Conspiracy theory (I)

witzel at HUSC3.HARVARD.EDU witzel at HUSC3.HARVARD.EDU
Wed May 1 11:19:24 EDT 1996



On Sat, 13 Apr 1996, Madhav Deshpande wrote:

> one should realize that
> Brian K.  Smith believes that the Varna system is a continuity of the IE
> tripartite classification a la Dumezil.  Whether one agrees with this
> thesis, and I personally have grave doubts about this, the Varna could not
> be a conspiracy of the Brahmins, or of any one group for that matter, if
> it is a continuity of the IE classification.

Correct.

Apart from that, I would not call it a conspiracy as that would involve 
secrecy, hypocracy in public, and hidden agendas. 

On the contrary, the Vedic Brahmins were quite open about their agenda and
motives: to form an alliance with the Ksatriyas (brahma-ksatra) in order
to exploit the rest of the people. They do so, with Marxist analysis
before its day, in the texts composed by them for their own class (and
especially their students, including ksatriyas and ... vaisyas!): 

Read , e.g.:

ZB 6.4.4.12-13 Vaizya and ZUdra are the subjects of the Brahmins and the
Ksatriyas. -- See also AB 3.11; KB 3.5; 9.5; AB 7.19; 8.7; KB 12.8; 16.4
They say: "why is the brahma-kzatra unstable, the subjects stable?" ...
Therefore the Brahmins rule the people insecurely, insecurely also the
Kzatriyas; therefore are the subjects stable"; 19.1; TB 3.8.4.3; 9.16.4;
BZS 18.2:10; ZZS 14.29.3. 

For details see W. Rau, Staat und Gesellschaft, Wiesbaden 1957 (!), p. 
59-60, 118: many examples of how they exploit the viz (an important item
missing in R. Thapar, Lineages), A.  Weber, Ind.Stud. 10, 26-35; M.
Witzel, Early Sanskritization, in EJVS 1-4 (ejvs-list at shore.net;
www.shore.net/~india/ejvs)

Note that the Vedic Brahmins pretend to be pre-eminent and semi-independent: 
"Soma is our king" they say in the royal consecration. They accept orders 
only from him and not from the king whom they just have consecrated.

The texts, however, also stress that the nobility is the "eater" and the
Brahmins are their "food", see Rau, Staat, p.34 n.6.-- something similar
to the view of the early Buddhist texts about the pre-eminence of the
Ksatriyas. 

>  As for B.K. Smith's own 
> analysis, I think it is historically deficient at least in two ways.  It
> argues for the continuity of the so-called tripartite classification, 
> while ignoring the historically most important fact that the word Varna, 
> before it is applied to Brahmanas, Kzatriyas, VaiSyas and Suudras, appears
> to have been applied to a two-fold classification, i.e. Arya-varna and 
> Dasa-varna in the Rigveda. Secondly, it ignores the entire discussion of 
> the possibility that a good deal of Jati categories may go back to 
> pre-Aryan past.  

It should be noted that the *fourfold* varna classification appears only in
the *late* Rgveda (Purusa hymn, 10.90) and the word zuudra is found there
for the very first time. 

All of this is part of the late Rgvedic Bharata/Kuru "reform", see above 
on the Kurus.
 

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            durjanasya ca sarpasya varam sarpo na durjanah |

            sarpo dazati kaalena durjanas tu pade-pade    ||
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Michael Witzel                               Department of Sanskrit
Wales Professor of Sanskrit                  and Indian Studies
Chair, Committee on South Asian Studies      53 Church Street
Harvard University                           Cambridge MA 02138, USA

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Editor, Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik (Reinbek, Germany)
Editor, Indo-Iranian Journal  (Dordrecht, Netherlands)
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