Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Were Brahmins bad? - Part-9 (Hindu-ness of tribals)

Karunanidhi's Dravidian ideology is based on 3 obsessions – of seeing the people either as Aryans or Dravidians, as Hindus or non-Hindus and as Brahmins or non- Brahmins. This is not an original ideology based on research or experiences but a borrowed one from the British. The theories of the British pertaining to these three are also not based on any reason and reality but are a result of their nurtured hypocrisies against the people whom they ruled. 

It is quite obvious that the colonial writers did not understand a single idea on Aryanism, Hinduism and Brahmanism. Their conception of Aryan war against the Dravidians was based on a fight between the Pancha Manavas who were none other than the 5 sons of King Yayati, an ancestor in the lineage of Rama! The very term 'Manava' indicates that they were those coming in the lineage of Manu. (This is similar to how the Danavas got their name – as those coming in the lineage of Danu.)  So a fight between the siblings of a "pre-existing Aryan" stock was interpreted by them as a war by invading Aryans.

The fight resulted in the dispersal of the brothers in North India and outside India as shown in the illustration below. The traces of the Aryan of the Aryans in the Middle East and such other traces are the result of the exile of the 2 brothers and their clan to the west and North West of the river Indus as a fallout of this succession war.

The colonial writers did not find it necessary to collate the narrations from different Hindu texts to check the veracity of their Aryan idea. They even refused to accept the explanations given by the Brahmins who were teachers and preceptors until the time the British made their presence in India. By the kind of the portfolio arrangement that existed in the Indian society, the Brahmins were the ones who guarded the knowledge of scriptures and were in a position to dispel doubts on the history of Hindus and their theology. But those explanations did not satisfy the colonial writers because they did not furnish the 'vital clue' on the migration of people from outside. They dismissed them as mere fables or myths whereas it was they who made the biggest ever myth of  Aryan invasion, woven into a story on which over a century of scholarship was wasted. Behind that myth was a search for finding a justification for pushing their Saviour into the Indian mass. To quote from the book written in 1810 by Thomas Williamson,

"There is room to doubt whether any true accounts of the antiquity of the Seek College at Benares, and of the migrations of the Hindus from the countries bordering on Palestine, actually exists: many persons, of considerable talents, and of great erudition, are disposed to treat the whole of what has been delivered to us, with so much solemnity, by the Pundits, or learned Brahmans, as a deception, intended to ridicule our curiosity, and to repress, or at least to divert, it from the true course. Circumstances may be adduced in support of this hypothesis ; and we cannot but regard the manner in which the Pundits arrogate to themselves the whole knowledge of their history, which is carefully concealed from a large portion even of the Brahmans, as a circumstantial proof of our having been designedly led astray, both by a fictitious record, and by a well concerted fable, invented for the occasion: this may be aptly compared to the whale and the tub. Fortunately, no material point appears to rest on the antiquity, or otherwise, of the Hindu mythology, or the records, of the Seeks, regarding the origin of that people; though it would perhaps be found, that their true exposition might tend to afford many proofs in favor of the mission of our Saviour. " (1)

Discrediting Brahmins thus started by branding them as not knowing the scriptures properly and twisting the scriptures to suit their whims. The British theorized that the Brahmins conspired to work against the locals and brought in Manu neethi and caste system to subjugate the masses. These Brahmins were not the original Brahmins of the Aryan stock but were the locals who fused with the Aryans and dominated others by putting themselves on top of everyone else. They also theorized that Hinduism as practiced by the Hindus of India was not the same as Aryan Vedism.  

"Those who have made the subject their study, tell us that the Hindooism of the present day is as unlike the Hindooism of the Vedas" (2-a)    
" Hindooism has been lowered from its purer type in order to meet the necessities knew nothing, but who have been adopted into the Hindoo system to win the goodwill and reconcile the superstition of a wild and devil-worshipping race, of the indigenous tribes among whom it made its home. Its pantheon has been crowded with elephant gods and bloodthirsty goddesses of whom the first Aryans " (2-b)

They visualized that a greedy group of Brahmins had worked for thousands of years to establish their supremacy by inventing the varna system and segregating all the people under some caste label.  

" It is through this imitative faculty that the myth of the four castes, evolved in the first instance by some speculative Brāhman, and reproduced in the popular versions of the epics which the educated Hindu villager studies as diligently as the English rustic used to read his Bible, has attained its wide currency as the model to which Hindu society ought to conform, that it bears no relation to the actual facts of life is in the view of its adherents an irrelevant detail. It descends from remote antiquity, it has the sanction of the Brāhmans, it is an article of faith, and every one seeks to bring his own caste within one or other of the traditional classes." (3)

It never occurred to the writers of these theories how such a systematic subjugation by a small group of people (Brahmins were less in number – data given in the previous article) over a large area (the Indian sub continent) could take place over thousands of years. There must be a centralized authority to guide them – as in Vatican - if such things were to happen. There had never been a centralized authority of Hinduism in the past and even now! The only central authority of the Hindu system or rather the Vedic system is Dharma and not a person or an institution. The feeling must arise within oneself that one is answerable to Dharma. The violators will be given a fitting reply by Dharma (through Karmic cycle) while the adherents will realize their oneness with Dharma.  People adhered to Dharma of the place, time and action.

Wherever they went in India, the British saw some semblance of adherence to this concept even among the people they called as aborigines and tribals. Ancestor- worship in the form of paying oblations which is a core concept of Hinduism was found among almost all tribes. The importance of this worship can be understood from the way Arjuna refused to fight with the Kauravas at the last minute. He reasoned that he did not want to become the cause for giving rise to a situation where ancestral worship could not be done due to destruction of families. (4)

But the British refused to see that the whole stock of people from any corner of India were similar in cultural traits – owing to a continued existence for long – a fact that has now been proved by genetic studies. Coupled with this was their belief that a majority of Indians were locals or Dravidians who had a different religion until the Aryans came and thrust Hindu religion on them. A common question by a colonial Britisher on seeing a tribal was what his religion was. No one in India knew what religion meant. But the people had said that they worshiped Shiva or Durga or Krishna or some deity. For the Britisher this was an impossible answer unless the Brahmins had dumped these gods down their throats.

The British faulted the census-questions and the enumerators for recording that the 'aborigines' and tribals' professed Hinduism and not an aboriginal or tribal religion. It was written in the Census Report of 1881,
"Madras, for example, does not show a single aboriginal in the religious classification, but it is unquestionable that in the Neilgherries there are races who, if they profess any religion at all, are nature worshippers, and not Hindoos, Mahammedans, or any one of the religions shown in the Madras table. In those tables I understand these aboriginals have been entered as Hindoos. " (5-a)

This was not specific to Nilgiri people but was reported throughout India thereby making the British conclude that aborigines had a desire to project themselves as Hindus!

"The result, however, shows very clearly there is, among the aboriginal races, a very general desire to be regarded as of the Hindoo religion." Further, Mr. Drysdale notes, "that in the British Districts orthodox Hindoo views prevailed to make the enumerators rather chary of recording the hill races as Hindoo by religion.." (5-b)

When they came across tribes professing Hinduism, they did their best to confuse them! To quote from a narration in the 1881 Census Report:-
" The Deputy Commissioner, Ellichpur, writes as follows:—"When the hill people were pressed for a reply as to what their religion was, sometimes after much parleying, they said either that they were Hindoos, or that they knew nothing about religion; that they were arani log, ignorant people. All they knew was, they were Korkus by caste. In one instance of two Korkus, brothers, one gave the one answer, and the other the second. When they gave the second reply, the question was, what was to be entered in the column for religion. If one went merely by the answer, one should have noted 'does not know,' which would have accurately represented the answer. Nowhere, as far as I can discover, did a single individual assert that there was such a distinct and separate thing as a Korku religion; he merely answered to the effect 'I am a Korku, but I do not know what my religion is called. I worship Mahadeo, Hunaman, Byram-Bai, Chand, Suraj, and the Bhagwant, who is the author of my religion, call it what you please.'" (6-a)

The Korku had stated the obvious fact that he had worshiped Hindu Gods. For the British that was not a satisfying answer. He kept harping on the religion till the people started giving answers that could somehow make the British note down that their religion was not Hindusim. The above stated Report continues as follows:

" Now, yesterday, at Chikhalda there were representatives of eight villages present. Of these I called out six Korkus, one Gaolan, and two Nihals. All of the Korkus, when asked what their religion was, commenced by naming the gods they worshipped as above. When further pressed as to what name the religion had in which these gods were worshipped, five answered, without hesitation, Hindoo, and one said he really could not tell. What could he, a Korku, know about his religiou's name? The Gaolan replied, that he worshipped exactly the same gods the Korku did. Whatever their religion was called, that was his. He did not know its name. Of the two Nihals, both said they worshipped exactly as the Korkus did, the same gods; but they could not give the name the religion was entered by. How should they know it? Asked if they knew anything of the religions Mahammedans and Hindoos professed, one replied that the 'deos,' being the same, he supposed their religion was a branch of Hindooism. The other said he thought they were rather more like Mussulmans, except that the latter abhorred pig's flesh, which they, Nihals, liked."" (6-b)

Though the  life styles and eating habits had been different between the people of the same area, they shared sameness in worshiping deities and rituals. The British could not accept this particularly if the said people were found in remotest areas and were not doing rituals with Vedic mantras. They knew the reason  - as stated by a Brahmin which however failed to enthuse them.

"As the matter was put to me by a Brahmin accountant of a circle of forest villages, it stands thus:—'They do not call us in, perhaps to avoid expense, but if they were to call us to perform rites and repeat texts we should go.'" (7)

The reasons given by this Brahmin accountant comes with additional information that they (the Brahmins) had to oblige if they were called by the tribals or anyone to conduct the rituals. If it is true that that the Brahmins were casteist and were prejudiced against the so called lower castes, why should they go to their homes and conduct rituals for a fee? They could have as well kept a distance from them. The above reports were written in 1881 which means that until then there was no case of social segregation purportedly practiced by Brahmins.

(to be continued)

(1) Thomas Williamson , ( 1810 ), East India Vade-Mecum, VOL II. , London , Black, Parry, and Kingsbury , p. 324 http://www.chaf.lib.latrobe.edu.au/dcd/page.php?title=&action=next&record=3885
(4) Bhagavad Gita, Chapter -1

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