By | Devdutt Pattanaik | Indian Author
At the heart of Hindutva is the idea that Hinduism is under threat from external and internal forces and they must be countered at any cost. The proponents of Hindutva are wary of Muslims and Christians and Dalits, but ignore how ‘breaking India’ first began 2,000 years ago when Brahmins started popularising the ChaturVarna system, ie the four-fold division of society, mentioned in the Rig Veda.
The Rig Veda is a set of hymns that were composed 500 years after the collapse of the Harappan civilisation, around 1,500 BCE, ie 3,500 years ago, when the Indo-Aryans (Indo-Europeans) were migrating from the Indus Valley to the Gangetic plains. By the time, they settled in the area known as Kuru-Panchala (near modern Delhi), these hymns had been organised into 10 chapters (mandalas). In the final section, which was composed later, we find a hymn where society is equated with an organism (purusha) whose head is made of Brahmins, arms of Kshatriyas, trunk of Vaishyas and feet of Shudras: People point to this hymn as the origin of the caste ie jati system. However, that is not true.
By jati, we refer to a system of ‘rotibeti’, livelihood-marriage, whereby members of a jati would give their knowledge as well as their daughters only to members of the same jati. This endogamy ensured knowledge systems remained within communities. There are over 2,000 jatis but only four varnas. Caste refers to the former, but it was institutionalised as a hierarchy based on ‘purity’ by Brahmins based on framework of varna.
Genetic evidence shows very clearly that endogamy became entrenched in India only 2,000 years ago, that communities intermarried freely before that. This means in Vedic times, there was no “caste”. Caste becomes part of India only in the period between the Mauryan period and the Gupta period, when we find many “foreigners” coming to India — Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans and Huns.
Between 1,500 BCE and 100 CE, people referred to varna as a theoretical idea that placed Brahmins on top of a social pyramid. But after this period, we find ‘purity’ rules emerging. Marriage within caste. No travelling across the sea. We find rise of cities with temple in the centre and ‘impure’ castes in the periphery. A new social order emerges. This is popularised by Dharmashastra texts, written by Brahmins, like Apsasthambha, Baudhayana, Narada, Yagnavalkya, and of course, Manu. Here we find the clear social engineering where greater value is placed on Brahmin communities, over the rest. This is when social division began. The breaking of India along caste lines. It becomes a key part of Indian society from 300 CE, ie the rise of the Gupta empire, when Puranic Hinduism overshadowed Vedic Hinduism.
In the Vedas, the enemy of Indra is Vritra. In Puranas, Vritra is identified as a Brahmin. Indra has to do penance for the crime of Brahminicide ie Brahma-hatyapaap. Shiva is also accused of Brahminicide for beheading Brahma and Daksha and has to be cleaned as Kapalamochan ghat of Kashi. Ram is accused of Brahminicide for killing Ravana. Pandavas commit Brahminicide by killing Drona on Krishna’s instructions. Why is that? Is it because the Brahmins are going against Vedic wisdom based on ‘atma’ and focusing more on hierarchy and purity that establishes them on top of the ‘varna’ hierarchy?
Vedic wisdom is essentially knowledge of atma. When you have knowledge of atma, you are not insecure. And when you are not insecure, you do not seek hierarchies to dominate. Kings dominate using politics. The rich dominate using wealth. The Brahmins dominated using their access to Vedas. In other words, they dominated because they ignored knowledge of atma. And that is how breaking India began — by rejecting the atma.
It is lazy and easy to blame Islam, Christianity and Marxism to break India, but we need to check why Brahminism arose and established jati hierarchy 2,000 years ago, when it was not part of Vedic scriptures. Why did the Dharma Shastras have such utter contempt for shudras? Why was marrying them considered wrong? Why was sharing knowledge with them considered wrong? Why did they allow a system to perpetrate that caused power and wealth and knowledge to be so unevenly distributed? Because of caste system only Kshatriyas and Rajputs were allowed to wield weapons, no one else, and so India was conquered easily by Muslim warlords. In the Vedic world, the tribal communities were given complete autonomy as Nishadhas and Kiratas. Now, tribes who seek autonomy are called Maoists and Naxalites.
Today we are seeing extreme inequality. And it all began because of varna-dharma being imposed by dharmashastras. This would never have happened if atma-gyaan would have been respected. If only they had listened to Indra, Shiva, Ram and Krishna rather than Brahmins such as Vritra, Daksha, Ravana and Drona.