Brahmins then, Brahmins now and the future road for Brahmins
Revered as an incarnation of knowledge itself were the Brahmins in Vedic times. This reverence was because of their ability to renunciate from worldly life and contemplate on the Brahman through austere practices such as mediation, sadhana, yoga and devotion. In early times, Brahmins personified equanimity of mind, body and soul, they dispelled ignorance in the path to supreme knowledge. They were the priests, gurus, rishis, teachers, and scholars guiding the world with the beacon of their infinite wisdom.
Brahmins were the foremost choice as tutors for the newborn because they represent the link between sublime knowledge of the gods and the four Varnas. Those with the titles of Brahma Rishi or Maha Rishi were requested to counsel kings and their kingdoms’ administration.
Brahmins, therefore, performed two roles, one where they were closely associated with the temple; and the other where they are involved in bureaucracy and courtier-ship. 3rd Century onwards, the latter peaked, marking the rise of the Gupta kings and Puranic literature.
One must note that the period between 300 CE to 700 CE gave birth to multiple religions especially Jainism and Buddhism. This further gave rise to disapproving opposing beliefs, leading to the creation of sub-Varnas within the primary four Varnas. This process, occurring between 700 CE and 1500 CE, continues to this day, as India is now home to hundreds of sub-Varnas, making the original four Varnas merely ‘umbrella terms’ and perpetually ambiguous (Joshi, Nikul. “Caste System in Ancient India.”)
As a result, one finds the mention of Brahmins performing work other than that of the priest or a guru in classical and medieval periods in India.
As late as the reign of the Maratha Dynasty, in the 1600s to 1800s CE, Brahmins were the government administrators and military leaders, occupations more typically associated with the Kshatriya.
With the Islamic invasion, things became worse especially for Brahmins who prayed and protected the temples. They were the custodian of supreme knowledge, the flagbearers of Sanatan Dharam and by virtue the preservers of vast ancient Hindu Vedic wisdom.
Dr Ambedkar has illustrated the plight of Hindus starting from Mahmud of Gazni to the return of Ahamadsha Abdali that continued for 762 years in his book. He has quoted “Tarikh-i-Firuz Shah” a historical record that attests to the systematic persecution of Hindus under the rule of Firuz Shah Tughluq, third ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.
“Capture and enslavement were widespread. When Sultan Firuz Shah died, slaves in his service were killed en masse and piled up in a heap…………..Victims of religious violence included Hindu Brahmin priests who refused to convert to Islam. An order was accordingly given to the Brahman and was brought before Sultan. True faith was declared to the Brahman and the right course pointed out. but he refused to accept it. A pile rose on which the Kaffir with his hands and legs tied was thrown into and the wooden tablet on the top. The pile was lit at two places his head and his feet.”(chapter 4: Break up of Unity, Page 55, Thacker and Company ltd. 1941)
Ambedkar writes “Muhammad Bin Qasim’s first act of religious zeal was to forcibly circumcise the Brahmins of the captured city of Debul …… he then proceeded to put all above the age of 17 to death and to order all others, with women and children, to be led into slavery” (chapter 4: Break up of Unity, Page 51, Thacker and Company ltd. 1941).
In particular, he quotes from ‘Tabaquat-i-Nastri’ to narrate the story of Bakhtiyar Khilji “great plunder fell into the hands of victors. Most of the habitants were Brahmins with shaven heads. They were put to death” (chapter 4: Break up of Unity, Page 52, Thacker and Company ltd. 1941)
Francois Fidele Ripaud de Montaudevert, a French soldier who fought for Tippu, in his diary entry of January 14, 1799, writes “During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu’s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see.”
There are plenty of other sources to reveal how Hindus were persecuted by Islamic religious expansionists and followed by the British for the last ten centuries. Throughout these years temples, priests and Brahmins were specifically targeted to spread a sense of fear among Hindus.
Under the British Raj’s divide and rule tactics, hate for Brahmins became a new norm. During this time, the ‘non-brahmin’ category gained administrative legitimacy under the British policy of positive discrimination for lower castes in education as early as the 1880s when the Madras education department classified the population into ‘brahmins’ and ‘non-brahmins’.
This anti-brahmin movement coincided with an anti-Aryan movement, an idea floated by the British, wherein the association of brahmins with Aryans and non-brahmins with Dravidianism allowed for an alternative ethnic identity to emerge. Caste differences were equated with racial and ethnic differences. Lower castes were the natives, forced into the Hindu fold by the Aryan invaders.
Post-independence, the composition of the Congress Party in Tamil Nadu reflected the anti-brahmin sentiments of the times. As early as the 1950s, brahmins represented only 5 per cent of the MLAs in the Congress government as against 17.2 per cent in 1937.
This discrimination against Brahmins was at its peak in Southern and Eastern India; Brahmins were resented for their dominance of the government, economy and culture. No wonder, political parties in Tamil Nadu sprang from anti-Brahmin feelings. “If you see a Brahmin and a snake, kill the Brahmin first” was an old slogan.
One then must ask, what was the fate of Brahmins in Independent India with so much resentment, hate by its people?
In 1950, a national constitution was adopted, it reserved more than 20% of government jobs for lower castes. In 1990, an additional 27% were set aside for what was called “other backward castes.” Some states set higher quotas, including Tamil Nadu, which reserves 69% of government jobs for lower castes and other needy groups.
According to the Center for a Study of Developing Societies 2007, half of Brahmin households earn less than $100 a month. For these Brahmins, the array of state-mandated preferences for other groups present a high hurdle.
A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (“Brahmins of India” by J Radhakrishna, Chugh Publications) reveals that today all purohits live below the poverty line. Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the ‘backward classes’ prevented them from providing secular or holistic education to their children.
The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line — below a per capita income of Rs 650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line, it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India below poverty line figure.
In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537.
French Journalist Francois Gautier points out the reverse discrimination existing in the bureaucracy and politics of the country. He observes how 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins or how most of the rickshaw pullers of Banaras are Brahmins, indicating their deplorable socio-economic conditions.
He further observes, anti-Brahminism originated in and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism.
So I ask, what do you take away from this article?
For me, those who died saving our culture is a butt of a joke in today’s India. Not all you would say, far too many, I would retort.
The problem is in a well-thought denial of their merit. Years of fabricated false imagery of their existence and a reprehensible treatment by the masses to the custodians of our faith. Brahmins have faced the brunt before and they continue to pay the price for standing by their culture. They once protected and preserved the tradition despite the onslaught of barbaric invaders. They upheld the culture amidst the conniving and deceitful strategies of the missionaries, and today, they are fighting the Jihadists and our own brainwashed citizens.
Brahmins were, are and will remain the preservers of Dharma, it’s time BharatVarsha bestow them their due respect, dignity and a right to livelihood, which it merrily does for other sections of the society.
Yajanam Yaajanam Tathaa
Daanam Pratigraham Chaiva
Featured image: My India My Glory
Written By Prakriti S
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