Demystifying the “superior” status of the Brahmins …

In addition to the article on Brahmin charities on the editorial page (THI, October 1st), it is unfortunate that Brahmins have been exposed to strong antipathy for centuries.

The basic Brahmin account, as evidenced by the European narratives of the 17th and 18th centuries.

They are the creators of a four-level class hierarchy that assigns the highest status to their own priestly class and the lowest to the sudra or servant class.

Traditionally, the learned brahmin is the recipient of many privileges. In the absence of military skills and political and economic power, the minority brahmins used their ritual status to seek a special alliance with the warrior-ruler class.

They reduced the lower castes to a state of submission by imposing many restrictions such as denying access to the Vedas and treating them as impure or inviolable and preventing ascension between the castes. ‘

Our textbooks describe the Brahmins as oppressors, exploiters and creators of the caste system. Left-influenced science, with its theories of exploiter and exploited, the missionaries and brainwashed intellectuals, continued British post-independence history.

Brahmins have never been rich or powerful at any point in history. Current social sciences only build data to show the validity of earlier truths; rarely do they return to reflect that these narratives could also be wrong.

Dharampal (The Beautiful Tree) deconstructs the popular idea that education was the exclusive domain of the high caste brahmins who refused to educate others, based on reports commissioned by the British themselves.

A poll conducted during the Madras presidency from 1822 to 1825 showed that the predominant castes in schools were the Sudras. In the Tamil areas, schoolchildren were made up of forward-looking castes, 13-23 percent; Muslims, 3-10 percent; and Sudras and other castes, 70-84 percent. In Malabar areas, the front castes were 20 percent, the Muslims 27 percent, and the Sudras about 50 percent.

Another report from 1825 showed that of 1,886,680 scholars in the presidency of Madras, 23 percent were Brahmins and 45 percent were Sudras. In Telugu areas, Brahmins were between 24-46 percent and Sudras between 35-41 percent.

This is a problem for British historiography as the literacy rate when they left India was around 12 percent. It was not the result of the forward-looking castes “denying” others access to education, but rather the replacement of the traditional and classical education system with anglicized education.

Many thousands of Brahmins lost their lives in the Islamic invasions and the Goan Inquisitions as they were the main target of the anger of the invaders. Francis Xavier made his position clear when he wrote to his patron saint, the King of Portugal: “If there were no Brahmins, all pagans would be converted to our faith” and called them the “perverse people”.

In many feudal excesses, many non-Brahmin communities as landowners were responsible for the oppression of the disadvantaged. Somehow, our social sciences caused brahmins to become the main villains in society.

Meenakshi Jain writes that Brahmins were prominent in the freedom movement, which confirms the worst British suspicions against the community. Although Brahmins and non-Brahmins had been active political and social partners for centuries, the cracks grew from the machinations of the British.

Some British observers, such as Colebrooke, admit that there was little difference in the condition of the Brahmins and the rest of the indigenous population. The British censuses, particularly Risley’s (1901), were determined to use race as the basis for the caste system.

The British census operations destroyed the flexible Jati-Varna system and raised caste consciousness to a feverish high, resulting in hostility and an overall hardening of the system. The caste consequently became a tool in the political, religious and cultural struggles.

After independence, many studies have shown that Brahmins are in a continuous downward spiral. Land ownership has decreased. Traditional professions such as family and temple priesthood, reciting the Vedas and practicing Ayurvedic medicine are no longer rewarding and no longer demanding respect.

A few decades ago (1978) the Minister of Finance of the State of Karnataka reported the per capita income of various communities: Christians 1,562; Vokkaligas Rs 914; Muslims 794 rupees; Scheduled Box Rs 680; Planned Strains Rs 577; and Brahmins 537 rupees.

A study in the former united Andhra Pradesh showed that 55 percent of them live below the poverty line, 10 percent more than other groups. The unemployment rate among them was 75 percent.

The profound aversion to the brahmin community is so great that success, although it is made up of hundreds of jatis and has no uniform rules of life and social interactions, is the result of “privileges” and individual faults affecting the entire community along its length and breadth of land.

Science, media, NGO activists and intellectuals project the Shramana (Buddhism and Jainism) and Bhakti movements as egalitarian anti-caste revolts that have “millennia-long” conflict with Brahmanism and the “tyranny of the caste”.

This hypothesis presents the Buddha (Martin Luther of India) as the first reformer to oppose the corrupt Brahmins and preach the equality of man. Scholars have shown that Buddhists neither rejected Brahmins nor fought against the “caste system”. Buddha and Buddhists considered Varna subdivisions to be an appropriate dharmic grouping of society. Buddhism was just another tradition in the Hindu country, where new traditions, sects and gurus are constantly developing, showing many paths to ultimate enlightenment.

This narrative about the cunning Brahmins continues unbroken as elementary facts about Indian culture and religion, prominently in introductory works, encyclopedias and other sources.

The Balagangadhara School shows that Christian theological ideas of pagan priesthood and idolatry; Aryan racial ideas of biological and cultural superiority and inferiority; and anthropological speculations about “primitive man” and his “magical thinking” explained the role of Brahmins in Indian society until about three decades ago.

These concepts, central to speculations about the rise of the Brahmin priesthood, reflected the Protestant and philosophical criticism of the priesthood that permeated Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Imre Lakatos, 20th century philosopher of science, characterized every research program as three elements: a “hard core” of basic theses and assumptions; a “protective belt” of auxiliary hypotheses surrounding this core; and a “heuristic” or problem-solving machinery.

The protection belt allows him to deal with the problems by immunizing his hard core against counterfeiting.

Jakob De Roover says that the basic beliefs about the religion of the Brahmins are part of the hard core of this program, while the claims about the Aryan invasion, racial superiority, magical thinking and the Varna ideology are part of its protective belt.

The British attacked the Brahmins for many reasons, but it is sad that, even after seven decades of independence, our politicians, social sciences and society do not look beyond what the colonial rulers have said.

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