Were Brahmins bad? – a sequel to Karunanidhi’s hate-Brahmin speech. (Part -2)

The second episode in Silappadhikaram involving a Brahmin tells about the kind of possessions that a Brahmin had! The Brahmins were not traders and were not engaged in jobs of commercial utility until the British vitiated the social structure in the 19th century. So there was no scope for them to have grabbed the job opportunities of others or the wealth of others.
Of the four varnas, only the middle two namely the Kshatriyas (rulers) and Vaisyas (traders) made wealth, were after wealth and possessed wealth. Only these two categories had an interest in owning movable and immovable properties. The other two in the extremities namely the Brahmins and Shudras always depended on these two varnas as patrons.
The kind of life and aspirations of the four varnas is best understood from Narada’s narration of Rama’s story in the very first chapter of Valmiki Ramayana. After narrating in brief the story of Rama to Valmiki, he explains the benefits that the people would get by reading Ramayana.  “A man reading this Ramayana happens to be a Brahman, one from teaching-class, he obtains excellency in his speech, and should he be Kshatriya person from ruling-class, he obtains land-lordship, and should he be Vyshya person from trading-class, he accrues monetary-gains, and should he be a Shudra person from working class, he acquires his personal excellence…” (1)

Excellency in speech, lands, wealth and personal excellence were the four benefits that the four varnas aped for, in that order. The Brahmins have aspired for speaking abilities whereas the Shudras have aimed for “Mahathwam” – greatness. Though the translation given here is “personal excellence”, the exact word used by Narada was “Mahathwam”. (2) In contrast, the ruling and trading class aped for land and wealth – because those are the things their lives were dependant on. These two classes have dominated the political and social scene for all these ages. There was easy movement between these two classes depending upon on the winds of change. But the extreme two classes namely Brahmins and Shudras were never part of this nexus. They were always at the mercy of the middle two classes and this continues even today.
Today the hereditary Varna system is gone, but based on the things they ape for, the Varnas do continue to exist. The middle two varnas are the politicians and the corporates who hold the entire country and the society under their control.
An undeniable fact is that the Dravidian movement was started by these two classes, the politicians and businessmen / landlords. These two classes of the Dravidian movement have a nexus between themselves for the obvious purpose of having control over all aspects of the society and to get access to wealth and land. They cannot tolerate any competition and challenge from the other two classes. This was successfully done by them by propagating the Brahmins as enemies of Shudras (the landless and the very poor.)
On the one side, Brahmins have been smothered by the hate speech against them and on the other the Shudras are being kept as they are. By this propaganda, the middle two classes have successfully stalled any competition or revolt from Brahmins. They have also successfully stalled the progress of the Shudras to discourage competition to them and to keep up the relevance of the hate-Brahmin campaign.  As long as the Shudras believe that Brahmins were their oppressors, the middle two classes can enjoy wealth without any worry. This is the aim of Dravidian policy.
The access to wealth and lands was very limited for the Brahmins for all these ages. There are very less Brahmin landlords even now as it was before.  Even now the acumen to multiply lands and money is more for others (politicians / rulers and traders / business men) than for an average Brahmin. The 2nd episode that I want to explain from Silappadhikaram tells about a Brahmin who ran into trouble when he came to possess some wealth. (3)

This Brahmin is mentioned by a name Vaarthikan living in a town called Thiru-th-thangaal in the Pandyan Kingdom, with his wife Kaarthika and his little son, Dakshinamurthy. One day another Brahmin by name Parasara was returning from the Chera kingdom with a bounty he received from the king for a display of talent or Vedic learning. On the way he crossed the town where Vaarthikan’s family was living. Vaarthikan’s young son who had not yet weaned away from milk food was playing in the street with other children. On seeing the Brahmin children, Parasara called them for a competition. He asked them to chant Vedas and offered a gift to the one who chanted well. The little Dakshinamurthy chanted very well than others and was given some jewels that Parasara got from the King. Parasara continued to go on his way and this kid happily wore the jewels.
The king’s men were there in all places in those days. They saw this little Brahmin boy with jewels on his body. It raised a suspicion on their minds on how the Brahmin came to get these jewels. They accused Vaarthikan as having stolen the treasure of the king and jailed him. On hearing this, Kaarthika, the Brahmin’s wife started crying and was inconsolable. When this was happening, the door of the Durga temple (mentioned as Aiyai temple (‘ஐயை கோயில்’ – ‘கலையமர் செல்வி’- female deity mounted on a deer) (4) remained shut and could not be opened. Silappadhikaram states that the Deity closed her temple doors on seeing Kaarthika cry.
This news was conveyed to the Pandyan king who understood that something had gone wrong in his country. Hearing this, the guards conveyed the jailing of Vaarthikan. The king was shocked and ordered the immediate release of Vaarthikan. When Vaarthikan was released, the temple door opened automatically. The king apologized for the mistake and donated to Vaarthikan two towns, Thiru-th-thangaal and Vayalur which are still in existence today. Since the guards were under the suspicion that the jewels were got as treasure, the king made an announcement that treasures found out by one need not be surrendered to the king’s treasury but can be kept by oneself.
This story was narrated by the deity of Madurai to Kannagi to drive home the point that Pandyan rulers were not bad and they readily made amends when something went wrong. But the deity continued to tell that there was a curse on Madurai that it would be engulfed in fire on the day of Kriththika star in the month of Aadi – thereby linking Kaarthika’s suffering getting manifested as a curse on the city of Madurai.  The tears of Kaarthika, though wiped out later, left its impact on the country.
This episode shows that
·         Brahmins did not possess wealth or jewels in good numbers.
·         The action of the guards show that Brahmins were not spared when a suspicion rose about them. They were not shown any undue favour.
·          When a Brahmin got some wealth, he did not think of keeping it to himself, Parasara’s action shows that Brahmins were willing to share it with others.
·         Brahmins were keen on encouraging and developing their area of study, namely Vedic chanting.
·         When an innocent Brahmin was wronged, the entire country came to bear the brunt of it.
·         The wealth of Brahmins always was a gifted one. Brahmins did not go after wealth nor appropriate the wealth of others.
This episode contains two important facts of history. One is about the place Thiru-th-thangaal where this episode happened. Another is the name Vaarthikan which implies a meaning that negates anti-Brahmin propaganda of the Dravidian chauvinists.
Taking up the first, the narration explains Thiru-th-thangaal as an already existing town with Brahmin population excelling in Vedic studies under the upright rule of Pandyan king. The King’s Governance is mentioned as supreme under which the Brahmins were doing their duties in the best way. (5)  At no time in the past Brahmins were allowed to have a free hand in such a way as to dictate terms on others. Only the King held the strings and not the Brahmins.
This place called Thiru-th-thangaal contains a previous history involving Krishna of Dwaraka. When Krishna’s grandson Aniruddh was imprisoned by Banasura for having a love affair with the daughter of Banasura, Krishna went to the town of Banasura in disguise to secure his release. He went through the streets of the town by dancing with pots kept on his head. When the guards and the people were attracted to this peculiar dance of balancing pots on the head, Aniruddh was able to escape without notice. Later, his marriage was solemnized in the presence of Krishna in Thiru-th-thangaal. There is a Vaishnavite Divya Desa in Thiru-th-thangaal with this story as the Sthala purana.
The existing write-ups on the story of Aniruddh are trying to locate the town of Banasura somewhere in North India. But the information connected with the story has found deep presence only in Tamilnadu. For example, the dance of Krishna by balancing the pots on the head to secure the release of Aniruddh is popular only in Tamilnadu. It finds a mention in Silappadhikaram and Periya Puranam (5). It continues even today as a rural dance by name “Karakaattam” (the dance with karaka / pot).
The town of Banasura is mentioned in Silappadhikaram (6). Banasura came in the lineage of Mahabali, in whose name Mahabalipuram exists in Tamilnadu for ages. This place was submerged in the past for 6 times according to the legend of the temple there. Graham Hancock, the well known researcher in marine archeology is of the opinion that Mahabalipuram suffered floods in the past dating back as far as 6000 years before present. (7) The Vaanan Perur (the big city of Banasura) (8) that Silappadhikaram mentions could well be the Mahabalipuram which stretched into the sea in the past. The existence of the dance form only in Tamilnadu as one of the oldest indigenous dances and the legend of marriage of Aniruddha at Thiru-th-thangaal concur well for establishing that Banasura’s place was Mahabalipuram and the marriage of Aniruddh happened in Thiru-th-thangaal. Thiru-th-thangaal had become a centre of Vedic Brahmins due to this reason, even before the Silappadhikaram times.
The information found only in Silappadhikaram in Tamil has a vast potential for research to establish the historicity of Krishna and Banasura also! This information also confirms the early Vedic presence in Tamil nadu close to Pandyan capital of Madurai. But Karunanidhi and his cronies would not like to have these information in the open. If a Tamilian starts reading the original text of Silappadhikaram by himself, he would know the Vedic and Hindu life of Tamils of the past and also how Brahmins have remained a harmless lot. By effectively denying access to old commentaries and making available their own version and interpretation of texts like Silappadhikaram, the Dravidian chauvinists have created an “Intellectual vandalism”. As a result, the common man in Tamilnadu though educated in a school or university remains ignorant of the Hindu past of Tamils and the historical importance of Tamil nadu with connections to Krishna and other characters of the Hindu pantheon.
It won’t be out of context to quote here an observation by John Macpherson, temporary Governor General of Bengal during 1784-85 in his report;
“..the antiquities of the religion and government of Hindoos are not less interesting than those of their sciences”. “..the history, the poems, the traditions, the very fables of the Hindoos might therefore throw light upon the history of the ancient world and in particular upon the institution of that celebrated people from whom Moses received his learning and Greece her religion and her arts” (9)

The opportunity to decipher Indian past and the world history remains to a considerable extent with the old Tamil texts. The Dravidian ideology and the hatred they have spread against Brahmins and Hinduism have stalled this from happening for a century inspite of supportive developments in other branches of knowledge.
(to be continued)
(2)  Valmiki Ramayana 1-1-100
paThan dvijo vaak R^iSabhatvam iiyaat |
syaat kSatriyo bhuumi patitvam iiyaat ||
vaNik janaH paNya phalatvam iiyaat |
janaH ca shuudro api mahattvam iiyaat ||
(3)     Silappadhikaram – chapter 23.
(4)    The description refers to Mahishasura Madhini. The same description of the female deity being seated on a deer is found in chapter 12 of Silappadhikaram where it is said that she was the conqueror of Mahisha. ”வரி வளைக் கை வாளேந்தி மாமயிடற் செற்றுக் கரிய திரிகோட்டுக் கலைமிசை மேல் நின்றாய்”
(5)    Silappadhikaram – Chapter 23- lines 74  75“செங்கோல் தென்னன் திருந்து தொழில் மறையவர் தங்கால் என்பது ஊரே”
(6)    Silappadhikaram – chapter 6
(8)    Silappadhikaram – chapter 6 – lines 54 & 55  “வாணன் பேரூர் மறுகிடை நடந்து நீணிலம் அளந்தோன் ஆடிய குடமும்”
(9)    “The beautiful Tree” Vol III, by Dharampal

One thought on “Were Brahmins bad? – a sequel to Karunanidhi’s hate-Brahmin speech. (Part -2)

  1. Apologies – the message got cut off while posting. What I meant is – the Brahmins of Kerala (Nambudiris) if/when criticised – are dealt with in much beyter language & certainly not as vituperative as is seen in Tamil Nadu. Of coyrse some the leading lights of Communist movement were Nambudiris – that has made a difference. In Kerala too the political spectrum degenerates into fistfights and murders – but often due to ideological differences – as between the CPIM brand of Communists & the RSS the guiding force of BJP. In Kerala caste clashes are virtually unheard of – while we have had our share of communal clashes (Hindu – muslim – as in Marad) though not to the extent of certain North Indian states. Overall – though Kerala has a lot of areas to improve on – caste as a differentiating; destabilizing factor is much less significant in Kerala when compared to Tamil Nadu.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s