually became prominent, until the brilliant kingdoms of the Gangetic Valley were caught in a treacherous whirlwind of Imperial Guptas and mysteriously doomed. Their doom was arrested for a long time by righteous might of Lord Buddha. There was a period of brightness of the national rejoicings of free India for over a thousand years. In those years, when the people had their great heroes and also the youthful enthusiasm for such things as exalted a nation, they made many a successful attempts to save themselves from the storm. Under self-respecting Indian monarchs in the country, the people fought for their free-born rights and to resist the aggressions of the priesthood, and the Indian Emperors held up the flag of Buddhism and kept Brahmanism at bay. But when during Rajput period, the energies of the nation were cramped, when its moral courage, intellectual freedom and physical stamina were subdued by superstitious beliefs, and feeling of unity and solidarity were crushed under the unbearable weight of foreign subjection intensified by caste degradation, then country was enveloped in an impenetrable gloom. Swamiji concludes:
"... An ancient and gifted people who resisted the march of Alexander, produced a Buddha and made India the greatest nation of the ancient world, yielded their necks to the yoke of Brahmanism." [Swami:1946:142]
It may not be considered that all this happened without planning. There were regular assemblies every six years in Kumbha and Ardha Kumbha Melas for major discisions. The system of Kumbha was a further expansion of the idea of Religious Assemblies started by Harshavardhana. Also there was a system of pilgrimage when contacts were maintained. There was a system of anual recitation of Sastras in most of important temples during yearly mahotsvas, where necessary editing could be done. And finally, the centres were established at various places, where advise and authorization of emergency nature could be obtained by the local priests in times of difficulty at any time throughout the year.
Vijaynagar Empire was a seat of exploitation of masses
A lot of praise is showered by brahmanic scholars over the glory of Brahmanism during Vijaynagara kings, to such an extent that only about six great things Brahmanism accomplished in 2500 years of history of India, one was this Empire as put forward by Sawarkar in his "saha soneri pane" i.e. "Six Golden Pages". In reality, it was reintroduction of Brahmanocracy and slavery of Hindus. Swamiji comments about it:
"The empire of Vijayanagar flourished between 1336 and 1565 and represented the grandest achievement of Brahmanism. The great Madhavacharya was probably its founder, his uterine brother Sayancharya was its greatest minister. Vijaynagar had its days of barbaric splendour, wealth and luxury reminding us of the declining glory of Rome, when Rajas and nobles kept many hundreds of women in their harems and many more to attend on them, when palaces were literally paved with gold and jewels, when temples and their priests revealed in the immensity of their ill-gotten wealth, in the dazzling magnificence of their festivals and the fleeting charms of dancing girls, and gorgeous monuments of architecture rose out of the sweat of slaves and prisoners of war. Otherwise, the history of the 250 years of the ascendancy of Vijaynagar is a history of bloody wars without a moment of peace and security, of plots and counter-plots, of indulgence in wine and women, of Sati, slavery and forced labour, of 400 and 500 women being burried alive along with their husbands, of human sacrifices, such as that of sixty human victims offered to ensure the security of a dam near Hospet, of huge slaughter of animals for religious function and other frightful excesses of priestcraft. During a nine-day religious celebration the king accompanied by his Brahmins went where the idols were and every day watched the slaughter of animals. "Then he witnesses the slaughter of twenty-four buffaloes and a hundred and fifty sheep with which a sacrifice is made to the idol." (Sewel, A forgotten Empire) The frequent wars and the distribution of booty among the Brahmins and temples remind us of those days of Asvamedha (horse-sacrifices) when the duty of the Kshatriya was to fight and amass wealth and share it with sacrificial priests. In the revived Hinduism, we find all the unhealthy features of the religion of horse-sacrifices, with many more barbarous and debasing institution which deserved but on fate merciless extirpation. Such brutalities could be excused among the Muhammadan or the Portuguese bigots of those days. But in a land where the Buddha had preached and Ashoka had ruled, there was no excuse for the enlightened and sacredotal priestly class when they reared so monstrous a system of sin and exploitation." [Swami:1946:141]
Brahmanism was punished for the Vijayanagara crimes
Swamiji feels that the Muslim upsurge was to stop the "Brahmin Raj" crushing the masses, both Hindus and muslims, and he feels that it was the punishment of Brahmanic atrocities on masses, and justifies the Muslim reaction:
"Punishment came in a terrible form and with lightning speed. Wherever Hinduism raised its head there the no less cruel hand of the Mohammedans inflicted condign punishment for its sins.
"First it occurred in the North, then in the middle and later on right down to the southernmost part of India, from one end of the country to the other, the avenging arm of Nemesis followed in the trial of Hindu revival, and except for short periods of interruption under the Mughals, India knew no security nor peace for many a long century.
"It was one protracted reign of terror and bloodshed. Idols were smashed to pieces, magnificent temples were desecrated or destroyed, the finest monuments of art and architecture, palaces and towers, rich cities and flourishing were obliterated from the face of the earth and their enormous wealth of gold and silver and jewels was dragged out from their secret cells and carried to distant land. Many thousands of men and women and children, Brahmans and Mlechchas were enslaved and sold in foreign markets like sardines. Thousands of women from palaces and peasant homes, from temples and Brahman families, were made to enjoy the common sisterhood of the harems of Sultans and emperors. Many millions of Hindus were slaughtered, and many more forced to embrace Islam. Scenes of savage massacres, wholesale destruction and blood-curdling cruelties beggaring all description look place from end to end of the country.
"The unrelenting hand of Karma levied from the superstitious Hindus the toll of gold for gold, slave for slave, women for women, persecution for persecution, blood for blood, slaughter for slaughter, until Britain forced the Hindu and the Muslim to surrender their blood stained swords and live in peace.
"Seeing how even after nearly two centuries of British rule, the Hindu still takes pride in treating his brother Hindu as a despicable "untouchable," in fighting to preserve the abominable distinctions of caste, in passionately to dark idolatry, and other iniquities and superstitions, who can say that the punishment was unmerited or too severe?" [Swami: 1946: 145]
Indian BCs divided into catagories
It was Dr. Ambedkar who highlighted for the first time that the Indian society was the first in the world to create three catagories of backward castes, which together form more than a quarter of 1000 million strong population, (in addition to "Other Backward Castes - OBCs", who are 52%), viz. (1) Untouchables, unseeables and unapproachabes, (2) Adivasis or forst and hill dwellers who had to be in isolation and away from civilization, and (3) The criminal tribes, who had to refrain from doing any other work for their lively hood other than resorting to crime, and comented:
"... The Hindu does not regard the existance of these classes as a matter of apology or shame and feels no responsibility either to atone for it or to inquire into its origin and growth. ..." [Ambedkar, W&S,7,239]
B. G. Tilak thinks such criminal tribes existed at the time of Gita, and explained that the term "Papyoni" applied in statements in Gita (IX,32) that Shudras, Vaishyas and other "papayonis" can obtain "param gati" if they pray me, refers to those people whom British Government designated as "Criminal Tribes". [Tilak:1968: 700]
Most of the scholars translate "papyoni as "born from the womb of sin". So how much credence should be placed on Mr. Tilak's statements, is a debatable point. If Tilak's interpetation is accepted, the time of Gita comes much later in middle ages after Harshavardhana. But the fact remains that the lowest srata of Hindu society was composed of these three types of people. To my mind it appears that the so called "criminal tribes" are nothing but the part of SCs and STs. This should be clear by writings of Annabhau Sathe, whose novel "Fakira" has become so famous. It is also well known that at the anual fair at Khandoba of Jejuri in Maharashtra, a god lower castes, even the robbers used to assemble to finalise their plans of action for the comming year. [Rajas:1997:74]
Dr. Ambedkar has very clearly established the origin of Untouchability being due to contempt of Buddhists. Those Buddhists who being "broken men" were living out side the villages, did not give up beef eating, unlike Brahmins, were condemned to be untouchables. His theory remains till date unchallenged. The "broken men", are defined as "strangers or fugitives from other territories, men in fact, who have broken the original tribal bond which gave them a place in the community and who had to obtain and thus get on as best as they might in a new tribe and new place. Broken men were thus created at times of the disordering of society." [Nair:1959:29]
Dr. Ambedkar himself wrote: The thesis on the origin of Untouchability advanced in the book is an altogether novel thesis. It comprises the following propositions:-
(1) There is no racial difference between the Hindus and the Untouchables;
(2) The distinction between the Hindus and Untouchability in its original form, before the advent of Untouchability, was the distinction between Tribesmen and Broken Men from alien Tribes. It is the Broken Men who subsequently came to be treated as Untouchables;
(3) Just as Untouchability has no racial basis so also has it no occupational basis;
(4) There are two roots from which Untouchability has sprung:
(a) Contempt and hatred of the Broken Men as of Buddhists by the Brahmins:
(b) Continuation of beef-eating by the Broken Men after it had been given up by others.
(5) In searching for the origin of Untouchability care must be taken to distinguish the Untouchables from the Impure. All orthodox Hindu writers have identified the Impure with the Untouchables. This is an error. Untouchables are distinct from the Impure.
(6) While the Impure as a class came into existence at the time of the Dharma Sutras the Untouchables came into being much later than 400 A.D.
These conclusions are the result of such historical research as he has been able to make, said Dr. Ambedkar ["Untouchables", W&S vol. 7, p.242]
Brahmanic views differ from Castemen's views
Deepankar Gupta observes that contrary to the Brahmanical view, each caste has its own theory of about its Origin. He talks of occupations but "without implying that such occupations are degrading in any manner". This unfortunately is not true. Recently, there was a hue and cry against word "Kunbi" given by a Brahmanic scholar in a Dictionary, and not long time back, Teli community agitated against some Brahmanic books including Manusmriti, and Government of Maharashtra had to declare a ban. But he is correct in occupational valuations, and in other aspects too, individual caste ideologies are markedly different from Brahmanical versions.
He illustrates this difference in Brahmanic version and their own versions by reproducing tales of origins of lowly Chamars, the even lower Chandals, and of the upper caste Kayasthas, as related by members of these castes, and notes how pervasive is the difference between Brahmanical view of these castes and the views these castes have of their own origins.
" Case 1 -- The Chamars. The Orthodox view regarding the origin of Chamars is as follows: "According to Puranas, the Chamars are descended from a boatman and Chandal woman; but if we were to identify them with Karavara, or leather worker, mentioned in the tenth Chapter of Manu, the father of the caste was a Nishada and mother a Vaideha (Risley 1891: Vol 1,175)"
"The Chamars view their origin as follows: "Chamars trace their pedigree to Ravi or Rui Das, the disciple of Ramananda at the end of fourteenth century. Another tradition current among them alleges that their original ancestor was the youngest of four Brahman brethren who went to bathe in a river and found a cow struggling in a quicksand. They sent the youngest brother in to rescue the animal, but he could get it out the cow died. He was compelled therefore by his brothers to remove the carcass, and after he had done this they turned him out of their caste and gave him the name of Chamar. (Ibid:176)"
"Case II -- The Chandals. The Orthodox view is the following: "Manu brands them as the lowest of mankind; sprung from illicit intercourse of a Sudra man with a Brahman woman, whose touch defiles the pure and who have no ancestral rites. (Ibid:184)
"The Chandals themselves, however, view their origin differently. Thus, according to a tradition of the Dacca Chandals, they were formerly Brahmanas, who became degraded by eating with Sudras. (Ibid.)
"Case III -- The Kayasthas. 'The Kayasthas themselves reject the theory which gives them for an ancestor Karan, the son of a Vaishya father by a Sudra mother'. (Ibid:438)
"But the Kayasthas of Bengal go 'so far as to argue that the five Kayasthas of the tradition were political officers in charge as Kshatriyas on a mission from Kanauj to the king of Bengal, and that the five Brahmanas played quite a subordinate part in the transaction, if indeed they were anything more than cooks of the five Kayasthas'. (Ibid:439)
"These examples could indeed be multiplied ad nauseum, but they would all point to one single fact. The elaboration of the pure hierarchy from the Brahman's point of view is not shared by other castes." [Gupta:Indian Express:24.4.2000]
H. H. Riseley's view about Social Control by Brahmins
Much literature is available on the question of Scheduled Tribes. But the crucial point is that many individuals from some tribes were elevated to the ranks of Rajputs. But those who did not obey the dominance of Brahmins remained as such and are now known as "Adivasis". As Nair has pointed out, Brahmins elevated only a limited families to rank of Rajputs, so as not to let their ranks swell. Some glimpses of this proceedure come to light from the writings of Riseley. His views are worth mentioning in toto, as they throw ample light on Indian scene as to what happened when the Buddhism died out and Brahmanism came up, after death of Harshavardhana. The process is still going on and still the struggle for supremacy has not ended. This is what Prof. Riseley coments:
"Brahmanism knows nothing of open proselytism or forcible conversion, and attains its end in a different and more subtle fashion, for which no precise analogue can be found in the physical world. It leaves existing aggregates very much as they were, and so far from welding them together, after the manner of Islam, into large cohesive aggregates, tends rather to create an indefinite number of fresh groups; but every tribe that passes within the charmed circle of Hinduism is inclined sooner or later to abandon its more primitive usages or to clothe them in some Brahmanical disguise. The strata, indeed, remain, or are multiplied; their relative positions are on the whole unaltered; only their fossils are metamorphosed into more advanced forms.
"One by one the ancient totems drop off, or are converted by a variety of ingenious devices into respectable personages of the standard mythology; the fetish gets a new name, and is promoted to the Hindu Pantheon in the guise of a special incarnation of one of the greater gods; the tribal chief sets up a family priest, starts a more or less romantic family legend, in course of time blossoms forth as a new variety of Rajput. His people follow his lead, and make haste to sacrifice their women at the shrine of social distinction. Infant marriage with all its attendant horrors is introduced; widows are forbidden to marry again and divorce, which plays a great and, on the whole, a useful part in tribal society, is summarily abolished. Throughout all these changes, which strike deep into the domestic life of people, the fiction is maintained that no real change has taken place, and every one believes, or affects to believe, that things are with them as they have been since the begining of time. It is curious to observe that the operation of these tendencies has been quickened, and the sphere of their action enlarged by the great expansion of railways which has taken place in India during the last few years."
"The leading men of an aboriginal tribe, having somehow got on in the world and became independent landed proprietors manage to enroll themselves in one of the leading castes, They usually set up as Rajputs; their first step being to start a Brahman priest, who invents for them a mythical ancestor, supplies them with a family miracle connected with the locality where their tribe are settled, and discovers that they belong to some hitherto unheard-of clan of the great Rajput community. In the early stages of their advancement they generally find great difficulty in getting their daughters married, as they will not marry within their own tribe, and Rajputs of their adopted caste will of course not intermarry with them. But after a generation or two their persistency obtains its reward, and they intermarry, if not with pure Rajputs, at least with a superior order of manufactured Rajputs, whose promotion into the Brahmanical system dates far enough back for the steps by which it was gained to have been forgotten. Thus a real change of blood takes place; while in any case the tribal name is completely lost, and with it all possibility of accurately separating this class of people from the Hindus of purpose bloods, and of assigning them to any particular non-Aryan tribe. They have absorbed in the fullest sense of the word, and henceforth pose, and are locally accepted, as high-caste Hindus. All stages of the process, family miracle and all can be illustrated by actual instances from the leading families in Chota Nagpur.
"A number of aborigines embrace the tenets of a Hindu religious sect, losing thereby their tribal name and becoming Vaishnabs, Ramayats, and the like. Whether there is any mixture of blood or not will depend upon local circumstances and the rules of the sect regarding inter- marriage. Anyhow the identity of the converts as aborigines is usually, though not invariably, lost, and this also may therefore be regarded as a case of true absorption."
"A whole tribe of aborigines, or a large section of a tribe, enroll themselves in the ranks of Hinduism under the style of a new caste, which though claiming an origin of remote antiquity, is readily distinguishable by its name from any of the standard and recognized castes. Thus the great majority of Koch inhabitants of Rungpore now invariably describe themselves as Rajbanshis or Bhanga Kshatriyas - a designation which enable them to represent themselves as an outlying branch of the Kshatriyas who fled to North-Eastern Bengal in order to escape from the wrath of Parasu-Rama. They claim descent from Raja Dasarath, father of Rama. They keep Brahmans, imitate the Brahmanical ritual in their marriage ceremony, and have begun to adopt the Brahmanical system of gotras. In respect of this last point they are now in a curious state of transition, as they have all hit upon the same gotra (Kasyapa) and thus habitually transgress the primary rule of the Brahmanical system, which absolutely prohibits marriage within the gotra. But for this defect in their connubial arrangements - a defect which will probably be corrected in a generation or two as they and their purohits rise in intelligence - there would be nothing in their customs to distinguish them from Aryan Hindus, although there has been no mixture of blood, and they remain thoroughly Koch under the name of Rajbanshi.
"A whole tribe of aborigines, or a section of a tribe, became gradually converted to Hinduism without, like the Rajbanshis abandoning their tribal designation. This is what is happening among the Bhumij of Western Bengal. Here a pure Dravidian race have lost their original language, and now speak only Bengali; they worship Hindu gods in addition to their own (tendency being to relegate the tribal gods to the women), and the more advanced among them employ Brahmans as family priests. They still retain a set of totemistic exogamous subdivisions closely resembling those of the Mundas and the Santals, but they are beginning to forget the totems which the names of the subdivisions denote, and the names themselves will probably soon be abandoned in favour of more aristocratic designations. The tribe will then have become a caste, and will go on stripping itself of all customs likely to betray its true descent. The physical characteristics of its members will alone survive. After their transformation into a caste, the bhumiji will be more strictly endogamous than they were as a tribe, and even less likely to modify their physical type by intermarriage with other races."
"There is every reason to suppose that the movement of which certain phases are roughly sketched above, has been going on for many centuries, and that, although at the present day its working can probably be most readily observed in Chota Nagpore, the Orissa hills, and parts of Eastern and Northern Bengal, it must formerly have operated on a similar on a similar scale in Bengal proper and Behar."
"The tendency to imitate the usages of the higher castes which has been remarked in Behar and Chota Nagpur, operates much more strongly in Bengal proper and Orisa. In Orisa, for instance, Goalas take a higher position than in Behar, and rigorously prohibit widow remarriage. Throughout Bengal the Kaibarttas, though ranking below the Nabasakh or group of thirteen (formerly nine) castes from whose hands an orthodox Brahman can take water, marry their daughters as infants, and forbid their widows to remarry. In Dacca the gunny- weaving and mat-making Kapalis, and the Chandals, spoken of in Manu as 'the vilest of Mankind', have given up widow remarriage, and the practice appears to be confined to the Gareri, Rishi, Coch-Mandai, and other aboriginal and semi- aboriginal castes. Similar evidence of the gradual spread of practices Rajbanshis of Rungrpore, people of distinctly non- Aryan type, who have abandoned their tribal name of Koch in recent times, now pose as high as high-caste Hindus, and affect great indignation if asked whether their widows can remarry. The Paliyas of Dinagepore, also demonstrably Koch, fall into two sections-Rajbansi Paliyas and Byabahari, or 'common' Paliyas. The latter practise widows remarriage, but are beginning to be ashamed of it, and in this and other matters show signs of a leaning towards orthodox usage. The former are as strict as the extreme ignorances of the 'fallen' Brahmans who act as their family priests admits; and as education spreads among them, they will go on continually raising their standard of ceremonial purity"
"It is clear that tendency of the lower strata of Hindu society is continually towards closer and closer conformity with the usages of the higher castes. These alone present a definite pattern which admits, up to a certain point, of ready imitation, and the whole Brahmanical system works in this direction." [H. H. Risley in the "Tribes and Castes of Bengal", 1891, quoted by Nair:1959:62]
It must be remembered that Riseley is mostly describing the area under the last Pala rulers, the greatest patrons of Buddhism, and population was Tribal as well as Buddhist. This process of conversion of Buddhists is a crucial one, mostly ignored by scholars. Some more details will be discussed in chapters on Adivasis and on Rajputs.
Dr. Ambedkar had warned that these people could be reclaimed by non-Hindus, and can swell the ranks of enemies of Hindus, a calamity for which the Hindus have to thank their own leaders. ["Anihilation of Caste", W&S vol 1, p.53] The Eastern India has seen some conversions to Christianity. The conditions of these tribal population, as described vividly in the "Naked Nagas" before conversion, make a sad reading.
Even today many Dalitbahujans are trying to show off as of higher castes by various methods like changing their names, accepting the gods and festivals of Hindus, and try to be more Hindus than Hindus themseles. But this did not dilute the caste discremination and humiliations. Then they realized that Sanskritization is no solution to Hindu barbarity. This is the reason why Ambedkar embraced Buddhism and Periyar promoted Dravida culture by attacking Hindu culture and Hindu Gods. [Kancha Ilaiah:1998:70]