varna and jati

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed May 26 23:10:44 UTC 1999

>I believe they may be representative of ancient  incorporations and
>inclusions of darker non-brahmins into the brahmin community.

I find quite a few arguments on this list arguing in this vein. Brahmins
have to be fair and non brahmins (non dvijas) dark. This I think is totally
absurd. Skin complexion has go to do more with climatic conditions than any
racial origin. For eg : in Kerala, even the non-brahmins - the so called
drAvidians - the Menons, Nairs, Nambiars - are quite fair complexioned. And
I've even seen some Namboodiris not quite so fair! I would safely rule out
any argument of inter caste marriages, as the Namboodiris are amongst the
most casteist brahmins in BhArath.

>I am acquainted with a number of Andhra Brahmin families, who out of
>conviction educated (or paid for the western education of sudras -
>including some people I know) sudras. Many such Brahmin families have
>fought against casteism and set up schools and colleges that accept and
>educate all applicants (including Muslims and Sudras) irrespective of
>caste.  For example the Madapati Hanumantha Rao school in Hyderabad.

KA Nilakanta Shastri, in his History of South India, mentions that it was a
brahmin who first fought in court, for the rights of the untouchables to
enter temples. Even the missile man of India today, Dr Abdul Kalam, says
that it was the father of a brahmin friend who helped him to study further.

I personally think that the caste system has been conveniently used by
politicians to totally distort the reason for the plight of the lower castes
in the society.

Discrimination is of two types : 1. Social and 2. Economic.

It's true that the brahmins were very caste conscious. They looked down on
the lower castes. They didn't think they were worthy enough for Vedic
learning or sometimes even to enter temples. Whether this attitude stemmed
from following an ancient tradition or whether it was due to any malicious
intent needs further study. But it is clear that their discrimination is of
the first category.

But this doesn't mean they economically exploited the lower castes.
Forbidden from working, most of the brahmins themselves were pretty poor and
only during the time of the British did they assume official positions to
run the administrative services of the Government. Exploitation if any,
would have been done by those who held the land - eg : Reddys in Andhra,
Thevars in Tamil Nadu, the present land owning classes in Bihar etc. Early
Tamil texts also speak of the division of the society into four castes, even
before the advent of the brahmin into the Southern lands. And even today it
is these communities which control the political power in their respective
regions. Needless to say the caste system was very convenient for them to
exploit the lower classes. And when the time came, they made scapegoats of
the brahmins, dumping the entire responsibility on them.

Even recently in an interview, a dalit leader, bitterly complained against
the present ruling classes in Tamil Nadu for being vicious and
discriminatory against his society. And he went to the extent of saying,
even the brahmins never discriminated against his society so badly!

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