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Brahminism

In the ancient Indian Literature Dharma as a concept has been used in a wide sense covering
polities, society and household practices. The dharma is also related to Karma. In the European
conventional sense religion is meant faith in God and practices oriented to God. It may be stated that the
ideas in European philosophy and sociology like law, virtue, custom, religion, charity, penance, etc. have
been covered by the concept by the concept by the concept of dharma in India. The word dharma is from
the Sanskrit root dhr, meaning to hold. In the social sense it is composed of all those elements, moral
rules and ethical codes, beliefs, concepts and theories, rights and observances, that are designed to hold
together, maintain, and perpetuate a given social order. 1. But the concept of danda particularly its
attachment to the science of Government and the maintenance of the social order based on Varnashram
system made the concept of dharma quite different from that of the west. 2. Ranajit Sen refers to the first
volume of P.V. Kanes the History of Dharmasastras to substantiate the above fact that in ancient
literature the notion of dharma sometimes considered religious merit, sometimes considered religious
merit, sometimes religious ordinances or rites or sometimes religions ordinances or rites or sometimes
principles of conduct or even sometimes the duties of ashram. 3. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhay the
compser of Vande Mataram states in a lucid way :
For Religion the ancient Hindu had no name, because his conception of it was so broad as to
dispense with the necessity of a name. With other peoole, religion is only a part of life; there are things
religions and there are things religions and there things lay and seculas. To the Hindu his whole life was
religions ...... to the Hindu, his relations to man, his spiritual life and his temporal life, are incapable of
being distinguised ... 4.
It is to be noted here what is Vedic religion is not just Hinduism of the later period. Since time
immesuorial there was prevalence of non-Vedic culture and religion. And Hinduism traces its foundation
to them, writes the noted scholar Khitimohan Sen. He further adds that in Bhagavat religions like Saivism
and Vaishnavism there is nothing worthy of mention pertaining to vedic practices. 5. It is obvious that the
Post-Vedic Puranic Hinduism retained the sway of neo-Brahminism in all respects. Hinduism that
emerged lates cannot be really called a unified religion. It is more like an aggregate of religions that differ
from one another considerably. The common thread like the recognition of the sacred authority of the
vedas, the teaching about karma and the transmigration of the soul and particularly the belief in the divine
oxigin of castes bind the Hindus. Very few of the vedic religion was preserved in Brahminism : only belief
in the holy authority of the vedas, the names of some Gods and socrificial rituals. As for the prevalent
spirit and caste nature of Brahminism, it was considerably different from the vedic religion. The
Brahmanas fight with Buddhism was a struggle to preserve the Varnashramic caste system, and to
maintain control over the population. For this purpose Brahmanism had to reaffirm and this new
phenomena in Indian religion readapting the doctrine and cult to the needs of the people maring a new
eros the period of Hinduism. 6. It should be mentioned here that both Buddhism and jainism believed in
karma and remcasnation, and that both placed in the forefiont the ethics of leading a pious life. 7. It is
also an incentrovertible fact that the Buddhists and the Jains too, like the followers of Brahminism,
imported the Aryan culture and social organisation in Bengal. To substantiate this view, Nihar Roy, a noted
historian of Bengal, referred to Rhys Davids scholarly book Buddhist India and observed that the
Buddhists and Joins were against the vedas but not against the varna-system. 8. Neo-Brahminism that

emerged in the new stage of Indian history in corporated into it so much from the non-Vedic elements that
it turned out to be very different from the Brahminism of the post. In the vedas Gods dominate, while
female goddesses occupy a secondary position. Under neo-Brahministic order nother goddess is found
to be taking the centre stage. Faith in some form or other in mother goddess is found, in the post among
the Semitic, Hellenic, Tentonic and Nordic races. But what singles India out in this matter is the
continued history of the cult from the hoary past down to the modern times, and the way in which the
religious consciousness developing and deepening round this Mother Concept, has influenced the
thoughts and ideas of the whold nation through ages. 9.
Mother Earth, a dominant feature of workship among most of the primitive tribes had a minor place
in the vedic pantheon. Sashi Bhusan Dasgupta states that It is difficult to say with any degree of certainly
if any ceremonial or ritualistic worship of the mother goddess in any of her popular forms as Durga,
Chandi or Kali was current in India during the Epic Age .... 10. It is interesting to note that the Hindu
pantheon was later crowded by so many goddesses of importance generally absorbed from various
regions and it was times of a caste-based varnashram order. The irony was that on the societal plane
Hindu women instead of matching the upward rise of goddesses increasing went under with a low social
status. what seems to be beyond doubt it that roughly between the beginning of the Christian era and
tenth century A.D., many local and indigenous goddesses pushed themselves from the social sub-strata
to find a place in the Hindu Pantheon ..... 11.
The Bengali rescarcher on Indian society, history and anthropology Atul sur had been driven to the
conclusion in the early 30s of the last century that seventy percent of the Hindu culture and practices was
drown from the Pre-Aryan civilization. 12. Sur had gone on record that three other eminent persons like
sir John Marshall, Rama prasad chandra and Dr. Stela Crumrish were driven to the same conclusion. sur
had assertavely stated in his thesis that Hinduism borrowed vastly from pre-Aryan sources like faith in
soul after death, paying obeisance to the dead persons, various magic and chants, worshipping power of
nature as mother, worshipping Siva and phallus, banyan trees, snake, faith in to tern, imagination of
Vahana of Gods and Goddesses, wroship of animals, the interent power in village, river, tree, forest,
mountain, belief in ominous role of ghosts and spirits in causing diseases in humans, various rules about
what not to be done, the large number of observanus related to birth, death, marriage, sradh ceremony,
worshipping Nabapatrika, Shaboratsab, Nabanna, Holi, Charak, Gajon, worshippingGoddess like
Manasa, Sitala, Kali, Karali, Chhinnamasta, Parnashabari, etc., consturction of temples for God, etc. 13
The Puranic Hinduism emerged countering Buddhism. When the Gupta kings tried is reestablish
Brahminism, temples came up imitating Buddhist monasteries, and non-Aryan popular Gods and
Goddesses worshipped by the people at the lower level made their way to the Hindu world. In Hindu
society those sections of the population along with the yaranas of foreign descent were accorded different
statuses. Many female deities made their entry as wives of male gods. They entered along with their
vahanas, the totems of the non-Aryans. 14
How non-Aryan deities were changed and fitted with the Brahmanic tradition is best illustrated by
the case of Goddess Durga. The Sanskrit scholar Sukumari Bhattacharjee illustrates it vividly that.
Durga or Durgi, as she is known in the vedic texts, was a goddess worshipped by the indugenous
population. According to the vedas, a mighty demon Durga tormented the gods and men. Shiva himself
could not kill the demon and evden other gods were unsuccessful because Durga was protected by a
boon which made it impossible for any mate to kill him. So, at Shivas request, Parvati assumed the form

of a warrior and killed the demon. Then Parvati herself was named Durga. The demon Durga, at his
death, assumed the form of a buffalo. 15
In order to carry on the assimilation process this Durga or rather the Devi of the Puranicd period
included within her all the then mother goddessess of India, most of whom were indigenous local
goddesses. In some of the Puranas the Devi is said to be worshipped in one hundred and eight sacred
places all over India. And even in some texts there is an attempt at enumerating the thousand names of
the goddess, Writes Prof. Sashibhusan Dasgupta. 16
This large scale assimilation of local goddesses in reality shows the march of neo-Brahministic
culture to multifarious localities in India. Obviously this process under a dominant neo-Brahministic
ideology was not that smooth as it appears to be. The resistance of the non-Brahminised people either
petered out or/and a compromise was reached with the assimilation of those people with their religious
practices. Their social and own religious identity i.e. their saus in the new-Brahministic situation was
decided by their physical and material strength. This assimitation has been going on for centuries. One
scholar while writing on the festivals of Bengal commented that despite being popular and having made
their way into the Brahministic society, a great many rituals have not found entry in the Hindu sastras. He
cited the examples of once much popular charak festival of Benngal and the fear inspiring practices
associated with it, the worship of Bengal and the fear inspiring practices as seciated with it, the worship of
twelve demon gods and Jaydurga in East Bengal, etc. 17
In Bengal, which came into the Brahministic fold in a later stage, Vedic hymns are chanted by
Brahmin priests in religions rituals and during ones life span c(from the naming ceremony to death) vedic
rules are also prescribed by those priests. 18 However in the real life situation in marriage, death and in
numberless religion-related festivals the Brahminised people follow the customs and practices
conspicuously non-Aryan in origin. Mangalghat (a small pitcher symbolising the auspicious), use of
banana tree, paddy, mangoleaf, seven number, turmeric, iron, wateretc. number, folk customs and rituals
are practised. 19 In actual reality Brahminism could not absolutely erase or suppress the customs and
rituals of the socdially lowly-placed people or popular among the masses as such. Even after assimilation
through compromise many of the customs and rituals contined to be negated by Brahminism yet survived
through peoples clinging to them tennaciously. The tribal population which remeined deliberately outside
the Brahministic fold remained as other from the mainstream. Even Hinduism or Buddhism or any other
religion could not completely purge a population under it of the past rituals and customs. In the present
Bangladesh about zo tribes are under the influence of christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism but animism
is still faithfully followed along with other folk customs and rituals. 20
How the popular magico religiouus ceremonics of women folk particularly of the maidens generally
known as vratas (vows) and the accompanying recitation of rhymed or un-rhy-med verses (generally
known as vrata-katha, absolutely non-Brahmanic and non-sastric in nature were revised and
surreptitiously assimilated to the Brahministic fold has been of the Tagore family in Calcutta. Hed wrote
that in the sastric vratas of the Hindu religion there is a process of reverting to the stage of Anya Vratas
by creating various gods and goddessses. Tkhe only difference is that unlike the Aryans total ignoring
the gods of Anyavratas along with their Vrata rituals there is a constant effort at transforming them
completely. Behind such apparently liberal attitude of Hindu religion lies a completely illiberal mentality
it is not htat everyone keeps on practising own religion; let everyone come forward to the grip of Brahmin
priest under Hinduism, and for that matter it seems the entire structure sastras and composers of sastras

furnish proof to this end; as vyasdev says It means sastras are not hostile, what is to be observed first
is the practices of the land; but one should not shun own gotra dharma ... : 21
Tkhe message is clear, one should never disobey the dharma whose one basic duty is to get in
conformity with ones socially ordained caste under the Varnashram system. One hears the off-quoted
saying from the Mahabharata emphasizing love of human beings : () (There is nothing more supreme
than man). 22 Nevertheless in the Varnashram system such adage in the generalised sense held out no
prospect for treating equally all human beings irrespective of castes in which they are born.
Margaret stutley in his book on Hinduism writes that
...... the Hindu Tradition includes all types of religious belief known to man ... Inn it may be found
the worship of an cestors, of cosmic elements; of Mother goddesses; of deified culture heroes; of animals;
birds and snakes, spirits, ghosts and celestial beings; of high gods such as Varuna, Visnu and Siva; and
the worship of God in feminine form. Apart from polytheism, Hinduism also includes monothistic,
monist , and even atheistic views ....23
In a similar fashion, s.Radhaksishnan argued that the theist and the atheist, the sceptic and the
agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life ... what counts is couduct
not belief24
However, khitimohan sen expressed his doubt stating assertively that.
Of course, it is an open question whether attempt to unite with God should not be considered part
of Hindu conduct, and it is thus perhaps debatable whether an atheist can be considered a Hindu if he
otherwise follows a Hindu way of life. There can be no doubt, however, that Hinduism is basically a
matter of conduct that a belief.25
This once again takes us to the concept of dharma which enjoins upon a Hindu to act to maintain a
given social order reinforad by the idulogy of Varnashram. Basing on the sanskrit root of the word dharma
Ronald B. Inden observes that it suggests that the code for cenduct of a jati or kula was that particular
code which sustained and nourished it as distinct genus of living beings. Commonly, this code for
conduct was conceived of as a bundle of interconnected attributes (guna), Powers (Sakti), and
potenntial actions (Kartavyakarma). Tkhese are thought of as inherent in the jatis or kulas to which they
belong. When realised through actual (acara), a code for conduct is believed to bring about the wellbeing (Mangola, Kalyana) and good fortune or prosperity (Sri, Laksmi, etc.) of its genus ..... 26
Thus saying Inden adds it that the code for conduct of an occupational jati was referred to as its
jati-dharma and the code of conduct for a clan, Kula-dharma, was conceptualized in much the same way
conceptualized in much the same way jati-dharma.27
Inappears from the above that the ideology of new-Breahminism despite the assimilation of plenty
of non-Brahminical elements from various regions, the jati-dharma was never compromised with as an
ideology of Breahminism. Not with standing contrary practices and thoughts as an under current of the
society, the Varnashram ideology was meticulously preached as the model of the caste-based social
order. In Romila Thapars words.
..... Bddriefly, dharma refers to the norm of conduct and of duties incumbent on each man in
accordance with his caste ..... the idea of dharma is fully articulated in the theory Varna asrama-dharma
where the definition of ones duty has reference not only to ones life, i.e. student, house-holder, ascetic,
etc. ..... To act according to the rules of his dharma meant that a man must accept his position and role in
society on the basis of the caste into which he was born and the norms which had been enunciated for

that caste by the authors of the Law Books. Duties implied obligations and the stress was far more on
obligations and on rights .....28
It is to be emphasized here that the rules of dharma were formulated by the law-makers who were
by and large members of the Brahmin caste and who naturally tried to maintain the superiority of their
caste. And through their definition they over stressed the innate superiority of the Brahmins. The concept
of dharma rooted in caste was extemded to every aspect of human activity with the rights extended
primarily to the privileged upper castes and obligations alone were left for the lower cdastes. The religiophilosophical concept of Hinduism, that of Karma, which maintains that ones deeds and activities in ones
present incarnation determine ones status and happiness in the next life left one to improve in the scial
scale by falling in line with the dharma and being reborn at a higher status in his next incarnation. 29
It is inorder to state here that renunciation and what not the only Hindu Values. Brahmins, carriers
of Brahminism, in the ancient times were by virtue of their acquisition of knowledge, by inter acting with
the multifarious cultural economic units, became the front ranking forces of newer economic and cultural
elements. While spreading metaphysical view of dharma they also helped spread newer concepts in the
productive process. In the rigorous Brahminical fold during the asrama (stage) period of discipline and
education the view of life education consisted of only metaphysics and religious instructions. A number of
early Indian contribution to grammar, logic, phoneties, arithmetic, trigonometry, algebra, not to mention of
trigonometry, algebra, not to mention of literature, came from religious people the same is true of
medicdal treatises (for example, Caraka on medicine and susruta on surgery) in the early centuries of the
Christrian age while Hindu philosophers have tried to go beyond the material world, the realities of the
material world were not neglected. In fact a sound knowledge of the physical world was always
considered to be a part of Hindu education, writes K. M. Sen. 30
In actual reality, the power of Brahministic iderlogy was so much all-pervading that even in respect
of secular aspects a formal references to the Vedas were made to make thingds appear in line with the
tradition. It is in order to refer to the Hindu philosophical schools. The Vaisheshika used the analytical
methods of the Nyaya and the latter accepted the formers thesis of an atomistic constitution of the world.
The former claimed that there were nine substancdes and God later created the world out of them.
Samkara, the great champion of vedanta, described the followers of Vaisheshika as ardhavainasikas, i.e.
half nihilists. The samkhya school relognised two categories consisting the universe, the purusha and the
prakiti. The samkhya pravcana sutra (attributed to kapila) found it unnecessary to make the assumption
of the existence of God, though it does not deny it either. The philosophical basis of the Yoga is the same
as that of the Samkhya, except that a personal God is introduced into the system. Among the last two,
while Purva-Mimamsa confines itself to the interpretation of the vedas, vedanta propagated the
upanishadic doctrine of the Brahman. It is therefore found that the first three of principal schools of Hindu
philosophy were not thoroughly God centred. 31
Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya, the noted writer on the Indian Philosophy, observed that not only the
vedanta system based directly upon vedanta systems, whose main theses had nothing to do with the
seriptures, expresseds at least formally, that the seriptures, expresseds at least formally, that the
seriptures possessed the highest authority. 32
Only the Lokayatas or the materialists remained to Challenge all such relognition to scriptures they
declared :
Hence it is only as a means of livelihood that Brahmins have established here All these
ceremonies for the dead, there is no other fruit anywhere.

The three authors of the Vedas were buffoons, knaves and thieves. 33
One scholar observed about tradition based creations as under
It is on account of a loyally ingrained deeply in the mental structure of Hindu life that Hindu
creations eithesr in art, literature or philosophy have always followed the course of creating types, Where
individuality has always remained shy to express itself in its full height. Thus, in philosophy also we do
not get a free response of thought moving forward untramelled by conditions, but always leaning towards
certain fixed points which are like the Cartesian co-ordinates determining its exact situation. Thus, almost
every Indian philosophy should admit the validity of the vedas, the doctrine of re-birth or transmigration,
the possibility of salvation and the root-cause of the of salvation and the root-cause of the world as being
some form of ignorance ....34
It should be mentioned here that with the rigidity of the caste system and the sway of musty
moralism of orthodox Brahminism with little progress in the innovative technological or productive forces
Bratiminism had little to contribute to the society. Examples are aplenly whereby Brahmins were
direcdted to exemplify as the embodiment of higher qualities. Seriptural referenus emphasized the notion
of a pure, unsullied Brahminhood. Deviations from the prescribed rules were simply condemned. In a
later stage in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyayas Dharmatatwa the masters (Gurus) reply to the disciple
is made it almost an axomatic stating In the Hindu dharma Brahmins are worthy of being worshipped by
all ..... Then came the rider that the Brahmin who possesses qualities i.e. who is pious, learned and
teacher of the people is to be respected. And he who is devoid of those qualities shall not be respected
withs the emphasis on pure Brahminhood it is found in. 35
Bhagavat Purana like all the Brahministic literature assertively stated that among the countries
where (Brahman bhakti) respecdt for the Brahmins is where (Brahman bhakti) respect for the Brahmins is
non-existent, that country is inauspicious. 36
The repealed references meant for the Brahmins to fall in line with the ideal of Brahminhood make
it abundantly clear that Brahmins were increasingly losing their that Brahmins were increasingly losing
their traditional ground. One reputed seholar while writing on Chaityanas movement opined that in the
middle age under the Muslim rule Brahmins did not have any special status accorded by the state which
led to the Brahmins rewriting of many editions of their ancient scriptures. Many smritis were rewritten
between 12th and 16th centuries to reestablish their unquestionable superiority. He argued that in the
past Brahmins received special privilege of the king and land greants and under the royal patsonage
developed settlements in North and East Bengal. With the large-scale Islamisation power of the
Brahmins positively shrank thisled on the one hand to the recognition of non-vedic felk religionsand
practices and on tdhe other hand enhanced the priestly power of the Brahmins asong with orthodox
practices of pollution and purity. The sultans of Bengal obviously made no opposition to all this. 37
However, the same writer concluded that under the sultans both in case of administration and
armed forces recruitments of Hindus Muslim rulers the Brahminised social order was not significantly
disturbed. Abbe J A Dubois, who had a practical Knowledge of many areas ofd south Inndia, went on
record that.
And here I would remark that the role of all the Hindu princes, and after that of the Mohamedans,
was properly speaking, Brahministic rule, since all posts of confidence were held by Brahmins. 39
This tradition of holding high position in a caste society by the Brahmins, despite many a change,
can be found even to this day. One noted writer, Pauline Kolenda observes that

Despite the lack of anestablished religions organisation, the presence of Brahmans in a region
seems to correlate with much more rigorous prohibitions against lower castes. Thus, in south India where
Brahmans were not only powerful spiritually but also materially, such prohibitions were very strong. The
system is considerably weaker in ceylon and in the foothills of the Himalayas where there are few
Brahmans. Similarly, untonchability is weaker in the Punjab and in Uttar Pradesh, areas strongly
influenced for several hundred years by Muslim rule.40
At the functional level Brahminism in the gorb of popular Hinduism for the past several centuries
has evolved three basic concepts like Punarjanama, i.e. the theory of transmigration of souls, the doctrine
of transmigration of souls governed by a cosmic law known as karma, and dharma or a complex system
of values embedded in the varnashram system. It is through the popular media of katha (narratives) like
myths and legends based on the puranas and the epics, bhajans (devotional songs), and varta (talks or
lectures) those doctrines are carried to the people by the wandering Brahminns, ascetics, bards and
devotional singers. For all practical purposes, the average common man or woman should generally
follow the path trodden by his or her ancestors and predecessors, in accordance with the best available
traditions of the cdlass or caste to which he or she happens to belong. Tradition is thus the best and most
important source of dharma, one which takes precedence over all the other sources, literary or
mythical. 41
There had been many schools of thought with differenas on the philosophical or devotional planes
within the ambit of what we call Hinduism. But for the commoners with the socialisation process
conducted at home and outside the mythological elements have ways played the subtle propagandist role
to establish dharma. One noted scholar of sanskrit literature observed on the power of recitation of the
epics and Puranas in the following way.
Such imaginative predilection of the Indian people could easily be utilised by the poets by dealing
with characters of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the puranas as a means of rousing the
religions and moral interest of the audience and there by contributing to dharma. We know that there by
contributing to dharma. We know that the Ramayana, which is called an itihasa are regarded as invested
with the holiness of the vedas. Thus, there was an easy bridge between what may be called dharma and
what may be called plain literature ....42
Brahminism has been a dead weight for several centuries having the traditional role of vindicating
the Varnashram order counter ideological currents emerged from time to time. What is nolable is taht
Markist movement since its birth on the India. Soil has fought on massy fronts but ironically fought shy of
directly attacking Brahminism obviously for fear of triggering disturbance in the social system itself and for
the fact that leaders generally coming up from upper castes peft this struggle to spontaneity considering it
either unimportant or believed its automatic fading away with the land reforms and industrialisation in
India.
To pinpoint the specific manifestations of Brahminism of the present age, weshould refer to upper
caste hegesuony; belief in natural and racial superiority of upper castes; belief in karma theory; bondage
of women; a false notion to respecdt and even worship Brahmins; belief in the necessity of maintaining
Varnashram-based caste system; opposition to inter-caste marriage; dining, etc; mobility of backward
castes, dalits and towards socio-economically lowly-placed castes; virulent opposition to change the
centuries old caste-based system of exploitation, etc.
It is necessary to fight out Brahminism as well as casteism. The false claim to the superiority of
upper castes, particularly of the Brahmins reguires strong rebuttal, challenging the pure and higher racial

anthropological illusory image. While striking at the socio-economic basis it is of paramount importance to
simultaneously launch running battles against the ideology of Brahminism and casteism, since caste is
both a structure and a super structure in the Indian context. It is also to be emphasixed here that
alongside the projecdtion of anti-casteist, anti-Brahministic tradition in India, the communist
revolutionaries have to develop and carry forward a sound and powerful cultural movement as a counter
culture against the dominating Brahministic and casteist culture.
FOOT NOTES
1.

K. S. Mathur, Hindu Values of Life : Karma and Dharma, In T. N. Madan (ed), Religion of India, oxford
University Press, Delhi, 1994, P-77,

2.

Ranjit Sen, Abahaman Bharat, Nalanda Publications Private Limited, Calcutta, 1989, P-27; Dr S. Banerjee,
Indian Society in the Mahabharata (Based on Smriti Material in the Mahabharata), Bharata Manisha, Varanasi,
1976, PP. 12 & 96.

3.

Ranajit Sen, Abahaman Bharat, 1 bid p-27.

4.

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya, Dharmalatwa, Bankim Chandra Granthabali, Sahitya dwitiya bhag (Bengali),
Basumati Corpotation Limited, Calcutta, Date of publication not menntioned, Calcutta, P-86.

5.

Khitimohan Sen, Bharate Hindu Musalmaner Yukta Sadhana, [In Bengali], Viswabharati Granthanbibhag,
Calcutta, 1990, PP 1-2.

6.

Sergei Tokarev, History of Religion, Progressive Publishers, Moscow, 1989, PP 173-177.

7.

Ibid P - 173.

8.

Nihar Ranjan Roy, Bengali Hindur Varna bhed, (In Bengali), Viswabharati Granthalaya, Calcutta, 1352,
PP 28 - 29.

9.

Sashi Bhusan Dasgupta, Aspects of Indian Religions Thought, Firma KLM Private Lrd, Calcutta, 1977,
PP 42 - 43.

10.

Ibid P - 68.

11.

Ibid P - 72.

12.

Atul Sur, Hindu Sabhyatar Nritatwik Vasya, Calcutta, 1984, P - 18.

13.

Ibid P - 13.

14.

Ibid P - 73.

15.

Sukumari Bhattacharji, Legends of Devi, Published by Orient Longman Limited, Mumbai, 1998, P - 26.

16.

Sashi Bhusan Dasgupta, Aspecdts of Indian Religions Thought, Ibid PP 86 - 87.

17.

Chintaharan Chakraborty, Bangla, Palparvan, Viswavidya Sangraha, (Bengali), Viswa Bharati Granthalaya,
Calcutta, 1359, PP 6 - 7.

18.

Ibid P - 22.

19.

Dhirendrea Nath Basak, Banga sanskritite Pdrak - Vaidik Prabhab, in Lokshruti, Begali journal, Published by
Paschimbanga Rajya Loke Sanskriti Parisad, Number 10, January 1993, PP 38-463 A number of articles in
Dinendrda Kumar Sarkar (ed), Bibaher Lokachar, (Bengali), Pustak Bipani, Calcutta, 1982.Abdus Sattar,
Upajatiya Sanskritik Baishistya, (Bengali), Shilpa Kala Academy, Dacca, Bangladesh, 1979, PP 3 - 5, P - 6, P 53.

21.

Abanindra Nath Tagore, Bangla, Vrata, (Bengali), Viswa Vidya Sangraha, Viswa bharati Granthalaya, Calcutta,
1350, P - 12.

22.

Quoted in Khitimohan Sen, Bharate Hindu Musalmaner Yukta Sadhana, Viswabharati Granthalaya Bibhag,
Calcutta, 1990, P - 3.

23.

Margaret Stutley, Hinduism, The Eternal Law, An Introduction to the Literature, Cosmology and cults of the
Hindu Religion, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers Indian, New Delhi, 1993, PP 10 - 11.

24.

S. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu view of Life, Londonn, 1927; P - 77 Quoted in Ranajit sen, Abahaman Bharat, Ibid
P - 61.

25.

K. M. Sen, Hinduism, Penguin Boooks, Great Britain, 1982, P - 38.

26.

ronald B. Inden, Marriage And Rank in Middle Period Bengal, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 1976,
P - 19.

27.

Ibid P - 20.

28.

Romila Thapar, Ancient Indian Social History, PP 29 - 30.

29.

Ibid P - 31.

30.

K. M. Sen, Hinduism, Ibid P - 22.

31.

Ibid, PP 78 - 85.

32.

Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy, A Popular Introduction, Peoples Publishing House, 1986, P 14.

33.

Quoted in Sarva-darsana - samgrahas ( ) in Ibid P - 14.

34.

S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Sanskrit Literature, Classical Period, University of Calcutta, 1977, Introduction, P XC.

35.

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Sharmatatwa, Ibid PP 34 - 35.

36.

Bhagavat Purana, Sreemad bhagabat, Sastha Khanda, (Bengali), Nabapatra Prakashan, Calcutta, 1999, P 1036.

37.

Ramakanta Chakraborty, Chaitanyen Andolon, (Bengali Journal), Mulyayan, Sharadiya 1399, P - 93.

38.

Ibid P - 95.

39.

Abbe. J. A. Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and ceremonies, Rupa & Co, Calcutta, 1996, P - 5.

40.

Pauline Kolenda, Purity and Pollution, In T.N. Madan (ed), Religion in India, Oxford University Press, Delhi,
1994, P - 94.

41.
42.
1977, P - IXXVIII.

K. S. Mathur, Hindu Vanes Of Life, ..... Ibid P - 70.


S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Sanskrit Literatures Classical Period, Vol. I, Introduction, University of Calcutta,

(The Second Part of Brahminism)


Briefly speaking in early Rigvedic period we find two social categories, the nobles or the
Kshatriyas and the tribe men or Vash but occasionally a third category of poet priests, Brahman was
incorporated. However in the post Vedic literature mention is made of two categories the twice born
castes- Brahman, Kshatriyas and Vaishya - and the Sudras. At the normative level the Brahmans backed
by political economic clout and ritualistic sanctions established their supreme position in society. In the
actual material level sub castes or jatis operated and were perpetuated by elaborate hereditary rules
related to the caste system. In Romila Thapars words Varna became what sociologists have called the
ritual rank, where as jati was the indication of actual status.1
By about 900 BC with increasing specialisation, economic interdependance of various sub castes
and priests become very important. Sanskrit then became the language of learning and power, and the
and the dominant role of the priests were reinforced by a value structure justifying each mans socio

economic position in the society. It is worth remembering that such developments were closely related
with socio economic political structure. Contrary views were also very much against elaborate ideas, there
were also oppositions to such elaboration of rituals, rites and sacrifices leading to the neo-orthodox
exposition of the Upanishads. Upanishads in turn formed the basis of various philosophical schools. The
development of hierarchy and evolution as a principle of intelligibility, concept of 4 Varnas and 4 stages of
individual life guru-chela system of education and in the last but most important of the inclusion of
Dharma (duty) as a condition of life were the fundamentals of Upanishads heritage.2
With the agricultural system developed fully under the Mauryas by 321 BC basing on collection of
revenues from land, a centralised system of monarchy flourished in the Gangeic valley. Towns and ports
like shravasti, Champa, Rajgirha, Ayodhya, Kausambi, Kashi, Vaishali, Ujjain, Taxila, Broach, etc.shot into
prominence with a hectic trade and commerce, faciliated by a monetary system between western Asia
and north western India. The artisans increased and organised themselves into guilds(shrenis), members
of each guild inhabited particular sections of towns. By this time Prakit, the language of common people
received encouragement from Buddhism, Sanskrit the language of Brhaministic domination received a
temporary jolt. A flourishing agrerian economy caused the decline of tribal republics and tribal cultures,
stimulating the growth of monarchies and the formation of hereditary kinship.
The normative notion of the Kshatriya royalty and other aspects of Brahministic order went upside
down. In the urban centre established orthodoxy and the new social groups, the heterodoxy and the new
social groups, philosophical speculation ranging from extreme materialism to determinism. The Ajivikas
with their founder stuck to the concept of free determination, the Charvakas were totally materialistic,
Jainism and Buddhism with their support base in urban centres strongly opposed the Brahminical
orthodoxy defying the authority of the Vedas and rejecting the rituals of sacrifice. Both these sects had an
appeal to the Vaishyas and other downtrodden having having lower social status. The ascetic order also
considerably opened themselves to the women. Yet none of the heterodox schools offered any
substantive radical and structural challenge to the Brahministic Hinduism. The acceptance of the Shodra
both by Hinduism and Jainism to extract the surplus from the working population of the Sudras did not
alter the basic social structure and the acceptance of such sects by the state sprangs from the certitude of
getting the socio economic condition going smoothly. Infact if Buddhism flourished so far and wide it was
because it encouraged the very source and fountainhead by which Brahminic Hinduism thrived, namely, it
preached the history of transmigration which reinforced hierarchial social organisational. For instance
when Budhism went outside India it took with it the idea of social in equlity along with nonviolence and
vegeterianismobserves S.C.Malik.3
Brahminism struck root originally in areas of Aryan influence,Neither Sapta Sindhavah the name
applied to their homeland by the Vedic Aryans, nor Aryavarta, the designation of Aryandom in the days of
Bodhyana and Manu, meant whole of the Indian sub continent and even the terms Hindus and India
writes Hemendra Roychowdhury.4 Southern pat of India was still beyond the ambit of Btahminical
Hinduism. In the Karnataka Satvahanas ruled in states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa
and Gujrat of the earliest Deccan dynasties to be Brahminised. As new converts they came forward as the
zealous champions of the Varna system.........5
During Satvahana rule Jainism, Buddhism and Vedic relations were introduced to Karnataka, yet
local castes of the masses were most popular among the common people. Even in the big cities where
the above three religions struck root teracotta figurines of local cults have been found aplenty.6 Infact,
the Satvahanas lent maximum patronage to Buddhism while Brahministic Varna system began to prevail

in the Southern part of India. In R.S. Sharmas words under the Satvahanas the Buddhist monks, the
earliest beneficiaries of land grants, preached peace and rules of good conduct to maintain the royal
authority and social order. The Brahmans were to enforce the rules of Varna system. R.S.Sharma
obsreving the above added Perhaps all the four Varnas mentioned on the Satvahana inscription were
not equally well established in their dominions, and in actual practice the royal task may have been
confined to the disciplining of the Sudras..........7
Historically speaking the Satvahanas, various religion kingdoms emerged after Kanishkas death
such as Kharvella in Orissa, Western satraps- aShaka dynasty- in Kathiawar and Malwa; and the
kingdoms of Chola, Kerela and Pandya in the far South. Once again by 320 A.D. under the Gupta
dynasty, Chandragupta attempted to fashion a centralise empire. The social basis of Buddhism and
Jainism was virtually lost gradually with the slide down of the administrator - military official on one hand
and the merchant on the other.8 A veritable social crisis set in despite assimilation of the Greeks,
Kusanas and Shakas - migrants to India - into the caste order as fallen Kshatriyas. Obviously the old
order of Vedic Brahminism lost its groundbby this time. Scholrs in the recent decades observes with the
relative decline in commodity production, decay in cities, pancity in metallic currency and consequently
the growing phenemenon of self sufficient village economy India began to embark on the feudal mode of
production under a caste based social structure. The description of the Kali age in various epics and
Puranic passage datable to the early third and fourth centuries was a prelude to the feudalization of
Indian society.9 The early accounts of Kali age reflects the following facts pointedly.the disturbances in
the Chaturvarnya (the system of four Varnas) as evidence by the rise of Sudras, the degradation of
Vaishyas, and the depression of the older ruling aristrocracy and the priestle elite, the heightened social
conflict, the exploitation by the newly emerging ruling class, as revealed references to exorbitant taxes
and opressive forced labour leading to peasant subjection, the impact of heretical relation; the general
decline in traditional moral and religious values,etc.10 In this period there has been a phenomenal
growth of ruling landed aristrocracy and the petty landed estates, suggets some Puranic accounts.11
This was obviously a process. Coming as it did , it was a continuous practise of land grants to the
Brahmins in various regions over the earlt to mideval centuries.D.N.Jha substantiates this phenomenon
stating that ....the practise of donating land and village began in regions where land was plentiful, leading
to an unprecedented agricultural expansion in a situation of crisis generated by a sharp social conflict. It
also lead to the spread of the Brahminical settlements and ideology in newer areas and thus faciliated the
process of acculturation of the tribal population of India. Not surprisingly a direct transition from tribalism
to feudalism has been postulated in the peripheral areas(e.g. Assam).
The expansion of Brahmin settlements in karnataka which started with the landgrants in the
middle of the second century with the infiltration of the Brahmana villages to a large area of peasant
production and assumed the characteristics of the private domains of government jurisdiction. Now these
units of advanced agriculture were able to exercise some influence on the modes of surplus
production.12
So far as production process was concerned there was obviously a concievable change but this
process paved the way for Brahminisation as well R.N. Nandisums up the results as under.
........(1)Attempts to increase the production of food crops by reclaiming new lands, by converting
old dry land into wet rice fields through consolidation of drainage facilities.(2) Development of new modes
of surplus collection by modes of the free feeding places (Satra), and sanctification of the village as rural

places of pilgrimage(Tirtha), and (3) Introduction of the Brahminical temple institutions in a world which
did not earlier know much of these establishments.13
In thr Gupta and post Gupta periods, the rigours of the Varna legislations were softened and,
R.S.SDharma writes probably some of the harsh measures against the Sudras were anualled. The
religious rights of the Sudras were considerably enlarged.However social degradation undoubtedly took
place in the case of the untouchables. As regards education the Sudras were definitely conceded the
rights of hearing the epics and the Puranas and sometimes even the Veda.14 In fact, in this period we
find the emergence of the Hinduism and we are also familiar with One Marxist commentator in his
exuberant speculation went so far as to consider this changed state as the Fall of Brahmin Dharma and
the Emergence of Hinduism.15 With the decline of Buddhism, Jainism and other such sects, very
shrewdly Brahminical authority not only introduced Buddhist and Jain contractual concepts of the state, it
also twisted the idea to vest the king with divinity stating that his status and power resulted from a
contract between the people and the social order or caste system. this notion of social order and Dharma
was replaced by the idea of state, allowing for the removal of even a divine king. Thus caste was
accorded a higher plane than any political office. Even though Brahminical thought concerned itself with
individual salvation, yet it was never divorced from the social context of making the individual highly
group-oriented, confirming his action to the accepted norms of duty or right action. 16
Hinduism what we know today actually evolved in this period was neo Brahminic religions having
no homogenityfo the likes of early forms of Brahminisn, Buddhism and Jainism. Barth sums up essentials
of this puzzling Hindusim in the following words They constitute a fluctuating mass of beliefs, opinions, usage, observences, religious and social
ideas, in which we recognise a certain common ground principle, and a decided family likenessindeed,
but from which it would difficult to deduceany accurate definition.......... 17.
The inherint power of its sustainility lay in its overarching accomodative capability to absorb in its
fold heretical forces.
In post - Vedic period, the new divinities exalted above the rest, were identified either with Siva
orVishnu, making their respective followers known as Saivaities or Vaisnavas. Siva, accepted as the
Rudra of Vedas, the god of Sudras and the people of no account was absorbed into the Hindu
pantheonby the Brahmans and he became Mahadeva, the great god. 18 Vishnu also possesed the
honour of superior god later in Mahabharata. Vishnu who has ten Avatars, rose to prominence.Later
Krishna, a popular god of the Yadavas entered the Brahminic patheon and was linked to Vishnu.
Numerous figures which ffom the pantheon peculiar to Krishnaism and which have almost been
identified, on the one hand, with Brahmanical divinities, of what they are conceived to be incarnations,
and, on the other hand, with the abstract conceptions of speculation. 19 It should be mentioned here that
the accomotive process of neo-Brahminism was successful enough to include from Rama to the Buddha
as incarnations of Vishnu. With the introduction of Puja in the Puranic age, Puja in temples and homes
mediated by Brahmins soon became the order of the day. Epics and Puranas, especially the important
eighteen and other textual literature and traditions paved the way for personal relationship between God
and devotee, shifting the earlier emphasis from rites and rituals. The philosophy of the Gita and the
doctrine of of Karma in confirmity with Dharna obeying Brahmanas as arbiters, became hte cornerstone of
neo Brahminism or Hinduism. The formation of the fifth caste, or in other words, the untouchables, at the
polar end of pure Brahmins, came into being in this period. 20
Bhakti Movement

The Hinduism of medieval India was broadly dichomotised into Vaishnavism and Saivism. The
two major forms through major changes gave birth to what we know as the Bhakti movement. When the
northen India became vurnerable to intrusions of the Arabs, the Afgans, the Turks and the Mongols the
Bhakti movement tried to bring about some sort of integration of the upper castes with the lower ones.
The reformists of the moovement the powerful of the two, went for an integration with the framework of
Hinduism while the radical one for a short-lived period attempted at abolition of all distinctions based on
caste as well as sex.
For ideological moorings the Bhakti generally tied to a somewhat liberal trend contained the post
Vedic literature, especially in the epicsone trend based on social distinction on birth as contained in
concentratwed form of Manava Dharmashastra and other
and on the vrtta ( conduct ) and found
running in prallel streams. 21
The Bhakti movement for a critique of the existing order, with some exceptions, drew sustenance
largely from the structural bounds of Hinduism. However, it should be stated that it would non - dialectical
to concede the possibility of absolute domination of Brahminism or later neo-Brahminism.
In south India like the northen counterpart, the rise of Bhakti movement coincided with the rise of
feudal monarchy. In this life-span of three and a half centuries, the Bhakti movement centering Siva or
Visnu received royal patronage, clashed with decaying Jainism and Buddhism and withthe elements of
dissent, reform and some sort of protest these aspects are subordinated the overall patternof a greater
movement -- the extension classical Hindu society in early medieval India. 22 The Bhakti movement had
its origin in east coast in and around the famous temple like Tirupati ( Venkatam ) and Kanchi, the
significant centres of Aryanisation in Tamilakanand associated with the Pallava Kingdom. Its rapid
extension to the Chola territory was brought out by the fact that the Cholas were feudatories of the
Pallavas. The movement then spread south to territoriwes of the Pandyas during eigth century with
temple centres in Madurai, Tirunalveli, Kumbakonam, etc. And the nnth century it spread to present
Kerala with centres in prominent temples. 23
The related facts with this Puranic, epic based movement were the growth of new Brahman
backed feudal monarchies under the Pallavas, followed bt the Pandyas, Cheras and Cholas of the postSngam period, the rise in temple complex with vast landed property administered by Brahman trustees,
the decline of Buddhism and Jainism and the well - settled caste system with the Brahman being the
point of reference for fixing ritual and social status. 24 In Tamilnadu it unleashed a Tamil conciousness,
provided an impetus to a great deal of intellectual activity at both secular and spiritual levels rejecting
abstract metaphysics.Intially it also showed a sort of indifference to caste regulations and the temple cults
having followers in the agarian settlements reformed toa great extent the rigid hierarchical nature ofg
Brahminism into popularHinu religion.MGS Narayan and Veluthat Kesavan observe that the ideology of
bhakti served as a comenting force bringing togather kings, Brahman priests and the common people in a
hamonious manner. The intoxication of bhakti could enable the high to forget the pride and the low of their
misery. This provided an illusion of equality while retaining the stubborn walls of inequality in the feudal
system of productonand distribution....25 A close look at the Bhakti movement makes it clear that it was
by and large, with some contrary trends, a refined form of brahminism. About the Soth Indian Bhakti
movement,m S.C. Malik succintly concluded: Thus Brahminism returnrd with a vengeance with its
institutional base in the temples that were supported by agrarian settlements. These emerged as a
dynamic force where by not only because a communication ysytem between the south and the north was
established.26 In north India, Brahmin intellectual monopolists had already accepted the path of

philosophical awareness or inanamarga exclusively for themselves. They chalked out two alternative
paths: one of unquestioning dharma - based on Karmamarga, and the other of blind faith or surrender or
bhaktimarga. The Bhagavad Gita contained and provided a safety-valve of compromise and philosophy in
a case ordered society. Bhakti suited to the lower order people who weree condemned to take up menial
work but also required an aspiration for some form of escape.27
The Virasaiva movement beginning in 12th century in Karnataka under the charismatic
Basavesvara was one of the offshoots of early saivism shorn of its Brahminical or Vedic content. It was a
protest movement against Brahaministic rituals especially against the subordination and exploitation of
the lower castes by Brahmins and it was a forthright quest for equality, liberty and fraternity, i.e. a quest
for equal access of the unpriviledged sections to political power, economic share, and for limiting the
arbitary powers so long weilded by Brahmans.....28 the core of Virasaiva teachings was its rejection of
ritual pollution basic to the brahminical hinuism. It proclaimed the non-observance of five kinds of pollution
basic to the Brahminical Hinduism. It proclaimed the non-observane of five kinds of pollution: jatti,
janama, preta,uchista and rajasa (caste, birth, death, spittle and mensuration).29
For a good number of positive contributions with the participation of the lower castes one
observer called the movement a social upheaval by and for the poor and the out caste against the rich
and the priviledged it was a rising of the unlettered against the learned pundits.30
The telling reality is that since Bhakti movements did not aim to bring about fundamental
changes,the orthodox elements came to dominate the movement of the tenth century.31 by the ninth
century, the south Indian Bhakti movement got stabilised with a new emphasis on the attitude of
observance to Brahmans and temples among the Saivas and Vaisnavas, even protest against the caste
system was followed by a secnd phase of confirmity to caste rules. There is a surprising resemblence
between the lord - serf relationship formingthe core of feudal society and the deity - devotee relationship
idealised in Bhakti literature, a large number of Bhakti songs by the Vaishnavites ans Saivites justifying
the poetic flourishes this master - slave like bond around ther feudal institutions of the age.32 The more
rebellious Basvas movement too had the same fate later developing a hierarchical relationship with its
community and accepting first the caste systemand much later even Varnashram.33
I case of saint poets of maharashtra or the Hindu literature, the latter emerged with weaking of
Brahminical hold at the top under the Turkish rule, the pattern of the Bhakti movementwith an appeal to
oppressed castes trying to infuse some form of liberism with Karma and Bhakti forming the core went on
almost parallellines to that of South India. It is well recalling that in the process an undercurrent of noncompromise or bold repudiation of Brahminism and its practices passed on generally as minor trends.
While Basava led movement initially carried a revolting attitude towards Brahminism, Kanaka of the
Haridasa movement in Karnataka remained unsparing in his criticism of the caste system, feudal lords
and even gods lke the prime deity Tirupati as symbols of feudal lords, a money lender and a merchant34
and Dadu Dayal under the Hidu - Muslim tension under the Turkish rule invited hostility of both the
religious leaders by rejecting both the Vedas and the Korana to rise above narrow limitations of sectarian
beliefs.35 With non-Hindu Turkish and later Mughal rule at the top weakened the power of Brahminism at
the top but Brahministic hold over the caste - ridden society continued to exist despite. The Bhakti
movements got stablised overtimer revitalising and reshaping the old tradition of India. It is true that much
oif the pre-colonial xxx residentially into caste groups or their analogues, but the principles underlying the
supra-village distribution of resourses in, say, Mughal India had very little to do with caste system.36 Put
differently, a partial dissociation between caste and occupation in the urban centre did bnot in fact,

symbolise any decisive break with the caste structure of india. The socio-economic matrix of Brahminism
though found some changes at the top layer of power structure and an intrusion of Islamic faith even into
the bottom of the society under the Mighal dispensation, did not encounter any shattering blow to its
existence.
In the colonial period, the new administration, massive network of commodity-based economy,
opening upof substantial non-caste areas, wider scope of familiarity with liberal rational and revolutionary
trends of thought, etc., had to some extent an emasculating effect on the tradition of Brahministic hold on
th society. But one should not miss out more pertinent aspects of the colonial rule, the much vaunted
purvey or of equalitarianism, secularism, and liberalism was in all actuality built around the central
principles institutionalised racial inequality and of strong support for indegenous structuer of power and
authority.37 The political alliance of British imperialism with feudal landlords, the policy of noninterference in social and religious customs of the people as stressed in the first statement of the Queen
after India came formally under the British rule in 1958, enforcemrent of religious and ritual restriction by
the judiciary, and the vast array of ingenious colonial policies were in fact an adjustment with the
Brahministic religions set-up, caste remaining at the core.
To come to the post-colonial period, the caste system in its dynamics has assured new roles with
the mass participation in politics, country wide communication system, entry of money relationship on a
wider scale, installation of considerable number of industrial unity, large number of cites, etc. If
Brahministic system has lost its earlier appeal in certain areas it has also retained its power adjusting
itself to the changes in the Indian socio-political and religious situation. In an extreme view If and when
caste dissapears from India, Hinduism will also disappear. 38 This view fails to discern the fact that anticasteist forces and individuals in history did not necessarily remain avowedly an anti-hindu atheist in real
life. About the Varna system Romila Thapar stated that the first three varnas or twice-born castes were
probably a thoritical framework evolved by the Brahmanas into which they systematically arranged
various professions and the forth Varna seems to have been based on the race as well as occupations.39
The same principles were applied to the out-castes. If we consider the dehumanised conditon of thr dalits
and other low castes, we find that Varna has remained an overarching theoritical framework explaining
and legistimising certain fundamental principles governing the relationships among the jatis and
discriminatory exclusion of the dalits. In the socio political context of the present age in Rajani Kotharis
words......The Varna referent represents a scale of values which provides both a spur to integrative
behaviourial patterns and a symbol of competition that enables the aspiring and mobile groups to lay
claim to high status still afirming widely prevalent values. It furnishes and all-India frame into which myriad
jatis in any single linguistic area can be fitted. Furthermore, certain Varnas also provides symbols of high
status and at the same time symbols of opposition, as for example, the Kshatriyas against the Brahmins,
diputes as to relative status are an essential feature of the caste system. 40
It is fact that from the Brahministic view point all the four Varnas have some theoritical relevance
even today governing relationships in the caste order. Basing on the structural view point Veena Das
points to an important aspect as follows. However, the Vaisya or Sudra referent has had little role in the
mobility more through Sanskritisation.
When the history of particular jati was being presented, the authors did not begin by placing the
particular jati in relation to other jatis. Instead, they first established the conceptual order of Hinduisnm by
the use of categories taken from the Varna scheme and the ashrama scheme and only the procede to
discuss the position of the caste within this order. 41

So far as Varna ideology is concerned it revveals to dimensions an existential- inclusive


dimension incorporating the religious concepts of Karma and Sansara and religious rituals offering
expiation offering ultimate questions of life and death, the positional-historical dimension of Varna
ideology forms individual to occupy determined positions in a patterned social hierarchy.42 The later
provides the notion of purity and pollution in respect of body, occupation, food, dwelling and marriage in
particular. The deep rooted notion of superiority in the Varna order consequently leads to repugnance
towards some jatis, socially, economically, at the bottom, as untouchables. And since the Brahministic
Varna ideology tends to legitimise the dominant position of an individual or group creating a framework of
distinction between above and below, it cannot exist effectievely in the absence of, or separated from,
power. Ideological discourse itself, therefore must be seen as an exercise of power.43 Eliciting concent
to conform to the order is also an operative aspect of this power. In the real life situation, the miserable
existence of the dalits, the subjection and oppression of women, the battle cry of the upper -castes over
the reservation question, and the prevalence of graded inequality between different classes as Ambedkar
pointed out 44 only epitomise the Brahministic ideological practise in present day India.
There is only a dwindling section of religious preaches like Dayanand Saraswati who wanted to
restablish Vedic glory beleiving in Manus dictum that he who condemns or insults the Vedas rejects the
Vedas or behaves otherwise than prescribed in the Vedas is an atheist.45 Brahminism like the caste
system itself has undergone changes over centuries. It exists even today providing ideological justification
to the graded inequality as found in the caste system, the subjection of women under hindu order and the
multifrious rituals, mores and social norms in the fatalistic Karma view of life it is like a dead weight on the
society.
FOOTNOTES OF SECOND PART OF BRAHMINISM

1.

Romila Thapar, Passed and Prejudice, Patel Lectures (Combined) 1955-85, Publications Division, Government of India,

1990, pp 29-30.
2.

J.A.Buitinen and Williard C.Jonson, Religious and Philosophy of the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, Lecture 7, in

J.W.Elder (Ed), Chapters on Indian civilisation, 1970, Iowa, quoted in SC Malik, Understanding Indian Civilisation: A Framework of
Enquiry, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 1975 p78.
3.

S.C.Malik, Understanding Indian Civilization Ibid p-81.

4.

Hemendra RoyChowdhury, studies in Indian Antiquities, University of Calcutta,1980 p-63.

5.

R.S.Sharma, Aspects of Political Ideas and institutions on Ancient India, Motilal Banarasidas, Delhi 1968, p-201.

6.

Saki, Making History,Karnatakas People and their past, Vol I, Vimukti Prakashana, 1998, p-114.

7.

R.S.Sharma Aspects of Political Ideas in Ancient India, Ibid p-214.

8.

Saki, making History, Ibid p-129.

9.

R.S.Sharma The Kali Age: a period of crisis, in S.N. Mukherjee(Ed). Indian History and Thought , Calcutta 1982; BNS

Yadava, The Accounts of Kali Age and The Social Transition from Antiquity to the middle ages, In D.N.Jha (Ed), Feudal Social
Formation in Early India Chanakya Publication Delhi.1989.
10.

B,N.S.Yadava,The Accounts of Kali Age and The Social Transition ... Ibid p-66.

11.

B.N.S.Yadava concludes this on various Purana references, Ibid p-81.

12.

R.N.Nandi agrarian Growth and Social Conflicts in Early India, In D.N. Jha (Ed) Feudal Social Formation in Early India I

bid p-4 Aspects of Political Ideas p-241.


13.

Ibid p-241

14.

R.S.Sharma, Shudrs in Ancient India, A Social History of the Lower Order down to Circa A.D. 600 Motilal Banarasidas,

Delhi.1980, p-313.
15.

Ashoke Kumar, On Brahminism, Liberation, Organ of the Central Committee of the CPI (ML), Vol.XXII No-2 February

1989 p-11.
16.

S.c,Malik, Understanding Indian Civilization, .... Ibid p-85.

17.

A.Barth,The Religions of India S.Chand & Company Ltd., New Delhi,1980 pp 153-154.

18.

Ibid pp 163-166.

19.

Ibid p-174.

20.

S.VC.Malik Understanding Indian Civilization,.....Ibid pp 89-90.

21.

Hemrndra RoyChowdhury, Studies in Indian Antiquities,Ibid pp 172-180.

22.

M.G.S.Narayanan and Veluthat Kesavan, Bhakti Movement in South India, in S.C. Malik (Ed) Indian Movements some

aspects of Dissent and Reform, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Simla,1978,p-33.


23.

Ibid pp 36-37.

24.

Ibid pp 36-38.

25.

Ibid p-45.

26.

S.C.Malik, Introduction, Indian Movements, Some Aspects of dissent and Reform, Ibid p-6.

27.

MGS Narayanan and Veluthat Kesavan, Bhakti Movement.... Ibid pp 36-37.

28.

Arun P. Bali, The Virasaiva Movements In S.C.Malik (Ed) Indian Movcements...Ibid p69.

29.

C.Parvathamma, Religion and Social Change, A Study of Tradition And Change in Virasaivism,In V.K.R.V.Rao (Ed)

Dimensions of Social Change in India, Allied Publishers, p-246.


30.

A.K.Ramnujan (translator), Speaking Of Siva, 1973, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, p21, Quoted in Arun P.Bali, The

Virasaiva Movements, Ibid p-61.


31.

S.C. Malik, Introduction, Indian Movements...., Ibid p-8

32.

M.G.S. Narayanan and Veluthat Kesavanan Bhakti Movement in South India, Ibid pp 50-53

33.

C. Pravathamma, Religion and Social Change, Ibid pp 248-250; Arun P. Bali, The Vitasaiva Movement, Ibid pp 91-92.

34.

Saki, Making History, Ibid pp 316-318

35.

Savitri Chandra, Dissent and Protest in Hindi Bhakti Poetry, in S.C.Malik (Ed), Indian Movements...Ibid pp 152-153

36.

Irfan Habib, Agrarian System of Moghul India (1556-1707), Bombay,1963, Quoted in Satish Suberwal, Sociologist and

Inequality India,The Historical Concept, Economical and Political Weekly, Annual Number, February 1979, p-224.
38.

M.N.Srinivas, A note on Sanskritisation and Westernisation, Far Eastern Quaterly, 1956, p-495, Quoted in V.T. Rajsekhar

Shetty, Brahminism (The Curse of India), Dalit Sahitya Academy, Karnataka, 1981, p-6.
39.

Romila Thapar, A History of India, Vol.1, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1966, p-37.

40.

Rajani Kothari (Ed), Prface, Caste in Indian Politics, Orient Longman 1986, pp-10-11.

41.

Veena Das, Structure and Cognition, Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1982, p-15.

42.

F. Franco and Sarvar, V. Sherry Chand, Ideology as Social Practice, The functioning of Varna, Economic and Political

Weekly, November 25, 1989, p-2606.


43.

Ibid p-2607

44.

B.R. Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to Untouchables, Thacker and Company,Bombay, p-203.

45.

Maharshi Dayanand Sarswati, Satyartha - Prakash (Bengali), Mantri, Banga - Assam Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Calcutta,

September 1947, p-341.