Q: Manu on Pouring Lead in Sudra Ears

Madhav Deshpande mmdesh at UMICH.EDU
Mon Jan 31 06:07:56 EST 2000

In this connection, I came across a series of documents in the files of
the Peshwa rulers of Maharashtra (Peshwa Daftar, Vol. 43, pp. 92-94,
edited by G.H. Sardesai).  Documents 108 and 110 deal with an interesting
case.  Doc. 108 is a letter from an official who caught a Jangam (a
non-Brahmin Shaiva priest) performing a Rudra (Taittiriya YV) recitation
during an Abhisheka for a Bania.  This was detected by the local Brahmins
and reported to the official.  Both the Jangam and the Bania were jailed,
and the document seeks advice from the Pune authorities on what to do. The
Bania claimed that he had no idea of what the Jangam was reciting, and
hence was believed to have lesser responsibility.  But then how did the
non-Brahmin Jangam learn the Vedic Rudra recitation?  Who taught him?
Document # 110 reports the finding that a Brahmin, Lakshman Bhat Bawle
taught the Rudra recitation to the non-Brahmin Jangam.  The Brahmin was
fined, was forced to give up the fees he had received from the Jangam, and
was made to perform a series of penances (equivalent to giving away 90
cows).  The document cites a verse from Manu that the Shudra reciting the
Vedas should be put to death by the king.  This, however, is reduced to
confiscating all his possessions (sarvasva-hara.na) and public humiliation
(vi.tambanaa).  Clearly, the Shudra reciting Vedas was not tolerated by
the authorities.  Here we have at least one documented case from the 18th
century Maharashtra ruled by the Brahmin Peshwas.  Interestingly, document
113 deals with how to punish a Brahmin who, in delusion (bhrama), ate the
food given by a Shudra.  These were real social/religious/legal issues,
and not purely Dharmashastric theories.  Best,

On Sun, 30 Jan 2000, Chris Wallis wrote:

> > Q: Why is Manu so generally blamed for this ? Are there perhaps different
> > versions of Manu - a stricter Southern version ? Or is it just a case
> > of popular misconception ? Is Manu actually innocent ? How common was this
> > `pouring lead into ears' as shown by other literature ?
> A: A.L. Basham notes that though this punishment is written in the
> lawbooks, no skull has ever been found with lead traces; IOW, we have no
> evidence that this ever actually occurred (as far as he knew).
> "The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism", p. 10.
> Chris Wallis
> ______________________________________
>         Christopher D. Wallis
> President, Religion & Classics Council
>       Intern, Interfaith Chapel
>        University of Rochester
>         ** Believe in love. **

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