The acclaimed Tamil writer opens his heart to S. Anand on the experience of being a Brahmin in Tamil
the Tamil Brahmins, it has been one century of being on the defensive. The
community feels castrated. The Brahmins have never anyway been the
placard-holding type; they have rarely expressed their feelings openly. The
Tamil Brahmins have been used to taking insults. Hence perhaps the lack of
visible protests or reactions. Theirs is a guilt-ridden existence, their spirit
has been killed by a negative self-perception… They have been driven to a
quiescent state. Their situation is very similar to that of the Jews in the
the anti-Brahmin movement dictating the terms, the urban Brahmins began to
eschew ethnic markers that revealed their identity. They gave up the kudumi
(tuft), began to sport moustaches like non-Brahmins, changed the manner in which
they spoke Tamil, changed their attire, some even began to eat meat… they did
everything so that they are not identified as Brahmins in the public sphere.
These were all modes of defence, strategies for survival.
few Brahmins speak the brahminical dialect. Despite all these camouflages, even
today 50 percent of the Brahmins stand out in a Dravidian setup. One can easily
mark them out physically! They are so obvious! Over the years, it has been fed
into their psyche that they are different from the Dravidians. The Dravidian
movement always called them vandherigal
(immigrants/ outsiders)… Even in non-Vedic classical texts, there's an
injunction to safeguard and feed the Brahmins.
Sangam epic Silappadikaram was
written by a Jain monk, Ilango Adigal. When a wronged Kannagi ordains the
burning of Madura, she says: 'Let the city burn except the Brahmins and
cows.' Even the Jaina author showed high regard for the Brahmins. But the last
50 years have been very tough. The Brahmins gave up on government jobs,
and in whatever they did have had to work harder to prove themselves. Natural
discipline and thrift are brahminic qualities that have survived. If a
nonbrahmin has a windfall he just spends it on meat and drink. The Brahmin
always saves for the rainy day.
not a follower of the math, I had some regard for the earlier pontiff. In
1951, my mother was widowed. In 1954, Periyaval (Chandrashekarendra Saraswati)
had camped in Chennai's T.Nagar area as part of chaturmasya.
It was a time when M.S. Subbulakshmi sang for the first time in the presence of
Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, but at that point he ignored her and Sadasivam
too. My mother repeatedly visited the Acharya on an empty stomach at his T.
Nagar camp, but he never blessed her with the holy water since she was an
unshaven widow. I never had much interest even in Chandrashekarendra Saraswati.
The last I saw him was when my son and I attended the centenary celebrations of
Periyaval (Chandrashekarendra Saraswati). He was a merely an exhibit on the
occasion. It was humiliating to the Paramacharya.
Jayendra Saraswati took over, I never visited the math. Jayendra
Saraswati has been silly at times, making loose remarks and courting
controversy. But when his arrest happened, I personally felt very shocked. Now,
I'm indifferent. There must have been something murky in the Kanchi math.
But the manner in which the case has been treated makes us feel that there is
indeed persecution. Irrespective of a Brahmin's faith or belief in the Kanchi math,
the arrest of the Shankaracharyas and the manner in which the case is being
dealt with is a humiliation for the entire community. The only sign of hope
after the Shankaracharya's arrest is that several women have come out in
protest. This is encouraging and extraordinary for the community.
is not confined to politics. It is a pastime of the cultural and literary worlds
as well. Even the Tamil film industry merely caricatures the Brahmin. It is a
totally non-brahminised public sphere that Tamil cinema depicts. It is very
difficult for a Brahmin to get a foothold in the film industry today—as an
actor, assistant director or lyric writer. Earlier, when Brahmins played a
significant role in establishing the film industry, the world of cinema had a
neutrality, but today an obviously non-Brahmin ethos permeates it.
pointed out that Kamal Haasan and Mani Rathnam are significant Brahmins in the
industry today:] Kamal Hasan is a beef-eater who to debrahminise even espoused
the philosophy of the Dravidar Kazhagam. Mani Rathnam is an intelligent
filmmaker, he is a good entertainer, and yet the intellectual class of the
little magazines circle targets every film he makes. There's an undercurrent
of anti-brahminism in everyday life.
Tamil Brahmin community appears doomed. I see no possibility of a good
leadership emerging from this community. Jayendra Saraswati certainly would not
have made for a good leader. He is very poor in his understanding of religion or
politics. C. Rajagopalachari would have been a good choice, but then he is not
around. Institutions like Thambras cannot really provide the leadership we need.
A Brahmin resurgence is very unlikely. Even in terms of Brahmin tradition, very
few are learning the Vedas.
may offer freeships for Vedic pursuits but there are few takers. Priesthood or
the Vedic way of life is no longer a viable means of livelihood. Nor are there
any Brahmin landlords left. My father-in-law owned a lot of land. Each time he
got a daughter married, he sold a part of it… today his family owns no land.
Even rituals have merely become social occasions. The marriage rituals are also
much-abbreviated to reduce costs. Fortunately, the upanayanam
(thread ceremony) still continues, but this is more an occasion to meet up with
relatives. Sandhyavandanam should be done three times a day by a
thread-wearing Brahmin. It is good thing to do. But who performs it? A Brahmin
does sandhyavandanam only once in his lifetime and that is on the day the
thread is bestowed on him. 50 years hence, perhaps even upanayanam would
be given up.
are not easy to follow. They require a lot of energy and money. The 13-day
post-death rituals are very, very difficult to observe. When my sister died, we
stopped with the cremation rituals. Soon we may not have priests who know how to
perform these obsequies. I have told my sons not to perform them for me... I of
course remember my father on the day of his death, but I also wonder why are we
really bringing the spirits of the dead back to this stupid world.
is the full text; an abridged version appeared in the print magazine
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
I personally believe that brahmins are one of the most successful people in the world.If india is able to achieve something today, in spite of the vixenish tricks of the Mugals, British and the likes, it is certainly because of the thoughtfulness of the farsighted brahmin leaders. But today, I quite often come across other people taunting the brahmin community in all possible ways. There is an old saying that goes something like 'cutting off their noses to spite their faces'.It is like harming ones own soceity. If all the brahmins put togeher are being meek and submissive now, it may be due to their situations and compulsions but that should not be taken for their weakness. But when anybody is pushed to end of the rope, then he has to make a choice - whether to bear all the unending ignominies and live in india or live a life king size in the USA where the brahmins are most sought after for their wit and wisdom. If the brahmins choose to leave little by little, they cannot be blamed in the future, because, instead of becomming the much hiped super power, our country will go down in the history as the most backward (mbc) in the whole world.But the brahmins themselves are not going to lose anything much except misgivings of leaving their native place. In the likely hood of that event, the country will not only lose its wealth and wisdom, but all the charm, grace and beauty once and for all. Eventually, what will be left on India will be the greedy politicians and the so called oppressed people at the mercy of muslims and christians with their vote bank .
Dude, I know that most of the posters in this forum are jobless.... but none of them pick up 7-8 year old articles to comment. Seriously, you really put the backward in backward.
The situation of Brahmins being the elite and socially privileged upper class of India who practice the bigoted principle of ultimate supremacism of the Brahmin caste over the rest in the caste system, is true for Tamil Nadu as much as it is true for all of India. This being the case, it is an atrocious lie, ludicrous falsehood and a travesty of truth to describe Brahmins as “Dalits in reverse” or to suggest that Brahmins are being oppressed like Dalits or like Jews during World War II. The vast majority of Dalits who are at the bottom of the bigoted caste system are bonded to inhumane and degrading labour, forced into insanitary segregated slums, and suffer from high levels illiteracy, homelessness and ill health, along with being victims of various kinds of barbaric atrocities and killings unleashed against Dalits. Brahmins of Tamil Nadu (and India) have a critical and controlling presence in the mainstream media, state government bureaucracy, corporate industry, cinema and the arts, elite academia, higher judiciary, etc. In addition, Brahmins are also bigotedly feted as the “most superior caste” in the caste system while enjoying their bigoted monopoly in temple priesthood and sacramental performance of Hindu religious rituals to assert their Brahmin caste supremacy. Brahmins have never suffered any act of overt violence specifically directed against them in Tami Nadu or India unlike the Dalit people who are victims of daily acts of violence, rape and atrocities due to caste bigotry, nor are Brahmins being persecuted or socio-economically discriminated against. On the other hand people belonging to Brahmin castes such as the Bhumihars in Bihar are known for unleashing mass killings and mass rapes against Dalits. Brahmins are also the religious, cultural and socio-political guardians of the caste system, the sophisticated and fascist expression of which is the Hindutva movement which aims at protecting the caste system, by pitting those people of physically labouring castes degraded as “Shudras” by the caste system (such as backward castes and Dalits) against Muslims and Christians of India, by distracting the backward castes and Dalits from issues concerning their own rights, discrimination and oppression in the caste system with hateful vitriol against Muslims and Christians through brainwashing and fascist rallying of people of backward caste and Dalit background under the delusionary and false ultra-nationalist Hindu identity. It is an atrocious lie, ludicrous falsehood and a travesty of truth to describe Brahmins as “Dalits in reverse” or to suggest that Brahmins are being oppressed like Dalits or like Jews during World War II (as the writer and publisher S. Anand alias Anand Navayana has written and reported in Outlook magazine. Anand has indulged in stating such atrocious lies to falsely portray a socially privileged upper class and bigotedly supremacist caste of Brahmins as victims just because a Brahmin seer (the Sankaracharya of Kanchi) was arrested on charges of murder and conspiracy to murder as if the arrest of one lone Brahmin head of a religious mutt amounted to the oppression of an entire people belonging to the Brahmin caste in Tamil Nadu. Anand fails to mention that it was a Brahmin chief minister called Ms. J. Jayalalitha who ordered the arrest, incarceration and prosecution of the Kanchi Sankaracharya on charges of murder. S.Anand seem to believe in the dictums of the bigoted code of Manu (Manusmrithi - which codified the bigoted caste system) since Manu’s Code states that no Brahmin should be punished for committing the offence of murder thus explaining S. Anand’s series of reportage and writing which bigotedly and maliciously attempt to falsely misrepresent the arrest of a lone Brahman seer on charges of murder as an (imagined and non-existent) oppression of the socially privileged and bigotedly supremacist Brahmins.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT