Aryan and Non-Aryan

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 3 19:05:26 UTC 1998

In 18th century, 'Saivaite adheenams of Tamilnadu
were publishing Sanskrit books on issues like:
Whether Shudras can become Head of Religious Mutts?
Whether Shudras can receive Dhiiksha?
Whether they can ride a palanquin? etc.,
The Mataathipathis were Vellalas. In varnasramachandrika,
many quotes were collected from Saivagamas.
K. Koppedrayer has a paper: Can a Shudra ride a palanquin?
It will be interesting to collect and publish
all the quotes on Shudras in the dharmasastras,
the agamas, 'Saivaite and Srivaishnavaite
handlings of the Shudra issue, what philosophers
like Sankara say about shudras. Has this
been done?

In 19th century, Nadars were fighting to show
that they were really kshatryas. Their profession
was toddy-tapping. Izhavas in Kerala and Nadars
in Tamilnadu were fighting for the right of their
women to wear breast-cloths. Breast cloth controversies
and Christianity's spread broke the neck of
Caste imperialism in Kerala. Vellalas enlisted Brahmanas
to write that Nadars who were by economic successes
moving up in the caste ladder. Kaasivaasi CentinAta
Ayyar wrote several booklets to claim that Nadars
are shudras. He showed it from several Sanskrit sources.

There were bitter fights in the Newspapers
run by Christian missionaries in 19th century
in Jaffna, Colombo, Madras (and Burma & Malaysia
to a little extent) between Ramalinga Vallalar's
AruTpA vs. Arumuka Navalar (Jaffna) calling it
as maruTpA. On the face of it, - these court cases,
public debates, newspaper accounts, letters
to the editor (often under assumed names;
anyone in Indology??), the controversy was
whether or not to include Vallalar's poetic
corpus inside of 'Saiva canon called TirumuRais.
It is not that simple.
But really it is a fight between conservatives and liberals.
Heavy opposition from Liberals asserting that no Tamil
is a Shudra and one cannot be an antaNan2 (brahmana)
by the accident of birth. They showed that varNa and jAti are
Aryan terms and Tamil has no equivalent originals.
A book, varuNa cintAmaNi running to 900 papges,
was produced showing Vellalas as Shudras.
(Many vellalas gladly wrote why they are shudra
in that book along with majority contribution from Brahmanas).
Before the decaying newspapers, court records wither away as
time marches on, hope some PhD theses are done on this important
caste history of 19th century. Nobody has done it
so far.

Of course, the caste tensions and accomodations
can be seen clearly in Srivaishnavism's
ubhaya vedanta philosophy. Read vaarttaa maalai anthology
and Ramanuja's life. The Telugu country's clashes
between Aryan ideology's sides are well
described in Velcheru Narayanrao's translation
of Somanatha's BasavapuraaNamu.

Social reformers in the South have been calling
for reforms within Hinduism. That is,
Priesthood and Sankaracharyaship should become
available for any Hindu, not for a particular
group determined just by birth. For Hinduism to become
 modern, the only qualifications  to be a priest or a Sankaracharya,
must be 1) be a Hindu and 2) be proficient in Samskrit
and few more Indian langauges.

N. Ganesan

Date:         Wed, 2 Dec 1998 10:59:52 -0500
From:         Madhav Deshpande <mmdesh at UMICH.EDU>

The "indigenous Aryan" debate has a tendency to get vicious for a very
simple reason.  For people of Indian origin, this issue has close
connections with their own perceptions of their identiy.  Before the
modern period, there were other "vicious debates" in different parts of
India.  For instance, in Maharashtra, many vicious debates developed in
the 16th and 17th century over whether there were true Kshatriyas around
and whether a particular contemporary caste was or was not to be counted
among Shudras.  The ruling Maratha rulers like Shivaji were denied the
status of Kshatriya by many local Brahmanas, including the later
Peshwahs who became the prime ministers of this dynasty.  This was
prompted in part by the Brahmana claim that in the Kali age there were
only two Varnas to be found: Brahmana and Shudra.  The debate over the
status of Kayasthas was equally vicious.  The Brahmanas of Maharashtra
were among the first to begin using the term Arya as a self-referring
term in the modern era, and this term was understood within the context
of the contemporary Brahmana beliefs about there being only two Varnas
in the Kali age.  The Brahmana and Shudra were often replaced with Arya
and non-Arya in the 19th century writings.  Later, the Aryanism
proliferated to other movements such as  the Arya Samaj, the Hindu Maha
Sabha, the RSS, and BJP/VHP etc.  But one can historically look at
the roots of the ideologies in the 19th century.

                                Madhav Deshpande

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