Latasinha’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Brahmins in modern India

 

              “In modern understanding of caste system, element of caste is predominant and element of system is less.”

India is in a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. Therefore all citizens – Brahmins-non-Brahmins, rich-poor, forward-backward etc. – should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. People must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and work for an inclusive society. They must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

Issue

Brahmins  (The literal meaning of Brahmin is ‘all-pervading’ and ‘consciousness’) in India  are usually portrayed by some political parties as the enemy of non-Brahmins, backwards, minorities and Dalits, whom they have been oppressing and exploiting for centuries. Why have always been the needles on Brahmins? Before commenting in favor or against any subject or assessing any practice, one must keep in mind that right and wrong are relative terms, which depend on total configuration of the four variables of an action – 

  1. Region (the culture of a place in which a person is born or brought up;
  2. Time (the period historical time, in which a person is/was living;
  3. Effort (efforts required at different stages of life)
  4. and Quality (Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits).   

Considering all these factors ancient India gave most important place to Brahmins.

Culture of the place and time – The stratification of Indian society is based on Varna System. According to it, Hindu society is divided into four groups – Brahmin (intellectuals), Khhatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (businessmen) and Shudras (labour class). It was associated, more or less, with social position of each group. The restrictions and privileges in matter of social intercourse and rights and duties of each group were clearly defined. All members of a group had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits and style of dress.   Though it believed in segmental ranking of different groups according to their relevance and contribution of their work to the, it placed all the individuals  within each group -rich or poor- on the same footing.  A person’s relation with fellow members were closer and equal than with those belonging to other castes. His relations with other Varnas were formal. Elders of a group took care of maintaining discipline within the Varna and helped its weak and helpless members. All the members shared moments of joy and sorrows together. 

There was not much disparity between different Varnas or urban and rural people. The heavily-loaded concepts of disparity, discrimination, exploitation of weak were almost non-existent at that time.  

Place of honour for Brahmins in ancient Indian Hindu society – In the category of Brahmins came the people, who had intellectual and spiritual qualities.  Their duty was learning, pursue knowledge and then set norms for common man, based on their learning and knowledge, so that the whole society can be benefitted from their  wisdom. They were supposed to keep themselves away from ignorance, illusions and lust. Maximum self-restrictions had been imposed on them by Hindu Shastras. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world.

Brahmins had been given the highest place of honour in Hindu society, not because of material successes, but for their learning, character, intellectual and spiritual pursuits and ability to guide the masses. Initially it was not birth in Brahmin’s family, that entitled a person to get automatically that respect and placebut it was his aptitude, attitude deeds and character. A powerful emperor like Ashoka the great thought it his duty to bow before monks, “as a mark of my deep respect for their leaning, wisdom and sacrifice. What matters in life, is not a persons status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when you have raised yourself up from ignorance, can you recognize the greatness of a few in the sea of humanity.” (Quoted from Palkiwala)

In today’s context, persons, who are not able to lead the life of austerity and self-discipline, should not get the entitlement.

Ranking based on efforts and quality in ancient India – In ancient times, the system had the seeds of liberalism. The relative standing of four Varnas was neither rigidly fixed nor there was a nation-wide hierarchy of the Varnas because of the local character of the society. Local semi-autonomous nature of society (before Industrial Revolution) had made each local unit self-sufficient and capable to fulfil all the needs of  its people locally. Interdependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life  were the intrinsic features of Verna system. It was practically impossible for any varna to provide everything by itself. People of each varna had to depend on other groups for the fulfilment of all the needs. Every regional area had managed well and produced  enough to fulfil the basic needs of its people. Society as a whole had control over its natural resources. 

However, in a local area, the relative standing of Varnas was more or less fixed. There had been local variation in quantity and quality and in the amount of rigidity, with which the distinction between them was maintained. In northern part of India there always were four Varnas, within which all  castes came. But in Dravidian South, where Varna came comparatively late and in the Western part of India, there was a fifth Varna(Panchamas/untouchables) also. South Indians were more rigid in their observations. (Basham pp 139-144)

Opportunities to progress available to all – The system had provided the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn respect of the whole  society. For example Vashishta, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism was the son of a prostitute, Urvashi. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the Quintessence of the Vedic  Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Airteya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa  of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman (an OBC, according to the present standards) and was not ashamed of his origin. Balmiki, an untouchable according to the present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India 

Downfall of Brahmins, from ivory tower – System of identifying persons in different categories of ‘Varnas’  by birth had made Brahmin community relaxed. They started making compromises with their tasks. One compromise set them off to other compromises in order to enjoy pleasures of money and get name, name and power. It made them to forget about the life of austerity.

Change in attitude –  Combination of knowledge with greed and of superiority complex with arrogance led some misguided and ambitious Brahmins neglect their role as the trend-setters. By hook or crook, such Brahmins (not in the real sense a Brahmin) tried their best to retain hold over the people of their respective local areas.

During medieval and modern period, the irresponsible and arbitrary acts of some Brahmins added fuel into the fire. They took advantage of their superior status. Ignorance and superstitions of masses helped them in achieving their mission.

Corrective measures – India never needed the help of any outside force for its exaltation. However, after establishing their rule in India, British rulers tried to correct the Indian society in their own way. In the past, Indian society from time to time looked inwardly and corrected the arbitrariness and irresponsible behaviour of Brahmins. Rise of Buddhism in Ancient India, or Bhakti movement in mediaeval India, when Hindu and Muslim priests, alike, arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted the tenets of their respective religions, and Reform Movement in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries are a few examples of it.

Potrayal of Brahmin’s as oppresors? – Arbitrary acts of a few Bramins gave opportunity to British rulers to pin-point them as exploitators of other sections of society. But much more than arbitrariness of Brahmins, it was the potrayal of Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants by the missionaries and the British rulers in India. What compelled them to do so?

Brahmins ahead of others in opting for Modern education – During British rule, initially, British, who annexed authority from Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community. The gradual displacement from their source of income, after the decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, the appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to switch over their attention towards modern education.

Why? To earn their living respectfully – Initially, it was the impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, which looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get costly Western Education.

Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Hold of educated Brahmins on Hindu society – Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, were quick to move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important place in the society.

In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service, during 1869 to 1899. The British authorities also noticed the preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, including National movement and their growing influence and hold over the Hindu Community.

Role of Brahmins in national movement alarmed the rulers – Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers. They considered it necessay to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English (rule) In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces.

 Steps taken by British rulers – Many British administrators including Temple advised the Government to stop the dominance of one or few groups in administration and begin to rely on other groups or castes, in order to keep the balance of power.

In 1881 the Government decided to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in order to counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Success in creating venom – The atmosphere was already ripe for it as there was a fear in the minds of minorities and non-Brhmin community that if by any chance India would get Independence in near future, Brahmins would dominate them completely. On one hand, the British slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers, and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and tyrants.

Starting point South – Missionaries and the British rulers initially spread the idea to generate the resentment in the minds of ‘Non-brahmins’ of South against ‘Brahmins’ that Brahmins had occupied most of the places in education, jobs and places in modern callings. It succeeded in developing an in anathema amongst South Indian non-Brahmin population towards Brahmins (who constituted only 3% of the total population of Tamil Nadu), Sanskrit, and northern culture.

Divide between Brahmins and non-Brahmins – Being a minuscule non-militant community by nature, the Brahmins have surrendered to their fate. Brahmins yielded to the pressures of aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins. The geographical cum social mobility of Brahmins from Madras earlier to other parts of the country, where non-Brahmin movement was either weak or non-existent and then abroad led them to explore new pastures.

Adam’s Report destroys the popular nototion of monopoly of Brahmins in education – Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers. The Raj made a thorough study of the prevailing indigenous educational system. Many surveys were made before introducing its own system of Modern education in 1834, most prominent being the Report of W. Adam, of 1835 an excommunicated Baptist missionary. His data on indigenous education system of Madras was the most comprehensive.

Data of Adam’s Report (1835) reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. and resentment in the hearts of present day politicians because of North being always in prominance in national politics. Colonized Indian intellectuals still continue to sing their tune. The data shows –

  • There were 12,498 public schools containing 188,650 scholars in Madras. Madras Presidency reported 1,101 schools (with 5431 students) of higher learning, Rajahmundry heading the list with 279 such schools.

  • besides the system of public education, there was also widespread private coaching. In Madras, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”, according to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency.

  • Non-Brahmins were not unrepresented in learning. In Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”.

  • Brahmins had a near-monopoly only in the Vedas and Theology.

  • Shudras and the “other castes” had in other branches of advanced learning like Astronomy and Medical Science.

  • The share of the Brahmins in certain areas was indeed very low. Even in higher learning in Malabar, out of 1,588 scholars of Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics and Medical Science, only 639 were Brahmins, 23 Vaishyas, 254 Shudras and 672 “other castes”.

  • In Astronomy, out of a total of 806 scholars, Brahmins were only 78, Vaishyas 23, Shudras 195, and other lower castes 510. In Medical Science, the share of the Brahmin scholars was only 31 out of a total of 190. The rest belonged to the Shudras and “other castes”.

  • In many places like in Seringapatam, it was only 7.83% in Madura 8.67%; in North Arcot, Brahmin boys were 9.57%, while the Shudras and “other castes” were 84.46%.

  • the female education was very much neglected though it was not altogether absent.
  • In some regions, Shudras did better in the matter of female education than the upper class Hindus including the Brahmins like Malabar and Joypoor in Visakhapatnam.

According to the data, out of the total number of 175,089 students, both male and female, elementary and advanced, only 42,502 were Brahmins (24.25%); 19,669 were Vaishya students (about 11%); but 85,400 were Shudras (about 48.8%); and still 27.516 more were “all other castes”, meaning castes even lower than the Shudras including the pariahs (15.7%). Thus the higher castes were only about 35% and the Shudras and other castes were about 65% of the total Hindu students. If we also include the Muslims who were about 7% of the total Hindu and Muslim students, then the share of the Brahmins was even less.

Act of dividing Indian society – The rulers created other new identities in Indian society through census operations for the purposes of creating rift among different sections of Indian society, like Upper castes-lower castes, Brahmins-non-Brahmins, Backward castes, Dalits, Majority-minority communitities etc. etc. The newly created identities generated venom in the hearts of the people against each other. A strong force against Brahmins was thus raised to counter their hold on masses.

While laying the foundation of democratic institutions in India, some discriminatory Acts were passed on electoral reforms and quota system like Act of 1919 (Minto Morely Reforms)or Communal Award of 1932, in order to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in administration and other modern callings. It created a wide gulf amongst various sections of Indian society.  Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the “Unkindest cut of all” intended to “divide population into communal groups” and to create a permanent split in Hindu Society.

Now onwards, Muslims and non-Brahmin castes resisted vociferously the dominance of Brahmins everywhere. The Imperial government allowed formation of many caste groups against Brahmins. The movement against Brahmins forged ahead with ferocity in the Southern and Western parts of India. It remained mild in North India, where communalism had already disrupted the peace of the land.

Winding up 

First Backward class Commission’s Chairman Kaka Kalelkar had commented in First Backward castes Report – “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation. All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity. Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.

Also, Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people.” …It would be well, if representatives of the Backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves. Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole. The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.

If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it. Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes, I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.

 Conclusion – Irrespective of caste or creed, materialism and consumerism  is at rise. People in general want to fulfill all their desires and enjoy the life to the core, even if one has to ‘beg, borrow or steal’.  Such a tendency ignites the desire or craving for ‘more’, which instead of making them happy and contended, limits human aspirations to sensual enjoyment only, meaning eating delicious food, nights out, wearing good clothes and possess all the riches and worldly possessions to enjoy pleasures of life and make people very selfish. Achievements only at physical plane does not always make a person happy, successful and strong. Such a mindset gives rise to greed, anger and passion and most of the times (s)he is not able to maintain good relations with others. Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status to get access over all the luxuries of life at tax-payers cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people recent past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen, organised workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats.

We are in a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. Therefore all citizens should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. They must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

Advertisements

October 11, 2016 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems

8 Comments »

  1. Good to see your explanation on the subject.

    Please see my comments on the subject.

    No one has a right to change the varna principles laid out by Supreme. If we do that , we are playing with nature. We know already playing with actual nature causes disaster environmentally, similarly in the social settings for humans with sixth sense, if we play with varna system , it will take the society in a deteriorating ways. People may not see or realise the implications with immediate effect but it is already happening.

    It is the classification given by Supreme and it is made known to public through Bhagavad Gita scripture.1

    Why should there be a mention in the first place if it is not relevant and not to be used ?

    The varnas and gunas are different altogether. All the Brahmins,Shatriyas,Vaisyas and Sudras families (7+ billion world population) together make up varnas.

    When a person is born to a family means, he was born to those parents based on the earlier karmas of the that person with mix of Gunas(mix with different percentages of Sattvic,Rajasic,Tamasic together(Bhagavad Gita)). Since we also believe in multiple births, based on which he/she realises(by proper living), he/she has to evolve in Gunas socially, and materially or to deteriorate socially and by material means.

    So basically with multiple births, the evolution of a person is denoted by birth in the particluar varna family(Brahmin being the highest, then followed by Shatriyas, Vaishyas, Sudras.) and maturity of mix of percentages of Gunas in each birth.

    There are no religions. There are no caste systems in society. All are same since there are no religions but there should be some way for each individual soul to progress towards Enlightenment/God/Liberation. And that is why and definitely there is Varna System defined by Supreme for the welfare of the human souls told by our Great Rishis/Sages. And in Bhagavad Gita it has been told by Supreme that there are various yoga systems (Bhakti yoga, Gnana yoga, Raja yoga, Karma Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Ashtanga yoga etc., ) to acheive that liberation/enlightenment).

    Varna system consists of four classifications viz., Brahmins, Shatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Based on the Karma of ones previous lives, his family predicissors path/lineage predominantly from male side, that person / human soul is ought to be born in particular family who are of either a Brahmin/Shatriya/Vaishya/Sudra.

    It is a natural(social in nature) process for the human being set by Supreme God and no one has a right to change it or certify anyone for that evolution. The process is a supremely automated one. We just have to follow it.

    In the current stage, the country must follow Varna system and try to neutralise or abolish subcastes . viz.,

    Brahmin : Iyer / Iyengar
    Sub castes : Vadagalai/Thengalai
    Vadama/Vathima/and so on….
    Vaisya : Nadar/Chettiyar and subcastes if any in this level of varna.

    Similarly in other varnas such as Shatriyas and Shudras if any sub castes are there they should get neutralised/abolished at the time of marriages in society.

    Comment by Bharanidharan Swaminathan | November 29, 2016 | Reply

  2. Hiya! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured
    I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading
    links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa?
    My website addresses a lot of the same topics as yours
    and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you are interested feel free to shoot me an email.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Wonderful blog by the way!

    Comment by top rated essay writing service | January 18, 2017 | Reply

  3. I’ve been exploring for a little for any high quality
    articles or weblog posts in this sort of area
    . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this web site.
    Reading this information So i am glad to show that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I came upon just
    what I needed. I most certainly will make sure to do not overlook this web site and provides it a glance on a constant basis.

    Comment by Corinne | January 19, 2017 | Reply

  4. Your style is really unique in comparison to other
    folks I’ve read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity,
    Guess I will just bookmark this page.

    Comment by Lorie | January 27, 2017 | Reply

  5. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He
    was entirely right. This post actually made my day.
    You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

    Comment by Harry Dent | January 27, 2017 | Reply

  6. You should take part in a contest for one of the greatest
    sites on the internet. I’m going to recommend this web site!

    Comment by Elma | February 2, 2017 | Reply

  7. Generally I do not learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that
    this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and
    do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great post.

    Comment by Alfonzo | February 8, 2017 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: