The Aryans (again); 19th century discourse.

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 20 20:01:07 UTC 1998

I suggest that E. Bryant look at the views of the members of the Theosophical
Society. From what Ambedkar writes in his "What Congress and Gandhi have done
to the untouchables", Edwin might find what he is looking for.

In the 1917 annual session of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta
presided by Mrs. Annie Besant, the Congress passed the following resolution.

"This Congress urges upon the people of India the necessity, justice and
righteousness of removing all disabilities imposed by custom upon the
Depressed Classes, the disabilities  being of a most vexatious and oppressive
character, subjecting those classes to considerable hardship and and

Discussing the strangeness of this event, Ambedkar says the following:

In the first place, the President of the Session was the late Mrs. Annie
Besant. She was a well-known public figure and had many things for which she
will be remembered by the future historian of India. She was the founder of
the Theosophical society which has its Home at Adyar. Mrs. Annie besant was
well-known for rearing up Mr. Krishnamurti, the son of a Brahmin retired
Registrar for a future Massiah. Mrs. Annie Besant was known as the founder of
the Home Rule League. There may be other things for which friends of Mrs.
Annie Besant may claim for her a place of honour. But I don't know, that she
was ever a friend of the Untouchables. So far as I knowshe felt great
antipathy towards the untouchables." Then he discusses her her opinion on the
question of of whether the children of the Untouchables should be admitted to
the common school, written in an article headed 'The Uplift of the Depressed
Classes' which appeared in the Indian Review for February 1909.

Here are some excerpts from her article as quoted by Ambedkar.

"In every nation we find, as the basis of the social Pyramid, a large class of
people, ignorant, degraded, unclean in language and habits, people who perform
many tasks which are necessary for Society, but who are despised and neglected
by the very society to whose needs they minister...In India, this class forms
one-sixth of the total population, and goes by the generic name of the
'Depressed Classes.' It springs from the aboriginal inhabitants of the
country, conquered and enslaved by the Aryan invaders,...The children of the
depressed classes need, first of all, to be taught cleanliness, outside
decency of behaviour, and the earliest rudiments of education, religion and
morality. Their bodies, at present, are ill-odorous and foul with the liquor
and strong-smelling food out of which for generations they have been built up;
it will need some generations of purer food and living to make their bodies
fit to sit in the close neighbourhood of a school-room with children who have
received bodies from an ancestry trained in habits of exquisite personal
cleanliness, and fed on pure food-stuffs.."

I would like to know if the Theosophists of Indian origin identified
themselves as Aryan in the same manner as Europeans. If they and other elite
Congress leaders did believe in their Aryanhood, such a thinking might have
played a role in the negative attitude to social reform held by Tilak and
Congressmen in the early part of the 20th century India.

S. Palaniappan

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