Black as Evil

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 26 15:47:07 UTC 2000

Prof. S. Tilak wrote:
>    Though varna (colour) is popularly understood in the Indian tradition
>to refer to skin colour, it originally referred to the four directions
>identified by white, black, red, and yellow according to which participants
>occupied their respective seats during the performance of a Vedic sacrifice
>(see Klaus Klostermaier "A Survey of Hinduism" 2nd ed 1994: 334. In support
>he quotes Dagmar Grafin Bernstorff, "Das Kastensystem im Wandel," In Indien
>in Deutschland, ed E.Weber and R. Topelman 1990: 29-51).

Have not read much of Klostermaier, but some of his theories
(for example, the RV several millennia before IVC) have not found
much acceptance among Indologists.

The 4-color scheming is rather late. In early vedic, it is only
aarya and daasa var.nas, white and black respectively. And, this
white vs. black duality is absent in Tamil literature.
Contrary to the views of people like Prof. Hock and Prof. Farmer,
this duality idea is not universal at least insofaras India is
concerned. Many, many scholars (for eg. Joseph Campbell) attribute
the black vs. white duality in the Bible to Indo-Iranians.
See M. Deshpande's note from the URL given below.

There is an "anthropological" explanation for all the color scheme
mentioned in Mahabharata onwards. Take the case of the Rgveda and
Avestan gathic literature. It has "white" against "black" dyadism
well spelt out. Also, the aarya varNa vs. daasa varNa in the earliest
Vedic material. The brahminical scheme of classification seems to
have initially only black versus white dualism. Later caste
classifications for plants, animals, and even for fish, ... flourish.
Diighanikaya has an attack on aaryavarNa vs. daasavarNa (ie., white
vs. black) leading to accomadation. See M. Deshpande's  note on
B. Smith's book on varNa classification  of the Universe in India:

Happy new millennium,
N. Ganesan

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