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Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication
Committee, Maharashtra State

6 DR. P. T. BORALE .. .. .. MEMBER
12 SHRI R. R. BHOLE .. .. .. MEMBER
13 SHRI S. S. REGE .. .. .. MEMBER
17 PROF. N. D. PATIL .. .. .. MEMBER
21 DR. M. P. MANGUDKAR .. .. .. MEMBER
22 PROF. G. P. PRADHAN .. .. .. MEMBER
24 SHRI N. M. KAMBLE .. .. .. MEMBER
29 SHRI V. W. MOON, O.S.D. .. .. .. MEMBER
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The seventh volume of the Writings and Speeches of Dr. Babasaheb
Ambedkar contains two of his most memorable contributions to the
sociological literature of the modern India, viz. (1) ‘Who were the
Shudras?- How they came to be the Fourth Varna in the Indo-Aryan
Society;’ and (2) ‘The Untouchables- Who Were They and Why They
Became Untouchables?’ Both these works have influenced the thinking
of the present century which has witnessed emergence of the
individual as the autonomous unit in the constitutional jurisprudence
of equality and liberty. They mark the inauguration of the age of
reason in our history and impress upon us the need to rearrange
our social institutions in harmony with the dynamics of technological
changes which have made it possible for masses to enjoy freedom.
The age of reason was the effect of technologies of freedom and
mobility inherent in the Railways, Roads, Telegraphs, mass educa-
tion movements and greater contacts with the liberal culture of the
Both the works have a historical orientation and throw a critical
light on the problem of the caste as the inhibitory and controlling
element in the social organisation and structure. The defect of the
Indian social structure was immobility which was institutionalised
as the divine dispensation, leading to decay and atrophy.
Dr. Ambedkar examines the problem in the light of historical
evidence and shows how the caste became the fundamental criterion
of social action.
The work ‘Who were the Shudras?’ is inscribed to the memory of
Mahatma Jotiba Fule whom Dr. Ambedkar esteems “as the greatest
Shudra of Modern India who made the lower classes of Hindus
conscious of their slavery to the higher classes and who preached the
gospel that for India social democracy was more vital than
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independence from foreign rule.” The history of India is a tally of
events of caste-discrimination preached and practised in the name
of God. It is fair to conclude in retrospect that the caste as the
institution is the survival of pre-jural society and the early juris-
prudence of India like the jurisprudence of many other countries, was
sustained by the belief in supernatural agencies which punish
transgression of usages and can be assuaged by the magic charms
and rituals. It is due to the role of religion in the early laws that
the priest became the most potent instrument of the stability and
the status quo. In Europe the priest and the supremacy of the Church
was challenged by intellectuals but in India the challenge to the
priestly class and the tradition came much later when the British
Rule for the first time introduced masses to the democratic values
which find expression in the Proclamation of 1858 which states: “And
it is our further Will that, so far as may be, our subjects of whatever
Race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our
service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education,
ability and integrity to discharge.” In a society of institutionalised
gradation and hierarchy, this was a revolution in ideas and ideals
of equality which Dr. Ambedkar has advocated in a spirit of social
democracy. The present constitutional mandate for equality is trace-
able to this accident of history which brought with the British rule
the philosophy of social change that whatever may be birth-mark,
education would qualify an individual for a public office or employ-
ment. This was the first blow to the doctrine of the caste followed
by the Railways which made the static society mobile. The caste is
replaced by the ethics of classification which must be reasonable.
Article 14 of the Constitution prohibits class legislation but does not
forbid reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation as held
by the Supreme Court in ‘Budhan Vs State of Bihar, 1955– Supreme
Court 1045.’
In a sense, ‘Who were the Shudras’ may be said to be an invitation
by Dr. Ambedkar to a fresh historical research on this subject to know
the reality of human nature which is not harmonious: it has two sides:
an aggressive self-assertive side which leads to ignoring the expec-
tations of others in the satisfaction of one’s own expectations and
a co-operative social side which leads to working with others in
association and groups of all sorts in recognition of common purposes.
The individual needs the force of social control to keep these two
sides in balance. Undoubtedly, the struggle for existence, the com-
petition in satisfying expectations or desires whenever acute
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because of the limited goods of existence, out of which they can be
satisfied, disturbs this balance. In order to maintain the balance men
have relied upon religion and upon reason.” (Pound - jurisprudence
Vol. III). For the Indian historical content Dr. Ambedkar shows how
the desire for monopoly of social control made the priest the most
powerful factor in social control. The caste as a sociological insti-
tution resembles a Corporation in which the Board of Directors never
changed. It was the law of status which classified men according
to their birth and it was fixed and static; ability was not recognised
as the means to cross the class-barriers. In theory and in practice
the caste is the opposite of liberty, anti-thesis of equality and
negation of humanity as it postulates the capacity for thinking
incidental to the gift of reason for the chosen few distinguished by
the marks of their pedigrees and not by the degrees of excellence
evidenced in the free exercise of reason or conscience. The philosophy
of the sacred texts in general discouraged the free exercise of reason
with the result that the authority of the sacred texts became
unquestioned and Truth became a datum and not a problem. This
was the cause of intellectual atrophy and social stagnation. One is
reminded of the words of Milton :
“Well knows he who uses to consider, that our faith and knowledge
thrives by exercise, as well as our limbs and complexion. Truth is
compared in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not
in perpetual succession, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity
and tradition. A man may be heretic in the truth and if he believes
things only because his Pastor says so, or the Assembly so determines,
without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very
truth he holds becomes his heresy.”
It is in this context that the works of Dr. Ambedkar will prove
to be a frank assessment and a candid critique of the societal norms
requiring revision and reformulation which he himself did when the
opportunity presented in the Constituent Assembly which framed the
noble Constitution in which fundamental rights protect the indi-
vidual against despotism whether it comes from the State or Society.
‘The Untouchables’ is a sequel to the work on Shudras. Dr. Ambedkar
has in his usual critical style assessed the Indian social system. He
is critical of the Indian social system because it did not foster the
spirit of critical inquiry. It is, indeed, a matter of regret that Indians
could not produce a Voltaire or Milton or Victor Hugo because
as a class they did not approve of it. The spirit of inquiry is the
sine-qua-non of progress. The larger the area of inquiry, the
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greater the scope of investigation, the greater are the chances that
liberty will thrive and prosper along with tolerance and the existence
of dissent. It is in this context that both the works which are brought
together in the present volume provide enough material for reflection
and action to the layman and will prove to be the source of inspiration
to the scholar. The works have to be adjudged in the context in which
they were written to shake the average Indian out of his complacency.
Today the caste has become irrelevant in the light of modern
technological developments. However, social sciences lag behind the
technology. It is in this area that our efforts must be concentrated
to improve the mind of man, so as to bring it in harmony with the
technological progress. Dr. Ambedkar has shown that the caste has
become out of place and is a barrier to social progress and individual
advancement of freedom. The basic message of his work is that control
of minds of men by some powerful individuals is bad as such control
retards movement. The best source of practical instruction in the art
of life is the opportunity to commit errors and this means respon-
sibility for one’s actions and their consequences. That India did not
wake to the need to rearrange its social institutions for centuries
and it produced Mahatma Fule and Dr. Ambedkar only under the
British rule because of its democratic culture of public instruction
shows the old truth which has been succinctly expressed by G. B. Shaw
in, ‘Man, and Superman’ that “liberty means responsibility. That’s
why most men dread it.” Modern psychoanalysts and existentialist
philosophers have not been able to add to or detract from this
statement. In the context of the march of technology, there is a chance
of abuse of powers by those in authority and experts or priests of
science who control masses by techniques of electronic media. Mind
control by mass media and drugs is the awesome reality. Just consider
what F. A. Hayek says: (The Constitution of Liberty) :
“The day may not be far off when authority by adding appropriate drugs
to our water supply or by some other similar device, will be able to elate
or depress, stimulate or paralyse, the minds of whole population.”
Today the priesthood is replaced by experts and it is a new class
or caste that has emerged. The remedy lies in making knowledge free
and in widening the frontiers of practical social wisdom. It is in this
context that the rationalism of Dr. Ambedkar is relevant to all of
us who prize the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely
according to conscience, above all liberties.
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This slightly long Foreword has become necessary to elucidate and
emphasise the social context in which they came to be written and
with which the post-independence generation of Indians may not be
adequately acquainted. The Editorial Board has no doubt that these
works will prove to be an invitation to renew our faith in our noble
The Editorial Board thanks the Secretary, Education Department
for his interest in the project. The Board places on record its
appreciation of the assistance it has received from the Officer on
Special Duty and his staff as well as Shri P. S. More, Director of
Government Printing and Stationery, M.S., Bombay; Shri P. L. Purkar,
Manager, Government Photozinco Press, Pune and the staff under
them in bringing out the present volume on time.

(Kamalkishor Kadam)
Education Minister and
President of the
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
Source Material Publication Committee,
M.S., Bombay.
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Inscribed to the
Memory of

The Greatest Shudra of Modern India who
made the lower classes of Hindus conscious
of their slavery to the higher classes and
who preached the gospel that for India
social democracy was more vital than
independence from foreign rule.
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How they came to be the
Fourth Varna in the
Indo-Aryan Society

B. R. Ambedkar

[Reprint of the Edition of 1947]
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Thacker and Co.’s editions :–
First Edition 1946
Second Edition 1947
Third Edition 1970

Government of Maharashtra’s
First Edition January 26, 1990
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P REFACE .. .. 9
OF THE S HUDRAS .. .. 37
OF THE S HUDRAS .. .. 42
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I. References to the word ‘Arya’ (v;Z) in the
Rig Veda

II. References to the word ‘Arya (vk;Z ) in the
Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda

III. Different meanings of the word (v;Z ) found in
the Rig Veda
IV. References to ‘Dasa’ in the Rig Veda
V. References to ‘Dasyu’ in the Rig Veda
VI. References to the word ‘Varna’ in the Rig Veda

I. People of India according to Cephalic Index
II. Expansion of the Pre-Teutonic Nordics
III. Maximum Expansion of Alpines
IV. Expansion of the Teutonic Nordics and Slavic Alpines

N OTES : (1) Appendices I to VI are based upon the information contained
in the Maharashtra Dyankosh, Vol. III.
(2) Map I is taken from the Census Report by Mr. Das. Maps
II, III and IV are from Mr. Grant’s Book, The passing of the
Great Race, published by Bell & Sons.
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I N the present stage of the literature on the subject, a book on the
Shudras cannot be regarded as a superfluity. Nor can it be said to
deal with a trivial problem. The general proposition that the social
organization of the Indo-Aryans was based on the theory of
Chaturvarnya and that Chaturvarnya means division of society into
four classes—Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (soldiers),Vaishyas (trad-
ers) and Shudras (menials) does not convey any idea of the real
nature of the problem of the Shudras nor of its magnitude.
Chaturvarnya would have been a very innocent principle if it meant
no more than mere division of society into four classes. Unfortunately,
more than this is involved in the theory of Chaturvarnya. Besides
dividing society into four orders, the theory goes further and makes
the principle of graded inequality the basis for determining the terms
of associated life as between the four Varnas. Again, the system of
graded inequality is not merely notional. It is legal and penal. Under
the system of Chaturvarnya, the Shudra is not only placed at the
bottom of the gradation but he is subjected to innumerable ignominies
and disabilities so as to prevent him from rising above the condition
fixed for him by law. Indeed until the fifth Varna of the Untouchables
came into being, the Shudras were in the eyes of the Hindus the
lowest of the low. This shows the nature of what might be called
the problem of the Shudras. If people have no idea of the magnitude
of the problem it is because they have not cared to know what the
population of the Shudras is. Unfortunately, the census does not show
their population separately. But there is no doubt that excluding the
Untouchables the Shudras form about 75 to 80 per cent of the
population of Hindus. A treatise which deals with so vast a population
cannot be considered to be dealing with a trivial problem.
The book deals with the Shudras in the Indo-Aryan Society. There
is a view that an inquiry into these questions is of no present-day
moment. It is said by no less a person than Mr. Sherring in his Hindu
Tribes and Castes1 that :
“Whether the Shudras were Aryans, or aboriginal inhabitants of India, or
tribes produced by the union of the one with the other, is of little practical

1 Vol. I, Introduction, P. xxi.
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moment. They were at an early period placed in a class by themselves,
and received the fourth or last degree of rank, yet at a considerable
distance from the three superior castes. Even though it be admitted that
at the outset they were not Aryans, still, from their extensive intermar-
riages with the three Aryan Castes, they have become so far Aryanized
that, in some instances as already shown, they have gained more than
they have lost, and certain tribes now designated as Shudras are in reality
more Brahmins and Kshatriyas than anything else. In short, they have
become as much absorbed in other races as the Celtic tribes of England
have become absorbed in the Anglo-Saxon race; and their own separate
individuality, if they ever had any, has completely vanished.”
This view is based on two errors. Firstly, the prsent-day Shudras are
a collection of castes drawn from heterogeneous stocks and are racially
different from the original Shudras of the Indo-Aryan society. Secondly,
in the case of Shudras the centre of interest is not the Shudras as a
people but the legal system of pains and penalties to which they are
subjected. The system of pains and penalties was no doubt originally
devised by the Brahmins to deal with the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan
society, who have ceased to exist as a distinct, separate, identifiable
community. But strange as it may seem the Code intended to deal with
them has remained in operation and is now applied to all low-class
Hindus, who have no lock stock with the original Shudras. How this
happened must be a matter of curiosity to all. My explanation is that
the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan Society in course of time became so
degraded as a consequence of the severity of the Brahmanical laws that
they really came to occupy a very low state in public life. Two
consequences followed from this. One consequence was a change in the
connotation of the word Shudra. The word Shudra lost its original
meaning of being the name of a particular community and became a
general name for a low-class people without civilization, without culture,
without respect and without position. The second consequence was that
the widening of the meaning of the word Shudra brought in its train
the widening of the application of the Code. It is in this way that the
so-called Shudras of the present-day have become subject to the Code,
though they are not Shudras in the original sense of the word. Be that
as it may, the fact remains that the Code intended for the original
culprits has come to be applied to the innocents. If the Hindu law-givers
had enough historical sense to realize that the original Shudras were
different from the present-day low-class people, this tragedy—this
massacre of the innocents—would have been avoided. The fact, however
unfortunate it may be, is that the Code is applied to the present-day
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Shudras in the same rigorous manner in which it was applied to the
original Shudras. How such a Code came into being cannot therefore
be regarded as of mere antiquarian interest to the Shudras of to-
While it may be admitted that a study of the origin of the Shudras
is welcome, some may question my competence to handle the theme.
I have already been warned that while I may have a right to speak
on Indian politics, religion and religious history of India are not my
field and that I must not enter it. I do not know why my critics have
thought it necessary to give me this warning. If it is an antidote
to any extravagant claim made by me as a thinker or a writer, then
it is unnecessary. For, I am ready to admit that I am not competent
to speak even on Indian politics. If the warning is for the reason
that I cannot claim mastery over the Sanskrit language, ‘I admit this
deficiency. But I do not see why it should disqualify me altogether
from operating in this field. There is very little of literature in the
Sanskrit language which is not available in English. The want of
knowledge of Sanskrit need not therefore be a bar to my handling
a theme such as the present. For I venture to say that a study of
the relevant literature, albeit in English translations, for 15 years
ought to be enough to invest even a person endowed with such
moderate intelligence like myself, with sufficient degree of compe-
tence for the task. As to the exact measure of my competence to speak
on the subject, this book will furnish the best testimony. It may well
turn out that this attempt of mine is only an illustration of the
proverbial fool rushing in where the angels fear to tread. But I take
refuge in the belief that even the fool has a duty to perform, namely,
to do his bit if the angel has gone to sleep or is unwilling to proclaim
the truth. This is my justification for entering the prohibited field.
What is it that is noteworthy about this book? Undoubtedly the
conclusions which I have reached as a result of my investigations.
Two questions are raised in this book: (1) Who were the Shudras?
and (2) How they came to be the fourth Varna of the Indo-Aryan
society? My answers to them are summarised below :
(1) The Shudras were one of the Aryan communities of the Solar
(2) There was a time when the Aryan society recognized only three
Varnas, namely, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
(3) The Shudras did not form a separate Varna. They ranked as
part of the Kshatriya Varna in the Indo-Aryan society.
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(4) There was a continuous feud betwen the Shudra kings and
the Brahmins in which the Brahmins were subjected to many
tyrannies and indignities.
(5) As a result of the hatred towards the Shudras generated by
their tyrannies and oppressions, the Brahmins refused to
perform the Upanayana of the Shudras.
(6) Owing to the denial of Upanayana, the Shudras who were
Kshatriyas became socially degraded, fell below the rank of
the Vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth Varna.
I must of course await the verdict of scholars on these conclusions.
That these conclusions are not merely original but they are violently
opposed to those that are current is of course evident. Whether these
conclusions will be accepted or not will depend upon the mentality
of a person claiming to have a right to sit in judgement over the
issue. Of course, if he is attached to a particular thesis he will reject
mine. I would not however bother about his judgement for he would
be an adversary from whom nothing can be expected except oppo-
sition. But if a person is an honest critic, howsoever cautious, however
conservative he may be, provided that he has an open mind and a
readiness to accept facts, I do not despair of converting him to my
view. This expectation may fail to materialize, but about one thing
I am quite certain. My critics will have to admit that the book is
rich in fresh insights and new visions.
Apart from scholars, how the Hindu public will react may be an
interesting speculation. The Hindus of to-day fall into five definite
classes. There is a class of Hindus, who are known as orthodox and
who will not admit that there is anything wrong with the Hindu social
system. To talk of reforming it is to them rank blasphemy. There
is a class of Hindus who are known as Arya Samajists. They believe
in the Vedas and only in the Vedas. They differ from the orthodox
inasmuch as they discard everything which is not in the Vedas. Their
gospel is that of return to the Vedas. There is a class of Hindus who
will admit that the Hindu social system is all wrong, but who hold
that there is no necessity to attack it. Their argument is that since
law does not recognize it, it is a dying, if not a dead system. There
is a class of Hindus, who are politically minded. They are indifferent
to such questions. To them Swaraj is more important than social
reform. The fifth class of Hindus are those who are rationalists and
who regard social reforms as of primary importance, even more
important than Swaraj.
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With the Hindus, who fall into the second category, those who are
likely to regard the book as unnecessary, I cannot agree. In a way,
they are right when they say that the existing law in British India
does not recognize the caste system prevalent in the Hindu society.
It is true that, having regard to section 11 of the Civil Procedure
Code, it would not be possible for a Hindu to obtain a declaration
from a civil court that he belongs to a particular Varna. If courts
in British India have to consider the question whether a person
belongs to a particular Varna, it is only in cases of marriage,
inheritance and adoption, the rules of which vary according to the
Varna to which the party belongs. While it is true that the Law in
British India does not recognize the four Varnas of the Hindus, one
must be careful not to misunderstand what this means. To put it
precisely: (1) it does not mean that the observance of the Varna
system is a crime; (2) it does not mean that the Varna system has
disappeared; (3) it does not mean that the Varna system is not given
effect to in cases where the observance of its rules are necessary to
acquiring civil rights; (4) it only means that the general legal sanction
behind the Varna system has been withdrawn. Now, law is not the
only sanction which goes to sustain social institutions. Institutions
are sustained by other sanctions also. Of these, religious sanction
and social sanction are the most important. The Varna system has
a religious sanction. Because it has a religious sanction, the Varna
system has the fullest social sanction from the Hindu society. With
no legal prohibition, this religious sanction has been more than
enough to keep the Varna system in full bloom. The best evidence
to show that the Varna system is alive notwithstanding there is no
law to enforce it, is to be found in the fact that the status of the
Shudras and the Untouchables in the Hindu society has remained
just what it has been. It cannot therefore be said that a study such
as this is unnecessary.
As to the politically-minded Hindu, he need not be taken seriously.
His line of approach is generally governed by a short-term view more
than by long-range considerations. He is willing to follow the line
of least resistance and postpone a matter, however urgent, if it is
likely to make him unpopular. It is therefore quite natural if the
politically-minded Hindu regards this book as a nuisance.
The book treads heavily on the toes of the Arya Samajists. My
conclusions have come in sharp conflict with their ideology at two
most important points. The Arya Samajists believe that the four
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Varnas of the Indo-Aryan society have been in existence from the
very beginning. The book shows that there was a time when there
were only three Varnas in the Indo-Aryan society. The Arya Samajists
believe that the Vedas are eternal and sacrosanct. The book shows
that portions of the Vedas at any rate, particularly the Purusha
Sukta, which is the mainstay of the Arya Samajists, are fabrications
by Brahmins intended to serve their own purposes. Both these
conclusions are bound to act like atomic bombs on the dogmas of the
Arya Samajists.
I am not sorry for this clash with Arya Samajists. The Arya
Samajists have done great mischief in making the Hindu society a
stationary society by preaching that the Vedas are eternal, without
beginning, without end, and infallible, and that the social institutions
of the Hindus being based on the Vedas are also eternal, without
beginning, without end, infallible and therefore requiring no change.
To be permeated with such a belief is the worst thing that can happen
to a community. I am convinced that the Hindu society will not accept
the necessity of reforming itself unless and until this Arya Samajists’
ideology is completely destroyed. The book does render this service,
if no other.
What the Orthodox Hindu will say about this book I can well
imagine for I have been battling with him all these years. The only
thing I did not know was how the meek “and non-violent looking
Hindu can be violent when anybody attacks his Sacred Books. I
became aware of it as never before when last year I received a shower
of letters from angry Hindus, who became quite unbalanced by my
speech on the subject delivered in Madras. The letters were full of
filthy abuse, unmentionable and unprintable, and full of dire threats
to my life. Last time they treated me as a first offender and let me
off with mere threats. I don’t know what they will do this time. For
on reading the book they are sure to find more cause for anger at
what in their eyes is a repetition of the offence in an aggravated
form for having brought forth chapter and verse to show that what
goes by the name of Sacred Books contains fabrications which are
political in their motive, partisan in their composition and fraudulent
in their purpose. I do not propose to take any notice of their
vilifications or their threats. For I know very well that they are a
base crew who, professing to defend their religion, have made religion
a matter of trade. They are more selfish than any other set of beings
in the world, and are prostituting their intelligence to support the vested
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interests of their class. It is a matter of no small surprise that when
the mad dogs of orthodoxy are let loose against a person who has
the courage to raise his voice against the so-called Sacred Books of
the Hindus, eminent Hindus occupying lofty places, claiming them-
selves to be highly educated and who could be expected to have no
interest and to have a free and open mind become partisans and join
the outcry. Even Hindu Judges of High Courts and Hindu Prime
Ministers of Indian States do not hesitate to join their kind. They
go further. They not only lead the howl against him but even join
in the hunt. What is outrageous is that they do so because they
believe that their high stations in life would invest their words with
an amount of terror which would be sufficient enough to cow down
any and every opponent of orthodoxy. What I would like to tell these
amiable gentlemen is that they will not be able to stop me by their
imprecations. They do not seem to be aware of the profound and
telling words of Dr. Johnson who when confronted with analogous
situation said, ‘I am not goint to be deterred from catching a cheat
by the menaces of a ruffian.’ I do not wish to be rude to these high-
placed critics, much less do I want to say that they are playing the
part of a ruffian interested in the escape of a cheat. But I do want
to tell them two things: firstly that I propose, no matter what
happens, to follow the determination of Dr. Johnson in the pursuit
of historical truth by the exposure of the Sacred Books so that the
Hindus may know that it is the doctrines contained in their Sacred
Books which are responsible for the decline and fall of their country
and their society; secondly, if the Hindus of this generation do not
take notice of what I have to say I am sure the future generation
will. I do not despair of success. For I take consolation in the words
of the poet Bhavabhuti who said, “Time is infinite and earth is vast,
some day there will be born a man who will appreciate what I have
said.” Whatever that be the book is a challenge to orthodoxy.
The only class of Hindus, who are likely to welcome the book are
those who believe in the necessity and urgency of social reform. The
fact that it is a problem which will certainly take a long time to
solve and will call the efforts of many generations to come, is in their
opinion, no justification for postponing the study of that problem.
Even an ardent Hindu politician, if he is honest, will admit that the
problems arising out of the malignant form of communalism, which
is inherent in the Hindu social organization and which the politically
minded Hindus desire to ignore or postpone, invariably return to
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plague those very politicians at every turn. These problems are not
the difficulties of the moment. They are our permanent difficulties,
that is to say, difficulties of every moment. I am glad to know that
such a class of Hindus exists. Small though they be, they are my
mainstay and it is to them that I have addressed my argument.
It will be said that I have shown no respect for the sacred
literature of the Hindus which every sacred literature deserves. If
the charge be true, I can plead two circumstances in justification
of myself. Firstly I claim that in my research I have been guided
by the best tradition of the historian who treats all literature as
vulgar—I am using the word in its original sense of belonging to
the people—to be examined and tested by accepted rules of evidence
without recognizing any distinction between the sacred and the
profane and with the sole object of finding the truth. If in following
this tradition I am found wanting in respect and reverence for the
sacred literature of the Hindus my duty as a scholar must serve
as my excuse. Secondly, respect and reverence for the sacred
literature cannot be made to order. They are the results of social
factors which make such sentiments natural in one case and quite
unnatural in another. Respect and reverence for the sacred literature
of the Hindus is natural to a Brahmin scholar. But it is quite
unnatural in a non-Brahmin scholar. The explanation of this
difference is quite simple. That a Brahmin scholar should treat this
sacred literature with uncritical reverence and forbear laying on it
the heavy hands which the detachment of an intellectual as
distinguished from the merely educated is what is to be expected.
For what is this sacred literature? It is a literature which is almost
entirely the creation of the Brahmins. Secondly, its whole object is
to sustain the superiority and privileges of the Brahmins as against
the non-Brahmins. Why should not the Brahmins uphold the sanctity
of such a literature? The very reason that leads the Brahmin to
uphold it makes the non-Brahmin hate it. Knowing that what is
called the sacred literature contains an abominable social philosophy
which is responsible for their social degradation, the non-Brahmin
reacts to it in a manner quite opposite to that of the Brahmin. That
I should be wanting in respect and reverence for the sacred literature
of the Hindus should not surprise any one if it is borne in mind
that I am a non-Brahmin, not even a non-Brahmin but an Untouch-
able. My antipathy to the sacred literature could not naturally be
less than that of the non-Brahmin. As Prof. Thorndyke says: that
a man thinks is a biological fact what he thinks is a sociological
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I am aware that this difference in the attitude of a Brahmin
scholar and a non-Brahmin scholar towards this sacred literature—
literature which is the main source of the material for the study
of the problems of the social history of the Hindus— the former with
his attitude of uncritical commendation and the latter with his
attitude of unsparing condemnation is most harmful to historical
The mischief done by the Brahmin scholars to historical research
is obvious. The Brahmin scholar has a two-fold interest in the
maintenance of the sanctity of this literature. In the first place being
the production of his forefathers his filial duty leads him to defend
it even at the cost of truth. In the second place as it supports the
privileges of the Brahmins, he is careful not to do anything which
would undermine its authority. The necessity of upholding the
system by which he knows he stands to profit, as well as of upholding
the prestige of his forefathers as the founders of the system, acts
as a silent immaculate premise which is ever present in the mind
of the Brahmin scholar and prevents him from reaching or preaching
the truth. That is why one finds so little that is original in the field
of historical research by Brahmin scholars unless it be a matter of
fixing dates or tracing genealogies. The non-Brahmin scholar has
none of these limitations and is therefore free to engage himself in
a relentless pursuit of truth. That such a difference exists between
the two classes of students is not a mere matter of speculation. This
very book is an illustraton in point. It contains an exposure of the
real character of the conspiracy against the Shudras, which no
Brahmin scholar could have had the courage to present.
While it is true that a non-Brahmin scholar is free from the
inhibitions of the Brahmin scholar he is likely to go to the other extreme
and treat the whole literature as a collection of fables and fictions fit
to be thrown on the dung heap not worthy of serious study. This is
not the spirit of an historian. As has been well said, an historian ought
to be exact, sincere, and impartial; free from passion, unbiased by
interest, fear, resentment or affection; and faithful to the truth, which
is the mother of history, the preserver of great actions, the enemy of
oblivion, the witness of the past, the director of the future. In
short he must have an open mind, though it may not be an empty
mind, and readiness to examine all evidence even though it be
spurious. The non-Brahmin scholar may find it difficult to remain true
to this spirit of the historian. He is likely to import the spirit of non-
Brahmin politics in the examination of the truth or falsity of the
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ancient literature which is not justifiable. I feel certain that in my
research I have kept myself free from such prejudice. In writing about
the Shudras I have had present in my mind no other consideration
except that of pure history. It is well-known that there is a non-
Brahmin movement in this country which is a political movement of
the Shudras. It is also well-known that I have been connected with
it. But I am sure that the reader will find that I have not made
this book a preface to non-Brahmin politics.
I am sensible of the many faults in the presentation of the matter.
The book is loaded with quotations, too long and too many. The book
is not a work of art and it is possible that readers will find it tedious
to go through it. But this fault is not altogether mine. Left to myself,
I would have very willingly applied the pruning knife. But the book
is written for the ignorant and the uninformed Shudras, who do not
know how they came to be what they are. They do not care how
artistically the theme is handled. All they desire is a full harvest
of material—the bigger the better. Those of them to whom I have
shown the manuscript have insisted upon retaining the quotations.
Indeed, their avidity for such material was so great that some of them
went to the length of insisting that besides giving translations in
English in the body of the book I should also add the original Sanskrit
texts in an Appendix. While I had to deny their request for the
reproduction of the original Sanskrit texts, I could not deny their
request for retaining the translations on the ground that the material
is not readily available to them. When one remembers that it is the
Shudras, who have largely been instrumental in sustaining the
infamous system of Chaturvarnya, though it has been the primary
cause of their degradation and that only the Shudras can destroy
the Chaturvarnya, it would be easy to realize why I allowed the
necessity of educating and thereby preparing the Shudra fully for
such a sacred task to outweigh all other considerations which
favoured the deletion or if not deletion the abridgement of the
There are three persons to whom I owe my thanks. Firstly to the
writer of Adhyaya LX of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata.
Whether it is Vyasa, Vaishampayana, Suta, Lomaharshana or Bhrigu
it is difficult to say. But whoever he was, he has rendered great
service by giving a full description of Paijavana. If he had not
described Paijavana as a Shudra, the clue to the origin of the Shudra
would have been completely lost. I express my gratitude to the writer
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for having preserved so important a piece of information for posterity.
Without it, this book could not have been written. Secondly, I must
thank Prof. Kangle of Ismail Yusuf College, Andheri, Bombay. He
has come to my rescue and has checked the translation of Sanskrit
shlokas which occur in the book. As I am not a Sanskrit scholar,
his help has been to me a sort of an assurance that I have not bungled
badly in dealing with the material which is in Sanskrit. The fact that
he has helped me does not mean that he is responsible for such faults
and errors as may be discovered by my critics. Thanks are also due
to Prof. Manohar Chitnis of the Siddharth College, Bombay, who has
been good enough to prepare the Index.
I am grateful to Messrs. Charles Scribner’s Sons Publishers, New
York for their kind permission to reproduce the three maps from
Mr. Madison Grant’s Passing of the Great Race and which form
Appendices II, III and IV of this book.

10th October 1946 B. R. AMBEDKAR
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EVERYBODY knows that the Shudras formed the fourth Varna
of the Indo-Aryan society. But very few have cared to inquire who
were these Shudras and how they came to be the fourth Varna. That
such an enquiry is of first-rate importance is beyond question. For,
it is worth knowing how the Shudras came to occupy the fourth place,
whether it was the result of evolution or it was brought about by
Any attempt to discover who the Shudras were and how they came
to be the fourth Varna must begin with the origin of the Chaturvarnya
in the Indo-Aryan society. A study of the Chaturvarnya must in its
turn start with a study of the ninetieth Hymn of the Tenth Mandala
of the Rig Veda—a Hymn, which is known by the famous name of
Purusha Sukta.
What does the Hymn say? It says1 :
“1. Purusha has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet.
On every side enveloping the earth he overpassed (it) by a space
of ten fingers.
2. Purusha himself is this whole (universe), whatever has been and
whatever shall be. He is the Lord of immortality, since (or when)
by food he expands.
3. Such is his greatness, and Purusha is superior to this. All
existences are a quarter to him; and three-fourths of him are that
which is immortal in the sky.
4. With three-quarters, Purusha mounted upwards. A quarter of him
was again produced here. He was then diffused everywhere over
things which eat and things which do not eat.
5. From him was born Viraj, and from Viraj, Purusha. When born,
he extended beyond the earth, both behind and before.
6. When the gods performed a sacrifice with Purusha as the oblation,
the spring was its butter, the summer its fuel, and the autumn
its (accompanying) offering.

1 Muir’s, Original Sanskrit Texts, Vol. I, P. 9.
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7. This victim, Purusha, born in the beginning, they immolated on the
sacrificial grass. With him the gods, the Sadhyas, and the rishis
8. From that universal sacrifice were provided curds and butter. It formed
those aerial (creatures) and animals both wild and tame.
9. From that universal sacrifice sprang the rik and saman verses, the
metres and the yajus.
10. From it sprang horses, and all animals with two rows of teeth; kine
sprang from it; from it goats and sheep.
11. When (the gods) divided Purusha, into how many parts did they cut
him up? What was his mouth? What arms (had he)? What (two objects)
are said (to have been) his thighs and feet?
12. The Brahmana was his mouth, the Rajanya was made his arms; the
being called the Vaishya, he was his thighs; the Shudra sprang from
his feet.
13. The moon sprang from his soul (manas), the sun from the eye, Indra
and Agni from his mouth and Vayu from his breath.
14. From his navel arose the air, from his head the sky, from his feet the
earth, from his ear the (four) quarters; in this manner (the gods) formed
the worlds.
15. When the gods, performing sacrifices, bound Purusha as a victim, there
were seven sticks (stuck up) for it (around the fire), and thrice seven
pieces of fuel were made.
16. With sacrifices the gods performed the sacrifice. These were the earliest
rites. These great powers have sought the sky, where are the former
Sadhyas, gods.”
The Purusha Sukta is a theory of the origin of the Universe. In other
words, it is a cosmogony. No nation which has reached an advanced degree
of thought has failed to develop some sort of cosmogony. The Egyptians
had a cosmogony somewhat analogous with that set out in the Purusha
Sukta. According to it,1 it was god Khnumu, ‘the shaper,’ who shaped living
things on the potter’s wheel, “created all that is, he formed all that exists,
he is the father of fathers, the mother of mothers... he fashioned men, he
made the gods, he was the father from the beginning... he is the creator
of the heaven, the earth, the underworld, the water, the mountains... he
formed a male and a female of all birds, fishes, wild beasts, cattle and of
all worms.” A very, similar cosmogony is found in Chapter I of the Genesis
in the Old Testament.
Cosmogonies have never been more than matters of academic interest
and have served no other purpose than to satisfy the curiosity of the
student and to help to amuse children. This may be true of some parts
of the Purusha Sukta. But it certainly cannot be true of the whole
of it. That is because all verses of the Purusha Sukta are not of the
same importance and do not have the same significance. Verses
1 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. IV, p. 145.
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11 and 12 fall in one category and the rest of the verses fall in another
category. Verses other than 11 and 12 may be regarded as of academic
interest. Nobody relies upon them. No Hindu even remembers them.
But it is quite different with regard to verses 11 and 12. Prima facie
these verses do no more than explain how the four classes, namely,
(1) Brahmins or priests, (2) Kshatriyas or soldiers, (3) Vaishyas or
traders, and (4) Shudras or menials, arose from the body of the
Creator. But the fact is that these verses are not understood as being
merely explanatory of a cosmic phenomenon. It would be a grave
mistake to suppose that they were regarded by the Indo-Aryans as
an innocent piece of a poet’s idle imagination. They are treated as
containing a mandatory injunction from the Creator to the effect that
Society must be constituted on the basis of four classes mentioned
in the Sukta. Such a construction of the verses in question may not
be warranted by their language. But there is no doubt that according
to tradition this is how the verses are construed, and it would indeed
be difficult to say that this traditional construction is not in
consonance with the intention of the author of the Sukta. Verses 11
and 12 of the Purusha Sukta are, therefore, not a mere cosmogony.
They contain a divine injunction prescribing a particular form of the
constitution of society.
The constitution of society prescribed by the Purusha Sukta is
known as Chaturvarnya. As a divine injunction, it naturally became
the ideal of the Indo-Aryan society. This ideal of Chaturvarnya was
the mould in which the life of the Indo-Aryan community in its early
or liquid state was cast. It is this mould, which gave the Indo-Aryan
community its peculiar shape and structure.
This reverence, which the Indo-Aryan Society had for this ideal
mould of Chaturvarnya, is not only beyond question, but it is also
beyond description. Its influence on the Indo-Aryan society has been
profound and indelible. The social order prescribed by the Purusha
Sukta has never been questioned by anyone except Buddha. Even
Buddha was not able to shake it, for the simple reason that both
after the fall of Buddhism and even during the period of Buddhism
there were enough law-givers, who made it their business not only
to defend the ideal of the Purusha Sukta but to propagate it and
to elaborate it.
To take a few illustrations of this propaganda in support of the
Purusha Sukta, reference may be made to the Apastamba Dharma
Sutra and the Vasishtha Dharma Sutra. The Apastamba Dharma
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Sutra states:
“There are four castes—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.
Among these, each preceding (caste) is superior by birth to the one
For all these excepting Shudras and those who have committed bad
actions are ordained (1) the initiation (Upanayan or the wearing of the
sacred thread), (2) the study of the Veda and (3) the kindling of the sacred
fire (i.e., the right to perform sacrifice).2
This is repeated by Vasishtha Dharma Sutra which says :
“There are four castes (Varnas), Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and
Shudras. Three castes, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas (are called)
Their first birth is from their mother; the second from the investiture
with the sacred girdle. In that (second birth) the Savitri is the mother,
but the teacher is said to be, the father.
They call the teacher father, because he gives instruction in the Veda.3
The four castes are distinguished by their origin and by particular
There is also the following passage of the Veda : “The Brahmana was
his mouth, the Kshatriya formed his arms, the Vaishya his thighs; the
Shudra was born from his feet.”
It has been declared in the following passage that a Shudra shall not
receive the sacraments.”
Many other law-givers have in parrot-like manner repeated the theme
of the Purusha Sukta and have reiterated its sanctity. It is unnecessary
to repeat their version of it. All those, who had raised any opposition
to the sanctity of the ideal set out in the Purusha Sukta, were finally
laid low by Manu, the architect of the Hindu society. For Manu did
two things. In the first place, he enunciated afresh the ideal of the
Purusha Sukta as a part of divine injunction. He said :
“For the prosperity of the worlds, he (the creator) from his mouth, arms,
thighs and feet created the Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya and the
The Brahmin, Kshatriya (and) Vaishya (constitute) the three twice-born
castes; but the fourth the shudra has only one birth.5"
In this he was no doubt merely following his predecessors. But he
went a step further and enunciated another proposition in which he
said :
“Veda is the only and ultimate sanction for Dharma.6”
Bearing in mind that the Purusha Sukta is a part of the Veda, it
cannot be difficult to realize that Manu invested the social ideal of

1 Prasna 1. Patala 1, Khanda 1, Sutras 4-5. 4 Manu, Chapter I, Verse 31.
2 Prasna 1, Patala 1, Khanda 1, Sutra 6. 5 Ibid., Chapter X, Verse 4.
3 Chapter II, Verses 1-4. 6 Ibid., Chapter II, Verse 6.
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Chaturvarnya contained in the Purusha Sukta, with a degree of
divinity and infallibility which it did not have before.


A critical examination of the Purusha Sukta therefore becomes very
It is claimed by the Hindus that the Purusha Sukta is unique. This
is no doubt a tall claim for an idea which came to birth when the
mind of man was primitive and was without the rich endowment of
varied thought available in modern times. But there need not be much
difficulty in admitting this claim provided it is understood in what
respect the Purusha Sukta is unique.
The principal ground for regarding the Purusha Sukta as unique
is that the ideal of social organization, namely, the ideal of
Chaturvarnya which it upholds, is unique. Is this a sufficient ground
for holding the Purusha Sukta as unique? The Purusha Sukta would
really have been unique if it had preached a classless society as an
ideal form of society. But what does the Purusha Sukta do? It
preaches a class-composed society as its ideal. Can this be regarded
as unique? Only a nationalist and a patriot can give an affirmative
answer to this question. The existence of classes has been the
de facto condition of every society, which is not altogether primitive.
It is a normal state of society all over the world where society is
in a comparatively advanced state. Looking at it from this point of
view, what uniqueness can there be in the Purusha Sukta, when
it does no more than recognize the sort of class composition that
existed in the Indo-Aryan society?
Notwithstanding this, the Purusha Sukta must be admitted to be
unique, though for quite different reasons. The unfortunate part of
the matter is that many people do not know the true reasons why
the Purusha Sukta should be regarded as unique. But once the true
reasons are known, people will not only have no hesitation in
accepting that the Purusha Sukta is a unique production of the human
intellect but will perhaps be shocked to know what an extraordinary
production of human ingenuity it is.
What are the features of the social ideal of the Purusha Sukta,
which give it the hall mark of being unique? Though the existence
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of classes is the de facto condition of every society, nevertheless no
society has converted this de facto state of affairs into a de jure
connotation of an ideal society. The scheme of the Purusha Sukta
is the only instance in which the real is elevated to the dignity of
an ideal. This is the first unique feature of the scheme set forth in
the Purusha Sukta. Secondly, no community has given the de facto
state of class composition a legal effect by accepting it as a de jure
connotation of an ideal society. The case of the Greeks is a case in
point. Class composition was put forth as an ideal social structure
by no less an advocate than Plato. But the Greeks never thought
of making it real by giving it the sanction of law. The Purusha Sukta
is the only instance in which an attempt was made to give reality
to the ideal by invoking the sanction of law. Thirdly, no society has
accepted that the class composition is an ideal. At the most they have
accepted it as being natural. The Purusha Sukta goes further. It not
only regards class composition as natural and ideal, but also regards
it as sacred and divine. Fourthly, the number of the classes has never
been a matter of dogma in any society known to history. The Romans
had two classes. The Egyptians thought three were enough. The Indo-
Iranians also had no more than three classes:1 (1) The Athravans
(priests) (2) Rathaeshtar (warriors) and (3) the Vastrya-fshuyat
(peasantry). The scheme of the Purusha Sukta makes the division
of society into four classes a matter of dogma. According to it, there
can be neither more nor less. Fifthly, every society leaves a class
to find its place vis-a-vis other classes according to its importance
in society as may be determined by the forces operating from time
to time. No society has an official gradation laid down, fixed and
permanent, with an ascending scale of reverence and a descending
scale of contempt. The scheme of the Purusha Sukta is unique,
inasmuch as it fixes a permanent warrant of precedence among the
different classes, which neither time nor circumstances can alter. The
warrant of precedence is based on the principle of graded inequality
among the four classes, whereby it recognizes the Brahmin to be
above all, the Kshatriya below the Brahmin but above the Vaishya
and the Shudra, the Vaishya below the Kshatriya but above the
Shudra and the Shudra below all.

1 Geiger : Civilization of the Eastern Iranians in Ancient Times, Vol. II, P.64
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These are the real reasons why the Purusha Sukta is unique. But
the Purusha Sukta is not merely unique, it is also extraordinary. It
is extraordinary because it is so full of riddles. Few seem to be aware
of these riddles. But anyone who cares to inquire will learn how real
in their nature and how strange in their complexion these riddles
are. The cosmogony set out in the Purusha Sukta is not the only
cosmogony one comes across in the Rig Veda. There is another
cosmogony which is expounded in the 72nd Hymn of the Tenth
Mandala of the Rig Veda. It reads as follows :1
“1. Let us proclaim with a clear voice of the generation of the gods
(the divine company), who, when their praises are recited, look
(favourably on the worshipper) in this latter age.
2. Brahmanaspati filled these (generations of the gods) with breath
as a blacksmith (his bellows); in the first age of the gods the
existent was born of the non-existent.
3. In the first age of the gods the existent was born of the non-
existent; after that the quarters (of the horizon) were born, and
after them the upward-growing (trees).
4. The earth was born from the upward growing (tree), the quarters
were born from the earth; Daksha was born from Aditi and
afterwards Aditi from Daksha.
5. Aditi, who was thy daughter, Daksha, was born; after her, the
gods were born, adorable, freed from the bonds of death.
6. When, gods, you abode in this pool well-arranged, then a pungent
dust went forth from you as if you were dancing.
7. When, gods, you filled the worlds (with your radiance) as clouds
(fill the earth with rain) then you brought fourth the sun hidden
in the ocean.
8. Eight sons (there were) of Aditi who were born from her body;
she approached the gods with seven, she sent forth Martanda on
9. With seven sons Aditi went to a former generation, but she bore
Martanda for the birth and death (of human beings).
The two cosmologies are fundamentally different in principle as
well as in detail. The former explains creation ex nihilo ‘being was
born of non-being’. The latter ascribes creation to a being which it
calls Purusha. Why in one and the same book two such opposite
cosmologies should have come to be propounded? Why did the author
of the Purusha Sukta think it necessary to posit a Purusha and make
all creation emanate from him?
Any one who reads the Purusha Sukta will find that it starts with
the creation of donkyes, horses, goats, etc., but does not say anything
1 Wilson’s, Rig Veda, Vol. VI, p. 129
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about the creation of man. At a point when it would have been
natural to speak of the creation of man, it breaks off the chain and
proceeds to explain the origin of the classes in the Aryan society.
Indeed, the Purusha Sukta appears to make the explaining of the
four classes of the Aryan society to be its primary concern. In doing
this, the Purusha Sukta stands in complete contrast not only with
other theologies but with the other parts of the Rig Veda also.
No theology has made it its purpose to explain the origin of classes
in society. Chapter I of the Genesis in the Old Testament, which
can be said to be analogous in intention and purpose to the Purusha
Sukta, does nothing more than explain how man was created. It is
not that social classes did not exist in the old Jewish society. Social
classes existed in all societies. The Indo-Aryans were no exception.
Nevertheless, no theology has ever thought it necessary to explain
how classes arise. Why then did the Purusha Sukta make the
explanation of the origin of the social classes its primary concern?
The Purusha Sukta is not the only place in the Rig Veda where
a discussion of the origin of creation occurs. There are other places
in the Rig Veda where the same subject is referred to. In this
connection, one may refer to the following passage in the Rig Veda
which reads as follows :1
Rig Veda, i.96.2: “By the first nivid, by the wisdom of Ayu, he (Agni)
created these children of men; by his gleaming light the earth and the
waters, the gods sustained Agni the giver of the riches.”
In this, there is no reference at all to the separate creation of
classes, though there is no doubt that even at the time of the
Rig Veda, the Indo-Aryan Society had become differentiated into
classes; yet the above passage in the Rig Veda ignores the classes
and refers to the creation of men only. Why did the Purusha Sukta
think it necessary to go further and speak of the origin of the classes?
The Purusha Sukta contradicts the Rig Veda in another respect.
The Rig Veda propounds a secular theory regarding the origin of
the Indo-Aryans as will be seen from the following texts:
(1) Rig Veda, i.80.16: “Prayers and hymns were formerly congre-
gated in that Indra, in the ceremony which Atharvan, father Manu,
and Dadhyanch celebrated.”2
(2) Rig Veda, i.114.2 : “Whatever prosperity or succour father Manu
obtained by sacrifice, may we gain all that under thy guidance, O Rudra.”3
1 Muir, Vol. I. p. 180
2 Muir, Ibid., Vol. I, p. 162.
3 Ibid., p. 163.
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(3) Rig Veda, ii.33.13 : “Those pure remedies of yours, O Maruts, those
which are most auspicious, ye vigorous gods, those which are beneficent,
those which our father Manu chose, those and the blessing and succour
of Rudra, I desire.”1
(4) Rig Veda, viii.52.1 : “The ancient friend hath been equipped with
the powers of the mighty (gods). Father Manu has prepared hymns to
him, as portals of access to the gods.”2
(5) Rig Veda, iii.3.6 : “Agni, together with the gods, and the children
(jantubhih) of Manush, celebrating a multiform sacrifice with hymns.”3
(6) Rig Veda, iv. 37.1 : “Ye gods, Vajas, and Ribhukshana, come to our
sacrifice by the path travelled by the gods, that ye, pleasing deities, may
institute a sacrifice among these people of Manush (Manusho vikshu) on
auspicious days.”4
(7) Rig Veda, vi.14.2 : “The people of Manush praise in the sacrifice
Agni the invoker.”5
From these texts it is beyond question that the rishis who were the
authors of the hymns of the Rig Veda regarded Manu as the progenitor of
the Indo-Aryans. This theory about Manu being the progenitor of the Indo-
Aryans had such deep foundation that it was carried forward by the
Brahmanas as well as the Puranas. It is propounded in the Aitareya
Brahmana,6 in the Vishnu Purana 7 and the Matsya Purana.8. It is true that
they have made Brahma the progenitor of Manu; but the Rig Veda theory
of Manu being the progenitor has been accepted and maintained by them.9
Why does the Purusha Sukta make no mention of Manu ? This is strange
because the author of the Purusha Sukta seems to be aware of the fact that
Manu Svayambhuva is called Viraj and Viraj is called Adi Purusha, 10 since
he too speaks of Virajo adhi Purushah in verse five of the Sukta.
There is a third point in which the Purush Sukta has gone beyond the Rig
Veda. The Vedic Aryans were sufficiently advanced in their
1 Muir, Vol. I. p. 163.
2 Ibid., p. 163.
3 Ibid., p. 165.
4 Ibid., p. 165.
5 Ibid., p. 165.
6 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 108.
7 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I pp. 105-107.
8 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I. p. 110-112.
9 There is however a great deal of confusion when one comes to details. The Vishnu
Purana says that Brahma divided his person into two parts: with the one half he became
a male, with the other half a female. The female was called Satarupa who by incessantly
practising austere fervour of a highly arduous description acquired for herself as a husband
a Male called Manu Svayambhuva. There is no suggestion in the Vishnu Purana of incest
by Brahma with his daughter. The Aitareya Brahmana and the Matsya Purana on the
other hand speak of Brahma having begotten Manu by committing incest with his daughter
Satarupa; the Matsya Purana adds that Manu by his austerity obtained a beautiful wife
named Ananta. According to the Ramayana (see Muir, I, p. 117) Manu was not a male
but a female and was a daughter of Daksha Prajapati and the wife of Kasyapa.
10 Matsya Purana- Muir, Vol., 1 p. 111 f.n.
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civilization to give rise to division of labour. Different persons among
the Vedic Aryans followed different occupations. That they were
conscious of it is evidenced by the following verse:
Rig Veda, 1.113.6 : “That some may go in pursuit of power, some in
pursuit of fame, some in pursuit of wealth, some in pursuit of work, Ushas
has awakened people so that each may go in pursuit of his special and
different way of earning his livelihood.”
This is as far as the Rig Veda had gone. The Purusha Sukta goes beyond.
It follows up the notion of division of labour and converts the scheme of
division of work into a scheme of division of workers into fixed and
permanent occupational categories. Why does the Purusha Sukta commit
itself to such a perversity?
There is another point in which the Purusha Sukta departs from the
Rig Veda. It is not that the Rig Veda speaks only of man. It speaks also
of the Indo-Aryan nation. This nation was made up of the five tribes, which
had become assimilated into one common Indo-Aryan people. The following
hymns refer to these five tribes as moulded into a nation:
(1) Rig Veda, vi.11.4 : “Agni, whom, abounding in oblations, the five
tribes, bringing offerings, honour with prostrations, as if he were a man.”1
(2) Rig Veda, vii.15.2 : “The wise and youthful master of the house (Agni)
who has taken up his abode among the five tribes in every house.”2
There is some difference of opinion as to who these five tribes are. Yaska
in his Nirukta says that it denotes Gandharvas, Pitris, Devas, Asuras and
Rakshasas. Aupamanyava says that it denotes the four Varnas and the
Nishadas. Both these explanations seem to be absurd. Firstly, because the
five tribes are praised collectively as in the following hymns:
(1) Rig Veda, ii.2.10 : “May our glory shine aloft among the five tribes,
like the heaven unsurpassable.”3
(2) Rig Veda, vi.46.7 : “Indra, whatever force or vigour exists in the tribe
of Nashusa or whatever glory belongs to the five races bring (for us).”4
Such laudatory statements could not have been made if the five
tribes included the Shudras. Besides, the word used is not Varnas. The
word used is Janah. That it refers to the five tribes and not to the four
Varnas and Nishadas is quite clear from the following verse of the
Rig Veda :

1 Muir. Vol. I, p. 177.
2 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 178.
3 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 178.
4 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 180.
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Rig Veda, i.108.8: “If, O Indra and Agni, ye are abiding among
the Yadus, Turvasas, Druhyus, Anus, Purus, come hither, vigorous
heroes from all quarters, and drink the Soma which has been poured
That these five tribes had been moulded into one Aryan people
is clear from the Atharva Veda (iii.24.2) which says :
“these five regions, the five tribes springing from Manu.”
A sense of unity and a consciousness of kind can alone explain
why the Rishis of the Rig Vedic hymns came to refer to the five
tribes in such manner. The questions are: why did the Purusha Sukta
not recognize this unity of the five tribes and give a mythic
explanation of their origin? Why instead did it recognize the
communal divisions within the tribes? Why did the Purusha Sukta
regard communalism more important than nationalism?
These are some of the riddles of the Purusha Sukta , which come
to light when one compares it with the Rig Veda. There are others,
which emerge when one proceeds to examine the Purusha Sukta from
a sociological point of view.
Ideals as norms are good and are necessary. Neither a society nor
an individual can do without a norm. But a norm must change with
changes in time and circumstances. No norm can be permanently
fixed. There must always be room for revaluation of the values of
our norm. The possibility of revaluing values remains open only when
the institution is not invested with sacredness. Sacredness prevents
revaluation of its values. Once sacred, always sacred. The Purusha
Sukta makes the Chaturvarnya a sacred institution, a divine ordi-
nation. Why did the Purusha Sukta make a particular form of social
order so sacred as to be beyond criticism and beyond change? Why
did it want to make it a permanent ideal beyond change and even
beyond criticism? This is the first riddle of the Purusha Sukta which
strikes a student of sociology.
In propounding the doctrine of Chaturvarnya, the Purusha Sukta
plays a double game. It proceeds first to raise the real, namely, the
existence of the four classes in the Indo-Aryan Society, to the status
of an ideal. This is a deception because the ideal is in no way
different from facts as they exist. After raising the real to the status
of the ideal, it proceeds to make a show of giving effect to what
it regards as an ideal. This again is a deception because the ideal
already exists in fact. This attempt of the Purusha Sukta to idealize
1 Muir. I. p. 179.
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the real and to realize the ideal, is a kind of political jugglery,
the like of which, I am sure, is not to be found in any other book
of religion. What else is it if not a fraud and a deception? To idealize
the real, which more often than not is full of inequities, is a very
selfish thing to do. Only when a person finds a personal advantage
in things as they are that he tries to idealize the real. To proceed
to make such an ideal real is nothing short of criminal. It means
perpetuating inequity on the ground that whatever is once settled
is settled for all times. Such a view is opposed to all morality. No
society with a social conscience has ever accepted it. On the contrary,
whatever progress in improving the terms of associated life between
individuals and classes has been made in the course of history, is
due entirely to the recognition of the ethical doctrine that what is
wrongly settled is never settled and must be resettled. The principle
underlying the Purusha Sukta is, therefore, criminal in intent and
anti-social in its results. For, it aims to perpetuate an illegal gain
obtained by one class and an unjust wrong inflicted upon another.
What can be the motive behind this jugglery of the Purusha Sukta?
This is the second riddle.
The last and the greatest of all these riddles, which emerges out
of a sociological scrutiny of the Purusha Sukta, is the one relating
to the position of the Shudra. The Purusha Sukta concerns itself with
the origin of the classes, and says they were created by God—a
doctrine which no theology has thought it wise to propound. This in
itself is a strange thing. But what is astonishing is the plan of
equating different classes to different parts of the body of the Creator.
The equation of the different classes to different parts of the body is
not a matter of accident. It is deliberate. The idea behind this plan
seems to be to discover a formula which will solve two problems, one
of fixing the functions of the four classes and the other of fixing the
gradation of the four classes after a preconceived plan. The formula
of equating different classes to the different parts of the body of the
Creator has this advantage. The part fixes the gradation of the class
and the gradation in its turn fixes the function of the class. The Brahmin
is equated to the mouth of the Creator. Mouth being the noblest part
of the anatomy, the Brahmin becomes the noblest of the four classes.
As he is the noblest in the scale, he is given the noblest function,
that of custodian of knowledge and learning. The Kshatriya is equated
to the arms of the Creator. Among the limbs of a person, arms
are next below the mouth. Consequently, the Kshatriya is given
an order of precedence next below the Brahmin and is given
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a function which is second only to knowledge, namely, fighting. The
Vaishya is equated to the thighs of the Creator. In the gradation of
limbs the thighs are next below the arms. Consequently, the Vaishya
is given an order of precedence next below the Kshatriya and is
assigned a function of industry and trade which in name and fame
ranks or rather did rank in ancient times below that of a warrior.
The Shudra is equated to the feet of the Creator. The feet form the
lowest and the most ignoble part of the human frame. Accordingly,
the Shudra is placed last in the social order and is given the filthiest
function, namely, to serve as a menial.
Why did the Purusha Sukta choose such a method of illustrating
the creation of the four classes? Why did it equate the Shudras to
the feet? Why did it not take some other illustration to show how
the four classes were created. It is not that Purusha is the only stock
simile used to explain creation. Compare the explanation of the origin
of the Vedas contained in the Chhandogya Upanishad. It says:1
“Prajapati infused warmth into the worlds, and from them so heated
he drew forth their essences, viz., Agni (fire) from the earth, Vayu (wind)
from the air, and Surya (the sun) from the sky. He infused warmth into
these three deities, and from them so heated he drew forth their essences,—
from Agni the ric verses, from Vayu the yajus verses and from Surya the
soman verses. He then infused heat into this triple science, and from it
so heated he drew forth its essences—from ric verses the syllable bhuh,
from yajus verses bhuvah, and from Saman verses svar.”
Here is an explanation of the origin of the Vedas from different
deities. So far as the Indo-Aryans are concerned, there was no dearth
of them. There were thirty crores of them. An explanation of the origin
of the four Varnas from four gods would have maintained equality
of dignity by birth of all the four classes. Why did the Purusha Sukta
not adopt this line of explanation?
Again, would it not have been possible for the author of the Purusha
Sukta to say that the different classes were born from the different
mouths of the Purusha. Such a conception could not have been
difficult because the Purusha of the Purusha Sukta has one thousand
heads, enough to assign one species of creation to one of his heads.
Such a method of explaining creation could not have been unknown
to the author of the Purusha Sukta. For we find it used by the Vishnu
Purana to explain the origin of the different Vedas as may be seen
from the following extract:2

1 Muir, Vol. m. p.5
2 Ibid., p. 11.
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“From his eastern mouth Brahma formed the Gayatri, the ric verses,
the trivrit, the sama-rathantara and of sacrifices, the agnistoma. From his
southern mouth he created the yajus verses, the trishtubh metre, the
panchadasa stoma, the brihatsaman, and the ukthya. From his western
mouth he formed the saman verses, the jagati metre, the saptadasa stoma,
the Vairupa, and the atiratra. From his northern mouth he formed the
ekavimsa, the atharvan, the aptoryaman with the anushtubh and viraj
The Harivamsa has another way of explanining the origin of the
Vedas. According to it:1
“The god fashioned the Rig Veda with the Yajus from his eyes, the Sama
Veda from the tip of his tongue, and the Atharvan from his head.”
Assuming that for some reason the author of the Purusha Sukta
could not avoid using the body of the Creator and its different parts
for explaining the origin and the relation of the four classes, the question
still remains as to why he chose to equate the different parts of the
Purusha to the different classes in the manner in which he does.
The importance of this question is considerably heightened when
one realizes that the Purusha Sukta is not the only instance in which
the different parts of the body of the Creator are used as illustrations
to explain the origin of the different classes in society. The same
explanation is given by the sage Vaishampayana to explain the origin
of the various classes of priests employed in the performance of
sacrifices. But what a difference is there between the two! The
explanation of Vaishampayana which is reported in the Harivamsa
reads as follows :2
“Thus the glorious Lord Hari Narayana, covering the entire waters, slept
on the world which had become one sea, in the midst of the vast expanse
of fluid (rajas), resembling a mighty ocean, himself free from passion
(virajaskah), with mighty arms; Brahmans know him as the undecaying.
Invested through austere fervour with the light of his own form and clothed
with triple time (past, present and future) the lord then slept. Purushottama
(Vishnu) is whatever is declared to be the highest. Purusha the sacrifice, and
everything else which is known by the name of Purusha. Here how the
Brahmins devoted to sacrifice, and called ritvijas, were formerly produced by
him from his own body for offering sacrifices. The Lord created from his
mouth the Brahman, who is the chief, and the udgatri, who chants the Saman,
from his arms the hotri and the adhvaryu . He then... created the prastotri,
the maitravaruna, and the pratishthatri, from his belly the pratiharti
and the potri, from his thighs the achhavaka and the neshtri, from his
hands the agnidhra and the sacrificial brahmanya, from his arms the
gravan and the sacrificial unnetri. Thus did the divine Lord of the

1 Muir, Vol. ID, p. 13.
2 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 154-155
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world create the sixteen excellent ritvijas, the utterers of all sacrifices.
Therefore this Purusha is formed of sacrifice and is called the Veda; and
all the Vedas with the Vedangas, Upanishads and ceremonies are formed
of his essence.”
There were altoghether seventeen different classes of priests
required for the performance of a sacrifice. It could never be possible
for anyone attempting to explain the origin of each by reference to
a distinct part of the body of the Creator to avoid using the feet
of the Purusha as the origin of a class, the limbs of the Purusha
being so few and the number of priests being so many. Yet what
does Vaishampayana do? He does not mind using the same part of
the Creator’s body to explain the origin of more than one class of
priests. He most studiously avoids using the feet as the origin of
anyone of them.
The situation becomes completely intriguing when one compares
the levity with which the Shudras are treated in the Purusha Sukta
with the respect with which the Brahmins are treated in the
Harivamsa in the matter of their respective origins. Is it because
of malice that the Purusha Sukta did not hesitate to say that the
Shudra was born from the feet of the Purusha and that his duty
was to serve? If so what is the cause of this malice?

The riddles about the Shudras mentioned above are those which arise
out of a sociological scrutiny of the Purusha Sukta. There are other
riddles regarding the position of the Shudra which arise out of later
developments of the ideal of Chaturvarnya. To appreciate these
results it is necessary first to take note of these later developments.
The later developments of Chaturvarnya are mainly two. First is the
creation of the fifth class next below the Shudras. The second is the
separation of the Shudras from the first three Varnas. These changes
have become so integrated with the original scheme of the Purusha
Sukta that they have given rise to peculiar terms and expressions
so well-known that everybody understands what they stand for. These
terms are : Savarnas, Avarnas, Dvijas, non-Dvijas, and Traivarnikas.
They stand to indicate the sub-divisions of the original four classes
and the degree of separation between them. It is necessary to take
note of the relative position of these classes because they disclose a
new riddle. If this riddle has not caught the eye of the people, it is
because of two reasons. Firstly, because students have not cared to
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note that these names are not mere names but that they stand for
definite rights and privileges, and secondly, because they have not
cared to find out whether the groupings made under these names
are logical having regard to the rights and privileges they connote.
Let us therefore see what is the de jure connotation of these terms.
Savarna is generally contrasted with Avarna. Savarna means one who
belongs to one of the four Varnas. Avarna means one who does not
belong to any one of the four Varnas. The Brahmins, Kshatriyas,
Vaishyas and Shudras are Savarnas. The Untouchables or Ati-
Shudras are called Avarnas, those who have no Varna. Logically, the
Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are within the
Chaturvarnya. Logically, the Untouchables or the Ati-Shudras are
outside the Chaturvarnya. Dvija is generally contrasted with non-
Dvija. Dvija literally means twice-born and non-Dvija means one who
is born only once. The distinction is based on the right to have
Upanayana. The Upanayana is treated as a second birth. Those who
have the right to wear the sacred thread are called Dvijas. Those
who have no right to wear it are called non-Dvijas. The Brahmins,
Kshatriyas and Vaishyas have the right to wear the sacred thread.
Logically, they are Dvijas. The Shudras and the Ati-Shudras have
no right to wear the sacred thread. Logically, they are both non-
Dvijas. The Traivarnika is contrasted with the Shudra. But there is
nothing special in this contrast. It conveys the same distinction which
is conveyed by the distinction between the Dvijas and the non-Dvijas
except the fact that the contrast is limited to the Shudra and does
not extend to the Ati-Shudra. This is probably because this termi-
nology came into being before the rise of the Ati-Shudras as a
separate class.
Bearing in mind that both the Shudra and the Ati-Shudra are non-
Dvijas, why then is the Shudra regarded as Savarna and the Ati-
Shudra as Avarna ? Why is the former within and why is the latter
outside the Chaturvarnya ? The Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and
Shudras are all within the four corners of the Chaturvarnya. They
are all Savarnas. Why then is the Shudra denied the right of the
Traivarnikas ?
Can there be a greater riddle than the riddle of the Shudras ?
Surely, it calls for investigation and explanation as to who they were
and how they came to be the fourth Varna in the Aryan Society.
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HAS the Brahmanic literature any explanation to offer which can
account for the origin of the Shudras? There is no doubt that the
Brahmanic literature is full of legends regarding creation which
touch upon the creation of the universe, of man and of the different
Varnas. Whether or not they furnish any clue to discover the origin
of the Shudras, there can be no doubt that all such theories should
find a place in a book which is concerned with the problem of the
Shudras if for no other reason than that of assembling all material
relating to the Shudras in one place and making their story complete.
It would be better to take each piece of the Brahmanic literature
separately, and note what contribution it has to make to the subject.


To begin with the Vedas. As to the Rig Veda, the legend about
creation to be found in its Sukta known as the Purusha Sukta has
already been set out in the previous chapter. It now remains to take
note of the legends contained in the other Vedas.
There are two recensions of the Yajur Veda : (1) the White Yajur
Veda and (2) the Black Yajur Veda. To take the White Yajur Veda
first. The Vajasaneyi Samhita of the White Yajur Veda sponsors two
theories. One is a mere reproduction of the Purusha Sukta of the
Rig Veda with this difference that it has 22 verses, while the original
as it occurs in the Rig Veda has only 16 verses. The six additional
verses in the White Yajur Veda read as follows :
17. Brought forth from the waters and from the essence of the
earth, he was produced by Vishvakarman in the beginning. Tvashta
gives him form; that is the Universe of Purusha on all sides in the
18. I know this great Purusha, of the colour of the sun, beyond
darkness. Only by knowing him does one go beyond death; there
is no other path for going.
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19. Prajapati moves in the interior of the womb; though unborn, he
is born in many forms. Wise men see his source; wise men desire the
place of the Marichis.
20. He who shines for the gods, he who is the priest of the gods, he
who was born before the gods,—salutation to that shining offspring of
21. The gods, generating the shining offspring of Brahma, said in the
beginning: “That Brahmin who knows thus,— the gods will be under his
22. Sri and Laxmi are his wives; the day and night his sides; the stars
his ornament; the Ashwins his bright face. Grant me my desires; grant
me that; grant me everything.
The second explanation contained in the Vajasaneyi Samhita is quite
different from the Purusha Sukta. It reads as follows :
V.S., xiv.28.1—“He lauded with one. Living beings were formed. He lauded
with three: the Brahman was created; Brahmanaspati was the ruler. He lauded
with five: existing things were created; Bhutanampati was the ruler. He lauded
with seven: the seven rishis were created: Dhatri was the ruler. He lauded with
nine: the Fathers were created: Aditi was the ruler. He lauded with eleven: the
seasons were created: the Artavas were the rulers. He lauded with thirteen: the
months were created: the year was the ruler. He lauded with fifteen: the Kshatra
(the Kshatriya) was created: Indra was the ruler. He lauded with seventeen:
animals were created: Brihaspati was the ruler. He lauded with nineteen: the
Shudra and the Arya (Vaishya) were created: day and night were the rulers.
He lauded with twenty-one: animals with undivided hoofs were created: Varuna
was the ruler. He lauded with twenty-three: small animals were created: Pushan
was the ruler. He lauded with twenty-five: wild animals were created: Vayu was
the ruler (compare R.V., x.90.8). He lauded with twenty-seven: heaven and earth
separated: Vasus, Rudras and Adityas separated after them: they were the rulers.
He lauded with twenty-nine: living beings were created: the first and second
halves of the month were the rulers. He lauded with thirty one: existing things
were tranquillized: Prajapati Parameshthin was the ruler.”
Now to turn to the Black Yajur Veda. The Taittiriya Samhita of the
Black Yajur Veda gives altogether five explanations. The one at iv. 3,
10 is the same as has been put forth by the Vajasaneyi Samhita of the
White Yajur Veda at (xiv.28) and which has been reproduced earlier. Of
the rest those which narrate the origin of the Shudra are set out below:
T.S., ii.4.13.1" “The gods were afraid of the Rajanya when he was in the
womb. They bound him with bonds when he was in the womb. Consequently,
this Rajanya is born bound. If he were born unbound he would go on slaying
his enemies. In regard to whatever Rajanya any one desires that he should be
born unbound, and should go on slaying his enemies, let him offer for him
this Aindra-Barhaspatya oblation. A Rajanya has the character of Indra, and
1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 18.
2 Muir, Vol. I, p. 22.
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a Brahman is Brihaspati. It is through the Brahman that anyone releases
the Rajanya from his bond. The golden bond, a gift, manifestly releases
from the bond that fetters him.”
(2) T.S., vii.—Prajapati desired, ‘may I propagate.’ He formed
the Trivrit (stoma) from his mouth. After it were produced the deity Agni,
the metre Gayatri, the Saman (called) Rathantara, of men the Brahmin,
of beasts the goats. Hence they are the chief (mukhyah) because they were
created from the mouth (mukhatah). From (his) breast, from his arms,
he formed the Panchadasa (stoma). After it were created the god, the Indra,
the Trishtubh metre, the Saman (called) Brihat, of men the Rajanya, of
beasts the sheep. Hence they are vigorous, because they were created from
vigour. From (his) middle he formed the Saptadasa (stoma). After it were
created the gods (called) the Vishvedevas, the Jagati metre, the Saman
called the Vairupa of men the Vaishya, of beasts kine. Hence they are
to be eaten, because they were created from the receptacle of food.
Wherefore they are more numerous than others, for the most numerous
deities were created after (the Saptadasa). From his foot he formed the
Ekavimsa (Stoma). After it were created the Anushtubh metre, the Saman
called Vairaja, of men the Shudra, of beasts the horse. Hence these two,
born the horse and the Shudra, are transporters of (other) creatures. Hence
(too) the Shudra is incapacitated for sacrifice, because no deities were
created after (the Ekavimsa). Hence (too) these two subsist by their feet,
for they were created from the foot.
Coming to the Atharva Veda, there are altogether four explanations.
One of these is the same as the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda. It occurs
at xix.6. The others are as stated below :
(1) A.V.,2 iv.6.1.—The Brahman was born the first with ten heads and
ten faces. He first drank the soma; he made poison powerless.
(2) A.V.,3 xv.8.1.—He (the Vratya) became filled with passion thence
sprang the Rajanya.
(3) A.V., 4Vxv.9.1.—Let the king to whose house the Vratya who knows
this, comes as a guest, cause him to be respected as superior to himself.
So doing he does no injury to his royal rank, or to his realm. From him
arose the Brahman (Brahmin) and the Kshattra (Kshatriya). They said
‘Into whom shall we enter,’ etc.
To proceed to the Brahmanas. The Satapatha Brahmana contains six
explanations. There are two which concern themselves with the creation
of the Varnas. Of the two, the one which speaks of the origin of the Shudras
is given below :
S.B.5 xiv.4.2.23.—”Brahma (here, according to the commentator, existing
in the form of Agni and representing the Brahmana caste) was formerly this
1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 16. 4. Muir, Vol I, p. 22
2. Muir, Vol. I, p. 21 5. Muir Vol I, p. 20
3. Muir, Vol. I, p. 22
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(universe), one only. Being one, it did not develope. It energetically created
an excellent form, the Kshattra, viz., those among the gods who are powers
(Kshattrani), Indra, Varuna, Soma, Rudra, Parjanya, Yama, Mrityu, Isana.
Hence nothing is superior to the Kshatra. Therefore, the Brahmana sits
below the Kshatriya at the Rajasuya sacrifice; he confers that glory on
the Kshattra (the royal power). This, the Brahma, is the source of the
Kshattra. Hence although the king attains supremacy, he at the end
resorts to the Brahman as his source. Whoever destroys him (the
Brahman) destroys his own source. He becomes most miserable, as one
who has injured a superior. He did not develope. He created the Vis, viz.,
those classes of gods who are designated by troops, Vasus, Rudras, Adityas,
Visvedevas, Maruts. He did not develope. He created the Shudra class
Pushan. This earth is Pushani; for she nourishes all that exists. He did
not develope. He energetically created an excellent form, Justice (Dharma).
This is the ruler (Kshattra) of, the ruler (Kshattra), namely, Justice. Hence
nothing is superior to Justice. Therefore the weaker seeks (to overcome)
the stronger by Justice, as by a king. This justice is truth. In conseqence
they say of a man who speaks truth, ‘he speaks justice.’ For this is both
of these. This is the Brahma, Kshattra, Vis and Shudra. Through Agni
it became Brahma among the gods, the Brahmana among men, through
the (divine) Kshatriya a (human) Kshatriya, through the (divine) Vaishya
a (human) Vaishya, through the (divine) Shudra a (human) Shudra.
Wherefore it is in Agni among the gods and in a Brahman among men
that they seek after an abode.
The Taittiriya Brahman is responsible for the following explanation :
(1) T.B.,1 i.2.6.7.—“The Brahmana caste is sprung from the gods; the
Shudras from the Asuras.”
(2) T.B.,2 iii. 2.3.9.—“This Shudra has sprung from non-existence.”


Here is a complete collection of all the Brahmanic speculations on the
origin of the four classes and of the Shudras. The ancient Brahmins were
evidently conscious of the fact that the origin of the four classes was an
unusual and uncommon social phenomenon and that the place of the
Shudra in it was very unnatural and that this called for some explanation.
Otherwise, it would be impossible to account for these innumerable
attempts to explain the origin of the Chaturvarnya and of the Shudra.
But what is one to say of these explanations? The variety of them
is simply bewildering. Some allege that Purusha was the origin of
1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 21
2 Muir, Vol. I, p. 21.
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the four Varnas, and some attribute their origin to Brahma, some
to Prajapati and some to Vratya. The same source gives differing
explanations. The White Yajur Veda has two explanations, one in
terms of Purusha, the other in terms of Prajapati. The Black Yajur
Veda has three explanations to offer. Two are in terms of Prajapati,
the third in terms of Brahman. The Atharva Veda has four
explanations, one in terms of Purusha, second in terms of Brahman,
third in terms of Vratya and fourth quite different from the first
three. Even when the theory is the same, the details are not the
same. Some explanations such as those in terms of Prajapati, or
Brahma are theological. Others in terms of Manu or Kasyapa are
in humanistic terms. It is imagination running riot. There is in them
neither history nor sense. Prof. Max Muller commenting on the
Brahmanas has said :
“The Brahmanas represent no doubt a most interesting phase in the
history of the Indian mind, but judged by themselves, as literary produc-
tions, they are most disappointing. No one would have supposed that at
so early a period, and in so primitive a state of society, there could have
risen up a literature which for pedantry and downright absurdity can
hardly be matched anywhere. There is no lack of striking thoughts, of bold
expressions, of sound reasoning, and curious traditions in these collections.
But these are only like the fragments of a torso, like precious gems set
in brass and lead. The general character of these works is marked by
shallow and insipid grandiloquence, by priestly conceit, and antiquarian
pedantry. It is most important to the historian that he should know how
soon the fresh and healthy growth of a nation can be blighted by priestcraft
and superstition. It is most important that we should know that nations
are liable to these epidemics in their youth as well as in their dotage.
These works deserve to be studied as the physician studies the twaddle
of idiots, and the raving of madmen.”1
On reading these Brahmanic speculations on the origin of the four
Varnas and particularly of the Shudras one is very much reminded
of these words of Prof. Max Muller. All these speculations are really
the twaddles of idiots and ravings of madmen and as such they are
of no use to the student of history who is in search of a natural
explanation of a human problem.

1 Max Muller, Ancient Sanskrit Literature (Panini office edition), p. 200.
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SO much for the Brahmanic view of the origin of the Shudra. Turning
to the Brahmanic view of the civil status of the Shudra, what strikes
one is the long list of disabilities, accompanied by a most dire system
of pains and penalties to which the Shudra is subjected by the
Brahmanic law-givers.
The disabilities and penalties of the Shudra found in the Samhitas
and the Brahmanas were few, as may be seen from the following
I. According to the Kathaka Samhita (xxxi.2) and the Maitrayani
Samhita (iv.1.3; i.8.3)
“A shudra should not be allowed to milk the cow whose milk is used
for Agnihotra.”
II. The Satapatha Brahmana (iii.1.1.10), the Maitrayani Samita
(vii.1.1.6) and also the Panchavimsa Brahmana (vi.1.11) say:
“The Shudra must not be spoken to when performing a sacrifice and
a Shudra must not be present when a sacrifice is being performed.”
III. The Satapatha Brahmana (xiv.1.31) and the Kathaka Samhita
(xi.10) further provide that :
“The Shudra must not be admitted to Soma drink.”
IV. The Aitareya Brahmana (vii.29.4) and the Panchavimsa
Brahmana (vi.1.11) reached the culminating point when they say:
“Shudra is a servant of another (and cannot be anything else).”
But what in the beginning was a cloud no bigger than a man’s
hand, seems to have developed into a storm, which has literally
overwhelmed the Shudras. For, as will be seen from the extracts given
from later penal legislation by the Sutrakaras like Apastamba,
Baudhayana, etc. and the Smritikaras like Manu and others, the
growth of the disabilities of the Shudras has been at a maddening
speed and to an extent which is quite unthinkable.
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The disabilities are so deadening that it would be impossible to
believe them unless one sees them in cold print. They are, however,
so numerous that it is impossible to present them in their fullness.
To enable those, who do not know them, to have some idea of these
disabilities, I have assembled below in one place illustrative state-
ments by the different Sutrakaras and Smritikaras relating to the
disabilities of the Shudras scattered in their Law Books.

(A) The Apastamba Dharma Sutra says :
“There are four castes—Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.
Amongst these, each preceding (caste) is superior by birth to the one
following1 :
For all these, excepting Shudras and those who have committed bad
actions are ordained (1) the initiation (Upanayana or the wearing of the
sacred thread), (2) the study of the Veda and (3) the kindling of the sacred
fire (i.e., the right to perform sacrifices).2"
(B) This is what the Vasishtha Dharma Sutra says:
“There are four castes (Varna) Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and
Three castes, Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas (are called) twice-
Their first-birth is from the mother; the second from the investiture
with the sacred girdle. In that (second birth) the Savitri is the mother,
but the teacher is said to be the father.
They call the teacher father, because he gives instruction in the Veda. 3
The four castes are distinguished by their origin and by particular
There is also the following passage of the Veda: ‘ The Brahmana was
his mouth, the Kshatriya formed his arms: the Vaishya his thighs; the
Shudra was born from his feet.1
It has been declared in the following passage of the Veda that a Shudra
shall not receive the sacraments. ‘He created the Brahmana with the
Gayatri (metre), the Kshatriya with the Trishtubh, the Vaishya with the
Jagati, the Shudra without any metre.”4
(C) The Manu Smriti propounds the following view on the subject :

1. Prasna 1, Patala 1, Khanda 1, Sutras 4-5.
2. Ibid., Sutra 6.
3. Chapter H, Verses 1-4.
4 Chapter IV, Verse 3
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“For the prosperity of the worlds, he (the creator) from his mouth, arms,
thighs and feet created the Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.1
The Brahmans, Kshatriya (and) Vaishya constitute the three twice-born
castes, but the fourth, the Shudra has only one birth.” 2
(A) The Apastamba Dharma Sutra says:
“(A Traivarnika) shall never study (the Veda) in a burial ground nor
anywhere near it within the throw of a Samya.
If a village has been built over a burial ground or its surface has been
cultivated as a field, the recitation of the Veda in such a place is not
But if that place is known to have been a burial ground, he shall not
study (there).
A Shudra and an outcaste are (included by the term) burial-ground, (and
the rule given, Sutra 6 applies to them).
Some declare, that (one ought to avoid only to study) in the same house
(where they dwell).
But if (a student and) a Shudra woman merely look at each other, the
recitation of the Veda must be interrupted.3
Food touched by a (Brahmana or other high-caste person) who is impure,
becomes impure but not unfit for eating.
But what has been brought (be it touched or not) by an impure Shudra
must not be eaten.
A Shudra touches him, (then he shall leave off eating).”4
(B) The Vishnu Smriti says :
“He must not cause a member of a twice born caste to be carried out by
a Shudra (even though he be a kinsman of the deceased). Nor a Shudra by
a member of a twice-born caste.
A father and a mother shall be carried out by their sons; (who are equal
in caste to their parents).
But Shudras must never carry out a member of a twice-born caste, even
though he be their father.”5
(C) The Vasishtha Dharma Sutra prescribes :
“Now therefore, we will declare what may be eaten and what may not
be eaten.

1 Chapter I, Verse 31.
2 Chapter X, Verse 4
3 Prasna 1, Patala 3, Khanda 9, Sutras 6-11.
4 Prasna 1, Patala 5, Khanda 16, Sutras 21-22.
5 Chapter XIX, Sutras 1-4
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Food given by a physician, a hunter, a woman of bad character, a mace-
bearer, a thief, an Abhisasta, and eunuch, (or) an outcaste must not be
Nor that given by a miser, one who has performed the initiatory
ceremony of a Srauta-sacrifice, a prisoner, a sick person, a seller of the
Soma plant, a carpenter, a washerman, a dealer in spirituous liquor, a
spy, an usurer, (or) a cobbler.
Nor that given by a Shudra.1
Some call that Shudra race a burial-ground.
Therefore the Veda must not be recited in the presence of a Shudra.”
Now they quote also the (following) verses which Yama proclaimed :
The wicked Shudra-race is manifestly a burial-ground. Therefore (the
Veda) must never be recited in the presence of a Shudra.2
Some become worthy receptacles of gifts through sacred learning, and
some through the practice of austerities. But that Brahmana whose
stomach does not contain the food of a Shudra, is even the worthiest
receptacle of all.3
If a Brahmana dies with the food of a Shudra in his stomach, he will
become a village pig (in his next life) or be born in the family of that
For though a (Brahmana) whose body is nourished by the essence of
a Shudra’s food may daily recite the Veda, though he may offer (an
Agnihotra) or mutter (prayers, nevertheless) he will not find the path that
leads upwards.
But if, after eating the food of a Shudra, he has conjugal intercourse,
(even) his sons (begotten on a wife of his own caste) will belong to the
giver of the food (i.e., to the Shudra) and he shall not ascend to heaven.4
(D) The Manu Smriti says :
“He (Brahmin) may not dwell in the kingdom of a Shudra nor in one
full of unrighteous people, nor in one invaded by hosts of heretics nor in
one possessed by low-born men.5
A Brahmin who performs a sacrifice for a Shudra should not be invited
to dine with other Brahmins at a Shraddha ceremony. His company will
destroy all merit that which may otherwise be obtained from such a
One should carry out by the southern town-gate a dead Shudra, but
the twice-born by the western, northern and eastern (gates) respectively.7

1 Chapter XIV, Verses 1-4
2 Chapter XVIII, Verses 11-15
3 Chapter VI, Verses 26.
4 Chapter VI, Verses 27-29
5 Chapter IV, Verse 61
6 Chapter III, Verse 178
7 Chapter V Verse 92.
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(A) The Apastamba Dharma Sutra says :
“A Brahmana shall salute stretching forward his right arm on a level
with his ear, a Kshatriya holding it on a level with the breast, a Vaishya
holding it on a level with the waist, a Shudra holding it low (and)
stretching forward the joined hands.1
And when returning the salute of (a man belonging) to the first (three)
castes, the last syllable of the name of the person addressed is produced
to the length of three moras.2
If a Shudra comes as a guest (to a Brahmana) he shall give him some
work to do. He may feed him, after (that has been performed. To feed
him without asking him first to do some work is to do him honour.)
Or the slaves (of the Brahmana householder) shall fetch (rice) from the
royal stores, and honour the Shudra as a guest.”3
(B) The Vishnu Smriti prescribes :
“The same punishment (payment of hundred Panas) is also ordained
for hospitably entertaining a Shudra or religious ascetic at an oblation
to the gods or to the manes.”4
(C) The Manu Smriti enjoins that :
One should consider a Brahmana ten years old and a Kshatriya a
hundred years old as father and son; but of them the Brahman (is) the
Wealth, kindred, age, sects (and) knowledge as the fifth; those are the
causes of respect, the most important (is) the last (mentioned).
In whom among the three (higher) castes the most and the best of (those)
five may be he is here worthy of respect; a Shudra (is not worthy of respect
on the ground of his wealth or knowledge no matter how high they are.
It is only on the ground of his age and that too only if) he has attained
the tenth (decade of his life that he becomes worthy of respect and not

1 Prasna 1, Patala 2, Khanda 5, Sutra 16.
2 Ibid, Sutra 17.
3 Prasna II, Patala 2, Khanda 4, Sutras 19-20
4 Chapter V. Sutra 115.
5 Chapter II, Verses 135-137.
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For not by years, nor by grey hair, not by wealth, nor kindred (is
superiority); the seers made the rule—Who knows the Veda completely,
he is great among us.
Of Brahmins, superiority (is) by knowledge, but of Kshatriyas by valour,
of Vaishyas by reason of property (and) wealth, and of Shudras by age.
One is not, therefore, aged because his head is grey; whoever, although
a youth, has perused (the Vedas), him the gods consider an elder.1
Now a Kshatriya is not called a guest in a Brahmin’s house, nor a
Vaishya nor a Shudra; neither is a friend, the kinsman, nor a Guru (of
the householder). (That is, a Brahmin has alone the right to have the
honour of being treated as a guest in a Brahmin’s house).
But if a Kshatriya come as a guest to the house after the said Brahmins
have eaten one should give him food (if) he wishes.
If a Vaishya (or) Shudra come to the house as guests, the Brahmin
should give them food but with the servants, using kindness.”2


(A) According to the Apastamba Dharma Sutra :
He who has killed a Kshatriya shall give a thousand cows (to Brahmins
for the expiation of the act).
He shall give, a hundred cows for the killing of a Vaishya, (only) ten
for a Shudra.3
(B) According to the Gautama Dharma Sutra :
“A Kshatriya (shall be fined) one hundred (Karshapanas) if he abuses
a Brahmana.
In case of an assault (on a Brahmana) twice as much.
A Vaishya (who abuses a Brahmana, shall pay) one and a half (times
as much as a Kshatriya).
But a Brahmana (who abuses) a Kshatriya (shall pay) fifty (Karshapanas).

1 Chapter II, Verses 154-156.
2 Chapter III, Verses 110-112.
3 Prasna I, Patala 9, Khanda 24, Sutras 1-3.
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One half of that amount (if he abuses) a Vaishya.
And if he abuses a Shudra nothing.”1
(C) According to Brihaspati’s Dharma Shastra :
“For a Brahmin abusing a Kshatriya, the fine shall be half of a hundred
(fifty) Panas; for abusing a Vaisya, half of fifty (twenty-five) Panas, for
abusing a Shudra twelve and a half.
This punishment has been declared for abusing a virtuous Shudra (i.e.,
a Shudra who accepts his low status and does willingly the duties attached
to that status) who has committed no wrong; no offence is imputable to
a Brahmin for abusing a Shudra devoid of virtue.
A Vaishya shall be fined a hundred (Panas) for reviling a Kshatriya;
a Kshatriya reviling a Vaishya shall have to pay half of that amount as
a fine.
In the case of a Kshatriya reviling a Shudra the fine shall be twenty
Panas; in the case of a Vaishya, the double amount is declared to be the
proper fine by persons learned in law.
A Shudra shall be compelled to pay the first fine for abusing a Vaishya;
the middling fine for abusing a Kshatriya; and the highest fine for abusing
a Brahmin.”2
(D) According to the Manu Smruti:
A Kshatriya who reviles a Brahmin ought to be fined one hundred
(Panas); a Vaishya one hundred and fifty or two hundred, but a Shudra
ought to receive corporal punishment.
A Brahmin should be fined fifty if he has thrown insult on a Kshatriya,
but the fine shall be a half of fifty if on a Vaishya and twelve if on a
In the murder of a Kshatriya, one fourth (part) of the penance for slaying
a Brahman is declared to be the proper penance; an eighth part in the
case of a Vaishya; and in (the case of) a Shudra (who) lives virtuously,
one sixteenth part must be admitted (as the proper penance).
But if one of the highest of the twice-born (a Brahmin) slay a Kshatriya
involuntarily he may, in order to cleanse himself give a thousand cows
and a bull.
Or let him for three years (with senses) subdued and locks braided,
follow the observances of one who has slain a Brahmin, living in a place
rather far from the town, his dwelling place the foot of a tree.

1 Chapter XII, Sutras 8-13.
2 Chapter XX, Verses 7-11.
3 Chapter VIII, Verses 267-268
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The highest of a twice-born (the Brahmin) should practise just this
expiation for a year on having slain a Vaishya who lives virtuously and
give one hundred and one (heads) of cattle.
The slayer of a Shudra should practise exactly all these observances
for six months; or he may give to a priest ten white cows and a bull.1"
(E) According to the Vishnu Smriti:
“With whatever limb an inferior insults or hurts his superior in caste,
of that limb the king shall cause him to be deprived.
If he places himself on the same seat with his superior, he shall be
banished with a mark on his buttocks.
If he spits on him he shall lose both lips.
If he breaks wind against him, he shall lose his hind parts.
If he uses abusive language, his tongue.
If a low-born man through pride give instruction (to a member of the
highest caste) concerning his duty, let the king order hot oil to be dropped
into his mouth.
If a Shudra man mentions the name or caste of a superior revilingly,
an iron pin ten inches long shall be thrust into his mouth (red hot).”2


(A) According to the Brihaspati Smriti :
“A Shudra teaching the precepts of religion or uttering the words of
the Veda, or insulting a Brahmin shall be punished by cutting out his
(B) According to the Gautama Dharma Sutra :
“Now if he listens intentionally to (a recitation of) the Veda, his ears
shall be filled with (molten) tin or lac.
If he recites (Vedic texts), his tongue shall be cut out. If he remembers
them, his body shall be split in twain.”4
(C) According to the Manu Smriti:
One who teaches for hire, also one who learns by paying hire (a Shudra)
teacher and one who learns from him are unfit for being invited at the
performance in honour of the Devas and Pitris.5
1 Chapter XI, Verses 127-131
2 Chapter V, Sutras 19-25
3 Chapter XII, Verse 12.
4 Chapter XX, Sutras 4-6.
5 Chapter III, Verse 156.
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One may not give advice to a Shudra, nor (give him) the remains (of
food) or of butter that has been offered.
And one may not teach him the law or enjoin upon him religious
For he who tells him the law and he who enjoins upon him (religious)
observances, he indeed together with that (Shudra) sinks into the darkness
of the hell called Asamvrita. 1
One should never recite (the Vedas) indistinctly or in the presence of
a Shudra; nor having recited the Veda at the end of the night, (though)
fatigued may one sleep again.”2


This is what the Manu Smriti says :
“A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect
peace of mind, for, since nothing at all belongs to this Shudra as his own,
he is one whose property may be taken away by his master.3
Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra
even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth
by a Shudra injures the Brahmin.” 4


Here is the advice of the Manu Smriti to the king :
“He who can claim to be a Brahmin merely on account of his birth,
or he who only calls himself a Brahmin, may be, if desired, the declarer
of law for the king, but a Shudra never.
If a king looks on while a Shudra gives a judicial decision, his realm
sinks into misfortune, like a cow in a quagmire.
A realm which consists chiefly of Shudras and is overrun by unbelievers
and destitute of twice-born men is soon totally destroyed, oppressed by
famine and disease.”5


(A) The Apastamba Dharma Sutra says:
“And those who perform austerities, being intent on fulfilling the sacred
laws. And a Shudra who lives by washing the feet (of the Brahmin).

1 Chapter IV, Verses 78-81. 4 Chapter X, Verse 129.
2 Chapter IV, Verse 99. 5 Chapter VIII, Verses 20-22.
3 Chapter VIII, Verse 417.
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Also blind, dumb, deaf and diseased persons (as long as their infirmities
last) are exempt from taxes.1
To serve the other three castes is ordained for the Shudra.
The higher the caste which he serves the greater is the merit.”2
(B) The Manu Smriti has the following:
“Now, for the sake of preserving all this creation, the most glorious
(being) ordained separate duties for those who sprang from (his) mouth,
arm, thigh and feet.
For Brahmins he ordered teaching, study, sacrifices and sacrificing (as
priests) for others, also giving and receiving gifts.
Defence of the people, giving (alms), sacrifice, also study, and absence
of attachment to objects of sense, in short for a Kshatriya.
Tending of cattle, giving (alms), sacrifice, study, trade, usury, and also
agriculture for a Vaishya.
One duty the Lord assigned to a Shudra—service to those (before-
mentioned) classes without grudging.”3


(A) The Apastamba Dharma Sutra says :
“A man of one of the first three castes (who commits adultery) with
a woman of the Shudra caste shall be banished.
A Shudra (who commits adultery) with a woman of one of the first three
castes shall suffer capital punishment.”4
(B) The Gautama Dharma Sutra says :
If (the Shudra) has criminal intercourse with an Aryan woman, his organ
shall be cut off and all his property be confiscated.
If (the woman had) a protector (i.e., she was under the guaradian-ship
of some person) he (the Shudra) shall be executed after having undergone
the punishments prescribed above.5
(C) The Manu Smriti says :
If a man (of the Shudra caste) makes love to a girl of the highest caste
he deserves corporal punishment.6
A Shudra cohabiting with a woman of twice-born castes, whether she
be guarded or not guarded, is (to be) deprived of his member and of all
his property if she be not guarded and of everything if she is guarded.7

1. Prasna II, Patala 10, Khanda 26, Sutras 14-16. 5 Chapter XII, Sutras 2-3.
2. Prasna I, Patala I, Khanda I, Sutras 7-8. 6 Chapter VIII, Verse 366.
3. Chapter I, Verses 87-91. 7 Chapter VIII, Verse 374.
4. Prasna II, Patala 10, Khanda 27, Sutras 8-9.
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For twice-born men, at first, a woman of the same caste is approved
for marrying; but of those who act from lust, those of lower caste may
in order (be wives).
A Shudra woman alone (is) a wife for a Shudra; both she and a woman
of his own caste (are) legally (wives) of a Vaishya; they two and also a
woman of his own caste (are wives) of a Kshatriya, both they and a woman
of his own caste(are wives) of a Brahmin.
A Shudra wife is not indicated in any history for a Brahmin and
Kshatriya, even though they be in distress.
Twice-born men marrying a (Shudra) woman out of infatuation will
surely bring quickly (their) families and descendants to the condition of
A Brahmin having taken a Shudra woman to his bed goes the lower
course; having begotten on her a son, he is surely deprived of his
Now of (a man) whose offerings towards gods, manes, and guests depend
on her, the manes and gods eat not that offering nor does he go to heaven.
An expiation is not prescribed for him who has drunk the moisture on
a Shudra woman’s lips, who has been reached by her breath, and who
has also begotten a son on her.2


(A) The Vasishtha Dharma Sutra says :
“One may know that bearing grudges, envy, speaking untruths, speaking
evil of Brahmins, backbiting and cruelty are the characteristics of a
(B) The Vishnu Smriti prescribes that :
(The name to be chosen should be) auspicious in the case of a Brahmin.
Indicating power in the case of a Kshatriya.
Indicating wealth in the case of a Vaishya.
And indicating contempt in the case of a Shudra.4
(C) The Gautama Dharma Sutra says :
“The Shudra belongs to the fourth caste, which has one birth (only).

1. Chapter III, Verses 12-15.
2. Ibid, Verses 17-19.
3. Chapter VI, Verse 24.
4. Chapter XXVII, Sutras 6-9.
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And serves the higher (castes).
From them he shall seek to obtain his livelihood.
He shall use their cast-off shoes.
And eat the remnants of their food.
A Shudra who intentionally reviles twice-bom men by Criminal abuse,
or criminally assaults them with blows, shall be deprived of the limb with
which he offends.
If he assumes a position equal to that of twice-born men in sitting,
in lying down, in conversation or on the road, he shall undergo (corporal
(D) The Manu Smriti follows suit and says :
“But if a Brahmin through avarice, and because he possesses the power,
compel twice-born men, who have received the initiation (into the caste
order), to do the work of a slave when they do not wish it, he shall be
fined six hundred panas by the king.
But a Shudra, whether bought or not bought (by the Brahmin) may be
compelled to practise servitude, for that Shudra was created by the self-
existent merely for the service of the Brahmin.
Even if freed by his master, the Shudra is not released from servitude;
for this (servitude) is innate in him; who then can take it from him.2
Just in proportion as one pursues without complaining the mode of life
(practised) by the good, so free from blame, he gains both this and the
Now the supreme duty of a Shudra and that which ensures his bliss
is merely obedience toward clelebrated priests who understand the Veda
and live as householders.
If he be pure, obedient to the higher (castes), mild in speech, without
conceit, and always submissive to the Brahmin, he attains (in the next
transmigration) a high birth.4
Now a Shudra desiring some means of subsistence may serve a
Kshatriya, so(is the rule); or the Shudra (if) anxious to support life, (may
do so by) serving a wealthy Vaishya.
But he should serve the Brahmins for the sake of heaven, or for the sake
of both (heaven and livelihood); for by him (for whom) the word Brahmin (is
always) uttered is thus attained the state of completing all he ought to do.

1. Chapter X. Sutras 50, 56-59 and Chapter XII, Sutras 1,7.
2. Chapter VIII, Verses 412-414.
3. Chapter X, Verse 128.
4. Chapter IX, Verses 334-335.
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Merely to serve the Brahmins is declared to be the most excellent
occupation of a Shudra; for if he does anything other than this it profits
him nothing.
His means of life should be arranged by those Brahmins out of their
own household (goods) in accordance with what is fitting after examining
his ability, cleverness, and (the amount) the dependents embrace.
The leaving of food should be given (to him) and the old clothes, so
too the blighted part of the grain, so too the old furniture. 1
Let a Brahmin’s name be auspicious, a Kshatriya’s full of power, let
a Vaishya’s mean wealth, a Shudra’s however be contemptible.
Let a Brahmin’s (distinctive title) imply prosperity, a Kshatriya’s
safeguard, a Vaishya’s wealth, a Shudra’s service.2
If (a man) of one birth assault one of the twice-born castes with virulent
words, he ought to have his tongue cut, for he is of the lowest origin.
If he makes mention in an insulting manner of their name and caste,
a red-hot iron rod, ten fingers long, should be thrust into his mouth.
If this man through insolence gives instruction to the priests in regard
to their duty, the king should cause boiling hot oil to be poured into his
mouth and ear.3
If a man of the lowest birth should with any member injure one of the
highest station, even that member of this man shall be cut (off); this is
an ordinance of Manu.
If he lift up his hand or his staff (against him), he ought to have his
hand cut off; and if he smites him with his feet in anger, he ought to
have his feet cut off.
If a low-born man endeavours to sit down by the side of a high-born
man, he should be banished after being branded on the hip, or (the king)
may cause his backside to be cut off.
If through insolence he spit upon him, the king should cause his two
lips to be cut off; and if he makes water upon him, his penis, and if he
breaks wind upon him, his anus.
If he seize him by the locks, let the king without hesitation cause both
his hands to be cut off, (also if he seize him) by the feet, the beard, the
neck or the testicles.

1. Chapter X, Verses 121-125.
2. Chapter II, Verses 31-32.
3. Chapter VIII, Verses 270-72.
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A man who tears (another’s) skin and one who causes blood to be seen
ought to be fined five hundred (Panas), if he tears the flesh (he should
be fined) six niskas, but if he breaks a bone he should be banished.1
(D) The Narada Smriti says:
Men of the Shudra caste, who prefer a false accusation against a member
of a twice-born Aryan caste, shall have their tongue split by the officers
of the king, and he shall cause them to be put on stakes.
A once-born man (or Shudra) who insults members of a twice-born caste
with gross invectives, shall have his tongue cut off; for he is of low origin.
If he refers to their name or caste in terms indicating contempt, an
iron-rod, ten angulas long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth.
If he is insolent enough to give lessons regarding their duty to Brahmins,
the king shall order hot oil to be poured into his mouth and ears.
With whatever limb a man of low caste offends against a Brahmin, that
very limb of him shall be cut off, such shall be the atonement for his
A low-born man, who tries to place himself on the same seat with his
superior in caste, shall be branded on his hip and banished, or (the king)
shall cause his backside to be gashed.
If through arrogance he spits on a superior, the king shall cause both
his lips to be cut off; if he makes water on him, the penis; if he breaks
wind against him, the buttocks.”2


Such were the laws made against the Shudras by the Brahmanic
lawgivers. The gist of them may be summarized under the following
heads :
(1) That the Shudra was to take the last place in the social order.
(2) That the Shudra was impure and therefore no sacred act should
be done within his sight and within his hearing.
(3) That the Shudra is not to be respected in the same way as
the other classes.
(4) That the life of a Shudra is of no value and anybody may kill
him without having to pay compensation and if at all of small value

1. Chapter VIII, Verses 279-284.
2. Chapter XV, Verses 22-27.
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as compared with that of the Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaishya.
(5) That the Shudra must not acquire knowledge and it is a sin
and a crime to give him education.
(6) That a Shudra must not acquire property. A Brahmin can take
his property at his pleasure.
(7) That a Shudra cannot hold office under the State.
(8) That the duty and salvation of the Shudra lies in his serving
the higher classes.
(9) That the higher Classes must not inter-marry with the Shudra.
They can however keep a Shudra woman as a concubine. But if the
Shudra touches a woman of the higher classes he will be liable to
dire punishment.
(10) That the Shudra is born in servility and must be kept in
servility for ever.
Anyone who reads this summary will be struck by two consider-
ations. He will be struck by the consideration that Shudra alone has
been selected by the Brahmanic law-givers as a victim for their law-
making authority. The wonder must be all the greater when it is
recalled that in the ancient Brahmanic literature the oppressed class
in the ancient Indo-Aryan society was the Vaishya and not the
Shudra. In this connection a reference may be made to the Aitareya
Brahmana. The Aitareya Brahmana in telling the story of King
Vishvantara and the Shyaparna Brahmanas refers to the sacrificial
drink to which the different classes are entitled. In the course of the
story, it speaks of the Vaishya in the following terms :
“Next, if (the priest brings) curds, that is the Vaishya’s draught with
it thou shalt satisfy the Vaishyas. One like a Vaishya shall be born in
thy line, one who is tributary to another, who is to be used (lit. eaten)
by another, and who maybe oppressed at will.1
The question is: why was the Vaishya let off and why the fury
directed towards the Shudras ?
He will also be struck by the close connection of the disabilities
of the Shudra with the privileges of the Brahmin. The Shudra is
below the Traivarnikas and is contrasted with the Traivarnikas. That
being so, one would expect all the Traivarnikas to have the same rights
against the Shudras. But what are the facts? The facts are that the
Kshatriyas and Vaishyas have no rights worth speaking of against the
Shudras. The only Traivarnika who has special rights and privileges

1 Muir, Vol. 1, p. 436-40.
42 Chapter XII, Sutras 2-3.
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is the Brahmin. For instance, if the Shudra is guilty of an offence
against the Brahmin, the Brahmin has the privilege of demanding
a higher punishment than what a Kshatriya or a Vaishya could. A
Brahmin could take the property of the Shudra without being guilty
of an offence if he needed it for the purpose of performing a sacrifice.
A Shudra should not accumulate property because he thereby hurts
the Brahmin. A Brahmin should not live in a country where the king
is a Shudra. Why is this so? Had the Brahmin any cause to regard
the Shudra as his special enemy?
There is one other consideration more important than these. It is,
what does the average Brahmin think of these disabilities of the
Shudras? That they are extraordinary in their conception and
shameful in their nature will be admitted by all. Will the Brahmin
admit it? It would not be unnatural if this catalogue of disabilities
may not make any impression upon him. In the first place, by long
habit and usage his moral sense has become so dulled that he has
ceased to bother about the how and why of these disabilities of the
Shudras. In the second place, those of them who are conscious of them
feel that similar disabilities have been imposed on particular classes
in other countries and there is therefore nothing extraordinary nor
shameful in the disabilities of the Shudras. It is the second attitude
that needs to be exposed.
This attitude is a very facile one and is cherished bacause it helps
to save reputation and slave conscience. It is, however, no use leaving
things as they are. It is absolutely essential to show that these
disabilities have no parallel anywhere in the world. It is impossible
to compare the Brahmanic Law with every other legal system on the
point of rights and disabilities. A comparison of the Brahmanic Law
with the Roman Law ought to suffice.


It will be well to begin this comparison by noting the classes which
under the Roman Law had rights and those which suffered from
disabilities. The Roman jurists divided men into five categories: (1)
Patricians and Plebians; (2) Freemen and Slaves; (3) Citizens and
Foreigners; (4) Persons who were sui juris and persons who were
alieni juris and (5) Chirstians and Pagans.
Under the Roman Law; persons who were privileged were:
(1) Patricians; (2) Freemen; (3) Citizens; (4) Sui juris and
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(5) Christians. As compared to these, persons who suffered disabilities
under the Roman Law were: (1) the Plebians; (2) Slaves;
(3) Foreigners; (4) Persons who were alieni juris and (5) Pagans.
A Freeman, who was a citizen under the Roman Law, possessed
civil rights as well as political rights. The civil rights of a citizen
comprised rights of connubium and commercium. In virtue of the
connubium, the citizen could contract a valid marriage according to
the jus civile, and acquire the rights resulting from it, and particularly
the paternal power and the civil relationship called agnation, which
was absolutely necessary to enable him in law to succeed to the
property of persons who died intestate. In virtue of the commercium
he could acquire and dispose of property of all kinds, according to
the forms and with the peculiar privileges of the Roman Law. The
political rights of the Roman citizen included jus suffragii and jus
honorum, the right to vote in public elections and the right to hold
The slave differred from the Freeman in as much as he was owned
by the master and as such had no capacity to acquire rights.
Foreigners, who were called Peregrine, were not citizens and had
none of the political or civil rights which went with citizenship. A
Foreigner could obtain no protection unless he was under the
protection of a citizen.
The alieni juris differed from sui juris in as much as the former
were subject to the authority of another person, while the latter were
free from it. This authority was variously called (1) Potestas, (2)
Manus and (3) Mancipium, though they had the same effect. Potestas
under the Roman Law fell into two classes. Persons subject to
Potestas were (1) slaves, (2) children, (3) wife in Manus,
(4) debtor assigned to the creditor by the Court and (5) a hired
gladiator. Potestas gave to one in whom it was vested rights to
exclusive possession of those to whom it extended and to vindicate
any wrong done to them by anyone else.
The correlative disabilities which persons alieni juris suffered as
a result of being subject to Potestas were: (1) they were not free,
(2) they could not acquire property and (3) they could not directly
vindicate any wrong or injury done to them.
The disabilities of the Pagans began with the advent of
Christianity. Originally, when all the Romans followed the same
Pagan worship, religion could occasion no difference in the
enjoyment of civil rights. Under the Christian Emperors, heretics and
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apostates as well as Pagans and Jews, were subjected to vexatious
restrictions, particularly as regards their capacity to succeed to
property and to act as witnesses. Only orthodox Christians who
recognised the decisions of the four oecumenical councils had the full
enjoyment of civil rights.
This survey of rights and disabilities of the Roman Law may well
give comfort to Hindus that the Brahmanic Law was not the only
law which was guilty of putting certain classes under disabilities,
although the disabilities imposed by the Roman Law have nothing
of the cruelty which characterizes the disabilities imposed by the
Brahmanic Law. But when one compares the principles of the Roman
Law with those of the Brahmanic Law underlying these disabilities,
the baseness of the Brahmanic Law becomes apparent.
Let us first ask: What was the basis of rights and disabilities under
the Roman Law. Even a superficial student of Roman Law knows
that they were based upon (1) Caput and (2) Existimatio.
Caput meant the civil status of a person. Civil status among the
Romans had reference chiefly to three things; liberty, citizenship and
family. The status libertatis consisted of being a freeman and not
a slave. If a freeman was also a Roman citizen, he enjoyed the status
civitatis. Upon this quality depended not only the enjoyment of
political rights, but the capacity of participating in the jus civile.
Finally, the status familice consisted in a citizen belonging to a
particular family, and being capable of enjoying certain rights in
which the members of that family, in their quality of agnates, could
alone take part.
If an existing status came to be lost or changed, the person suffered
what was called a capitis diminutio, which extinguished either
entirely or to some extent his former legal capacity. There were three
changes of state or condition attended with different consequences,
called maxima, media, and minima. The greatest involves the loss
of liberty, citizenship, and family; and this happened when a Roman
citizen was taken prisoner in war, or condemned to slavery for his
crimes. But a citizen who was captured by the enemy, on returning
from captivity, was restored to all his civil rights jure postliminii.
The next change of status, consisted of the loss of citizenship and
family rights, without any forfeiture of personal liberty; and this
occurred when a citizen became a member of another state. He was
then forbidden the use of fire and water, so as to be forced to quit the
Roman territory, or was sentenced to deportation under the empire.
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Finally, when a person ceased to belong to a particular family,
without losing his liberty or citizenship, he was said to suffer the
least change of state, as for instance, where one sui juris came under
the power of another by arrogation, or a son who had been under
the patria potestas was legally emancipated by his father.
Citizenship was acquired first by birth. In a lawful marriage the
child followed the condition of the father, and became a citizen, if
the father was so at the time of conception. If the child was not the
issue of justoe nuptioe, it followed the condition of the mother at the
time of its birth. Secondly, by manumission, according to the
formalities prescribed by law, the slave of a Roman citizen became
a citizen. This rule was modified by the laws. Elia Sentia and Junia
Norbana, according to which, in certain cases, the freedman acquired
only the status of a foreigner, peregrinus dedititius or of a Latin,
Latinus Junianus. Justinian restored the ancient principle, according
to which every slave, regularly enfranchised, became in full right a
Roman citizen. Thirdly, the right of citizenship was often granted as
a favour, either to a whole community or to an individual, by the
people or the senate during the republic, and by the reigning prince
during the empire; and this was equivalent to what the moderns call
Citizenship was lost—Firstly, by the loss of liberty—as, for
instance, when a Roman became a prisoner of war; secondly, by
renouncing the character of Roman citizen, which took place when
anyone was admitted a citizen of another state; thirdly, by a sentence
of deportation or exile, as a punishment for crime.
The civil status of a person under the Roman Law may or may
not be civis optimo jure. Civis optimo jure included not only capacity
for civil rights but also capacity for political rights such as jus
suffragii et honorum, i.e., the right to vote and the capacity to hold
a public office. Capacity for political rights depended upon existimatio.
Existimatio means reputation in the eye of the law. A Roman citizen
may have caput as well as existimatio. On the other hand, a Roman
may have caput but may not have existimatio. Whoever had caput
as well as existimatio had civil rights as well as political rights.
Whoever had caput but had no existimatio could claim civil rights
only. He could not claim political rights.
A person’s existimatio was lost in two ways. It was lost by loss
of freedom or by conviction for an offence. If a person lost his freedom
his existimatio was completely extinguished. Loss of existimatio by
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conviction for offence varied according to the gravity of the
offence.1 If the offence was serious the diminution of his existimatio
was called infamia. If the offence was less grave it was called
turpitudo. Infamia resulted in the extinguishment of existimatio.
Under the Roman Law a defendant, in addition to ordinary damages,
was subjected to infamia. Condemnation for theft, robbery, injuria
or fraud, entailed infamy. So a partner, a mandatarius, a depositarins,
tutor, a mortgagee (in contractus fiducioe) if condemned for wilful
breach of duty, was held to be infamous.
The consequence of infamia was exclusion from political rights,2
not merely from office (honours), but even from the right to vote in
elections (suffragium).
From this brief survey of the basis of rights and disabilities in
Roman Law, it will be clear that the basis was the same for all. They
did not differ from community to community. Rights and disabilities
according to Roman Law were regulated by general considerations,
such as caput and existimatio. Whoever had caput and existimatio
had rights. Whoever lost his caput and his existimatio suffered
disabilities. What is the position under the Brahmanic Law? There
again, it is quite clear that rights and disabilities were not based
on general uniform considerations. They were based on communal
considerations. All rights for the first three Varnas and all disabili-
ties for the Shudras was the principle on which the Brahmanic Law
was based.
The protagonists of Brahmanic Laws may urge that this compari-
son is too favourable to Roman Law and that the statement that
Roman Law did not distribute rights and liabilities on communal
basis is not true. This may be conceded. For so far as the relation
between the Patricians and Plebians was concerned the distribution
of rights and liabilities was communal. But in this connection the
following facts must be noted.

1. Such as robbery, theft, perjury, fraud, appearing on the public stage as an
actor or gladiator, ignominious expulsion from the army, gaining a living by aiding
in prostitution and other disreputable occupations and other variety of acts involving
gross moral turpitude.
2. There were other consequences of infamia such as exclusion from the office of
attorney, disability to act on behalf of another in a law suit or giving evidence. Infamia
was inflicted in two ways, either by the censors or by the judgement of a Court of
Law. It was in the power of the censors, in superintending public morality, to deprive
senators of their dignity, to remove knights from the equestrian order and even to
strip a citizen of all his political rights by classing him among the aerarii. The censors
also put a nota censoria opposite to a man’s name in the roll of citizens; and this
might be done upon their own responsibility; without special inquiry, though they
generally acted in accordance with public opinion. The nota censoria produced no effect
except during the magistracy of the censor who imposed it. In this respect it differed
essentially from infamy, which was perpetual, unless the stigma was removed by the
prerogative of the people or the Emperor.
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In the first place, it must be noted that Plebians were not slaves.
They were freemen in as much as they enjoyed jus commercii or the
right to acquire, hold and transfer property. Their disabilities
consisted in the denial of political and social rights. In the second
place, it must be noted that their disabilities were not permanent.
There were two social disabilities from which they suffered. One arose
from the interdict on intermarriage between them and the Patricians
imposed by the Twelve Tables.1 This disability was removed in B.C.
445 by the passing of the Canulenian Law which legalized intermar-
riage between Patricians and Plebians. The other disability was their
ineligibility to hold the office of Pontiffs and Augurs in the Public
Temples of Rome. This disability was removed by the Ogulnian Law
passed in B.C. 300.
As to the political disabilities of the Plebians they had secured
the right to vote in popular assemblies (jus suffragii) under the
Constitution of Servius Tullius the Sixth King of Rome. The political
disabilities which had remained unredressed were those which related
to the holding of office. This too was removed in course of time after
the Republic was established in B.C. 509. The first step taken in this
direction was the appointment of Plebian Tribunes in B.C. 494; the
Questorship was opened to them, formally in B.C. 421; actually in
B.C. 409; the Consulship in B.C. 367; the curule-aedileship in B.C.
366; the dictatorship in B.C. 356; the Censorship in B.C 351; and
the Praetorship in B.C. 336. The Hortensian Law enacted in B.C.
287 marked a complete triumph for the Plebians. By that law the
resolutions of the Assembly of the tribes were to be directly and
without modification, control or delay, binding upon the whole of the
Roman people.
This marks a complete political fusion of Patricians and Plebians
on terms of equality.
Not only were the Plebians placed on the same footing as to
political capacity and social status with the Patricians but the road to
nobility was also thrown open to them. In Roman society, birth and
fortune were the two great sources of rank and personal distinction.
But in addition to this, the office of Curule Magistracy was also a
source of ennoblement to the holder thereof. Every citizen, whether
Patrician or Plebian, who won his way to a Curule Magistracy, from
that Edile upwards, acquired personal distinction, which was trans-
mitted to his descendants, who formed a class called Nobiles, or

1. It was older than the Twelve Tables. The Twelve Tables only recognized it.
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men known, to distinguish them from the ignobiles, or people who
were not known. As the office was thrown open to the Plebians, many
Plebians1 had become nobles and had even surpassed the Patricians
in point of nobility.
It may be that the Roman Law did recognise communal distinction
in distributing rights and disabilities. The point is that the disabili-
ties of the Plebians were not regarded as permanent. Although they
existed they were in course of time removed. That being so, the
protagonists of Brahmanic Law cannot merely take solace in having
found a parallel in the Roman Law but have to answer why the
Brahmanic Law did not abolish the distinction between the
Traivarnikas and the Shudras as the Roman Law did by equating
the Plebians with the Patricians? One can therefore contend that the
Roman Law of rights and disabilities was not communal while the
Brahmanic Law was.
This is not the only difference between the Roman Law and the
Brahmanic Law. There are two others. One is equality before law
in criminal matters. The Roman Law may not have recognized
equality in matters of civil and political rights. But in matters of
criminal law it made no distinction between one citizen and another,
not even between Patrician and Plebian. The same offence the same
punishment, no matter who the complainant and who the accused
was. Once an offence was proved, the punishment was the same. What
do the Dharma Sutras and the Smritis do? They follow an entirely
different principle. For the same offence the punishment varies
according to the community of the accused and the community of the
complainant. If the complainant is a Shudra and the accused belonged
to any one of the three classes the punishment is less than what
it would be if the relations were reversed. On the other hand, if the
complainant was Traivarnika and the accused a Shudra, the punish-
ment is far heavier than in the first case. This is another barbarity
which distinguishes the Brahmanic Law from the Roman Law.
The next feature of the Roman Law which distinguishes it from
the Brahmanic Law is most noteworthy. It relates to the extinction
of disabilities. Two points need be borne in mind. First is that the
disabilities under the Roman Law were only contingent. So long as
certain conditions lasted, they gave rise to certain disabilities. The

1. A Plebian who first attained a Curule office and became the founder of a noble
family was called by the Remans a novus homo or new man.
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moment the conditions changed, the disabilities vanished and a step
in the direction of equality before law was taken. The second point
is that the Roman Law never attempted to fix the conditions for ever
and thereby perpetuate the disabilities. On the other hand, it was
always ready to remove the conditions to which these disabilities were
attached as is evident in the case of the Plebians, the Slaves, the
Foreigners and the Pagans.
If these two points about the disabilities under the Roman Law
are borne in mind, one can at once see what mischief the Dharma
Sutras and the Smritis have done in imposing the disabilities upon
the Shudras. The imposition of disabilities would not have been so
atrocious if the disabilities were dependent upon conditions and if
the disabled had the freedom to outgrow those conditions. But what
the Brahmanic Law does is not merely to impose disabilities but it
tries to fix the conditions by making an act which amounts to a breach
of those conditions to be a crime involving dire punishment. Thus,
the Brahmanic Law not only seeks to impose disabilities but it
endeavours to make them permanent. One illustration will suffice.
A Shudra is not entitled to perform Vedic sacrifices as he is not able
to repeat the Vedic Mantras. Nobody would quarrel with such a
disability. But the Dharma Sutras do not stop here. They go further
and say that it will be a crime for a Shudra to study the Vedas or
hear it being pronounced and if he does commit such a crime his
tongue should be cut or molten lead should be poured into his ear.
Can anything be more barbarous than preventing a man to grow out
of his disability? What is the explanation of these disabilities? Why
did the Brahmanic Law-givers take such a cruel attitude towards the
Shudras? The Brahmanic Law books merely state the disabilities.
They say that the Shudras have no right to Upanayana. They say
that the Shudras shall hold no office. They say that the Shudras shall
not have property. But they do not say why. The whole thing is
arbitrary. The disabilities of the Shudra have no relation to his
personal conduct. It is not the result of infamy. The Shudra is
punished just because he was a Shudra. This is a mystery which
requires to be solved. As the Brahmanic Law books do not help us
to solve it, it is necessary to look for explanation elsewhere.
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FROM what has been said before, it is clear that the Brahmanic
writers do not give us any clue as to who the Shudras were and how
they came to be the fourth Varna. It is, therefore, necessary to turn
to the Western writers and to see what they have to say about the
subject. The Western writers have a definite theory about the origin
of the Shudras. Though all of them are hot agreed upon every aspect
of the theory, there are points on which there seems to be a certain
amount of unity among them. They comprise the following :
(1) The people who created the Vedic literature belonged to the
Aryan race.
(2) This Aryan race came from outside India and invaded India.
(3) The natives of India were known as Dasas and Dasyus who
were racially different from the Aryans.
(4) The Aryans were a white race. The Dasas and Dasyus were
a dark race.
(5) The Aryans conquered the Dasas and Dasyus.
(6) The Dasas and Dasyus after they were conquered and enslaved
were called Shudras.
(7) The Aryans cherished colour prejudice and therefore formed the
Chaturvarnya whereby they separated the white race from the black
race such as the Dasas and the Dasyus.
These are the principal elements in the Western theory about the
origin and position of the Shudras in the Indo-Aryan society.
Whether it is valid or not is another matter. But this much must
certainly be said about it that after reading the Brahmanic theories
with their long and tedious explanations attempting to treat a social
fact as a divine dispensation, one cannot but feel a certain amount
of relief in having before oneself a theory, which proceeds to give
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a natural explanation of a social fact. One can do nothing with the
Brahmanic theories except to call them senseless ebullitions of a silly
mind. They leave the problem as it is. With the modern theory, one
is at least on the road to recover one’s way.
To test the validity of the theory, the best thing to do is to examine
it piece by piece and see how far each is supported by evidence.
The foundation on which the whole fabric of the theory rests is
the proposition that there lived a people who were Aryan by race.
It is in the fitness of things therefore to grapple with this question
What is this Aryan race? Before we consider the question of Aryan
race we must be sure as to what we mean by the word “race”. It
is necessary to raise this question because it is not impossible to
mistake a people for a race. The best illustration of such a mistake
is the Jews. Most people believe that the Jews are a race. To the
naked eye, they appear to be so. But what is the verdict of the
experts ? This is what Prof. Ripley1 has to say about the Jews :
“Our final conclusion, then, is this: This is paradoxical yet true, we
affirm. The Jews are not a race, but only a people after all. In their faces
we read its confirmation; while in respect of their other traits, we are
convinced that such individuality as they possess—by no means inconsid-
erable—is of their own making from one generation to the next, rather
than a product of an unprecedented purity of physical descent.”
What is a race? A race may be defined as a body of people
possessing certain typical traits which are hereditary. There was a
time when it was believed that the traits which constitute a race
are: (1) the form of the head, (2) the colour of the hair and eyes,
(3) the colour of the skin, and (4) the stature. To-day the general
view is that pigmentation and stature are traits, which vary according
to climate and habitat, and consequently they must be ruled out as
tests for determining the race of the people. The only stable trait
is the shape of the human head—by which is meant the general
proportions of length, breadth and height and that is why anthro-
pologists and ethnologists regard it as the best available test of race.
The use of head-forms for determining the race to which an
individual belongs has been developed by anthropologists into an
exact science. It is called anthropometry. This science of anthropom-
etry has devised two ways of measuring the head form: (1) cephalic
index, and (2) facial index. The index is the mark of the race.

1. Ripley W. E., The Races of Europe, p. 400.
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Cephalic index is the breadth of the head above the ears expressed
in percentage of its length from forehead to back. Assuming that this
length is 100, the width is expressed as a fraction of it. As the head
becomes proportionately broader— that is more fully rounded, viewed
from the top down—this cephalic index increases. When it rises above
80, the head is called brachycephalic. When it falls below 75, the
term dolichocephalic is applied to it. Indices between 75 and 80 are
characterized as mesocephalic. These are technical terms. They
constantly crop up in literature dealing with questions of race and
if one does not know what they denote it obviously becomes very
difficult to follow the discussion intelligently. It would not therefore
be without advantage if I were to stop to give their popular
equivalents. The popular equivalent of mesocephalic is medium-
headed, having a medium cephalic Index, the breadth of the cranium
being between three-fourths and four-fifths of the length. Doli-
chocephalic means long-headed, having a low cephalic index, the
breadth of the cranium being below four-fifths of the length.
Facial index is the correlation between the proportions of the head
and the form of the face. In the majority of cases, it has been found
that a relatively broad head is accompanied by a rounded face, in
which the breadth back of the cheek bones is considerable as
compared with the height from forehead to chin. Lack of uniformity
in the mode of taking measurements has so far prevented extended
observations fit for exact comparison. All the same, it has been found
safe to adopt the rule, long head, oval face: short-head and round
Applying these measures of anthropometry, Prof. Ripley, an
authority on the question of race, has come to the conclusion that
the European people belong to three different races in terms of
cephalic and facial index. His conclusions are summarized in the
table on the next page.1
Is there an Aryan race in the physical sense of the term? There
seem to be two views on the subject. One view is in favour of the
existence of the Aryan race. According to it :2
The Aryan type.. is marked by a relatively long (dolichocephalic) head;
a straight finely-cut (leptorrhine) nose; a long symmetrically narrow face;
well developed regular features and a high facial angle. The stature is
fairly high— and the general build of the figure well-proportioned and
slender rather than massive.

1. Ripley, Races of Europe, p. 121.
2. Ibid Vol. I, p. 121

Head Face Hair Eyes Stature Nose

1. Teutonic Long Long Very Blue Tall Narrow
light acquiline

2. Alpine (Celtic) Round Broad Light Hazel Medium Variable:
Chestnut Grey stocky rather


3. Mediterranean Long Long Dark Dark Medium Rather
brown slender broad
or black
Mk S.K.—26-09-2013

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The other view is that of Prof. Max Muller. According to him, the
word is used in three different senses. This is what he, in his lectures
on the Science of Language, says :
In ar or ara, I recognise one of the oldest names of the earth, as the
ploughed land, lost in Sanskrit but preserved in Greek as (era) so that
Arya would have conveyed originally the meaning of landholder, cultivator
of the land, while Vaishya from Vis meant householder, Ida the daughter
of Manu is another name of the cultivated earth and probably a modi-
fication of Ara.
The second sense in which it was used was to convey the idea of
ploughing or tilling the soil. As to this, Prof. Max Muller makes the
following observations :
I can only state that the etymological signification of Arya seems to
be: One who ploughs or tills. The Aryans would seem to have chosen this
name for themselves as opposed to the nomadic races, the Turanians,
whose original name Tura implies the swiftness of the horsemen.
In the third sense, the word was used as a general name for the
Vaishyas, i.e., the general body of the people, who formed the whole
mass of the people. For this, Prof. Max Muller relies on Panini (iii.
1,103) for his authority. Then, there is the fourth sense, which the
word got only towards the later period, in which sense it means ‘of
noble origin’.
What is however of particular importance is the opinion of
Prof. Max Muller on the question of the Aryan race. This is what
he says on the subject:1
There is no Aryan race in blood; Aryan, in scientific language is utterly
inapplicable to race. It means language and nothing but language; and
if we speak of Aryan race at all, we should know that it means no more
than... Aryan speech.
* * *
I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither
blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an
Aryan language. The same applies to Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans,
Celts, and Slavs. When I speak of them I commit myself to no anatomical
characteristics. The blue-eyed and fair-haired Scandinavians may have been
conquerors or conquered, they may have adopted the language of their darker
lords or their subjects, or vice versa. I assert nothing beyond their language,
when I call them Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts and Slavs; and
in that sense, and in that sense only, do I say that even the blackest Hindus
represent an earlier stage of Aryan speech and thought than the fairest
Scandinavians. This may seem strong language, but in matters of such
importance we cannot be too decided in our language. To me, an ethnologist
who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great
a sinner as linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a

1 Biography of Words, pp. 89 and 120-21.
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brachycephalic grammar. It is worse than a Babylonian confusion of
tongues— it is down-right theft. We have made our own terminology for
the classification of language; let ethnologists make their own for the
classification of skulls, and hair and blood.
The value of this view of Prof. Max Muller will be appreciated by
those who know that he was at one time a believer in the theory
of Aryan race and was largely responsible for the propagation of
The two views are obviously not in harmony. According to one
view, the Aryan race existed in a physiological sense with typical
hereditary traits with a fixed cephalic and facial index. According
to Prof. Max Muller, the Aryan race existed in a philological sense,
as a people speaking a common language.
In this conflict of views one may well ask: what is the testimony
of the Vedic literature? As examination of the Vedic literature shows
that there occur two words in the Rig Veda—one is Arya (vk;Z) with
a short ‘a’ and the other is Arya (vk;Z ) with a long ‘a’. The word
Arya (vk;Z) with a short ‘a’ is used in the Rig Veda1 in 88 places.
In what sense is it used? The word2 is used in four different senses;
as (1) enemy, (2) respectable person, (3) name for India, and (4)
owner, Vaishya or citizen.
The word (vk;Z ) with a long ‘a’ is used in the Rig Veda in 31 places.3
But in none of these is the word used in the sense of race.
From the foregoing discussion, the one indisputable conclusion
which follows is that the terms ‘Arya’ and ‘Arya’ which occur in the
Vedas have not been used in the racial sense at all.
One may also ask: what is the evidence of anthropometry? the
Aryan race is described as long-headed. This description is not
enough. For as will be seen from the table given by Prof. Ripley,
there are two races which are long-headed. The question which of
the two is the Aryan race still remains open.

Let us take the next premise—namely, that the Aryans came from
outside India, invaded India, and conquered the native tribes. It
would be better to take these questions separately.
1. For a list of the references in the Rig Veda, see Apendix 1.
2. For a list of references showing in which place the word is used and in what
sense, see Appendix II
3. For a list of references, see Appendix III.
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From where did the Aryan race come into India? On the question
of locating the original home of the Aryan race, there is a bewildering
variety of views and options. According to Benfey, the original home
of the Aryan race must be determined by reference to the common
vocabulary. His views on the subject have been well summarized by
Prof. Isaac Taylor1 in the following words :
“The investigation of the vocabulary common to the whole of the Aryan
languages might yield a clue to the region inhabited by the Aryans before
the linguistic separation. He contended that certain animals, such as the
bear and the wolf, and certain trees, such as the beech and the birch with
which the primitive Aryans must have been acquainted, are all indigenous
to the temperate zone, and above all, to Europe, whereas the characteristic
animals and trees of Southern Asia, such as the lion, the tiger and the
palm were known only to the Indians and the Iranians. He urged that
the absence from the primitive Aryan vocabulary of common names for
the two great Asiatic beasts of prey, the lion and the tiger, or for the
chief Asiatic beast of transport, the camel, is difficult to explain on the
theory of the migration of the Aryans from the region eastward of the
Caspian. That the Greeks called the lion by its Semitic name, and the
Indians by a name which cannot be referred to any Aryan root, argues
that the lion was unknown in the common home of Greeks and Indians.
* * *
Benfey’s declaration speedily bore fruit, and Geiger forthwith ranged
himself in the same camp, but placing the cradle of the Aryans, not as Benfey
had done in the region to the North of the Black Sea, but more to the north-
west, in Central and Western Germany. Geiger’s contribution to the argument
was not without its value. He bases his conclusions largely on the tree names
which belong to the primitive Aryan vocabulary. In addition to the fir, the
willow, the ash, the alder, and the hazel, he thinks the names of the birch,
the beech and the oak are specially decisive. Since the Greek (phegos) which
denotes the oak is the linguistic equivalent of the Teutonic beech and of the
Latin fague he draws the conclusion that the Greeks migrated from a land
of beeches to a land of oaks, transferring the name which denoted the tree
with ‘edible’ fruit from the one tree to the other.”
Another school holds that the original home of the Aryan race was
in Caucasia, because the Caucasians like the Aryans are blonds, have
a straight, a sharp nose and a handsome face. On this point, the
view of Prof. Ripley is worth quoting. This is what Prof. Ripley2 has
to say on the subject :
The utter absurdity of the misnomer Caucasian, as applied to the blue-
eyed and fair-headed ‘Aryan’ (?) race of Western Europe, is revealed by
two indisputable facts. In the first place, this ideal blond type does not
occur within many hundred miles of Caucasia; and, secondly, nowhere
along the great Caucasian chain is there a single native tribe making use
of a purely inflectional or Aryan language.
* * *
1 Issac Taylor, The Origin of the Aryans, pp. 24-26.
2 Ripley : Races of Europe, pp. 436-437.
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Even the Ossetes, whose language alone is possibly inflectional, have
not had their claims to the honour of Aryan made positively clear as yet.
And even if Ossetian be Aryan, there is every reason to regard the people
as immigrants from the direction of Iran, not indigenous Caucasians at
all. Their head form, together with their occupation of territory along the
only highway—the Pass of Darriel—across the chain from the South, give
tenability to the hypothesis. At all events, whether the Ossetes be Aryan
or not, they little deserve pre-eminence among the other peoples about
them. They are lacking both in the physical beauty for which this region
is justly famous, and in courage as well, if we may judge by their reputation
in yielding abjectly and without shadow of resistance to the Russians.
* * *
It is not true that any of these Caucasians are even ‘somewhat typical’.
As a matter of fact they could never be typical of anything. The name
covers nearly every physical type and family of language of the Eur-Asian
continent except, as we have said, that blond, tall, ‘Aryan’ speaking one
to which the name has been specifically applied. It is all false; not only
improbable but absurd. The Caucasus is not a cradle—it is rather a grave—
of peoples, of languages, of customs and of physical types. Let us be assured
of that point at the outset. Nowhere else in the world probably is so
heterogeneous a lot of people, languages and religions gathered together
in one place as along the chain of the Caucasus mountains.”
Mr. Tilak has suggested that the original home of the Aryan race
was in the Arctic region. His theory may be summarized in his own
words. He begins by taking note of the astronomical and climatic
phenomenon in the region round about the North Pole. He finds1 that
there are :
“Two sets of characteristics, or differentia; one for an observer stationed
exactly at the terrestrial North Pole, and the other for an observer located
in the Circum-Polar regions, or tracts of land between the North Pole and
the Arctic circle.”
Mr. Tilak calls these two sets of differentia; as Polar and
CircumPolar, and sums them up as follows :
I. The Polar Characteristics
(1) The sun rises in the south.
(2) The stars do not rise and set; but revolve or spin round and round,
in horizontal planes, completing one round in 24 hours. The northern
celestia hemisphere is alone overhead and visible during the whole year;
and the souther or lower celestial world is always invisible.
(3) The year consists only of one long day and one long night of six
months each.
(4) There is only one morning and one evening, or the sun rises and sets only
once a year. But the twilight, whether of the morning or of the evening, lasts
continuously for about two months, or 60 periods of 24 hours each. The ruddy light

1 Tilak B. G., The Arctic Home in the Vedas, 58-60.
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of the morn, or the evening twilight, is not again confined to a particular
part of the horizon (eastern or western) as with us; but moves, like the stars
at the place, round and round along the horizon, like a potter’s wheel,
completing one round in every 24 hours. These rounds of the morning light
continue to take place, until the orb of the sun comes above the horizon;
and then the sun follows the same course for six months, that is, moves,
without setting, round and round the observer, completing one round every
24 hours.
II. The Circum-Polar Characteristics
(1) The sun will always be to the south of the zenith of the observer, but
as this happens even in the case of an observer stationed in the temperate
zone, it cannot be regarded as a special characteristic.
(2) A large number of stars are circum-polor, that is, they are above the
horizon during the entire period of their revolution and hence always visible.
The remaining stars rise and set as in the temperate zone, but revolve in
more oblique circles.
(3) The year is made up of three parts: (i) one long continuous night,
occurring at the time of the winter solstice, and lasting for a period, greater
than 24 hours and less than six months, according to the latitude of the place;
(ii) one long continuous day to match, occurring at the time of the summer
solstice; and (iii) a succession of ordinary days and nights during the rest
of the year, a nycthemeron, or a day and a night together, never exceeding
a period of 24 hours. The day, after the long continuous night, is at first
shorter than the night, but goes on increasing until it develops into the long
continuous day. At the end of the long day, the night is, at first, shorter
than the day, but, in its turn, it begins to gain over the day, until the
commencement of the long continuous night, with which the year ends.
(4) The dawn, at the close of the long continuous night, lasts for several
days, but its duration and magnificence is proportionally less than at the
North Pole, according to the latitude of the place. For places, within a few
degrees of the North Pole, the phenomenon of revolving morning light will
still be observable during the greater part of the duration of the dawn. The
other dawns viz., those between ordinary days and nights, will, like the dawns
in the temperate zone, only last for a few hours. The sun, when he is above
the horizon during the continuous day, will be seen revolving, without setting,
round the observer, as at the Pole, but in oblique and not horizontal circles,
and during the long night he will be entirely below the horizon, while during
the rest of the year he will rise and set, remaining above the horizon for
a part of 24 hours, varying according to the position of the sun in the ecliptic.
Summing up the position as analysed by him, Mr. Tilak concludes
by saying :
“Here we have two distinct sets of differentiae or special characteristics
of the Polar and Circum-Polar regions—characteristics which are not found
anywhere else on the surface of the globe. Again as the Poles of the earth
are the same to-day as they were millions of years ago, the above astronomical
characteristics will hold good for all times, though the Polar climate may
have undergone violent changes in the Pleistocene period.”
Having noted the phenomenon in the Arctic region, Mr. Tilak
proceeds to argue that :
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“If a Vedic description or tradition discloses any of the characteristics
mentioned above, we may safely infer that the tradition is Polar or
Circumi-Polar in origin, and the phenomenon, if not actually witnessed
by the poet, was at least known to him by tradition faithfully handed down
from generation to generation. Fortunately there are many such passages
or references in the Vedic literature, and, for convenience, these may be
divided into two parts; the first comprising those passages which directly
describe or refer to the long night, or the long dawn; and the second
consisting of myths and legends which corroborate and indirectly support
the first.”
Mr. Tilak is satisfied that the description of natural phenomenon
and the myths and legends contained in the Vedas tally with the
natural phenomenon as it exists near the North Pole and concludes
that the Vedic poets i.e., the Vedic Aryans must have had the Arctic
region as their home.
This is of course a very original theory. There is only one point
which seems to have been overlooked. The horse is a favourite animal
of the Vedic Aryans. It was most intimately connected with their life
and their religion. That the queens vied with one another to copulate
with the horse in the Ashvamedha Yajna 1 shows what place the horse
had acquired in the life of the Vedic Aryans. Question is : was the
horse to be found in the Arctic region? If the answer is in the negative,
the Arctic home theory becomes very precarious.
What evidence is there of the invasion of India by the Aryan race
and the subjugation by it of the native tribes? So far as the Rig Veda
is concerned, there is not a particle of evidence suggesting the
invasion of India by the Aryans from outside India. As Mr. P. T.
Srinivasa Iyengar2 points out:
“A careful examination of the Mantras where the words Arya, Dasa and
Dasyu occur, indicates that they refer not to race but to cult. These words
occur mostly in Rig Veda Samhita where Arya occurs about 33 times in
mantras which contain 153,972 words on the whole. The rare occurrence
is itself a proof that the tribes that called themselves Aryas were not
invaders that conquered the country and exterminated the people. For an
invading tribe would naturally boast of its achievements constantly.”
So far the testimony of the Vedic literature is concerned, it is
against the theory that the original home of the Aryans was outside
India. The language in which reference to the seven rivers is made in

1 See Yajur Veda with Madhavachiya’s Bhashya.
2 Life in Ancient India in the Age of the Mantras, pp. 11-12.
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the Rig Veda (x.75.5) is very significant. As Prof. D. S. Triveda says1—
the rivers are addressed as ‘my Ganges, my Yamuna, my Saraswati’
and so on. No foreigner would ever address a river in such familiar
and endearing terms unless by long association he had developed an
emotion about it.
As to the question of conquest and subjugation, references can
undoubtedly be found in the Rig Veda where Dasas and Dasyus are
described as enemies of the Aryas and there are many hymns in which
the Vedic rishis have invited their gods to kill and annihilate them.
But before drawing any conclusion from it in favour of conquest and
subjugation by the Aryans, the following points must be taken into
First is the paucity of references in the Rig Veda to wars between
the Aryans on the one hand and the Dasas or Dasyus on the other.
Out of the 33 places in which the word occurs in the Rig Veda only
in 8 places is it used in opposition to Dasas and only in 7 places
is it used in opposition to the word Dasyus. This may show the
occurrence of sporadic riots between the two. It is certainly not
evidence of a conquest or subjugation.
The second point about the Dasas is that whatever conflict there
was between them and the Aryans, the two seem to have arrived
at a mutual settlement, based on peace with honour. This is borne
out by references in the Rig Veda showing how the Dasas and Aryans
have stood as one united people against a common enemy. Note the
following verses from the Rig Veda :
Rig Veda — vi. 33.3;
vii. 83.1;
viii 51.9;
X 102.3.
The third point to note is that whatever the degree of conflict, it
was not a conflict of race. It was a conflict which had arisen on
account of difference of religions. That this conflict was religious and
not racial is evidenced by the Rig Veda itself. Speaking of the Dasyus,
it2 says :
“They are avrata, without (the Arya) rites (R.V., i. 51.8, 9; i.132. 4; iv.41.
2; vi. 14, 3); apavrata (R.V., v.42,2), anyavrata of different rites (R.V., viii.59,
11; x.22, 8), Anagnitra fireless (R.V., v. 189, 3), ayajyu, ayajvan, non-sacrifices
(R.V., i.131, 44; i.33, 4; viii.59, 11), abrambha, without prayers (or also not

1 The Original Home of the Aryans’ by D. S. Triveda, Annals of the Bhandarkar
Oriental Research Institute, Vol. XX, p. 62.
2 Iyengar, Ibid,, p. 13.
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having Brahmana priest (R.V., iv. 15,9; x.105,8). anrichah, without Riks
(R.V., x.105, 8), Brahmadvisha, haters of prayer (or Brahmans) R.V.,
v.42,9), and anindra, without Indra, despisers of Indra, (R.V., i.133,1: v.2,3;
vii 18; 6; x 27, 6; x.48, 7). ‘They pour no milky draughts they heat no
cauldron’ (R.V., iii.53, 4). They give no gifts to the Brahmana (R.V., v.7,
Attention may also be drawn to the Rig Veda x.22.8 which says :
“We live in the midst of the Dasyu tribes, who do not perform sacrifices
nor believe in anything. They have their own rites and are not entitled
to be called men. O! thou, destroyer of enemies, annihilate them and injure
the Dasas.”
In the face of these statements from the Rig Veda, there is
obviously no room for a theory of a military conquest by the Aryan
race of the non-Aryan races of Dasas and Dasyus.


So much about the Aryans, their invasion of India and their
subjugation of the Dasas and Dasyus. The consideration so far
bestowed upon the question has been from the Aryan side of the issue.
It might be useful to discuss it from the side of the Dasas and the
Dasyus. In what sense are the names Dasa and Dasyu used? Are
they used in a racial sense?
Those who hold that the terms Dasa and Dasyu are used in the
racial sense rely upon the following circumstances: (1) The use in
the Rig Veda of the terms Mridhravak and Anasa as epithets of
Dasyus. (2) The description in the Rig Veda of the Dasas as being
of Krishna Varna
The term Mridhravak occurs in the following places in the Rig
Veda :
(1) Rig Veda, i. 174.2;
(2) Rig Veda, v. 32.8;
(3) Rig Veda, vii. 6.3;
(4) Rig Veda, vii. 18.3.
What does the adjective Mridhravak mean? Mridhravak means one
who speaks crude, unpolished language. Can crude unpolished lan-
guage be regarded as evidence of difference of race? It would be
childish to rely upon this as a basis of consciousness of race difference.
The term Anasa occurs in Rig Veda v.29.10. What does the word
mean? There are two interpretations. One is by Prof. Max Muller.
The other is by Sayanacharya. According to Prof.. Max Muller, it
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means ‘one without nose ‘or’ one with a flat nose’ and has as such
been relied upon as a piece of evidence in support of the view that
the Aryans were a separate race from the Dasyus. Sayanacharya says
that it means ‘mouthless,’ i.e., devoid of good speech. This difference
of meaning is due to difference in the correct reading of the word
Anasa.. Sayanacharya reads it as an-asa while Prof. Max Muller reads
it as a-nasa. As read by Prof. Max Muller, it means without nose.
Question is : which of the two readings is the correct one? There
is no reason to hold that Sayana’s reading is wrong. On the other
hand there is every thing to suggest that it is right. In the first place,
it does not make non-sense of the word. Secondly, as there is no other
place where the Dasyus are described as noseless, there is no reason
why the word should be read in such a manner as to give it an
altogether new sense. It is only fair to read it as a synonym of
Mridhravak. There is therefore no evidence in support of the
conclusion that the Dasyus belonged to a different race.
Turning to Dasas, it is true that they are described as Krishna
Yoni, in Rig Veda vi.47.21. But there are various points to be
considered before one can accept the inference which is sought to be
drawn from it. First is that this is the only place in the Rig Veda
where the phrase Krishna Yoni is applied to the Dasas. Secondly,
there is no certainty as to whether the phrase is used in the literal
sense or in a figurative sense. Thirdly, we do not know whether it
is a statement of fact or a word of abuse. Unless these points are
clarified, it is not possible to accept the view that because the Dasas
are spoken of as Krishna Yoni, they therefore, belonged to a dark
In this connection, attention may be drawn to the following verses
from the Rig Veda:
1. Rig Veda, vi.22.10.—“Oh, Vajri, thou hast made Aryas of Dasas, good
men out of bad by your power. Give us the same power so that with it
we may overcome our enemies.”
2. Rig Veda, x.49.3, (says Indra).—“I have deprived the Dasyus of the
title of Aryas.”
3. Rig Veda, i. 151.8—“Oh, Indra, find out who is an Arya and who
is a Dasyu and separate them.”
What do these verses indicate? They indicate that the distinction
between the Aryans on the one hand and the Dasas and Dasyus on
the other was not a racial distinction of colour or physiognomy. That
is why a Dasa or Dasyu could become an Arya. That is why Indra
was given the task to separate them from the Arya.
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That the theory of the Aryan race set up by Western writers falls
to the ground at every point, goes without saying. This is somewhat
surprising since Western scholarship is usually associated with
thorough research and careful analysis. Why has the theory failed?
It is important to know the reasons why it has failed. Anyone who
cares to scrutinize the theory will find that it suffers from a double
infection. In the first place, the theory is based on nothing but
pleasing assumptions and inferences based on such assumptions. In
the second place, the theory is a perversion of scientific investigation.
It is not allowed to evolve out of facts. On the contrary the theory
is preconceived and facts are selected to prove it.
The theory of the Aryan race is just an assumption and no more.
It is based on a philological proposition put forth by Dr. Bopp in
his epoch-making book called Comparative Grammar which appeared
in 1835. In this book, Dr. Bopp demonstrated that a greater number
of languages of Europe and some languages of Asia must be referred
to a common ancestral speech. The European languages and Asiatic
languages to which Bopp’s proposition applied are called Indo-
Germanic. Collectively, they have come to be called the Aryan
languages largely because Vedic language refer to the Aryas and is
also of the same family as the Indo-Germanic. This assumption is
the major premise on which the theory of the Aryan race is based.
From this assumption are drawn two inferences: (1) unity of race,
and (2) that race being the Aryan race. The argument is that if the
languages are descended from a common ancestral speech then there
must have existed a race whose mother tongue it was and since the
mother tongue was known as the Aryan tongue the race who spoke
it was the Aryan race. The existence of a separate and a distinct
Aryan race is thus an inference only. From this inference, is drawn
another inference which is that of a common original habitat. It is
argued that there could be no community of language unless people
had a common habitat permitting close communion. Common original
habitat is thus an inference from an inference.
The theory of invasion is an invention. This invention is necessary
because of a gratuitous assumption which underlies the Western
theory. The assumption is that the Indo-Germanic people are the
purest of the modern representatives of the original Aryan race. Its
first home is assumed to have been somewhere in Europe. These
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assumptions raise a question: How could the Aryan speech have come
to India: This question can be answered only by the supposition that
the Aryans must have come into India from outside. Hence the
necessity for inventing the theory of invasion.
The third assumption is that the Aryans were a superior race.
This theory has its origin in the belief that the Aryans are a
European race and as a European race it is presumed to be superior
to the Asiatic races. Having assumed its superiority, the next logical
step one is driven to take is to establish the fact of superiority.
Knowing that nothing can prove the superiority of the Aryan race
better than invasion and conquest of native races, the Western
writers have proceeded to invent the story of the invasion of India
by the Aryans and the conquest by them of the Dasas and Dasyus.
The fourth assumption is that the European races were white1
and had a colour prejudice against the dark races. The Aryans being
a European race, it is assumed that it must have had colour
prejudice. The theory proceeds to find evidence for colour prejudice
in the Aryans who came into India. This it finds in the Chaturvarnya—
an institution by the established Indo-Aryans after they came to
India and which according to these scholars is based upon Varna
which is taken by them to mean colour.
Not one of these assumptions is borne out by facts. Take the
premise about the Aryan race. The theory does not take account of
the possibility that the Aryan race in the physiological sense is one
thing and an Aryan race in the philological sense quite different, and
that it is perfectly possible that the Aryan race, if there is one, in
the physiological sense may have its habitat in one place and that
the Aryan race, in the philological sense, in quite a different place.
The theory of the Aryan race is based on the premise of a common
language and it is supposed to be common because it has a structural
affinity. The assertion that the Aryans came from outside and invaded
India is not proved and the premise that the Dasas and Dasyus are
aboriginal tribes2 of India is demonstrably false.
Again to say that the institution of Chaturvarnya is a reflexion
of the innate colour prejudice of the Aryans is really to assert too
much. If colour is the origin of class distinction, there must be four
different colours to account for the different classes which comprise
Chaturvarnya. Nobody has said what those four colours are and who

1. For a discussion as to who the Dasas and Dasyus were, see Chapter 6.
2. For a discussion whether in their origin the European races were white or
dark see the observations of Prof. Ripley, infra, p. 76.
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were the four coloured races who were welded together in
Chaturvarnya. As it is, the theory starts with only two opposing
people, Aryas and Dasas—one assumed to be white and the other
assumed to be dark.
The originators of the Aryan race theory are so eager to establish
their case that they have no patience to see what absurdities they
land themselves in. They start on a mission to prove what they want
to prove and do not hesitate to pick such evidence from the Vedas
as they think is good for them.
Prof. Michael Foster has somewhere said that ‘hypothesis is the
salt of science.’ Without hypothesis there is no possibility of fruitful
investigation. But it is equally true that where the desire to prove
a particular hypothesis is dominant, hypothesis becomes the poison
of science. The Aryan race theory of Western scholars is as good an
illustration of how hypothesis can be the poison of science as one
can think of.
The Aryan race theory is so absurd that it ought to have been
dead long ago. But far from being dead, the theory has a cosiderable
hold upon the people. There are two explanations which account for
this phenomenon. The first explanation is to be found in the support
which the theory receives from Brahmin scholars. This is a very
strange phenomenon. As Hindus, they should ordinarily show a
dislike for the Aryan theory with its express avowal of the superiority
of the European races over the Asiatic races. But the Brahmin scholar
has not only no such aversion but he most willingly hails it. The
reasons are obvious. The Brahmin believes in the two-nation theory.
He claims to be the representative of the Aryan race and he regards
the rest of the Hindus as descendants of the non-Aryans. The theory
helps him to establish his kinship with the European races and share
their arrogance and their superiority. He likes particularly that part
of the theory which makes the Aryan an invader and a conqueror
of the non-Aryan native races. For it helps him to maintain and justify
his overlordship over the non-Brahmins.
The second explanation why the Aryan race theory is not dead is
because of the general insistence by European scholars that the word
Varna means colour and the acceptance of that view by a majority
of the Brahmin scholars. Indeed, this is the mainstay of the Aryan
theory. There is no doubt that as long as this interpretation of the
Varna continues to be accepted, the Aryan theory will continue to
live. This part of the Aryan theory is therefore very important and
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calls for fuller examination. It needs to be examined from three
different points of view: (1) Were the European races fair or dark?
(2) Were the Indo-Aryans fair? and (3) What is the original meaning
of the word Varna ?
On the question of the colour of the earliest Europeans Prof. Ripley
is quite definite that they were of dark complexion. Prof. Ripley goes
on to say:1
“We are strengthened in this assumption that the earliest Europeans
were not only long-headed but also dark complexioned, by various points
in our enquiry thus far. We have proved the prehistoric antiquity of the
living Cro-Magnon type in Southern France; and we saw that among these
peasants, the prevalence of black hair and eyes is very striking. And
comparing types in the British Isles we saw that everything tended to show
that the brunet populations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland constituted the
most primitive stratum of population in Britain. Furthermore, in that
curious spot in Garfagnana, where a survival of the ancient Ligurian
population of Northern Italy is indicated, there also are the people
characteristically dark. Judged, therefore, either in the light of general
principles or of local details, it would seem as if this earliest race in Europe
must have been very dark.... It was Mediterranean in its pigmental
affinities, and not Scandinavian.”
Turning to the Vedas for any indication whether the Aryans had
any colour prejudice, reference may be made to the following passages
in the Rig Veda :
In Rig Veda, i. 117.8, there is a reference to Ashvins having brought
about the marriage between Shyavya and Rushati. Shyavya is black
and Rushati is fair.
In Rig Veda, i. 117.5, there is a prayer addressed to Ashvins for
having saved Vandana who is spoken as of golden colour.
In Rig Veda, ii.3.9, there is a prayer by an Aryan invoking the
Devas to bless him with a son with certain virtues but of (pishanga)
tawny (reddish brown) complexion.
These instances show that the Vedic Aryans had no colour
prejudice. How could they have? The Vedic Aryans were not of one
colour. Their complexion varied; some were of copper complexion,
some white, and some black. Rama the son of Dasharatha has been
described as Shyama i.e., dark in complexion, so is Krishna the
descendant of the Yadus, another Aryan clan. The Rishi Dirghatamas,
who is the author of many mantras of the Rig Veda must have been
of dark colour if his name was given to him after his complexion.
Kanva is an Aryan rishi of great repute. But according to the
description given in Rig Veda—x.31.11—he was of dark colour.

1 Prof. Ripley : Races of Europe, p. 466
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To take up the third and the last point, namely, the meaning of
the word Varna1 Let us first see in what sense it is used in the Rig
Veda. The word Varna is used2 in the Rig Veda in 22 places. Of these,
in about 17 places the word is used in reference to deities such as
Ushas, Agni, Soma, etc., and means lustre, features or colour. Being
used in connection with deities, it would be unsafe to use them for
ascertaining what meaning the word Varna had in the Rig Veda when
applied to human beings. There are four and at the most five places
in the Rig Veda where the word is used in reference to human beings.
They are :
1) i.104.2;
2) i.179.6;
3) ii.12.4;
4) iii.34.5;
5) ix.71.2.
Do these references prove that the word Varna is used in the Rig
Veda in the sense of colour and complexion?
Rig veda, iii.34.5 seems to be of doubtful import. The expression
‘caused Shukla Varna to increase’ is capable of double interpretation.
It may mean Indra made Ushas throw her light and thereby increase
the white colour, or it may mean that the hymn-maker being of white
complexion, people of his i.e., of white colour increased. The second
meaning would be quite far-fetched for the simple reason that the
expansion of the white colour is the effect and lightening of Ushas
is the cause.
Rig Veda, ix.71.2 the expression ‘abandons Asura Varna’ is not
clear, reading it in the light of the other stanzas in the Sukta. The
Sukta belongs to Soma Pavamana. Bearing this in mind, the expres-
sion ‘abandons Asura Varna’ must be regarded as a description of
Soma. The word Varna as used here is indicative of roopa. The second
half of the stanza says: ‘he throws away his black or dark covering
and takes on lustrous covering.’ From this it is clear that the word
Varna is used as indicative of darkness.
Rig Veda, i.179.6 is very helpful. The stanza explains that Rishi
Agastya cohabitated with Lopamudra in order to obtain praja, children
and strength and says that as a result two Varnas prospered. It is
not clear from the stanza, which are the two Varnas referred to in
the stanzas, although the intention is to refer to Aryas and Dasas.

1 On what follows, see Maharashtra Dnyanakosha, Vol. III pp. 39-42.
2 See Appendix VI, p. 216.
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Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the Varna in the stanza
means class and not colour.
In Rig Veda, i.104.2 and Rig Veda, ii.12.4 are the two stanzas in
which the word Varna is applied to Dasa. The question is: What does
the word Varna mean when applied to Dasa? Does it refer to the
colour and complexion of the Dasa, or does it indicate that Dasas
formed a separate class? There is no way of arriving at a positive
conclusion as to which of the two meanings is correct.
The evidence of the Rig Veda is quite inconclusive. In this
connection, it will be of great help to know if the word occurs in
the literature of the Indo-Iranians and if so, in what sense.1
Fortunately, the word Varna does occur in the Zend Avesta. It takes
the form of Varana or Varena. It is used specifically in the sense
of “Faith, Religious doctrine, Choice of creed or belief.” It is derived
from the root Var which means to put faith in, to believe in. One
comes across the word Varana or Varena in the Gathas about six
times used in the sense of faith, doctrine, creed or belief.
It occurs in Gatha Ahunavaiti—Yasna Ha 30 Stanza 2 which when
translated in English reads as follows :
“Give heed with your ears and contemplate the highest Truth I proclaim;
with your illumined mind introspect. Each man for himself must determine
his (Avarenao) faith. Before the Great Event, let each individually be
awake to the Truth we teach.”
This is one of the most famous strophes of the Gatha where
Zarathushtra exhorts each one individually to use reasoning faculty
and freedom of choice in the selection of his or her faith. The words
occurring here are ‘Avarenao vichithahya,’ Avarenao meaning faith,
belief and vichi- thahya meaning ‘of discriminating, of selecting of
It occurs in Gatha Ahunavati—Yasna Ha 31 Stanza 11. The word
used is Vareneng accusative plural of Varena meaning ‘belief, faith.’
In this stanza, Zarathushtra propounds the theory of the creation of
man. After speaking about man’s creation being completed, in the
last half line Zarathushtra says “voluntary beliefs are given (to man)”
It occurs in Gatha Ushtavaiti— Yasna Ha 45 Stanza 1 in the form
of Varena. In the last line of this strophe, Zarathushtra says ‘owing
to sinful belief (or evil faith) the wicked is of evil tongue (or invested

1 The information relating to the meaning of the word ‘Varna’ in the Indo-Iranian
literature, I owe to my friend Dastur Bode, who is well-versed in it.
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It occurs in Gatha Ushtavaiti—Yasna Ha 45 Stanza 2 in the same
form as above Varena in the clear sense of faith, religion, belief, etc.
In this stanza, Zarathushtra is propounding his philosophy of good
and evil and speaking of dual aspects of human mind. In this stanza,
the two mentalities—the good mentality and the evil mentality—are
speaking to each other saying “Neither in thought, word, intelligence,
faith (or religion or creed) utterance, deed, conscience nor soul do
we agree.”
It occurs in Gatha Spenta Mainyu,—Yasna Ha 48 Stanza 4 in the
form of Vareneng meaning religion, faith (root Vere Persian gervidan
= to have faith in). In this stanza Zarathushtra says that “Whosoever
will make his mind pure and holy and thus keep his conscience pure
by deed and word, such man’s desire is in accordance with his faith
(religion, belief).”
It occurs in Gatha Spenta Mainyu,—Yasna Ha 49 Stanza 3 as
Varenai in dative case meaning ‘religion’. In the same stanza occurs
the word Thaeshai which also means religion, creed, religious law.
These two words Varenai and Tkaesha occurring in the same stanza
strengthens our argument, as the word Tkaesha clearly means
religion as is found in the compound Ahuratkaesha meaning ‘The
Ahurian religion’. This word Tkaesha is translated in Pahlavi as Kish
which means religion.
In Vendidad (a book of Zarathushtrian sanitary law written in
Avesta language) we come across a word Anyo Varena. Here Anyo
means other and Varena means religion, thus a man of different
religion, faith, belief is spoken of as Anyo-Varena. Similarly, we come
across in Vendidad the word Anyo-Tkaesha also meaning a man of
different religion.
We come across many verbal forms in the Gatha derived from this
root, e.g., Ahunavaiti Gatha Yasna Ha, 31, Stanza 3. Zarathushtra
declares Ya jvanto vispeng vauraya; here the verb vauraya means I
may cause to induce belief, faith (in God) (in all the living ones).
In Yasna Ha, 28: Stanza 5, we come across the verb vauroimaidi,
‘We may give faith to.’ We come across another interesting form of
this word in Gatha Vahishtaishtish, Yasna Ha, 53, Stanza 9 Duz-
Varenaish. It is instrumental plural. The first part Duz means wicked,
false and Varenai means believer. Thus the word means “A man
belonging to false or wicked religion or a false or wicked believer.”
In the Zarathushtrian Confession of Faith, which forms Yasna Ha,
we come across the word Fravarane meaning ‘I confess my faith,
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my belief in Mazdayasno Zarathushtrish ‘Mazda worshipping Zara-
thushtrian Religion’. This phrase occurs in almost all the Zara-
thushtrian prayers. There is yet another form in the Zarathushtrian
Confession Yasna, 12, Ya-Varena. Here Ya is relative pronoun
meaning which and Varena—faith, religion. Thus, the word means
‘the religion to which’. This form Ya Varena is used nine times in
Yasna 12, and it is used in the clear sense of faith or religion. Here
again the word Varena is placed along with the word Tkaesha which
means religion.
A very interesting reference is found in Yasna 16 Zarathushtrahe
varenemcha tkaeshemcha yazamaide. Here the Varena and Tkaesha
of Zarathushtra is worshipped. It is quite clear from the use of these
corresponding and correlative words that the faith and religion of
Zarthushtra is meant. The translation of the above line is ‘We worhsip
the faith and religion of Zarathushtra.’
This evidence from the Zend Avesta as to the meaning of the word
Varna leaves no doubt that it originally meant a class holding to
a particular faith and it had nothing to do with colour or complextion.
The conclusions that follow from the examination of the Western
theory may now be summarized. They are:
(1) The Vedas do not know any such race as the Aryan race.
(2) There is no evidence in the Vedas of any invasion of India
by the Aryan race and its having conquered the Dasas and Dasyus
supposed to be natives of India.
(3) There is no evidence to show that the distinction between
Aryans, Dasas and Dasyus was a racial distinction.
(4) The Vedas do not support the contention that the Aryas were
different in colour from the Dasas and Dasyus.
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ENOUGH has been said to show how leaky is the Aryan theory
expounded by Western scholars and glibly accepted by their Brahmin
fellows. Yet, the theory has such a hold on the generality of people
that what has been said against it may mean no more than scotching
it. Like the snake it must be killed. It is therefore necessary to pursue
the examination of the theory further with a view to expose its
hollowness completely.
Those who uphold the theory of an Aryan race invading India and
conquering the Dasas and Dasyus fail to take note of certain verses
in the Rig Veda. These verses are of crucial importance. To build
up a theory of an Aryan race marching into India from outside and
conquering the non-Aryan native tribes without reference to these
verses is an utter futility. I reproduce below the verses I have in
mind :
(1) Rig Veda, vi. 33.3.—“Oh, Indra, Thou hast killed both of our
opponents, the Dasas and the Aryas.”
(2) Rig Veda, vi.60.3.—“Indra and Agni—these protectors of the good
and righteous suppress the Dasas and Aryas who hurt us.”
(3) Rig Veda, vii.81.1.—“Indra and Varuna killed the Dasas and Aryas
who were the enemies of Sudas and thus protected Sudas from them.”
(4) Rig Veda, viii.24.27.—“Oh you, Indra, who saved us from the hands
of the cruel Rakshasas and from the Aryas living on the banks of the Indus,
do thou deprive the Dasas of their weapons.”
(5) Rig Veda, x.38.3.—“Oh you much revered Indra, those Dasas and
Aryas who are irreligious and who are our enemies, make it easy for us
with your blessings to subdue them. With your help we shall kill them.”
(6) Rig Veda, x.86.19.—Oh, You Mameyu, you give him all powers who
prays you. With your help we will destroy our Arya and our Dasyu enemies.
Anyone who reads these verses, notes what they say calmly and
coolly and considers them against the postulates of the Western
theory will be taken aback by them. If the authors of these verses
of the Rig Veda were Aryas then the idea which these verses convey
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is that there were two different communites of Aryas who were not
only different but oppose and inimical to each other. The existence
of two Aryas is not a mere matter of conjecture or interpretation.
It is a fact in support of which there is abundant evidence.


The first piece of such evidence to which attention may be invited,
is the discrimination which existed for a long time in the matter of
the recognition of the sacred character of the different Vedas. All
students of the Vedas know that there are really two Vedas: (1) the
Rig Veda and (2) the Atharva Veda. The Sama Veda and the Yajur
Veda are merely different forms of the Rig Veda. All students of the
Vedas know that the Atharva Veda was not recognised by the
Brahmins as sacred as the Rig Veda for a long time. Why was such
a distinction made? Why was the Rig Veda regarded as sacred? Why
was the Atharva Veda treated as vulgar? The answer, I like to
suggest, is that the two belonged to two different races of Aryans
and it is only when they had become one that the Atharva Veda came
to be regarded on a par with the Rig Veda.
Besides this, there is enough evidence, scattered through the whole
of the Brahmanic literature, of the existence of two different ideolo-
gies, particularly relating to creation, which again points to the
existence of two different Aryan races. Reference to one of these has
already been made in Chapter 2. It remains to draw attention to the
second type of ideology.
To begin with the Vedas. The following ideology is to be found in
the Taittiriya Samhita :
T.S.,1 vi.5.6.1.—“Aditi, desirous of sons, cooked, a Brahmaudana oblation
for the gods, the Sadhyas. They gave her the remnant of it. This she ate.
She conceived seed. Four Adityas were born to her. She cooked a second
(oblation). She reflected, ‘from the remains of the oblation these sons have
been born to me. If I shall eat (the oblation) first, more brilliant (sons)
will be born to me.’ She ate it first; she conceived seed; an imperfect egg
was produced from her. She cooked a third (oblation) for the Adityas,
repeating the formula ‘may this religious toil have been undergone for my
enjoyment.’ The Adityas said, ‘Let us choose a boon; let anyone who is
produced from this be ours only; let anyone of his progeny who is
prosperous be for us a source of enjoyment.’ In consequence the Aditya
Vivasvat was born. This is his progeny, namely, men. Among them he alone
who sacrifices is prosperous, and becomes a cause of enjoyment to the

1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 26.
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Turning to the Brahmanas. The stories of creation contained in
the Satapatha Brahmanas are set out below :
S.B.,1 i.8.1. 1.—In the morning they brought to Manu water for washing,
as men are in the habit of bringing it to wash with the hands. As he was
thus washing, a fish came into his hands (which spake to him) ‘preserve me;
I shall save thee.’ (Manu enquired) ‘From what wilt thou save me?’ (The fish
replied) ‘A flood shall sweep away all these creatures; from it will I rescue
thee.’ (Manu asked) ‘How (shall) thy preservation (be effected)?’ The fish said
: ‘So long as we are small, we are in great peril, for fish devours fish; thou
shalt preserve me first in a jar. When I grow too large for the jar, then thou
shalt dig a trench, and preserve me in that. When I grow too large for the
trench, then thou shalt carry me away to the ocean. I shall then be beyond
the reach of danger. Straight, away he became a large fish; for he waxes
to the utmost. (He said) ‘Now in such and such a year, then the flood will
come; thou shalt embark in the ship when the flood rises, and I shall deliver
thee from it.’ Having thus preserved the fish, Manu carried him away to the
sea. Then in the same year which the fish had enjoined, he constructed a
ship and resorted to him. When the flood rose, Manu embarked in the ship.
The fish swam towards him. He fastened the cable of the ship to the fish’s
horn. By this means he passed over this northern mountain. The fish said,
‘I have delivered thee; fasten the ship to a tree. But lest the water should
cut thee off whilst thou art on the mountain, as much as the water subsides
so much shalt thou descend after it.’ He accordingly descended after it as
much (as it subsided). Wherefore also this, viz., ‘Manu’s descent’ is (the name)
of the northern mountain. Now the flood had swept away all these creatures,
so Manu alone was left here. Desirous of offspring, he lived worshipping and
toiling in arduous religious rites. Among these he also sacrificed with the
paka offering. He cast clarified butter, thickened milk, whey and curds as
an oblation into the waters. Thence in a year a woman was produced. She
rose up as it were unctuous. Clarified butter adheres to her steps. Mitra and
Varuna met her. They said to her ‘who art thou?’ ‘Manu’s daughter’ (she
replied). Say (thou art) ours’ (they rejoined). ‘No’, she said, ‘I am his who
begot me.’ They desired a share in her. She promised that, or she did not
promise that; but passed onward. She came to Manu. Manu said to her, ‘who
art thou?’ ‘Thy daughter’ she replied. ‘How, glorious one ‘asked Manu,’ (art
thou) my daughter?’ ‘Thou hast generated me,’ she said,’ from those oblations,
butter, thick milk, whey and curds, which thou didst cast into the waters.
I am a benediction. Apply me in the sacrifice. If thou wilt employ me in
the sacrifice, thou shalt abound in offspring and cattle. Whatever benediction
thou will ask through me, shall accrue to thee.’ He (accordingly) introduced
her (as) that (which comes in) the middle of the sacrifice; for that is the middle
of the sacrifice which (comes) between the introductory and concluding forms.
With her he lived worshipping and toiling in arduous religious rites, desirous
of offspring. With her he begot this offspring which is this offspring of Manu.
Whatever benediction he asked with her, was all vouchsafed to him. This is
essentially that which is Ida. Whosoever, knowing this, lives with Ida, begets

1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 181-184.
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this offspring which Manu begot. Whatever benediction he asks with her,
is all vouchsafed to him.”
(2) S.B.,1 vi.1.2.11.— “Wherefore they say, ‘Prajapati having created those
worlds was supported upon the earth. For him these herbs were cooked
as food. That (food) he ate. He became pregnant He created the gods from
his upper vital airs, and mortal offspring from his lower vital airs. In
whatever way he created, so he created. But Prajapati created all this,
whatever exists.”
(3) S.B.,2 vii.5.2.6.— Prajapati was formerly this (universe), one only. He
desired.’ Let me create food, and be propagated.’ He formed animals from
his breath, a man from his soul, a horse from his eye, a bull from his
breath, a sheep from his ear, a goat from his voice. Since he formed animals
from his breaths, therefore men say,’ the breaths are animals.’ The soul
is the first of the breaths. Since he formed a man from his ‘soul’ therefore
they say ‘man is the first of the animals, and the strongest.’ The soul
is all the breaths; for all the breaths depend upon the soul. Since he formed
man from his soul, therefore they say,’ man is all the animals;’ for all
these are man’s.”
(4) S.B.,3 x.1.3.1.— “Prajapati created living beings. From his upper vital airs
he created the gods: from his lower vital airs mortal creatures. Afterwards
he created death a devourer of creatures.”
(5) S.B.,4 xiv.4.2.1.— “This universe was formerly soul only, in the form of
Purusha. Looking closely, he saw nothing but himself (or soul). He first said,’
This is I.’ Then he became one having the name of I. Hence even now a
man, when called, first says, ‘this is I, ‘and then declares the other name
when he has. In as much as he, before (purvah) all this, burnt up (aushat)
all sins, he (is called), purusha. The man who knows this burns up the person
who wishes to be before him. He was afraid. Hence a man when alone is
afraid. This (being) considered that ‘there is no other thing but myself; of
what am I afraid?’ Then his fear departed. For why should he have feared?
It is of a second person that people are afraid. He did not enjoy happiness.
Hence a person when alone does not enjoy happiness. He desired a second.
He was so much as a man and a woman when locked in embrace. He caused
this same self to fall as under into two parts. Thence arose a husband and
wife. Hence Yajnavalkya has said that ‘this one’s self is like the half of a
split pea.’ Hence the void is filled up by woman. He cohabited with her. From
them Men were born. She reflected ‘how does he, after having produced me
from himself, cohabit with me? Ah! let me disappear’; she became a cow,
and the other a bull; and he cohabited with her. From them kine were
produced. The one became a mare, the other a stallion, the one a she-ass,
the other a male-ass. He cohabited with her. From them the class of animals
with undivided hoofs were produced. The one became a she-goat, the other
a he-goat, the one a ewe, the other a ram. He cohabited with her. From them
goats and sheep were produced. In this manner pairs of all creatures
whatsoever down to ants, were produced.

1 Muir. Vol. I, p. 30.
2 Muir. Vol. I. p. 24.
3 Muir, Vol. I, p. 31.
4 Muir. Vol. I, p. 25.
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The Taittiriya Brahmana has the following :
T.B.,1 ii.2.9.1.—“At first this (universe) was not anything. There was neither
sky, nor earth, nor air. Being non-existent, it resolved ‘let me be.’ It became
fervent. From that fervour smoke was produced. It again became fervent. From
that fervour fire was produced. It again became fervent. From that fervour
light was produced. It again became fervent. From that fervour flame was
produced. It again became fervent. From that fervour rays were produced.
It again became fervent. From that fervour blazes were produced. It again
became fervent. It became condensed like a cloud. It clove its bladder. That
became the sea. Hence men do not drink of the sea. For they regard it as
like the place of generation. Hence water issues forth before an animal when
it is being born. After that the Dasahotri (a particular formula) was created.
Prajapati is the Dasahotri. That man succeeds, who thus knowing the power
of austere abstraction (or fervour) practises it. This was then water, fluid.
Prajapati wept (exclaiming). ‘For what purpose have I been born, if (I have
been born) from this which forms no support.’ That which fell into the waters
became the earth. That which he wiped away, became the air. That which
he wiped away, upward, became the sky. From the circumstance that he wept
(arodit), these two regions have the name of rodasi, (words). They do not
weep in the house of the man who knows this. This was the birth of these
worlds. He who thus knows the birth of these worlds, incurs no suffering
in these worlds. He obtained this (earth as a) basis. Having obtained (this
earth as a) basis, he desired. ‘May I be propagated.’ He practised austere
fervour. He became pregnant. He created Asuras from his abdomen. To them
he milked out food in an earthen dish. He cast off that body of his. It became
darkness. He desired ‘May I be propagated.’ He practised austere fervour.
He became pregnant. He created living beings (prajah) from his organ of
generation. Hence they are the most numerous because he created them from
his generative organ. To them he milked out milk in a wooden dish. He cast
off that body of his. It became moonlight. He desired ‘May I be propagated.’
He practised austere fervour. He became pregnant. He created the seasons
from his armpits. To them he milked out butter in a silver dish. He cast
off that body of his. It became the period which connects day and night. He
desired ‘May I be propagated.’ He practised austere fervour. He became
pregnant. He created the gods from his mouth. To them he milked out Soma
in a golden dish. He cast off that body of his. It became day. These are
Prajapati’s milkings. He who thus knows, milks out offspring. ‘Day (diva) has
come to us:’ this (exclamation expresses) the godhead of the gods. He who
thus knows the godhead of the gods, obtains the gods. This is the birth of
days and nights. He who thus knows the birth of days and nights, incurs
no suffering in the days and nights. Mind (or soul, manas) was created from
the non-existent. Mind created Prajapati. Prajapati created offspring. All this,
whatever exists, rests absolutely on mind. This is that Brahma called
Svovasyasa. For the man who thus knows, (Ushas), dawning, dawns more
and more bright; he becomes prolific in offspring, and (rich) in cattle; he
obtains the rank of Parameshthin.”
(3) T.B.,2 ii.3.8.1.— “Prajapati desired, ‘May I propagate.’ He practised
austerity. He became pregnant. He became yellow brown. Hence a woman when
1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 28-29.
2 Muir, Vol. I, p. 23.
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pregnant, being yellow, becomes brown. Being pregnant with a foetus, he
became exhausted. Being exhausted he became blackish-brown. Hence an
exhausted person becomes blackish-brown. His breath became alive. With
that breath (asu) he created Asuras. Therein consists the Asura-nature
of Asuras. He who thus knows this Asura-nature of Asuras becomes a man
possessing breath. Breath does not forsake him. Having created the Asuras
he regarded himself as a father. After that he created the Fathers (Pitris).
That constitutes the fatherhood of the Fathers. He who thus knows the
fatherhood of the Fathers, becomes as a father of his own; the Fathers
resort to his oblation. Having created the Fathers, he reflected. After that
he created men. That constitutes the manhood of men. He who knows the
manhood of men, becomes intelligent. Mind does not forsake him. To him,
when he was creating men, day appeared in the heaven. After that he
created the gods. This constitutes the godhead of the gods. To him who
thus knows the godhead of the gods, day appears in the heavens. These
are the four streams, viz; gods, men, fathers and Asuras. In all of these
water is like the air.”
(4) T.B.,1 iii.2.3.9.—“This Shudra has sprung from non-existence.”
The following explanation of the origin of creation is given by the
Taittiriya Aranyaka :
T.A.,2 i.12.3.1.— “This is water, fluid. Prajapati alone was produced on a
lotus leaf. Within, in his mind, desire arose, ‘Let me create this.’ Hence
whatever a man aims at in his mind, he declares by speech, and performs
by act. Hence this verse has been uttered, ‘Desire formerly arose in it, which
was the primal germ of mind, (and which) sages, searching with their intellect,
have discovered in the heart as the bond between the existent and the non-
existent’ (Rig Veda x.129.4). That of which he is desirous comes to the man
who thus knows. He practised austere fervour. Having practised austere
fervour, he shook his body. From its flesh the rishis (called) Arunas, Ketus
and Vatarasanas arose. His nails became the Vaikhanasas, his hairs the
Valakhilyas. The fluid (of his body became) a tortoise moving amid the waters.
He said to him ‘ Thou hast sprung from my skin and flesh.’ ‘No,’ replied the
tortoise,’ I was here before.’ In that (in his having been ‘before’ purvam)
consists the manhood of a man (purusha). Becoming a man Purusha with a
thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet (R.V.x.90.1) he arose. Prajapati
said to him, ‘thou wert produced before me; do thou first make this.’ He took
water from this in the cavity of his two hands and placed it on the east,
repeating the text, ‘so be it, O Sun.’ From thence the sun arose. That was
the eastern quarter. Then Aruna Ketu placed (the water) to the south, saying
‘so be it, O Agni.’ Thence Agni arose. That was the southern quarter. Then Aruna
Ketu placed (the water) to the west, saying ‘so be it, O Vayu.’ Thence arose
Vayu. That was the western quarter. Then Aruna Ketu placed (the water)
to the north, saying ‘so be it, O Indra.’ Then arose Indra. That is the northern
quarter. Then Aruna Ketu placed (the water) in the centre, saying ‘so be it,
O Pushan.’ Thence arose Pushan. That is this quarter. The Aruna Ketu placed
(the water) above saying ‘so be it, gods.’ Thence arose gods, men,

1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 21.
2 Muir, Vol. I, p. 32.
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Fathers, Gandharvas and Apsaras. That is the upper quarter. From the drops
which fell apart arose the Asuras, Rakshasas, and Pisachas. Therefore they
perished, because they were produced from drops. Hence this text has been
uttered; ‘when the great waters became pregnant, containing wisdom, and
generating Svayambhu, from them were created these creations. All this was
produced from the waters. Therefore all this is Brahma Svayambhu.’ Hence
all this was as it were loose, as it were unsteady. Prajapati was that. Having
made himself through himself, he entered into that. Wherefore this verse has
been uttered; ‘Having formed the world, having formed existing things and
all intermediate quarters, Prajapati the first born of the ceremonial entered
into himself with himself.’ ”


The Mahabharata has its own contribution to make to the subject.
It propounds the theory of creation by Manu.
The Vanaparvan 1 says:
“There was a great rishi, Manu, son of Vivasvat, majestic, in lustre equal
to Prajapati. In energy, fiery vigour, prosperity and austere fervour he
surpassed both his father and his grand father. Standing with uplifted arm,
on one foot, on the spacious Badari, he practised intense austere fervour.
This direful exercise he performed with his head downwards, and with
unwinking eyes, for 10,000 years. Once, when, clad in dripping rags, with
matted hair, he was so engaged, a fish came to him on the banks of the
Chirini, and spake:’ Lord, I am a small fish; I dread the stronger ones,
and from them you must save me. For the stronger fish devour the weaker;
this has been immemorially ordained as our means of subsistence. Deliver
me from this flood of apprehension in which I am sinking, and I will requite
the deed.’ Hearing this, Manu filled with compassion, took the fish in his
hand, and bringing him to the water threw him into a jar bright as a
moonbeam. In it the fish, being excellently tended, grew; for Manu treated
him like a son. After a long time he became very large and could not be
contained in the jar. Then, seeing Manu he said again:’ In order that I
may thrive, remove me elsewhere.’ Manu then took him out of the jar,
brought him to a large pond, and threw him in. There he continued to
grow for very many years. Although the pond was two yojanas long and
one yojana broad, the lotus-eyed fish found in it no room to move; and
again said to Manu.’ Take me to Ganga, the dear queen of the ocean-
monarch; in her I shall dwell; or do as thou thinkest best, for I must
contentedly submit to thy authority, as through thee I have exceedingly
increased.’ Manu accordingly took the fish and threw him into the river
Ganga. There he waxed for some time, when he again said to Manu, From
my great bulk I cannot move in the Ganga; be gracious and remove me quickly
to the ocean.’ Manu took him out of the Ganga; and cast him into the sea.
Although so huge, the fish was easily borne, and pleasant to touch and smell,
as Manu carried him. When he had been thrown into the ocean he said
to Manu:’ Great Lord, thou hast in every way preserved me; now hear

1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 199-201.
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from me what thou must do when the time arrives. Soon shall all these
terrestrial objects, both fixed and moving, be dissolved. The time for the
purification of the worlds has now arrived. I therefore inform thee what is
for thy greatest good. The period dreadful for the universe, moving and fixed,
has come. Make for thyself a strong ship, with a cable attached; embark in
it with the seven rishis and stow in it, carefully preserved and assorted, all
the seeds which have been described of old by Brahmins. When embarked
in the ship, look out for me. I shall come recognizable by my horn. So shalt
thou do; I greet thee and depart. These great waters cannot be crossed over
without me. Distrust not my word. ‘Manu replied,’ I shall do as thou hast
said. ‘After taking mutual leave they departed each on his own way. Manu
then, as enjoined, taking with him the seeds’ floated on the billowy ocean
in the beautiful ship. He then thought on the fish, which knowing his desire,
arrived with all speed, distinguished by a horn. When Manu saw the horned
leviathan, lofty as a mountain, he fastened the ship’s cable to the horn. Being
thus attached the fish dragged the ship with great rapidity transporting it
across the briny ocean which seemed to dance with its waves and thunder
with its waters. Tossed by the tempests, the ship whirled like a reeling and
intoxicated woman. Neither the earth nor the quarter of the world appeared;
there was nothing but water, air, and sky. In the world thus confounded,
the seven rishis, Manu and the fish were beheld. So, for very many years,
the fish, unwearied, drew the ship over the waters; and brought it at length
to the highest peak of Himavat. He then, smiling gently, said to the rishis,’
Bind the ship without delay to this peak.’ They did so accordingly. And that
highest peak of Himavat is still known by the name of Naubandhana (‘the
Binding of the Ship’.} The friendly fish (or god, animisha) then said to the
rishis,’ I am the Prajapati Brahma, than whom nothing higher can be reached.
In the form of a fish I have delivered you from this great danger. Manu
shall create all living beings, gods, asuras, men, with all worlds, and all things
moving and fixed. By my favour and through severe austere fervour he shall
attain perfect insight into his creative work, and shall not become bewildered.’
Having thus spoken, the fish in an instant disappeared. Manu, desirous to
call creatures into existence and bewildered in his work, performed a great
act of austere fervour; and then began visibly to create all living beings.”
The Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata gives a somewhat different
version of the story of creation:1
“Vaishampayana said : I shall, after making obeisance to Svayambhu relate
to thee exactly the production and destruction of the gods and other beings.
Six great rishis are known as the mind-born sons of Brahma, viz., Marichi,
Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha and Kratu. Kasyapa was the son of Marichi:
and from Kasyapa sprang these creatures. There were born to Daksha thirteen
daughters of eminent rank, Adili, Diti, Danu, Kala, Danayu, Simuka, Krodha,
Pradha, Visva, Vinata, Kapila and Muni. Kadru also was of the number. These
daughters had valorous sons and grandsons innumerable.
Daksha, the glorious rishi, tranquil in spirit, and great in austere fervour,
sprang from the right thumb of Brahma. From the left thumb sprang that great
Muni’s wife on whom he begot fifty daughters. Of these he gave ten to Dharma,

1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 122-126.
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twentyseven to Indu (Soma), and according to the celestial system, thirteen
to Kasyapa. Pitamaha’s descendant Manu, the god and the lord of creatures,
was his (it does not clearly appear whose) son. The eight Vasus, whom I
shall detail, were his sons. Dividing the right breast of Brahma, the glorious
Dharma (Righteousness), issued in a human form, bringing happiness to all
people. He had three eminent sons, Sama, Kama, and Harsha (Tranquillity,
Love, and Joy), who are the delight of all creatures, and by their might support
the world .... Arushi, the daughter of Manu, was the wife of that sage
(Chyavana, son of Bhrigu)... There are two other sons of Brahma, whose mark
remains in the world, Dhatri, and Vidhatri, who remained with Manu. Their
sister was the beautiful goddess Lakshmi, whose home is the lotus. Her mind-
born sons are the steeds who move in the sky... When the creatures who
were desirous of food, had devoured one another, Adharma (Uprighteousness)
was produced, the destroyer of all beings. His wife was Nirriti, and hence
the Rakshasas are called Nairritas, or the offspring of Nirriti. She had three
dreadful sons, continually addicted to evil deeds, Bhaya, Mahabhaya (Fear
and Terror) and Mrityu (Death) the ender of beings. He has neither wife,
nor any son, for he is the ender.”
“Born all with splendour, like that of great rishis, the ten sons of Prachetas
are reputed to have been virtuous and holy; and by them the glorious beings
were formerly burnt up by the fire springing from their mouths. From them
was born Daksha Prachetasa; and from Daksha, the Parent of the world (were
produced) these creatures. Cohabiting with Virini, the Muni Daksha begot
a thousand sons like himself, famous for their religious observances, to whom
Narada taught the doctrine of final liberation, the unequalled knowledge of
the Sankhya. Desirous of creating offspring, the Prajapati Daksha next formed
fifty daughters, of whom he gave ten to Dharma, thirteen to Kasyapa, and
twenty-seven devoted to the regulation of time to Indu (Soma)... On Dakshayani,
the most excellent of his thirteen wives, Kasyapa, the son of Marichi, begot
the Adityas, headed by Indra and distinguished by their energy, and also
Vivasvat. To Vivasvat was born a son, the mighty Yama Vaivasvata. To
Martanda (i.e., Vivasvat, the Sun) was born the wise and mighty Manu, and
also the renowned Yama, his (Manu’s) younger brother. Righteous was this
wise Manu, on whom a race was founded. Hence this (family) of men became
known as the race of Manu. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and other men sprang
from this Manu. From him, O king, came the Brahmin conjoined with the
Kshatriya. Among them the Brahmins, children of Manu, held the Veda with
the Vedangas. The children of Manu are said to have been Vena, Dhrishnu,
Narishyanta, Nabhaga, Ikshvaku, Karusha, Saryati, IIa the eighth, Prishadra
the ninth, who was addicted to the duties of a Kshatriya, and Nabhagarishta,
the tenth. Manu had also fifty other sons; but they all, as we have heard,
perished in consequence of mutual dissensions. Subsequently, the wise
Pururavas was born of IIa, who, we heard, was both his mother and his


The Ramayana also deals with the subject of creation. One account
of it will be found in the second Kanda.1 It says :

1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 115.
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“Perceiving Rama to be incensed, Vasishtha replied: ‘Jabali also knows
the destruction and renovation of this world. But he spoke as he did from
a desire to induce you to return. Learn from me, lord of the earth, this
(account of) the origin of the world. The universe was nothing but water.
In it the earth was fashioned. Then Brahma Svayambhu came into
existence, with the deities. He next, becoming a boar, raised up the earth,
and created the entire world, with the saints, his sons, Brahma, the
eternal, unchanging, and undecaying, was produced from the ether (akasa).
From him sprang Marichi, of whom Kasyapa was the son. From Kasyapa
sprang Vivasvat: and from him was descended Manu, who was formerly
the lord of creatures (Prajapati). Ikshvaku was the son of Manu, and to
him this prosperous earth was formerly given by his father. Know that
this Ikshvaku was the former king in Ayodhya.”
There is besides this another story of creation. It occurs in the
third Kanda and is in the following terms :1
“Having heard the words of Rama, the bird (Jatayu) made known to
him his own race, and himself, and the origin of all beings. ‘Listen while
I declare to you from the commencement all the Prajapatis (lords of
creatures) who came into existence in the earliest time. Kardama was the
first, then Vikrita, Sesha, Samsraya, the energetic Bahuputra, Sthanu,
Marichi, Atri, the strong Kratu, Pulastya, Angiras, Prachetas, Pulaha,
Daksha, then Vivasvat, Arishtanemi, and the glorious Kasyapa, who was
the last. The Prajapati Daksha is famed to have had sixty daughters. Of
these Kasyapa took in marriage eight elegant maidens, Aditi, Diti, Danu,
Kalaka, Tamra, Krodhavasa, Manu and Anala. Kasyapa, pleased, then, said
to these maids:’ ye shall bring forth sons like me, preservers of the three
worlds.’ Aditi, Dili, Danu and Kalaka assented; but the others did not
agree. Thirty-three gods were borne by Aditi, the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras,
and the two Asvins. ‘Manu, (wife) of Kasyapa, produced men, Brahmins,
Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. ‘Brahmins were born from the mouth,
Kshatriyas from the breast, Vaishyas from the thighs, and Shudras from
the feet’ so says the Veda. Anala gave birth to all trees with pure fruits.”


As an illustration of what the Puranas have to say, I extract the
following passages from the Vishnu Purana :2
“Before the mundane egg existed the divine Brahma Hiranyagarbha the
eternal originator of all worlds, who was the form and essence of Brahma, who
consists of the divine Vishnu, who again is identical with the Rik, Yajus, Saman
and Atharva-Vedas. From Brahma’s right thumb was born the Prajapati Daksha;
Daksha had a daughter Aditi; from her was born Vivasvat; and from him sprang
Manu. Manu had sons called Ikshvaku, Nriga, Dhrishta, Saryati, Narishyanta,
Pramsu, Nabhaganedishta, Karusha, and Prishadhra. Desirous of a son, Manu
sacrificed to Mitra and Varuna. but in consequence of a wrong invocation

1 Muir, I, p. 116.
2 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 220-221.
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through an irregularity of the hotri-priest a daughter called Ila was born.
Then through the favour of Mitra and Varuna she became to Manu a son
called Sudyumna. But being again changed into a female through the wrath
of Isvara (Mahadeva) she wandered near the hermitage of Budha the son
of Soma (the Moon); who becoming enamoured of her had by her a son called
Pururavas. After his birth, the god who is formed of sacrifice, of the Rik,
Yajus, Saman, and Atharva Vedas, of all things, of mind, of nothing, he who
is in the form of the sacrificial Male, was worshipped by the rishis of infinite
splendour who desired that Sudyumna should recover his manhood. Through
the favour of this god Ila became again Sudyumna.”
The Vishnu Purana then proceeds to give the following particulars
regarding the sons of Manu :
“(i) Prishadhra became a Shudra in consequence of his having killed
his religious preceptor’s cow.
(ii) From Karusha the Karushas, Kshatriyas of great power were
(iii) Nabhaga, the son of Nedishta became a Vaishya.”
The above is the story of the Solar race. The Vishnu Purana 1 has
also a parallel story relating to the Lunar race which according to
it sprang from Atri just as the Solar race from Manu :
“Atri was the son of Brahma, and the father of Soma (the moon), whom
Brahma installed as the sovereign of plants, Brahmins and stars. After
celebrating the rajasuya sacrifice, Soma became intoxicated with pride, and
carried off Tara (Star), the wife of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, whom,
although admonished and entreated by Brahma, the gods, and rishis, Soma
refused to restore. Soma’s part was taken by Usanas; and Rudra, who had
studied under Angiras, aided Brihaspati. A fierce conflict ensued between the
two sides supported respectively by the gods and the Daityas, etc., Brahma
interposed, and compelled Soma to restore Tara to her husband. She had,
however, in the meantime become pregnant, and bore a son Budha (the planet
Mercury), of whom when strongly urged, she acknowledged Soma to be the
father. Pururavas 2 was the son of this Budha by Ila, the daughter of Manu.
Pururavas 3 had six sons, of whom the eldest was Ayus. Ayus had five sons;
Nahusha, Kshattravriddha, Rambha, Raji and Anenas.
Kshattravriddha had a son Sunahotra who had three sons, Kasa, Lesa
and Gritsamada. From the last sprang Saunaka, who originated the system
of four castes. Kasa had a son, Kasiraja, of whom again Dirghatamas was
the son, as Dhanvantari was of Dirghatamas.”
Compare these ideologies of creation with those set out in Chapter
2 and what do we find? I think the result of comparison may be set
down in the following propositions: (1) one is sacerdotal in
1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 225-226.
2 The loves of Pururavas and the Apsara Urvasi, are related in the Satapatha
Brahmanas, xi. 5.1.11; in the Vishnu Purana, vi. 6.19. ff; in the Bhagavata Purana, ix.
14; and in the Harivamsa, section 26. The Manabharata, Adip, section 75, alludes to
Pururavas as having been engaged in a contest with the Brahmins. This passage will
be quoted hereafter.
3 Vishnu Purana, iv.7.1.
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colour and character, the other is secular; (2) one refers to a human
being Manu as the progenitor, the other refers to God Brahma or
Prajapati as the originator; (3) one is historical in its drift, the other
is supernatural; (4) one speaks of the deluge, the other is completely
silent about it; (5) one aims at explaining the four Varnas, the other
aims at explaining the origin of society only.
These differences are many and fundamental. Particularly funda-
mental seems to be the difference in regard to Chaturvarnya. The
sacerdotal ideology recognizes it, but the secular ideology does not.
It is true that an attempt is made to combine the two by explaining,
as is done in the Ramayana and the Puranas, how Manu’s progeny
developed into four Varnas. But obviously this is an attempt to mould
the two ideologies into one. This attempt is deliberate and calculated.
But the difference between the two ideologies is so fundamental that
inspite of this attempt they persist as two separate ideologies. All
that has happened is that instead of one we have two explanations
of Chaturvarnya, supernatural Chaturvarnya produced by Purusha,
and natural Chaturvarnya as developed among Manu’s sons. That the
result should be so clumsy shows that the two ideologies are
fundamentally different and irreconcilable. It is a pity that the
existence of two such ideologies recorded in the Brahmanic literature
has not been noticed by scholars who have dealt with the subject.
But the fact of their existence and their significance cannot be
ignored. What is the significance of the existence of two such
ideologies fundamentally different and irreconcilable? To me, it seems
that they are the ideologies of two different Aryan races—one
believing in Chaturvarnya and the other not believing in
Chaturvarnya—who at a later stage became merged into one. If this
reasoning is well-founded then this difference in ideologies disclosed
by the Brahmanic literature furnishes further evidence in support
of the new theory.


The third and the most unimpeachable evidence in support of my
view comes from the anthropometrical survey of the Indian people.
Such a survey was first made by Sir Herbert Risley in 1901. On the
basis of cephalic index, he came to the conclusion that the people of
India were a mixture of four different races: (1) Aryan, (2) Dravidian,
(3) Mongolian, and (4) Scythian. He even went to the length of
defining the areas where they were massed. The survey was a very
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rough one. His conclusions have been tested by Dr. Guha in 1936.
His Report on the subject forms a very valuable document in the field
of Indian anthropology. The map1 prepared by Dr. Guha on which
he has plotted so to say the distribution of the Indian people according
to their head measurements throws a flood of light on the racial
composition of the people of India. Dr. Guha’s conclusion is that the
Indian people are composed’of two racial stocks: (1) longheaded, and
short-headed, and that the long-headed are in the interior of India
and the short-headed are on the outskirts.
The evidence of skulls found in different parts of India also goes
to confirm this. This is how Dr. Guha sums up the evidence on this
point :
“The accounts of the human remains from prehistoric sites given above,
though extremely meagre, with the exception of those of the Indus Valley,
enable us nevertheless to visualise the broad outlines of the racial history
of India in these times. From the beginning of the 4th Millennium B.C.
North-western India seems to have been in the occupation of a long-headed
race with a narrow prominent nose. Side by side with them we find the
existence of another very powerfully built race also long-headed, but with
lower cranial vault, and equally long-faced and narrow nose, though the
latter was not so high pitched as that of the former.
A third type with broader head and apparently Armenoid affinities also
existed, but its advent occurred probably somewhat later judged by the
age of the site as Harappa from which most of these latter type of skulls
Speaking in terms of the Alpine and the Mediterranean race, one
can say that the Indian people are composed of two stocks: (1) The
Mediterranean or the long-headed race, and (2) the Alpine or the
short-headed race.
About the Mediterranean race, certain facts are admitted. It is
admitted that it is a race which spoke the Aryan language. It is
admited that its home was in Europe round about the Mediterranean
basin and from thence it migrated to India. From its localization,
it is clear that it must have come to India before the entry of the
Alpine race.
Similar facts about the Alpine race remain to be ascertained. First
is about the home of the Alpine race and second is about its native
speech. According to Prof. Ripley, the home of the Alpine race was
in Asia somewhere in the Himalayas. His reasons may be given in
his own words. Says Prof. Ripley :2

1 See Appendix V
2 Races of Europe, pp. 473-74
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“What right have we for the assertion that this infiltration of population
from the East1 it was not a conquest, everything points to it as a gradual
peaceful immigration, often merely the settlement of unoccupied territory—
marks the advent of an overflow from the direction of Asia? The proof
of this rests largely upon our knowledge of the people of that continent,
especially of the Pamir region, the Western Himalayan highlands. Just
here on the ‘ roof of the world,’ where Max Muller and the early philologists
placed the primitive home of Aryan civilization, a human type prevails
which tallies almost exactly with our ideal Alpine or Celtic European race.
The researches of De Ujfalvy, Topinard, and others localize its peculiar
traits over a vast territory hereabouts. The Galchas, mountain Tadjiks,
and their fellows are grey-eyed, dark-haired, stocky in build, with cephalic
indexes ranging above 86 for the most part. From this region a long chain
of peoples of a similar physical type extends, uninterruptedly westward
over Asia Minor and into Europe. The only point which the discovery of
a broad area in Western Asia occupied by an ideal Alphine type settles,
is that it emphasises the affinities of this peculiar race. It is no proof
of direct immigration from Asia at all, as Tappeiner observes. It does,
however, lead us to turn our eyes eastward when we seek for the origin
of the broad-headed type. Things vaguely point to an original ethnic base
of supplies somewhere in this direction. It could not lie westward, for
everywhere along the Atlantic the race slowly disappears, so to speak. That
the Alpine type approaches all the other human millions on the Asiatic
continent, in the head form especially, but in hair, colour and stature as
well, also prejudices us in the matter; just as the increasing long-
headedness and extreme brunetness of our Mediterranean race led us
previously to derive it from some type parent to that of the African Negro.
These points are then fixed; the roots of the Alpine race run eastward;
those of the Mediterranean type towards the south.”
On the question of its language there is a certain amount of
dispute1 as to who introduced the Aryan language in Europe, whether
the Nordics (the purest of the Indo-Germans) or the Alpines. But there
is no dispute that the language of the Alpine race was Aryan and
therefore it is entitled to be called Aryan race in philological sense.


From the foregoing statement of facts, it will be seen that there is
a solid foundation in anthropometry and history, in support of the
Rig Veda that there were in India two Aryan races and not one. Having
regard to this, one cannot refuse to admit that here there is a direct
conflict between the Western theory and the testimony of the Rig
Veda. Whereas the Western theory speaks of one Aryan race, the Rig

1 Madison Grant, ‘The Passing of the Great Race’ (1922), pp. 238-239.
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Veda speaks of two Aryan races. The Western theory is thus in
conflict with the Rig Veda on a major issue. The Rig Veda being the
best evidence on the subject the theory which is in conflict with it
must be rejected. There is no escape.
This conflict on the major issue also creates a conflict on the issue
of invasion and conquest. We do not know which of the two Aryan
races came to India first. But if they belonged to the Alpine race
then its home being near the Himalayas, there is no room for the
theory of invasion from outside. As to the conquest of the native
tribes, assuming it to be a fact, the matter is not quite so simple
as Western writers have supposed. On the footing that the Dasas
and Dasyus were racially different from the Aryans, the theory of
conquest must take account not merely of a possible conquest of Dasas
and Dasyus by Aryans but also of a possible conquest of Aryans by
Aryans. It must also explain which of the two Aryans conquered the
Dasas and Dasyus if they conquered them at all.
The Western theory, it is clear, is only a hurried conclusion drawn
from insufficient examination of facts and believed to be correct
because it tallied with certain pre-conceived notions about the
mentality of the ancient Aryans which they were supposed to have
possessed on no other grounds except that their alleged modern
descendants, namely, the Indo Germanic races are known to possess.
It is built on certain selected facts which are assumed to be the only
facts. It is extraordinary that a theory with such a slender and
insecure foundation in fact should have been propounded by Western
scholars for serious scholars and should have held the field for such
a long time. In the face of the discovery of new facts set out in this
Chapter the theory can no longer stand and must be thrown on the
scrap heap.
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IT has been shown how untenable the Western theory is. The only
part of the theory that remains to be considered is : who are the
Shudras? Mr. A. C. Das1 says :
“The Dasas and the Dasyus were either savages or non-Vedic Aryan
tribes. Those of them that were captured in war were probably made slaves
and formed the Shudra caste.”
Mr. Kane,2 another Vedic scholar and upholder of the Western
theory, holds the view that :
“The word ‘Dasa’ in later literature means a ‘serf or a slave’. It follows
that the Dasa tribes that we see opposed to the Aryas in the Rig Veda
were gradually vanquished and were then made to serve the Aryas. In
the Manusmriti (VIII, 413) the Shudra is said to have been created by
God for service (dasya) of the Brahmana. We find in the Tai. Samhita,
the Tai. Brahmana and other Brahmana works that the Shudra occupied
the same position that he does in the Smritis. Therefore it is reasonable
to infer that the Dasas or Dasyus conquered by the Aryans were gradually
transformed into the Shudras.”
According to this view the Shudras are the same as Dasas and
Dasyus and further the Shudras were the non-Aryan original
inhabitants of India and were in a primitive and a savage state of
civilization. It is these propositions which we must now proceed to
To begin with the first proposition. It is not one proposition but
is really two propositions rolled in one. One is that the Dasas and
Dasyus are one and the same people. The other is that they and the
Shudras are one and the same people.
That the Dasas and Dasyus are one and the same people is a
proposition of doubtful validity. Such references to them as are to
be found in the Rig Veda are not decisive. In some places the terms
Dasa and Dasyu are used in a way as though there was no

1 Rig Vidic Culture, p. 133.
2 Dharma Shastra, II (I). P. 33.
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difference between the two. Shambara, Shushna, Vritra and Pipru
are described both as Dasas and Dasyus. Both Dasas and Dasyus
are described as the enemies of Indra and Devas and specially the
Ashvins. The cities of both Dasas as well as of the Dasyus are
described to have been levelled down by Indra and Devas. The defeat
of both Dasas as well as Dasyus is described as producing the same
effect, namely, release of water and the emergence of light. In
describing the release of Dabhiti both are referred to, at one place
he is said to have been released from the Dasas and at another place
he, is said to have been released from the Dasyus.
While these references suggest that the Dasas and Dasyus were
the same, there are other references which suggest that they were
different. This is clear from the fact that the Dasas are referred to
separately in 54 places and Dasyus are referred to separately in
78 places. Why should there be so many separate references if they
did not form two distinct entities? The probability is that they refer
to two different communities.
About the second proposition that the Shudras are the same as
the Dasas and Dasyus, one can definitely say that it is without any
foundation whatsoever.
To make out a case that the Shudras are the same as the Dasas
and Dasyus an attempt is made to treat the word Shudra as a
derivative word. The word is said to be derived from Shuc (sorrow)
and dru (overcome) and means one overcome by sorrow. In this
connection reliance is placed on the story told in the Vedanta Sutra
(i.3.34) of Janasruti who is said to have been overcome by sorrow
on hearing the contemptuous talk of the flamingoes about himself.1
The same derivation is given by the Vishnu Purana.2
How far are these statements well-founded? To say that Shudra
is not a proper name but is a derivative word is too silly for words.
The Brahmanic writers excel everybody in the art of inventing false
etymologies. There is no word for which they will not design some
sort of etymology. Speaking of the different etymologies of the word
Upanishad given by Brahmanic writers, Prof. Max Muller3 said :
“These explanations seem so wilfully perverse that it is difficult to understand
the unanimity of native scholars. We ought to take into account, however, that
very general tendency among half-educated people, to acquiesce in any

1 Referred to in Kane’s Dharma Shastra, II (I), p. 155.
2 Muir, Vol. 1. p. 97.
3 Upanishads, Introduction, pp. lxxix-lxxxi.
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etymology which accounts for the most prevalent meaning of a word. The
Aranyakas abound in such etymologies, which probably were never in-
tended as real etymologies, in our sense of the word, but simply as plays
on words, helping to account somehow for their meaning.”
This warning equally well applies to the attempt of the Vedanta
Sutra and of the Vayu Purana to make the word Shudra a derivative
word suggesting that it meant a ‘sorrowful people’ and we must
therefore reject it as being absurd and senseless.
We have, however, direct evidence in support of the proposition
that Shudra is a proper name of a tribe or a clan and is not a
derivative word as is sought to be made out.
Various pieces of evidence can be adduced in favour of this
proposition. The historians of Alexander’s invasion of India have
described a number of republics as free, independent and autonomous
whom Alexander encountered. These are, no doubt, formed of different
tribes and were known by the name borne by those tribes. Among
these is mentioned a people called Sodari. They were a fairly
important tribe, being one of those which fought Alexander though
it suffered a defeat at his hands. Lassen identified them with the
ancient Shudras. Patanjali at 1.2.3 of his Mahabhasya mentions
Shudras and associates them with the Abhiras. The Mahabharata in
Chapter XXXII of the Sabha parvan speaks of the republic of the
Shudras-. The Vishnu Purana as well as the Markandeya Purana and
the Brahma Purana refer to the Shudras as a separate tribe among
many other tribes and fix their location in the Western part of the
country above the Vindhyas.1


Let us now turn to the second proposition and examine the various
elements of which it is composed. There are two elements in the
proposition. First is : Are the words Dasyus and Dasas used in the
racial sense indicative of their being non-Aryan tribes? The second
element is that assuming they were, is there anything to indicate
that they were the native tribes of India? Unless and until these two
questions are answered in the affirmative, there is no possibility of
identifying the Dasyus and Dasas with the Shudras.
About the Dasyus, there is no evidence to show that the term is
used in a racial sense indicative of a non-Aryan people. On the other

1 See References in Tribes in Ancient India by B. C. Law, p. 350
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hand, there is positive evidence in support of the conclusion that
it was used to denote persons who did not observe the Aryan form
of religion. In this connection, reference may be made to Verse 23
of Adhyaya 65 of the Shantiparvan of the Mahabharata. It reads
as follows :
n`';Urs ekuq"ks Çhds loZo.ksZ"kq nL;o%A
fyaxkUrjs orZekuk vkJes"kqprq"oZfi AA
The verse says : “In all the Varnas and in all the Ashramas, one
finds the existence of Dasyus.”
What is the origin of the word Dasyu it is difficult to say. But
a suggestion1 has been put forth that it was the word of abuse used
by the Indo-Aryans to the Indo-Iranians. There is nothing unnatural
or far-fetched in this suggestion. That the two had come into conflict
is borne out by history. It is therefore quite possible for the Indo-
Aryans to have coined such a contemptuous name for their enemies.
If this is true, then Dasyus cannot be regarded as the natives of India.
Regarding the Dasas, the question is whether there is any
connection between them and the Azhi-Dahaka of the Zend Avesta.
The name Azhi-Dahaka is a compound name which consists of two
parts. Azhi means serpent, dragon and Dahaka comes from root Dah
meaning ‘ to sting, to do harm’. Thus Azhi-Dahaka meaning a stinging
dragon. It is a proper name of a person commonly known in Indo-
Iranian traditions as Zohak. He is mentioned in Yasht literature
many a time. He is credited to have lived in Babylon where he had
built a palace. He is also credited to have built a great observatory
in Babylon. This mighty devil Azhi-Dahaka was created by the Arch-
demon Angra Mainyu in order to destroy the kingdom of holiness
of the corporeal world. This Azhi-Dahaka went to war against Yima
the renowned king of the Indo-Iranians and not only vanquished him,
but killed him in battle.
Yima is always spoken of in Avesta as Kshaeta meaning shining
or ruling. Root Kshi has two meanings, to shine or to rule. There
is another ephithet commonly used for Yima and that is Hvanthwa
meaning ‘possessing good flock’. This Avesta Yima Khshaita became
in later Persian language Jamshid. According to traditions, king
Jamshid son of Vivanghvant was the great hero of the Iranian history,
the founder of a great Persian civilization. He was a king of the
Peshdiadyan dynasty. In Yasna 9 and 5 (Koema Yashi) it is stated

1 I am sorry, I have lost the reference.
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that ‘Vivanshas’ was the first man who unceremoniously pounded
Hasma (Sk. Sasma) in this corporeal world and the boon he received
was: to him was born a son nobly who was Yima the shining and
of good flock, who was most glorious amongst the living ones, who
was like a glowing sun amongst mankind, during whose kingship he
made noblemen and cattle (animals) immortal, made waters and trees
undrying. He possessed undiminishing (ever fresh) divine glory.
During the kingship of famous Yima there was neither extreme cold
nor extreme heat, there was no old age, death and envy.
Is Dahaka of the Zenda Aveshta the same as Dasa of the Rig Veda?
If similarity in name can be relied upon as evidence, then obviously
it points to their being the names of one and the same person. Dasa
in Sanskrit can easily be Daha in Aveshta since sa in the former
is natural conversion to ha in the latter. If this were the only evidence
the suggestion that Dasa of the Rig Veda and Dahaka of the Zenda
Avesta are the same could have been no better than a conjecture.
But there is other and more cogent evidence which leaves no doubt
about their identity. In Yasna Ha 9 (which is the same as Horn Yashe)
Azhi-Dahaka is spoken of as ‘three mouthed, three-headed and six-
eyed’. What is striking is that this physical description of Dahaka
in Aveshta is exactly similar to the description of Dasa in Rig Veda
(x.99.6) where he is also described as having three heads and six
eyes1 If the suggestion that the Dasa in the Rig Veda is the same
as Dahaka in the Aveshta, is accepted, then obviously the Dasas were
not native tribes aboriginal to India.


Were they savages? The Dasas and Dasyus were not a primitive
people. They were as civilized as the Aryans and in fact more powerful
than the Aryans. Such is the testimony of the Rig Veda. It is well
epitomized by Mr. Iyengar when he says that :
“The Dasyus lived in cities (R.V., i.53.8; i.103.3) and under kings the names
of many of whom are mentioned. They possessed ‘accumulated wealth’ (R.V.,
viii.40.6) in the form of cows, horses and chariots (R.V., ii.15.4) which though
kept in ‘hundred-gated cities’ (R.V., x.99.3), Indra seized and gave away to his
worshippers, the Aryas (R.V., i.176.4). The Dasyus were wealthy (R.V., i.33.4)
and owned property ‘in the plains and on the hills’ (R.V., x.69.6).They were
‘adorned with their array of gold and jewels’ (R.V., i.33.8). They owned many

1 For the identification of Dasa with Dahaka I am indebted to the Maharashtra
Dnyana Kosha, Vol. III. p. 53.
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castles (R.V., i.33.13; viii.17.14). The Dasyu demons and the Arya gods
alike lived in gold, silver and iron castles (SS.S., vi.23; A.V., v.28.9; R.V.,
ii.20.8). Indra overthrew for his worshipper, Divodasa, frequently men-
tioned in the hymns, a ‘hundred stone castles’ (R.V., iv.30.20) of the
Dasyus. Agni, worshipped by the Arya, gleaming in behalf of him, tore
and burnt the cities of the fireless Dasyus. (R.V., vii.5.3).Brihaspati broke
the stone prisons in which they kept the cattle raided from the Aryas (R.V.,
iv.67.3). The Dasyus owned chariots and used them in war like the Aryas
and had the same weapons as the Aryas (R.V., viii.24.27; iii.30.5; ii.15.4)”
That the Dasas and Dasyus were the same as the Shudras is a
pure figment of imagination. It is only a wild guess. It is tolerated
because persons who make it are respectable scholars. So far as
evidence is concerned, there is no particle of it, which can be cited
in support of it. As has been said before, the word Dasa occurs in
the Rig Veda 54 times and Dasyu 78 times. The Dasas and the Dasyus
are sometimes spoken together. The word Shudra occurs only once
and that too in a context in which the Dasas and Dasyus have no
place. In the light of these considerations, it is difficult to say how
anyone in his senses can say that Shudras are the same as the Dasas
and Dasyus. Another fact which is to be noted is that the names
Dasas and Dasyus completely disappear from the later Vedic litera-
ture. It means they were completely absorbed by the Vedic Aryans.
But it is quite different with the Shudras. The early Vedic literature
is very silent about them. But the later Vedic literature is full of
them. This shows that the Shudras were different from the Dasas
and Dasyus.


Were the Shudras non-Aryans? Mr. Kane says:1
“A clear line of demarcation was kept between the Arya and the Shudra
in the times of the Brahmana works and even in the Dharmasutras. The
Tandya Brahmana speaks of a mock fight: ‘the Shudra and Arya fight on
a hide; out of the two they so arrange that the Arya colour becomes the
victor.’ The Ap. Dh. S. (I, i.3.40-41) says that a brahmachari if he cannot
himself eat all the food he has brought by begging, may keep it near an
Arya (for his use) or he may give it to a Shudra who is a Dasa (of his
teacher). Similarly, Gautama x.69 used the word ‘anarya’ for Shudra.”
On the question of the line of demarcation; between the Shudras
and Aryans, the matter needs to be carefully examined.

1 Kane, Dharma Shastra, II (I), p. 35.
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The strength of the argument that the Shudras were non-Aryans
is to be found in the following statements :
A.V., iv.20.4. — “The thousand-eyed god shall put this plant into my
right hand; with that do I see everyone, the Shudra as well as the Arya.”
Kathaka Samhita, xxxiv.5— “The Shudra and the Arya quarrel about
the skin. The gods and the demons quarrelled about the sun; the gods
won it (the sun). (By this act of quarrelling with Shudras) the Arya makes
the Arya Varna win, makes himself successful. The Arya shall be inside
the altar, the Shudra outside the altar. The skin shall be white, circular-
the form of the sun.”
Vajasaneyi Samhita, xxiii.30-31—“When a deer eats the barley in the
field, the (owner of the field) is not pleased with the nourished animal;
when a Shudra woman has an Arya as a lover, (the husband) does not
long for (the consequent) prosperity.”
When a deer eats barley, the (owner of the field) does not approve of
the nourished animal. When a Shudra is the lover of an Arya woman, the
(husband) does not consent to the prosperity.
These stanzas, which speak of the Shudra and the Arya as
separate and opposed form the foundation of the theory that the
Shudras are non-Aryans. To say the least, such a conclusion would
be a very hasty one. Two considerations must be borne in mind before
any conclusion is drawn from the aforementioned statements. In the
first place, it must be borne in mind that according to what has
been said before and according to the evidence of the Rig Veda, there
are two categories of Aryans, the Vedic and the non-Vedic. Given
this fact, it would be quite easy for an Arya of one class to speak
of an Arya of another class, as though the two were separate and
opposed. Interpreted in this way, the above statements, in which
Shudras are set against the Aryans, do not mean that they were
not Aryas. They were Aryas of a different sect or class.
That this is possible can be seen from the following statements
in the sacred literature of the Hindus:
(1) A.V., xix.32.8.— “Make me, Oh, Darbha (grass), dear to the Brahmin,
and the Rajanya (i.e., Kshatriya), to the Shudra and to the Arya and to
him whom we love and to everyone who is able to see.”
(2) A.V., xix.62.1.— “Make me beloved among the gods, make me beloved
among the princes; make me dear to everyone who sees, to the Shudra
and to the Arya”
(3) Vajasaneyi Samhita, xviii.48.— “(Oh, Agni), give to us lustre among
Brahmins, give us lustre among kings; lustre among Vaishyas and among
Shudras; give to me lustre added to lustre.”
(4) Vajasaneyi Samhita, xx.17.— “Whatever sin we have committed in the
village, in the forest, in the assembly, with our senses, against the Shudra or
against the Arya, whatever sin one of us (two, the sacrificer and his wife) has
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committed in the matter of his duty (towards the other),— of that sin,
you are the destroyer.”
(5) Vajasaneyi Samhita, xviii.48.—“As I speak these auspicious words to
the people, to the Brahmin and the Rajanya, to the Shudra and to the
Arya and to my own enemy, may I be dear to the gods and to the giver
of dakshinas here in this world. May this desire of mine be granted. May
that (enemy of mine) be subjected to me.”
What do these statements show? The first one makes a distinction
between the Brahmins and the Aryas. Can it be said that the
Brahmins were non-Aryans? The other statements pray for the love
and goodwill of the Shudras. If the Shudra was a primitive aboriginal
non-Aryan, is such a prayer conceivable? The statements on which
reliance is placed do not prove that the Shudras were non-Aryans.
That the Dharma Sutras call the Shudra Anarya and the state-
ments in the Vajasaneyi Samhita pouring scorn on the Shudra
woman, do not mean anything. There are two arguments against
accepting the testimony of the Dharma Sutra. In the first place, as
will be shown later, the Dharma Sutras and other treatises are books
written by the enemies of the Shudra. As such, they have no
evidentiary value. It is also doubtful whether such anti-Shudra
statements are mere imprecations or statements of facts as they
existed. They seem to contradict facts reported in other works.
The Dharma Sutras say that a Shudra is not entitled to the
Upanayana ceremony and the wearing of the sacred thread. But in
Samskara Ganapati there is an express provision declaring the
Shudra to be eligible for Upanayana.1
The Dharma Sutras say that a Shudra has no right to study the
Vedas. But the Chhandogya Upanishad (iv:l-2) relates the story of
one Janasruti to whom Veda Vidya was taught by the preceptor
Raikva. This Janasruti was a Shudra. What is more is that Kavasha
Ailusha,2 was a Shudra. He was a Rishi and the author of several
hymns of the Tenth Book of the Rig Veda.
The Dharma Sutras say that a Shudra has no right to perform
Vedic ceremonies and sacrifices. But Jaimini, the author of the Purva
Mimamsa3 mentions an ancient teacher by name Badari— whose work
is lost— as an exponent of the contrary view that even Shudras could
perform Vedic sacrifices. The Bharadvaja Srauta Sutra (v.28) admits
that there exists another school of thought which holds that

1 Referred to by Max Muller, in Ancient Sanskrit Literature (1860). p. 207.
2 Ibid, p. 58.
3 Adhyaya 6, Pada I, Sutra 27.
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a Shudra can consecrate the three sacred fires necessary for the
performance of a Vedic sacrifice. Similarly, the commentator of the
Katyayana Srauta Sutra (1.4.16) admits that there are certain Vedic
texts which lead to the inference that the Shudra was eligible to
perform Vedic rites.
The Dharma Sutras say that a Shudra is not entitled to the sacred
drink of Soma. But in the story of the Ashvins, there is definite
evidence that the Shudra had a right to the divine drink of Soma.
The Ashvins, as the story goes, once happened to behold Sukanya
when she had just bathed and when her person was bare. She was
a young girl married to a Rishi by name Chyavana who at the time
of marriage was so old as to be dying almost any day. The Ashvins
were captivated by the beauty of Sukanya and said “Accept one of
us for your husband. It behoveth thee not to spend thy youth
fruitlessly.” She refused, saying “I am devoted to my husband.” They
again spoke to her and this time proposed a bargain: “We two are
the celestial physicians of note. We will make thy husband young
and graceful. Do thou then select one of us as thy husband.” She
went to her husband and communicated to him the terms of the
bargain. Chyavana said to Sukanya “Do thou so”; and the bargain
was carried out and Chyavana was made a young man by the Ashvins.
Subsequently, a question arose whether the Ashvins were entitled
to Soma, which was the drink of the Gods. Indra objected saying that
the Ashvins were Shudras and therefore not entitled to Soma.
Chyavana, who had received perpetual youth from the Ashvins, set
aside the contention and compelled Indra to give them Soma.1
There is another reason why the evidence of the Dharma Sutras
that the Shudras are non-Aryans should not be accepted. In the first
place, it is contrary to the view taken by Manu. In the decision of
the issue whether the Shudra was an Aryan or a non-Aryan, the
following verses from Manu require to be carefully considered :
“If a female of the caste sprung from a Brahmana and a Shudra female,
bear (children) to one of the highest castes, the inferior (tribe) attains the
highest caste within the seventh generation.”
“(Thus) a Shudra attains the rank of a Brahmana and (in a similar
manner) a Brahmana sinks to the level of a Shudra; but know that it
is the same with the offspring of a Kshatriya or of a Vaishya.”
“If (a doubt) should arise, with whom the pre-eminence (is, whether) with him
whom an Aryan by chance begot on a non-Aryan female, or (with the son) of

1 V. Fausboll, Indian Mythology, pp. 128-134.
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a Brahmana woman by a non-Aryan;”
The decision is as follows : ‘He who was begotten by an Aryan on
a non-Aryan female, may become (like to) an Aryan by his virtues; he
whom an Aryan (mother) bore to a non Aryan father (is and remains)
unlike to an Aryan.’”1
Verse 64 from Manu is also to be found in Gautama Dharma Sutra
(uv.22). There seems to be some controversy as to the correct inter-
pretation of this verse. In summing up the different interpretations,
Buhler says :
“According to Medh., Gov., Kull., and Ragh., the meaning is that, if the
daughter of a Brahmana and of a Shudra female and her descendants all
marry Brahmanas, the offspring of the sixth female descendant of the
original couple will be a Brahmana. While this explanation agrees with
Haradatta’s comment on the parallel passage of Gautama, Nar. and Nan.
take the verse very differently. They say that if a Parasava, the son of
a Brahmana and of a Shudra female, marries a most excellent Parasava
female, who possesses a good moral character and other virtues, and if
his descendants do the same, the child born in the sixth generation will
be a Brahmana. Nandana quotes in support of his view, Baudhayana
i.16.13-14 (left out in my translation of the Sacred Books of the East, ii,
p.197)... ‘(offspring) begotten by a Nishada on a Nishadi, removes within
five generations the Shudrahood; one may initiate him (the fifth descen-
dant); one may sacrifice for the sixth.’ This passage of Baudhayana the
reading of which is supported by a new MS from Madras clearly shows
that Baudhayana allowed the male offspring of Brahmanas and Shudra
females to be raised to the level of Aryans. It is also not impossible that
the meaning of Manu’s verse may be the same, and that the translation
should be, ‘if the offspring of a Brahmana and of a Shudra female begets
children with a most excellent (male of the Brahmana caste or female of
the Parasava tribe), the inferior (tribe) attains the highest caste in the
seventh generation.”
Whatever be the interpretation, the fact remains that in the seventh
generation2 a Shudra under certain circumstances could become a
Brahmin. Such a conception would have been impossible if the Shudra
was not an Aryan.
That the Shudra is a non-Aryan is contrary to the view taken by
the school of Arthashastra. As a representative of that school, the
opinion of Kautilya on that question is of great value. In laying down
the law of slavery, Kautilya says:3
The selling or mortgaging by kinsmen of the life of a Shudra who is not a
born slave, and has not attained majority, but is Arya in birth shall be punished

1 Chapter X, verses 64-67.
2 The rule which requires that for establishing his nobility a man must be able
to trace his six uninterrupted degrees of unsullied lineage of not merely free-born,
but full-born, appears to be a universal rule in ancient times.—See W. E. Hearn,
The Aryan Household, Chapter VIII.
3 Book HI, Chapter 13.
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with a fine of 12 panas.
Deceiving a slave of his money or depriving him of the privileges he
can exercise as an Arya (Aryabhava) shall be punished with half the fine
(levied for enslaving the life of an Arya).
Failure to set a slave at liberty on the receipt of a required amount
of ransom shall be punished with a fine of 12 panas; putting a slave under
confinement for no reason (samrodhaschakaranat) shall likewise be pun-
The offspring of a man who has sold himself off as a slave shall be
an Arya. A slave shall be entitled not only to what he has earned himself
without prejudice to his master’s work but also to the inheritance he has
received from his father.
Here is Kautilya, who calls the Shudra an Aryan in the most
emphatic and express terms possible.


Coming to the question of Shudras having been made slaves, it
is nonsense, if not mendacious. It is founded on two assumptions.
First is that the Dasas are described as slaves in the Rig Veda. The
second is that the Dasas are the same as Shudras.
It is true that the word Dasa is used in the Rig Veda in the sense
of slave or servant. But the word in this sense occurs in only 5 places
and no more. But even if it did occur more than five times, would
it prove that the Shudras were made slaves? Unless and until it is
proved that the two were the same people, the suggestion is absurd.
It is contrary to known facts.
Shudras participated in the coronation of kings. In the post-vedic
or the period of the Brahmanas, the coronation of a king was in reality
an offer of sovereignty by the people to the king. This was done by
the representatives of the people called Ratnis who played a very
important part in the investiture of the king. The Ratnis were so-
called because they held the Ratna (jewel), which was a symbol of
sovereignty. The king received his sovereignty only when the Ratnis
handed over to him the jewel of sovereignty, and on receiving his
sovereignty the king went to the house of each of the Ratnis and
made an offering to him. It is a significant fact that one of the Ratnis
was always a Shudra. 1
Nilakantha, the author of Nitimayukha, describes the coronation
ceremony of a later time. According to him, the four chief ministers,
Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, consecrated the new king.

1 On this point see Jayasswal, Hindu Polity (1943), pp. 200-201.
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Then the leaders of each Varna and of the castes lower still,
consecrated him with holy water. Then followed acclamation by the
That the Shudras were invited to be present at the coronation
of the king along with Brahmins is evidenced by the description of
the coronation of Yudhishthira, the eldest brother of the Pandavas,
which is given in the Mahabharata. 2
Shudras were members of the two political assemblies of ancient
times, namely, the Janapada and Paura and as a member of these
the Shudra was entitled to special respect even from a Brahmin.3
This was so even according to the Manusmriti (vi.61) as well as
to the Vishnu Smriti (xxi.64). Otherwise there is no meaning in Manu
saying that a Brahmin should not live in a country where the king
is a Shudra. That means Shudras were kings.
In the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata,4 Bhishma in his lessons
on Politics to Yudhishthira says :
“I shall, however, tell thee what kinds of ministers should be appointed
by thee. Four Brahmins learned in the Vedas, possessed of a sense of
dignity, belonging to the Snataka order, and of pure behaviour, and eight
Kshatriyas, all of whom should be possessed of physical strength and
capable of weilding weapons, and one and twenty Vaishyas, all of whom
should be possessed of wealth, and three Shudras, everyone of whom should
be humble and of pure conduct and devoted to his daily duties, and one
man of the Suta caste, possessed of a knowledge of the Puranas and the
eight cardinal virtues should be thy ministers.”
This proves that the Shudras were ministers and that they were
almost equal to the Brahmins in number.5
The Shudras were not poor and lowly. They were rich. This fact
is testified by the Maitrayani Samhita (iv.2.7.10) and the Panchavimsa
Brahmana (vi.1.11).6
There are two other aspects to this question. What significance can
there be to the enslavement of the Shudras, assuming it was a fact?
There would be some significance if the Aryans did not know slavery
or were not prepared to turn the Aryans into slaves. But the fact
is that the Aryans knew slavery and permitted the Aryans to be made
slaves. This is clear from Rig Veda, (vii.86.7;viii. 19.36 and viii.56.3).

1 See Jayaswal, Hindu Polity (1943), p. 223.
2 Mahabharata, Sabha Parvan, Chapter XXXIII, Verses 41-42.
3 See Jayaswal, -Hindu Polity, p. 248.
4 Roy’s Translation, Vol. II, p. 197
5 Bhishma believed in communal representation.
6 Referred to in the Vedic Index, Vol. II, p. 390.
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That being so, why should they particularly want to make slaves
of the Shudras? What is more important is why should they make
different laws for the Shudra slaves?
In short, the Western theory does not help us to answer our
questions, who were the Shudras and how did they become the fourth
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WHO were the Shudras if they were not a non-Aryan aboriginal
race? This question must now be faced. The theory I venture to
advance may be stated in the following three propositions:
(1) The Shudras were Aryans.
(2) The Shudras belonged to the Kshatriya class.
(3) The Shudras were so important a class of Kshatriyas that
some of the most eminent and powerful kings of the ancient
Aryan communities were Shudras.
This thesis regarding the origin of the Shudras is a startling if
not a revolutionary thesis. So startling it is that not many people
will be ready to accept it, even though there may be enough evidence
to support it. My obligation is to produce the evidence, leaving the
people to judge its worth.
The primary piece of evidence on which this thesis rests is a
passage which occurs in Verses 38-40 of Chapter 60 of the Shanti
Parvan of the Mahabharata. It reads as follows :
“It has been heard by us that in the days of old a Shudra of the name
of Paijavana gave a Dakshina (in his own sacrifice) consisting of a hundred
thousand Purnapatras according to the ordinance called Aindragni.”
The important statements contained in this passage are three :
(1) that Paijavana was a Shudra, (2) that this Shudra Paijavana
performed sacrifices, and (3) the Brahmins performed sacrifices for
him and accepted Dakshina from him.
The passage quoted above is taken from Mr. Roy’s edition of the
Mahabharata. The first thing is to ascertain whether the text is
accurate or whether there are any variant readings. As regards the
authenticity of his text, this is what Mr. Roy1 says :

1 Quoted in Sukthankar Memorial Edition, Vol. I, pp. 43-44.
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“As far as my edition is concerned it is substantially based on that of
Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, published about forty-five years ago under
the superintendence of a few learned Pandits of Bengal aided, as I believe,
by an English Orientalist of repute. Manuscripts had been procured from
all parts of India (the South unexcepted) and these were carefully collated.
Although edited with such care, I have not, however, slavishly followed
the Society’s edition. I have compared it carefully with the Maharajah of
Burdwan’s text in the Bengalee character which was edited with still
greater care. About 18 manuscripts procured from different parts of India
(the South not excepted) were carefully collated by the Burdwan Pandits
before they admitted a single sloka as genuine.”
Prof. Sukthankar, the erudite editor of the critical edition of the
Mahabharata, after examining many editions of the Mahabharata,
concluded by saying that :l
“The editio princeps (Calcutta—1856) remains the best edition of the
Vulgate, after the lapse of nearly a century.”
Although the authenticity of Mr.Roy’s edition of the Mahabharata
cannot be doubted, it would not be unreasonable if critics were to
say that they would like to know what other manuscript support there
is behind this text, which is made the basis of this new theory of
the origin of the Shudras. In undertaking such an inquiry it is
necessary to point to two considerations. One2 is that there is no such
thing as a Mahabharata manuscript in the sense of complete sets
of manuscripts covering all the eighteen Parvans. Each Parvan is
treated as a separate unit with the result that the number of copies
of the different Parvans to be found differ by a vast margin.
Consequently, the number of manuscripts to be taken as a basis for
deciding which is the correct text must vary with each Parvan.
The second3 consideration to which attention must be drawn is the
fact that the text of the Mahabharata has been handed down in two
divergent forms; a Northern and a Southern recension, texts, typical
of the Aryavarta and the Dakshinapatha.
It is obvious that an examination of manuscript support must be
based upon collation from a fair number of manuscripts and a fair
distribution of the manuscripts between the Northern and the
Southern recensions. Bearing these considerations in mind, the results

1 Quoted in Sukthankar Memorial Edition, Vol. I, p. 131.
2 Sukthankar, op. cit., p. 14.
3 Ibid., pp. 9-42.
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of the collation1 of the text of Shloka 38 of the 60th chapter of the
Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata with which we are primarily
concerned from different manuscripts is presented below :
1. 'kwnz% iStouks uke (K) S
Shudrah Paijavano nama
2. 'kwnz% iSyouks uke (M/1:M/2) S
Shudrah Pailavano nama
3. 'kwnz% ;Syuuks uke (M/3 : M/4) S
Shudrah Yailanano nama
4. 'kwnz% ;Stuuks uke (F)
Shudrah Yaijanano nama
5. 'kwnzksfi ;tus uke (L)
Shudropi Yajane nama
6. 'kwnz% ikSatyd uke (TC) S
Shudrah Paunjalka nama
7. 'kw¼ks oSHkouks uke (G) N
Shuddho Vaibhavano nama
8. iqjk oStouks uke (A, D/2)
Pura Vaijavano nama
9. iqjk oStuuks uke (M) N
Pura Vaijanano nama
Here is the result of the collation of nine manuscripts. Are nine
manuscripts enough for constituting a text which has a number of
variant readings? It is true that the number of manuscripts taken
for the critical edition of the different Parvans of the Mahabharata
exceeds nine. For the entire Mahabharata the minimum number of
manuscripts taken for constituting the text is only ten. 2 It cannot
therefore be contended that nine is an insufficient number. The nine
manuscripts fall into two geographical divisions, Northern and Southern.
M1, M2, M3, M4 and TC belong to the Southern recension. A, M, G,
D2 belong to the Northern recension. The selections of the manuscripts
therefore satisfy the two tests which experts have laid down.

1 I am grateful to the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute for allowing me
to use their collation sheet. Letters in brackets indicate the index number given by
the Institute to the manuscript. N or S indicate whether the manuscript comes from
the North or South. K is Kumbhakonam.
2 Sukthankar, Vol. I, p. 14.
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A scrutiny of the readings shows that :
(1) there is a variation in the description of Paijavana;
(2) there is a variation in the name of Paijavana;
(3) of the nine texts, six agree in describing him as a Shudra.
One describes him as Shuddha and two instead of speaking
of the class to which he belonged refer to the time when
he lived and use the word ‘Pura’;
(4) with regard to the name, there is no agreement between
any two of the nine manuscripts. Each gives a different
Given this result, the question is what is the real text? Taking
first the texts relating to the name, it is obvious that this is not
a matter in which the question of meaning is involved. It does not
raise any questions such as interpretation versus emendation or of
giving preference to a reading which suggests how other readings
might have arisen. The question is which is the correct name and
which readings are scriptoral blunders committed by the scribes.
There seems to be no doubt that the correct text is Paijavana. It
is supported by both the recensions, Southern as well as Northern.
For Vaijavano in No.8 is the same as Paijavano. All the rest are
variations which are due to the ignorance of the scribes in not being
able to read the original copy correctly and then trying to constitute
the text in their own way.
Turning to the description of Paijavana, the change from Shudrah
to Pura, it must be granted, is not accidental. It appears to be
deliberate. Why this change has occurred it is difficult to say
categorically. Two things apear to be quite clear. In the first place,
the change appears to be quite natural. In the second place, the
change does not militate against the conclusion that Paijavana was
a Shudra. The above conclusion will be obvious if the context, in which
verses 38-40 occur, is borne in mind. The context will be clear from
the following verses which precede them:
“The Shudra should never abandon his master whatever the nature or
degree of the distress into which the latter may fall. If the master loses his
wealth, he should with excessive zeal be supported by the Shudra servant
A Shudra cannot have any wealth that is his own. Whatever he possesses
belongs to his master. Sacrifice has been laid down as a duty of the three
other orders. It has been ordained for the Shudra also, O.! Bharata. A Shudra
however is not competent to utter swaha and svadha or any other mantra.
For this reason, the Shudra, without observing the vows laid down in the
Vedas, should worship the gods in minor sacrifices called Pakayajnas. The
gift called Purnapatra is declared to be the Dakshina of such sacrifices.”
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Taking the verses 38 to 40 in the context of these verses preceding
them, it becomes clear that the whole passage deals with the Shudra.
The story of Paijavana is a mere illustration. Against this background,
it is unnecessary to repeat the word ‘Shudra’ before Paijavana. This
explains why the word Shudra does not occur before Paijavana in
the two manuscripts. As to the reason for the use of the word pura
in place of Shudra it must be remembered that the case of Paijavana
had occurred in very ancient times. It was therefore quite natural
for the scribe to feel that it was desirable to put this fact in express
terms. The writer being aware that there was no necessity for
describing Paijavana as Shudra since that was made clear from the
context, it was not necessary to emphasize it. On the other hand,
knowing that Paijavana had lived in very ancient times and that
that fact was not made very clear from the context, the writer
thought it more appropriate to add the word Pura which was
necessary and omit the word Shudrah which having regard to the
context was unnecessary.
If this explanation is well-founded, we may take it as well
established that the person referred to in the passage in the Shanti
Parvan of the Mahabharata is Paijavana and that this Paijavana
was a Shudra.


The next question that falls due for consideration is the
identification of Paijavana. Who is this Paijavana?
Yaska’s Nirukta seems to give us a clue. In Nirukta ii. 241 Yaska
“The seer Vishvamitra was the purohita of Sudas, the son of Pijavana,
Vishvamitra, friend of all. All, moving together. Sudas a bountiful giver.
Paijavana, son of Pijavana. Again Pi-javana one whose speed is enviable
or whose gait is inimitable.”
From Yaska’s Nirukta we get two very important facts :
(1) Paijavana means son of Pijavana, and (2) the person who is
the son of Paijavana is Sudas. With the help of Yaska, we are able
to answer the question: who is Paijavana referred to in the passage
in the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata? The answer is that
Paijavana is simply another name for Sudas.
The next question is who is this Sudas and what do we know about
him? A search in the Brahmanic literature discloses three persons
1 Lakshman Sarup, The Nighantu and Nirukta, pp. 35-36.
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with the name Sudas. One Sudas is mentioned in the Rig Veda. His
family particulars are given in the following stanzas of the Rig Veda :1
1. Rig Veda, vii.18.21.—“Parashara, the destroyer of hundreds (of
Rakshasas), and Vasishtha, they who, devoted to thee, have glorified thee
in every dwelling, neglect not the friendship of thee (their) benefactor;
therefore prosperous days dawn upon the pious.”
2. Rig Veda, vii. 18.22.— “Praising the liberality of Sudas, the grandson
of Devavata, the son of Paijavana, the donor of two hundred cows, and
of two chariots with two wives, I, worthy (of the gift), circumambulate thee,
Agni, like the ministrant priest in the chamber (of sacrifice)”
3. Rig Veda, vii.18.23.— “Four (horses), having golden trappings, going
steadily on a difficult road, celebrated on the earth, the excellent and
acceptable gifts (made) to me by Sudas, the son of Pijavana; bear me as
a son (to obtain) food and progeny.”
4. Rig Veda, vii.18.24.— “The seven worlds praise (Sudas) as if he were
Indra; him whose fame (spreads) through the spacious heaven and earth;
who, munificent, has distributed (wealth) on every eminent person, and
(for whom) the flowing (rivers) have destroyed Yudhyamadhi in war.”
5. Rig Veda, vii. 18.25.— “Maruts, leaders (of rites), attend upon this
(prince) as you did upon Divodasa, the father of Sudas: favour the prayers
of the devout son of Pijavana, and may his strength be unimpaired,
The two others are mentioned by the Vishnu Purana. One Sudas
is mentioned in Chapter IV as the descendant of Sagara. The
genealogical tree connecting this Sudas with Sagara is as follows: 2
“Sumati, the daughter of Kasyapa and Kesini, the daughter of Raja
Vidarbha, were the two wives of Sagara. Being without progeny, the king
solicited the aid of the sage Aurva with great earnestness, and the Muni
pronounced this boon, that one wife should bear one son, the upholder
of his race, and the other should give birth to sixty thousand sons; and
he left it to them to make their election. Kesini chose to have the single
son; Sumati the multitude; and it came to pass in a short time that the
former bore Asamanjas, a prince through whom the dynasty continued;
and the daughter of Vinata (Sumati) had sixty thousand sons. The son
of Asamanjas was Ansumat.
* * *
The son of Ansumat was Dilipa; his son was Bhagiratha, who brought
Ganga down to earth, whence she is called Bhagirathi. The son of
Bhagiratha was Sruta; his son was Nabhaga; his son was Ambarisha; his
son was Sindhudvipa; his son was Ayutashva; his son was Rituparna, the
friend of Nala, skilled profoundly in dice. The son of Rituparna was
Sarvakama; his son was Sudasa; his son was Saudasa, named also

1 Wilson’s Rig Veda, Vol. IV (Poona Reprint), p. 146.
2 Wilson’s Vishnu Purana, pp. 377-380.
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Another Sudas is mentioned in Chapter XIX as a descendant of
Puru. The genealogical tree connecting this Sudas with Puru is as
follows :1
“The son of Puru was Janamejaya; his son was Prachinvat; his son was
Pravira, his son was Manasyu; his son was Bhayada; his son was Sudhumna;
his son was Bahugava; his son was Samyati; his son was Bhamyati; his son
was Raudrashva, who had ten sons, Riteyu, Kaksheyu, Sthandileyu, Ghriteyu,
Jaleyu, Sthaleyu, Dhaneyu, Vaneyu, and Vrateyu. The son of Riteyu was
Rantinara whose sons were Tansu, Aprtiratha, and Dhruva. The son of the
second of these was Kanva, and his son was Medhatithi, from whom the
Kanvayana Brahmans are descended. Anila was the son of Tansu, and he
had four sons, of whom Dushyanta was the elder. The son of Dushyanta was
the emperor Bharata;...
Bharata had by different wives nine sons, but they were put to death by
their own mothers, because Bharata remarked that they bore no resemblance
to him, and the women were afraid that he would therefore desert them.
The birth of his sons being thus unavailing, Bharata sacrificed to the Maruts,
and they gave him Bharadvaja, the son of Brihaspati by Mamata the wife
of Utathya,...
* * *
He was also termed Vitatha, in allusion to the unprofitable (vitatha) birth
of the sons of Bharata. The son of Vitatha was Bhavanmanyu; his sons were
many, and amongst them the chief were Brihatkshatra, Mahavirya, Nara and
Garga. The son of Nara was Sankriti; his sons were Ruchiradhi and Rantideva.
The son of Garga was Sini; and their descendants called Gargyas and Sainyas,
although Kshatriyas by birth, became Brahmins. The son of Mahavirya was
Urukshaya, who had three sons, Trayyaruna, Pushkarin and Kapi, the last
of whom became a Brahmin. The son of Brihatkshatra was Suhotra, whose
son was Hastin, who founded the city of Hastinapur. The sons of Hastin were
Ajamidha, Dvimidha and Purumidha. One son of Ajamidha was Kanva, whose
son was Medhatithi, his other son was Brihadishu, whose son was Brihadvasu;
his son was Brihatkarman; his son was Jayadratha, his son was Vishvajit,
his son was Senajit, whose sons were Ruchirashva, Kasya, Dridhadhanush,
and Vasahanu. The son of Ruchiraswa was Prithusena; his son was Para;
his son was Nipa; he had a hundred sons, of whom Samara, the principal,
was the ruler of Kampilya. Samara had three sons, Para, Sampara, Sadashva.
The son of Para was Prithu; his son was Sukriti; his son was Vibhratra;
his son was Anuha, who married Kritvi, the daughter of Shuka (the son of
Vyasa), and had by her Brahmadatta; his son was Vishvaksena; his son was
Udaksena; and his son was Bhallata.
The son of Dvimidha was Yavinara; his son was Dhritimat; his son was
Satyadhriti; his son was Dridhanemi; his son was Suparshva; his son was
Sumati; his son was Sannatimat; his son was Krita, to whom Hiranyanabha
taught the philosophy of the Yoga, and he compiled twenty-four Sanhitas (or
compendia) for the use of the eastern Brahmins, who study the Sama-Veda.
The son of Krita was Ugrayudha, by whose prowess the Nipa race of
Kshatriyas was destroyed; his son was Kshemya; his son was Suvira; his son
was Nripanjaya; his son was Bahuratha. These were all called Pauravas.
1 Wilson’s Vishnu Purana, pp. 447-456.
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Ajamidha had a wife called Nilini, and by her he had a son named Nila;
his son was Santi; his son was Susanti; his son was Purujanu; his son was
Chakshu; his son was Haryashva, who had five sons Mudgala, Srinjaya,
Brihadishu, Pravira, and Kampilya. Their father said, ‘These my five (pancha)
sons are able (alam) to protect the countries’; and hence they were termed
the Panchalas. From Mudgala descended the Maudgalya Brahmins; he had
also a son named Bahvashva, who had two children, twins, a son and
daughter, Divodasa and Ahalya.
* * *
The son of Divodasa was Mitrayu; his son was Chyavana; his son was
Sudasa; his son was Saudasa, also called Sahadeva; his son was Somaka;
he had a hundred sons, of whom Jantu was the eldest, and Prishata the
youngest. The son of Prishata was Drupada; his son was Dhrishtadyumna;
his son was Drishtaketu.
Another son of Ajamidha was named Riksha; his son was Samvarana; his
son was Kuru, who gave his name to the holy district Kurukshetra; his sons
were Sudhanush, Parikshit, and many others. The son of Sudhanush was
Suhotra; his son was Chyavana; his son was Kritaka; his son was Uparichara
the Vasu, who had seven children Brihadratha, Pratyagra, Kushamba,
Mavella, Matsya, and others. The son of Brihadratha was Kusagra; his son
was Rishabha; his son was Pushpavat; his son was Satyadhrita; his son was
Sudhanvan; and his son was Jantu. Brihadratha had another son, who being
born in two parts, which were put together (sandhita) by a female friend
named Jara, he was denominated Jarasandha; his son was Sahadeva; his
son was Somapi; his son was Srutasravas, These were kings of Magadha.”
The immediate ancestry of the three Sudasas is put below in
parallel columns to facilitate the settlement of the question whether
they are one or three different persons:

Status in Rig Veda Sudas in Vishnu Purana
VII, 18:22 VII, 18:23 VII, 18:25 In the Sagar In the Puru
Family Family
Devavata Pijavana Divodasa= Ritupama Bahvashva
Pijavana Sudas Sarvakama Divodasa

Sudas Sudas Sudas Milrayu

Saudasa = Chyavana


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From the table two things are as clear as day-light. First is that
neither Sudas mentioned in the Vishnu Purana has anything to do with
the Sudas mentioned in the Rig Veda. The second point which is clear
is that if the Paijavana mentioned in the Mahabharata can be identified
with anybody who lived in ancient times it can only be with Sudas
mentioned in Rig Veda who was called Paijavana because he was the
son of Pijavana which was another name of Divodasa.1
Fortunately for me my conclusion is the same as that of Prof. Weber.
In commenting upon the passage in the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata
on which my thesis is based Prof. Weber2 says :
“Here the remarkable tradition is recorded that Paijavana, i.e., Sudas who
was so famous for his sacrifices and who is celebrated in the Rig Veda as
the patron of Vishvamitra and enemy of Vasishtha, was a Shudra.”
Prof.Weber unfortunately did not realize the full significance of this
passage. This is another matter. It is enough for my purpose to find
that he too thinks that the Paijavana of the Mahabharata is no other
than Sudas of the Rig Veda.


What do we know about Sudas, the Paijavana?
The following particulars are available about him:
I. Sudas was neither Dasa nor Arya. Both the Dasas as well as
the Aryas were his enemies. 3 This means that he was a Vedic Aryan.
II. The father of Sudas was Divodasa. He seems to be the adopted
son of Vadhryashva.4 Divodasa was a king. He fought many battles
against Turvasas and Yadus,5 Shambara,6 Parava, and Karanja 7 and

1 Some difficulty is felt about the genealogy of this Sudas in the Rig Veda, which
is sought to be got over by identifying Devavata with Divodasa. This difficulty has
mainly arisen because of the diffirent texts of Stanzas 22, 23 and 25 which nobody
seems to have cared to collect properly. Chitrava Shastri’s edition of Rig Veda has
Pijavana throughout. Satavalekar’s edition has Paijavana throughout. Wilson has
Paijavana in 22 and 23 and Pijavana in 25. Wilson’s text seems to be accurate. For
even Yaska has noticed the existence of the name Paijavana in his Nirukta which
he endeavours to explain. If Wilson’s text in 25 is taken as correct no difficulty can
arise. Pijavana would then appear to be another name of Divodasa and Paijavana would
be another name of Sudas.
2 Muir, Vol. 1, p. 366
3 Rig Veda, VII, 83. 1.
4 Rig Veda, IX, 61.2.
5 Rig Veda,VI. 61. 1; VII 19.8
6 Rig Veda, I. 130. 7
7 Rig Veda, I. 53. 10
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Gungu.1 There was a war between Turyavana and Divodasa and his
allies Ayu and Kutsa. The victory went to Turyavana.2
It seems that at one time Indra was against him particularly in
the battle of Turyavana. His purohita was Bharadvaja,3 to whom
Divodasa gave many gifts.4 Bharadvaja seems to have played the part
of a traitor by joining Turyavana against Divodasa.5
There is no reference to the mother of Sudas. But there is a reference
to the wife of Sudas. His wife’s name is given as Sudevi.6 It is said
that the Ashvins procured her for Sudas.
III. Sudas was a king and his coronation ceremony was performed
by the Brahma-rishi, Vasistha.
The Aitareya Brahmana gives the following list of the kings who had
the Mahabhisheka ceremony performed and the name of the Purohita
who officiated at it.7
“With this ceremony Sharyata, the son of Manu, was inaugurated by
Chyavana, the son of Bhrigu. Thence Sharyata went conquering all over the
earth, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse, and was even at the sacrificial
session held by the gods, the house-father.”
“With this ceremony Samasushama, the son of Vajaratna, inaugurated
Shatanika, the son of Satrajit. Thence Shatanika went conquering everywhere
over the whole earth up to its ends, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”
“With this ceremony Parvata and Narada inaugurated Ambashthya. Thence
Ambashthya went conquering everywhere over the whole earth up to its ends,
and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”
“With this ceremony Parvata and Narada inaugurated Yudhamasraushti,
the son of Ugrasena. Thence Yudhamasraushti went conquering everywhere
over the whole earth up to its ends, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”
“With this inauguration ceremony Kashyapa inaugurated Vishva-karma,
the son of Bhuvana. Thence Vishvakarma went conquering everywhere over
the whole earth up to its ends, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”
“They say that the earth sang to Vishvakarma the following stanza:
‘No mortal is allowed to give me away (as donation).8 O, Vishva-karma,
thou hast given me, (therefore) I shall plunge into the midst of the sea. In
vain was thy promise made to Kashyapa.’”
“With this ceremony Vasishtha inaugurated Sudas, the son of Pijavana.
Thence Sudas went conquering everywhere over the whole earth up to its
ends, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”

1 Rig Veda, X. 48
2 Rig Veda, I. 53, 8; VI. 18. 13
3 Rig Veda, I. 116. 18.
4 Rig Veda,VI. 16. 5.
5 Rig Veda, VI. 18. 13.
6 Rig Veda, 1. 112. 19.
7 Martin Haug, Vol. II, pp. 523-524.
8 The king had promised the whole earth as gift to his officiating priest.
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“With this inauguration ceremony Samvarta, the son of Angiras, inaugu-
rated Maruta, the son of Avikshit. Thence Maruta went conquering every-
where over the whole earth up to its ends, and sacrificed the sacrificial horse.”
In this list there is a specific mention of Sudas and of his coronation
having been performed by Vasishtha.
Sudas was the hero in the famous Dasharajna Yuddha or the battle
of the ten kings described in the Rig Veda. References to this famous
battle occur in the various Suktas of the Seventh Mandala of the Rig
Sukta 83 says:
4. “Indra and Varuna, you protected Sudas, overwhelming the yet unassailed
Bheda with your fatal weapons; hear the prayers of these Tritsus in time
of battle, so that my ministration may have borne them fruit.”
6. “Both (Sudas and the Tritsus) call upon you two, (Indra and Varuna),
in combats for the acquirement of wealth, when you defend Sudas, together
with the Tritsus, when attacked by the ten Rajas.”
7. “The ten confederated irreligious Rajas did not prevail, Indra and
Varuna, against Sudas; the praise of the leaders (of rites), the offerers of
sacrificial food, was fruitful; the gods were present at their sacrifices.”
9. “One of you destroys enemies in battle, the other ever protects religious
observances; we invoke you, showerers (of benefits), with praises; bestow upon
us, Indra and Varuna, felicity.”
Sukta 33 says :
2. “Disgracing (Pashadyumna), they brought from afar the fierce Indra,
when drinking the ladle of Soma at his sacrifice, to (receive) the libation
(of Sudas); Indra hastened from the effused Soma of Pashadyumna, the son
of Vayata, to the Vasishthas.”
3. “In the same manner was he, (Sudas), enabled by them easily to cross
the Sindhu river; in the same manner, through them he easily slew his foes;
so in like manner, Vasishthas, through your prayers, did Indra defend Sudas
in the war with the ten kings.”
“Suffering from thirst, soliciting (rain), supported (by the Tritsus) in the
war with the ten Rajas, (the Vasishthas) made Indra radiant as the sun;
Indra heard (the praises) of Vasishtha glorifying him, and bestowed a spacious
region on the Tritsus.”
Sukta 19 says :
3. “Undaunted (Indra), thou hast protected with all thy protections Sudas,
the offerer of oblations; thou hast protected, in battles with enemies for the
possession of the earth, TRASADASYU, the son of PURUKUTSA, and PURU.”
6. “Thy favours, Indra, to Sudas, the donor (of offerings), the presenter
of oblations, arc infinite;showerer (of benefits)I yoke for thee (thy vigorous)
steeds; may our prayers, reach thee who art mighty, to whom many rites
are addressed.”
Sukta 18 of the Seventh Mandala says :
5. “The adorable Indra made the well-known deep waters (of the Parushni)
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fordable for Sudas, and converted the vehement awakening imprecation of
the sacrificer into the calumniation of the rivers.”
6. “TURVASHA, who was preceding (at solen rites), diligent in sacrifice,
(went to Sudas) for wealth; but like fishes restricted (to the element of water),
the Bhrigus and Druhyus quickly assailed them; of these two everywhere
going, the friend (of Sudas, Indra) rescued his friend.”
7. “Those who dress the oblation, those who pronounce auspicious words,
those who abstain from penance, those who bear horns (in their hands), those
who bestow happiness (on the world by sacrifice), glorify that Indra, who
recovered the cattle of the Arya from the plunderers, who slew the enemies
in battle.”
8. “The evil-disposed and stupid (enemies of Sudas), crossing the humble
Parushni river, have broken down its banks;but he by his greatness pervades
the earth, and KAVI, the son of CHAYAMANA, like a falling victim, sleeps
(in death).”
9. “The waters followed their regular course to the Parushni, nor (wan-
dered) beyond it; the quick course (of the king) came to the accessible places,
and INDRA made the idly-talking enemies, with their numerous progeny,
subject among them (to Sudas).”
10. “They who ride on parti-coloured cattle, (the Maruts), despatched by
PRISHNI, and recalling the engagement made by them with their friend
(Indra), came like cattle from the pasturage, when left without a herdsman;
the exulting Niyut steeds brought them quickly (against the foe).”
11. “The hero INDRA created the Maruts (for the assistance of the Raja),
who, ambitious of fame, slew one and twenty of the men on the two banks
(of the Parushni), as a well looking priest lops the sacred grass in the chamber
of sacrifice.”
12. “Thou, the bearer of the thunderbolt, didst drown SHRUTA, KAVASHA,
VRIDDHA, and afterwards DRUHYU in the waters; for they, Indra, who are
devoted to thee, and glorify thee, preferring thy friendship, enjoy it.”
13. “Indra, in his might, quickly demolished all their strongholds, and their
seven (kinds of) cities; he has given the dwelling of the son of ANU to TRITSU;
may we, (by propitiating), (Indra) conquer in battle the ill-speaking man.”
14. “The warriors of the ANUS and DRUHYUS, intending (to carry off
the) cattle, (hostile) to the pious (SUDAS), perished to the number of sixty-
six thousand six hundred and sixty; such are all the glorious acts of INDRA.”
15. “These hostile Tritsus, ignorantly contending with INDRA, fled, routed
as rapidly as rivers on a downward course, and being discomfited abandoned
all their possessions to SUDAS.”
16. “INDRA has scattered over the earth the hostile rival of the hero
(SUDAS), the senior of INDRA, the appropriator of the oblation; INDRA has
baffled the wrath of the wrathful enemy, and the (foe) advancing on the way
(against SUDAS) has taken the path of flight.”
17. “INDRA has effected a valuable (donation) by a pauper; he has slain
an old lion by a goat; he has cut the angles of the sacrificial post with a
needle; he has given all the spoils (of the enemy) to SUDAS.”
18. “Thy numerous enemies, INDRA, have been reduced to subjugation; effect
at some time or other the subjugation of the turbulent BHEDA, who holds men
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praising thee as guilty of wickedness; hurl, INDRA, thy sharp thunderbolt
against him.”
19. “The dwellers on the Yamuna and Tritsus glorified INDRA when
he killed BHEDA in battle; the Ajas, the Shigrus, the Yakshas. offered
to him as a sacrifice the heads of the horses killed in the combat.”
20. “Thy favours, INDRA, and thy bounties, whether old or new, cannot
be counted like the (recurring) dawns; thou hast slain DEVAKA, the son
of MANYAMANA and of thine own will hast cast down SHAMBARA from
the vast (mountain).”
In this batte the kings who fought against Sudas were:1 (1) Shinyu,
(2) Turvasha, (3) Druhyu, (4) Kavasha, (5) Puru, (6) Anu, (7) Bheda,
(8) Shambara, (9) Vaikarna, (10) another Vaikarna, (11) Yadu,
(12) Matsya, (13) Paktha, (14) Bhalanas, (15) Aleena, (16) Vishanin,
(17) Aja, (18) Shiva, (19) Shigru, (20) Yakshu, (21) Yudhyamadhi,
(22) Yadva, (23) Devaka Manyamana, (24) Chayamana Kavi,
(25) Sutuka, (26) Uchatha, (27) Shmta, (28) Vriddha, (29) Manyu,
and (30) Prithu.
Obviously, the war was a much bigger war than its name indicates.
The war must have been a very great event in the history of the
Indo-Aryans. No wonder the victorious Sudas became a great hero
of his time.2 We do not know what exactly led to this war. Some
indication is given by Rig Veda, vii.83.7, where the kings arrayed
against Sudas are described as irreligious which suggests that it was
probably a religious war.
IV. Sayanacharya, as well as tradition, declare the following
hymns of the Rig Veda to have had the under-mentioned kings for
their rishis :
“Vitahavya (or Bharadvaja) x.9, Sindhudvipa, son of Ambarisha (or
Trisiras, son of Tvashtri) x.75,Sindhukshit, son of Priyamedha; x.133,
Sudas, son of Pijavana; x.134, Mandhatri, son of Yuvanasa; x.179, Sibi,
son of Usinara, Pratardana, son of Divodasa and king of Kasi, and
Vasumanas, son of Rohidasva; and x.148 is declared to have had Prithi
It will be noticed that in this list there occurs the name of Sudas
as a composer of Vedic hymns.
V. Sudas performed Ashvamedha Yajna. There is reference to this
in Rig Veda, iii.53.
9. “The great RISHI, the generator of the gods, attracted by the deities, the
1 The list is taken from Chitrava Shastri’s Prachin Charitra Kosh, p. 624. There
is no unanimity whether all the names are of kings. Sayanacharya says that 13-
16 are names of the Purohitas. There is also doubt about 27-29.
2 The name of Sudas occurs in the Rig Veda in 27 places. It shows what a great
hero he must have been regarded by the Vedic people.
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overlooker of the leaders (at holy rites), VISHVA-MITRA arrested the watery
stream when he sacrificed for SUDAS; INDRA with the Kushikas, was
11. “Approach, Kushikas, the steed of SUDAS; animate (him), and let him
loose to (win) riches (for the raja); for the king (of the gods), has slain VRITRA
in the East, in the West, in the North, therefore let (SUDAS) worship him
in the best (regions) of the earth.”
VI. Sudas was known for charity to the Brahmins who called him
Atithigva (the doyen) of Philanthrophists. How the Brahmins have
praised him for his philanthrophy appears from the following refer-
ences in the Rig Veda:
i.47.6. “0, impetuous Ashvins, possessing wealth in your car, bring
sustenance to Sudas. Send to us from the (aerial) ocean, or the sky, the riches
which are much coveted.”
i.63.7. “Thou didst then, O,thundering Indra, war against, and shatter, the
seven cities for Purukutsa, when thou, O king, didst without effort hurl away
distress from Sudas like a bunch of grass, and bestow wealth on Puru.”
i. 112.19. “Come, O Ashvins, with those succours whereby ye brought
glorious power to Sudas.”
vii.19.3. “Though, O fierce Indra, hast impetuously protected Sudas, who
offered oblations, with every kind of succour. Thou hast preserved Trasadasyu
the son of Purukutsa, and Puru in his conquest of land and in his slaughter
of enemies.”
vii.20.2 “Indra growing in force slays Vritra; the hero protects him who
praises him; he makes room for Sudas (or the liberal sacrificer- Sayana); he
gives riches repeatedly to his worshippers.”
vii.25.3. “Let a hundred succours come to Sudas, a thousand desirable (gifts)
and prosperity. Destroy the weapon of the murderous. Confer renown and
wealth on us.”
vii.32.10. “No one can oppose or stop the chariot of Sudas. He whom Indra,
whom the Marutas, protect, walks in a pasture filled with cattle.”
vii.53.3. “And ye, O, Heaven and Earth, have many gifts of wealth for Sudas.”
vii.60.8. “Since Aditi, Mitra, and Varuna, afford secure protection to Sudas
(or the liberal man), bestowing on him offspring—may we not, O mighty
deities, commit any offence against the gods ... May Aryaman rid us of our
enemies. (Grant) ye vigorous gods, a wide space to Sudas.”
These are the biographical bits regarding Paijavana referred to in
the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata gleaned from the most authentic
source, namely, the Rig Veda. From the Rig Veda, we know that his
real name was Sudas, that he was a Kshatriya. He was more than a
Kshatriya. He was a king and a mighty king. To this, the Mahabharata
adds a fresh and a new detail, namely that he was a Shudra. A Shudra
to be an Aryan, a Shudra to be a Kshatriya and a Shudra to be a king!!
Can there be a greater revelation? Can there be anything more
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This search for biographical details may be closed with a discus-
sion of three important questions: Was Sudas an Aryan? If Sudas
is an Aryan what is the tribe to which he belonged? If Sudas is
a Shudra, what does Shudra signify?
It might be well to begin with the second. For the determination
of this question it is possible to derive some assistance from certain
reference in the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda mentions many tribes, most
important of which are Tritsus, Bharatas, Turvasas, Durhyus, Yadus,
Purus and Anus. But according to the references in the Rig Veda
there are only three with whom Sudas was connected. They are
Purus, Tritsus and the Bharatas. It is enough to confine ourselves
to these three and to find out if possible to which of these tribes
he belonged. The most important stanzas bearing on the relation
between Tritsus and Sudas are the Rig Veda, i.63.7; i. 130.7;
vii.18.15; vii.33.5; vii.33.6; vii.83:4, 6.
In i.63,7,Divodasa is spoken of as the king of the Purus and in
i. 130.7, Divodasa is spoken of as Paurve, i.e., belonging to the Purus.
Rig Veda,vii.l8.15 and vii.83.6, suggest that Sudas was not a
Tritsu. The first suggests that Sudas raided the camp of Tritsus who
ran away and Sudas took possession of their wealth. The second
suggests that Tritsus and Sudas were on one side in the war against
the ten kings, but they are shown as separate. But in vii.35.5 and
in vii.83.4, Sudas becomes fully identified with Tritsus; indeed, in
the former Sudas becomes a king of the Tritsus.
On this question of the relation between the Tritsus and the
Bharatas and between them and Sudas, we have as our evidence
Rig Veda, vii.33.6 and v. 16.4, 6, 19. According to the first, Tritsus
are the same as the Bharatas. According to the second, Divodasa
the father of Sudas is spoken of as belonging to the Bharatas.
From these references one thing is certain that the Purus, Tritsus
and Bharatas were either different branches of one and the same
folk or that they were different tribes, who in the course of time
became one people, folk. This is not impossible. The only question
is: assuming they were different, to whom did Sudas originally
belong? To the Purus, the Tritsus or to the Bharatas? Having regard
to the connection of the Purus and the Bharatas with Divodasa, his
father, it seems natural to suppose that Sudas originally belonged
either to the Purus or to the Bharatas—which, it is difficult to say.
Whether he belonged to the Purus or not, there is no doubt that
Sudas belonged to the Bharatas if regard is had to the fact that his
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father Divodasa is spoken of as belonging to the Bharatas. The next
question, is: who were these Bharatas and whether they are the people
after whom India got the name Bharata Bhumi or the land of the
Bharatas. This question is important because most people are not aware
of the true facts. When Hindus talk of the Bharatas they have in mind
the Daushyanti Bharatas, Bharatas descended from Dushyanta and
Shakuntala and who fought the war which is described in the
Mahabharata. Not only are they not aware of any other Bharatas but
they believe that the name Bharata Bhumi which was given to India
was given after the Daushyanti Bharatas.
There are two Bharatas quite distinct from each other. One tribe
of the Bharatas are the Bharatas of the Rig Veda, who were descended
from Manu and to whom Sudas belonged. The other tribe of Bharatas
are the Daushyanti Bharatas. What is more important is that if India
has been named Bharata Bhumi it is after the Bharatas of the Rig
Veda and not after the Daushyanti Bharatas. This is made clear by
the following stanzas from the Bhagavata Purana:1

fIkz;aonks uke lqrks euks% Lok;aHkqoL; g A
rL;kXuh?kzLrrks ukfHk½Z"kHk Üp lqrLrr% AA
vorh.kZ iq=k'kra rL;klhnzgÔikjxe~ A
rs"kka oS Hkjrks T;s"Bks ukjk;.kijk;.k% A
fo[;kra o"kZesr|UukEuk HkkjreqÙkize~ AA
“Manu, the son of Syavambhu, had a son named Priyamvada; his son
was Agnidhra; his son was Nabhi; he had a son Rishabha. He had a
hundred sons born to him, all learned in the Veda; of them, Bharata was
the eldest, devoted to Narayana, by whose name this excellent land is
known as Bharata.”
This shows to what illustratious line of kings this Shudra Sudas
The next thing to find out is whether Sudas was an Aryan. The
Bharatas were of course Aryans and therefore Sudas must have been
an Aryan. If reference is had to Rig Veda, vii. 18.7, this connection
with the Tritsus to the Aryans seems to throw some doubt on his
Aryan origin. This stanza says that Indra rescued the cows of the
Aryas from the Tritsus and killed the Tritsus, thereby suggesting that
the Tritsus were the enemies of the Aryas. Griffiths is very much
perturbed by the Tritsus being shown as non-Aryans which is the
result of a literal translation of the stanza, and to avoid it he

1 Quoted by Vaidya in Mahabharatacha Upasamhara, p. 200.
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understands cows to mean comrade.1 This of course is unnecessary
if one bears in mind that the Rig Veda Contains the story of two
sorts of Aryas, whether differing in race or religion, it is difficult
to say. Interpreted in the light of this fact, all that the stanza means
is that at the time when it was written the Tritsus had not become
Aryans by religion. It does not mean that they were not Aryans by
race. It is therefore indisputable that Sudas, whether taken as a
Bharata or as a Tritsu was an Aryan.
And now to the last question, though it is by no means the least.
What does Shudra signify? In the light of this new discovery that
Sudas was a Shudra, the word now stands in a totally different light.
To old scholars to whom the word was just the name of a servile
and aboriginal class this new discovery must come as a surprise for
which their past researches cannot possibly furnish an answer. As
for myself, I am in no better position. The reason is that the social
organization of the Vedic Aryans has yet to be studied. We know from
the study of primitive societies that they are organized in groups and
they act as groups. The groups are of various sorts. There are clans,
phratries, moieties and tribes. In some cases, the tribe is the primary
unit, in others it is the clan, in others the phratry. In some cases
tribes are sub-divided into clans. In other cases there are no clans.
It is a single clanless tribe.
The clan embraces the descendants of a single ancestor held
together by a sense of common descent. Clans often become associated
through common social and ceremonial interests into major units,
called phratries or brotherhoods of clans. The bond within the phratry
may be relatively loose, that is, the association may not imply more
than an informal feeling of preferential friendship. The phratry may
become a moiety in which each clan is recognized as part of one of
two major units. But moieties may occur without any sub-division,
that is, the entire clan may consist of two clans. All these organi-
zations whether it is a clan, a phratry, a moiety or a tribe, are all
based on the tie of kinship.
The Vedic Aryans had no doubt some such forms of social
organization. That is clear from the nomenclature. As pointed out
by Prof. Senart :2

1 His rendering is “yet to the Tritsus come the Aryu’s comrade, through love
of spoil and heros’ war, to lead them.”
2 ‘Castes in India” by Emile Senart, p. 192.
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“The Vedic hymns arc all too indefinite concerning the details of external
and social life. We at least sec from them that the Aryan population was
divided into a number of tribes or small peoples (janas), subdivided into
clans united by the ties of kinship (visas), which in their turn were split
up into families. The terminology of the Rig Veda, is in this respect
somewhat indecisive, but the general fact is clear. Sajata, that is to say,
‘kinsman’ or ‘fellow in Jati,’ of race, seems in the Atharva-Veda to denote
fellow in clan (vis), Jana, which assumes a wider significance, recalls the
Avestic equivalent of the clan, the zantu, and the jati or caste. A series
of terms, vra, vrijana, vraja, vrata, appear to be synonyms or subdivisions
either of the clan or of the tribes. The Aryan population then lived, at
the epoch to which the hymns refer, under the rule of an organization
dominated by the traditions of the tribe and the lower or similar groupings.
The very variety of names indicates that this organization was somewhat
We have, however, no information to determine which of these
corresponds to the clan, which to the phratry and which to the tribe.1
That being so, it is difficult to say whether Shudra was the name
of a clan, a phratry or a tribe. It is, however, interesting to refer
to the view of Prof. Weber when he comments on the passage from
the Satapatha Brahmana (i. 1.4.12) where it says that different modes
of address should be adopted inviting the sacrificer to proceed with
the sacrifice, addressing him as ‘come’ if he is a Brahmin, ‘hasten
hither’ if he is a Kshatriya, ‘hasten hither’ if he is a Vaishya and
‘run hither’ if he is a Shudra. Prof. Weber says :2
“The entire passage is of great importance, as it shows (in opposition
to what Roth says in the first Volume of this Journal, p.83) that the
Shudras were then admitted to the holy sacrifices of the Aryans, and
understood their speech, even if they did not speak it. The latter point
cannot certainly be assumed as a necessary consequence, but it is highly
probable and I consequently incline to the view of those who regard the
Shudras as an Aryan tribe which immigrated into India before the others.”
His conclusion that the Shudras were Aryans hits the nail squarely
on the head. The only point of doubt is whether the Shudras were
a tribe. That they were Aryans and Kshatriyas is beyond doubt.

1 What we called Aryan tribes appear to be a phratry in view of their changing
2 Muir. Vol. I, p. 366.
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THAT there were from the very beginning four Varnas in the Indo-
Aryan society is a view which is universally accepted by all classes
of Hindus, and also by European scholars. If the thesis advanced
in the last chapter, namely, that the Shudras were Kshatriyas is
accepted, then it follows that this theory is wrong and that there
was a time when there were only three Varnas in the Indo-Aryan
society, viz., Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Thus, the thesis,
while it solves one problem, at the same time creates another.
Whether anybody else sees the importance of this problem or not,
I do. Indeed, I am aware of the fact that unless I succeed in proving
that there were originally only three Varnas, my thesis that the
Shudras were Kshatriyas may not be said to be proved beyond the
shadow of a doubt.
While it is unfortunate that I should have landed on a thesis,
which, while holding out a promise of solving the problem, creates
another, I feel fortunate in having strong and cogent evidence to
show that there were originally only three Varnas among the Indo-
The first piece of evidence I rely upon is that of the Rig Veda
itself. There are some scholars who maintain that the Varna system
did not exist in the age of the Rig Veda. This statement is based
on the view that the Purusha Sukta is an interpolation which has
taken place long after the Rig Veda was closed. Even accepting that
the Purusha Sukta is a later interpolation, it is not possible to accept
the statement that the Varna system did not exist in the time of
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the Rig Veda. Such a system is in open conflict with the text of
the Rig Veda. For, the Rig Veda, apart from the Purusha Sukta,
does mention Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas not once but many
times. The Brahmins are mentioned as a separate Varna fifteen
times, Kshatriyas nine times. What is important is that the Rig Veda
does not mention Shudra as a separate Varna. If Shudras were a
separate Varna there is no reason why the Rig Veda should not have
mentioned them. The true conclusion to be drawn from the Rig Veda
is not that the Varna system did not exist, but that there were only
three Varnas and that Shudras were not regarded as a fourth and
a separate Varna.
The second piece of evidence I rely on is the testimony of the two
Brahmanas, the Satapatha and the Taittiriya. Both speak of the
creation of three Varnas only. They do not speak of the creation
of the Shudras as a separate.
The Satapatha Brahmana says :l
II. 1.4.11.— “(Uttering), ‘bhuh’, Prajapati generated this earth. (Uttering)
‘bhuvah’ he generated the air, and (Uttering) ‘svah’ he generated the sky.
This universe is co-extensive with these worlds. (The fire) is placed with
the whole. Saying ‘bhuh’, Prajapati generated the Brahman; saying
‘bhuvah’’ he generated the Kshattra; (and saying) ‘svah’, he generated the
Vis. The fire is placed with the whole. (Saying) ‘bhuh’, Prajapati generated
himself; (saying) ‘bhuvah’, he generated offspring : saying ‘svah’, he
generated animals. This world is so much as self, offspring, and animals.
(The fire) is placed with the whole.”
The Taittirya Brahmana says2
III. 12.9.2.— “This entire (universe) has been created by Brahma. Men
say that the Vaishya class was produced from ric verses. They say that
the Yajur Veda is the womb from which the Kshattriya was born. The
Sama Veda is the source from which the Brahmins sprang. This word the
ancients declared to the ancients.”
Here is my evidence. It consists of an inference from the Rig Veda
and two statements from two Brahmanas which in point of authority
are co-equal with the Vedas. For both are Shruti both say in definite
and precise terms that there were only three Varnas. Both agree that
the Shudras did not form a separate and a distinct Varna, much less
the fourth Varna. There cannot, therefore, be better evidence in support
of my contention that there were originally only three Varnas

1 Muir, Vol. 1, p. 17.
2 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 17.
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and that the Shudras were only a part of the second Varna.


Such is my evidence. On the other side, there is, of course, the
evidence contained in the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda, which
maintains that there were four Varnas from the very beginning. The
question now is : which of the two should be accepted as the correct?
How is this question to be decided? It cannot be decided by applying
the rules of Mimamsa. If we did apply it, we will have to admit that
both the statements, one in the Purusha Sukta that there were four
Varnas and the statement in the two Brahmanas that there were
three Varnas, are true. This is an absurd position. We must decide
this matter in the light of the canons of historical criticism, such
as sequence of time and intrinsic criticism, etc. The main question
is whether the Purusha Sukta is a later composition added to the
original Rig Veda. The question has been dealt with on the basis
of the language of the Sukta as compared with the language of the
rest of the Rig Veda. That it is a late production is the opinion of
all scholars. This is what Colebrooke says :1
“That remarkable hymn (the Purusha Sukta) is in language, metre, and
style, very different from the rest of the prayers with which it is associated.
It has a decidedly more modern tone; and must have been composed after
the Sanskrit language had been refined, and its grammar and rhythm
perfected. The internal evidence which it furnishes serves to demonstrate
the important fact that the compilation of the Vedas, in their present
arrangement, took place after the Sanskrit tongue had advanced from the
rustic and irregular dialect in which the multitude of hymns and prayers
of the Veda was composed, to the polished and sonorous language in which
the mythological poems, sacred and profane (puranas and kavyas), have
been written.”
In the opinion of Prof.Max Muller :2
“There can belittle doubt, for instance, that the 90th hymn of the 10th book...
is modern both in its character and in its diction. It is full of allusions to the
sacrificial ceremonials, it uses technically philosophical terms, it mentions the
three seasons in the order of Vasanta, spring, Grishma, summer and Sharad,
autumn; it contains the only passsage in the Rig Veda where the four castes
arc enumerated. The evidence of language for the modern date of this composition
is equally strong. Grishma, for instance, the name for the hot season, docs not
occur in any other hymn of the Rig Veda; and Vasanta also, the name

1 Quoted in Muir, Vol, I, p. 13,
2 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 13.
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of spring docs not belong to the earliest vocabulary of the Vedic poets.
It occurs but once more in the Rig Veda (x.161.4), in a passage where
the three seasons are mentioned in the order of Sharad, autumn; Hemanta,
winter; and Vasanta, spring.”
Prof.Weber observes :1
“That the Purusha Sukta, considered as a hymn of the Rig Veda, is
among the latest portions of that collection, is clearly perceptible from its
contents. The fact that the Sama Samhita has not adopted any verse from
it, is not without importance (compare what I have remarked in my
Academical Prelections). The Naigeya school, indeed, appears (although it
is not quite certain) to have extracted the first five verses in the seventh
prapathaka of the first Archika, which is peculiar to it.”


This is one line of argument. There is also another line of argument
which also helps us to determine whether the Purusha Sukta is an
earlier or later production. For this it is necessary to find out how
many Samhitas of the Vedas have adopted the Purusha Sukta.
Examining the different Vedas and the Samhitas, the position is as
follows :
The Sama Veda produces only 5 verses from the Purusha Sukta.
As to the White Yajur Veda, the Vajasaneyi Samhita includes it but
the difference between the two is great. The Purusha Sukta, as it
stands, in the Rig Veda, has only 16 verses. But the Purusha Sukta
in the Vajasaneyi Samhita has 22 verses. Of the Black Yajur Veda
there are three Samhitas available at present. But none of the three
Samhitas, the Taittiriya, the Katha and the Maitrayani, gives any
place to the Purusha Sukta. The Atharva Veda is the only Veda which
contains a more or less exact reproduction of the Purusha Sukta of
the Rig Veda.
The text of the Purusha Sukta, as it occurs in the different Vedas,
is not uniform. The six additional verses of the Vajasaneyi Samhita
are special to it and are not to be found in the text as it occurs in
the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda or the Atharva Veda. There is another
difference which relates to verse 16. The 16th verse of the Rig Veda
is to be found neither in the Atharva Veda nor in the Sama Veda nor
in the Yajur Veda. Similary, the 16th verse of the Atharva Veda is to
be found neither in the Rig Veda nor in the Yajur Veda. Of the fifteen

1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 14.
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verses, which are common to the three Vedas, their texts are not,
identical. Nor is the order in which the verses stand in the three
Vedas the same as may be seen from the following table :

Yajur Veda Rig Veda Sama Veda Atharva Veda
1 1 3 1
2 2 5 4
3 3 6 3
4 4 4 2
5 5 7 9
6 8 * 10
7 9 * 11
8 10 * 14
9 7 * 13
10 11 * 12
11 12 * 5
12 13 * 6
13 14 * 7
14 6 * 8
15 15 * 15
16† 16 * 16†
17 * * *
18 * * *
19 * * *
20 * * *
21 * * *
22 * * *
The point is that if the Purusha Sukta had been an old, hoary
text, sanctified by ancient tradition, could the other Vedas have taken
such a liberty with it? Could they have changed it and chopped it
as they have done?
The place of the Purusha Sukta in the hymns of the different Vedas
is also very significant. In the Rig Veda it occurs in the miscellaneous
part and in the Atharva Veda it occurs in what is known as the
supplementary part. If it was the earliest composition of the Rig
Veda, why should it have been placed in such inconsequential

*Means that these Verses are not to be found.
†Means that they are not identical.
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collection? What do these points suggest? They suggest that :
(1) If the Purusha Sukta was not incorporated in the Taittiriya,
Kathaka and Maitrayani Samhitas of the Black Yajur Veda,
it follows, that the Purusha Sukta was added to the Rig Veda
after the Taittiriya Samhita, the Kathaka Samhita, the
Maitrayani Samhita of the Black Yajur Veda.
(2) That it had to be put in the miscellaneous and supplemen-
tary portions of the Vedas shows that it was composed at
a later stage.
(3) That the freedom which the authors of the different Samhitas
took in adding, omitting and recording the verses shows that
they did not regard it as an ancient hymn, which they were
bound to reproduce in its exact original form.
These points go a long way in furnishing corroborative evidence
in support of the views held by Prof. Max Muller and others that
the Purusha Sukta is a later interpolation.


The difference in the form of the stanzas in the Purusha Sukta
is also very noteworthy. Anyone who reads the Purusha Sukta will
find that except for these two verses, viz., 11 and 12, the whole of
it is in the narrative form. But the two verses, which explain the
origin of the four Varnas, are in the form of question and answer.
The point is : Why should these verses be introduced in a question
form breaking the narrative form? The only explanation is that the
writer wanted to introduce a new matter and in a pointed manner.
This means that not only the Purusha Sukta is a later addition to
the Rig Veda, but these particular verses are much later than even
the Purusha Sukta.
Some critics have gone to the length of saying that the Purusha
Sukta is a forgery by the Brahmins to bolster up their claim to
superiority. Priests are known to have committed many forgeries. The
Donations of Constantine and Pseudo-Isidore Decretals are well
known forgeries in the history of the Papacy. The Brahmins of
India were not free from such machinations. How they changed the
original word ‘Agre’ into ‘Agne’ to make Rig Veda give support to
the burning of widows has been pointed out by no less an authority
than Prof.Max Muller. It is well-known how in the time of the East
India Company a whole Smriti was fabricated to support the case
of a plaintiff. There is, therefore, nothing surprising if the Brahmins did
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forge the Purusha Sukta, if not the whole, at least the two verses
11 and 12, at some later stage, long after the fourth Varna had come
into being, with a view to give the system of Chaturvarnya the
sanction of the Veda.


Is the Purusha Sukta earlier than the Brahmanas? This question
is distinct and separate from the first. It may be that the Purusha
Sukta belongs to the later part of the Rig Veda. Yet, if the Rig Veda
as a whole is earlier than the Brahmanas, the Purusha Sukta would
still be earlier than the Brahmanas. The question, therefore, needs
to be separately considered.
It is Prof. Max Muller’s view that in the growth of the Vedic
literature the order was Vedas, then Brahmanas and thereafter the
Sutras. If this proposition was adopted, it would mean that the
Purusha Sukta must be earlier than the Brahmanas. Question is :
Can Prof. Max Muller’s proposition be accepted as absolute? If it was
accepted as absolute, the proposition would lead to two conclusions:
(1) That in the time of the Rig Veda there were four Varnas
and at the time of the Satapatha Brahmana they became
three; or
(2) that the tradition is not completely recorded in the Satapatha
It is obvious that both these conclusions are absurd and must be
rejected. The first is absurd on the face of it. The second is untenable
because the theory of the evolution of Varnas by the two Brahmanas
is different from that set out in the Purusha Sukta and is complete
in itself. The absurdity of the result is inevitable if one were to take
Max Muller’s proposition as absolute. The proposition cannot be taken
as absolute to mean that no Brahmana was composed until all the
Samhitas had come into being. On the other hand, it is quite possible
as pointed out by Professors Belvalkar and Ranade that most of these
compositions are composite and synchronous and, therefore, one part
of the Vedas can be earlier than another part and that a part of
the Brahmanas can be earlier than parts of the Vedas. If this is a
correct view then there is nothing inherently improbable in holding
that the parts of the Satapatha Brahmana and of the Taittiriya
Brahmana, which record the legend that there were at one time only
three Varnas, are earlier than the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda.
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What is the conclusion which follows from this examination of the
Purusha Sukta? There is only one conclusion, that the Sukta is an
addition to the Rig Veda made at a later stage and is, therefore,
no argument that there were four Varnas from the very beginning
of the Aryan Society.
For the reasons given above, it will be seen that my thesis about
the origin of the Shudras creates no problem such as the one
mentioned in the beginning of this Chapter. If it did appear to create
a problem, it was because of the assumption that the Purusha Sukta
was an authentic and genuine record of what it purports to say. That
assumption has now been shown to be quite baseless. I, therefore,
see no difficulty in concluding that there was a time when the Aryan
Society had only three Varnas and the Shudras belonged to the second
or the Kshatriya Varna.
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THE thesis that the Shudras were Kshatriyas and that if they became
the fourth Varna it was because they were degraded to that position
does not wholly solve the problem. It only raises another problem.
This problem is why were the Shudras degraded?
The problem is new. It has never been raised before. The existing
literature on the subject cannot, therefore, be expected to contain an
answer. The question is raised by me for the first time. As it is a
question on which my theory of the Shudras rests, the burden of
giving a satisfactory answer must rest on me. I believe, I can give
a satisfactory answer to this question. My answer is that the
degradation of the Shudras is the result of a violent conflict between
the Shudras and the Brahmins. Fortunately for me, there is abundant
evidence of it.


There is direct evidence of a violent conflict between the Shudra
king, Sudas and Vasishtha, the Brahmin rishi. The facts relating to
this conflict however are stated in a very confused manner. In the
narration which follows, I have made an attempt to state them in
a neat and an orderly fashion.
To understand the nature of the conflict, it is necessary first to
understand the relations between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra.
Vasishtha and Vishvamitra were enemies and were enemies first
and enemies last. There was no incident to which one of them was
a party in which the other did not know himself as an opponent.
As evidence of their enmity, I will refer to some of the episodes. The
first one is that of Satyavrata otherwise called Trishanku. The story
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as told in the Harivamsha1 is as follows:
“Meanwhile Vasishtha, from the relation subsisting between the king
(Satyavrata’s father) and himself, as disciple and spiritual preceptor, governed
the city of Ayodhya, the country, and the interior apartments of the royal
palace. But Satyavrata, whether thorough folly or the force of destiny,
cherished constantly an increased indignation against Vasishtha, who for a
(proper) reason had not interposed to prevent his exclusion from the royal
power by his father. ‘The formulae of the marriage ceremonial are only
binding,’ said Satyavrata, ‘when the seventh step has been taken, and this
had not been done when I seized the damsel; still Vasishtha, who knows
the precepts of the law, does not come to my aid.’ Thus Satyavrata was
incensed in his mind against Vasishtha, who, however had acted from a sense
of what was right. Nor did Satyavrata understand (the propriety of) that silent
penance imposed upon him by his father... When he had supported this
arduous rite, (he supposed that) he had redeemed his family position. The
venerable muni Vasishtha did not, however, (as has been said), prevent his
father from setting him aside, but resolved to install his son as king. When
the powerful prince Satyavrata had endured the penance for twelve years,
he beheld, when he was without flesh to eat, the milch cow of Vasishtha
which yielded all objects of desire, and under the influence of anger, delusion,
and exhaustion, distressed by hunger, and failing in the ten duties he slew...
and both partook of her flesh himself, and gave it to Vishvamitra’s sons to
eat. Vasishtha hearing of this, became incensed against him and imposed
on him the name of Trishanku as he had committed three sins. On his return
home, Vishvamitra was gratified2 by the support which his wife had received,
and offered Trishanku the choice of a boon. When this proposal was made,
Trishanku chose his boon of ascending bodily to heaven. All apprehension
from the twelve years’ drought being now at an end, the muni (Vishvamitra)
installed Trishanku in his father’s kingdom and offered sacrifice on his behalf.
The mighty Kaushika then, in spite of the resistance of the gods and of
Vasishtha exalted the king alive to heaven.”
The next episode in which they appear on opposite sides is that
of Harishchandra, the son of Trishanku. The story is told in the Vishnu
Purana and in the Markandeya Purana. The following account is

1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, pp. 377-378..
2 It is stated in the Harivamsha :
“In consequence of the wickedness which had been committed, Indra did not rain
for a period of twelve yean, At that time Vishvamitra had left his wife and children
and gone to practise austerities on the seashore. His wife, driven to extremity by want,
was on the point of selling her second son for a hundred cows, in order to support
the others; but this arrangement was stopped by the intervention of Satyavrata who
liberated the son when bound, and maintained the family by providing them with the
flesh of wild animals and according to his father’s injunction, consterated himself for
the performance of a silent penance for twelve years.”
As stated in another place in the Harivamsha, Trishanku had been expelled from
his home by his father for the offence of carrying off the young wife of one of the
citizens under the influnece of a criminal passion and Vasishtha did not interfere to
prevent his banishment. It is to this that the text refers.
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given 1
The story runs :
“On one occasion, when hunting, the king heard a sound of female
lamentation which proceeded, it appears, from the sciences who were becoming
mastered by the austerely fervid sage Vishvamitra, in a way they had never
been before by anyone else; and were consequently crying out in alarm at
his superiority. For the fulfilment of his duty as a Kshatriya to defend the
weak, and inspired by the god Ganesha, who had entered into him,
Harishchandra exclaimed ‘What sinner is this who is binding fire in the hem
of his garment, while I, his lord, am present, resplendent with force and fiery
vigour? He shall to-day enter on his long sleep, pierced in all his limbs by
arrows, which, by their discharge from my bow, illuminate all the quarters
of the firmament.’ Vishvamitra was provoked by this address. In consequence
of his wrath the Sciences instantly perished, and Harishchandra, trembling
like the leaf of an ashvatlha tree, submissively represented that he had merely
done his duty as a king, which he defined as consisting in the bestowal of
gifts on eminent Brahmins and other persons of slender means, the protection
of the timid, and war against enemies. Vishvamitra hereupon demands a gift
as a Brahmin intent upon receiving one. The king offers him whatsoever he
may ask: Gold, his own son, wife, body, life, kingdom, good fortune. The saint
first requires the present for the Rajasuya sacrifice, On this being promised,
and still more offered, he asks for the empire of the whole earth, including
everything but Harishchandra himself, his wife, and son, and his virtue which
follows its possessor wherever he goes. Harishchandra joyfully agrees.
Vishvamitra then requires him to strip off all his ornaments, to clothe himself
in the bark of trees, and to quit the kingdom with his wife Shaivya and his
son. When he is departing, the sage stops him and demands payment of his
yet unpaid sacrificial fee. The king replies that he has only the persons of
his wife, his son and himself left. Vishvamitra insists that he must
nevertheless pay, and that unfulfilled promises of gifts to Brahmins bring
destruction. The unfortunate prince, after being threatened with a curse,
engages to make the payment in a month; and commences his journey with
a wife unused to such fatigues, amid the universal lamentations of his
subjects. While he lingers, listening to their affectionate remonstrances
against his desertion of his kingdom, Vishvamitra comes up, and being
incensed at the delay and the king’s apparent hesitation, strikes the
queen with his staff, as she is dragged on by her husband. Harishchandra
then proceeded with his wife and little son to Benares, imagining that the
divine city, as the special property of Siva, could not be possessed by any
mortal. Here he found the relentless Vishvamitra waiting for him, and ready
to press his demand for the payment of his sacrificial gift, even before the
expiration of the full period of grace, In this extremity, Shaivya the
queen suggests with a sobbing voice that her husband should sell her. On
hearing this proposal Harishchandra swoons, then recovers, utters lamenta-
tions and swoons again, and his wife seeing his sad condition, swoons
also. While they are in a state of unconsciousness their famished child
exclaims in distress, ‘O, father, give me bread; O, mother, mother, give mc
food; hunger overpowers mo and my tongue is parched.’ At this moment

1 Muir, Vol, 1, pp. 379-387.
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Vishvamitra returns, and after recalling Harishchandra to consciousness by
sprinkling water over him, again urges payment of the present. The king,
again swoons, and is again restored. The sage threatens to curse him if his
engagement is not fulfilled by sunset. Being now pressed by his wife, the
king agrees to sell her, adding, however, ‘If my voice can utter such a wicked
word, I do what the most inhuman wretches cannot perpetrate.’ He then goes
into the city, and in self-accusing language offers his queen for sale as a
slave. A rich old Brahmin offers to buy her at a price corresponding to her
value, to do his household work. Seeing his mother dragged away the child
ran after her, his eyes dimmed with tears, and crying ‘mother.’ The Brahmin
purchaser kicked him when he came up; but he would not let his mother
go, and continued crying ‘mother, mother.’ The queen then said to the
Brahmin, ‘Be so kind, my master, as to buy also this child, as without him
I shall prove to thee but a useless purchase. Be thus merciful to me in my
wretchedness, unite me with my son, like a cow to her calf.’ The Brahmin
agrees: ‘Take this money and give me the boy.’ After the Brahmin had gone
out of sight with his purchases. Vishvamitra again appeared and renewed
his demands: and when the afflicted Harishchandra offered him the small
sum he had obtained by the sale of his wife and son, he angrily replied,
‘If, miserable Kshatriya, thou thinkest this a sacrificial gift befitting my
deserts, thou shalt soon behold the transcendent power of my ardent austrere-
fervour of my terrible majesty, and of my holy study,’ Harishchandra promises
an additional gift, and Vishvamitra allows him the remaining quarter of the
day for its liquidation. On the terrified and afflicted prince offering himself
for sale, in order to gain the means of meeting this cruel demand, Dharma
(Righteousness) appears in the form of a hideous and offensive chandala, and
agrees to buy him at his own price, large or small. Harishchandra declines
such a degrading survitude, and declares that he would rather be consumed
by the fire of his persecutor’s curse than submit to such a fate. Vishvamitra,
however, again comes on the scene, asks why he docs not accept the large
sum offered by the Chandala, and when he pleads in excuse his descent from
the solar race, threatens to fulminate a curse against him if he docs not accept
that method of meeting his liability. Harishchandra implores that he may
be spared this extreme of degradation, and offers to become Vishvamitra’s
slave in payment of the residue of his debt; whereupon the sage rejoins, ‘if
thou art my slave, then I sell thee as such to the Chandala for a hundred
millions of money.’ The Chandala, delighted pays down the money, and
carries off Harishchandra bound, beaten, confused, and afflicted, to his own
place of abode. Harishchandra is sent by the Chandala to steal grave
clothes in a cemetery and is told that he will receive two-sixths of the
value for his hire; three-sixths going to his master, and one-sixth to the
king. In this horrid spot, and in this degrading occupation he spent in great
misery twelve months, which seemed to him like a hundred years. He then
falls asleep and has a series of dreams suggested by the life he had been
leading. After he awoke, his wife came to the cemetery to perform the
obsequies of their son, who had died from the bite of a serpent. At first,
the husband and wife did not recognize each other, from the change in
appearance which had been wrought upon them both by their miseries.
Harishchandra, however, soon discovered from the tenor of her lamentations
that it is his wife, and falls into a swoon; as the queen docs also when she
recognizes her husband. When consciousness returns they both break
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out into lamentations, the father bewailing in a touching strain the loss of
his son, and the wife, the degradation of the king. She then falls on his neck,
embraces him and asks ‘whether all this is a dream, or a reality, as she
is utterly bewildered’; and adds, that “if it be a reality, then righteousness
is unavailing to those who practise it.” After hesitating to devote himself to
death on his son’s funeral pyre without receiving his master’ leave.
Harishchandra resolves to do so, braving all the consequences and consoling
himself with the hopeful anticipation. ‘If I have given gifts and offered
sacrifices and gratified my religious teachers, then may I be reunited with
my son and with thee (my wife) in another world.’ The queen determines
to die in the same manner. When Harishchandra, after placing his son’s body
on the funeral pyre, is meditating on the Lord Hari Narayana Krishna, the
supreme spirit, all the gods arrive, headed by Dharma (Righteousness); and
accomapanied by Vishvamitra. Dharma entreats the king to desist from his
rash intention; and Indra announces to him that, he, his wife, and son have
conquerred heaven by their good works. Ambrosia, the antidote of death, and
flowers are rained by the gods from the sky; and the king’s son is restored
to life and the bloom of youth. The king adorned with celestial clothing and
garlands, and the queen, embrace their son. Harishchandra, however, declares
that he cannot go to heaven till he has received his master the Chandala’s
permission, and has paid him a ransom. Dharma then reveals to the king
that it was he himself who had miraculously assumed the form of a Chandala.
The king next objects that he cannot depart unless his faithful subjects, who
are sharers in his merits, are allowed to accompany him to heaven, at least
for one day. This request is granted by Indra; and after Vishvamitra has
inaugurated Rohitashva the king’s son to be his successor. Harishchandra,
his friends and followers, all ascend in company to heaven. Even after this
great consummation, however, Vasishtha, the family priest of Harishchandra,
hearing, at the end of a twelve years’ abode in the waters of the Ganges,
an account of all that has occurred, becomes vehemently incensed at the
humilation inflicted on the excellent monarch, whose virtues and devotion
to the gods and Brahmins he celebrates, declares that his indignation had
not been so greatly roused even when his own hundred sons had been slain
by Vishvamitra, and in the following words dooms the latter to be transformed
into a crane : ‘Wherefore that wicked man, enemy of the Brahmins, smitten
by my curse, shall be expelled from the society of intelligent beings, and
losing his understanding shall be transformed into a Baka.’ Vishvamitra
reciprocates the curse, and changes Vasishtha into a bird of the species
called Ari. In their new shapes the two have a furious fight, the Ari being
of the Portentous height of two thousand yojanas= 18,000 miles, and the
Baka of 3090 yojanas. They first assail each other with their wings; then
the Baka smites his antagonist in the same manner, while the Ari
strikes with his talons. Falling mountains, overturned by the blasts of wind
raised by the flapping of their wings, shake the whole earth, the waters of
the ocean overflow, the earth itself, thrown off its perpendicular slopes
downwards to Patala, the lower regions. Many creatures perished by these
various convulsions. Attracted by the dire disorder, Brahma arrives, attended
by all the gods, on the spot, and commands the combatants to desist
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from their fray. They were too fiercely infuriated to regard this injunction;
but Brahma put an end to the conflict by restoring them to their natural
forms and counselling them to be reconciled.”
The next episode in which they came in as opponents is connected
with Ambarisha, king of Ayodhya :
“The story1 relates that Ambarisha was engaged in performing a
sacrifice, when Indra carried away the victim. The priest said that this
ill-omened event had occurred owing to the king’s bad administration; and
would call for a great expiation, unless a human victim could be produced.
After a long search the royal-rishi (Ambarisha) came upon the Brahmin
rishi, Richika, a descendant of Bhrigu, and asked him to sell one of his
sons for a victim, at the price of a hundred thousand cows. Richika
answered that he would not sell his eldest son and his wife added that
she would not sell the youngest; ‘youngest sons’ she observed, ‘being
generally the favourites of their mothers.’ The second son, Shunasshepa,
then said that in that case he regarded himself as the one who was to
be sold, and desired the king to remove him. The hundred thousand cows,
with ten millions of gold pieces and heaps of jewels, were paid down and
Shunasshepa carried away. As they were passing through Pushkara,
Shunasshepa beheld his maternal uncle Vishvamitra who was engaged in
austerities there with other rishis, threw himself into his arms, and
implored his assistance, urging his orphan, friendless and helpless state,
as claims on the sage’s benevolence. Vishvamitra soothed him; and pressed
his own sons to offer themselves as victims in the room of Shunasshepa.
This proposition met with no favour from Madhushyanda and the other
sons of the royal hermit, who answered with haughtiness and derision:
‘How is it that thou sacrificest thine own sons and seekest to rescue those
of others? We look upon this as wrong, and like the eating of one’s own
flesh. ‘The sage was exeedingly wroth at this disregard of his injunction,
and doomed his sons to be born in the most degraded classes, like
Vasishtha’s sons, and to eat dog’s flesh, for a thousand years. He then
said to Shunasshepa: ‘When thou art bound with hallowed cords, decked
with a red garland, and anointed with unguents and fastened to the
sacrificial post of Vishnu, then address thyself to Agni, and sing these
two divine verses (gathas), at the sacrifice of Ambarisha: then shalt thou
attain the fulfilment (of thy desire)’. Being furnished with the two gathas,
Shunasshepa proposed at once to king Ambarisha that they should set out
for their destination. When bound at the stake to be immolated, dressed
in a red garment, he celebrated the two gods, Indra and his younger brother
(Vishnu), with the excellent verses. The thousand-eyed (Indra) was pleased
with the secret hymn; and bestowed long life on Shunasshepa.”
The last episode recorded in which the two had ranged themselves
on opposite sides is connected with king Kalmashapada. The episode
is recorded in the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata: 2
1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I. pp. 405-407.
2 Ibid, pp. 415-417.
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“Kalmashapada was a king of the race of Ikshvaku. Vishvamitra wished
to be employed by him as his officiating priest; but the king preferred
Vasishtha. It happened however that the king went out to hunt, and after
having killed a large quantity of games, he became very much fatigued, as
well as hungry and thirsty. Meeting Shakti, the eldest of Vasishtha’s hundred
sons, on the road, he ordered him to get out of his way. The priest civilly
replied:’ The path is mine, O king; this is the immemorial law; in all
observations the king must cede the way to the Brahmin.’ Neither party would
yield, and the dispute waxing warmer, the king struck the muni with his
whip, The muni, resorting to the usual expedient of offended sages, by a curse
doomed the king to become a man-eater. It happened that at that time enmity
existed between Vishvamitra and Vasishtha on account of their respective
claims to be priest to Kalmashapada. Vishvamitra had followed the king; and
approached while he was disputing with Shakti. Perceiving, however, the son
of his rival Vasishtha, Vishvamitra made himself invisible, and passed them,
catching this opportunity. The king began to implore Shakti’s clemency; but
Vishvamitra wishing to prevent their reconciliation, commanded a Rakshasa
(a man-devouring demon) to enter into the king. Owing to the conjoint
influence of the Brahman-rishi’s curse, and Vishvamitra’s command, the
demon obeyed the injunction. Perceiving that his object was gained, Vishvamitra
left things to take their course, and absented himself from the country.The
king having happened to meet a hungry Brahmin, and sent him, by the hand
of his cook (who could procure nothing else), some human flesh to cat, was
cursed by him also to the same effect as by Shakti. The curse, being now
augmented in force, took effect, and Shakti himself was the first victim, being
eaten up by the king. The same fate befell all the other sons of Vasishtha
at the instigation of Vishvamitra. Perceiving Shakti to be dead, Vishvamitra
again and again incited the Rakshasa against the sons of Vasishtha and
accordingly the furious demon devoured those of his sons who were younger
than Shakti as a lion eats up the small beasts of the forest. On hearing the
destruction of his sons by Vishvamitra, Vasishtha supported his affliction as
the great mountain sustains the earth. He meditated his own destruction,
but never thought of exterminating the Kaushikas. This divine sage hurled
himself from the summit of Mcru, but fell upon the rocks as if on a heap
of cotton. Escaping alive from his fall, he entered a glowing fire in the forest;
but the fire, though fiercely blazing, not only failed to burn him, but seemed
perfectly cool. He next threw himself into the sea with a heavy stone attached
to his neck; but was cast up by the waves on the dry land. He then went
home to his hermitage; but seeing it empty and desolate, he was again
overcome by grief and sent out; and seeing the river Vipasa which was swollen
by the recent rains, and sweeping along many trees torn from its banks, he
conceived the design of drowning himself into its waters; he accordingly lied
himself firmly with cords, and threw himself in; but the river severing his
bonds, deposited him unbound (Vipasa) on dry land ; whence the name of
the stream, as imposed by the sage. He afterwards saw and threw himself
into the dreadful Satadru (Sutlej), which was full of alligators, etc., and
derived its name rushing away in a hundred directions on seeing the Brahmin
brilliant as fire. In consequence of this, he was once more stranded; and seeing
that he could not kill himself, he went back to his hermitage.”
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There are particular instances in which Vasishtha and Vishvamitra
had come into conflict with each other. But there was more than these
occasional conflicts between the two. There was general enmity
between them. This general enmity was of a mortal kind so much
so that Vishvamitra wanted even to murder Vasishtha as will be seen
from the Shalyaparvan of the Mahabharata. Says the author of the
Mahabharata :1
“There existed a great enmity, arising from rivalry in their austerities,
between Vishvamitra and the Brahmin rishi Vasishtha. Vasishtha had an
extensive hermitage in Sthanutinha, to the east of which was Vishvamitra’s.
These two great ascetics were every day exhibiting intense emulation in
regard to their respective austerities. But Vishvamitra beholding the might
of Vasishtha was the most chagrined; and fell into deep thought. The idea
of this sage, constant in duty, was the following : ‘This river Sarasvati will
speedily bring to me on her current the austere Vasishtha, the most eminent
of all utterers of prayers. When that most excellent Brahmin has come, I
shall most assuredly kill him.’ Having thus determined, the divine sage
Vishvamitra, his eyes reddened by anger, called to mind the chief of rivers.
She being thus the subject of his thoughts became very anxious, as she knew
him to be very powerful and very irascible. Then trembling, pallid and with
joined hands, the Saraswati stood before the chief of munis like a woman
whose husband has been slain; she was greatly distressed, and said to him
‘what shall I do?’ The incensed muni replied, ‘Bring Vasishtha hither speedily,
that I may slay him.’ The lotus-eyed goddess, joining her hands trembled
in great fear, like a creeping plant agitated by the wind. Vishvamitra, however,
although he saw her condition, repeated his command. The Sarasvati, who knew
how sinful was his design, and that the might of Vasishtha was unequalled,
went trembling and in great dreed of being cursed by both the sages, to
Vasishtha and told him what his rival had said. Vasishtha seeing her
emaciated, pale and anxious, spoke thus, ‘Deliver thyself, O chief of rivers;
carry me unhesitatingly to Vishvamitra, lest he curse thee.’ Hearing these
words of the merciful sage, the Sarasvati considered how she could act most
wisely. She reflected, ‘Vasishtha has always shown me great kindness, I must
seek his welfare.’ Then observing the Kaushika sage praying and sacrificing
on her brink, she regarded that as a good opportunity, and swept away the
bank by the force of her current. In this way the son of Mitra and Varuna
(Vasishtha) was carried down; and while he was being borne along, he thus
celebrated the river; ‘Thou, o Sarasvati, issuest from the lake of Brahma, and
pervadest the whole world with thy excellent streams. Residing in the sky, thou
discharges! water into the clouds. Thou alone art all waters. By thee we study.’
Thou art nourishment, radiance, fame, perfection, intellect, light. Thou art
speech, thou art svaha; this world is subject to thee. Thou, in fourfold form,
dwellest in all creatures.’ Beholding Vasishtha brought near by the Sarasvati,
Vishvamitra searched for a weapon with which to make an end of him,
Perceiving his anger, and dreading lest Brahmanicidc should ensue, the river

1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, pp. 420-422.
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promptly carried away, Vasishtha in an easterly direction thus fulfilling
the commands of both sages, but eluding Vishvamitra. Seeing Vasishtha
so carried away, Vishvamitra, impatient and enraged by vexation, said to
her, ‘Since thou, o chief of rivers, has eluded me, and hast receded, roll
in waves of blood acceptable to the chief of demons’ (which are fabled to
gloat on blood). The Sarasvati being thus cursed, flowed for a year in a
stream mingled with blood. Rakshasas came to the place of pilgrimage
where Vasishtha had been swept away, and revelled in drinking to satiety
the bloody stream in security, dancing and laughing, as if they had
conquered heaven. Some rishis who arrived at the spot some time after
were horrified to see the blood-stained water, and the Rakshasas quaffing
it, and made the most strenuous efforts to rescue the Sarasvati.”
The enmity between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra was not an enmity
between two priests. It was an enmity between a Brahmin priest and
a Kshatriya priest. Vasishtha was a Brahmin. Vishvamitra was a
Kshatriya. He was a Kshatriya of royal lingeage. In the Rig Veda
(iii.33.11) Vishvamitra is spoken of as the son of Kushika. The Vishnu
Purana1 gives further details about Vishvamitra. It says that
Vishvamitra was the son of Gadhi who was descended from king
Pururavas. This is confirmed by the Harivamsha.2 From the Rig Veda
(iii: 1:21) we know that the family of Vishvamitra has been keeping
‘fire’ kindled in every generation.3 We also know from the Rig Veda
that Vishvamitra was the author of many hymns of that Veda and
was admitted to be a Rajarishi. He was the author of the hymn which
is held to be the holiest in the whole of the Vedas namely the Gayatri
hymn in the Rig Veda (iii.62.10). Another important fact we know
about him is that he was a Kshatriya and his family belonged to
the clan of the Bharatas.4
It seems that about this time a dispute was going on between
Brahmins and Kshatriyas on the following points :
(1) The right to receive gifts. Gift means payment made without
work. The contention of the Brahmins was that nobody could
receive gifts. To receive gifts was the right of the Brahmins
(2) The right to teach the Vedas. The Brahmins’ contention was
that the Khastriya had only the right to study the Vedas. He
had no right to teach the Vedas. It was the privilege of the
Brahmins only.

1 Quoted in Muir, Vol. I, P. 349.
2 Quoted in Muir, Vol. I, p. 353.
3 Quoted in Muir, Vol. I, p. 316.
4 Quoted in Muir, Vol. I, p. 354.
5 That is why Manu says “if the king wants to make a gift to a Shudra he must
make him work.”
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(3) The right to officiate at a sacrifice. On this point the Brahmins’
contention was that Kshatriya had the right to perform
sacrifices, but he had no right to officiate as a purohit (priest)
at a sacrifice. That was the privilege of the Brahmins.
What is important to note is that even in disputes on these points
and particularly on the third point they did not fail to play their
part as the opponents of each other. This is confirmed by the story
of Trishanku narrated in the Ramayana1 and which runs as follows :
“King Trishanku, one of Ikshvaku’s descendants, had conceived the design
of celebrating a sacrifice by virtue of which he should ascend bodily to heaven.
As Vasishtha on being summoned, declared that the thing was impossible
(asakyam), Trishanku travelled to the south, where the sage’s hundred sons
were engaged in austerities, and applied to them to do what their father
had declined. Though he addressed them with the greatest reverence and
humility, and added that the Ikshvakus regarded their family-priests as their
highest resource in difficulties, and that, after their father, he himself looked
to them as his tutelary deities,’ he received from the haughty priests the
following rubuke for his presumption : “Fool, thou hast been refused by the
truth-speaking preceptor. How is it that, disregarding his authority thou hast
resorted to another school (shakha)? The family-priest is the highest oracle
of all the Ikshvakus; and the command of that veracious personage cannot
be transgressed. Vasishtha, the divine rishi, has declared that ‘the thing
cannot be :’ how can we undertake the sacrifice? Thou art foolish, king; return
to thy capital. The divine (Vasishtha) is competent to act as priest of the
three works; how can we shew him disrespect?”
Trishanku then gave them to understand, that as his preceptor and “his
preceptor’s sons had declined compliance with his requests, he should think
of some other expedient. “In consequence of his venturing to express this
presumptuous intention, they condemned him by their imprecation to become
a Chandala. As this curse soon took effect, and the unhappy king’s form was
changed into that of a degraded outcast, he resorted to Vishvamitra (who,
as we have seen, was also dwelling at this period in the south), enlarging
on his own virtues and piety, and bewailing his fate. Vishvamitra commis-
erated his condition and promised to sacrifice on his behalf, and exalt him
to heaven in the same Chandala form to which he had been condemned by
his preceptor’s curse. “Heaven is now as good as in the possession, since thou
hast resorted to the son of Kushika.’” He then directed that preparations
should be made for the sacrifice, and that all the rishis, including the family
of Vasishtha, should be invited to the ceremony.
The disciples of Vishvamitra who had conveyed his message, reported the
result on their return in these words: “Having heard your message, all the
Brahmins are assembling in all the countries, and have arrived, excepting
Mahodaya (Vasishtha). Hear what dreadful words those hundred Vasishthas,
their voices quivering with rage, have uttered: ‘How can the gods and rishis
consume the oblation at the sacrifice of that man, especially if he be a Chandala,

1 Muir, Vol. I, pp. 401-404.
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for whom a Kshatriya is officiating priest? How can illustrious Brahmins
ascend to heaven, after eating the food of a Chandala, and being entertained
by Vishvamitra?” These ruthless words all the Vasishthas, together with
Mahodaya, uttered, their eyes inflamed with anger.” Vishvamitra who was
greatly incensed on receiving this message, by a curse doomed the sons of
Vasishtha to be reduced to ashes, and reborn as degraded outcasts (mritapah)
for seven hundred births, and Mahodaya to become a Nishada.
Knowing that this curse had taken effect Vishvamitra then, after eulogizing
Trishanku, proposed to the assembled rishis that the sacrifice should be
celebrated. To this they assented, being actuated by fear of the terrible sage’s
wrath, Vishvamitra himself officiated at the sacrifice as Yajaka; and the other
rishis as priests (ritvijah) (with other functions) performed all the ceremonies.”
In this dispute between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra, Sudas seems
to have played an important part. Vasishtha was the family priest
of Sudas. It was Vasishtha who performed his coronation ceremony.
It was Vasishtha who helped him to win the battle against the ten
kings. Notwithstanding this, Sudas removed Vasishtha from office.
In his place he appointed Vishvamitra as his purohita1 who performed
yajna for Sudas. This is the first deed of Sudas which created enmity
between Sudas and Vasishtha. There was another deed which Sudas
committed which widened and intensified the enmity. He threw into
fire Shakti the son of Vasishtha and burned him alive. The story
is reported in the Satyayana Brahmana.2 The Satyayana Brahmana
does not give the reason for such an atrocious act. Some light is
thrown on it by Shadgurushishya3 in his Commentary on Katyayana’s
Anukramanika to the Rig Veda. According to Shadgurushishya, a
sacrifice was performed by Sudas at which there was a sort of public
debate between Vishvamitra and Shakti, the son of Vasishtha and
in this debate, to use the words of Shadgurushishya:
“The power and speech of Vishvamitra were completely vanquished by
Shakti, son of Vasishtha; and the son of Gadhi (Vishvamitra) being so
overcome, became dejected.”
Here is the reason why Sudas threw Shakti into fire. Obviously,
Sudas did it to avenge the dishonour and disgrace caused to
Vishvamitra. Nothing could avert a deadly enmity growing up
between Sudas and Vasishtha.

1 There is no direct evidence for this, Tradition accepts this as correct which seems
to have been based upon Rig Veda, III. 53.9. This is confirmed by Yaska in his Niruktu
(II, 24) where he says, “They then relate a story. The rishi Vishvamitra was the purohita
of Sudas, the son of Pijavana.”
2. This is referred to by Sayana in his introduction to Rig Veda, vii.32 on the
authority of the Anukramanika which is quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p, 328.
3 This is referred to by Sayana in his introduction to verses 15 and 16 of Sukta
53 of the Third Mandala of the Rig Veda, which is quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 343.
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This enmity does not seem to have ended with Sudas and
Vasishtha. It appears to have spread to their sons. This is supported
by the Taittiriya Samhita which says :1
“Vasishtha, when his son had been slain, desired, ‘May I obtain
offspring; may I overcome the Saudasas.’ He beheld this ekasmannapanchasa,
he took it and sacrificed with it. In consequence he obtained offspring,
and overcame the Saudasas.”
This is confirmed by the Kaushitaki Brahmana2 which says :
“Vasishtha, when his son had been slain, desired, ‘May I be fruitful
in offspring and cattle and overcome the Saudasas. He beheld this form
of offering, the Vasishtha-sacrifice; and having performed it, he overcame
the Saudasas.3"

The conflict between Sudas and Vasishtha is not the only conflict
between kings and the Brahmins. The Puranas record other conflicts
also between kings and Brahmins. It is desirable to assemble them
here. The first relates to king Vena. The story of his conflict with
Brahmins has been told by various authorities. The following account4
is taken from the Harivamsa :
“There was formerely a Prajapati (Lord of creatures), a protector of
righteousness called Anga, of the race of Atri, and resembling him in power.
His son was the Prajapati Vena who was but indifferently skilled in duty,
and was born of Sunita, the daughter of Mrityu. This son of the daughter
of Kala (Death), owing to the taint derived from his maternal grandfather,
threw his duties behind his back, and lived in covetousness under the
influence of desire. This king established an irreligious system of conduct;
transgressing the ordinances of the Veda, he was devoted to lawlessness. In
his reign men lived without study of the sacred books and without the
Vashatkara, and the gods had no Soma libations to drink at sacrifices. ‘No
sacrifice or oblation shall be offered’—such was the ruthless determination
of that Prajapati, as the time of his destruction approached. ‘I,’ he declared,’
am the object, and the performer of sacrifice, and the sacrifice itself; it is
to me that sacrifice should be presented, and oblations offered.’ This
transgressor of the rules of duty, who arrogated to himself what was not
his due, was then addressed by all the great rishis headed by Marichi: ‘We
are about to consecrate ourselves for a ceremony which shall last for many

1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 328.
2 Ibid.
3 There seems to be some doubt whether this enmity of Vasishtha had developed
against Sudas or against the sons of Sudas. This doubt has arisen because the
Satyayana and Kaushitaki Brahmanas speak of Saudasa, thereby suggesting that the
quarrel of Vasishtha was with the sons of Sudas and not with Sudas. On the other
hand, Manu is definite that it was Sudas who was the offender. Shadgurushishya speaks
of Sudas and not Saudasas while the Brihaddevta in a similar passage gives Sudas.
The difficulty could be solved if Saudasas was interpreted to be the family of Sudas,
which includes both Sudas and his sons.
4 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 302.
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years; practise not unrighteousness, O Vena; this is not the eternal rule of
duty. Thou art in very deed a Prajapati of Atri’s race, and thou hast engaged
to protect thy subjects.’ The foolish Vena, ignorant of what was right,
laughingly answered those great rishis, who had so addressed him; ‘who but
myself is the ordainer of duty? or whom ought I to obey? Who on earth equals
me in sacred knowledge, in prowess, in austere fervour, in truth? Ye, who
are deluded and senseless, know not that I am the source of all beings and
duties. Hesitate not to believe that I, if I willed, could bum up the earth,
or deluge it with water, or close up heaven and earth.’ When owing to his
delusion and arrogance Vena could not be governed, then the mighty rishis
becoming incensed, seized the vigorous and struggling king, and rubbed his
left thigh. From this thigh, so rubbed, was produced a black man, very short
in stature, who, being alarmed, stood with joined hands. Seeing that he was
agitated, Atri said to him ‘Sit down’ (nishida). He became the founder of the
race of the Nishadas, and also progenitor of the Dhivaras (fisherman), who
sprang from the corruption of Vena.”
The next king who came in conflict with the Brahmins was
Pururavas. This Pururavas is the son of Ila and grandson of Manu
Vaivasvat. The details of his conflict with the Brahmins are given
in the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata :1
“Subsequently, the wise Pururavas was born of Ila, who, as we have heard,
was both his father and his mother. Ruling over the thirteen islands of the
ocean, and surrounded by beings who were all superhuman, himself a man
of great renown, Pururavas, intoxicated by his prowess, engaged in a conflict
with the Brahmins, and robbed them of their jewels, although they loudly
remonstrated. Sanatkumara came from Brahma’s heaven, and addressed to
him an admonition, which, however, he did not regard. Being then straight-
away cursed by the incensed rishis, he perished, this covetous monarch, who,
through pride of power, had lost his understanding.”
The third king in this series is Nahusha. This Nahusha is the
grandson of Pururavas, the account of whose conflict with the
Brahmins has been recounted above. The story of Nahusha and his
conflict with the Brahmins has been told in two places in the
Mahabharata, once in the Vanaparvan and again in the Udyogaparvan.
The account which follows is taken from the Udyogaparvan.2 It says:
After his slaughter of the demon Vritra, Indra became alarmed at the idea
of having taken the life of a Brahmin (for Vritra was regarded as such), and
hid himself in the waters. In consequence of the disappearance of the king of
the gods, all affairs, celestial as well as terrestrial, fell into confusion. The rishis
and gods then applied to Nahusha to be their king. After first excusing himself
on the plea of want of power, Nahusha at length, in compliance with their

1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 307.
2 Quoted in Muir, Vol. I, pp. 310-313.
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solicitations, accepted the high function. Up to the period of his elevation
he had led a virtuous life, but he now became addicted to amusement and
sensual pleasure; and even aspired to the possession of Indrani, Indra’s wife,
whom he had happened to see. The queen resorted to the Angiras Brihaspati,
the preceptor of the gods who engaged to protect her. Nahusha was greatly
incensed on hearing of this interference; but the gods endeavoured to pacify
him, and pointed out the immorality of appropriating another person’s wife.
Nahusha, however, would listen to no remonstrance, and insisted that in his
adulterous designs he was no worse than Indra himself. The renowned Ahalya,
a rish’s wife, was formerely corrupted by Indra in her husband’s lifetime.
Why was he not prevented by you? And many barbarous acts, and unrighteous
deeds, and frauds were perpetrated of old by Indra; why was he not prevented
by you?’ The gods, urged by Nahusha, went to bring Indrani; but Brihaspati
would not give her up. At his recommendation, however, she solicited Nahusha
for some delay, till she should ascertain what had become of her husband.
This request was granted. Indrani now went in search of her husband; and
by the help of Upashruti (the goddess of night and revealer of secrets)
discovered him existing in a very subtle form in the stem of a lotus growing
in a lake situated in a continent within an ocean north of the Himalayas.
She made known to him the wicked intentions of Nahusha, and entreated
him to exert his power, rescue her from danger and resume his dominion.
Indra declined any immediate interposition on the plea of Nahusha’s superior
strength; but suggested to his wife a device by which the usurper might be
hurled from his position. She was recommended to say to Nahusha that ‘if
he would visit her on a celestial vehicle borne by rishis, she would with
pleasure submit herself to him.’
The queen of the gods accordingly made this proposal:’ I desire for thee,
king of the gods, a vehicle hitherto unknown, such as neither Vishnu nor
Rudra, nor the Asuras, nor the Rakshasas employ. Let the eminent rishis,
all united, bear thee, lord, in a car; this idea pleases me’. Nahusha receives
favourably this appeal to his vanity, and in the course of his reply thus gives
utterance to his self-congratulation; ‘He is a personage of no mean prowess
who makes the munis his bearers. I am a fervid devotee of great might, Lord
of the past, the future, and the present. If I were angry, the world would
no longer stand; on me everything depends. Wherefore, O goddess, I shall,
without doubt, carry out what you propose. The seven rishis and all the
Brahmin rishis, shall carry me. Behold, beautiful goddess, my majesty and
my prosperity.’
The narrative goes on :
Accordingly this wicked being, irreligious, violent, intoxicated by the
force of conceit, and arbitrary in his conduct, attached to his car the rishis,
who submitted to his commands, and compelled them to bear him.
Indrani then again resorts to Brihaspati who assures her that vengeance
will soon overtake Nahusha for his presumption; and promises that he
will himself perform a sacrifice with a view to the destruction of the
oppressor, and the discovery of Indra’s lurking place. Agni is then sent
to discover and bring Indra to Brihaspati and the latter, on Indra’s arrival,
informs him of all that had occurred during his absence. While
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Indra, with Kubera, Yama, Soma and Varuna was devising means for the
destruction of Nahusha, the sage Agastya came up, congratulated Indra on
the fall of his rival, and proceeded to relate how it had occurred.
Wearied with carrying the sinner, Nahusha, the eminent divine-rishis, and
the spotless Brahmin-rishis, asked that divine personage, Nahusha (to solve)
a difficulty; ‘Dost thou, O Vasava, most excellent of conquerors, regard as
authoritative or not those Brahmana texts which arc recited at the immolation
of king?’ ‘No’, replied Nahusha, whose understanding was enveloped in
darkness. The rishis rejoined; ‘Engaged in unrighteousness, thou attainest
not unto righteousness; these tests, which were formerely uttered by great
rishis, arc regarded by us as authoritative.’ Then (proceeds Agastya) disputing
with the munis, Nahusha impelled by unrighteousness touched me on the
head with his foot. In consequence of this, the king’s glory was smitten and
his prosperity departed. When he had instantly become agitated and oppressed
with fear, I said to him, ‘Since thou, a fool, condemnest that sacred text,
always held in honour, which has been composed by former sages, and
employed by Brahmin-rishis and hast touched my head with thy foot, and
employest the Brahma-like and irresistible rishis as bearers to carry thee,
therefore, shorn of thy lustre and all thy merit exhuasted, sink down, sinner,
degraded from heaven to earth. For ten thousand years thou shalt crawl in
the form of a huge serpent. When that period is completed, thou shalt again
ascend to heaven.’ So fell that wicked wretch from the sovereignty of the
gods, Happily, O Indra, we shall now prosper, for the enemy of the Brahmins
has been smitten. Take possession of the three worlds, and protect their
inhabitants, O husband of Shachi (Indrani), subduing the senses, overcoming
thine enemies, and celebrated by the great rishis.”
The fourth king to come into conflict with the Brahmins was Nimi.
The details of the story are related in the Vishnu Purana1 which says:
“Nimi had requested the Brahmin-rishi, Vasishtha to officiate at a sacrifice,
which was to last a thousand years. Vasishtha in reply pleaded a pro-
engagement to Indra for five hundred years, but promised to return at the
end of that period. The king made no remark, and Vasishtha went away,
supposing that he had assented to his arrangement. On his return, however,
the priest discovered that Nimi had retained Gautama (who was, euqally with
Vasishtha a Brahmin-rishi) and others to perform the sacrifice; and being
incensed, he cursed the King, who was then asleep, to lose his corporeal form.
When Nimi awoke and learnt that he had been cursed without any previous
warning, he retorted by uttering a similar curse on Vasishtha, and then died.
Nimi’s body was embalmed. At the close of the sacrifice which he had begun,
the gods were willing, on the intercession of the priests, to restore him to
life; but he declined the offer; and was placed by the deities, according to
his desire, in the eyes of all living creatures. It is in consequence of this
that they are always opening and shutting (Nimisha means ‘the twinkling
of the eye’).
These foregoing cases of conflict have been referred to by Manu
in his Smriti ;2

1 Quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 316.
2 Max Muller’s, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXV, p. 222.
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“Through a want of modesty many kings have perished, together with
their belongings; through modesty even hermits in the forest have gained
kingdoms. Through a want of humility Vena perished, likewise king
Nahusha, Sudas, the son of Pijavana, Sumukha, and Nimi.”
Unfortunately, the bearing of these cases on the position of the
Shudra has not been realized as fully as it should have been. The
reason is that nobody has realized that this conflict was a conflict
between Brahmins and Shudras. Sudas definitely was a Shudra. The
others although they have not been described as Shudras are
described as having been descended from Ikshvaku. Sudas is also
described as a descendant of Ikshvaku. There is nothing far-fetched
in saying that they were all Shudras. Even Manu had no idea of this.
He represents these cases as cases of conflict between Brahmins and
Kshatriyas. Dr. Muir has failed to realize that Sudas was a Shudra
and has in recounting these stories represented that the parties to
these conflicts were Brahmins on the one hand and the Kshatriyas
on the other. In a sense, it is true that the conflict was between
Brahmins and Kshatriyas because the Shudras were also a branch
of the Kshatriyas. It would, however, have been far more illuminating
if they had been described in more precise terms as conflicts between
Brahmins and Shudras. The misunderstanding having been caused,
it has remained and has continued to conceal the real nature of so
important a part of the history of the Indo-Aryan society. It is to
clear this misunderstanding that the hearing given to this Chapter
is ‘Brahmins versus Shudras’ and not ‘Brahmins versus Kshatriyas’.
Understood as a history of conflict between Brahmins and Shudras,
it helps one to understand how the Shudras came to be degraded
from the second to the fourth Varna.
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WHAT is the technique which the Brahmins employed to bring about
the degradation of the Shudras from the rank of the second to the
rank of the fourth Varna?
The discussion has so far centred round two questions as to whether
or not the Shudras were originally a part of the second or Kshatriya
Varna and whether or not the Brahmins had not received sufficient
provocation to degrade the Shudras. It is now necessary to deal with
the question, which is logically, next in order of sequence. What is
the technique of degradation employed by the Brahmins?
My answer to the question is that the technique employed by the
Brahmins for this purpose was to refuse to perform the Upanayana
of the Shudras. I have no doubt that it is by this technique that
the Brahmins accomplished their end and thereby wreaked their
vengeance upon the Shudras.
It is perhaps necessary to explain what Upanayana means and
what importance it had in the Indo-Aryan Society. The best way to
give an idea of Upanayana is to give a description of the ceremony.
As a rite Upanayana was originally a very simple ceremony, The
boy came to the teacher with a samidh (a grass blade) in his hand
and told the teacher that he desired to become a Brahmachari (i.e
a student) and begged the teacher to allow him to stay with him
for purposes of study. At a later date it became a very elaborate
ceremony. How elaborate it had become may be realised from the
following description of Upanayana in the Ashvalayana Grihya
Sutra :l
Let him initiate the boy who is decked, whose hair (on the head) is shaved
(and arranged), who wears a new garment or an antelope skin if a Brahmana,
rum skin if a Kshatriya, a goat’s skin if a Vaishya; if they put on garments they

1 Kane, History of Dharmashastra, Vol. II (i), pp. 281-283.
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should put on dyed ones, reddish-yellow, red and yellow (for a Brahmana,
Kshatriya, Vaishya respectively); they should have girdles and staffs (as
described above). While the boy takes hold of (the hand of) his teacher, the
latter offers (a homa of clarified butter oblations) in the fire ( as described
above), and seats himself to the north of the fire with his face turned to
the east, while the other one (the boy) stations himself in front (of the teacher)
with his face turned to the west. The teacher then fills the folded hands of
both himself and of the boy with water and with the verse ‘we choose that
of Savitri’ (Rg.V. 82.1) the teacher drops down the water in his own folded
hands on to the water in the folded hands of the boy; having thus poured
the water, he should seize with his own hand the boy’s hand together with
the thumb (of the boy) with the formula’ by the urge (or order) of the god
Savitri, with the arms of the two Ashvins, with the hands of Pushan, I seize
thy hand, oh so, and so,’ with the words ‘Savitri has seized thy hand, oh
so and so’ a second time (the teacher seizes the boy’s hand) with the words
‘Agni is thy teacher oh so and so’ a third time. The teacher should cause
(the boy, to look at the sun, while the teacher repeats ‘God Savitri, this is
thy brahmachari protect him, may he not die’ and (the teacher should further)
say Whose brahmachari art thou? thou art the brahmachari of Prana. Who
does initiate thee and whom (docs he initiate)? I give thee to Ka (to Prajapati).’
With the half verse (Rg. III.8.4) ‘the young man well attired and dressed,
come hither’ he (the teacher) should cause him to turn round to the right
and with his two hands placed over (the boy’s) shoulders he should touch
the place of the boy’s heart repeating the latter half (of Rg. III. 8.4). Having
wiped the ground round the fire, the brahmachari should put (on the fire)
a fuel stick silently, since it is known (from sruti) ‘what belongs to Prajapati
is silently done,’ and the brahmachari belongs to Prajapati. Some do this
(offering of a fuel stick) with a mantra to Agni: ‘I Have brought a fuel stick,
to the great Jatavedas; by the fuel stick mayest thou increase, Oh agni and
may we (increase) through brahman’ (prayer or spiritual lore), svaha.’ Having
put the fuel stick (on the fire) and having touched the fire, he (the student)
thrice wipes off his face with the words ‘I anoint myself with lustre,’ it is
known (from sruti) for he does anoint himself with lustre. ‘May Agni bestow
on me, insight, offspring and lustre: on me may Indra bestow insight, offspring
and vigour (Indriya) ;on me may the sun bestow insight, offspring and
radiance; what thy lustre is, Oh Agni, may I thereby become lustrous; what
the strength is, Agni, may I thereby become strong; what thy consuming power
is, Agni, may I thereby acquire consuming power.’ Having waited upon
(worshipped) Agni with these formulae, (the student) should bend his knees,
embrace (the teachers feet) and say to him ‘recite, Sir, recite, Sir, the Savitri.’
Seizing the student’s hands with the upper garment (of the student) and his
own hands, the teacher recites the Savitri first pada by pada, then hemistich
by hemistich (and lastly) the whole verse. He (the teacher) should make him
(the student) recite (the Savitri) as much as he is able. On the place of the
student’s heart the teacher lays his hand with the fingers upturned with the
formula ‘I place thy heart unto duty to me, may thy mind follow my mind;
may you attend on my words single-minded; may Brihaspati appoint thee
unto me.’ Having tied the girdle round him (the boy) and having given him
the staff, the teacher should instruct him in the observances of a brahmachari
with the words ‘a brahmachari art thou, sip water, do service, do not
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sleep by day, depending (completely) on the teacher learn the Veda.’ He (the
student) should beg (food) in the evening and the morning; he should put
a fuel stick (on fire) in the evening and morning. That (which he has received
by begging) he should announce to the teacher; he should not sit down (but
should be standing) the rest of the day.
The Upanayana ends with the teaching by the Acharya to the boy
of the Vedic Mantra known as the Gayatri Mantra. Why the Gayatri
Mantra is regarded as so essential as to require the ceremony of
Upanayana before it is taught it is difficult to say.
From this description of the Upanayana ceremony two things are
clear. First is that the purpose of Upanayana was to initiate a person
in the study of the Vedas which commenced with the teaching of
Gayatri Mantra by the Acharya to the Brahmachari. The second thing
that is clear is that certain articles were regarded as very essential
for the Upanayana ceremony. They are (1) two garments one for the
lower part of the body technically called Vasa and the other for the
upper part of the body called Uttariya, (2) Danda or wooden staff,
(3) Mekhala or a girdle of grass tied across the waist.
Any one who compares this description of Upanayana as it was
performed in ancient times with the details of the ceremony as
performed in later days is bound to be surprised at the absence of
any mention of thread called Yajnopavita to be worn by the
Brahmachari as a part of his Upanayana. The centre of the modern
ceremony of Upanayana is the wearing of this thread and the whole
purpose of the Upanayana has come to be the wearing of this
Yajnopavita1 So important a part this Yajnopavita has come to play
that most elaborate rules have come to be framed about its manu-
facture and its use.
The Yajnopavita should have three threads, each thread to be of
nine strands well twisted. One tantu (strand) stands for one devata
The Yajnopavita should reach as far as the navel,2 should not reach
beyond the navel, nor should it be above the chest.
1. Yajnavalkya (T, 16 and 133) calls It Bramhu Sutra,
2. Kane, D.S. H (i), p. 292.
The nine devatas of the nine tantus (strands) according to the Devala Smriti are,
Omkara, Agni, Naga, Sema, Pitris, Prajapati, Vayu, Surya, Vishvcdeva. Some change
seems to have come about in this view. For Medhatithi (see Kane) says that in ishtis,
animal sacrifices and soma sacrifices, the Yajnopavita was to have only one thread
of three tantus, but it was three-fold in three classes of ahina, ekahu and sattra
sacrifices as they required three fires, and in the seven somasamstha seven-fold, and
five-fold when viewed with reference to the three savanas and two samdhyas.
A brahmachari was to wear only one yajnopavita, and samnyasins, when they kept
yajnopavita at all, also wore only one. A snataka (i.e., one who has returned from
the teacher’s house after brahmacharya) and householder were to wear two, while one
who desired long life may wear more than two. A snataka should always wear two
yajnopavitas, A householder may wear any number up to ten.
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A person could wear more than one Yajnopavita,
A man must always wear Yajnopavita. If he took his meals without
wearing the Yajnopavita, or answers the call of nature without having
the Yajnopavita placed on the right ear, he had to undergo prayascitta,
viz., to bathe, to mutter prayers and fast.
Wearing of another’s Yajnopavita along with several other things
(such as shoes, ornament, garland and kamandalu) is forbidden.1
Three ways of wearing the Yajnopavita are recognized: (1) nivita,
(2) pracinavita and (3) upavita. When the cord is carried over the
neck, both shoulders and the chest and is held with both the thumbs
(of the two hands) lower than the region of the heart and above the
navel, it is called nivita. Suspending the cord over the left shoulder
in such a way that it hangs down on his right side, it becomes upavita.
Suspending it on his right shoulder in such a way that it hangs down
on his left side, it becomes pracinavita.
How did this Yajnopavita come in? Mr. Tilak offers an explanation 2
which is worth quoting. Mr. Tilak says :
“Orion or Mrigashiras is called Prajapati in the Vedic works, otherwise called
Yajna. A belt or girdle of cloth round the waist of Orion or Yajna will therefore
be naturally named after him as Yajnopavita, the upavita or the cloth of
The term, however, now denotes the sacred thread of the Brahmins, and it
may naturally be asked whether it owes its character, if not the origin, to
the belt of Orion. I think it docs on the following grounds:
The word yajnopavita is derived by all native scholars from Yajna + Upavita;
but there is a difference of opinion as to whether we should understand the
compound to mean an upavita for yajna i.e for sacrificial purposes, or, whether
it is the ‘upavita of Yajnas.’ The former is not incorrect, but authority is
in favour of the latter. Thus the Prayoga-writers quote a smriti to the effect
that ‘the High Soul is termed Yajna by the hotris, this is his upavita; therefore
it is yajna-upavita.’ A mantra, which is recited on the occasion of wearing
the sacred thread means, ‘I bind you with the upavita of yajna’’, while the
first half of the general formula with which a Brahmin always puts on his
sacred thread is as follows:

;Kksiohra ijeaifo=ka iztkirs;ZRlgta iqjLrkr~
The Mantra is not to be found in any of the existing Samhitas, but is given
in the Brahmopanishad and by Baudhayana. This verse is strikingly similar to
the verse quoted above from the Haoma Ycsht. It says, ‘yajnopavita is high and
sacred; it was born with Prajapati, of old.’ The word purastat corresponds with
paurvanim in the Avesta verse and thus decides the question raised by Dr. Haug,

1. Kane. History of Dharmashastra Vol. II, (1), p. 293.
2. Orion, pp, 144-146.
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while sahaja, born with the limbs of Prajapati, conveys the same meaning
as mainyutastem. The coincidence between these verses cannot be acci-
dental, and it appears to me that the sacred thread must be derived from
the belt of Orion. Upavita, from ve to weave, literally means a piece of
cloth and not a thread. It appears, therefore, that a cloth worn round the
waist was the primitive form of yajnopavita, and that the idea of sacredness
was introduced by the theory that it was to be a symbolic representation
of Prajapati’s waistcloth or belt.”
This explanation by Mr. Tilak is no doubt very interesting. But
it does not help to explain some of the difficulties. It does not explain
the relation of the Yajnopavita to the two garments the Uttariya, and
the vasa, which are necessary for a person to wear while undergoing
Upanayana. Was the Yajnopavita in addition to the two garments?
If so, how is it that there is no mention of it in the early description
of the ceremony of the Upanayana? It does not explain another
difficulty. If that thread is a substitute for the cloth, how is it that
the wearing of the cloth is retained in the Upanayana?
There seems to be another explanation. I offer it for what it is
worth. According to it, the wearing of the thread had to do with the
adoption of the gotra. Its object was to tie oneself to a particular
gotra. It had nothing to do with the Upanayana as such, the object
of which was to initiate a person in the study of the Vedas. It is
not sufficiently realized that under the Ancient Aryan Law, a son
did not naturally inherit the gotra of his father. The father had to
perform a special ceremony to give his gotra to his son. It is only
when this ceremony was performed that the son became the same
gotra as the father. In this connection, reference may be made to
two rules observed by the Indo-Aryan Society. One is the rule of
impurities. The other is the rule of adoption. With regard to the rule
of impurity, brought about by death, the days of impurity vary with
the kinship with the dead. If the kinship is very close, the days of
impurity are greater than those in the case where the kinship is less
close. The impurities attached to the death of a boy who has not been
invested with the thread are very meagre,1 not extending for more than
a few days. With regard to the rule of adoption,2 it lays down that a
boy who was invested with the thread was not eligible for adoption.
What is the idea behind these rules? The idea seems to be quite clear.
The impurities are nominal because there being no thread, the boy had
not formally entered into the gotra of his father. Adoption means

1. See Manu Smriti, Chapter V, Verses 66-70,
2. Kalikapurana quoted by Vyavahara Mayukha, edited by Kane, p. 114. This
plea hat been taken in various cases in Courts by litigants to which Mr. Kane makes
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entering into the gotra of the adoptive father. Once the thread
ceremony had taken place the boy had already and irrevocably
entered another gotra.
There was no room for adoption left. Both these rules show that
the thread ceremony was connected with gotra and not with Upanayana.
The view that the thread has connection with gotra seems to receive
support from Jain literature. Shloka 87 of the fourth Parvan of the
Padmapurana by Acharya Ravishena reads as follows :1
“Bhagwan ! you have told us the origin of Kshatriya, Vaishya and
Shudra. I am anxious to know the origin of those who wear the thread
in their neck.”
The words ‘those who wear the thread in the neck’ are very
important. There is no doubt that it is a description of the Brahmins.
From this it is clear that there was a time when the Brahmins alone
wore the thread and no other class did. Read with the fact that the
gotra relationship was confined only to the Brahmins, it is clear that
the thread ceremony was connected with bringing the boy into—
actually tying him up to the gotra— of his father, and had nothing
to do with Upanayana which was connected with the initiation in
the teaching of the Vedas.
If this is true, then the thread ceremony and the Upanayana
ceremony had different purposes to serve. At some later date the two
merged into one. The reason for this merger appears to be very
natural. The Upanayana without the thread ceremony involved the
danger of the Acharya taking the boy in his gotra. It was to avoid
the danger that the father of the boy performed the thread ceremony
before handing him over to the Acharya. This is the probable reason
why the two ceremonies came to be performed simultaneously.
Be that as it may, Upanayana means the teaching of the Veda by
the Vedic Brahmin.


While I am convinced that my thesis is sound, it would be over
confident to think that there will not be found persons who will not
raise objections to it. I anticipate the following :
(1) Is absence of Upanayana the test of Shudradom;
(2) Did the Shudra ever have the right to Upanayana?

1 Quoted by Nathuram Premi in his Jain Sahitya our Itihas (Hindi), p. 55a,
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(3) How can the loss of Upanayana result in the general degra-
dation of Shudras?
(4) What power did the Brahmins have to deny Upanayana to the
Having stated the possible objections to my thesis, I like to give
my reply to them.


To begin with the first. The best way to deal with this objection
is to refer to the judicial decisions in order to find out what the Courts
in India have regarded as the surest criterion for determining who
is a Shudra.
The first case to which reference may be made is to be found in
7, M.I.A.18.1 It was decided by the Privy Council in 1837. The question
at issue was whether at the relevant time there were in India any
Kshatriyas. The contention of one side was that there were. The
contention on the other side was that there were none. The latter
contention was based upon the theory propagated by the Brahmins
that the Brahmin Parashurama had killed all the Kshatriyas and that
if any were left they were all exterminated by the Shudra king
Mahapadma Nanda, so that thereafter there were no Kshatriyas left
and that there were only Brahmins and Shudras. The Privy Council
did not accept this theory which they regarded as false and concocted
by the Brahmins and held that the Kshatriyas still existed in India.
The Privy Council did not however lay down any test by which a
Kshatriya could be distinguished from a Shudra. In their view, the
question must be determined in each case on its own facts.
The second case on the subject is to be found in I.L.R.10 Cal. 688.2
The question raised in the case was whether the Kayasthas of Bihar
were Kshatriyas or Shudras. The High Court decided that they were
Shudras. The partisans of the Kayasthas took the position that the
Kayasthas of Bihar were different from the Kayasthas of Bengal, the
Upper Provinces and Benares and that while those in the Upper
Provinces and Benares were Shudras, the Kayasthas of Bihar were
Kshatriyas. The court refused to make this distinction and held that
the Kayasthas of Bihar were also Shudras.

1. Chuohirya Run Murdan Syn Versus Sahub Purhulad Syn.
2. Raj Coomar Lall versus Bissessur Dyal.
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The validity of this judgement was not accepted by the Allahabad
High Court. In I.L.R.12 All. 328,1 Justice Mahamood at page 334
observed as follows :
“I entertain considerable doubts as to the soundness of the view which seems
to have been adopted by both the Courts below, that the literary caste of
Kayasthas in this part of the country, to which the parties belong, falls under
the category of Shudras, as understood in the division of mankind in the
Institute of Manu or elsewhere in authoritative texts of the Hindu Law. The
question is one of considerable difficulty not only ethnologically, but also from
a legal point of view, so far as the administration of the Hindu Law to this
important section of the population is concerned. I do not take the question
to be settled by any adjudication of the Lords of the Privy Council either
in Sri Narayan Miner vs. Sree Mutty Kishen Soondoory Dassee,2 or in
Mahashova Shosinath Ghose vs. Srimati Krishna Soondari Dasi 3 in both of
which the cases referred to adoption by Kayasthas of Lower Bengal, who may
be distinguishable from the twelve castes of Kayasthas in Upper India, such
as the North-western Provinces and Oudh. Nor do I think that the unreported
decision of the learned Chief Justice and my brother Tyrell in Chaudhari
Hazari Lai versus Bishnu Dial (First Appeal No. 113 of 1886, decided on
the 15th June 1887), which was also an adoption case, settles the question.
But I need not pursue the subject any further....”
The third case is reported in (1916) 20 Cal. W.N.9014. Here the
question raised was whether Kayasthas of Bengal were Kshatriyas
or Shudras. The High Court of Calcutta held that they were Shudras.
The case was taken to the Privy Council by way of appeal against
the decision of the Calcutta High Court. The decision of the Privy
Council is reported in (1926) 47 I.A. 140. The question whether the
Bengali Kayasthas are Shudras or Kshatriyas was not decided upon
by the Privy Council but was left open. In between 1916 and 1926
the Calcutta High Court gave two decisions which held that inter-
marriages between Kayasthas of Bengal and Tantis5 and Domes 6 two
of the low castes, were legal on the ground that both of them were
sub-castes of Shudras.
These decisions which caused further deterioration in the position
of the Kayasthas were followed by another which is reported in
I.L.R. 6 Patna 506.7 In a most elaborate judgement extending over
47 pages Mr. Justice Jwala Prasad went into every Purana and every

1. Tulsi Ram versus Behari Lai.
2. L. R. I. A. Sup., Vol. 149.
3. L. R. 7,1.A., 250.
4. Asita Mohan Ghosh versus Nirod Mohan Ghosh Maulik.
5. (1921) 48 Cal. 626. Bishwanath Ghosh versus Srimati Balai Desai.
6. (1924) 51 Cal. 788. Bholanalh Mitter versus King Emperor.
7. (1926) Ishwari Prasad versus Rai Hari Prasad Lai.
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Smriti in which there was a reference to the Kayasthas. He differed
from the Calcutta High Court and held that the Kayasthas of Bihar
were Kshatriyas.
Next come cases in which the question at issue was whether the
Maharattas are Kshatriyas or Shudras. The first case in which this
issue was raised is reported in 48 Mad. I.1 This was an interpleader
suit filed by the Receiver of the estate of Raja of Tanjore in which
all the descendants as well as the distant agnates and cognates of
the Raja were made defendants in the suit. The kingdom of Tanjore
was founded by Venkoji, otherwise called Ekoji, who was a Mahratta
and the brother of Shivaji the founder of the Mahratta Empire. The
judgement in the case covers 229 pages and the question whether
the Mahrattas were Kshatriyas was dealt with in a most exhausitve
manner. The decision of the Madras High Court was that the
Mahrattas were Shudras and not Kshatriyas as was contended by
the defendants.
The next case which also relates to the Mahrattas is reported in
I.L.R. (1928) 52 Bom.497.2 The Court decided that :
“There are three classes among the Mahratthas in the Bombay Presi-
dency: (1) the five families; (2) the ninety-six families; (3) the rest Of these,
the first two classes are legally Kshatriyas.”
The last case to which reference may be made is reported in I.L.R.
(1927) 52 Mad. I.3 The issue was whether the Yadavas of Madura
were Kshatriyas. The Yadavas claimed themselves to be Kshatriyas.
But the Madras High Court negatived the claim and held that they
were Shudras.
Such is the course of judicial pronouncements on the issue as to
how to determine who is a Kshatriya and who is a Shudra. It is a
most confusing medley of opinion which settles little and unsettles
much. The Kayasthas of Bihar, of the Upper Provinces (now U.P) and
Benares are Kshatriyas, while the Kayasthas of Bengal are Shudras!!
According to the Madras High Court all Mahrattas are Shudras. But
according to the Bombay High Court, Mahrattas belonging to five
families and 96 families are Kshatriyas and the rest are Shudras!!
The Yadava community to which Krishna belonged is popularly
believed to be Kshatriyas. But according to the Madras High Court,
the Yadavas are Shudras!!

1. (1924) Maharaja of Kolhapur versus Sundaram Ayyar.
2. Subbarao Hambirao Palil vera? Radha Hambirao Patil.
3. Mokka Kone versus Ammakutti.
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More important for our purpose are the criteria which the courts
have adopted in coming to their decisions than the particular
decisions in the cases referred to. Among the criteria which the courts
have laid down, the following may be noted :
(1) In I.L.R. 10 Cal. 688, the criteria adopted were (i) use of Das
as surname, (ii) wearing the sacred thread, (iii) ability to
perform the homa, (iv) the period of impurity; (v) competence
or incompetence of illegitimate sons to succeed.
(2) In I.L.R. 6 Patna 606, the criterion seems to be general repute.
If a community is Kshatriya by general repute it is to be
treated as a Kshatriya community.
(3) In 48 Madras 1, a variety of criteria were adopted. One was
the consciousness of the community. The second was under-
going the ceremony of Upanayana as distinguished from
wearing the sacred thread. The third criterion was that all
non-Brahmins are Shudras unless they prove that they are
Kshatriyas or Vaishyas.
(4) In I.L.R. Bom. 497, the tests adopted were (i) the consciousness
of the caste (ii) its custom, and (iii) the acceptance of that
consciousness by other castes.
No one who knows anything about the subject can say that the
criteria adopted by the various courts are the right ones. A criterion
such as the period of impurity is irrelevant and of no value for
determining the question. A criterion such as the capacity for
performing homa is relevant but not valid. It mistakes effect for a
cause. The criterion of consciousness is hardly a fair criterion. A
community may have lost its consciousness by long disuse of nec-
essary religious observances due to causes over which it has no
control. The criterion of Upanayana stands on a different footing. The
courts have not put it properly. But there is no doubt that rightly
understood and properly put the criterion of Upanayana is sound.
The Courts have not made any distinction between the de facto
position of the community and its position de jure in regard to
Upanayana, and have proceeded on the assumption that what is true
de facto must also be true de jure. It is this fault in the application
of the criterion of Upanayana which has produced anomalies and
absurdities, such as one community having one status in one area
and quite a different status in a different area—or allowing any
pretender community to wear the thread and by continuing its
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pretence for a period to acquire a vested right or contrariwise
punishing a community by declaring that it had no de jure right to
wear the thread merely because it has not been wearing it de facto.
The real criterion is not the wearing of the sacred thread but the
right to wear the sacred thread. Understood in its proper sense, it
may be said without fear of contradiction that the right to Upanayana
is the real and the only test of judging the status of a person whether
he is a Shudra or a Kshatriya.


The second objection is quite untenable. To assume, as the objection
does, that from the very beginning the Aryan Society treated its
different classes differently in the matter of Upanayana is to my mind
a very unnatural supposition. Primitive society does not begin with
differentiation. It begins with uniformity and ends in diversity. The
natural thing would be to suppose that in the matter of the
Upanayana the ancient Aryan society treated all its classes on the
same footing. It may however be argued, on the other side, that such
an original tendency in favour of uniformity need not be accepted
as being universal, that it may well be that in the ancient Aryan
society the Shudras and the women were excluded from Upanayana.
Fortunately for me, it is not necessary for me to rely on logic alone
though I contend that logic is on my side. For there is ample evidence
both circumstantial as well as direct to show that both Shudras as
well as women had at one time the right to wear the sacred thread.
That the ancient Aryan society regarded Upanayana as essential
for all will be evident if the following facts are borne in mind.
Upanayana was allowed for the deaf, the dumb, the idiot and even
the impotent. A special procedure was prescribed for the Upanayana
of the deaf and dumb and idiots. The principal points in which their
Upanayana differs from that of others are that the offering of Samidh,
treading on a stone, putting on a garment, the tying of mekhala, the
giving of deer skin and staff are done silently, that the boy does not
mention his name, it is the acharya himself who makes offering of
cooked food or of clarified butter, all the mantras are muttered softly
by the acharya himself. The same procedure is followed as to other
persons who are impotent, blind, lunatic, suffering from such diseases
as epilepsy, white leprosy or black leprosy, etc.
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The six anuloma castes were also eligible for Upanayana; this is
clear from the rules1 for the Upanayana of Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and
of mixed castes like Rathakara, Ambashtha, etc.
Upanayana was permitted to Patitasavitrikas. The proper age for
the Upanayana of a Brahman boy was 8th year from birth, of a
Kshatriya 11th year and of a Vaishya 12th year. But a certain
latitude was allowed so that the time for Upanayana was not deemed
to have passed upon the 16th, the 22nd and the 24th year in the
case of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas respectively. After these
years are passed without Upanayana taking place, a person was held
to have become incompetent thereafter for learning the Savitri (the
sacred Gayatri verse). Such persons were then called Patitasavitrika
or savitripatita. According to the strict interpretation of rules, no
Upanayana is to be thereafter performed for them, they are not to
be taught the Veda, nor is anyone to officiate at their sacrifices and
there is to be no social intercourse with them (i.e., no marriage takes
place with them). But even in their case, there was readiness to relax
the rules 2 subject to certain penances.
Upanayana was permitted in the case of Brahmaghnas. A
Brahmaghna is a person whose father or grandfather had failed to
perform Upanayana. The original rule 3 was that if a person’s father
and grandfather also had not the Upanayana performed for them then
they (i.e., the three generations) are called slayers of brahma (holy
prayers or lore); people should have no intercourse with them, should
not take their food nor should enter into marriage alliance with them.
But even in their case the rule was relaxed and they were allowed
Upanayana if they desired, provided they performed the prescribed

1. Baud. Gr. Sutra (II.8). Kane, History of Dharmashastra, II (1), p. 299.
2. Ap. Dh. S., I. 1. 1 28-31, prescribes that after the 16th or 24th year, the person
should undergo the rules of studenthood two months just as those who meant to study
the three vedas and whose Upanayana has been performed, observe (viz., begging for
food, etc.) then his Upanayana should be performed, then for one year he should bathe
(thrice if possible) every day and then he should be taught the Veda. This is a somewhat
easy penance. But others prescribe heavier penalties. Vas. Dh. S. XI. 76-79 and the
Vaik. Smarta, 11.3 prescribes that one who is patitasavitrika should either perform
the Uddalaka vrata or should take a bath along with the performer of an Ashvamedha
sacrifice or should perform the Vratyastoma sacrifice. See Kane, ibid., p. 377.
3. Ap. Dh. S., I. 1.1. 32-2. 4. The penance prescribed was that of observing the
rules of studenthood one year for each generation (that had not the Upanayana
performed) then there is Upanayana and then they have to bathe (thrice or once) every
day for a year with certain mantras, viz., the seven Pavamani verses beginning with
‘yad ami yacca durake’ (Rg. IX. 67. 21-27), with the Yajus Pavitra (Tai. S., I. 2.1.
l=Rg. X. 17. 10) with the samapavitra and with the mantras called Angirasa (Rg. IV.
40.5) or one may pour water only with the Vyahritis. After all this is done, one must
be taught the Veda. See Kane, ibid., p. 378.
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A further relaxation was made in the case of a person whose
generation beginning with the great grandfather had not the
Upanayana performed on them.1 Even they were allowed to have their
Upanayana performed if they desired, provided they performed
penance which included studenthood for twelve years and bath with
the Pavamani, and other verses. On his Upanayana, instruction in
the duties of the householder was imparted to him, and though he
himself could not be taught the Veda, his son may have the samskara
performed as in the case of one who is himself a patitasavitrika so
that his son will be ‘one like other Arya’.
Upanayana was permitted to the Vratyas. It is difficult to state
exactly who the Vratyas were, whether they were Aryans who had
for more than three generations failed to perform the Upanayana or
whether they were non-Aryans who were never within the Aryan fold
and whom the Brahmins wanted to convert to the Aryan faith. It
is possible that it included both. Be that as it may, there is no doubt
that Upanayana was open to the Vratyas provided they performed
Vratyastomas. Vratyas were those who lead the Vratya life, were base
and were reduced to a baser state since they did not observe
studenthood (brahmacharya) nor did they till the soil nor engage in
trade. There were four Vratyastomas, the first of which is meant for
all Vratyas, the second is meant for those who are Abhishasta who
are wicked or guilty of heavy sins and are censured and lead a Vratya
life, the third for those who are the youngest and lead a Vratya life
and the fourth for those who are very old and yet lead a Vratya life.
In each of the four Vratyastomas, Sodasastoma 2 is always performed.
It is by the Sodasastoma that they can attain this (superior status).
The Sodasastoma was supposed to have the power to remove the guilt
of these. By performing the Vratyastoma sacrifice, they should cease
to be Vratyas and become eligible for social intercourse with the
Orthodox Aryas, to have the sacrament (samskara of Upanayana)
performed of them and then be eligible to study the Veda.
In the Vratyata-shuddisamgraha3 provision is made for the puri-
fication of Vratyas even after twelve generations subject to appro-
priate penances.

1. Ap. Dh S., 1.1. 2.5-10.
2. Kane (ibid, p. 385) refers to the Tandya Brahmana 17.1.1 which tells the story
that when the gods went to the heavenly world some dependents of theirs who lived
the vratya life were left behind on the earth. Then through the favour of the gods
the dependents got at the hands of Maruts the Sodasastoma (containing 16 stotras)
and the metre (viz., anustubh ) and then the dependents secured heaven.
3. Kane, ibid, p. 387
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Upanayana was so highly thought of that Baudhayana (ii.10)
allowed Upanayana for the Asvattha tree.
Given these facts, it is difficult to believe that the women and
Shudras were excluded from the Upanayana by the Aryan society
from the very beginning. In this connection, attention may be drawn
to custom prevalent among the Indo-Iranians who were very closely
related to the Indo-Aryans in their culture and religion. Among the
Indo-Iranians, not only both men and women but men and women
of all classes are invested with the sacred thread. It is for the
opponents to prove why the system was different among the Indo-
It is, however, not quite necessary to depend upon circumstantial
evidence. There is enough direct evidence to show that there was a
time when both women and Shudras had the right to Upanayana and
did have it performed.
As to the Upanayana of women the statements1 contained in the
Hindu religious books are quite explicit. Anyone who examines them
will find that Upanayana was open to women. Women not only
learned the Vedas but they used to run schools for teaching the Vedas,
are even known to have written commentaries on the Women Purva
As to the Shudras, the evidence is equally positive. If Sudas was
a king, if Sudas was a Shudra, if his coronation ceremony was
performed by Vasishtha and he performed the Rajasuya Yaga, then
there can be no doubt that the Shudras did at one time wear the
sacred thread. In addition to circumstantial evidence and the evidence
of the authors mentioned before, the Sanskara Ganapati cited by Max
Muller2 contains an express provision declaring the Shudra to be
eligible for Upanayana.
The only difference between the women and the Shudras is that
in the case of women there is some plausible explanation given as
to why the Upanayana of women was stopped, while there is no such
explanation for stopping the Upanayana of the Shudras. It is argued
that the Upanayana of women continued as long as the age of
Upanayana and the age of marriage continued to be different. It is said
that in ancient times the age of Upanayana was 8 and the age for
marriage was considerably later. But at a later stage, the age of
marriage was brought down to 8, with the result that the Upanayana

1. See Purushartha Number for September 1940 where all authorities are
collected in one place.
2. History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (1860), p. 207.
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as an independent ceremony ceased to exist and became merged in
marriage. Whether this explanation is right or wrong is another
matter. The point is that in the case of the Shudra, the Upanayana
was at one time open to him, that it was closed to him at a later
stage and that there is no explanation for this change.
Those who, in spite of the evidence to which I have referred, think
that they must insist upon their objection should remember the
weakness of their side. Assuming that the Shudras had never had
the benefit of Upanayana, the question they have to face is why were
the Shudras not allowed the benefit of the Upanayana. The orthodox
theory merely states the fact that there is no Upanayana for a
Shudra. But it does not say why the Shudra is not to have his
Upanayana performed. The explanation that there was no Upanayana
of the Shudra because he was a non-Aryan is a modern invention
which has been shown to be completely baseless. Either there was
once an Upanayana and it was stopped or the Upanayana was from
the very beginning withheld. Either may be true. But before one or
the other is accepted to be true, it must be accompanied by reasons.
There being no reason why the benefit of the Upanayana was withheld
from the Shudra, the presumption must be in favour of my thesis
which states that they had the right to Upanayana, that they were
deprived of it and gives reasons why they were deprived of its validity.


The third objection is no objection at all. Only a person who does
not know fully all the incidents of Upanayana can persist in upholding
its validity.
The Aryan society regarded certain ceremonies as Samskaras. The
Gautama Dharma Sutra (VIII. 14-24) gives the number of Samskaras
as forty. They are :
Garbhadhana Pumsavana, Simantonnayana, Jatakarma, namakarana,
annaprasana, caula, Upanayana, the four vratas of the Veda, Snana (or
Samavartana), vivaha, five daily mahayajnas (for deva, pitri, manushya,
bhuta, and Brahma); seven pakayajnas (viz., astaka, parvanasthalipaka,
sraddha sravani, agrahayani, caitri, asvayuji); seven haviryajnas (in which
there is burnt offering but no Soma, viz., Agnyadheya, Agnihotra,
Darsapurnamasa, Agrayana, Caturmasyas, Nirudhapasubandha and
Sautramani); seven soma sacrifices (Agnistoma, Atyagnistoma, Ukthya,
Sodasin, Vajapeya, Atiratra, Aptoryama).
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At a late stage a distinction appears to have been drawn between
Samskaras in the narrower sense and Samskaras in the wider sense.
Samskaras in the wider sense were really sacrifices and were
therefore not included in the Samskaras in the proper sense, which
were reduced to sixteen.
There is nothing strange about the Samskaras. Every society
recognises them. For instance, the- Christians regard Baptism,
Cofirmation, Matrimony, Extreme Unction, Eucharist, the Lord’s
Supper and the Holy Communion as sacraments. There however
seems to be a difference between the notions of the Indo-Aryans and
say the Christians about the Samskaras. According to Christian
notions, the Samskara or Sacrament is a purely spiritual matter-
drawing in of God’s grace by particular rites. It had no social
significance. Among the Indo-Aryans the Samskaras had originally
a purely spiritual significance. This is clear from what Jaimini the
author of the Purva Mimamsa has to say about the Samskaras.
According to Jaimini the general theory is that Samskaras impart
fitness. They act in two ways. They remove taints and they generate
fresh qualities. Without such Samskaras, a person may not get the
reward of his sacrifice on the ground that he is not fit to perform
it. Upanayana was one of the Samskaras and like other Samskaras,
its significance was just spiritual. The denial of the Upanayana to
the Shudras necessarily brought about a change in its significance.
In addition to its spiritual significance it acquired a social significance
which it did not have before.
When Upanayana was open to everyone, Aryan or non-Aryan, it
was not a matter of social significance. It was a common right of
all. It was not a privilege of the few. Once it was denied to the
Shudras, its possession became a matter of honour and its denial
a badge of servility. The denial of Upanayana to the Shudras
introduced a new factor in the Indo Aryan society. It made the
Shudras look up to the higher classes as their superiors and enabled
the three higher classes to look down upon the Shudras as their
inferiors. This is one way in which the loss of Upanayana brought
about the degradation of the Shudras.
There are other incidents of Upanayana. Since idea of these can be
had if one refers to the rules laid down in the Purva Mimamsa1. One

1 See Ganganath Jha, Purva Mimamsa, pp. 368-369 and 171-172.
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of these rules is that all property is meant primarily for the purpose
of providing a person with the means of performing a sacrifice. The
right to property is dependent upon capacity to sacrifice. 1 In other
words, anyone who suffers from an incapacity to perform a sacrifice
has no right to property. Capacity to sacrifice depends upon Upanayana.
This means that only those who are entitled to Upanayana have a
right to own property.
The second rule of the Purva Mimamsa is that a sacrifice must
be accompanied by Veda mantras. This means that the sacrificer must
have undergone a course in the study of the Veda. A person who
has not studied the Vedas is not competent to perform the sacrifices.
The study of the Veda is open only to those persons who have
undergone the Upanayana ceremony. In other words, capacity to
acquire knowledge and learning—which is what the study of Veda
means-is dependent upon Upanayana. If there is no Upanayana the
road to knowledge is closed. Upanayana is no empty ceremony. Right
to property and right to knowledge are the two most important
incidents of Upanayana.
Those who cannot realise how loss of Upanayana can bring about
the degradation of the Shudras should have no difficulty in under-
standing the matter if they will bear in mind the rules of the Purva
Mimamsa referred to above. Once the relation of Upanayana to
education and property is grasped, all difficulty in accepting the
thesis that the degradation of the Shudra was entirely due to loss
of Upanayana must vanish.
It will be seen, from what has been said above, how the sacrament
of Upanayana was in the ancient Aryan society fundamental and how
the social status and personal rights of persons depended upon it.
Without Upanayana, a person was doomed to social degradation, to
ignorance and to poverty. The stoppage of Upanayana was a most
deadly weapon discovered by the Brahmins to avenge themselves
against the Shudras. It had the effect of an atomic bomb. It did make
the Shudra, to use the language of the Brahmins, a graveyard.

1 Not a few are unable to understand why the Manu Smriti and other Smritis
deny women and Shudra the right to hold property and to study the Vedas. All
difficulty, however, vanishes if one bears in mind that the disabilities are the natural
consequences of the rule, laid down in the Purva Mimamsa. Women and Shudras
cannot hold property, not because they are women and Shudras, but because they
are debarred from performing sacrifices.
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That the Brahmins possessed the power to deny Upanayana is
beyond question. The doubt probably arises from the fact that there
is nowhere an express statement showing the conferment of such a
power upon the Brahmins. All the same, whatever doubt there may
be lurking in the minds of persons who are not aware of the operative
parts of the religious system of the Indo-Aryans must vanish if
account is taken of two things: (1) the exclusive right of the Brahmin
to officiate at the Upanayana and (2) the penalties imposed upon the
Brahmin for performing unauthorised Upanayana.
It is probable that in most ancient times it was the father who
taught his son the Gayatri, with which the study of the Veda begins
and for which the ceremony of Upanayana was devised at a later
stage. But it is beyond question that from a very early time the
function of performing Upanayana had been assigned to a guru or
a teacher called the Acharya and the boy went and stayed in the
Acharya’s house.
The questions as to who should be the Acharya and what should
be his qualification have been the subject of discussions from very
ancient times.
The Acharya must be a man learned in the Vedas. A Brahmana
text1 says, “he, whom a teacher devoid of learning initiates, enters
from darkness into darkness and he also (i.e. an acharya) who is
himself unlearned (enters into darkness).”
The Ap. Dh. S. (—13), lays down that an Acharya selected
for performing one’s Upanayana should be endowed with learning and
should be one whose family is hereditarily learned and who is serene
in mind, and that one should study Vedic lore under him up to the
end (of brahmacharya) as long as the teacher does not fall off from
the path of Dharma.2
But the first and foremost qualification of an Acharya is that he
must be a Brahmana: It was only in times of difficulty (i.e., when
a Brahmana is not available) that a person was allowed to have a

1 Quoted in the Ap. Dh. S., I. i. i. 11, Kane, II (I), p. 324.
2 According to Vyasa (quoted in Sam. p., p. 408) the Acharya should be one who
is solely devoted to the Veda, who knows Dharma, is born of a good family, who
is pure, is a shrotriya that has studied his Vedic sakha and who is not lazy. Shrotriya
has been defined as one who has studied one sakha of a Veda.
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Kshatriya or a Vaishya teacher1. This exception was permitted only
during the period when the distinction between the right to learn the
Vedas and the right to teach the Vedas had not been made. But when
that distinction came to be made—and it was made in very early times—
in fact the conflict between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra was just on this
very point—the Brahmin alone came to possess the right to be an
Acharya fit to officiate at an Upanayana.
One thing therefore must be taken as well-established, namely that
none but a Brahmin could perform the Upanayana ceremony. Upanayana
performed by anybody else is not a valid Upanayana.
The other operative part of the Indo-Aryan religious system is the
obligation imposed upon the Brahmin not to do any unauthorized act
of a religious character. A Brahmin guilty of any such conduct was liable
to punishment or penance. Many such penalties are to be found in the
ancient Law Books. I refer to Manu and Parashara.
Manu (III.150ff.), lays down what class of Brahmins are to be deemed
unworthy (to partake) of oblations to the gods and manes. In this list
he includes :
III. 156.—“He who teaches for a stipulated fee and he who is taught
on that condition, he who instructs Shudra pupils and he whose teacher
is a Shudra, he who speaks rudely, the son of an adultress, and the son
of a widow.”
Parashara says : 2
“That Brahmana, who for the sake of dakshina (gift of money or fee) offers
oblation into fire on behalf of a Shudra, would become a Shudra, would the
Shudra (for whom he offers) would become a Brahman;” that, according to
Madhava, propounds that the merit of the rite “goes to the Shudra and the
Brahmana incurs sin.” ”
Those who may ask what powers the Brahmins had to deprive the
Shudra of his right to Upanayana may consider the combined effect
of these two facts : (1) the Brahmin’s exclusive right to officiate at
an Upanayana, and (2) the penalties to which he is made liable for
performing an unauthorized Upanayana. If they do, they will have
no doubt that the combined effect of these two factors was to vest
in the Brahmin the power of performing as well as of denying
Upanayana. It is true that such a power has not been expressly vested
in the Brahmin. That was because it was unnecessary to do by express
1 It is curious to note that in such cases the only service a Brahmana student
was required to render to his Kshatriya or Vaishya guru was to follow after him; he
had not to render bodily service (such as shampooing or washing the feet, etc.). Vide
Ap. Dh. S., II, 2.4, 25-28 Gaut, 7, 1-3, Baud Dh. S.I.-2, 40-42, Manu, II. 241. It was
also premised that a Kshatriya or a Vaishya should teach a Brahmana only when
urged by him and not at his sweet will.
2. Quoted by Vyavahara Mayukha (edited by Kane, p. 115).
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terms what was in fact done by indirect but more effectual means.
That the Brahmins are conscious of the possession of this power to
deny Upanayana is also beyond doubt. So far as the records go, there
are 16 reported cases in which they have threatened various com-
munities by putting it into operation against them. In nine cases,
they challenged the Kayasthas, in four they challenged the Panchalas,
in one they challenged the Palshes. What is important is that they
challenged even two Maratha Kings. These instances have occurred
between 556 to 1904 A.D. It is true that they do not belong to ancient
times. It must however be remembered that these instances are mere
evidences of the exercise by the Brahmins of their power to deny
Upanayana. The power itself must have been acquired in much more
ancient times. That they have acquired it earlier is not an empty
assertion without support. Satyakama Jabali’s instance which is very
ancient is cited generally to prove that the Varna of a man was
determined by his guna (mental and moral qualities) and not by his
birth. While this is true, it is equally true that Jabali’s case proves
that even in ancient times the Brahmins had acquired the right to
refuse to perform Upanayana.
The enumeration of these cases has very little value for the purpose
in hand unless we know the deductions that could be drawn from
the decisions arrived at in them. To be able to do this, we must know
the details of each case. Unfortunately, in most of them beyond the
decision other details are not sufficiently full for the purpose. There
is only one case that of the Brahmins versus Shivaji in respect of
which the details are full and well-known. The case is sufficiently
important and it is therefore well worth detailed examination. The
deductions deducible from it are not only interesting and instructive
but they throw a flood of light on the point under discussion.


As is well known, Shivaji after having established a Hindu
independent kingdom in the western part of Maharashtra thought
of proclaiming himself a king by having his coronation performed.
It was felt by Shivaji and his friends that the coronation ceremony
if it was at all to be of any value must be performed according to
Vedic rites. But in carrying out his wishes Shivaji found himself faced
with many difficulties. He found that whether his coronation could
be performed with Vedic rites depended entirely upon the Brahmins.
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Nobody was from religious point of view qualified to perform the
ceremony except a Brahmin. Secondly, he found that no such
ceremony could be performed unless it was proved that he was a
Kshatriya. There was a third difficulty, namely, that even if he was
found to be a Kshatriya, he was past the age of Upanayana and
without Upanayana there could be no coronation. The third difficulty
was a minor one for it could be got over by the performance of the
Vratya Stoma ceremony. The first difficulty was the greatest stum-
bling block. It related to Shivaji’s status. The question was, was he
a Kshatriya? If that could be got over, the rest was easy. Shivaji’s
claim that he was Kshatriya was opposed by many. His principal
opponents were Brahmins who were led by his own Prime Minister
Moro Pant Pingle. Unfortunately for Shivaji even his Maratha
Sardars had refused to give him social precedence1 and had ranged
themselves against him. In their view, he was a Shudra. Shivaji’s
claim was also in direct conflict with the well established thesis long
insisted upon by the Brahrnins that there were no Kshatriyas in the
Kali age. Shivaji was living in the Kali age. Obviously he could not
be a Kshatriya. This objection to his claim for the status of Kshatriya
was further strengthened by the non-performance of the ceremony
of Upanayana or the investiture of the sacred thread at the proper
time, which was fixed by the Sastras to be the eleventh year in the
case of the Kshatriyas. This was taken to be evidence of his being
a Shudra. He was however fortunate in securing the services of one
Gagabhat, a renowned Brahmin, resident of Benares, learned both
in the Vedas and Sastras. Gagabhat solved all difficulties and
performed Shivaji’s coronation 2 on 6th June 1674 at Raigad first after
performing the Vratya Stoma and then the Upanayana.

1 Kinkaid has some interesting observations to make as to how the idea of coronation
originated. He says :
“For although the high-spirited Deccan nobles gladly followed Shivaji in the field,
they were unwilling in private life to concede to him any precedence. And at State
dinners they resented that a Bhosle should sit on a seat raised above those assigned
to Mohites and Nimbalkars, Savants and Ghorpades. He spoke of the matter to his
Secretary, Balaji Avaji Chitnis and the latter urged him to take the royal crown from
the hands, not of the Moghul Emperor, but of a Benares priest. The king consulted
his mother, Jijabai, the saintly Ramdas and his favourite goddess Bhavani and found
them all favourable to his Secretary’s suggestions.”—History of Maharashtra, p. 244.
From this it appears that the ideas behind Vedic coronation was to obtain social
precedence and not so much to obtain legal and political sovereignty.
2 It seems that some Brahmins were prepared to perform Shivaji’s coronation but
with non-Vedic, i.e., with Pauranic rites as is done in the case of Shudras. They
predicted all sorts of evils to happen if Shivaji had his coronation performed with Vedic
rites. Unfortunately these evils did take place and Shivaji who undoubtedly was
superstitious had another coronation performed according to non-Vedic rites. The
following account of this second coronation taken from Mr. C. V. Vaidya makes
interesting reading :
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Shivaji’s case is important for several reasons. It is important because
it proves that nobody except a Brahmin has the right to perform the
Upanayana and that nobody can compel a Brahmin to perform it if he
is not prepared to do so. Shivaji was the ruler of an independent kingdom
and had already started styling himself Maharaja and Chhatrapati.
There were many Brahmins who were his subjects. Yet, Shivaji could
not compel anyone of them to perform his coronation.
It is important because it proves that the ceremony to be valid must
be performed by a Brahmin. A ceremony performed by a non-Brahmin
would be infructuous. It was open to Shivaji to have his coronation
performed by a non-Brahmin. But he did not dare1 to do it. For he knew
it would be without any social or spiritual efficacy.
In the third place, it is important because it proves that the power
of determining the status of a Hindu depends entirely upon the will
of the Brahmins. The decision in favour of Shivaji is sought to be
justified by the genealogy which was brought from Mewar by Shivaji’s
friend, Balaji Avaji, and which connected Shivaji with the Sisodiyas of
Mewar who were reckoned as Kshatriyas. It has been alleged that the
genealogy was a fabrication got up for the occasion.

“Obstructive and dissatisfied Brahmins there were even then as always. They did
not deem the ceremony satisfactory, though it was acclaimed by the whole of
Maharashtra. A poem named Rajyabhisheka Kalpataru, a copy of which is in the Library
of the Bengal Royal Asiatic Society and which has been published from it by Itihas
S. Mandal of Poona (Quarterly, Vol. X-I), embodies some objections raised against the
coronation ceremony gone through. This poem is not quite contemporary, as it mentions
the later idea that Shivaji was an incarnation of Siva (not of Vishnu as represented
by the earlier Shivabharata) though it is of the time of Rajaram. It gives an imaginary
conversation between Nischalpuri, a learned Brahmin ascetic of Benares who was an
opponent of Gagabhat, and Govindbhat Barve as taking place in Konkan. It recounts
the ill omens which preceded and followed the coronation, such as the death of
Prataprao Gujar, the death of Kashibai, wife of Shivaji, etc., and the wound caused
to Gagabhat himself on the nose by the falling of a rafter. The poem expressly says
that Gagabhat engaged for the ceremony those Brahmins only who were his followers
and refused to employ those recommended by Nischalpuri. Many defects in the ceremony
itself, are next mentioned. Thus when Shivaji was getting into the chariot after the
ceremony of ascending the throne Gagabhat himself first sat in the chariot and then
Shivaji. After seeing the whole ceremony through Nischalpuri left the fort but told
Shivaji that bad events would happen on the 13th, 22nd and 55th days. On the 13th
day accordingly, Shivaji’s mother died. Next a horse-shed was burnt at Pratapgad with
good many horses in it and an elephant died on Sinhgad. These incidents induced
Shivaji to call Nischalpuri back and through him and his Brahmins Shivaji performed
afresh the ceremony of ascending the throne, not with Vedic rites, but Tantrik or
magical. This ceremony is also described in detail. There are mentioned some Vedic
mantras from Sama Veda as recited; but the ceremony was not Vedic. It was performed
on Ashvin Suddha 5 (Lalita Panchami day S, 1596), as is stated at the end of the
peom. This ceremony is also mentioned by J and Nischapuri is also spoken of in a
Mahomedan record.’—.Shivaji the Founder of Maratha Swaraj, pp. 252-253.”
1 The Kayasthas had at one time resolved to perform their own ceremonies as a priest
against the constant challenge by the Brahmins to their status. But they did not put
their resolve into action. The reason must be the same.
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Assuming it was not a fabrication,1 how can it justify the recognition of
Shivaji’s claim to be a Kshatriya? Far from establishing that Shivaji was
a Kshatriya, the genealogy could do no more than raise another question,
namely, whether the Sisodiyas were Kshatriyas. The Sisodiyas were
Rajputs. There is considerable doubt as to whether the Rajputs are the
descendants of the original Kshatriyas who formed the second Varna of
the ancient Indo-Aryan community. One view is that they are foreigners,
remnants of the Huns who invaded India and established themselves in
Rajputana and whom the Brahmins raised to the status of Kshatriyas with
the object of using them as means to suppress Buddhism in Central India
by a special ceremony before the sacred fire and who were therefore known
as the Agnikul Kshatriyas. This view has the support of many erudite
scholars who are entitled to speak on the subject. Vincent Smith says :2
In this place I want to draw attention to the fact, long suspected and
now established by good evidence that the foreign immigrants into
Rajputana and the upper Gangetic valley were not utterly destroyed in
the course of their wars with the native princes. Many of course perished
but many survived and were mixed in the general population of which
no inconsiderable part is formed by their descendants. These foreigners
like their fore-runners the Sakas and the Yue-chi universally yielded to
the wonderful assimilative power of Hinduism and rapidly became Hinduised.
Clans or families which succeeded in winning chieftainships were admitted
readily into the frame of Hindu polity as Kshatriyas or Rajputs and there
is no doubt that the Parihars and many other famous Rajput clans of the
north were developed out of the barbarian hordes which poured into India
during the fifth and sixth centuries. The rank and file of the strangers
became Gujars and the castes ranking lower than Rajputs in their
precedence. Further to the south, various indigenous or aboriginal tribes
and clans underwent the same process of Hinduised social promotion in
virtue of which Gonds, Bhars, Kharwas and so forth emerged as Chandels,
Rathors, Gaharwars and other well-known Rajput clans duly equipped with
pedigree reaching back to the sun and the moon.
William Crooke3 says :
Recent research has thrown much light on the origin of Rajputs. A wide gulf
lies between the Vedic Kshatriyas and the Rajputs of mediaeval times which it

1 The Sisodiya family of Mewar was important for two reasons (1) They were
a branch of the Sisodiyas of Udaipur who were descendants of the family of Lava
the eldest son of Rama, the hero of Ramayana. (2) The Sisodiyas of Mewar were
pure because they had refused to give their females in marriage to the Moghul
emperors and had refused to intermarry with other Rajput families such as Jaipur
and Jodhpur who had done so. Was it because of these reasons that this attempt
to establish that Shivaji was the descendant of the Sisodiyas of Mewar was made?
2 Quoted by C. V. Vaidya in his History of Mediaeval India, Vol. II. P. 8.
3 Quoted by Vaidya, ibid., p. 9.
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is now impossible to bridge. It is now certain that the origin of many clans
dates from the Saka or Kushan invasions of more certainly from that of
the White Huns who destroyed the Gupta empire about 480 A.D. The Gujar
tribe connected with the latter people adopted Hinduism and their leaders
formed the main stock from which the higher Rajput families sprang. When
these new claimants to princely honour accepted the faith and the
institution of Brahmanism the attempt would naturally be made to connect
them with the heroes of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Hence arose
the body of legend recorded in these annals by which a fabulous origin
from the sun and the moon was ascribed to these Rajput families ... The
group denoted by the name Kshatriya or Rajput depended on status rather
than on descent and it was therefore possible for foreigners to be introduced
into these tribes without any violation of the prejudices of caste, which
was then only partially developed. But it was necessary to disguise this
admission of foreigners under a convenient fiction. Hence arose the legend
how by a solemn act of purification or initiation under the superintendence
of the ancient Vedic Rishis, the fire—born septs were created to help the
Brahmins in repressing Buddhism and other heresies. This privilege was
confined to four septs known as Agnikula or fire-born viz., the Parmar,
Parihar, Chalukya and Chauhan.
Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar1 also holds the same view. According to him,
the Rajputs are the descendants of Gujars, the Gujars were foreigners
and that the Rajputs are therefore the descendants of foreigners.
The Brahmins engaged for the coronation could not have been ignorant
of the origin of the Rajputs, and their claim to be descended from the
Kshatriyas. But assuming that they did not know this fact they knew that
there was already a previous decision of the Brahmins, namely, that there
were no Kshatriyas in the Kali age. This was an old, long-standing decision.
And if the Brahmins had respect for precedent, they were bound to throw
out the claim of Sisodiyas as well as of Shivaji. Nobody would have blamed
them, if they had done so. But the Brahmins had never accepted the law
of precedent as binding upon them. With them there was no such thing
as stare decisis.
Fourthly, it is important because it shows that the decisions of
the Brahmins on matters of status were open to sale like the
indulgences of the Catholic clergy. That the decision of Gagabhat was
not an honest decision is obvious from the amount of money which
Gagabhat and other Brahmins received as officiating priests. The
amount of money spent on the coronation by Shivaji and how much
of it went to Gagabhat and the Brahmins will be seen from the

1 Quoted by Vaidya, Ibid., p. 10. Mr. Vaidya combats the view and tries to prove
that the Rajputs are not foreigners but are the descendants of original Aryan-
Kshatriyas. What Mr. Vaidya says does not appear to be very convincing.
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following details collected by Mr. Vaidya. :1
“These ministers were presented each with one lakh of hon, one elephant,
one horse, garments and ornaments. Gagabhat was given one lakh of rupees
for seeing the whole ceremony through. The Dakshinas granted by Shivaji
on the several occasions of the coronation ceremony were very large, as was
suited to the occasion. Sabhasad reports that the whole expenditure amounted
to one crore and forty-two lakhs of hons or 426 lakhs of rupees.
Sabhasad relates that 50,000 Vaidika Brahmins had collected on the occasion
of Shivaji’s coronation.2 Besides these there were Jogis, Sanyasis, etc., by
thousands. These were fed or given corn below the fort. It is related in
contemporary papers that Shivaji, before coronation, was weighed against gold
and almost every other metal as well as auspicious thing. Dutch record
describing the ceremony in detail on 3rd October PS. 1684 states that Shivaji
weighed 17,000 hons or 160 lbs. and he was also weighed against silver,
copper, iron, etc., and against camphor, salt, sugar, butter, various kinds of
fruit, betel-nuts, etc., and the value of the whole was distributed amongst
Brahmins. On the 7th June, the day after the coronation, Dakshina was given
in general and every Brahmin got three to five rupees and everyone else,
whether woman or child two rupees and one rupee. In all, the Dakshina
amounted to one and a half lakhs of hon3 in value.
Oxenden also states in his diary from 18th May to 13th June that Shivaji
was weighed against gold and the weight 16,000 hons, together with one lakh
of hons in addition were distributed as Dakshinas among Brahmins.
The above noted Dutch record further states that for the Vratya ceremony
7,000 hons were given to Gagabhat and 17,000 to other Brahmins. On the
5th of June Shivaji bathed in holy Ganges water and every Brahmin present
was given 100 hons.”
Can the amount paid to Gagabhat be taken as representing nothing
more than a fee4 properly payable to a priest? There is one
circumstance which may be depended upon to show that Gagabhat
was not even paid enough. It is that what Gagabhat got was
comparatively much less than what the Ministers of Shivaji got. Two
facts must however be noted as telling on the other side before any
conclusion is drawn from this fact. They completely nullify the
argument. The first is that the ministers themselves had made
large presents5 to Shivaji on his coronation. Moropant Pingle the
Peshwa or Prime Minister of Shivaji, the Mujamdar had paid 7,000 hons
and the other two ministers 5,000 hons each. Deducting these, the

1 Shivaji, the Founder of Maratha Swaraj, pp. 248 and 252.
2 Vaidya says this must be a mistake for 5,000. He gives no reason in support
of his ‘must’.
3 A Hon was equal to 3 rupees.
4 It must not be supposed that Gagabhat got only Rs. 1 lakh. He got in addition
7,000 hons or 21,000 rupees for Vratya Stoma. Further he must have received some
part of the gold and the value of other things against which Shivaji was weighed and
which was distributed among the Brahmins.
5 Vaidya, ibid., p. 247.
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presents given to them by Shivaji must be said to be much smaller
than they appear to be.
The second fact is that these ministers of Shivaji were the greatest
opponents of Shivaji in this project of coronation. They were staunch
in their view that he was a Shudra and that he was not entitled
to have his coronation performed as it was a right which belonged
to the Kshatriya only. It is therefore, no surprise if Shivaji gave them
large presents with a view to silence them and win them over
permanently to his side. The amount of money paid to the ministers
by Shivaji is therefore no criterion to determine whether the amount
paid to Gagabhat was no more than a fair fee for officiation. Indeed
there are so many twists and turns taken by Gagabhat that one is
forced to the conclusion that it was more than fair fee and that it
included some part as illegal gratification to keep him straight.
In this business of coronation the man who took the most leading
part in bringing it about was a Kayastha from Maharashtra by name
Balaji Avaji who was the Personal Secretary to Shivaji. The first step
Balaji took was to send three Brahmins1 as messengers from Shivaji
to fetch Gagabhat from Benares with full information as to the status
and purpose of Shivaji. What did Gagabhat do? He sent back the
three messengers with a letter refusing to accept the invitation on
the ground that in his. view Shivaji was a Shudra and was therefore
not fit for coronation. The next step Balaji took was to collect evidence
in support of Shivaji’s claim to the status of a Kshatriya. He
succeeded in obtaining a genealogy which showed that Shivaji was
a Kshatriya descended from the Sisodiyas who were Rajputs and
rulers of Mewad. This evidence he sent with another messenger,2 to
Gagabhat. Gagabhat seemed to have been impressed by the evidence
for he agreed to come to Raigad to perform the coronation ceremony.
What did Gagabhat do on his arrival? He said that he had reexamined
the evidence and had come to the conclusion that Shivaji was a
Shudra and was therefore unfit for coronation.
This is not the only somersault which Gagabhat took in this business.
He took another and a very queer turn and declared that he was
prepared to perform the coronation of Balaji Avaji for he was a

1 They were (1) Keshav Bhat, (2) Bhalachandra Bhat, and (3) Somanath Bhat.
2 The name of the messenger was Nilo Yesaji. He was a Kayastha. The three
Brahmins who went on the first occasion to fetch Gagabhat were suspected to have
commuted a foul play by acting contrary to their instructions and betraying the
interest of Shivaji to which as Brahmins they were opposed. It is possible that Balaji
felt that the letter brought by them was a piece of manoeuvre. That is why Balaji
this lime sent a Kayastha, a man of his own caste.
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Kayastha and therefore a Kshatriya but not of Shivaji who was
Shudra. Gagabhat did not stop there. He again turned round and
gave his opinion that Shivaji was a Kshatriya and that he was
prepared to perform his coronation and even went so far as to write
a treatise known as Gagabhatti in which he sought to prove that
the Kayasthas were bastards.
What do these twists and turns show? Do they not show he was
a most unwilling priest and that his willingness has had to be bought
by cash? If this argument is sound then there is no doubt that his
decision that Shivaji was Kshatriya was sold by him for illegal
Lastly Shivaji’s case is important because it shows that the
Brahmins in the matter of status did not recognize as being bound
by the principle of res judicata. They regard themselves as free to
reopen a case already decided by them. For how long did the
Brahmins respect their decision that Shivaji was a Kshatriya?
Shivaji started a new era from the day of his coronation, namely, 6th
June 1674 which he called the Rajyabhisheka Era. How long did it remain
in vogue? Only so long as Shivaji and his descendants remained as active
rulers on the throne. The moment effective sovereignty passed into the
hands of the Brahmin Peshwas, they issued an order2 to discontinue it.
Not only did they stop the use of the Era, they began using the style of
the Muslim Emperors, namely, the Fasli year. The Brahmins did not stop
there. They went further and began to question the very status of Shivaji’s
descendants as Kshatriyas.3 They could do nothing to the two sons of
Shivaji, Sambhaji and Rajaram. Shivaji had their Upanayana performed
in his life-time by Brahmins with Vedic rites. They could do nothing to
his grandson, Shahu because the Brahmins had no ruling power in their

1 For facts about Gagabhat’s twist’s and turns stated above, I have drawn on
K. S. Thakare’s Marathi booklet Gramanyacha Itihas. Thakare has in his turn drawn
upon the Bakhars or Chronicles. How far they are reliable it is difficult to say. It
must however be admitted that the twists and turns of Gagabhat appear to be true
because without them it would be difficult to explain certain relevant and disturbing
facts. For instance, take the following question : Did Gagabhat change after coming
to Raigad and if so, why? The change and the reason for it is to be found in the
discovery by Gagabhat that another Brahmin by name’ Moropant Pingle who was no
less than the Prime Minister of Shivaji was deadly opposed to Shivaji’s claim to be
a Kshatriya. It is likely that the two Brahmins on meeting together saw eye to eye
which make Gagabhat change. Why did Moropant who was a strong opponent became
later on a strong supporter of Shivaji’s coronation? If it is a fact that Gagabhat did
propose that Balaji should be proclaimed king it gives a complete explanation of
Moropant’s change of front. Balaji being Kayastha and the Kayasthas being the
deadliest enemies of the Brahmins, Moropant consented to Shivaji’s coronation as a
lesser of the two evils.
2 Sardesai, Marathi Riyasat, II. p. 363, and Vaidya, Shivaji, p. 251
3 What follows is taken from Siddhanta Vijaya, edited by Rao Bahadur Dongre.
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hands. The moment Shahu transferred his sovereign powers to his
Brahmin Peshwa their road to repudiation became clear. There is
no evidence whether Ramjee Raje the successor and adopted son of
Shahu, who was minor and whose guardians were the Peshwas, had
his Upanayana performed and if so, whether it was performed with
Vedic rites. But there is definite evidence that the Upanayana
ceremony of his successors, Shahu II, who was adopted in 1777 had
been performed with Pauranic rites and by the direction of the
Peshwas.1 The performance of Upanayana of Shahu II with Pauranic
rites was tantamount to his being regarded by the Peshwas as a
Shudra. For it is only in the case of a Shudra that the ceremonies
are performed with Pauranic rites. What happened to Maharaja
Pratapsing who succeeded Shahu II in 1808 whether or not his
Upanayana was performed and if performed whether it was performed
with Vedic rites or Pauranic rites it is not possible to be definite.
One thing, however, is definitely known that in about 1827 the
Shankarcharya of Karvir in his judgement about the status of the
Kayasthas of Sangli stated2 “that there were no Kshatriyas in the Kali
age and that documents showing that neither Shivaji, nor Sambhaji
nor Shahu were Kshatriyas exist in his Daftar”. It is alleged that this
statement is not to be found in the original judgement but was
interpolated by the Brahmin Raja of Sangli. Be that as it may, it
was a direct challenge to the status of Pratapsinha as a descent of
Shivaji. Pratapsinha had to put the issue to a conference of Brahmins
which was held in Satara in 1830. The majority gave a decision in
favour and saved Pratapsinha from being degraded to the status of
a Shudra.
Foiled in their attempt to level down one line of Shivaji to the
status of a Shudra, the Brahmins began their attack on the status
of the second line of Shivaji which had established itself at Kolhapur.
In the reign of one of the rulers of Kolhapur by name Babasaheb
Maharaj, the Palace Priest by name Raghunath Sastri Parvate took
into his head to perform all ceremonies in the Palace with Pauranic
rites. It is said that he was stopped from continuing the practice.
Babasaheb died in 1886. From 1886 to 1894, all rulers were minors
and the administration was in the hands of the British. There is no
direct evidence as to the exact manner and mode of ceremonial
performances adopted by the Palace priest. In 1902, the late Shahu
Maharaj issued order to the Palace priest to perform all ceremonies

1 Dongre Siddhanta Vijaya, Introduction, p. 6.
2 Dongre, Ibid., Introduction, p. 9.
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in the Vedic manner. The priest refused and insisted on performing
it in the Pauranic manner suggesting thereby that the rulers of
Kolhapur were Shudras and not Kshatriyas. The part played by
Sankaracharya of Karvir Math in this affair is very noteworthy. At
the time of the controversy the head of the Math called Guru, had
adopted a disciple (Sishya) by name Brahmanalkar and had given
him all the rights of the head of the Math. At first both the Guru
and the Sishya were on the side of the Palace Priest and against
the Maharaja. Later on, the disciple took the side of the Maharaja
and accepted his status as a Kshatriya. The Guru who remained on
the side of the Priest excommunicated the Sishya. The Maharaja later
on tried to create his own Sankaracharya1 but he too proved false
to the Maharaja.
Shivaji was recognised as a Kshatriya. Obviously, that status was
not a personal honour conferred on him. It was a status in tail and
belonged to his family as well as to his descendants. Nobody could
question it. It could be lost by a particular descendant by doing some
act which was inconsistent with it. It could not be lost generally.
No act inconsistent with the Kshatriya status was attributed to any
of the descendants of Shivaji. Yet the Brahmins came forward to
repudiate the decision on their status.
This could happen only because the Brahmins claimed the power
to do and undo the status of any Hindu at any time. They can raise
a Shudra to the status of a Kshatriya. They can degrade the Kshatriya
to the status of a Shudra. Shivaji’s case proves that their sovereignty
in this matter is without limit and without challenge.
These instances2 are no doubt drawn from the Bombay Presidency
only. But the principles from them are clear and general in their
application. They are :
(1) That the Brahmins have the exclusive right to perform the
Upanayana. Neither Shivaji, nor Pratap Sinha nor the
Kayasthas, Panchals or Palashes wanted the Upanayana to be
performed by a non-Brahmin. It is only once that the Kayasthas
resolved to have their ceremonies performed by Kayasthas. But
it was only a paper resolution.
(2) The Brahmin has the right to say whose Upanayana he will
perform and whose he will not perform. In other words, the

1 He is known as Dr. Kurtakoti.
2 For details of each see a Marathi publication, Gramanyacha Itihas, by K. S.
Thakare, published in 1919.
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Brahmin is the sole judge of deciding whether a given
community is entitled to Upanayana.
(3) The support of the Brahmins for the performance of Upanayana
need not be based on honest grounds. It could be purchased
by money. Shivaji got the support of the Brahmin Gagabhat
on payment of money.
(4) The denial of Upanayana by the Brahmins need not be on legal
or religious ground. It is possible for the denial to be based
on purely political grounds. The refusal by the Brahmins of
Upanayana to Kayasthas was entirely due to political rivalry
between the two.
(5) The right of appeal against the denial of an Upanayana by
a Brahmin is only to a Vidvat-Parishad and the Vidvat-
Parishad is an assembly for which a Brahmin alone is eligible
to be a member.
From the foregoing discussion, it must be clear to all that the
Brahmins did possess the power to deny Upanayana. Given the
powers and the motive, there is nothing strange if they used it against
the Shudras.
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SO far I have attempted to establish the following propositions
(1) That it is the Brahmins who brought about the fall of the
Shudras from the second to the fourth Varna in the Indo-
Aryan Society;
(2) That the technique adopted by the Brahmins to degrade the
Shudras was to deny them the benefit of the Upanayana;
(3) That this act of degradation was born out of the spirit of
revenge on the part of the Brahmins who were groaning under
the tyrannies and oppressions and indignities to which they
were subjected by the Shudra kings.
While all this is crystal clear, there may be some who may yet
have some such questions to ask, namely :
(i) Why should a quarrel with a few kings make the Brahmins
the enemies of the whole Shudra community?
(ii) Was the provocation so great as to create a feeling of hatred
and desire to seek vengeance?
(iii) Were not the parties reconciled? If they were, then their was
no occasion for the Brahmins to degrade the Shudras.
(iv) How did the Shudras suffer this degradation?
These questions I admit have in them enough force and substance
to call for serious consideration. It is only proper that they should
be answered.


The question why the Brahmins, because of their quarrels with a
few kings, should proceed to degrade the whole community of Shudras
is not only relevant but is also very pertinent. There would, however,
be no difficulty to answer this question if two things are borne in mind.
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In the first place, the conflicts described in Chapter 9 between
the Brahmins and the Shudra kings were not individual conflicts
though they appear to be so. On the side of the Brahmins there
is no doubt that the whole class was involved. Barring the episode
relating to Vasishtha, all other episodes relate to Brahmins in
general. On the side of the kings, it is true that the episodes mention
individual kings as being involved in this conflict with the Brahmins.
But it must not be forgotten that they all belonged to the same line
to which Sudas belonged.
In so far as Sudas is concerned, the conflict was between the
Brahmins and the Shudra clan of Kshatriyas. Of this, there can be
no doubt. We have no direct evidence to say that the other offending
kings also belonged to the Shudra clan of Kshatriyas. But we have
other evidence which leads to the conclusion that they belonged to
the same line of descent as Sudas.
Attention is invited to the following genealogical tree appearing
overleaf which is taken from the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata.1
The inter-relationship of the Kshatriya kings who came in conflict
with the Brahmins throws some interesting light on the subject,
Pururavas2 is the son of Ila and the grandson of Manu Vaivasvata.
Nahusha3 is the grandson of Pururavas. Nimi4 is one of the sons of
Ikshvaku, who is the son of Manu Vivasvat. Trishanku 5 is 28th in
descent from Ikshvaku. Sudas 6 is descended from Ikshvaku and is
50th in descent from him. Vena 7 is the son of Manu Vaivasvata.
All of them claimed descent from Manu, some from him and some
from Ikshvaku. Being descendants of Manu and Ikshvaku, it is
possible to argue that they were all kindred of Sudas. Given the fact
that Sudas is a Shudra, it follows logically that all these kings
belonged to the Shudra group.
We have no direct evidence, but there would be nothing unnatural
in supposing that in these conflicts with the Brahmins, the whole
Shudra community, not merely a few Shudra kings, was involved.
This conflict, it must be remembered, has taken place in the ancient
past when life was tribal in thought and in action, and when the rule

1 Muir, Vol. I, p. 126
2 Muir, Vol. I, p. 126.
3 Muir Vol. I, p. 307.
4 Muir Vol. I, p. 316.
5 Muir Vol. I, p. 362.
6 Muir Vol. I, p. 362.
7 Divodasa, the father of Sudas, is spoken of in the Rig Veda as king of Purus
and Purus are described as Ikshvakus.


KASYAPA=Dakshayani (one of the
daughters of Daksha

Adityas Vivasvat

(had 10 sons)

Vena Dhrishnu Naushyauta Nabhaga Ikshvaku Karusha Saryati Ila Prishadra Nabhagaushla
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10)
Mk S.K.—26-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013

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was that what was done by one individual belonging to the tribe was
deemed to be done by the whole tribe. In all ancient societies the unit
was the tribe or the community and not the individual, with the result
that the guilt of the individual was the guilt of the community and
the guilt of the community was the guilt of every individual belonging
to it. If this fact is borne in mind, then it would be quite natural to
say that the Brahmins did not confine their hatred to the offending
kings, but extended it to the whole of the Shudra community and
applied the ban against Upanayana to all the Shudras.

As to whether there was enough provocation, the matter is hardly open
to question. Tempers must have risen high on both sides. There was
enough combustible material on both sides for an explosion to take place.
On the side of the Brahmins, it is evident that their pretensions to
social superiority and their claim for special privileges had become
outrageous in character and unbearable in extent.
The following is a catalogue1 of the pretensions put fourth by the
Brahmins :
(i) The Brahmin must be acknowledged to be the guru to all Varnas
by the mere fact of his birth;
(ii) The Brahmana has the sole right of deciding upon the duties of
all other classes, what conduct was proper to them and what should
be their means of livelihood; and the other classes were to abide
by his directions and the king was to rule in accordance with such
(iii) The Brahmana is not subject to the authority of the king. The
king was the ruler of all except the Brahmana;
(iv) The Brahmana is exempt from (1) whipping; (2) fetters being put
on him; (3) the imposition of fines; (4) exile; (5) censure and (6)
(v) A Shrotriya (a Brahmana learned in Vedas) is free from taxes.
(vi) A Brahmana is entitled to claim the whole of the treasure trove
if he found it. If the king found it he must give half to the
(vii) The property of a Brahmana dying without an heir shall not go
to the king, but shall be distributed among Shrotriyas or Brahmanas.
(viii) The king meeting a Shrotriya or a Brahmana on the road must
give way to the Brahmana.
(ix) The Brahmana must be saluted first.
(x) The person of a Brahmana is sacred. No death sentence could be
passed against a Brahmana even if he is guilty of murder.
1 This summary is based on the catalogue given in Kane’s Dharma Shastra,
Vol. II (I), pp. 138-153.
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(xi) Threatening a Brahmana with assault, or striking him or drawing
blood from his body is an offence.
(xii) For certain offences the Brahmana must receive a lesser punish-
ment than members of other classes.
(xiii) The king should not summon a Brahmana as a witness where
the litigant is not a Brahmana.
(xiv) Even when a woman has had ten former husbands who are not
Brahmanas, if a Brahmana marries such a woman, it is he alone
who is her husband and not a Rajanya or a Vaishya1 to whom
she may have been married.
After discussing these pretensions and privileges claimed by the
Brahmanas, Mr. Kane says :2
“Further privileges assigned to Brahmanas are : free access to the houses
of other people for the purpose of begging alms; the right to collect fuel,
flowers, water and the like without its being regarded as a theft, and to
converse with other men’s wives without being restrained (in such conver-
sation) by others; and the right to cross rivers without paying any fare for
the ferry-boat and to be conveyed (to the other bank) before other people.
When engaged in trading and using a ferry boat, they shall have to pay no
toll. A Brahmana who is engaged in travelling, who is tired and has nothing
to eat, commits no wrong by taking two canes of sugar or two esculent roots.”
These privileges have no doubt grown in course of time and it
is difficult to say which of them had become vested rights when these
conflicts were raging. But there is no doubt that some of the most
annoying ones such as (i), (ii), (iii), (viii) and (xiv) had then come
into existence. These were enough to infuriate any decent and self-
respecting body of men.
On the side of the Kshatriya kings they could not be supposed to
be willing to take things lying low. How could they? It must not be
forgotten that most of the Kshatriya kings who came into conflict with
the Brahmins, belonged to the solar line.3 They differed from the
Kshatriyas of the lunar line in learning, in pride and in martial spirit.
The Kshatriyas who belonged to the solar line were a virile people,
while those who belonged to the lunar line were an imbecile lot without
any self-respect. The former challenged the Brahmins. The latter
succumbed to them and became their slaves. This was as it should
be. For while the Kshatriyas of the lunar line were devoid of any
learning, those belonging to the solar line were not merely the equals
of Brahmins in the matter of learning, they were their
1 No. (xiv) is not mentioned by Kane, but is mentioned in the Atharva Veda V.
17. 8-9; see Muir, Vol. I, p. 280.
2. Ibid., pp. 153-4.
3. Only Pururavas and Nahusha belong to the Lunar line of Kshatriyas as may
be seen from
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superiors. Several of them were the authors of the Vedic hymns and
were known as Rajarishis. This was particularly true of those who
came into conflict with the Brahmins.
According to the Anukramanika to the Rig Veda as well as
according to tradition the following hymns are said to have been
composed by the undermentioned kings :l
“vi.15: Vitahavya (or Bharadvaja); x.9: Sindhuvipa, son of Ambarisha (or
Trisiras, son of Tvashtri); x.75: Sindhukshit, son of Priyamedha; x. 133, Sudas
son of Pijavana; x. 134, Mandhatri, son of Yuvanasva; x. 179, Sibi, son of
Usinara, Pratardana, son of Divodasa and king of Kasi, and Vasumanas, son
of Rohidasva; and x. 148 is declared to have had Prithi Vainya.”
The Matsya Purana also gives the lists2 of those who composed
the hymns of the Rig Veda in a passage which says :
“Bhrigu, Kashya, Prachetas, Dadhicha, Atmavat, Aurva, Jamadagni, Kripa,
Sharadvata, Arshtishena, Yudhajit, Vitahavya, Suvarchas, Vaina, Prithu,
Divodasa, Brahmasva, Gritsa, Saunaka—these are the nineteen Bhrigus,
composers of hymns. Angiras, Vedhasa, Bharadvaja, Bhalandana, Ritabadha,
Garga, Siti, Sankriti, Gurudhira, Mandhatri, Ambarisha, Yuvanasva, Purukutsa,
Pradyumna, Shravanasya, Ajamidha, Haryashva, Takshapa, Kavi,
Prishadashva, Virupa, Kanva, Mudgala, Utathya, Sharadvat, Vajasravas,
Apasya, Suvitta, Vamadeva, Ajita, Brihaduktha, Dirghatamas, Kakshivat, are
recorded as thirty-three eminent Angirases. These were all composers of
hymns. Now learn the Kasyapas... Vishvamitra, son of Gadhi, Devaraja, Bala
the wise Madhuchhandas, Rishabha, Aghamarshana, Ashtaka, Lohita,
Bhritakila, Vedasravas, Devarata, Puranashva, Dhananjaya, the glorious
Mithila, Salankayana,—these are to be known as the thirteen devout and
eminent Kusikas. Manu Vaivasvata, Ida, king Pururavas, these are to be
known as the eminent utterers of hymns among the Kshatriyas. Bhalanda,
Vandya, and Sanskirti these are always to be known as the three eminent
persons among the Vaishyas who were composers of hymns. Thus ninety-one
persons have been declared by whom hymns have been given birth to,
Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
the following genealogical tree :—


Pururav as=Urvashi


If it is bome in mind that Ha the mother of Pururavas was the daughter of
Manu Vaivasvata it will be seen that they too were the kith and kin of the
solar Kshatriyas who came into conflict with the Brahmins.
1. Muir, Vol. I, p. 268
2. Muir Vol. I, p. 279.
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In the list of the authors of the Vedic hymns there are not only
names of many Kshatriyas, there are names of many of the
Kshatriyas who had come into conflict with the Brahmins. The
Kshatriyas were the leaders among the Vedic hymn makers. The
most famous Vedic hymn namely the Gayatri mantra is the
production of Vishvamitra who was a Kshatriya. It was impossible
for the Kshatriyas of this calibre not to take up this challenge of
the Brahmins.
Their pride which was born out of their prowess and their learning
must have been so greatly wounded by the pretensions of the
Brahmins that when they did take up the challenge of the Brahmins
they did it in a ruthless spirit. They hit the Brahmins hip and thigh.
Vena forced them to worship him and no other god; Pururavas looted
their wealth. Nahusha yoked them to his chariot and made them
drag it through the city. Nimi flouted the exclusive and hereditary
right of a family priest to perform all the ceremonies in the family
and Sudas went to the length of burning alive the son of Vasishtha
who was once his family priest. Surely, there cannot be greater cause
to provoke the Brahmins to seek their vengeance upon the Shudras.


On the point of possible reconciliation between the Brahmins and
the Shudras, there is no doubt some evidence on which some people
might rely. Before stating my views upon the worth of this evidence,
it is desirable to draw attention to it. The evidence consists of stories
of reconciliation which are scattered throughout the Mahabharata
and the Puranas.
The first story of reconciliation concerns the two tribes, the
Bharatas to whom Vishvamitra belonged and the Tritsus to whom
Vasishtha belonged. That the Bharatas were enemies of Vasishtha
or Tritsus is clear from the Rig Veda itself which says :l
III. 53.24.—“These sons of Bharata, O Indra, desire to avoid (the
Vasishthas), not to approach them.”
The story of their reconciliation is told in the Adi Parvan of the
Mahabharata2 and runs as follows :
“And the hosts of their enemies also smote the Bharatas. Shaking the earth
with an army of four kinds of forces, the Panchalya chief assailed him having

1. Muir, Vol. I, p. 354.
2. Muir Vol. I, p. 361.
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rapidly conquered the earth and vanquished him with ten complete hosts.
Then the king Samvarana with his wives, ministers, sons and friends fled
from that great cause of alarm and dwelt in the thickets of the great river
Sindhu (Indus) in the country bordering on the stream, and near a mountain.
There the Bharatas abode for a long time, taking refuge in a fortress. As
they were dwelling there, for a thousand years, the venerable rishi Vasishtha
came to them. Going out to meet him on his arrival, and making obeisance,
the Bharatas all presented him with the arghya, offering, showing every
honour to the glorious rishi. When he was seated, the king himself solicited
him: ‘Be thou our priest; let us strive to regain my kingdom,’ Vasishtha
consented to attach himself to the Bharatas, and as we have heard, invested
the descendant of Puru with the sovereignty of the entire Kshatriya race,
to be a horn (to have a mastery) over the whole earth. He occupied the
splendid city formerly inhabited by Bharata, and made all kings again
tributary to himself,”
The second story relates to the conflict between the Bhrigus and
the Kshatriya king Kritavirya and their subsequent reconciliation.
It occurs in the Adi Parvan of the Mahabharata i 1
“There was a king named Kritavirya, by whose liberality the Bhrigus,
learned in the Vedas, who officiated as his priests, had been greatly enriched
with cows and money. After he had gone to heaven, his descendants were
in want of money, and came to beg for a supply from the Bhrigus, of whose
wealth they were aware. Some of the latter hid their money underground,
others bestowed it on Brahmins, being afraid of the Kshatriyas, while others
again gave these last what they wanted. It happened, however, that a
Kshatriya while digging the ground, discovered some money buried in the
house of a Bhrigu. The Kshatriyas then assembled and saw this treasure,
and, being incensed, slew in consequence all the Bhrigus, whom they
regarded with contempt, down to the children in the womb. The widows,
however, fled to the Himalaya mountains. One of them concealed her
unborn child in her thigh. The Kshatriyas, hearing of its existence from
a Brahmani informant sought to kill it, but it issued forth from his mother’s
thigh with lustre, and blinded the persecutors. After wandering about
bewildered among the mountains for a time, they humbly supplicated the
mother of the child for the restoration of their sight; but she referred them
to her wonderful infant Aurva, into whom the whole Veda, with its six
Vcdangas, had entered, as the person who (in retaliation of the slaughter
of his relatives) had robbed them of their eye-sight, and who alone could
restore it. They accordingly had recourse to him, and their eye-sight was
restored. Aurva, however, mediated the destruction of all living creatures,
in revenge for the slaughter of the Bhrigus, and entered on a course of
austerities which alarmed both gods, asuras and men; but his progenitors
(Pitris), themselves appeared, and sought to turn him from his purpose
by saying that they had no desire to be rovenged on the Kshatriyas. It
was not from weakness that the devout Bhrigus overlooked the massacre
perpetrated by the murderous Kshatriyas. ‘When we became distressed by old
age, we ourselves desired to be slaughtered by them. The money which was

1. Muir, Vol. I, pp. 448-449
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buried by some one in a Bhrigu’s house was placed there for the purpose
of exciting hatred, by those who wished to provoke the Kshatriyas. For what
had we who were desiring heaven, to do with money?’ They added that they
hit upon this device because they did not wish to be guilty of suicide, and
concluded by calling upon Aurva to restrain his wrath, and abstain from the
sin he was meditating: ‘Destroy not the Kshatriyas, o son, nor the seven
worlds. Suppress thy kindled anger which nullifies the power of austere
fervour.’ Aurva, however, replies that he cannot allow his threat to remain
unexecuted. His anger, unless wreaked upon some other object, will, he says,
consume himself, and he argues, on grounds of justice, expediency and duty,
against the clemency which his progenitors recommended. He is, however,
persuaded by the Pltris to throw the fire of his anger into the sea, where
they say it will find exercise in assailing the watery element, and in this
way his threat will be fulfilled, It accordingly became the great Hayasiras,
known to those who are acquainted with the Veda, which vomits forth that
fire and drinks up the waters.”
The third story concerns the conflict between Arjuna, son of
Kritavirya, the king of the Haihayas and Parashurama and the
subsequent reconciliation between them. It occurs in the Vanaparvan
of the Mahabharata and runs as follows :l
“Arjuna, son of Kritavirya and king of the Haihayas, had, we are told,
a thousand arms. He obtained from Dattaireya an aerial car of gold, the march
of which was irresistible. He thus trod down gods, Yakshas, rishis, and
oppressed all creatures. The gods and rishis applied to Vishnu and he along
with Indra, who had been insulted by Arjuna, devised the means of destroying
the latter. At this time, the story goes on, there lived a king of Kanyakubja,
called Gadhi, who had a daughter named Satyavati. The marriage of this
princess to the rishi Richika and the birth of Jamadagni, are then told in
nearly the same way as above narrated. Jamadagni and Satyavati had five
sons, the youngest of whom was the redoubtable Parashurama. By his father’s
command he kills his mother (who, by the indulgence of impure desire, had
fallen from her previous sanctity), after the four elder sons had refused this
matricidal office, and had in consequence been deprived of reason by their
father’s curse. At Parashurama’s desire, however, his mother is restored by
his father to life, and his brothers to reason; and he himself is absolved from
all the guilt of murder; and obtains the boon of invincibility and long life
from his father. His history now begins to be connected with that of king
Arjuna (or Kritavirya). The latter had come to Jamadagni’s hermitage, and
had been respectfully received by his wife; but he had requitted this honour
by carrying away by force the calf of the sage’s sacrificial cow, and breaking
down his lofty trees. On being informed of this violence, Parashurama was
filled with indignation, attacked Arjuna, cut off his thousand arms, and
slew him. Arjuna’s son, in return slew the peaceful sage Jamadagni, in
the absence of Parashurama. Parashurama incensed at the slaughter of
his father, having vowed in consequence to sweep away all • Kshatriyas
from the earth, seized his weapons and slaying all the sons and grandsons
of Arjuna, with thousands of the Haihayas, he turned the earth into

1. Muir, Vol. I, pp. 449-454
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a mass of ensanguined mud. Having thus cleared the earth of Kshatriyas
he became penetrated by deep compassion and retired to the forest. After
some thousands of years had elapsed, the hero, naturally irascible, was
taunted by Paravasu, the son of Raibhaya and grandson of Vishvamitra, in
a public assembly in these words : ‘Are not these virtuous men, Pratardana
and the others, who are assembled at the sacrifice in the city of Yayati—
are they not Kshatriyas? Thou hast failed to execute thy threat, and vainly
boastest in the assembly. Thou hast withdrawn to the mountain from the
fear of those valiant Kshatriyas, while the earth has again become overturn
by hundreds of their race,’ Hearing these words, Rama seized the weapons.
The hundreds of Kshatriyas who had before been spared had now grown
powerful kings. Those, however, Parashurama, now slew with their children,
and all the numerous infants then unborn as they came into the world. Some,
however, were preserved by their mothers. Having twenty-one times cleared
the earth of the Kshatriyas, Rama gave her as a sacrificial fee to Kasyapa
at the conclusion of an Ashvamedha.”
After telling the story of the conflict the author of the Mahabharata
proceeds to narrate the story of reconciliation in the following terms : 1
“Having one and twenty times swept away all the Kshatriyas from the earth,
the son of Jamadagni engaged in austerities on Mahendra, the most excellent
of mountains. After he had cleared the world of Kshatriyas, their widows came
to the Brahmins, praying for offspring. The religious Brahmins, free from any
impulse of lust, cohabited at the proper seasons with these women, who in
consequence became pregnant, and brought forth valiant Kshatriya boys and girls,
to continue the Kshatriya stock. Thus was the Kshatriya race virtuously begotten
by Brahmins on Kshatriya women and became multiplied and long-lived. Thence
there arose four castes inferior to the Brahmins.”
The above instances of conflicts and conciliations between Brah-
mins and Kshatriyas do not relate to those Kshatriya kings who have
figured in history as having declared war on the Brahmins. To turn
to instances of their2 stories of reconciliation with the Brahmins the
first is that of Kalmashapada. He is said to be the son of Sudas.3
The story is given in the Adiparvan of the Mahabharata.4 That part
of the story which narrates the enmity between Kalmashapada and
Vasishtha has already been recounted.5 The part of the story which
deals with reconciliation runs as follows :
“After roaming about over many mountains and countries, he (Vasishtha) was
followed home by his daughter-in-law Adrisyanti, Shaktri’s 6 widow, from whose

1. Muir, Vol. I, pp. 451-452
2. I am not sure that the kings mentioned in the episodes which follow are the same
as those mentioned in Chapter IX. I refer to them because they belong to the Ikshvaku
3. I am not sure which Sudas he is. From the details he seems to be Paijavana Sudas.
4. Muir, Vol. I, pp. 415-418.
5. See Chapter 9.
6. This is probably a mistake for Shakti.
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womb he heard a sound or the recitation of the Vedas, as she was pregnant
with a child, which, when born, received the name of Parasara. Learning from
her that there was thus a hope of his line being continued, he abstained
from further attempts on his own life. King Kalmashapada, however, whom
they encountered in the forest, was about to devour them both when Vasishtha
stopped him by a blast from his mouth, and sprinkling him with water
consecrated by a holy text, he delivered him from the curse by which he had
been affected for twelve years. The king then addressed Vasishtha thus: ‘Most
excellent sage, I am Saudasa, whose priest thou art, what can I do that would
be pleasing to thee?’ Vasishtha answered : ‘This which has happened has
been owing to the force of destiny; go, and rule thy kingdom; but, o monarch,
never condemn the Brahmins.’ The king replied, ‘Never shall I despise the
most excellent Brahmins; but submitting to thy commands I shall pay thee
all honour. And I must obtain from thee the means of discharging my debt
to the Ikshvakus. Thou must give me the offspring which I desire.’ Vasishtha
promised to comply with his request. They then returned to Ayodhya. And
Vasishtha having been solicited by the king to beget an heir to the throne,
the queen1 became pregnant by him, and brought forth a son at the end of
twelve years.”
The second instance occurs in the Anushasanaparvan of the
Mahabharata : 2
“At the time the eloquent king Saudasa sprung from the race of Ikshvaku
proceeded, after salutation, to make an enquiry of his family priest Vasishtha,
the eternal saint, the most excellent of rishis, who was able to traverse all
the world, and was a treasure of sacred knowledge: ‘What, o, venerable and
sinless man, is declared to be the purest thing in the three worlds, by
constantly celebrating which one may acquire the highest merit?’ Vasishtha
in reply expatiates at great length on the merit resulting from bestowing
cows, and ascribes to these animals some wonderful properties so that they
are the ‘support of all beings,’ the present and the future, and describes the
cow as ‘pervading the universe, mother of the past and the future’. The great
self-subduing king, considering that these words of the rishi were most
excellent, lavished on the Brahmins very great wealth in the shape of cows
and obtained the worlds. So here we find the son of Saudasa extolled as a
The third instance relates to the reconciliation in which there is
reference to Sudasa’s descendants. It occurs in the Shanti Parvan
of the Mahabharata :3
“Having received the dominion over the earth, Kasyapa made it an abode
of Brahmins, and himself withdrew to the forest. Shudras and Vaishyas then
began to act lawlessly towards the wives of the Brahmins, and in consequence
of there being no government, the weak were oppressed by the strong, and no
one was master of any property. The earth being distressed by the wicked, in

1. Her name was Madayanti, She is referred to in the Anushashana Parvan at
the wife of Mitrasaha, which is another name for Kamashapada—See Muir, Vol. I,
pp, 418, 423 and 514,
2. Muir, Vol. I, p. 374.
3. Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 455-456.
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consequence of that disorder, and unprotected according to rule by the
Kshatriyas, the guardians of justice, descended to the lower regions.
Perceiving’ her moving from place to place in terror, Kasyapa upheld her
with his thigh (uru). From this circumstance she derives her name of urvi.
The goddess Earth then propitiated Kasyapa and supplicated him for
protection, and for a king. ‘I have,’ she said, ‘preserved among females
many Kshatriyas who have been bom in the race of Haihayas; let them
be my protectors. There is the heir of Pauravas, the son of Viduratha,
who has been brought up by bears on the mountain Rikshavat; let him
protect me. So, too, the heir of Saudasa, has been preserved by the tender-
hearted and glorious priest, Parasara who had performed, though a
Brahmin, all menial offices for him like a Shudra whence the prince’s name
Sarvakarman. ‘After enumerating other kings who had been rescued, the
Earth proceeds: ‘All these Kshatriya descendants have been preserved in
different places, abiding continually among the classes of dyokaras and
goldsmiths. If they protect me, I shall continue unshaken. Their fathers
and grandfathers were slain on my account by Rama, energetic in action.
It is incumbent on me to avenge their cause. For I do not desire to be
always protected by an extraordinary person (such as Kasyapa); but I will
be content with an ordinary ruler. Let this be speedily fulfilled.’ Kasyapa
then sent for these Kshatriyas who had been pointed out by the Earth,
and installed them in the kingly office.”
Such is the evidence. Can anybody accept it as reliable? In my
opinion, far from accepting it, one should beware of such evidence.
In the first place, all these stories of reconciliation end, for the
Kshatriyas, in peace without honour. In every case, the Kshatriyas
are shown to have undergone an abject surrender. The Bharatas are
the enemies of Vasishtha. Suddenly there is a famine in their
country. They leave the country and lose their kingdom. They
implore Vasishtha their age-old enemy and pray that he become their
priest and save them from the calamity. In the story of the Bhrigus
and the Kshatriyas, the credit is given to the Brahmins as being
too proud to fight. In the story of the Haihaya Kshatriyas and the
Saudasa such as Kalmashpada, the surrender of the Kshatriyas was
so to say purchased by them by offering their women to the victorious
Brahmins. The stories are all doctored with a view to glorify the
Brahmins and humiliate the Kshatriyas. Who can take such dirty,
filthy, abominable and vainglorious stories of reconciliation as true
historical facts? Only a supporter of Brahminism can do so.
Such is the general character of the evidence on the question of
reconciliation. Coming to the particular case of reconciliation between
the Brahmins and the Shudras, the descendants of Sudas, there is
ample, evidence to show that no such reconciliation had taken place.
In the first place, it cannot be gainsaid that Parasara, the son
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of Shakti or Shaktri, the son of Vasishtha, when he heard of the
way in which his father had met his death—namely, that he was
burnt alive by Sudas, the Shudra king,—determined to execute a
general slaughter of all creatures. The general slaughter is, of course,
a figurative term. What is meant is that Vasishtha took a vow of
general vengeance against the descendants of Sudas, namely, the
Shudras. It is no doubt said in the Mahabharata that Vasishtha
restrained Parasara and persuaded him not to carry out his threat
of vengeance by telling him how the Bhrigus and the Kshatriyas had
come into conflict and how the former won against the latter by
adopting non-violence. But this story cannot be true; for, like other
stories it is doctored with a view to bring glory to the Brahmins.
In the second place, the strongest proof in support of the contention
that there was no reconciliation between the Brahmins and the
Shudras comes from the legislation enacted by the Brahmins against
the Shudras. The laws against the Shudras have already been
referred to. Their growth and their extraordinary character have been
pointed out. All that remains to do is to say that against this
background of black laws any suggestion regarding reconciliation
must appear to be wholly untenable. The Brahmins not only did not
forgive the Shudras, they pursued even the progeny of the Shudras
with the same spirit of relentless revenge. As many people do not
seem to have any idea of this, it may be desirable to state a few
facts regarding the Chandala and the Nishada.
The Chandala and Nishada are the issues of mixed marriages.
Nishada is an anuloma while the Chandala is a Pratiloma. The
anulomas 1 are held to be eligible for Upanayana. But curiously
enough an exception is made to this rule. Nishada who is the son
of Brahman from a Shudra woman, though an anuloma, is held not
to be eligible for Upanayana. It is interesting to know why this
exception was made. The only answer seems to be that this arbitrary
act is an act of revenge against the children of one’s enemy.

1 There are six anulomas as shown in the following table :
Father Mother Name of the progeny
Brahmin Kshatriya Murdhavasikta
Brahmin Vaishya Ambashtha
Brahmin Shudra Nishada
Kshatriya Vaishya Mahishya
Kshatriya Shudra Urga
Vaishya Shudra Karana
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Turning to the Pratilomas,1 Manu no doubt calls, all of them as the
basest of men. At the same time, the stigma on the Pratilomas is not
evenly distributed among all of them. In the matter of rights and
privileges, the Ayogava and the Kshattar are treated with incredible
consideration, while the Chandala is subjected to unspeakable condem-
nation. As an illustration of this discrimination one can cite the
following provisions in the Manu Smriti :
As to the Ayogava, the Manu Smriti merely says :
Carpenting (shall be the occupation) of an Ayogava.—X.46. As to the
Kshattar the Manu Smriti says :
……. catching and killing animals that live in holes (is the occupation)
of Kshattar.—x.49.
They are only assigned low occupations.
Compare with this what the Manu Smriti has to say about the
Chandala :
“A Chandala and a boar, a cock and also a dog, and a woman in her
courses and an eunuch, may not see the Brahmins eating.”—
iii. 239.
One may not abide with outcasts, nor Chandalas, nor Pukkasas, nor
idiots, nor proud (people), nor with the low-born (people) nor with
One becomes pure by bathing if one has touched a Chandala, or a
woman in her courses, an outcaste, also a woman lying-in, a corpse or
one who has touched it.—v.85.
Manu declared the flesh of (a beast) killed by dogs (to be pure); also
the flesh of an animal killed by other carnivorous (animals) (or) by
Chandala (and) other Dasyus.— v. 131.
Two-fold should be the fine of a criminal sentenced within a year,
and just as much if one cohabit with a Vratya woman or a Chandala
woman.— viii.373.
The man, however, who foolishly allows this to be done by any
other (wife) than the one of his own caste when the latter is at
hand, has been, of old, looked upon as (no whit better than) a
1 Gaut. Dh, S., IV. 21, quoted by Kane, II, Part I, p. 229.
Father Mother Name of the caste
Shudra Brahmin Chandala
Shudra Kshatriya Kshattar
Shudra Vaishya Ayogava
Vaishya Brahmin Suta
Vaishya Kshatriya Vaidehaka
Kshatriya Brahmin Magadha
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The dwelling of Chandalas and Svapacas (should be) outside the
village; they should be deprived of dishes (apapatra); their property
(consists of) dogs and asses.—x.51.
Moreover, Vishvamitra, well knowing right and wrong, being
oppressed by hunger proceeded to eat the ramp of a dog, having it
from the hand of a Chandala.—x. 108.
At no time should a Brahmin beg property from a Shudra for the
sake of sacrifice, for on offering sacrifice after begging (from a
Shudra) he is born after death as a Chandala.-—vi.24.
On having (carnal) intercourse with Chandala women (or low born
woman), on eating their food or receiving (presents) from them, a
Brahmin (if he has done so) unwittingly, falls; but (if he has done
so) wittingly, he comes to an equality (with them).— xi.175.
The slayer of a Brahmin enters the womb of dogs, boars, asses,
camels, cows, goats, sheep, (forest) animals, birds, Chandalas and
How different is the treatment accorded to the Chandala as
compared to the treatment accorded to the Ayogava and the Kshattar
when all of them are Pratilomas? Why should the Chandala be singled
out as the most infamous of the Pratilomas? Only because he is the
progeny of the hated Shudra. It is just an act of revenge against
the children of one’s enemy.
All this leaves no doubt that there was no reconciliation between
the Brahmins and the Shudras.


Coming to the last objection, it appears that behind it there is a
feeling that the Shudras must have been a very large part of the
Indo-Aryan society. With such a feeling it does appear rather strange
that the Shudras should have suffered silently the perpetration of
such an act as the denial of the Upanayana. Because the Shudras
in the Hindu Society form such a vast proportion of the population,
so the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan Society must also have formed a very
large proportion of the population, can be the only basis for such a
feeling. Such an inference is without any foundation, for the Shudras
of the Indo-Aryan Society are absolutely different in race from the
Shudras of the Hindu Society. The Shudras of the Hindu Society are
not the racial descendants of the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan Society.
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This confusion has arisen because of the failure to realize that the
meaning of the word ‘Shudras’ in the Indo-Aryan society is quite
different from the meaning it has in the Hindu society. In the Indo-
Aryans the word Shudra was proper name of one single people. It
was the name of a people who belonged to a particular race. The
word Shudra, as used in the Hindu society, is not a proper name
at all. It is an epithet for a low uncultured class of people. It is a
general cognomen of a miscellaneous and heterogeneous collection of
tribes and groups, who have nothing in common except that they
happen to be on a lower plane of culture. It is wrong to call them
by the name Shudras. They have very little to do with their
namesakes of the Aryan society, who had offended the Brahmins. It
is a pity that these innocent and backward people of later days have
been rolled up with the original Shudras and subjected to the same
penalties for which they had given no cause.
That the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan and the Shudras of the Hindu
Society are different and distinct is a fact which was present at one
time to the minds of the Dharma Sutrakaras is quite clear. This is
evident from the distinction they made between Sacchudra and Asac-
chudra and between Aniravasita Shudras and Niravasita Shudras.
Sachudra means a cultured Shudra and asac-chudra means an
uncultured Shudra. Nirvasita Shudra means a Shudra living in the
village community. Anirvasita Shudra means a Shudra living outside
the village community. It is quite wrong to say as some1 do that this
division indicates that the condition of Shudras in the eyes of the
lawgivers was improving, in that some were admitted to social
intercourse when formerly none was. The correct interpretation is the
Sacchudra and Nirvasita Shudra refer to the Shudras of the Aryan
society and the asac-chudra and the Anirvasita Shudra refer to the
Shudras by epithet who had begun to form part of the Hindu society.
We are concerned with the Shudra of the Aryan society. They have
no connection with the later-day Shudras of the Hindu society. That
being so, the fact that the Shudras of the Hindu society form such
a large number cannot be made the basis for an argument that the
Shudras of the Indo-Aryans must have also been a very large body
of people. We do not know exactly whether the Shudras were a tribe,
a clan or a moiety or a group of families. But even if they were as

1 Sec Kane, II (I), p. 123. His view that this distinction implies that Shudras were
being gradually raised from their low status is quite incorrect.
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big as a tribe, they could not have been larger than a few thousand.
The Bharatas are being expressly spoken of in the Rig Veda, vii.33.6,
as being small in number. The Satapatha Brahmana referring to
a horse sacrifice performed by the Panchala king Son Satrasaha1
says :
“When Satrasaha makes the Ashvamedha offering the Taurvasas arise,
six thousand and six and thirty, clad in mail.”
If it is any indication that the tribe of Taurvasas numbered six
thousand, the Shudras could not be very many.
Apart from the question of numbers, what could the Shudras have
done to prevent the calamity? If some Brahmins whom they had
offended refused to perform their Upanayana, could they have got
the services of other Brahmins whom they had not offended? Such
a possibility would of course depend upon various circumstances. In
the first place, we do not know whether all the Brahmins had formed
a common front and whether it was possible to break up that front.
We do not know that at the time when the issue was a burning
issue the Brahmins had become a caste. But it is clear2 that even
in the times of the Rig Veda, Brahmins were a class by themselves,
had developed class consciousness and were keen on maintaining
class interests. In that event it would have been difficult for the
Shudras to break up the conspiracy of the Brahmins. Secondly, it
might also be that the performance of Upanayana had become the
exclusive right of the family priest. The story of king Nimi3 shows
that the performance of sacrifices had become the exclusive right
of the family priest. If there is substance in these suggestions, then
obviously the Shudras could not have done much to prevent the
common front of the Brahmins operating against them.
Another possibility was the forging of a common front among all
the Kshatriyas which might have had the effect of weighing down the
opposition of the Brahmins. Whether such a thing was possible can
only be a matter of speculation. In the first place, did the Shudras
realize what the effect of the loss of Upanayana was going to be on
their future status? I am sure they did not. Secondly, were the
Kshatriyas a united body of people? I doubt if they were. Thirdly, had
the other Kshatriya kings any symapathy for the Shudras? If the story
of the Dasharajna Yuddha told in the Rig Veda is true, it is quite

1. Quoted by Oldcnberg, Life of Buddha, p. 404.
2. Kane, Vol. H (1) p. 29.
3. Supra, p. 175
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obvious that there was not much love lost between the Shudras and
the other non-Shudra Kshatriyas.
Taking all these circumstances into consideration, there is nothing
strange if the Shudras suffered the denial of the Upanayana by the
Brahmins to be a fact.
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THE object of this essay was to trace the origin of the Shudras and
discover the causes of their degradation. After an examination of
historical material and of theories suggested by various writers—
orthodox as well as modern—I have put forth a new thesis. In the
preceding chapters, it has been presented in parts for the facility of
laying the foundation of each part separately. It is time these parts
were assembled together for a full and complete understanding of
what the thesis is. It may be summarized as follows :
(1) The Shudras were one of the Aryan communities of the Solar
(2) The Shudras ranked as the Kshatriya Varna in the Indo-Aryan
(3) There was a time when the Aryan Society recognized only three
Varnas, namely, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The
Shudras were not a separate Varna but a part of the Kshatriya
(4) There was a continuous feud between the Shudra kings and
the Brahmins, in which the Brahmins were subjected to many
tyrannies and indignities.
(5) As a result of the hatred towards the Shudras due to their
tyrannies and oppressions, the Brahmins refused to invest the
Shudras with the sacred thread.
(6) Owing to the loss of the sacred thread the Shudras became
socially degraded, fell below the rank of the Vaishyas and came
to form the fourth Varna.
It now remains to assess the validity of this thesis. It is usual
for the author to leave this to others to do it. I propose to make
a departure and myself enter upon the task of putting my thesis to
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test. I do so because it gives me an opportunity of vindicating my


I can well imagine my critics to allege that my thesis rests upon
a single statement from the Mahabharata in which Paijavana is
described as a Shudra; that identification of Paijavana with Sudas
is not proved beyond the shadow of doubt; that the description of
Paijavana as a Shudra does not occur in any other place except in
a single place in the Mahabharata. How can a theory built on such
weak foundations be acceptable? They are bound to invoke the usual
agreement that a chain is not stronger than its weakest link. I am
sure that my thesis cannot be discredited and demolished in such
an easy manner.
In the first place, I do not admit that a thesis cannot be built up
on a single piece of evidence. It is a well-known principle of the law
of evidence that witness must be weighed and not numbered. The
number of witnesses is a less important consideration than the weight
to be attached to the individual testimony of each or to the sum of
the testimonies of all taken together. There is no reason to doubt
the truth of the statement that Paijavana was a Shudra. The author
of the Mahabharata has no reason to give a false description. Writing
after such a long time, no motive, no partiality could be attributed
to him. The only conclusion one can draw is that the author was
recording a true tradition.
The fact that Paijavana is not described as a Shudra in the Rig
Veda does not militate against the truth of the statement which
occurs in the Mahabharata. Many explanations can be given for the
absence of the word Shudra from the description of Paijavana in the
Rig Veda. The first explanation is that it is wrong to expect such
a description in the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda is a book of religion.
A description such as Shudra could not be expected in a book of
religion. It would be irrelevant. But such a description may well be
expected to occur in a book of history such as the Mahabharata
wherein as a matter of fact it does.
The other explanation for the infrequent mention of the word
Shudra in connection with Sudas which I can think of is that it was
unnecessary. Descriptions in terms of kula, gotra, tribe, etc., are
really speaking marks of identification. Marks of identification are
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necessary in the case of lesser people. They are unnecessary in the
case of famous men. There is no doubt that Sudas was the most
famous man of his time. It was unnecessary to describe him as Shudra
for the purpose of identifying him to the people. This is not altogether
a mere matter of speculation. One can cite historical instances. Take
the case of Bimbisara and Pasenadi, two kings who lived in the time
of Buddha. All other kings who were their contemporaries are
described in the literature of the time by their gotra name. But these
two are just spoken of by their personal names. Prof. Oldenberg1 who
noticed this fact explains this on the ground that they were well-
known and did not stand in need for being described by their gotra


But it is really wrong to suppose that my theory is based on the
solitary passage in the Mahabharata or on the identification of
Paijavana with Sudas. Nothing of the kind. The thesis is not
supported by a single chain and therefore the argument that a chain
is not stronger than its weakest link does not apply to it. The case
is supported by several parallel chains. The weakness of a link in
one of them cannot be said to weaken the support. The weakness
of one link in one chain throws the whole weight on other chains.
Consequently, before concluding that the theory has broken down,
it is necessary to prove that the other chains are not able to sustain
the weight.
The description of Paijavana as Shudra and the identification of
Paijavana with Sudas of the Rig Veda is not the only chain which
supports the thesis. There are other chains. One of these is the
admission in the Satapatha and Taittiriya Brahmanas that there were
only three Varnas and the Shudras did not form a separate Varna.
The second consists of evidence that Shudras were kings and
ministers of State. The third consists of evidence that the Shudras
were at one time entitled to Upanayana. All these are strong chains
quite capable of taking all extra weight arising out of a possible
breakdown of the first chain.
As far as evidence is concerned, absolute certainty amounting to
demonstration is seldom to be had and I do not claim absolute

1 Lift of Buddha, p. 414.
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certainty for my thesis. But I do claim that the evidence in support
of the theory is both direct as well as circumstantial, and where it
is conflicting it is supported by strong probabilities in favour of it.


I have shown what strength there is in the thesis I have presented.
I will now proceed to show that the thesis is a valid one. There is
one test which I think is generally accepted as the right one by which
to appraise the validity of a thesis. It is that a thesis which demands
acceptance must not only suggest a solution, but must also show that
the solution it proposes answers the riddles which surround the
problem which it claims to have solved. It is this test that I propose
to apply to my thesis.
Let me begin by listing in one place the riddles of the Shudra.
The following include the most important of them :
(1) The Shudras are alleged to be non-Aryans, hostile to the
Aryans, whom the Aryans are said to have conquered and
made slaves. How is it then that the rishis of the Yajur Veda
and the Atharva Veda should wish glory to the Shudras and
express a desire to be in favour of the Shudras?
(2) The Shudras are said not to have the right to study the Vedas.
How is it then that Sudas, a Shudra, was the composer of the
hymns of the Rig Veda?
(3) The Shudras are said to have no right to perform sacrifices.
How is it that Sudas performed the Ashva-Medha sacrifice?
Why does the Satapatha Brahmana treat the Shudra as a
sacrificer and give the formula of addressing him?
(4) The Shudras are said not to have the right to Upanayana. If
this was so from the very beginning, why should there be a
controversy about it? Why should Badari and the Samskara
Ganapati say that he has a right to Upanayana?
(3) The Shudra is not permitted to accumulate property. How is
it that the Maitrayani and Kathaka Samhitas speak of the
Shudras being rich and wealthy?
(6) The Shudra is said to be unfit to become an officer of the State.
How is it then that the Mahabharata speaks of Shudras being
ministers to kings?
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(7) It is said that the duty of the Shudra is to serve, in the capacity
of a menial, the three Varnas. How is it then that there were
kings among the Shudras as testified by the case of Sudas
and other cases mentioned by Sayana?
(8) If the Shudra had no right to study the Vedas, if he had no
right to Upanayana, if he had no right to sacrifice, why was
he not given the right to have his Upanayana, to read the
Vedas and to perform sacrifice?
(9) The performance of Upanayana of the Shudra, his learning to
read the Vedas, his performing the sacrifices, whether they
were of any value to the Shudra or not, were certainly
occasions of benefit to the Brahmins in as much as it is the
Brahmins who had the monopoly of officiating at ceremonies
and of teaching the Vedas. It is the Brahmins who stood to
earn large fees by allowing the Shudra the right to Upanayana,
the performance of sacrifices and the reading of the Vedas.
Why were the Brahmins so determined to deny these conces-
sions to the Shudras, when granting them would have done
no harm and would have increased their own earnings?
(10) Even if the Shudra had no right to Upanayana, sacrifices and
Vedas, it was open to the Brahmins to concede him these
rights. Why were these questions not left to the free will of
the individual Brahmins? Why were penalties imposed upon
a Brahmin if he did any of these prohibited acts?
How can these riddles be explained? Neither the orthodox Hindu
nor the modern scholar has attempted to explain them. Indeed they
do not seem to be aware of the fact that such riddles exist. The
orthodox Hindu does not bother about them. He is content with the
divine explanation contained in the Purusha Sukta that the Shudra
was born from the feet of the Purusha. The modern scholar is content
with the assumption that the Shudra in his origin is a non-Aryan
aboriginal, for whom the Aryan quite naturally prescribed a different
code of laws. It is a pity that none of these classes of people have
cared to acquaint themselves with the riddles which surround the
problem of the Shudra, much less have they thought of suggesting
a theory of the origin of the position of the Shudra capable of solving
With regard to my thesis it will be seen that it can explain
everyone of these riddles. Postulates (1) to (4) explain how the
Shudras could be kings and ministers and why the rishis should
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praise them and desire to be in their good books. Postulates (5) and
(6) explain why there was a controversy over the Upanayana of the
Shudra, also why the law not only denied the right to the Shudra
but imposed penalties upon a Brahmin, helping to make it effective.
Indeed there is no riddle which the thesis does not solve. The thesis,
if I may say so, is a close and a perfect fit. Few theses can therefore
have a better title deed than this.
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References to the word “Arya” ( v;Z) in the Rig Veda.


33 3 23 13 43 2 1 7 2 12 14 3 8 1 1 4 23 3 20 4
70 1 23 15 2 12 33 2 15 3 21 5 19 36 61 11 27 8
71 3 35 2 2 18 33 6 16 27 21 9 21 16 79 1 27 19
73 5 4 6 33 9 20 1 31 5 24 221 34 13

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
81 6 16 19 34 9 24 5 34 18 34 10 42 1
81 9 20 3 54 12 25 7 48 3 39 2 59 3
116 6 24 8 36 5 56 12 48 8 76 2
118 9 29 1 45 33 60 11 49 12 86 1
121 15 38 2 47 9 64 3 52 7 86 3
122 14 48 1 48 16 68 2 54 9 89 3
169 6 50 11 51 2 83 5 55 12 133 3
184 1 59 8 86 7 148 3
185 9 92 4 191 1
100 5




References to the word “Arya” ( vk;Z)
(I) In the Rig Veda
51 8 11 18 34 9 26 2 34 6 18 3 5 6 24 27 63 6 38 3
59 2 11 19 30 18 20 10 18 7 103 1 63 14 43 4
117 21 25 2 83 1 49 3
130 8 33 3 65 11
156 5 60 6 69 6
83 1

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
86 19
102 3
103 3
138 3
191 1
(II) In the Yajur Veda (III) Atharva Veda
20 4 11 3 63 4 1 21 32 8 18 5 32 1 11 9 63 4
20 8 62 1 85 4 17 4

18 5
36 10
85 4
89 1
95 4

Different meanings of the word “Arya” (v;Z) found in the Rig Veda.



Enemy 70 1 16 19 33 2 14 3 21 9 48 8 79 1 42 1
73 5 15 3 34 18 49 12 59 3
118 9 20 1 48 3 76 2
121 15 36 5 56 22 89 3
169 6 68 2
92 4

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
Respectable 33 3 23 15 43 2 1 7 33 6 24 5 8 1 19 36 20 4
Noble 81 6 35 2 2 12 33 9 25 7 21 5 21 16 27 8
81 9 43 2 4 6 34 9 47 9 31 5 24 22 27 19
121 14 20 3 86 7 34 10 34 13
184 1 24 8 100 5 55 12 86 1
29 1 86 3
38 2 116 6
48 1 148 3
191 1
Citizen 2 18
20 3




References to “DASA” in the Rig Veda



92 8 11 2 34 1 18 9 30 7 20 6 19 2 5 31 22 8
103 3 11 4 28 4 30 8 20 10 83 1 24 27 23 2
104 2 12 4 30 14 30 9 22 10 86 7 32 2 38 3
158 5 20 6 30 15 33 4 25 2 99 4 40 6 49 6
174 7 20 7 30 21 34 6 26 5 51 9 49 7

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
32 10 33 3 56 3 54 1
47 21 70 10 62 10
60 6 73 7
83 1
86 9
99 6
102 3
120 2
138 3


References to “Dasyu” in the Rig Veda



33 4 11 18 29 9 16 9 4 6 14 3 5 6 6 14 41 2 22 8
33 7 11 19 34 6 16 10 7 10 16 15 6 2 14 14 47 2 47 4
33 9 12 10 34 9 16 12 14 14 18 3 19 4 39 8 88 4 48 2
36 18 13 9 49 2 28 3 29 10 23 2 50 8 92 5 49 3
51 5 15 9 28 4 30 9 24 8 51 2 55 8

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
51 6 20 9 38 4 31 5 29 6 56 2 73 5
51 8 31 7 31 4 70 11 83 3
53 4 70 3 45 24 98 6 83 6
59 6 95 7
78 4 99 7
100 18 105 11
101 5
103 3 170 2
103 4
108 12
117 3
117 21




References to the word “Varna” in the Rig Veda


73 7 1 12 34 5 5 13 65 8 3 3
92 10 3 5 71 2 124 7
96 5 4 5 71 8
104 2 5 5 97 15
113 2 12 4 104 4

Mk S.K.—27-09-2013>DK>10-11-2013
179 6 34 13 105 40

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Acharya—Exclusive right to officiate Permitted to make other Aryans
at Upanayana, 173-74; Qualifica- slaves, 112-13; Vedic, social orga-
tions, 173 nization, 130-31; Rules of Impurity
and Adoption, 160-61
Aitarcya Brahmana—Manu the pro-
genitor of Indo-Aryans, 29; Dis- Ashwalayan Grihya Sutra—Description
abilities of Shudras under, 42; On of Upanayana ceremony, 156-58
Vaishyas’ sacrificial disabilities, Ashwins—Though Shudras entitled to
56-57; List of coronations of Kings Soma, 109
and officiating priests 123-24 Atharva Veda—On five tribes of Indo-
Alpine Race—Traits of, 67-68; Prof. Aryan nation, 31; Its four explana-
Ripley on, 98-99; Its languages of tions of the origin of Vamas, 39;
Aryan Stock, 99 When it came to be regarded on par
with Rig Veda, 87; Statements from,
demarcating Shudra from Arya, 107;
Anulomas—Who are, 199 (and foot- Statements from, showing basis of
note); sec Nishada equality between Brahmins and
Shudras, 107-108, 207-208
Apastamba Dharma Sutra—Support
to Purusha Sukta, 23; Disabilities Aupamanyava—Five tribes of Indo-
of Shudras under; 43, 47, 50-51; Aryan nations according to, 30
On qualifications of Acharya, 173 Avarnas—De jure connotation of,
Arjuna—194-95 35-36, Who are, 36

Aryan—Race, an invader of India, 65;
Balaji Avji—His part in Shivaji’s coro-
Type and its traits, 69; Four senses nation, 177-78, 181-82
of term, 69; Not a race according to
Prof. Max Muller, 69-70; Original Baudhayana—Prescription of
Upanayana for Ashwathha tree, 169
home as traceable by common vo-
cabulary, 71-72; Caucasia, not the Belavalkar, Prof.—Theory of Synchro-
original home of, 71-72; Mr. Tilak’s nous composition of Vedic Litera-
theory of Arctic region being home ture, 138.
of, 72-74; Evidence against theory Benfey, Dr.—Summary of his views on
of, invasion of India, 74-75; and original home of Aryans, 71
subjugation of Dasas and Dasyus,
Bhagavat Purana—On naming of India
75-76, 86-87; Inseparable from as ‘Bharata Bhumi’. 129
Dasas and Dasyus, 77; Race theory,
its failure, 78-79, its Indian vota- Bhandarkar, Dr. D. R.—His view of
ries, 79-80, meaning of term Rajputs as descendants of foreign-
ers, Gurjars, 179
Varna its mainstay, 80; Of Vedic
times had no colour prejudice, 81; Bhandarkar Research Institute—colla-
Two communities : with and with- tion Sheet for shloka i.e. Paijavana,
out belief in Chaturvamya, 97, 100; 116 (footnote)
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Bhishma—On ministers of four 178-82; Their thesis: no Kshatriyas
Varnas, 112 exist in Kaliyuga, 176; Alone can
determine status of Hindu, 177,
Bharadwaja Sutra—Reference to
184; Never accepted law of prece-
Shudra’s right to sacrifice, 108-109
dents, 179-83; Fifty thousand, re-
Bharatas—128-30,192-93 ceive Dakshina at Shivaji’s corona-
tion, 179-80: Question Kshatriya
Bode, Dastur—Meaning of ‘Varna’ in
status of Maharajas of Satara and
Indo-Iranian Literature, 83
Kolhapur, 182-84; Degraded Shudra
Bopp, Dr.—Theory of common ances- community out of revenge against
try of Indo-Aryan and Indo-Ger- Shudra kings, 186-89; Enough
manic languages, 78 provocation to, for conflict with
Shudras, 189-90: Catalogue of privi-
Brahmanic—Literature full of legends
leges claimed by, 189-90: Chal-
of creation, 37-41; analysis of leg-
lenged by (Shudra) Kshatriyas in
ends, 41; Theories about origin of
their privileges, 190-92 Stories of
Shudras most unsatisfactory, 65-
their reconciliation with Shudras,
66; Literature, its two ideologies
192-97 Stories to glorify, 197-98;
relating to creation, 87-96; Com- Conscious of class interests in Rig
parison of the two ideologies— Vedic times, 202
sacerdotal and secular, 97; Writ-
Brihaspati Dharma Shastra—Disabili-
ers’ invention of false etymologies
ties of Shudras under, 48
to suit prevalent meaning of words,
102-03; Forgeries of Purusha Sukta Brihaspati Smriti—Disabilities of
and Smritis, 137-38 Shudras under, 49
Brahmins—Origin of, according to Buddha—And Buddhism, their inabil-
Purusha Sukta, 22; Are Dwijas, 24; ity to shake Chaturvarnya, 23
Superior to all other classes in Buhler, Dr.—On Shudras’ eligibility
status, 26, 32; As savarnas, Dwijas to become Brahmins, 110
and Traivarnika, 36; Their special
rights and privileges against Chandala—A Pratiloma, 198; Rights
Shudras, 56; Their indifference or inferior to other Pratilomas, 199;
apologetic attitude towards disabili- Manu’s laws against, 199; and
ties of Shudras, 57; Their Law reasons for their severity, 200
compared with Roman Law is com- Chhandogya Upanishad—Explanation
munal and arbitrary, 63-64; Accept of origin of Vedas from deities, 33;
theory of Aryan conquest of India Describes Rishi Janasruti, author
for it establishes their kinship with of Rig Vedic Hymns as Shudra, 108
Europeans, 80; Mentioned as sepa-
Chaturvarnya—Ideal of Indo Aryan
rate Varna sixteen times in Rig
Society, 23; Buddha’s ineffective
Veda, 133; Dispute with
challenge to, 23; Manu invests,
Kshatriyas, 148-49; Conflict with
with divinity, 24; Basis of, graded
Kshatriyas, 140-55; Technique for
inequality, 26; A political jugglery,
degrading Shudras: refusal of
31-33; Later development of, cre-
Upanayana, 156, 208; Exclusive
ation of fifth Varna and separtaion
right to officiate at Upanayana,
of Shudras from Traivamikas, 35-
173-74, 177, 184-85; Penalties on,
36; One Aryan tribe believer in,
or performing unauthorised
the other non-believer in, 97; See
Upanayana, 181, 208; Instances of
also, 40-41,80, Varna, Aryan,
denial of Upanayana to other
Shudras, Manu
Varnas, 175; Vs. Shivaji, 175-78,
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Chitrao Shastri— On list of Sudas’ interpretation of epithet
opponent, 126 (footnote) ‘Mridhravak’ and ‘Anasa’, 76; Dis-
tinct from Aryans not by race but
Chirstians— Emperors, their disabili- by religion, 103-04; Existence of, in
ties under Roman Law, 58-59 all Varnas according to
Sacraments and Brahmanic Mahabharata, 104; A contemptu-
Samskaras, 171; ous term used by Indo-Aryans to
Crooke, Mr. Villiam—On Hinduisation designate Indo-Iranians, 104; More
powerful than Aryans, 105, See
of Gurjar tribes into Rajputs for
also Dasa and Aryan
representing Buddhism, 178-79
Dharma Sutras— Evidentiary value
Das, Mr. A. C.—Identifies Dasas and of their statements on Shudras,
107-08; Their prohibition of
Dasyus with Shudras of later times,
Upanayana, Vedic ceremonies and
101 sacrifices and Soma drink to
Dasas—And Dasyus, according to Shudras, 108-09; Evidence against
Western Scholars: (i) a dark race their prohibitions from Brahmanic
different from Aryans, (ii) con- literature, 109-11
quered, enslaved and called Divodasa—122-23, 128-29
Shudras by Aryans, 65; Paucity of Dongre, Rao Bahadur—Siddhanta
references to, and Dasyus as en- Vijaya, 182 (footnote)
emies of Aryans in Rig Veda, 75;
United with Aryans against com- Egyptian—Cosmogony, 22; Classes in
mon enemy, 75, conflict with their society, 26
Aryan’s, religious not racial, 75-76;
Encylopaedia of Religion And Eth-
And Dasyus terms not used in ics—22
racial sense, 76-77; Their epithet
‘Krishnayoni’ connotes no racial Fausboll, Dr.—Story of Chyavana, 109
distinction with Aryans, 77; Appli- (footnote)
cation of word ‘Varna’ to, in Rig
Foster, Prof. Michael—On hypothesis,
Veda, 83; And Dasyus not distinct
from Aryans in race and complex-
ion, 85; And Dasyus as allies of one
Gagabhat—officiating priest at
Aryan community and enemies of
Shivaji’s coronation, 176; Bought
the other, 86-87; can be identified over by huge Dakshina, 179-80;
with Azi Dahaka of Zend Avesta, His twists and turns, 181-82; His
104-05; A civilized people, 105-06; attempt to prove Kayasthas bas-
Cannot be identified with Shudras, tards, 182
106; And Dasyus, their complete Ganganath Jha—Purva Mimamsa, 172
disappearance from Post-Vedic lit- (footnote)
erature and absorption by Aryans,
Gautama Dharma Sutra— Disabili-
106; Term, occurs five times in Rig
ties of Shudra under, 47,49, 51-52,
Veda in sense of slave, 111 Enumeration of forty Samskaras
Dasharajna Yuddha—Account of, from; 170
124-26; A war between Shudras Geiger—Summary of his views on
and non-Shudra Kshatriyas, 202- original home of Aryans, 71
03; See also Sudas.
Grant Maddison—Introduction of
Dasyus— Conflict with Aryans reli- Aryan language in Europe, 99 (foot-
gious not racial, 75-76; Correct note)
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Greeks—Class composition of their Indo-Aryans— See M a n u , A r y a n ,
society compared with ‘Varna’ sys- Chaturvarnya, Atharva Veda,
tem, 26 Aupamanyava, Dr. Bopp, Dasas,
Griffiths, Dr.—Perturbed over Tritsus Dasyus, Dr. Guha, Purusha Sukta
being shown Non-Aryans, 129-30 Indo-Iranians—Three classes in their
Guha Dr.—On two racial stocks of Society, 26; Meaning of ‘Varna’ in
Indian people and their distribu- their literature, 82-85; Identifica-
tion, 97-98 tion of Azi Dahaka with Dasa, 104-
105, see also Dasyu
Jabali, Satyakama—His story, and
Harivamsha—Explanation of origin of inferences from it, 175
Vedas from eyes, tongue and head
of God, 34; Explanation of origin Jaimini—Cites Badari’s contention of
of priests from limbs of God Hari, Shudra’s right to sacrifice, 108;
34; Studious avoidance of feet as Spiritual significance of Samskaras
origin of any priest or Veda, 34-35; according to, 171; His rules in
Story of Trishanku, 141-45; Story ‘Purva Mimamsa’ about property,
of Varna’s conflict with Brahmins, sacrifice and Vedic mantras 170-71
151-52 Jayaswal, Dr.—Shudra as a minister,
Hearn, Mr. W.E.—On rule of estab- 112-13 (footnotes)
lishing nobility among Aryans, 110 Jews—Existence of classes in society
High Courts in India—Calcutta deci- of, 28; Disabilities under Roman
sion about Kayasthas of Bihar Law, 61; A people not race, 66
being Shudras, 162; Allahabad’s Justinian—Enfranchisement of slaves,
non-acceptance of validity of ‘ 60
Calcutta decision, 163; Calcutta
(1916 and 1926) decision about Kalikapurana—160 (footnote)
Bengal Kayasthas being Shudras, Kalmashapada—145-46
163; Patna (1926) decision holding
Bihar Kayasthas as Kshatriyas, Kane, Mr.—Identifies Dasas and
163-64; Madras (1924) decision Dasyus with Shudras of later time,
101; On demarcation line between
holding Marathas as Shudras, 164;
Aryans and Shudras; see also 102,
Bombay (1928) decision holding five
156, 158-60, 167,168, 174,190, 201,
and ninty-six families of Marathas
202 (footnote)
as Kshatriyas, rest as Shudras,
164 : Madras (1927) holding Kathaka Samhita—Disabilities of
Yadavas as Shudras, 164; Criteria Shudras under, 42; Statements
adopted by, in determining Shudras from, demarcating Shudra from
and their relevance, 165; Failure Arya, 107
to distinguish between de facto and Katyayana Srauta Sutra—Commen-
de jure position of communities tary on, admits Shudra’s eligibility
relating to Upanayana, 165-66; see to perform Vedic rites, 109
also Privy Council Kaushitaki Brahmana—On enmity
between Sudas and Vasistha
India—Designed ‘Bharata Bhumi’ spreading to descendants, 151
after Vedic and not Daushyanti Kautilya—His reference to Shudras as
Bharatas, 128-29 Aryans in laws of slavery, 110-11
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Kayastha—Status of, of Bengal and four Varnas, 112; Collation of
Bihar, 163-64; Status, challenged stanza referring to Paijavana, 114,
by Brahmins, 175-85; Reaction to 116-17; Nature of its manuscripts
challenge, 177 (see also footnote); and recensions, 115; Results of
Gagabhat’s attempt to prove them scrutiny of texts of the stanza, 117-
bastards, 181-82 18; Story of Kalmashapada, 145-46
Khnumu—The shaper in Egyptian and 195-96; Pururavas’ conflict with
cosmogony, 22 Brahmins, 152; Bharatas reconcili-
ation with Vasishtha 192; Conflict
Kinkaid, Mr—On Maratha Sardars’ and reconciliation of Kritavirya
attitude to Shivaji’s status, 176 with Bhrigus, 193-94, 194-95 with
(footnote) Parshurama, 194-95; Saudasas’
Kolhapur—Palace priest’s controversy reconciliation with Vasishtha and
over eligibility of Maharaja to Vedic Brahmins, 196-97; Its statement
rites, 183-84 about Paijavana record of true tra-
dition, 205
Maharashtra Dnyana Kosha— Mean-
Kshatriyas—Origin, according to
ing of Varna, 82 (footnote); Iden-
Purusha Sukta, 22; Are Dvijas, 24;
tification of Dasa with Azi Dahaka,
Inferior to Brahmins and superior
105 (footnote), Appendices I-VI,
to other classes in status, 26,32; As
Savarnas, Dwijas and Traivarnikas,
36; Though Traivarnikas, their Maitrayani Samhita—Disabilites of
rights against Shudras very negli- Shudras, under, 42; Reference to
gible, 57; Mention of, nine times as Shudra’s wealthiness, 112
separate Vama in Rig Veda, 133; Manu—On divine origin of four varnas
Conflict with Brahmins, 140-55; 24-25; On disabilities of Shudras,
Kings conflicting with Brahmins 43-44,45-55; On Shudras’ eligibil-
belonged to Shudra tribe and solar ity to Brahmindom, 109-10; His
line, 155, 187-88; Genealogies of injunctions to Brahmins against
Kings, 190-91; Of solar line supe- Shudra Kings, 112; On conflicts
rior to Brahmins in prowess and between Kings and Brahmins, 154-
learning, 191-92, Authors of Vedic 55; Laws against Chandala, 199
Hymns, 191; Of Lunar line an
imbecile people, 190-91; Stories of Manu—The progenitor of Indo-Ary-
their reconciliaton with Brahmins, ans, 29
192-97; Enmity between Shudra Matsya Purana—On Manu the pro-
and non-Shudra, 202-03 genitor of Aryans, 29; List of
Kurtakoti—184 (footnote) Kshatriya, authors of Rig Vedic
hymns, 191
Lassen—His identification of Shudras Mediterranean Race—Traits of, 67-
with Sodari tribe, 103 Law, Dr. B. 68; Facts about, 98
C—103 (footnote) Muir, Dr.—His failure to realize con-
flicts between Brahmins and
Mahabharata—Ideology relating to Kshatriyas as one between Brah-
creation, 92-93, On existence of mins and Shudras, 155; see also
Dasyus in all Varnas, 104; Shudra 30-31, 33-34, 38-41, 56, 87, 88-98,
invited at coronation of 102, 131, 133-35, 141-42, 145, 147-
Yudhishthira, 112; On ministers of 49, 151-54, 187, 190,96 (footnote)
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Max Muller, Prof.—On disappointing Premi Nathurama—161
nature of Brahmanas as literary Privy Council—Decision on existence
productions, 41; On meaning of of Kshatriyas in modern times, 162
Arya, 69-70; His insistence on
restriction of term Aryan to Philol- Pururavas—152, 191 (footnote), 192
ogy, 195-96; His interpretation of Purus—128
term ‘Anasa’, 76-77; On Brahmanic
Purushartha—Magazine, 169 (foot-
etymologies, 102-03,108

Nahusha—152-54, 191, (footnote), 192 Purusha Sukta—Text of, 21-22; As
Indo-Aryan cosmogony, as expla-
Nimi—154, 192 nation of origin of, and as manda-
Nishada—An Anuloma, 198; His in- tory injunction prescribing four
eligibility to Upanayana, 198; an Varnas, 22-23; Its influence on
arbitrary exception and why, 198 Indo-Aryan Society, 23; Examina-
tion of its claim to uniqueness’ and
‘extraordinariness’, 25-27; Expla-
Old Testament—Genesis, 22; Com-
nation of origin of classes—its
parison of Genesis with Purusha
difference with other cosmogonies,
Sukta, 28
28; Contradicts secular theory of
Oldenberg, Prof—Absence of Gotra Rig Veda of origin of society,
name in description of famous men, 28-29; Its preference for commu-
202 (footnote), 206 nalism than nationalism, 31; Its
political jugglery in making
Padma Purana—161 Chaturvarnya a sacred institution,
31-33; Its equation of classes with
Pagans—Disabilities under Roman
limbs of Purusha, deliberate and
Law, 59-60
malicious, 33-35; A later interpo-
Palashes—Status challenged by Brah- lation, 132-37, 138-39 a forgery by
mins, 175, 184 Brahmins, 137
Panchavimsa Brahmana—Disabilities
of Shudras under, 42; On Shudra’s Race—Jews, an illustration of people
wealthiness, 112 mistaken for, 66; A body of people
possessing certain typical heredi-
Papacy—Its forgeries, 137
tary traits, 66-67; Traits constitut-
Patitasavitrika—167 ing a, old and modern views, 67-
Peshwas—Discontinued Rajya-bhisheka 68; Cephalic Index and Facial
era, 182; Directed Upanayana of Index, 67; Application of
Shahu II to be performed by anthropometrical method to Euro-
Pauranic rites, 182-83, pean Races, a Table, 68 and 71-72;
Is there an Aryan—, 70; Mediter-
Pingle, Moropant—Opposed to Shivaji’s ranean, 98; Alpine, 98
coronation, 176; Huge presents to,
at coronation, 180 Ramayana—Ideology relating to cre-
ation, 94-95; Story of Trishanku,
Plato—On class distinction, an ideal 149-50; See footnote 29
social structure, 26
Ranade, Prof.—Theory of Synchro-
Pratapsinha II—Challenge to his nous Composition of Vedic Litera-
Kshatriya status by Brahmins, 183 ture, 138
Pratiloma—Who are, 199 (footnote); Rig Veda—Purusha Sukta, 21-22;
Uneven distribution of stigma on, Another cosmogony besides
200; see Chandala
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Purusha Sukta, 27; Comparison of considerations? 61-63; Their removal
its two cosmogonies, 27; Its secular of social and political disabilities of
theory of origin of classes, 28-29; Plebians, 61-63; Difference with
Consciousness of division of labour, Brahmanic Law on Equality of Law
in Criminal matters and extinction
30; On five tribes of Indo-Aryan
of disabilities, 63-64
nation, 30-31; Does not use term
Arya in racial sense, 70; On united Roy, Mr.—On authenticity of his
front of Aryans and Dasas against Mahabharata text, 114-15
common enemy, 75; Description of
Dasyus as people belonging in cult Sadgurushishya—Reasons for Sudas’
different from that of Aryans, 75- cruelty to Sakti according to, 150
76; Occurrence of terms ‘Anasa’, Sakti—Vide Sadgurushishya and
‘Mridha vak’ and ‘Krishna Yoni’, Satyayana Brahmana
76-77; On absence of racial distinc- Sama Veda—A different form of Rig
tion between Aryans, Dasas and Veda, 87
Dasyus, 77; On absence of colour Samskara Ganapati—Its acceptance of
prejudice amongst Aryans, 81-82; Shudra’s eligibility for Upanayana,
Occurrence of word ‘Varnas’ in, 82- 169
83; Supports existence of, two
Samskaras—Names of forty, 170;
opposing Aryan communities, 86- Jaimini, view on necessity of, 171-
87; One of the two Vedas, 87; 72; In narrower sense only sixteen,
Description of Dasa in, 105-06; 171; Spiritual in significance in
Dasharajna Yuddha, 124-27; Praise earlier times, 171; And Christian
of Sudas’ philanthropy, 127; Tribes Sacraments, 171
in and Sudas’ relation to them, Sardesai Rao Bahadur, G. S.—On
128; On enmity between Bharatas Peshwa’s discontinuation of Rajya-
and Tritsus, 192; Reasons for ab- bhisheka era, 182 (footnote)
sence of word ‘Shudra’ in its de-
Sarup, Laxman—Edition of Nighantu
scription of Paijavana, 205 and Nirukta, 118 (footnote)
Ripley, Prof. W. E.—On difference Satapatha Brahmana—Explanation of
between a race and a people, 66; four Varnas, 39-40; disabilities of
His table of European Racial Types, Shudras under, 42; ideolology relat-
68; Disproves theory of Caucasia ing to creation, 88-89; Discrimina-
as cradle of Aryan race, 71-72; On tion in mode of address to different
dark complexion of earliest Euro- Varnas at sacrifices, 131, 207; Ex-
peans, 81; 98 (footnotes) planation of creation of three Varnas
only, 128; On strength of Turvasa
Risley, Sir Herbert—On Tribe, 202
anthropometrical survey finds
Satyayana Brahmana—Story of Sudas’
people of India mixture of four
atrocity on Sakti, 150
races, 97
Savarnas—De jure connotation of, 36;
Romans—Classes in their society, 26; Who are, 36
Need for comparison of Brahmanic
Sayanacharya—His interpretation of
Laws with theirs, 59-60; Classes
term ‘Anasa’, 77; List of Kings-
and persons under their Law, 60;
authors of Rig Veda hymns, 126,
Basis for rights and disabilities; 126 (footnote)
Caput and Existimatio, 59-61; Was
Senart, Prof—On social organization
their Law regulated by communal
of Vedic times 130-31
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Shahu Maharaja—Controversy with of disabilities, 63-64; Derivation of
palace priests and Sankarachrya word, in Vayu Purana and Vedant
regarding eligibility of Vedic rites, Sutra, 103; Proper name of a tribe,
183-84 103; Lassen’s identification of, with
Shankaracharya, Karvir—His refusal Sodari tribe defeated by Alexander,
to recognize Kayasthas as 103; Associates of Abhirs according
Kshatriyas: 183; Vs. Royal House to Patanjali, 103; A separate tribe
of Kolhapur on eligibility to Vedic according to Brahma, Markendeya
rites, 182-84 and Vishnu Puranas, 103; Vedas
Shivaji—Vs. Brahmins, 175; Corona- silent on, and later literature full
tion by Vedic rites dependent on of, 106; Basis of arguments that,
acceptance of Kshatriya Status by were non-Aryans, 107, and, Ary-
Brahmins, 175; and on their per- ans, 107-08; Statements showing
formance of his Upanayana, 176; basis of equality with Brahmins,
Regarded by Brahmin Ministers 107-08, and eligibility to become
and Maratha Sardars as Shudra, Brahmins, 109-11; Aryan by birth
176 (and footnote), 181; King at according to Kautilya, 110-11; not
mercy of Brahmins, 177; His two slaves, 111; Participation in Coro-
coronations, 176-77 (footnote); Ge- nation of kings during Brahmanic
nealogy connecting him to Sisodiya period. 111; Members of political
Rajputs, 177-78, 181-82; Money
assemblies, 112; As Kings and
paid to Brahmins at coronation,
Ministers, 112, and 206; Their
180; His descendants vs. Brah-
Wealthiness 112; and 207; Ques-
mins, 182-84; Peshwas discontinue
tions on assumption of their en-
his Rajyabhisheka era, 182
slavement, 113; Were Aryans of
Shrinivasa Iyengar, Mr. P. T.—On Kshatriya class, 114, 131, 139; Sig-
rare occurence of word ‘Arya’ in nificance of term—clan, phratry or
Rig Veda; a proof against theory of
tribe?, 130; Conflict with Brah-
Invasion of India by Aryans, 74;
mins, 140-55; not mentioned as
Reference to 75 (footnote); on Civi-
separate Varna in Rig Veda, 139;
lization of Dasyus, 105
Degradation to fourth Varna due
Shudras—Riddle of, 21, 35 : Genesis of, to conflict with Brahmins, 140-203;
according to Purusha Sukta, 22, 23; Right to Upanayana, 166-70; De-
Position of, according to Apastambha nial of Upanayana to, results; loss
Dharma Sutra, 23-24, Vasishtha of property and knowledge, 170-72;
Dharma Sutra, 24; and Manusmriti, Brahmins’ power for degrading,
24; Their status, 26,32 and 33; Was
173-74, 208; Shivaji a, 176;
their inclusion implied in Rig Veda
Kings of tribe of, 186-89; Stories
reference to five tribes. 31; are
of their reconciliation with,
savarnas but not Dvijas and
192-200; Growth of laws against,
Traivarnikas, 36; Disabilities and
disproves reconciliation with Brah-
penalties under Samhitas,
mins, 198: Treatment ordained to
Brahmanas, Sutras, Smritis, 42-57:
Nishadas and Chandalas, 198-99;
Gist of penal legislations against,
Did they suffer denial of
55-56; Comparison between
privileges of Brahmins and—, Upanayana silently, 199-200; Name
56-57; Inequality and permanence of single people in Indo-Aryan
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Society, 201, Epithet of uncultured Sukthanker, Dr.—On authenticity of
class of people in Hindu Society, Roy’s Text of Mahabharata, 115;
201-02; Of Indo-Aryan Society dif- Memorial Vol. 1, 115, 116 (foot-
ferent from those of Hindu Society, note)
201-02; ‘Nirvasit, ‘Anirvasit’,
‘Sacchudra’ and ‘Asacchudra’, 201; Taittiriya Aranyaka—Ideology relat-
Of Indo-Aryan Society a tribe of ing to creation, 91-92
few thousands, 201-02; Their in- Taittiriya Brahmana—Explanation of
ability to break common front of origin of Shudras, 40, Ideology
Brahmins and denial of Upanayana, relating to creation, 90-91;
202-03; Ten riddles of, 207-09 Describes creation of Three Varnas
Sisodiya Rajputs—Are they only, 133, 206
Kshatriyas of Indo-Aryan Commu- Taittiriya Samhita—Explanations of
nity? 178-80 origin of four Varnas, 38-39; Ide-
ology relating to creation, 87; On
Smith, Vincent—On Hinduisation of
conflict between Vasishtha and
Gurjars into Rajputs, 178 Saudasas, 151
Social Organisation—According to Taylor, Prof. Isac—His summary of
Purusha Sukta, 25-26, 31-32; Of Benfy’s views on original home of
primitive Society, 129-30, 187; Of Aryans, 71
Vedic Aryans, 130-31
Thakare, Mr. K. S.—On twists and
Sudas Paijavana—Description in turns of Gagabhat and change of
Mahabharata : A Shudra Paijavana, front of Moropant Pingle, 182, (foot-
114,117-18, 205; Yaska’s interpre- note); On Performance of
tation of, 118-19; Family particu- Kayastha’s ceremonies by Kayas-
lars of, in Rig Veda, 119, 122-24; thas, 184 (footnote)
Two in Vishnu Purana, 119; (i) Thesis of the Book—Summary of, 204;
Descendant of Sagar a, and his Strength of its evidence, 205-06;
genealogy, 119; (ii) Descendant of Validity of, 206; Solves ten riddles
Puru and his genealogy, 120; Tabu- of Shudras, 207-08
lar results of genealogists of three, Tilak, Mr. B. G.— On characteristics
121-22; Rig Vedic different from of Polar and Circum-polar regions,
Puranic, 121-22; Paijavana in 72-74; On correspondence of the
Mahabharata is Rig vedic, 121-22; characteristics with myths and
Agreement of Prof. Weber with the legends in Vedas; 73-74, His infer-
view, 122; Hero of Dasharajna ence : Arctic, the Home of Aryans,
Yuddha, 124; Author of Rigvedic 73-74; Shortcomings of his theory,
hymns, 126; Performed 74; On origin of Yajnopavita, 159-
Ashwamedha sacrifice, 126; Known 60; Shortcomings of his explana-
tion, 160-61
for charity, 127. Belonged to
Bharata, Puru or Tritsu tribe, 128- Traivarnika—Who are, 35-36; Absence
29; Removal of Vasishtha and of Uniformity of rights among; 57
appointment of Vishwamitra as Trishanku—140-41, 149-50
chief priest, 150; Conflict with
Vasishtha, 150-51, 196, Story of
reconciliation of his descendants Triveda, Prof. D. S.—On proof against
with Brahmins, 196-97; Being most theory of Aryan invasion of India,
famous man not described by name
of community in Rig Veda, 205-06 Turvasas-31
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Untouchables—Are Atishudras, Society, 56; Fury against them di-
Avarnas and Advijas, 36 rected later on towards Shudras, 56;
Though a Traivarnika, their rights
Upanayana—Who have right to, 156-
against Shudras very negligible,
58; Purpose of : initiation to study
of Vedas, 158; Articles essential
for, 158; Yajnopavita essential for Vajasaneyi Samhita—Two theories of
origin of classes (Varnas) 38-39;
modern ceremony of, 158; Merger
Statements demarcating Shudra
with ceremony of wearing
from Arya, 107; Statement showing
Yajnopavita 161; Danger of, with-
basis of equality between Brahmins
out Yajnopavita, 161; True mean- and Shudras, 107-08; Pours scorn on
ing of, 161; Test of Shudradom Shudras, 108
absence of, 161, 165-66; Had
Varna—In sense of colour mainstay of
Shudras a right to, 165-66, 169-70;
Aryan Race theory, 81; Occurrence
Dead, dumb, blind, ‘Anuloma’, 166, of terms in Rig Veda and its con-
Those crossing age-limit 167, their notations, 82-83; Occurrence of term,
Sons and Vratyas 167-68, eligible in Zend Avesta connoting ‘a class
to—; Universal among Indo-Irani- holding particular faith’, 83-85;
ans, 169; Closed to women owing System with three Varnas in Rig
to child marriage 169; Open to Veda, 132-33, 139 See also Purusha
Shudras according to Samskara Sukta and Chaturvarnya
Ganpati, 169, 206; Absence of rea- Vasishtha—His conflict with
sons for withholding from Shudras, Vishwamitra, 140-55; Stories of his
169-70; First spiritual in signifi- reconciliation with Bharatas,
cance, 171; Acquisition of social Kalmashapada and Saudasas, 192-
significance after denial to Shudras, 93, 195-96 See also Sudas and
171; Confers right to property and Vishwamitra
knowledge, 172; Performance of, Vasishtha Dharma Sutra—Its support
assigned to Acharya, 173; Shivaji’s to Purusha Sukta, 24; Disabilities of
right to, 175-77 Shudras under, 43-45, 52
Vayu Purana—102-03
Vaidya, Mr. C. V.—His extract from
Vedic Literature—Origin of, and Brah-
Bhagavat Purana on Bharata manic view, 33-35, Max Muller’s
Bhumi, 173-74; On second corona- order to growth of 138 : Professors
tion of Shivaji, 176-77 (footnote); Ranade and Belavalkar’s theory of
On money spent at Shivaji’s coro- synchronous composition of, 138 ;
nation on Dakshina to Brahmins, See also Rig Veda, Atharva Veda,
180; See also, 178-79 (footnote) Yajur Veda and Veda.
Vaishampayana—Origin of classes of Vena—151-52
priests, 34-35 Vishnu Purana—Manu, the Progenitor
Vaishyas—Origin of, according to of the Indo-Aryans, 29; Explanation
of origin of Vedas from different
Purusha Sukta, 22; Are twice born
mouths of Brahma, 34; Ideology
(Dvijas) 24; Superior only to
relating to creation, 95-97; Geneal-
Shudras in status, 26, 32-33; As
ogy of two Sudas and Table 96-97;
Savarnas, Dvijas, Traivarnikas, 36; Story of Harishchandra, 141-45; On
Oppressed class in Indo-Aryan Nimi’s conflict with Brahmins, 154
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Vishnu Smriti—Disabilities of India by Aryans, 79 (iii) Subjuga-
Shudras under, 44, 46, 49, 52 tion of Dasas, 79; (iv) Practice of
Vishwamitra—His conflict with colour distinction by Aryans in
Vasishtha, 140-41; His part in epi- Varna system, 79-80; Reasons for
sodes of Trishanku, 141; failure of their theory, 78-79; Scru-
Harishchandra, 141-45; Ambarisha, tiny of their theory, 79-85;
145, and Kalmashapada, 145-46;
Wants to murder Vasishtha, 147-48; Conflict of their theory with Rig Veda,
Biographical particulars about, 148; 99-100; Its shortcomings, 100 Wil-
Feud with Vasishtha on points of son, Dr.—Extract from his transla-
privileges, in story of Trishanku, tion of Rig Veda, 27 (footnote), 119-
149-50; Dishonour to, avenged by 20
Sudas, 150-51
Vratya—39; Who were they, 168-69; Yajnopavita—Importance of, 158;
Stoma, 168; Shuddhisangraha’s pro- Rules about manufacture and use
vision for purification of, 168 of, 158-59; Mr. Tilak on its origin,
159-60; Real object of, to tie one to
Vyavahara Mayukha—Kalipurana quo-
tation of rule of adoption, 160 (foot- particular ‘Gotra’ 160-61; Once
note); 174 (footnote) Brahmins alone wore, 161; Merger
with Upanayana, 161
Weber, Prof.—Traces Sudas in Yajnavalkya—On Yajnopavita, 158
Mahabharata to Sudas in Rig Veda,
Yajurveda—Its two recensions, 37;
122; On Shudras, an Aryan tribe
Ashwamedha Yajna, 74; A differ-
immigrating into India before oth-
ent form of Rig Veda, 86
ers, 131
Yaska—On five tribes of Indo-Aryan
Western Writers—Theory about origin
nation, 30; On meaning of
of Shudras from Dasas and Dasyus
Paijavana 118
according to, 65-66; Basis of their
theory—inference drawn from
Bopp’s theory, of common ancestry Zend Avesta—Occurrence of word
of languages, 78, Inferences : Varna in, in sense of ‘a class hold-
(i) common habitat and social stock ing a particular faith’, 82-85; Azi
of Aryans, 78-79; (ii) Conquest of Dahaka in, 104-05
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(Reprint of the edition of 1948)
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First Published, October 1948
by Amrit Book Co., New Delhi.

Government of Maharashtra’s
First Edition - January 26, 1990
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Inscribed to the memory of


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P REFACE .. .. .. 239

THE VILLAGE? .. .. 271



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VEGETARIANS ? .. .. 334
UNTOUCHABLES ? .. .. 350

UNTOUCHABLES ? .. .. 370
INDEX.. .. .. .. 381
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This book is a sequel to my treatise called The Shudras—Who they
were and How they came to be the Fourth Varna of the Indo-Aryan
Society which was published in 1946. Besides the Shudras, the Hindu
Civilization has produced three social classes whose existence has not
received the attention it deserves. The three classes are :-
(i) The Criminal Tribes who number about 20 millions or so;
(ii) The Aboriginal Tribes who number about 15 millions; and
(iii) The Untouchables who number about 50 millions.
The existence of these classes is an abomination. The Hindu
Civilization, gauged in the light of these social products, could hardly
be called civilization. It is a diabolical contrivance to suppress and
enslave humanity. Its proper name would be infamy. What else can
be said of a civilization which has produced a mass of people who
are taught to accept crime as an approved means of earning their
livelihood, another mass of people who are left to live in full bloom
of their primitive barbarism in the midst of civilization and a third
mass of people who are treated as an entity beyond human intercourse
and whose mere touch is enough to cause pollution?
In any other country the existence of these classes would have led
to searching of the heart and to investigation of their origin. But
neither of these has occurred to the mind of the Hindu. The reason
is simple. The Hindu does not regard the existence of these classes
as a matter of apology or shame and feels no responsibility either
to atone for it or to inquire into its origin and growth. On the other
hand, every Hindu is taught to believe that his civilization is not
only the most ancient but that it is also in many respects altogether
unique. No Hindu ever feels tired of repeating these claims. That
the Hindu Civilization is the most ancient, one can understand and
even allow. But it is not quite so easy to understand on what grounds
they rely for claiming that the Hindu Civilization is a unique one.
The Hindus may not like it, but so far as it strikes non-Hindus, such
a claim can rest only on one ground. It is the existence of these classes
for which the Hindu Civilization is responsible. That the existence of
such classes is a unique phenomenon, no Hindu need repeat, for nobody
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can deny the fact. One only wishes that the Hindu realized that it
was a matter for which there was more cause for shame than pride.
The inculcation of these false beliefs in the sanity, superiority and
sanctity of Hindu Civilization is due entirely to the peculiar social
psychology of Hindu scholars.
To-day all scholarship is confined to the Brahmins. But unfortu-
nately no Brahmin scholar has so far come forward to play the part
of a Voltaire who had the intellectual honesty to rise against the
doctrines of the Catholic Church in which he was brought up; nor
is one likely to appear on the scene in the future. It is a grave
reflection on the scholarship of the Brahmins that they should not
have produced a Voltaire. This will not cause surprise if it is
remembered that the Brahmin scholar is only a learned man. He is
not an intellectual. There is a world of difference between one who
is learned and one who is an intellectual. The former is class-
conscious and is alive to the interests of his class. The latter is an
emancipated being who is free to act without being swayed by class
considerations. It is because the Brahmins have been only learned
men that they have not produced a Voltaire.
Why have the Brahmins not produced a Voltaire? The question can
be answered only by another question. Why did the Sultan of Turkey
not abolish the religion of the Mohammedan World? Why has no Pope
denounced Catholicism? Why has the British Parliament not made
a law ordering the killing of all blue-eyed babies? The reason why
the Sultan or the Pope or the British Parliament has not done these
things is the same as why the Brahmins have not been able to produce
a Voltaire. It must be recognized that the selfish interest of a person
or of the class to which he belongs always acts as an internal
limitation which regulates the direction of his intellect. The power
and position which the Brahmins possess is entirely due to the Hindu
Civilization which treats them as supermen and subjects the lower
classes to all sorts of disabilities so that they may never rise and
challenge or threaten the superiority of the Brahmins over them. As
is natural, every Brahmin is interested in the maintenance of
Brahmanic supremacy be he orthodox or unorthodox, be he a priest
or a grahastha, be he a scholar or not. How can the Brahmins
afford to be Voltaires? A Voltaire among the Brahmins would be a
positive danger to the maintenance of a civilization which is contrived
to maintain Brahmanic supremacy. The point is that the intellect of
a Brahmin scholar is severely limited by anxiety to preserve his
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interest. He suffers from this internal limitation as a result of which
he does not allow his intellect full play which honesty and integrity
demands. For, he fears that it may affect the interests of his class
and therefore his own.
But what annoys one is the intolerance of the Brahmin scholar
towards any attempt to expose the Brahmanic literature. He himself
would not play the part of an iconoclast even where it is necessary.
And he would not allow such non-Brahmins as have the capacity to
do so to play it. If any non-Brahmin were to make such an attempt
the Brahmin scholars would engage in a conspiracy of silence, take
no notice of him, condemn him outright on some flimsy grounds or
dub his work useless. As a writer engaged in the exposition of the
Brahmanic literature I have been a victim of such mean tricks.
Notwithstanding the attitude of the Brahmin scholars, I must
pursue the task I have undertaken. For the origin of these classes
is a subject which still awaits investigation. This book deals with
one of these unfortunate classes namely, the Untouchables. The
Untouchables are the most numerous of the three. Their existence
is also the most unnatural. And yet there has so far been no
investigation into their origin. That the Hindus should not have
undertaken such an investigation is perfectly understandable. The old
orthodox Hindu does not think that there is anything wrong in the
observance of Untouchability. To him it is a normal and natural thing.
As such it neither calls for expiation nor explanation. The new modern
Hindu realizes the wrong. But he is ashamed to discuss it in public
for fear of letting the foreigner know that Hindu Civilization can be
guilty of such a vicious and infamous system or social code as
evidenced by Untouchability. But what is strange is that Untouch-
ability should have failed to attract the attention of the European
student of social institutions. It is difficult to understand why. The
fact, however, is there.
This book may therefore, be taken as a pioneer attempt in the
exploration of a field so completely neglected by everybody. The book,
if I may say so, deals not only with every aspect of the main question
set out for inquiry, namely, the origin of Untouchability, but it also
deals with almost all questions connected with it. Some of the
questions are such that very few people are even aware of them; and
those who are aware of them are puzzled by them and do not know
how to answer them. To mention only a few, the book deals with
such questions as : Why do the Untouchables live outside the village?
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Why did beef-eating give rise to Untouchability ? Did the Hindus
never eat beef ? Why did non-Brahmins give up beef-eating ? What
made the Brahmins become vegetarians, etc.? To each one of these,
the book suggests an answer. It may be that the answers given in
the book to these questions are not all-embracing. Nonetheless it
will be found that the book points to a new way of looking at old
The thesis on the origin of Untouchability advanced in the book
is an altogether novel thesis. It comprises the following propositions :-
(1) There is no racial difference between the Hindus and the
(2) The distinction between the Hindus and Untouchables in its
original form, before the advent of Untouchability, was the
distinction between Tribesmen and Broken Men from alien
Tribes. It is the Broken Men who subsequently came to be
treated as Untouchables;
(3) Just as Untouchability has no racial basis so also has it no
occupational basis;
(4) There are two roots from which Untouchability has sprung:
(a) Contempt and hatred of the Broken Men as of Buddhists
by the Brahmins:
(b) Continuation of beef-eating by the Broken Men after it
had been given up by others.
(5) In searching for the origin of Untouchability care must be
taken to distinguish the Untouchables from the Impure. All
orthodox Hindu writers have identified the Impure with the
Untouchables. This is an error. Untouchables are distinct from
the Impure.
(6) While the Impure as a class came into existence at the time
of the Dharma Sutras the Untouchables came into being much
later than 400 A.D.
These conclusions are the result of such historical research as
I have been able to make. The ideal which a historian should place
before himself has been well defined by Goethe who said 1 :
“The historian’s duty is to separate the true from the false, the certain
from the uncertain, and the doubtful from that which cannot be
accepted ... ... Every investigator must before all things look upon
himself as one who is summoned to serve on a jury. He has

1 Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, Nos. 453, 543.
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only to consider how far the statement of the case is complete and
clearly set forth by the evidence. Then he draws his conclusion and
gives his vote, whether it be that his opinion coincides with that of
the foreman or not.”
There can be no difficulty in giving effect to Goethe’s direction
when the relevant and necessary facts are forthcoming. All this
advice is of course very valuable and very necessary. But Goethe
does not tell what the historian is to do when he comes across a
missing link, when no direct evidence of connected relations between
important events is available. I mention this because in the course
of my investigations into the origin of Untouchability and other inter
connected problems I have been confronted with many missing links.
It is true that I am not the only one who has been confronted with
them. All students of ancient Indian history have had to face them.
For as Mount Stuart Elphinstone has observed in Indian history “no
date of a public event can be fixed before the invasion of Alexander:
and no connected relation of the natural transactions can be at-
tempted until after the Mohamedan conquest.” This is a sad confes-
sion but that again does not help. The question is: “What is a student
of history to do? Is he to cry halt and stop his work until the link
is discovered?” I think not. I believe that in such cases it is
permissible for him to use his imagination and intuition to bridge
the gaps left in the chain of facts by links not yet discovered and
to propound a working hypothesis suggesting how facts which cannot
be connected by known facts might have been inter-connected. I must
admit that rather than hold up the work, I have preferred to resort
to this means to get over the difficulty created by the missing links
which have come in my way.
Critics may use this weakness to condemn the thesis as violating
the canons of historical research. If such be the attitude of the critics
I must remind them that if there is a law which governs the
evaluation of the results of historical results then refusal to accept
a thesis on the ground that it is based on direct evidence is bad law.
Instead of concentrating themselves on the issue of direct evidence
versus inferential evidence and inferential evidence versus specula-
tion, what the critics should concern themselves with is to examine
(i) whether the thesis is based on pure conjecture, and (ii) whether
the thesis is possible and if so does it fit in with facts better than
mine does?
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On the first issue I could say that the thesis would not be unsound
merely because in some parts it is based on guess. My critics should
remember that we are dealing with an institution the origin of which
is lost in antiquity. The present attempt to explain the origin of
Untouchability is not the same as writing history from texts which
speak with certainty. It is a case of reconstructing history where
there are no texts, and if there are, they have no direct bearing
on the question. In such circumstances what one has to do is to
strive to divine what the texts conceal or suggest without being even
quite certain of having found the truth. The task is one of gathering
survivals of the past, placing them together and making them tell
the story of their birth. The task is analogous to that of the
archaeologist who constructs a city from broken stones or of the
palaeontologist who conceives an extinct animal from scattered bones
and teeth or of a painter who reads the lines of the horizon and
the smallest vestiges on the slopes of the hill to make up a scene.
In this sense the book is a work of art even more than of history.
The origin of Untouchability lies buried in a dead past which nobody
knows. To make it alive is like an attempt to reclaim to history
a city which has been dead since ages past and present it as it was
in its original condition. It cannot but be that imagination and
hypothesis should pay a large part in such a work. But that in itself
cannot be a ground for the condemnation of the thesis. For without
trained imagination no scientific inquiry can be fruitful and hypoth-
esis is the very soul of science. As Maxim Gorky has said1 :
“Science and literature have much in common; in both,
observation, comparison and study are of fundamental importance;
the artist like the scientist, needs both imagination and intuition.
Imagination and intuition bridge the gaps in the chain of facts by
its as yet undiscovered links and permit the scientist to create
hypothesis and theories which more or less correctly and successfully
direct the searching of the mind in its study of the forms and
phenomenon of nature. They are of literary creation; the art of
creating characters and types demands imagination, intuition, the
ability to make things up in one’s own mind”.
It is therefore unnecessary for me to apologize for having resorted
to constructing links where they were missing. Nor can my thesis be
said to be vitiated on that account for nowhere is the construction of

1 Literature and life. A selection from the writings of Maxim Gorky.
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links based on pure conjecture. The thesis in great part is based
on facts and inferences from facts. And where it is not based on
facts or inferences from facts, it is based on circumstantial evidence
of presumptive character resting on considerable degree of probabil-
ity. There is nothing that I have urged in support of my thesis which
I have asked my readers to accept on trust. I have at least shown
that there exists a preponderance of probability in favour of what
I have asserted. It would be nothing but pedantry to say that a
preponderance of probability is not a sufficient basis for a valid
On the second point with the examination of which, I said, my
critics should concern themselves what I would like to say is that
I am not so vain as to claim any finality for my thesis. I do not
ask them to accept it as the last word. I do not wish to influence
their judgement. They are of course free to come to their own
conclusion. All I say to them is to consider whether this thesis is
not a workable and therefore, for the time being, a valid hypothesis
if the test of a valid hypothesis is that it should fit in with all
surrounding facts, explain them and give them a meaning which in
its absence they do not appear to have. I do not want anything more
from my critics than a fair and unbiased appraisal.

January 1, 1948
1, Hardinge Avenue, B. R. AMBEDKAR
New Delhi.
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Chapter I. Untouchability Among Non-Hindus
Chapter II. Untouchability Among Hindus
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WHO are the Untouchables and what is the origin of Untouchability?
These are the main topics which it is sought to investigate and the
results of which are contained in the following pages. Before launch-
ing upon the investigation it is necessary to deal with certain
preliminary questions. The first such question is : Are the Hindus
the only people in the world who observe Untouchability? The second
is: If Untouchability is observed by Non-Hindus also how does
Untouchability among Hindus compare with Untouchability among
non-Hindus? Unfortunately no such comparative study has so far been
attempted. The result is that though most people are aware of the
existence of Untouchability among the Hindus they do not know what
are its unique features. A definite idea of its unique and distinguish-
ing features is however essential not merely for a real understanding
of the position of the Untouchables but also as the best means of
emphasising the need of investigating into their origin.
It is well to begin by examining how the matter stood in Primitive
and Ancient Societies. Did they recognize Untouchability? At the
outset it is necessary to have a clear idea as to what is meant by
Untouchability. On this point, there can be no difference of opinion.
It will be agreed on all hands that what underlies Untouchability
is the notion of defilement, pollution, contamination and the ways
and means of getting rid of that defilement.
Examining the social life of Primitive Society 1 in order to find out
whether or not it recognized Untouchability in the sense mentioned
above there can be no doubt that Primitive Society not only did
believe in the notion of defilement but the belief had given rise to
a live system of well-defined body of rites and rituals.

1 The facts relating to pollution among non-Hindus are drawn from “Hastings
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics”, Vol. X, Article Purification, pp. 455-504.
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Primitive Man believed that defilement was caused by
(1) the occurrences of certain events;
(2) contact with certain things; and
(3) contact with certain persons.
Primitive Man also believed in the transmission of evil from one
person to another. To him the danger of such transmission was
peculiarly acute at particular times such as the performance of
natural functions, eating, drinking, etc. Among the events the
occurrence of which was held by Primitive Man as certain to cause
defilement included the following :—
(1) Birth
(2) Initiation
(3) Puberty
(4) Marriage
(5) Cohabitation
(6) Death
Expectant mothers were regarded as impure and a source of
defilement to others. The impurity of the mother extended to the child
Initiation and puberty are stages which mark the introduction of
the male and the female to full sexual and social life. They were
required to observe seclusion, a special diet, frequent ablutions, use
of pigment for the body and bodily mutilation such as circumcision.
Among the American Tribes not only did the initiates observe a
special dietary but also took an emetic at regular intervals.
The ceremonies which accompanied marriage show that marriage
was regarded by the Primitive Man as impure. In some cases the
bride was required to undergo intercourse by men of the tribe as
in Australia or by the chief or the medicine man of the tribe as in
America or by the friends of the grooms as among the East African
Tribes. In some cases there takes place the tapping of the bride by
a sword by the bridegroom. In some cases, as among the Mundas,
there takes place marriage to a tree before marriage with the
bridegroom. All these marriage observances are intended to neutralize
and prepare the individual against the impurity of marriage.
To the Primitive Man the worst form of pollution was death. Not
only the corpse, but the possession of the belongings of the deceased
were regarded as infected with pollution. The widespread custom of
placing implements, weapons, etc., in the grave along with the corpse
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indicates that their use by others was regarded as dangerous and
Turning to pollution arising out of contact with objects Primitive
Man had learned to regard certain objects as sacred and certain
others as profane. For a person to touch the sacred was to contami-
nate the sacred and to cause pollution to it. A most striking example
of the separation of the sacred and the profane in Primitive Society
is to be found among the Todas, the whole of whose elaborate ritual
and (it would not be too much to say) the whole basis of whose social
organisation is directed towards securing the ceremonial purity of the
sacred herds, the sacred dairy, the vessels, and the milk, and of those
whose duty it is to perform connected rites and rituals. In the dairy,
the sacred vessels are always kept in a separate room and the milk
reaches them only by transfer to and fro of an intermediate vessel
kept in another room. The dairyman, who is also the priest, is
admitted to office only after an elaborate ordination, which in effect
is a purification. He is thereby removed from the rank of ordinary
men to a state of fitness for sacred office. His conduct is governed
by regulations such as those which permit him to sleep in the village
and only at certain times, or that which entails that a dairyman who
attends a funeral should cease from that time to perform his sacred
function. It has, therefore, been conjectured that the aim of much
of the ritual is to avert the dangers of profanation and prepare or
neutralise the sacred substance for consumption by those who are
themselves unclean.
The notion of the sacred was not necessarily confined to objects.
There were certain classes of men who were sacred. For a person
to touch them was to cause pollution. Among the Polynesians, the
tabu character of a Chief is violated by the touch of an inferior,
although in this case the danger falls upon the inferior. On the other
hand, in Efate, the ‘sacred man’ who comes into contact with Namin
(ceremonial uncleanliness) destroys his sacredness. In Uganda, before
building a temple, the men were given four days in which to purify
themselves. On the other hand, the Chief and his belongings are very
often regarded as sacred and, therefore, as dangerous to others of
an inferior rank. In the Tonga island, anyone who touches a Chief
contacted tabu; it was removed by touching the sole of the foot of
a superior chief. The sacred quality of the chief in Malaya Peninsula
also resided in the Royal Regalia and anyone touching it was invited
with serious illness or death.
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Contact with strange people was also regarded as a source of
Untouchability by the Primitive Man. Among the Bathonga, a tribe
in South Africa, it is belived that those who travel outside their own
country are peculiarly open to danger from the influence of foreign
spirits and in particular from demoniac possession. Strangers are
tabu because, worshipping strange gods, they bring strange influence
with them. They are, therefore, fumigated or purified in some other
way. In the Dieri and neighbouring tribes even a member of the tribe
returning home after a journey was treated as a stranger and no
notice was taken of him until he sat down.
The danger of entering a new country is as great as that which
attaches to those who come from thence. In Australia, when one tribe
approaches another, the members carry lighted sticks to purify the
air, just as the Spartan kings in making war had sacred fires from
the altar carried before them to the frontier.
In the same manner, those entering a house from the outside world
were required to perform some ceremony, even if it were only to
remove their shoes, which would purify the incomer from the evil
with which otherwise he might contaminate those within, while the
threshold, door-posts and lintel—important as points of contact with
outer world—are smeared with blood or sprinkled with water when
any member of household or of the community has become a source
of pollution, or a horse-shoe is suspended over the door to keep out
evil and bring goodluck.
Of course, the rites and ceremonies connected with birth, death,
marriage, etc., do not positively and unequivocally suggest that they
were regarded as sources of pollution. But that pollution is one
element among many others is indicated by the fact that in every
case there is segregation. There is segregation and isolation in birth,
initiation, marriage, death and in dealing with the sacred and the
In birth the mother is segregated. At puberty and initiation there
is segregation and seclusion for a period. In marriage, from the time
of betrothal until the actual ceremony bride and bride-groom do not
meet. In menstruation a woman is subjected to segregation. Segre-
gation is most noticeable in the case of death. There is not only
isolation of the dead-body but there is isolation of all the relatives
of the dead from the rest of the community. This segregation is
evidenced by the growth of hair and nail and wearing of old clothes
by the relatives of the dead which show that they are not served by
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the rest of the society such as the barber, washerman, etc. The period
of segregation and the range of segregation differ in the case of death
but the fact of segregation is beyond dispute. In the case of defilement
of the sacred by the profane or of defilement of the kindred or by
intercourse with the non-kindred there is also the element of
segregation. The profane must keep away from the sacred. So the
kindred must keep away from the non-kindred. It is thus clear that
in Primitive Society pollution involved segregation of the polluting
Along with the development of the notion of defilement, Primitive
Society had developed certain purificatory media and purificatory
ceremonies for dispelling impurity.
Among the agents used for dispelling impurity are water and blood.
The sprinkling of water and the sprinkling of blood by the person
defiled were enough to make him pure. Among purificatory rites were
included changing of clothes, cutting hair, nail, etc., sweat-bath, fire,
fumigation, burning of incense and fanning with the bough of a tree.
These were the means of removing impurity. But Primitive Society
had another method of getting rid of impurity. This was to transfer
it to another person. It was transferred to some one who was already
In New Zealand, if anyone touched the head of another, the head
being a peculiarly ‘sacred’ part of the body, he became tabu. He
purified himself by rubbing his hands on fernroot, which was then
eaten by the head of the family in female line. In Tonga, if a man
ate tabued food he saved himself from the evil consequences by having
the foot of a chief placed on his stomach.
The idea of transmission also appears in the custom of the
scapegoat. In Fiji, a tabued person wiped his hands on a pig, which
became sacred to the chief, while in Uganda, at the end of the period
of mourning for a king a ‘scapegoat’ along with a cow, a goat, a dog,
a fowl and the dust and fire from the king’s house was conveyed to
the Bunyoro frontier, and there the animals were maimed and left
to die. This practice was held to remove all uncleanliness from the
king and queen.
Such are the facts relating to the notion of pollution as it prevailed
in Primitive Society.
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Turning to Ancient Society the notion of pollution prevalent
therein was not materially different from what was prevalent in
Primitive Society. There is difference as to the sources of pollution.
There is difference regarding purificatory ceremonies. But barring
these differences the pattern of pollution and purification in Primi-
tive and Ancient Society is the same.
Comparing the Egyptian system of pollution with the Primitive
system there is no difference except that in Egypt it was practised
on an elaborate scale.
Among the Greeks the causes of impurity were bloodshed, the
presence of ghost and contact with death, sexual intercourse, child-
birth, the evacuation of the body, the eating of certain food such as
pea-soup, cheese and garlic, the intrusion of unauthorised persons
into holy places, and, in certain circumstances, foul speech and
quarrelling. The purificatory means, usually called kaopoia by Greeks,
were lustral water, sulphur, onions, fumigation and fire, incense,
certain boughs and other vegetative growths, pitch, wool, certain
stones and amulets, bright things like sunlight and gold, sacrificed
animals, especially the pig and of these specially the blood and the
skin; finally, certain festivals and festival rites particularly the ritual
of cursing and the scapegoat. One unusual method was the cutting
of the hair of the polluted person or sacrificial communion with the
A striking feature of the Roman notion of pollution and
purification is to be found in the belief of territorial and communal
pollution and purification. Parallel to the lustratio of the house is
the periodical purificatory ritual applied to a country district (Pagi).
The lustractio pagi consisted in a religious procession right round
its boundaries, with sacrifice. There seems to have been in ancient
days a similar procession round the walls of the city, called amburbium.
In historical times special purification of the City was carried out
when a calamity called for it, e.g.’ after the early disasters in the
Second Punic War. The object of all such expiations was to seek
reconciliation with the gods. Lustral ceremony accompanied the
foundation of a colony. The Therminalia protective of boundaries, and
the Compitalia of streets in the City were also probably lustral in
their origin. Down to the late period, priests called Luperci peram-
bulated in the boundaries of the earliest Rome, the settlement on
the Palatinate. Earlier there was an annual solemn progress round
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the limits of the most ancient territory of the Primitive City. It was
led by the Archaic priesthood called the Arval brotherhood. The
ceremony was called ambravalia and it was distinctly piacular. When
Roman territory was expanded no corresponding extension of the
lustral rite seems ever to have been made. These round-about piacular
surveys were common elsewhere, inside as well as outside Italy and
particularly in Greece. The solemn words and prayers of the tradi-
tional chant, duly gone through without slip of tongue, seem to have
had a sort of magical effect. Any error in the pronouncement of these
forms would involve a need of reparation, just as in the earliest
Roman legal system, the mispronunciation of the established verbal
forms would bring loss of the lawsuit.
Other forms of quaint ancient ritual were connected with the
piacular conception. The Salii, ancient priests of Mars, made a
journey at certain times round a number of stations in the City. They
also had a ‘cleaning of the weapons’ and a ‘cleaning of the trumpets’
which testify to a primitive notion that the efficiency of the army’s
weapons required purification. The ‘washing’ (lustrum) with which the
census ended was in essence military; for it was connected with the
Comitia Centuriata, which is merely the army in civil garb. Lustratio
exercitus was often performed when the army was in the field, to
remove superstitious dread which sometimes attacked it at other
times, it was merely prophylactic. There was also a lustration of the
Like all Primitive people the Hebrews also entertained the notion
of defilement. The special feature of their notion of defilement was
the belief that defilement was also caused by contact with the carcass
of unclean animals, by eating a carcass or by contact with creeping
things, or by eating creeping things and by contact with animals
which are always unclean such as “every beast which divideth the
hoof, and is not cloven footed, nor cheweth the cud...whatsoever goeth
upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four”.
Contact with any unclean person was also defilement to the Hebrews.
Two other special features of the Hebrew notion of defilement may
be mentioned. The Hebrews believed that defilement might be caused
to persons by idolatrous practices or to a land by the sexual impurities
of the people.
On the basis of this survey, we can safely conclude that there are
no people Primitive or Ancient who did not entertain the notion of
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IN the matter of pollution there is nothing to distinguish the Hindus
from the Primitive or Ancient peoples. That they recognized pollution
is abundantly clear from the Manu Smriti. Manu recognises physical
defilement and also notional defilement.
Manu treated birth, 1 death and menstruation 2 as sources of
impurity. With regard to death, defilement was very extensive in its
range. It followed the rule of consanguinity. Death caused difilement
to members of the family of the dead person technically called
Sapindas and Samanodakas? It not only included maternal relatives
such as maternal uncle4 but also remote relatives.5 It extended even
to nonrelatives such as (1) teacher 6, (2) teacher’s7 son, (3) teacher’s8
wife, (4) pupil,9 (5) fellow10 student, (6) Shrotriya,11 (7) king,12 (8)
friend,13 (9) members of the household,14 (10) those who carried the
corpse,15 and (11) those who touched the corpse.16
Anyone within the range of defilement could not escape it. There
were only certain persons who were exempt. In the following verses
Manu names them and specifies the reasons why he exempts them :—

1. Chapter V. 58, 61- 63, 71, 77, 79.
2. Chapter III, 45-46 : IV 40-41, 57, 208 ; V. 66,85,108.
3. Chapter V. 58, 60, 75-77, 83-94.
4. Chapter V. 81.
5. Chapter V. 78.
6. Chapter V. 65, 80, 82.
7. Chapter V. 80.
8. Chapter V. 80.
9. Chapter V. 81.
10. Chapter V. 71.
11. Chapter V. 81.
12. Chapter V. 82.
13. Chapter V. 82.
14. Chapter V. 81.
15. Chapter V. 64-65, 85.
16. Chapter V. 64, 85
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“V.93. The taint of impurity does not fall on kings and those engaged
in the performance of a vow, or of a Sattra; for the first are seated
on the throne of India, and the (last two are) ever pure like
94. For a king, on the throne of magnanimity, immediate purification
is prescribed, and the reason for that is that he is seated (there)
for the protection of (his) subjects.
95. (The same rule applies to the kinsmen) of those who have fallen
in a riot or a battle, (of those who have been killed) by lightning
or by the king, and for cows and Brahmins, and to those whom
the king wishes to be pure (in spite of impurity).
96. A king is an incarnation of the eight guardian deities of the world,
the Moon, the Fire, the Sun, the Wind, Indra, the Lords of wealth
and water (Kubera and Varuna) and Yama.
97. Because the king is pervaded by those lords of the world, no
impurity is ordained for him for purity and impurity of mortals
is caused and removed by those lords of the world.”
From this it is clear that the king, the kinsmen of those who have
fallen in a noble cause as defined by Manu and those whom the king
chose to exempt were not affected by the normal rules of defilement.
Manu’s statement that the Brahmin was ‘ever pure’ must be under-
stood in its usual sense of exhalting the Brahmin above everything.
It must not be understood to mean that the Brahmin was free from
defilement. For he was not. Indeed besides being defiled by births
and deaths the Brahmin also suffered defilement on grounds which
did not affect the Non-Brahmins. The Manu Smriti is full of tabus
and don’ts which affect only the Brahmins and which he must observe
and failure to observe which makes him impure.
The idea of defilement in Manu is real and not merely notional.
For he makes the food offered by the polluted person unacceptable.
Manu also prescribes the period of defilement. It varies. For the
death of a Sapinda it is ten days. For children three days. For fellow
students one day. Defilement does not vanish by the mere lapse of
the prescribed period. At the end of the period there must be
performed a purificatory ceremony appropriate to the occasion.
For the purposes of purification Manu treats the subject of
defilement from three aspects : (1) Physical defilement, (2) notional
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or psychological defilement, and (3) ethical defilement. The rule1 for
the purification of ethical defilement which occurs when a person
entertains evil thoughts are more admonitions and exhortations. But
the rites for the removal of notional and physical defilement are the
same. They include the use of water.2 earth. 3 cow’s urine,4 the kusa
grass5 and ashes.6 Earth, cow’s urine, Kusa grass and ashes are
prescribed as purificatory agents for removing physical impurities
caused by the touch of inanimate objects. Water is the chief agent
for the removal of notional defilement. It is used in three ways (1)
sipping, (2) bath, and (3) ablution.7 Later on panchagavya became
the most important agency for removing notional defilement. It
consists of a mixture of the five products of the cow, namely, milk,
urine, dung, curds and butter.
In Manu there is also provision for getting rid of defilement by
transmission through a scapegoat8 namely by touching the cow or
looking at the sun after sipping water.
Besides the individual pollution the Hindus believe also in terri-
torial and communal pollution and purification very much like the
system that prevailed among the early Romans. Every village has
an annual jatra. An animal, generally a he buffalo, is purchased on
behalf of the village. The animal is taken round the village and is
sacrificed, the blood is sprinkled round the village and towards the
end toe meat is distributed among the villagers. Every Hindu, every
Brahmin even though he may not be a beef eater is bound to accept
his share of the meat. This is not mentioned in any of the Smritis
but it has the sanction of custom which among the Hindus is so strong
that it always overrides law.


If one could stop here, one could well say that the notion of
defilement prevalent among the Hindus is not different from that
which obtained in Primitive and in Ancient Societies. But one cannot
stop here. For there is another form of Untouchability observed by

1. Chapter V. 105-109; 127-128.
2. Chapter V. 127.
3. Chapter V. 134-136.
4. Chapter V. 121, 124.
5. Chapter V. 115.
6. Chapter V. 111.
7. Chapter V. 143.
8. Chapter V. 87.
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the Hindus which has not yet been set out. It is the hereditary
Untouchability of certain communities. So vast is the list of such
communities that it would be difficult for an individual with his unaided
effort to compile an exhaustive list. Fortunately such a list was prepared
by the Government of India in 1935 and is attached to the Orders-in-
Council issued under the Government of India Act of 1935. To this
Order-in-Council there is attached a Schedule. The Schedule is divided
into nine parts. One part refers to one province and enumerates the
castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within steps which are
deemed to be Untouchables in that province either in the whole of that
province or part thereof. The list may be taken to be both exhaustive
and authentic. To give an idea of the vast number of communities which
are regarded as hereditary Untouchables by the Hindus. I reproduce
below the list given in the Order-in-Council.
(1) Scheduled Castes throughout the Province :—
Adi-Andhra. Gosangi. Paidi.
Adi-Dravida. Haddi Painda.
Adi-Karnataka. Hasla Paky.
Ajila. Holeya. Pallan.
Arunthuthiyar. Jaggali. Pambada.
Baira. Jambuvulu. Pamidi.
Bakuda. Kalladi Panchama.
Bandi. Kanakkan Paniyan.
Bariki. Kodalo. Panniandi.
Battada. Koosa. Paraiyan.
Bavuri Koraga. Parvan.
Bellara. Kudumban Pulayan.
Bygari Kuravan. Puthirai Vanan.
Chachati. Madari. Raneyar.
Chakkiliyan. Madiga. Relli.
Chalvadi. Maila Samagara.
Chamar. Mala. Samban
Chandala. Mala Dasu. Sapari.
Cheruman. Matangi. Semman.
Dandasi. Moger. Thoti.
Devendrakulathan. Muchi. Tiruvalluvar.
Ghasi. Mundala. Valluvan.
Godagali. Nalakcyava. Valmiki.
Godari. Nayadi. Vettuvan.
Godda. Paga dai
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(2) Scheduled Castes throughout the Provinces except in any special
constituency constituted under the Government of India Act, 1935, for
the election of a representative of backward areas and backward tribes
to the Legislative Assembly of the Province :—
Arnadan. Kattunayakan. Kuruman.
Dombo. Kudiya. Malasar.
Kadan. Kudubi. Mavilan.
Karimpalan. Kurichchan. Pano.
Scheduled Castes :—
(1) Throughout the Province :—
Asodi. Dhor. Mang Garudi.
Bakad. Garode. Maghval, or Menghwar.
Bhambi. Halleer. Mini Madig.
Bhangi. Halsar, or Haslar. Mukri.
Chakrawadya-Dasar. Hulsavar. Nadia.
Chalvadi. Holaya. Shenva, or Shindhava.
Chambhar, or Mochi
gar, or Khalpa. Shinghdav, or Shingadya.
Samagar. Kolcha, or Kolgha. Sochi.
Chena-Dasaru. Koli-Dhor. Timali.
Chuhar, or Chuhra. Lingader. Turi.
Dakaleru. Madig, or Mang. Vankar.
Dhed. Mahar. Vitholia.
(2) Throughout the Province except in the Ahmedabad, Kaira, Broach
and Panch Mahals and Surat Districts—Mochi.
(3) In the Kanara district—Kotegar.
Scheduled Castes throughout the Province :—
Agaria. Bhumij. Gonrhi.
Bagdi. Bind. Hadi.
Bahelia. Binjhia. Hajang.
Baiti. Chamar. Halalkhor.
Bauri. Dhcnuar. Hari.
Bediya. Dhoba. Ho.
Beldar. Doai. Jalia Kaibartta.
Berua. Dom. Jhalo Malo, or Malo.
Bhatiya. Dosadh. Kadar.
Bhuimali. Garo. Kalpahariya.
Bhuiya. Ghasi. Kan.
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Kandh. Lodha. Oraon.
Kandra. Lahor. Paliya.
Kaora. Mahli. Pan.
Kapuria. Mai. Pasi.
Karenga. Mahar. Patni.
Kastha. Mallah. Pod.
Kaur. Mech. Rabha.
Khaira. Mehtor. Rajbanshi.
Khatik. Muchi. Rajwar.
Koch. Munda. Santal.
Konai. Musahar. Sunri.
Konwar. Nagesia. Tiyar.
Kora. Namasudra. Turi.
Kotal. Nat.
Lalbegi, Nuniya.
Scheduled Castes :—
(1) Throughout the Province :—
Agariva. Chamar. Kharwar (except
Aheriya. Chero. Benbansi)
Badi. Dabagar. Khatik.
Badhik. Dhangar. Kol.
Baheliya. Dhanuk (Bhangi). Korwa.
Bajaniya. Dharkar. Lalbegi.
Bajgi. Dhobi. Majhawar.
Balahar. Dom. Nat.
Balmiki. Domar. Pankha.
Banmanus. Gharami. Parahiya.
Bansphor. Ghasiya. Pasi.
Barwar. Gual. Patari.
Basor. Habura. Rawat.
Bawariya. Hari. Saharya.
Beldar. Hela. Sanaurhiya.
Bengali. Khairaha. Sansiya.
Berya. Kalabaz. Shilpkar.
Bhantu. Kanjar. Tharu.
Bhuiya. Kapariya. Turaiha.
Bhuiyar. Karwal.
Boriya. Kharot.

(2) Throughout the Province except in the Agra, .Meerut and
Rohilkhand divisions—Kori.
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Scheduled Castes throughout the Province :—
Ad Dharmis. Marija, or Marecha. Khatik.
Bawaria. Bengali. Kori.
Chamar. Barar. Nat.
Chuhra, or Balmiki. Bazigar. Pasi.
Dagi and Koli. Bhanjra. Perna.
Dhumna. Chanal. Sepela.
Od. Dhanak. Sirkiband.
Sansi. Gagra. Megha.
Sarera. Gandhila. Ramdasis.
Scheduled Castes :—
(1) Throughout the Province :—
Chamar. Halalkhor. Mochi.
Chaupal. Hari. Musahar.
Dhobi. Kanjar. Nat.
Dusadh. Kurariar. Pasi
Dom. Lalbegi.
(2) In the Patna and Tirhut divisions and the Bhagalpur, Monghyr,
Palamau and Purnea districts :—
Bauri. Bhumij. Rajwar.
Bhogta. Ghasi. Turi.
Bhauya. Pan.
(3) In the Dhanbad sub-division of the Manbhum district and the
Central Manbhum general rural constituency, and the Purulia and
Raghunathpur municipalities :—
Bauri. Ghasi. Rajwar.
Bhogta. Pan. Turi.
Scheduled Castes Localities
Basor, or Burud .. )
Chamar .. )
Dom .. )
Ganda ) Throughout the Province.
Mang .. )
Mehtar or Bhangi )
Mochi .. )
Satnami .. )
Audhelia .. In the Bilaspur district.
Bahna .. In the Amraoti district
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Scheduled Castes Localities
Balahi, or Balai. .. In the Berar division and the Balaghat, Bhandara Belul,
Chanda, Chhindwara, Hoshangabad, Jabbulpore,
Mandla, Nagpur, Nimar, Saugor and Wardha districts.
Bedar .. In the Akola, Amraoti and Buldhana districts.
Chadar .. In the Bhandara and Saugor districts.
Chauhan .. In the Durg district.
Dahayat .. In the Damoh sub-division of the Saugor district.
Dewar .. In the Bilaspur, Durg and Raipur districts.
Dhanuk .. In the Saugor district, except in the Damoh sub-division
Dhimar .. In the Bhandara district.
Dhobi .. In the Bhandara, Bilaspur, Raipur and Saugor districts
and the Hoshangabad and Seoni-Malwa tahsils of the
Hoshangabad district.
Dohar .. In the Berar division and the Balaghat, Bhandara,
Chanda, Nagpur and Wardha districts.
Ghasia .. In the Berar division and in the Balaghat, Bhandara,
Bilsaspur, Chanda, Durg, Nagpur, Raipur and Wardha
Holiya .. In the Balaghat and Bhandara districts.
Jangam .. In the Bhandara district.
Kaikari .. In the Berar division, and in Bhandara, Chanda, Nagpur
and Wardha districts.
Katia .. In the Berar division, in the Balaghat, Betul, Bhandara,
Bilaspur, Chanda, Durg, Nagpur, Nimar, Raipur and
Wardha districts, in the Hoshangabad and Seoni-
Malwa tahsils of the Hoshangabad district, in the
Chhindwara district, except in the Seoni sub-division
thereof, and in the Saugor district, except in the
Damoh sub-division thereof.
Khangar .. In the Bhadara, Buldhana and Saugor districts and the
Hoshangabad and Seoni Malwa tahsils of the
Hoshangabad district.
Khatik .. In the Berar division, in the Balaghat, Bhandara,
Chanda, Nagpur and Wardha districts, in the
Hoshangabad tahsil of the Hoshangabad district, in
the Chhindwara district, except in the Seoni sub-
division thereof, and in the Saugor district, except in
the Damoh sub-division thereof.
Koli .. In the Bhandara and Chanda districts.
Kori .. In the Amraoti, Balaghat, Betul, Bhandara, Buldhana,
Chhindwara, Jubbulpore, Mandla, Nimar, Raipur and
Saugor districts, and in the Hoshangabad district,
except in the Harda and Sohagpur tahsils thereof.
Kumhar .. In the Bhandara and Saugor districts and the
Hoshangabad and Seoni-Malwa tahsils of the
Hoshangabad district.
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Scheduled Castes Localities
Madgi .. In the Berar division and in the Balaghat, Bhandara,
Chanda, Nagpur and Wardha districts.
Mala .. In the Balaghat, Betul, Chhindwara, Hoshangabad,
Jubbulpore Mandla, Nimar and Saugor districts.
Mehra or Mahar .. Throughout the Province, except in the Harda and
Sohagpur tahsils of the Hoshangabad district.
Nagarchi .. In the Balaghat, Bhandara, Chhindwara, Mandla, Nagpur
and Raipur districts.
Ojha .. In the Balaghat, Bhandara and Mandla districts and the
Hoshangabad tahsil of the Hoshangabad district
Panka .. In the Berar division, in the Balaghat, Bhandara,
Bilaspur, Chanda, Durg, Nagpur, Raipur, Saugor and
Wardha districts and in the Chhindwara district,
except in the Seoni subdivison thereof.
Pardhi .. In the Narsinghpura sub-division of the Hoshangabad
Pradhan .. In the Berar division, in the Bhandara, Chanda, Nagpur,
Nimar, Raipur and Wardha districts and in the
Chhaindwara district, except in the Seoni sub-division
Rajjhar .. In the Sohagpur tahsil of the Hoshangabad district
Scheduled Castes :-
(1) In the Assam Valley :-
Namasudra. Hira. Mchtar, or Bhangi.
Kaibartta. Lalbegi. Bansphor.
Bania, or Brittial-Bania.
(2) In the Surma Valley :-
Mali, or Bhuimali. Sutradhar. Kaibartta, or Jaliya.
Dhupi, or Dhobi. Muchi. Lalbegi.
Dugla, or Dholi. Patni. Mehtar, or Bhangi.
Jhalo and Malo, Namasudra. Bansphor.
Scheduled Castes :-
(1) Throughout the Province :-
Adi-Andhra. Chamar. Ghusuria.
Audhelia. Chandala. Godagali.
Bariki. Dandasi. Godari.
Bansor, or Burud. Dewar. Godra.
Bavuri. Dhoba or Dhobi. Gokha.
Chachati. Ganda. Haddi, or Hari.
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Irika. Mala. Panchama.
Jaggali. Mang. Panka
Kandra. Mangan. Relli.
Katia. Mehra, or Mahar. Sapari.
Kela. Mehtar, or Bhangi. Satnami.
Kodalo. Mochi or Muchi. Siyal.
Madari. Paidi. Valmiki.
Madiga. Painda.
Mahuria. Pamidi.
(2) Throughout the Province except in the Khondmals district, the
district of Sambalpur and the areas transferred to Orissa under the
provisions of the Government of India (Constitution of Orissa) Order,
1936, from the Vizagapatam and Ganjam Agencies in the Presidency
of Madras :-
Pan, or Pano.
(3) Throughout the Province except in the Khondmals district and
the areas so transferred to Orissa from the said Agencies :-
Dom, or Dambo.
(4) Throughout the Province except in the district of Sambalpur :
Bauro. Bhumij. Turi.
Bhuiya. Ghasi, or Ghasia.
(5) In the Nawapara sub-division of the district of Sambalpur :-
Kori. Nagarchi. Pradhan.
This is a very terrifying list. It includes 429 communities. Reduced
to numbers it means that today there exist in India 50-60 millions
of people whose mere touch causes pollution to the Hindus. Surely,
the phenomenon of Untouchability among primitive and ancient
society pales into insignificance before this phenomenon of hereditary
Untouchability for so many millions of people which we find in India.
This type of Untouchability among Hindus stands in a class by itself.
It has no parallel in the history of the world. It is unparalleled not
merely by reason of the colossal numbers involved which exceed the
number of great many nations in Asia and in Europe but also on
other grounds.
There are some striking features of the Hindu system of Untouch-
ability affecting the 429 Untouchable communities which are not to
be found in the custom of Untouchability as observed by Non- Hindu
communites, primitive or ancient.
The isolation prescribed by Non-Hindu societies as a safeguard
against defilement, if it is not rational, is at least understandable. It
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is for specified reasons such as birth, marriage, death, etc., But the
isolation prescribed by Hindu society is apparently for no cause.
Defilement as observed by the Primitive Society was of a temporary
duration which arose during particular times such as the performance
of natural functions, eating, drinking, etc. or a natural crisis in the
life of the individual such, as birth, death, menstruation, etc. After
the period of defilement was over and after the purificatory ceremo-
nies were performed the defilement vanished and the individual
became pure and associable. But the impurity of the 50-60 millions
of the Untouchables of India, quite unlike the impurity arising from
birth, death, etc., is permanent. The Hindus who touch them and
become polluted thereby can become pure by undergoing purificatory
ceremonies. But there is nothing which can make the Untouchables
pure. They are born impure, they are impure while they live, they
die the death of the impure, and they give birth to children who are
born with the stigma of Untouchability affixed to them. It is a case
of permanent, hereditary stain which nothing can cleanse.
In the third place, Non-Hindu societies which believed in defilement
isolated the individuals affected or at the most those closely connected
with them. But the Untouchability among the Hindus involves the
isolation of a class-a class which today numbers about 50 to 60 million
In the fourth place, Non-Hindu societies only isolated the affected
individuals. They did not segregate them in separate quarters. The
Hindu society insists on segregation of the Untouchables. The Hindu
will not live in the quarters of the Untouchables and will not allow
the Untouchables to live inside Hindu quarters. This is a fundamental
feature of Untouchability as it is practised by the Hindus. It is not
a case of social separation, a mere stoppage of social intercourse for
a temporary period. It is a case of territorial segregation and of a
cordon sanitaire putting the impure people inside a barbed wire into
a sort of a cage. Every Hindu village has a ghetto. The Hindus live
in the village and the Untouchables in the ghetto.
Such is the Hindu system of Untouchability. Who can deny that it
is not altogether different from what is found to exist among Non-
Hindu societies? That Untouchability among Hindus is a unique
phenomenon is beyond question. Persons were treated by non-Hindu
communities as impure but as individuals. Never a whole class was
treated as impure. But their impurity was of a temporary duration and
was curable by the performance of some purificatory rites. There has
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never been a case of permanent impunity based on the rule ‘once
impure always impure’. Persons were treated as impure by Non-Hindu
Communities and they were even cut off from social intercourse. But
there has never been a case of persons having been put into
permanent segregation camps. A whole body of people have been
treated as impure by Non-Hindu communities. But they were strang-
ers outside the fold of the kindred. There has never been a case of
a people treating a section of their own people as permanently and
hereditarily impure.
Untouchability among Hindus is thus a unique phenomenon,
unknown to humanity in other parts of the world. Nothing like it
is to be found in any other society- primitive, ancient or modern. The
many problems that arise out of a study of Untouchability and which
call for investigation may be reduced to two :
(1) Why do the Untouchables live outside the village?
(2) What made their impurity permanent, and ineradicable?
The following pages are devoted to finding answers to these two
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Chapter III. Why do the Untouchables Live Outside the Village ?
Chapter IV. Are the Untouchables Broken Men ?
Chapter V. Are there Parallel Cases ?
Chapter VI. How did Separate Settlements for Broken Men
Disappear Elsewhere ?
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THAT the Untouchables live outside the village is so notorious a fact
that it must be taken to be within the cognizance even of those whose
knowledge about them is not very profound. Yet, nobody has thought
that this was a serious question calling for satisfactory answer. How
did the Untouchables come to live outside the village? Were they
declared to be Untouchables first and then deported out of the village
and made to live outside? Or were they from the very beginning living
outside the village and were subsequently declared to be Untouch-
ables? If the answer is that they were living outside the village from
the very beginning, there arises a further question, namely, what can
be the reason for it ?
As the question of the separate settlement of the Untouchables has
never been raised before, naturally there exists no theory as to how
the Untouchables came to live outside the village. There is, of course,
the view of the Hindu Shastras and if one wants to dignify it by
calling it a theory one may do so. The Shastras of course say that
the Antyajas should live and have their abode outside the village.
For instance, Manu says :
“X. 51. But the dwellings of the Chandalas and the Shvapakas
shall be outside the village, they must be made Apapatras
and their wealth (shall be) dogs and donkeys.
X. 52. Their dress (shall be) the garments of the dead, (they
shall eat) their food from broken dishes, black iron
(shall be) their ornaments and they must always wander
from place to place.
X. 53. A man who fulfils a religious duty, shall not seek
intercourse with them; their transactions (shall be)
among themselves and their marriages with their
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X. 54. Their food shall be given to them by others (than an
Aryan giver) in a broken dish; at night they shall not
walk about in village and in towns.
X. 55. By day they may go about for the purpose of their work,
distinguished by marks at king’s command, and they
shall carry out the corpses (of persons) who have no
relatives; that is a settled rule.
X. 56. By the King’s order they shall always execute the
criminals, in accordance with the law, and they shall
take for themselves the clothes, the beds, and the
ornaments of (such) criminals.”
But what conclusion can one draw from these statements of the
Shastras? They are capable of double interpretation. When the
Shastras say that the Untouchables should stay outside the village,
they may be purporting to say no more than that the Untouchables
should stay where they have been staying, i.e. outside the village.
This is one interpretation. The second interpretation is that those
who are declared Untouchables should not be allowed to stay inside
the village but should be required to go out of the village and live
outside. Following up the alternate interpretations of the Shastras
there are two different possibilities which call for consideration. One
is that the Untouchability has nothing to do with the Untouchables
living outside the village. From the very beginning they lived outside
the village. Thereafter when the stigma of Untouchability fell on them
they were prohibited from coming to live inside the village. The other
possibility is that Untouchability has everything to do with the
Untouchables, living outside the village. In other words, the Untouch-
ables originally lived inside the village and that thereafter when the
stigma of untouchability fell on them they were forced to vacate and
live outside the village.
Which of the two possibilities is more acceptable?
The second possibility is on the face of it absurd and fantastic.
One argument is quite enough to expose its absurdity. The phenom-
enon we are discussing is not confined to a single village or single
area. It exists all over India. The transplantation of the Untouchables
from within, the village to outside the village is a vast operation. How
and who could have carried on an operation of such colossal dimensions?
It could not have been carried out except by the command of an
Emperor having his sway over the whole of India. Even to him such
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a transplantation would have been impossible. But possible and
impossible it can only be the work of an Emperor. Who is the Emperor
to whom the credit or discredit of this task can be assigned?
Obviously, India had no Emperor to perform this task. If there was
no Emperor to do the transplantation, then the second possibility
must be abandoned.
That those who are called Untouchables lived outside the village
from the very beginning even before they became Untouchables and
that they continued to live outside the village because of the
supervention of untouchability at a later stage is the only possibility
worth consideration. But this raises a very difficult question: Why
did they live outside the village? What made them or forced them
to do so? The answer is that having regard to the factors which are
known to students of Sociology to have influenced the transformation
of Primitive Society into Modern Society all over the world it is only
natural to suppose that the Untouchables should have from the
beginning lived outside the village.
Not many will realise why this is natural without some explanation
of the factors which have affected the condition of Primitive Society
into Modern Society. For a clear understanding of the matter it is
necessary to bear in mind that Modern Society differs from Primitive
Society in two respects. Primitive Society consisted of nomadic
communities while Modern Society consists of settled communities.
Secondly, Primitive Society consisted of tribal communities based on
blood relationship. Modern Society consists of local communities
based on territorial affiliation. In other words there are two lines
of evolution along which Primitive Society has proceeded before it
became transformed into Modern Society. One line of evolution has
led the Primitive Society to become a territorial community from
being a tribal community. There can be no doubt that such a change
has taken place. Clear traces of the change are to be seen in the
official style of kings. Take the style of the English kings. King John
was the first to call himself the king of England. His predecessors
commonly called themselves kings of the English. The former
represent a territorial community. The latter represent a tribal
community. England was once the country which Englishmen inhab-
ited. Englishmen are now the people who inhabit England. The same
transformation can be seen to have taken place in the style of the
French kings who were once called kings of the Franks and later
as kings of France. The second line of evolution had led Primitive
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Society to become a settled community instead of the Nomadic
community which it was. Here again, the change is so definite and
so impressive that no illustration is required to convince anybody of
its reality.
For the purpose in hand all we need is to confine ourselves to a
consideration of the second line of evolution. How did Primitive
Society become a settled community? The story of how Primitive
Society became a settled community is too long to be detailed in a
chapter- much too long to be compressed in a section thereof. It is
enough to note two things. The first thing to understand is what made
Primitive Society give up its nomadic life and secondly what happened
in the transition from nomadic to settled life.
Primitive Society was no doubt nomadic. But it was nomadic not
because of any migratory instinct. Nor was it due to any mental trait
peculiar to it. It was the result of the fact that the earliest form
of the wealth held by Primitive Society was cattle. Primitive Society
was migratory because its wealth, namely the cattle, was migratory.
Cattle went after new pastures. Primitive Society by reason of its
love for cattle, therefore, went wherever its cattle carried it. Primitive
Society became fixed in its abode, in other words became a settled-
community, when a new species of wealth was discovered. This new
species of wealth was land. This happened when Primitive Society
learned the art of farming and of cultivating land. Wealth became
fixed at one place when it changed its form from cattle to land. With
this change Primitive Society also became settled at the same place.
This explains why Primitive Society was at one time nomadic and
what led it take to settled life.
The next thing is to note the events that have happened when
Primitive Society was on the road to becoming a Settled Society. The
problems which faced Primitive Society in its transition from Nomadic
life to Settled life were mainly two. One confronted the Settled
Community. The other confronted the Broken men. The problem that
confronted the Settled community was that of its defence against the
Nomadic tribes. The problem which confronted the Broken men was
that of the protection and shelter. It may be desirable to elucidate
how and why these problems arose.
For an understanding of the problem which confronted the Settled
tribes, it is necessary to bear in mind the following facts. All tribes
did not take to settled life at one and the same time. Some became
settled and some remained nomadic. The second thing to remember
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is that the tribes were never at peace with one another. They were
always at war. When all tribes were in a Nomadic state the chief
causes for intra-tribal warfare were (1) stealing cattle, (2) stealing
women, and (3) stealthily grazing of cattle in the pastures belonging
to other tribes. When some tribes became settled, the tribes that
remained nomadic found it more advantageous to concentrate their
fight against the settled tribes. It was more paying than a war against
other Nomadic tribes. The Nomadic tribes had come to realize that
the Settled tribes were doubly wealthy. Like the Nomadic tribes, they
had cattle. But in addition to cattle, they had corn which the Nomadic
tribes had not and which they greatly coveted. The Nomadic tribes
systematically organized raids on the Settled tribes with the object
of stealing the wealth belonging to the Settled tribes. The third fact
is mat the Settled tribes were greatly handicapped in defending
themselves against these raiders. Being engaged in more gainful
occupation, the Settled tribes could not always convert their ploughs
into swords. Nor could they leave their homes and go in pursuit
of the raiding tribes. There is nothing strange in this. History shows
that peoples with civilization but no means of defence are not able
to withstand the attacks of the barbarians. This explains how and
why during the transition period the Settled tribes were faced with
the problem of their defence.
How the problem of the Broken men arose is not difficult to
understand. It is the result of the continuous tribal warfare which was
the normal life of the tribes in their primitive condition. In a tribal
war it often happened that a tribe instead of being completely
annihilated was defeated and routed. In many cases a defeated tribe
became broken into bits. As a consequence of this there always existed
in Primitive times a floating population consisting of groups of Broken
tribesmen roaming in all directions. To understand what gave rise
to the problem of the Broken men it is necessary to realize that
Primitive Society was fundamentally tribal in its origanization. That
Primitive Society was fundamentally tribal meant two things.
Firstly, every individual in Primitive Society belonged to a tribe. Nay,
he must belong to the tribe. Outside the tribe no individual had any
existence. He could have none. Secondly tribal organization being
based on common blood and common kinship an individual born in
one tribe could not join another tribe and become a member of it.
The Broken Men had, therefore, to live as stray individuals. In
Primitive Society where tribe was fighting against tribe a stray
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collection of Broken Men was always in danger of being attacked.
They did not know where to go for shelter. They did not know who
would attack them and to whom they could go for protection. That
is why shelter and protection became the problem of the Broken Men.
The foregoing summary of the evolution of Primitive Society shows
that there was a time in the life of Primitive Society when there
existed two groups— one group consisting of Settled tribes faced with
the problem of finding a body of men who would do the work of watch
and ward against the raiders belonging to Nomadic tribes and the
other group consisting of Broken Men from defeated tribes with the
problem of finding patrons who would give them food and shelter.
The next question is: How did these two groups solve their
problems? Although we have no written text of a contract coming
down to us from antiquity we can say that the two struck a bargain
whereby the Broken Men agreed to do the work of watch and ward
for the Settled tribes and the Settled tribes agreed to give them food
and shelter. Indeed, it would have been unnatural if such an
arrangement had not been made between the two especially when
the interest of the one required the co-operation of the other.
One difficulty, however, must have arisen in the completion of the
bargain, that of shelter. Where were the Broken Men to live? In the
midst of the settled community or outside the Settled community?
In deciding this question two considerations must have played a
decisive part. One consideration is that of blood relationship. The
second consideration is that of strategy. According to Primitive
notions only persons of the same tribe, i.e.. of the same blood, could
live together. An alien could not be admitted inside the area occupied
by the homesteads belonging to the tribe. The Broken men were
aliens. They belonged to a tribe which was different from the Settled
tribe. That being so, they could not be permitted to live in the midst
of the Settled tribe. From the strategic point of view also it was
desirable that these Broken men should live on the border of the
village so as to meet the raids of the hostile tribes. Both these
considerations were decisive in favour of placing their quarters
outside the village.
We can now return to the main question, namely, why do the
Untouchables live outside the village? The answer to the question can
be sought along the lines indicated above. The same processes must
have taken place in India when the Hindu Society was passing from
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Nomadic life to the life of a settled village community. There must
have been in Primitive Hindu society, Settled tribes and Broken Men.
The Settled tribes founded the village and formed the village
community and the Broken Men lived in separate quarters outside
the village for the reason that they belonged to a different tribe and,
therefore, to different blood. To put it definitely, the Untouchables
were originally only Broken Men. It is because they were Broken Men
that they lived outside the village.
This explains why it is natural to suppose that the Untouchables
from the very beginning lived outside and that Untouchability has
nothing to do with their living outside the village.
The theory is so novel that critics may not feel satisfied without
further questioning. They will ask:
(1) Is there any factual evidence to suggest that the Untouchables
are Broken Men?
(2) Is there evidence that the process of settlement suggested
above has actually taken place in any country?
(3) If Broken Men living outside the village is a universal feature
of all societies, how is it that the separate quarters of the
Broken Men have disappeared outside India but not in India?
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TO the question : Are the Untouchables in their origin only Broken
Men, my answer is in the affirmative. An affirmative answer is bound
to be followed by a call for evidence. Direct evidence on this issue
could be had if the totems of the Touchables and the Untouchables
in the Hindu villages had been studied. Unfortunately the study of
the totemic organization of the Hindus and the Untouchables has not
yet been undertaken by students of anthropology. When such data
is collected it would enable us to give a decisive opinion on the
question raised in this Chapter. For the present, I am satisfied from
such inquiries as I have made that the totems of the Untouchables
of a particular village differ from the totems of the Hindus of the
Difference in totems between Hindus and Untouchables would be
the best evidence in support of the thesis that the Untouchables are
Broken Men belonging to a tribe different from the tribe comprising
the village community. It may, however, be admitted that such direct
evidence as has a bearing on the question remains to be collected.
But facts have survived which serve as pointers and from which it
can be said that the Untouchables were Broken men. There are two
sets of such evidentiary facts.
One set of facts comprise the names Antya, Antyaja and Antyavasin
given to certain communities by the Hindu Shastras. They have come
down from very ancient past. Why were these names used to indicate
a certain class of people? There seem to be some meaning behind
these terms. The words are undoubtedly derivative. They are derived
from the root Anta. What does the word Anta mean? Hindus
learned in the Shastras argue that it means one who is born last
and as the Untouchable according to the Hindu order of
Divine creation is held to be born last, the word Antya means an
Untouchable. The argument is absurd and does not accord with the
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Hindu theory of the order of creation. According to it, it is the Shudra
who is born last. The Untouchable is outside the scheme of creation.
The Shudra is Savarna. As against him the Untouchable is Avarna,
i.e outside the Varna system. The Hindu theory of priority in creation
does not and cannot apply to the Untouchable. In my view, the word
Antya means not end of creation but end of the village. It is a name
given to those people who lived on the outskirts of the village. The
word Antya has, therefore, a survival value. It tells us that there
was a time when some people lived inside the village and some lived
outside the village and that those who lived outside the village, i.e.
on the Antya of the village, were called Antyaja.
Why did some people live on the border of the village? Can there
be any other reason than that they were Broken Men who were aliens
and who belonged to tribes different from those who lived inside the
village? I cannot see any. That this is the real reason is to be found
in the use of these particular words to designate them. The use of
the words Antya, Antyaja and Antyavasin has thus double signifi-
cance. In the first place, it shows that living in separate quarters
was such a peculiar phenomenon that a new terminology had to be
invented to give expression to it. Secondly, the words chosen express
in exact terms the conditions of the people to whom it applied namely
that they were aliens.
The second set of facts which shows that the Untouchables were
Broken men relates to the position of a community called the Mahars.
The Mahar community is a principal Untouchable community in
Maharashtra. It is the single largest Untouchable community found
in Maharashtra. The following facts showing the relations between
the Mahars and the Touchable Hindus are worthy of note: (1) The
Mahars are to be found in every village; (2) Every village in
Maharashtra has a wall and the Mahars have their quarters outside
the wall; (3) The Mahars by turn do the duty of watch and ward
on behalf of the village; and (4) The Mahars claim 52 rights against
the Hindu villagers. Among these 52 rights the most important are:-
(i) The right to collect food from the villagers;
(ii) The right to collect corn from each villager at the harvest
season; and
(iii) The right to appropriate the dead animal belonging to the
The evidence arising from the position of the Mahars is of course
confined to Maharashtra. Whether similar cases are to be found in other
parts of India has yet to be investigated. But if the Mahars case
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can be taken as typical of the Untouchables throughout India it will
be accepted that there was a stage in the history of India when
Broken Men belonging to other tribes came to the Settled tribes and
made a bargain whereby the Broken men were allowed to settle on
the border of the village, were required to do certain duties and in
return were given certain rights. The Mahars have a tradition that
the 52 rights claimed by them against the villagers were given to
them by the Muslim kings of Bedar. This can only mean that these
rights were very ancient and that the kings of Bedar only confirmed
These facts although meagre do furnish some evidence in support
of the theory that the Untouchables lived outside the village from
the very beginning. They were not deported and made to live outside
the village because they were declared Untouchables. They lived
outside the village from the beginning because they were Broken Men
who belonged to a tribe different from the one to which the Settled
tribe belonged.
The difficulty in accepting this explanation arises largely from the
notion that the Untouchables were always Untouchables. This
difficulty will vanish if it is borne in mind that there was a time
when the ancestors of the present day Untouchables were not
Untouchables vis-a-vis the villagers but were merely Broken Men, no
more and no less, and the only difference between them and the
villagers was that they belonged to different tribes.
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ARE there any cases known to history of Broken Men living outside
the village? To this question it is possible to give an affirmative
answer. Fortunately for us we have two reported cases which show
that what is said to have occurred in India particularly has also
actually occurred elsewhere. The countries wherein such a develop-
ment has actually been reported to have taken place are Ireland and
The organization of the Irish village in primitive times can be seen
from the Brehon Laws of Ireland. Some idea of it as revealed in these
Laws may be obtained from the following summary given by Sir
Henry Maine. Says Sir Henry Maine1 :-
“The Brehon Law discloses a stage when the tribe has long been settled,
in all probability upon the tribal territory. It is of sufficient size and
importance to constitute a political unit, and possibly at its apex is one of
the numerous chieftain whom the Irish records call kings. The primary
assumption is that the whole of the tribal territory belongs to the whole of
the tribe, but in fact large portions of it have been permanently appropriated
to minor bodies of tribesmen; A part is allotted in special way to the chief
as appurtenant to his office, and descends from chief to chief according to
a special rule of succession. Other portions are occupied by fragments of the
tribe, some of which are under minor chiefs while others, though not strictly
ruled by a chief, have somebody of noble class to act as their representative
. All the unappropriated tribelands are in a more special way the property
of the tribe as a whole, and no portion can theoretically be subjected to more
than a temporary occupation. Such occupations are, however, frequent and
among the holders of tribeland, on these terms, are groups of men calling
themselves tribesmen, but being in reality associations formed by contract,
chiefly for the purpose of pasturing cattle. Much of the common tribeland
is not occupied at all, but constitutes, to use the English expression, the
‘waste’ of the tribe. Still this waste is constantly brought under tillage
or permanent pasture by settlements of tribesmen, and upon it cultivators
and servile states are permitted to squat, particularly towards the border.
It is part of the territory over which the authority of the chief tends

1 Early History of Institutions, Lecture HI, pp. 92-93.
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steadily to increase, and here it is that he settles his ‘fuidhir’ or stranger—
tenants a very important class—the outlaws and ‘broken men’ from other tribes
who come to him for protection, and who are only connected with their new
tribe by their dependence on its chief, and through the responsibility which
he incurs for them.”
Who were the Fuidhirs? According to Sir Henry Maine the Fuidhirs
were :
“Strangers or fugitives from other territories, men in fact, who had broken
the original tribal bond which gave them a place in the community, and who
had to obtain and then as best they might in a new tribe and new place.
Society was violently disordered. The result was probably to fill the country
with ‘Broken Men’ and such men could only find a home and protection by
becoming Fuidhir tenants.
“The Fuidhir was not a tribesman but an alien. In all societies cemented
together by kinship the position of the person who has lost or broken the
bond of union is always extraordinarily miserable. He has not only lost his
natural place in them but they have no room for him anywhere else.”


Now as to Wales. The organization of the Welsh village in primitive
times is described1 by Mr. Seebhom. According to Mr. Seebhom a
village in Wales was a collection of homesteads. The homesteads were
separated into two groups, the homesteads of the Free-tenants and
the homesteads of the Unfree-tenants. Mr. Seebhom says that this
separation in habitation was a common feature of the primitive
village in Wales. Why were these Unfree-tenants made to live in a
separate and detached place? The reason for this separation is
explained 2 by Mr. Seebhom in the following terms :-
“At first sight there is a great confusion in the class of men mentioned
in the ancient Welsh Laws— of tribesmen, Uchelore bryre and innate
boneddings : of non-tribesmen, talogo Aillte, Alltude, etc. The confusion
vanishes only when the principle underlying the constitution of tribal
society is grasped. And this principle would apparently be a very simple
one if could be freed from the complications of conquest and permanent
settlement of land from the inroads of foreign law, custom, and nomen-
clature. To begin with there can be little doubt that the ruling principle
underlying the structure of tribal society was that of blood relationship
among the free tribesmen. No one who did not belong to a kindred could
be a member of the tribe, which was in fact, a bundle of Welsh kindred.
Broadly then under the Welsh tribal system there were two classes, those
of Cymric blood—and those who were stranger in blood. There was

1 The Tribal System in Wales p. 9
2 Ibid pp. 54-55.
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a deep, if not unpassable, gulf between these two classes quite apart from
any question of land or of conquest. It was a division in blood and it soon
becomes apparent that the tenacity with which the distinction was maintained
was at once one of the strong distinctive marks of the tribal system and one
of the main secrets of its strength.”


This description of the organisation of the Irish and the Welsh
villages in the primitive times leave no doubt that the case of the
Untouchables of India is not the only case of a people living outside
the village. It proves that in it was exhibited a universal phenomenon,
and was marked by the following features :
1. That in primitive times the Village Settlement consisted of two
parts. One part occupied by the community belonging to one
tribe and another part occupied by the Broken Men of different
2. The part of the settlement occupied by the tribal community
was regarded as the village proper. The Broken Men lived in
the outskirts of the village.
3. The reason why the Broken Men lived outside the village was
because they were aliens and did not belong to the tribal
The analogy between the Untouchables of India and the Fuidhirs
of Ireland and the Alltudes of Wales is complete. The Untouchables
lived outside the village for the same reason for which the Fuidhirs
and Alltudes had to live outside the village in Ireland and Wales.
It is, therefore, clear that what is said about the Untouchables on
the issue of their living outside the village is not without a parallel
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THAT the Fuidhirs of Ireland and the Alltudes of Wales were Broken
Men is true. That they lived in separate quarters is also a fact. But
it is also true that the separate quarters of those Broken Men
disappeared and they became part of the Settled tribe and were
absorbed in it. This is somewhat strange. The Broken Men according
to the theory set out before were given quarters outside the village
because they belonged to a different tribe and, therefore, to different
blood. How is it then that they were absorbed by the tribe later on?
Why such a thing did not happen in India? These are questions which
are natural and which call for an answer.
The question is integrally connected with the process of evolution
through which Primitive Society came to be transferred into Modern
Society. As has already been said this evolution has proceeded along
two different lines. One marked the transformation of Primitive
Society from Nomadic into a settled community. The other marked
the transformation of Primitive Society from tribal into a territorial
community. The question with which we are immediately concerned
relates to the second line of evolution. For it is the substitution of
common territory for common blood as the bond of union that is
responsible for the disappearance of the separate quarters of the
Broken Men. Why did Primitive Society substitute common territory
for common blood as the bond of union? This is a question for which
there is no adequate explanation. The origin of the change is very
obscure. How the change was brought about is however quite clear.
At some stage there came into being in Primitive Society a rule
whereby a non-tribesman could become a member of the tribe and
become absorbed in it as a kindred. It was known as a rule of
ennoblement. This rule was that if a non-tribesman lived next to the
tribe or married within a tribe for a given number of generations he
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became their kindred.1 Mr. Seebhom gives the following rules for a
non-tribesman becoming a tribesman as it was found in the Welsh
village system.
(1) Residence in Cymru (Wales) according to the tradition of
South Wales made the descendant of a stranger at last, a
Cymru, but not until continued to the ninth generation.
(2) Intermarriage with innate Cymraeses generation after gen-
eration made the descendent of a stranger an innate Cymru
in the fourth generation. In other words, the original stranger’s
great grandson, whose blood was at least seven-eighths Cymric
was allowed to attain the right to claim the privileges of a
Should not such a thing have happened in India? It could have—
indeed it should have. For a rule similar to that which existed in
Ireland and Wales also existed in India. It is referred to by Manu.
In Chapter X, verses 64-67, he says that a Shudra can be a Brahmin
for seven generations (if he marries) within the Brahmin Community.
The ordinary rule of Chaturvarna was that a Shudra could never
become a Brahmin. A Shudra was born a Shudra and could not be
made a Brahmin. But this rule of antiquity was so strong that Manu
had to apply rule of Untouchability to the Shudra. It is obvious that
if this rule had continued to operate in India, the Broken Men of
India would have been absorbed in the village community and their
separate quarters would have ceased to exist.
Why did this not happen? The answer is that the notion of
Untouchability supervened and perpetuated difference between kin-
dred and non-kindred, tribesmen and non-tribesmen in another form;
namely; between Touchables and Untouchables. It is this new factor
which prevented the amalgamation taking place in the way in which
it took place in Ireland and Wales, with the result that the system
of separate quarters has become a perpetual and a permanent feature
of the Indian village.
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Chapter VII. Racial Difference as the Origin of Untouchability.
Chapter VIII. Occupational Origin of Untouchability.
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WHAT is the origin of Untouchability? As has been said the field
is quite unexplored. No student of Sociology has paid any attention
to it. Writers, other than Sociologists, who have written about India
and her people have been content with merely recording the custom
of Untouchability with varying degrees of disapprobation and leaving
it at that. So far as my researches go, I have come across only one
author who has attempted to explain how Untouchability has come
about. It is Mr.Stanley Rice1. According to Mr. Rice—
There is a strong probability that the outcasts were the survivors of the
conquered peoples, who, as caste tended to coincide with occupation, became
the drum-beating, leather-working, and farm labouring classes to which as
serfs they had been relegated from early times. They were not the races
conquered by the Aryans; the Paraiyans belonged to the aborigines who were
conquered by the Dravidians and being of a different race they were not
admitted to the totem of similar clans with which marriage is always
intimately connected, since that would have led to free intercourse and the
gradual degradation of race. But this prohibition cannot have been absolute;
there are always exceptions. In the course of the centuries, some forty or
more, the inevitable miscegenation may very well have obliterated the racial
distinctions between aboriginal and early Dravidian. These people have been
admitted to a sort of lowly participation in the Hindu system in the
atmosphere of which they have lived for so long, for Hinduism is at once
the most tolerant and intolerant of creeds. It does not proselytize; you cannot
become a Hindu as you can become a Mussalman, and those within the fold
are liable to the most rigid restrictions. But it has always been ready to
embrace aboriginal tribes who arc willing to submit to its laws, though it
may assign to them a very lowly place and they have always been kept at
a distance and have been excluded from the temples. It would seem, therefore,
that anthropological arguments are in any case not conclusive when we
consider these factors which must have profoundly modified the original racial
characteristics and must have changed their outlook. Thus the Dravidians
applied to the Paraiyans the same test which the Aryans are assumed to have

1. Hindu Customs And Their Origins : pp. 113-115. (Italics not in the original.)
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applied to the conquered inhabitants. They reduced them to the position of
serfs and assigned to them those duties which it was thought beneath their
own dignity to perform. Nor was marriage the only consideration. The
disabilities of the Paraiyans were due also– and to an even greater degree–
to the mystical qualities inherent in Tabu. To admit such a man to the totem
family was not only contrary to the social order, it would bring upon the
clan the anger of their particular god. But to admit him to the worship of
the god within the sacred precincts of a temple was to call clown authentic
fire from Heaven, whereby they would be consumed. It would be sacrilege
of the same kind as the offering of unconsecrated or unorthodox fire by Koran,
Dathan and Abhiram. But though debarred from taking an active part in
worship, the Paraiyans might yet do the menial services connected with it,
provided that they did not entail the pollution of the sacred building. In
Christian terminology the Paraiyan, although he could neither officiate at
the altar, nor preach a sermon nor even be one of the congregation, might
still ring the bell– on one condition. He could not regard himself as of the
communion; he was, in fact, ex-communicate. And as such, he was ceremo-
nially unclean. No washing with water, no cleansing ceremony, could remove
that stain which was indelibly fixed by the operation of Tabu. To touch him,
to have any dealings with him save as it were, at arm’s length, was by a
sort of contagious magic a defilement You could employ him to till your field
because that entailed no contact of any kind, beyond giving an order, you
need have no further communication with him. The seal of pollution was set
on his forehead; it was inherent in him as surely as the blood in his veins.
And so from being the vile, degraded fellow which Indian opinion had made
him, he became viler and more degraded from the kinds of occupation left
open to him.”
The theory of Mr. Rice really divides itself into two parts. For,
according to him, the origin of untouchability is to be found in two
circumstances—Race and Occupation. Obviously, they require sepa-
rate consideration. This Chapter will be devoted to an exaimination
of his theory of racial difference as the origin of untouchability.
The racial theory of Mr. Rice contains two elements :–
(1) That the Untouchables are non-Aryan, non-Dravidian
aboriginals; and
(2) That they were conquered and subjugated by the Dravidians.
This theory raises the whole question of the invasions of India by
foreign invaders, the conquests made by them and the social and
cultural institutions that have resulted therefrom. According to
Mr. Rice, there have been two invasions of India. First is the invasion
of India by the Dravidians. They conquered the non-Dravidian
aborigines, the ancestors of the Untouchables, and made them
Untouchables. The second invasion is the invasion of India by the
Aryans. The Aryans conquered the Dravidians. He does not say how
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the conquering Aryans treated the conquered Dravidians. If pressed
for an answer he might say they made them Shudras. So that we
get a chain. The Dravidians invaded India and conquered the
aborigines and made them Untouchables. After Dravidians came the
Aryans. The Aryans conquered the Dravidians and made them
Shudras. The theory is too mechanical, a mere speculation and too
simple to explain a complicated set of facts relating to the origin of
the Shudras and the Untouchables.
When students of ancient Indian history delve into the ancient past
they do often come across four names, the Aryans, Dravidians, Dasas
and Nagas. What do these names indicate? This question has never
been considered. Are these names Aryans, Dravidians, Dasas and
Nagas the names of different races or are they merely different names
for a people of the same race? The general assumption is that they
are different races. It is an assumption on which theories like that
of Mr. Rice, which seek to explain the social structure of the Hindu
Society, particularly its class basis, are built. Before such a theory
is accepted it is necessary to examine its foundations.
Starting with the Aryans it is beyond dispute that they were not
a single homogeneous people. That they were divided into two1
sections is beyond dispute. It is also beyond dispute that the two
had different cultures. One of them may be called Rig Vedic Aryans
and the other the Atharva Vedic Aryans. Their cultural cleavage
appears to be complete. The Rig Vedic Aryans believed in Yajna. The
Atharva Vedic Aryans believed the Magis. Their mythologies were
different. The Rig Vedic Aryans believed in the Deluge and the
creation of their race from Manu. The Atharva Vedic Aryans did not
believe in Deluge but believed in the creation of their race from
Brahma or Prajapati. Their literary developments also lay along
different paths. The Rig Vedic Aryans produced Brahmanas, Sutras
and Aranyakas. The Atharva Vedic Aryans produced the Upanishads.
Their cultural conflict was so great that the Rig Vedic Aryans would
not for a long time admit the sanctity of the Atharva Veda nor of
the Upanishads and when they did recognize it they called it Vedanta
which contrary to the current meaning of the word—namely, essence
of the Vedas—originally meant something outside the boundary of
the Vedas and, therefore, not so sacred as the Vedas and regarded its
study as Anuloma. Whether these two sections of Aryans were two

1. For an exhaustive treatment of the subject see my book “Who Were the
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different races we do not know. We do not know whether the word
Aryan is a term indicative of race. Historians have therefore made
a mistake in proceeding on the assumption that the Aryans were a
separate race.
A greater mistake lies in differentiating the Dasas from the Nagas.
The Dasas are the same as Nagas. Dasas is merely another name
for Nagas. It is not difficult to understand how the Nagas came to
be called Dasas in the Vedic literature. Dasa is a Sanskritized form
of the Indo-Iranian word Dahaka. Dahaka was the name of the king
of the Nagas.1 Consequently, the Aryans called the Nagas after the
name of their king Dahaka, which in its Sanskrit form became Dasa
a generic name applied to all the Nagas.
Who were the Nagas? Undoubtedly they were non-Aryans. A careful
study of the Vedic literature2 reveals a spirit of conflict, of a dualism,
and a race for superiority between two distinct types of culture and
thought. In the Rig Veda, we are first introduced to the Snake-god
in the form of Ahi Vitra, the enemy of the Aryan god Indra. Naga,
the name under which the Snake-god was to become so famous in
later days, does not appear in early Vedic literature. Even when it
does for the first time in the Satapatha Brahmana (XI.2,7,12), it is
not clear whether a great snake or a great elephant is meant. But
this does not conceal the nature of Ahi Vitra, since he is described
always in Rig Veda as the serpent who lay around or hidden in
waters, and as holding a full control over the waters of heaven and
earth alike.
It is also evident from the hymns that refer to Ahi Vitra, that he
received no worship from the Aryan tribes and was only regarded
as an evil spirit of considerable power who must be fought down.
The mention of the Nagas in the Rig Veda shows that the Nagas
were a very ancient people. It must also be remembered that the
Nagas were in no way an aboriginal or uncivilized people. History
shows a very close association by intermarriage between the Naga
people with the Royal families of India. The Devagiri record of the
Kadamba king Krisnavarma3 connects the beginning of the Kadamba-
kula with the Nagas. The Royakota4 grant of 9th Century A.D.

1. On this point see my Volume : “Who Were the Shudras?”
2. For the facts stated in the next few pages, see a Paper on the Nagas and the
Naga cult in Ancient Indian History by Miss Karunakara Gupta in the Proceedings
of the Third Session of the Indian History Congress (1939), p. 214 onwards.
3. I. A. VII. p. 34
4. E.L XV. p. 246
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mentions the marriage of Asvathama with a Nagi and the foundation
of the Pallava line by Skandasishya, the issue of this marriage.
Virakurcha, who according to another Pallava inscription dated in
the 9th century A.D. was the ruler of the dynasty, is also mentioned
in the same inscription as having married a Nagi and obtained from
her the insignia of royalty.’1 The marriage of Gautamiputra, the son
of the Vakataka king Pravarasena, with the daughter of the Bharasiva
king Bhava Naga, is a historical fact. So is the marriage of
Chandragupta II with princess Kuvera Naga ‘of Naga Kula’.2 A Tamil
poet asserts that Kokkilli, an early Chola king, had married a Naga
princess.3 Rajendra Chola is also credited to have won ‘by his radiant
beauty the hand of the noble daughter of Naga race.’4 The
Navasahasanka Charita describes the marriage of the Paramara king
Sindhuraja (who seems to have reigned towards the early part of the
10th Century A. D.) with the Naga princess Sasiprabha, with such
exhaustive details in so matter-of-fact-a-manner as to make us almost
feel certain that there must have been some historical basis for this
assertion.5 From the Harsha inscription of V.S. 1030-973 A.D. we
know that Guvaka I, who was the sixth king in the genealogy upwards
from Vigraharaja Chahamana and thus might be supposed to have
been ruling towards the middle of the 9th Century was “famous as
a hero in the assemblies of the Nagas and other princes.” 6 Sanatikara
of the Bhaumn dynasty of Orissa, one of whose dates was most
probably 921 A.D., is mentioned in an inscription of his son as having
married Tribhuana Mahadevi of the Naga family.7
Not only did the Naga people occupy a high cultural level but
history shows that they ruled a good part of India. That Maharashtra
is the home of the Nagas goes without saying. Its people and its kings
were Nagas.8
That Andhradesa and its neighbourhood were under the Nagas during
the early centuries of the Christian era is suggested by evidence from
more sources than one. The Satavahanas, and their successors, the
Chutu Kula Satakarnis drew their blood more or less from the
Naga stock. As Dr. H.C. Roy Chaudhari has pointed out, the

1. S.I. I.II. p. 508
2. E.L XV.p.41
3. EL XV. p. 249
4. I.A. XXII. pp. 144-149
5. E.I.I. p. 229.
6. E.I.I. p. 117
7. J. B. O. R. S. XVI. p.771
8. Rajwade.
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Dvatrima Satpukalitta represents Salivahana, the mythological rep-
resentative of the Satavahana dynasty, as of mixed Brahmana and
the Naga origin.1 This is amply attested to by the typical Naga names
which occur in their dynastic lists. That the Naga grew to be very
powerful towards the end of the Satavahana rule is also proved by
a number of facts. A chief called Skandanaga is found ruling the
Bellary district, in the reign of Pulumavi, the last king of the main
Satavahana line. Secondly, Naga Mulanika the daughter of a Chutu
king, is mentioned as making a gift of a Naga, together with her
son, who is called Sivakanda-Naga-Sri. All the known kings of this
line bear the same name and thus prove a close association with the
Nagas. Thirdly, the name of Uragapura, the capital of Soringoi,
suggests not an isolated reign of one Naga king but a Naga Settlement
in that locality of tolerably long duration.
From Buddhist tradition of Ceylon and Siam we also know that
there was a Naga country called Majerika near the Diamond Sands,
i.e. Karachi.2
Then during the third and early part of the 4th Century A.D.
Northern India also was ruled by a number of Naga kings is clearly
proved by Puranic as well as numismaric and epigraphic evidence.
Three independent groups of Vidisa, Campavati or Padmavati and
Mathura are distinctly mentioned in such a way as to leave little
doubt of their importance. The name Bhava Naga, the only known
king of the Bharasiva dynasty, also seems to connect him with the
Nagas. It is not possible to enter here into a discussion of the coins
of the second group, or the question of indentification of Achyuta
Ganapati Naga or Nagasena of Allahabad Pillar inscription with these
Puranic Naga kings.3 Of all the Nagas referred to in ancient Indian
History, the North Indian Naga houses 4 of the 4th century A.D. stand
out as the most prominent and historically the most tangible. We
do not know whether Nagabhatta and his son Maharaja Mohesvara
Naga of the Lahore Copper Seal5 belonged to any of these three groups
or formed a separate Naga family by themselves. But all this sufficiently
justifies the conclusion of Dr. C. C. Roy Chaudhari that the Kushana
kingdom of Northern India disappeared in the 4th Century A.D.
having been conquered by the Nagas. These Nagas must have been
1. I. P. H. A. I, p. 280
2. Cunningham A. Geo. India, pp. 611-12
3. G. M. I. pp. 23-24
4. P. H. A. I. p. 364
4. G. I. p. 284
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ruling over different portions of Uttarapatha till they were themselves
swept away before the conquering arms of Samudragupta.
As late as the time of Skandagupta, however we find one Sarvanaga
as the governor of Antarvedi1 In the neighbourhood of Saurashtra
and Bharukaccha especially, the Nagas seem to have held a promi-
nent position down to the 6th Century A.D. From the Junagadh
inscription Skandagupta appears to have dealt severely with a Naga
rebellion.2 In 570 A. D. Dadda I Gurjara uprooted the Nagas.3 who
have been identified with the jungle tribes ruled over by Brihul laka
of Broach.4 Dhruvasena II’s grant of G.S. 334 (645 A.D.) also mentions
as Dutaka the Pramatri Srinaga.5
The next important revival of the Nagas particularly in Central
India seems to date about the 9th Century A.D. In 800 A.D. Maharaja
Tivaradeva of Sripura in Kosala most probably defeated a Naga tribe.6
Sometime after this period, we also note two references to Nagas in
the inscription of Bengal. The Ramganj record of Mahamandalika
Isvara Ghosha introduces us to a Ghosha Naga family of Dhekkari,
which was to be assigned to 11th century7 A.D. The Bhuvanesvara
Prasasti of Bhatta Bhavadeva, the minister of Harivarmadeva in 12th
century8 A.D. also refers to destruction of Naga kings by him. The
Ramacharita mentions the conquest of Utkala, the kingdom of Bhava-
Bhushana-Santati, by Ramapala, but it is not clear whether in this
case the Nagas or the Chandras were meant. The greater probability
would however lie in favour of the former, since they were the more
well known.
It was in the period 10th-12th Century A.D. that the different
branches of the Sendraka, Sinda, or Chindaka family, which called
themselves lords of Bhogavati and Nagavamsi gradually spread
themselves over different portions of Central India, particularly
Baster. The Nagattaras of Begur, too, appear in an inscription of the
10th Century 9 A.D. as having fought against king Viramahendra,
on behalf of the W. Ganga king Ereyappa and being distinguished
for bravery in the fight. If the evidence of Navashasanka Charita is

1. G. I. p. 68
2. G.I. p. 59
3. I. A. XIII pp. 82
4. B.Gaz. I.i.115
5. ELI. p. 92
6. G.I. p. 298
7. Bhandarkar’s List No. 2100
8. Inscription of Bengal III pp. 30 ff.
9. E.I.VI p.45
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accepted, then the Naga king, whose daughter Sasiprabha was
married to Sindhuraja Paramara, must also have been ruling in
Ratnavati on the Narmada at about this period.
Who are the Dravidians? Are they different from the Nagas? Or
are they two different names for a people of the same race? The
popular view is that the Dravidians and Nagas are names of two
different races. This statement is bound to shock many people.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that the term Dravidians and Nagas are
merely two different names for the same people.
It is not to be denied that very few will be prepared to admit the
proposition that the Dravidians and Nagas are merely two different
names for the same people and fewer that the Dravidians as Nagas
occupied not merely South India but that they occupied the whole
of India— South as well as North. Nonetheless, these are historical
Let us see what the authorities have to say on the subject. This
is what Mr. Dikshitiar, a well-known South Indian scholar, has to
say on the subject in his 1 Paper on South India in the Ramayana:
“The Nagas, another tribe-semi-divine in character, with their totems as
serpent, spread throughout India, from Taksasila in the North-West to Assam
in the North-East and to Ceylon and South India in the South. At one time
they must have been powerful. Contemporaneous with the Yakwas or perhaps
subsequent to their fall as a political entity, the Nagas rose to prominence
in South India. Not only parts of Ceylon but ancient Malabar were the
territories occupied by the ancient Nagas ......... In the Tamil classics of the
early centuries after Christ, we hear frequent references to Naganadu.........
Remnants of Naga worship are still lingering in Malabar, and the temple
in Nagercoil in South Travancore is dedicated to Naga worship even today.
All that can be said about them is that they were a sea-faring tribe. Their
womenfolk were renowned for their beauty. Apparently the Nagas had become
merged with the Cheras who rose to power and prominence at the commence-
ment of the Christian Era.”
Further light is thrown on the subject by C. F. Oldham who has
made a deep study of it. According to Mr. Oldham:2
“The Dravidian people have been divided, from ancient times, into Cheras,
Cholas and Pandyas. Chera, or Sera (in old Tamil Sarai) is the Dravidian
equivalent for Naga; Cheramandala, Nagadwipa, or the Naga country. This
seems to point distinctly to the Asura origin of the Dravidians of the South.
But in addition to this there still exists, widely spread over the Ganges valley,
a people who call themselves Cherus or Seoris, and who claim descent from
the serpentgods.3 The Cherus are of very ancient race; they are believed to have

1. Proceedings of the Seventh All-India Oriental Conference, pp. 248-49.
2. The Sun and the Serpent, pp. 157-161.
3. Elliot Sup. Glossary N. W. F.. 135. 136.
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once held a great portion of the valley of the Ganges, which, as we have
already seen, was occupied in very early times by Naga tribes. The Cherus
appear to have been gradually ousted from their lands, during the troublous
times of the Mohammedan invasions, and they are now poor and almost
landless. There can be little doubt that these people are kinsmen of the
Dravidian Cheras.
The Cherus have several peculiar customs and amongst them one which seems
to connect them with the Lichhavis, as well as with the Newars of Nepal. This is
the election of a raja for every five or six houses, and his investiture, in due form,
with the tilak or royal frontal mark.1 Both Lichavis and Newars had many customs
in common with the Dravidians of the South. Each venerated the serpent,
Karkotaka Naga being to Nepal what Nila Naga was to Kashmir. A Naga, too, was
the tutelary deity of Vaisali, the Lichavi capital. The marital relations of Newars
and Lichavis closely resembled those of the Tamil people, and go far to show a
common origin.
Property amongst the Newars descended in the female line, as it once did
amongst the Arattas, Bahikas or Takhas of the Punjab, whose sisters’ sons,
and not their own, were their heirs.2 This is still a Dravidian custom. In
short, a recent Dravidian writer, Mr. Balakrishna Nair, says that his people
‘appear to be, in nearly every particular, the kinsfolk of the Newars.’3
Besides all this, however, there are other links connecting the Naga people
of the South with those of the north of India. In an inscription discovered
by Colonel Tod at Kanswah near the river Chambal, a Raja, called Salindra,
‘of the race of Sarya, a tribe renowned amongst the tribes of the mighty’
is said to be ruler of Takhya.4
This was evidently the Takhya or Takha kingdom of the Punjab, which was
visited by Hiou-en-Tsiang,5 and which has been already referred to. It seems,
therefore, that the Naga people of Takhya were known also by the name of Sarya.
Again, in the outer Himalaya, between the Sutlej and Beas Valleys, is
a tract of country called Sara, or Scoraj. In this district the Naga demigods
are the chief deities worshipped.
There is another Seoraj in the Upper Chinab Valley, and this too is occupied
by a Naga worshiping people.
The name Saraj, or Seoraj, appears to be the same as the Sarya of Colonel Tod’s
inscription and as Seori, which is the alternative name of the Cherus of the Ganges
Valley. It also seems to be identical with Sarai, which we have already seen, is the
old Tamil name for the Chera or Naga. Apparently, therefore, the Saryas or
Takhya, the Saraj people of the Sutlej Valley, the Seoris or Cherus of the valley
of the Ganges, and the Cheras, Seras, or Keralas of Southern India, are but
different branches of the same Naga-worshipping people.
It may be noted, too, that in some of the Himalayan dialects, Kira or Kiri
means a serpent. This name, from which was perhaps derived the term Kirate

1. Sherring Races of N.W.P., 376,377
2. Mahabharata, Karna, p. xiv
3. Calcutta Review, July, 1896
4. Annals of Rajasthan, i. 795
5. Hiouen Tsiang, Beal, i. 165
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so often applied to the people of the Himalayas, is found in the Rajatarangini,
where it is applied to a people in or near Kashmir. The Kiras are mentioned
by Varaha Mihira, and in a copper plate published by Prof. Kielhorn.1
An inscription at the Baijnath temple in the Kangra valley gives Kiragrams
as the then name of the place.2 This, in the local dialect, would mean the
village of serpents. The Naga is still a popular deity at Baijnath, and
throughout the neighbouring country. The term Kira is thus an equivalent
for Naga, and it can scarcely be doubted that the serpent-worshipping Kiras
of the Himalayas were closely related to the Dravidian Keras, Cheras or
Keralas of the South.
Similarity of name is not always to be trusted, but here we have something
more. These people, whose designation is thus apparently the same, are all
of Solar race; they all venerate the hooded serpent; and they all worship,
as ancestors, the Naga demi-gods.
From the foregoing it would seem tolerably certain that the Dravidians
of Southern India were of the same stock as the Nagas or Asuras of the
It is thus clear that the Nagas and Dravidians are one and the
same people. Even with this much of proof, people may not be found
ready to accept the thesis. The chief difficulty in the way of accepting
it lies in the designation of the people of South India by the name
Dravidian. It is natural for them to ask why the term Dravidian has
come to be restricted to the people of South India if they are really
Nagas. Critics are bound to ask : If the Dravidians and the Nagas
are the same people, why is the name Nagas not used to designate
people of South India also. This is no doubt a puzzle. But it is a
puzzle which is not beyond solution. It can be solved if certain facts
are borne in mind.
The first thing to be borne in mind is the situation regarding
language. Today the language of the Southern India differs from that
of the people of Northern India. Was this always so? On this question
the observations of Mr. Oldham3 are worth attention.
“It is evident that the old Sanskrit grammarians considered the language
of the Dravidian countries to be connected with the vernaculars of northern
India; and that, in their opinion, it was especially related to the speech of
those people who, as we have seen, were apparently descendants of the Asura
tribes. Thus, in the ‘Shahasha Chandrika’, Lakshmidhara says that the
Paisachi language is spoken in the Paisachi countries of Pandya, Kekaya,
Vahlika, Sahya, Nepala, Kuntala, Sudesha, Bhota, Gandhara, Haiva and
Kanoj; and that these are the Paisachi countries.4 Of all the vernacular
dialects, the paisachi is said to have contained the smallest infusion of
1. Rajatarangini, Stein, viii. 27, 67, Rapson J. R. A. S., July 1900, 533
2. J. R. A. S., Jan., 1903, p. 37
3. The Sun and the Serpent.
3. and 5. Muir O.S.T. ii.49
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That the Asuras originally spoke a language which differred from that of
the Aryas seems evident. Several passages are quoted by Prof. Muir, from
the Rig Veda, in which the word ‘mridavach’ is applied to the speech of the
Asuras (R.vi.74, 2; v. vi.3; v.vii.6). Of these passages, Professor Muir observes:
“The word mridavach, which I have translated “injuriously speaking”, is
explained by Sayana as meaning “one whose organs of speech are destroyed”.1
The original meaning of the expression was, doubtless that the language of
the Asuras was more or less unintelligible to the Aryas. The same explanation
will apply to another passage in the Rig Veda, where it is said : ‘May we
(by propitiating Indra) conquer the ill speaking man.’2
From the Satapatha Brahmana we find that ‘the Asuras, being deprived
of speech, were undone, crying. ‘He lava’, ‘He lava’. Such was the unintelligible
speech which they uttered. And he who speaks thus is a Mlecha. Hence, let
no Brahman speak barbarous language, since such is the speech of Asuras3
We learn from Manu, that ‘those tribes who are outside of the classes
produced from the mouth, arms, thighs and feet of Brahman, whether they
speak the language of the Mlechas or of the Aryas, are called Dasyus.,4 In
the time of Manu, therefore, the Aryan language and that of the Mlechas
or Asuras were both in use. At the period described in the Mahabharata,
however, the Asura language must have almost died out amongst the
Aryanized tribes; as Vidura addressed Yudhishthira in the Mlecha tongue,
so as to be unintelligible to all except Yudhishthira.5
At a later period than this, however, the grammarian Rama Tarkavagisa
refers to ‘those who speak like Nagas.’6 It would seem, therefore, that the
unregenerate Asuras retained the language, as well as the religion and
customs, of their forefathers long after their converted brethren had discarded
them. It was evidently amongst these unregenerate tribes that the Paisachi
dialects were in use; and amongst these tribes, as we have just seen, were
the Dravidian Pandyas.7
This view, that the Tamil and cognate tongues were founded upon the
ancient Asura speech, is very strongly confirmed by the fact that the language
of the Brahuis, a tribe on the borders of Sind, has been found to be very
closely allied to them. Indeed, Dr. Caldwell says: ‘The Brahui (language)
enables us to trace the Dravidian race, beyond the Indus, to the southern
confines of Central Asia. This country, as I have already pointed out, was
the home of the Asuras or Nagas, to which race apparently belonged the
founders of the Dravidian kingdoms.’
Taking into consideration all the evidence which has been brought forward,
the only possible conclusion seems to be, that the Dravidians, of the south
of India, were of the same stock as the Asuras or Nagas of the North.”
The second thing to be borne in mind is that the word ‘Dravida’ is
not an original word. It is the Sanskritized form of the word Tamil’.

1. Muir, O.S.T. ii. 49
2. Rig Veda, Wilson VII, XVIII, 13
3. Satapatha Br. iii. 2, 1, 23
4. Muir, Haughton x. 45
5. Mahabharata, Adi. Jatagriha, p. cx/vii
6. Muir, O.S.T. ii. 52
7. Ibid. 49
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The original word ‘Tamil’ when imported into Sanskrit became
Damita1 and later on Damilla became Dravida. The word Dravida
is the name of the language of the people and does not denote the
race of the people. The third thing to remember is that Tamil or
Dravida was not merely the language of South India but before the
Aryans came it was the language of the whole of India,2 and was
spoken from Kashmere to Cape Camorin. In fact, it was the language
of the Nagas throughout India. The next thing to note is the contact
between the Aryan and the Nagas and the effect it produced on the
Nagas and their language. Strange as it may appear the effect of
this contact on the Nagas of North India was quite different from
the effect it produced on the Nagas of South India. The Nagas in
North India gave up Tamil which was their mother tongue and
adopted Sanskrit in its place. The Nagas in South India retained
Tamil as their mother tongue and did not adopt Sanskrit the language
of the Aryans. If this difference is borne in mind it will help to explain
why the name Dravida came to be applied only for the people of South
India. The necessity for the application of the name Dravida to the
Nagas of Northern India had ceased because they had ceased to speak
the Dravida language. But so far as the Nagas of South India are
concerned not only the propriety of calling them Dravida had
remained in view of their adherence to the Dravida language but the
necessity of calling them Dravida had become very urgent in view
of their being the only people speaking the Dravida language after
the Nagas of the North had ceased to use it. This is the real reason
why the people of South India have come to be called Dravidians.
The special application of the use of the word Dravida for the people
of South India must not, therefore, obscure the fact that the Nagas
and Dravidas are the one and the same people. They are only two
different names for the same people. Nagas was a racial or cultural
name and Dravida was their linguistic name.
Thus the Dasas are the same as the Nagas and the Nagas are
the same as the Dravidians. In other words what we can say about
the races of India is that there have been at the most only two races
in the field, the Aryans and the Nagas. Obviously the theory of
Mr. Rice must fall to the ground. For it postulates three races in
action when as a matter of fact we see that there are only two.

1. B. R. Bhandarkar, Lectures on the Ancient History of India (1919), p: 80 .
2. Ibid pp., 25-28
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Granting however that there was a third aboriginal race living in
India before the advent of the Dravidians, can it be said that these
pre-Dravidian aboriginals were the ancestors of the present day
Untouchables of India? There are two tests we can apply to find the
truth. One is the anthropometric test and the other is the ethnological.
Considered in the light of the anthropometric characteristics of the
Indian people Prof. Ghurye has something very striking to say in his
volume on ‘Caste and Race in India’ from which the following is an
extract :
“Taking the Brahmin of the United Provinces as the typical representative
of the ancient Aryans we shall start comparisons with him. If we turn to
the table of differential indices we find that he shows a smaller differential
index as compared with the Chuhra and the Khatri of the Punjab than with
any caste from the United Provinces except the Chhatri. The differential index
between the Khatri and the Chuhra1 is the only slightly less than that between
the Brahmin of the United Provinces and the Chuhra of the Punjab. This
means that the Brahmin of the United Provinces has closer physical affinities
with the Chuhra and the Khatri of the Punjab than with any caste from
his own province except the very high caste of the Chhatri...... The reality
of this close affinity between the United Provinces Brahmin and the Punjab
Chuhra is more clearly brought out if we look at the table of differential
indices between the United Provinces Brahmin and the Brahmins of other
regions. Even the differential index between the United Provinces Brahmin
and the Bihar Brahmins, who from what we know about the history of spread
of the Aryan culture, is expected to be very nearly allied to the former, is
just as high as that between the United Provinces Brahmin and the
Chuhra...... On historical ground we expect Bihar to approximate to the United
Provinces. On referring to the table we find that the Kurmi comes near to
the Brahmin, and the Chamar and the Dom2 stand much differentiated from
him. But the Chamar in this case is not as much distinct from the Brahmin
as the United Provinces Chamar is from the United Provinces Brahmin. The
table for Bengal shows that the Chandal3 who stands sixth in the scheme
of a social precedence and whose touch pollutes, is not much differentiated
from the Brahmin, from whom the Kayasthas, second in rank, can hardly
be said to be distinguished. In Bombay the Deshastha Brahmin bears as closer
affinity to the Son-Koli, a fisherman caste, as to his own compeer, the
Chitpavan Brahmin. The Mahar, the Untouchable of the Maratha region, come
next together with the Kunbi, the peasant. Then follow in order the Shenvi
Brahmin, the Nagar Brahmin and the high caste Maratha. These results are
rather old. Stated in a generalized form they mean that there is no
correspondence between social gradation and physical differentiation in

1. Chuhra is an Untouchable of the Punjab.
2. Dom is an Untouchable of Bihar.
3. Chandal is an Untouchable of Bengal.
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Finally we come to Madras. Here we must treat the different linguistic areas
separately for the schemes of social precedence in the various areas are different.
According to the average given by Risely and by E. Thurston the order of castes
is as follows:
Kapu, Sale, Malla, Golla, Madiga, Fogata and Komati.
According to their social status they are ranked as below:
Brahmin, Komati, Golla, Kapu and others and Sale, Fagota and others. Mala
Madiga occupy the lowest rank being the Pariahs of the Telugu country.
In the Canarese the nasal index gives the following order :
Karnatak Smarts, Brahmin, Bant, Billiva, Mandya Brahmin, Vakkaliga,
Ganiga, Linga Banajiga, Panchala, Kurha, Holeya, Deshastha Brahmin, Toreya
and Bedar.
In the scheme of social precedence the castes are as under:
Brahmin, Bant and Vakkaliga, Toreya, etc., Kuruba and Ganiga, Badaga and
Krumba and Solaga, Billiva, Beda Holeya.
The significance of the comparison is enhanced when we remember that the
nasal index of the Holeya, the Untouchables of the Canarese region is 75.1 that
of the highest of the Brahmin being 71.5 while those of the jungle Krumba and
the Solaga, who when Hinduised occupy the rank allotted to them in the list,
arc 86.1 and 85.1 respectively.
The Tamil castes may be arranged according to their nasal index as follows:
Ambattan, Vellai, Ediayan, Agamudaiyan, Tamil Brahmin, Palli, Malaiyali,
Shanan and Parayan. The Nasal indices of four typical Malayalam castes are:
Tiyan, 75; Nambudri 75.5; Nayar 76.7; Charuman 77.2. The order of social
precedence among these is: Nambudri, Nayar, Tiyan and Charuman. The nasal
index of the Kanikar, a jungle tribe of Tranvancore is 8.46. Thus, the Charuman
(an Unapproachable) belonging to the same race as the Brahmin rather than
to Kanikar.”
To omit from the above extract what is said about other commu-
nities and to draw attention to what relates to the Untouchables only,
it is clear that the nasal index of the Chuhra (the Untouchables) of
the Punjab is the same as the nasal index of the Brahmin of the
United Provinces; the nasal index of the Chamar (the Untouchables)
of Bihar is not very much distinct from the Brahmin of Bihar; the
nasal index of the Holeya (an Untouchable) of the Canarese is far
higher than that of the Brahmin of Karnatak and that the nasal index
of the Cheruman (an Unapproachable lower than the Pariah) of the
Tamil belongs to the same race as the Brahmin of the Tamil Nad.
If anthropometry is a science which can be depended upon to
determine the race of a people, then the result obtained by the
application of anthropometry to the various strata of Hindu
society disprove that the Untouchables belong to a race different
from the Aryans and the Dravidians. The measurements establish
that the Brahmin and the Untouchables belong to the same race.
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From this it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans the
Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians the
Untouchables are also Dravidians. If the Brahmins are Nagas, the
Untouchables are also Nagas. Such being the facts, the theory
propounded by Mr. Rice must be said to be based on a false


The racial theory of Untouchability not only runs counter to the
results of anthropometry, but it also finds very little support from
such facts as we know about the ethnology of India. That the people
of India were once organized on tribal basis is quite well known, and
although the tribes have become castes the tribal organization still
remains intact. Each tribe was divided into clans and the clans were
composed of groups of families. Each group of families had a totem
which was some object, animate or inanimate. Those who had a
common totem formed an exogamous group popularly known as Gotra
or Kula. Families having a common gotra were not allowed to
intermarry for they were supposed to be descended from the same
ancestor having the same blood running in their veins. Having regard
to this fact an examination of the distribution of the totems among
the different castes and communities should serve as good a test for
determining race as anthropometry has been.
Unfortunately, the study of the totems and their distribution among
different communities has been completely neglected by students of
sociology. This neglect is largely due to the current view propagated
by the Census Commissioners that real unit of the Hindu social
system and the basis of the fabric of Hindu society is the sub-caste
founded on the rule of endogamy. Nothing can be a greater mistake
than this. The unit of Hindu society is not the sub-caste but the family
founded on the rule of exogamy. In this sense the Hindu family is
fundamentally a tribal organization and not a social organization as
the sub-caste is. The Hindu family is primarily guided in the matter
of marriage by consideration of Kul and Gotra and only secondarily
by considerations of caste and sub-caste. Kul and Gotra are Hindu
equivalents of the totem of the Primitive Society. This shows that
the Hindu society is still tribal in its organization with the family at
its base observing the rules of exogamy based on Kul and Gotra. Castes
and sub-castes are social organizations which are superimposed over
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the tribal organization and the rule of endogamy enjoined by them
does not do away with the rule of exogamy enjoined by the tribal
organizations of Kul and Gotra.
The importance of recognizing the fact that it is the family which
is fundamental and not the sub-caste is obvious. It would lead to
the study of the names of Kul and Gotra prevalent among Hindu
families. Such a study would be a great help in determining the racial
composition of the people of India. If the same Kul and Gotra were
found to exist in different castes and communities it would be possible
to say that the castes though socially different were racially one. Two
such studies have been made, one in Maharashtra by Risley1 and
another in the Punjab,2 by Mr. Rose and the result flatly contradict
the theory that the Untouchables are racially different from the
Aryans or the Dravidians. The main bulk of the population in
Maharashtra consists of Marathas. The Mahars are the Untouchables
of Maharashtra. The anthropological investigation shows that both
have the same Kul. Indeed the identity is so great that there is hardly
a Kul among the Marathas which is not to be found among the Mahars
and there is no Kul among the Mahars which is not to be found among
the Marathas. Similarly, in the Punjab one main stock of people
consists of Jats. The Mazabi Sikhs are Untouchables most of them
being Chamars by caste. Anthropological investigation shows that the
two have the same Gotras. Given these facts how can it be argued
that the Untouchables belong to a different race? As I have said if
totem, kul, and gotra, have any significance it means that those who
have the same totem must have been kindred. If they were kindred
they could not be persons of different race.
The racial theory of the origin of Untouchability must, therefore,
be abondoned.

1. Census of India 1901. Ethnographical Appendices.
2. Glossary of Tribes and Castes in the Punjab by Rose, Vol., III, p. 76.
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WE may now turn to the occupational theory of the origin of
Untouchability. According to Mr. Rice, the origin of Untouchability
is to be found in the unclean and filthy occupations of the Untouch-
ables. The theory is a very plausible one. But there are certain
difficulties in the way of its being accepted as a true explanation
of the origin of Untouchability. The filthy and unclean occupations
which the Untouchables perform are common to all human societies.
In every human Society there are people who perform these occu-
pations. Why were such people not treated as Untouchables in other
parts of the world? The second question is : Did the Dravidians have
a nausea against such callings or against persons engaged in them?
On this point, there is no evidence. But we have evidence about the
Aryans. That evidence shows that the Aryans were like other people
and their notions of purity and impurity did not fundamentally differ
from those of other ancient people. One has only to consider the
following texts from Narada Smriti to show that the Aryans did not
at all mind engaging themselves in filthy occupations. In Chapter
V Narada is dealing with the subject matter of breach of contract
of service. In this Chapter, there occur the following verses :
1. The sages have distinguished five sorts of attendants according
to law. Among these are four sorts of labourers; the slaves
(are the fifth category of which there are) fifteen species.
2. A student, an apprentice, a hired servant, and fourthly an
3. The sages have declared that the state of dependence is
common to all these but their respective position and income
depends on their particular caste and occupations.
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4. Know that there are two sorts of occupations; pure work and
impure work; impure work is that done by the slaves. Pure work
is that done by labourers.
5. Sweeping the gateway, the privy, the road and the place for
rubbish; shampooing the secret parts of the body; gathering and
putting away the leaving of food, ordure and urine.
6. And lastly, rubbing the master’s limbs when desired; this should
be regarded as impure work. All other work besides this is pure.
25. Thus have the four classses of servants doing pure work been
enumerated. All the others who do dirty work are slaves, of whom
there are fifteen kinds:1
It is clear that impure work was done by the slaves and that the
impure work included scavenging. The question that arises is: Who were
these slaves? Were they Aryans or non-Aryans? That slavery existed
among the Aryans admits of no doubt. An Aryan could be a slave of
an Aryan. No matter to what Varna an Aryan belonged he could be
a slave. A Kshatriya could be a slave. So could a Vaishya. Even a
Brahmin was not immune from the law of slavery. It is when
Chaturvarna came to be recognized as a law of the land that a change
was made in the system of slavery. What this change was can be seen
from the following extract from the Narada Smriti :
“39. In the inverse order of the (four) castes slavery is not ordained, except
where a man violated the duties peculiar to his caste. Slavery (in that respect)
is analogous to the condition of a wife”.
Yajnavalkya also says that :
“183(2) Slavery is in the descending order of the Varnas and not in the
ascending order”
This is explained by Vijnaneswara in his Mitakshara, a Commentary
on Yajnavalkya Smriti in the following terms:-
“Of the Varna such as the Brahmin and the rest, a state of slavery shall
exist in the descending order (Anulomcyna). Thus, of a Brahmin, a Kshatriya,
and the rest may become a slave; of a Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudra;
and of a Vaishya, a Shudra; this state of slavery shall operate in the descending

1 The fifteen classes of slaves are defined by the Narada Smriti in the following
verses ;
V. 26. One born at (his master’s) house; one purchased; one received (by
gift); one obtained by inheritance; one maintained during a general
famine; one pledged by his rightful owner.
V. 27. One released from heavy debt; one made captive in fight; one won
through a wager; one who has come forward declaring ‘I am thine.’
An apostate from asceticism; one enslaved for a stipulated period.
V. 28. One who has become slave in order to get a maintenance; one enslaved
on account of his connection with a female slave; and one self-sold.
These are 15 classes of slaves as declared by law.
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The change was a mere reorganization of slavery and the basis
of the principles of graded inequality which is the soul of Chaturvarna.
To put it in a concrete form, the new law declared that a Brahmin
could have a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and a Shudra as his slave.
A Kshatriya could have Kshatriya, a Vaishya and a Shudra as his
slave. A Vaishya could have a Vaishya and and a Shudra as his slave.
A Shudra could have a Shudra only. With all this, the law of slavery
remained and all Aryans whether they were Brahmins, Kshatriyas,
Vaishyas or Shudras if they become slaves were subject to it.
Having regard to the duties prescribed for the slaves, this change
in the law of slavery does not matter at all. It still means that a
Brahmin if he was a slave, a Kshatriya if he was a slave, a Vaishya
if he was a slave, did the work of a scavenger. Only a Brahmin would
not do scavenging in the house of a Kshatriya, Vaishya or a Shudra.
But he would do scavenging in the house of a Brahmin. Similarly,
a Kshatriya would do scavenging in the house of a Brahmin and the
Kshatriya. Only he would not do it in the house of a Vaishya or
Shudra and a Vaishya would do scavenging in the house of a Brahmin,
Kshatriya and Vaishya. Only he would not do it in the house of a
Shudra. It is, therefore, obvious that the Brahmins, Kshatriyas and
Vaishyas who are admittedly the Aryans did the work of scavengers
which is the filthiest of filthy occupations. If scavenging was not
loathsome to an Aryan how can it be said that engaging in filthy
occupations was the cause of Untouchability. The theory of filthy
occupation as an explanation of Untouchability is, therefore, not
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Chapter IX. Contempt for Buddhists as the Root of Untouchability.
Chapter X. Beef-eating as the Root of Untouchability.
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THE Census Reports for India published by the Census Commis-
sioner at the interval of every ten years from 1870 onwards contain
a wealth of information nowhere else to be found regarding the social
and religious life of the people of India. Before the Census of 1910
the Census Commissioner had a column called “Population by
Religion”. Under this heading the population was shown (1) Muslims,
(2) Hindus, (3) Christians, etc. The Census Report for the year 1910
marked a new departure from the prevailing practice. For the first
time it divided the Hindus under three separate categories,
(i) Hindus, (ii) Animists and Tribal, and (iii) the Depressed Classes
or Untouchables. This new classification has been continued ever


This departure from the practice of the previous Census Commis-
sioners raises three questions. First is what led the Commissioner
for the Census of 1910 to introduce this new classification. The second
is what was the criteria adopted as a basis for this classification.
The third is what are the reasons for the growth of certain practices
which justify the division of Hindus into three separate categories
mentioned above.
The answer to the first question will be found in the address
presented in 1909 by the Muslim Community under leadership of H.H.
The Aga Khan to the then Viceroy, Lord Minto, in which they asked
for a separate and adequate representation for the Muslim community
in the legislature, executive and the public services.
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In the address1 there occurs the following passage :-
“The Mohamedans of India number, according to the census taken in the
year 1901 over sixty-two millions or between one-fifth and one-fourth of the
total population of His Majesty’s Indian dominions, and if a reduction be made
for the uncivilised portions of the community enumerated under the heads of
animist and other minor religions, as well as for those classes who are
ordinarily classified as Hindus but properly speaking are not Hindus at all,
the proportion of Mohamedans to the Hindu Majority becomes much larger.2
We therefore desire to submit that under any system of representation
extended or limited a community in itself more numerous than the entire
population of any first class European power except Russia may justly lay
claim to adequate recognition as an important factor in the State.
“We venture, indeed, with Your Excellency’s permission to go a step further,
and urge that the position accorded to the Mohamedan community in any
kind of representation direct or indirect, and in all other ways effecting their
status and influence should be commensurate, not merely with their numerical
strength but also with their political importance and the value of the
contribution which they make to the defence of the empire, and we also hope
that Your Excellency will in this connection be pleased to give due consid-
eration to the position which they occupied in India a little more than hundred
years ago and of which the traditions have naturally not faded from their
The portion in italics has a special significance. It was introduced
in the address to suggest that in comprising the numerical strength
of the Muslims with that of the Hindus the population of the animists,
tribals and the Untouchables should be excluded. The reason for this
new classification of ‘Hindus’ adopted by the Census Commissioner in
1910 lies in this demand of the Muslim community for separate
representation on augmented scale. At any rate this is how the Hindus
understood this demand.3
Interesting as it is, the first question as to why the Census
Commissioner made this departure in the system of classification is of
less importance than the second question. What is important is to know
the basis adopted by the Census Commissioner for separating the
different classes of Hindus into (1) those who were hundred per cent
Hindus and (2) those who were not.
1 For the text of the address see my Pakistan p. 431
2 Italics not in the original.
3 This operation came soon after the address given by Muslim community to
Lord Minto in 1909 in which they asked for a separate and adequate representation
for the Muslim community. The Hindu smelt a rat in it. As the Census Commissioner
observed :—
“Incidentally, the enquiry generated a certain amount of heat, because unfortunately
it happened to be made at a time when the rival claims of Hindus and Mohammedans
to representation on the Legislative Councils were being debated and some of the
former feared that it would lead to the exclusion of certain classes from the category
of Hindus and would thus react unfavourably on their political importance”. Part
I. p. 116.
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The basis adopted by the Census Commissioner for separation is
to be found in the circular issued by the Census Commissioner in
which he laid down certain tests for the purpose1 of distinguishing
these two classes. Among those who were not hundred per cent
Hindus were included castes and tribes which :–
(1) Deny the supremacy of the Brahmins.
(2) Do not receive the Mantra from a Brahmin or other recognized
Hindu Guru.
(3) Deny the authority of the Vedas.
(4) Do not worship the Hindu gods.
(5) Are not served by good Brahmins as family priests.
(6) Have no Brahmin priests at all.
(7) Are denied access to the interior of the Hindu temples.
(8) Cause pollution (a) by touch, or (b) within a certain distance.
(9) Bury their dead.
(10) Eat beef and do no reverence to the cow.
Out of these ten tests some divide the Hindus from the Animists
and the Tribal. The rest divide the Hindus from the Untouchables.
Those that divide the Untouchables from the Hindus are (2), (5), (6),
(7), and (10). It is with them that we are chiefly concerned.
For the sake of clarity it is better to divide these tests into parts
and consider them separately. This Chapter will be devoted only to
the consideration of (2), (5), and (6).
The replies received by the Census Commissioner to questions
embodied in tests (2), (5) and (6) reveal (1) that the Untouchables
do not receive the Mantra from a Brahmin; (2) that the Untouchables
are not served by good Brahmin priests at all; and (3) that
Untouchables have their own priests reared from themselves. On
these facts the Census Commissioners of all Provinces are unani-
Of the three questions the third is the most important. Unfortu-
nately the Census Commissioner did not realize this. For in making
his inquiries he failed to go to the root of the matter to find out:
Why were the Untouchables not receiving the Mantra from the
Brahmin? Why Brahmins did not serve the Untouchables as their
family priests? Why do the Untouchables prefer to have their own
priests? It is the ‘why’ of these facts which is more important than the
existence of these facts. It is the ‘why’ of these facts which must be
1. See Census of India (1911). Pan 1. p. 117
2. See Census of 1911 for Assam p.40; for Bengal, Bihar and Orisa p. 282; for
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investigated. For the clue to the origin of Untouchability lies hidden
behind it.
Before entering upon this investigation, it must be pointed out that
the inquiries by the Census Commissioner were in a sense one-sided.
They showed that the Brahmins shunned the Untouchables. They did
not bring to light the fact that the Untouchables also shunned the
Brahmins. Nonetheless, it is a fact. People are so much accustomed
to thinking that the Brahmin is the superior of the Untouchables
and the Untouchable accepts himself as his inferior; that this
statement that the Untouchables look upon the Beahmin as an impure
person is sure to come to them as a matter of great surprise. The
fact has however been noted by many writers who have observed and
examined the social customs of the Untouchables. To remove any
doubt on the point, attention is drawn to the following extracts from
their writings.
The fact was noticed by Abbe Dubois who says1 :
“Even to this day a Pariah is not allowed to pass a Brahmin Street in
a village, though nobody can prevent, or prevents, his approaching or passing
by a Brahmin’s house in towns. The Pariahs, on their part will under no
circumstances, allow a Brahmin to pass through their paracherries (collection
of Pariah huts) as they firmly believe it will lead to their ruin”.
Mr. Hemingsway, the Editor of the Gazetteer of the Tanjore District
says :
“These castes (Parayan and Pallan or Chakkiliyan castes of Tanjore
District) strongly object to the entrance of a Brahmin into their quarters
believing that harm will result to them therefrom”.2
Speaking of the Holeyas of the Hasan District of Mysore, Captain
J.S.F. Mackenzie says:-
“Every village has its Holigiri as the quarters inhabited by the Holiars,
formerly agrestic serfs, is called outside the village boundary hedge. This,
I thought was because they were considered as impure race, whose touch
carries defilement with it”3
Such is the reason generally given by the Brahmins who refuse
to receive anything directly from the hands of a Holiar, and yet the
Brahmins consider great luck will wait upon them if they can manage
to pass through the Holigiri without being molested. To this Holiars

for Madras p. 51; for Punjab p. 109; for U.P. p. 121; for Baroda p.55. for Mysore
p.53; for Rajputana pp. 94—105; for Travancore p.198
1. Hindu Manners and Customs (3rd Edition) p. 61 f.n.
2. Gazetteer of Tanjore District (1906) p. 80.
3. Indian Antiquary 1873 11.65.
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have a strong objection, and, should a Brahmin attempt to enter their
quarters, they turn out in a body and slipper him, in former times,
it is said, to death. Members of the other castes may come as far
as the door, but they must not enter the house, for that would bring
the Holiar bad luck. If, by chance, a person happens to get in, the
owner takes care to tear the intruder’s cloth, tie up some salt in one
corner of it, and turn him out. This is supposed to neutralise all the
good luck which might have accrued to the tresspasser, and avert
any evil which ought to have befallen the owner of the house.
What is the explanation of this strange phenomenon? The expla-
nation must of course fit in with the situation as it stood at the start,
i.e. when the Untouchables were not Untouchables but were only
Broken Men. We must ask why the Brahmins refused to officiate at
the religious ceremonies of the Broken Men? Is it the case that the
Brahmins refused to officiate? Or is it that the Broken Men refused
to invite them? Why did the Brahmin regard Broken Men as impure?
Why did the Broken Men regard the Brahmins as impure? What is
the basis of this antipathy?
This antipathy can be explained on one hypothesis. It is that the
Broken Men were Buddhists. As such they did not revere the
Brahmins, did not employ them as their priests and regarded them
as impure. The Brahmin on the other hand disliked the Broken Men
because they were Buddhists and preached against them contempt
and hatred with the result that the Broken Men came to be regarded
as Untouchables.
We have no direct evidence that the Broken Men were Buddhists.
No evidence is as a matter of fact necessary when the majority of
Hindus were Buddhists. We may take it that they were.
That there existed hatred and abhorrence against the Buddhists
in the mind of the Hindus and that this feeling was created by the
Brahmins is not without support.
Nilkant in his Prayaschit Mayukha1 quotes a verse from Manu
which says :–
“If a person touches a Buddhist or a flower of Pachupat, Lokayala,
Nastika and Mahapataki, he shall purify himself by a bath.”
The same doctrine is preached by Apararka in his Smriti.2 Vradha
Harit goes further and declares entry into the Buddhist Temple as
sin requiring a purificatory bath for removing the impurity.
1 Edited by Gharpure, p.95.
2 Smriti Sammuchaya I. p. 118.
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How widespread had become this spirit of hatred and contempt
against the followers of Buddha can be observed from the scenes
depicted in Sanskrit dramas. The most striking illustration of this
attitude towards the Buddhists is to be found in the Mricchakatika.
In Act VII of that Drama the hero Charudatta and his friend Maitreya
are shown waiting for Vasantasena in the park outside the city. She
fails to turn up and Charudatta decides to leave the park. As they
are leaving, they see the Buddhist monk by name Samvahaka. On
seeing him, Charudatta says :-
“Friend Maitreya, I am anxious to meet Vasantsena ...
Come, let us go. (After walking a little) Ah ! here’s an inauspicious
sight, a Buddhist monk coming towards us. (After a little reflection) well,
let him come this way, we shall follow this other path. (Exit.)
In Act VIII, the monk is in the Park of Sakara, the King’s brother-
in-law, washing his clothes in a pool. Sakara accompanied by Vita,
turns up and threatens to kill the monk. The following conversation
between them is revealing :
“Sakara- Stay, you wicked monk.
Monk- Ah! Here’s the king’s brother-in-law! Because some monk has
offended him, he now beats up any monk he happens to meet.
Sakara- Stay, I will now break your head as one breaks a radish in a
tavern. (Beats him).
Vita- Friend, it is not proper to beat a monk who has put on the
saffron-robes, being disgusted with the world.
Monk- (Welcomes) Be pleased, lay brother.
Sakara- Friend, see. He is abusing me.
Vita- What does he say?
Sakara- He calls me lay brother (upasaka). Am I a barber?
Vita- Oh! He is really praising you as a devotee of the Buddha.
Sakara- Why has he come here?
Monk- To wash these clothes.
Sakara- Ah! you wicked monk. Even I myself do not bathe in this pool; I
shall kill you with one stroke.”
After a lot of beating, the monk is allowed to go. Here is a Buddhist
Monk in the midst of the Hindu crowd. He is shunned and avoided.
The feeling of disgust against him is so great that the people even
shun the road the monk is travelling. The feeling of repulsion is so
intense that the entry of the Buddhist was enough to cause the exit
of the Hindus. The Buddhist monk is on a par with the Brahmin.
A Brahmin is immune from death-penalty. He is even free from
corporal punishment But the Buddhist monk is beaten and assaulted
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without remorse, without compunction as though there was nothing
wrong in it.
If we accept that the Broken Men were the followers of Buddhism
and did not care to return to Brahmanism when it became triumphant
over Buddhism as easily as other did, we have an explanation for
both the questions. It explains why the Untouchables regard the
Brahmins as inauspicious, do not employ them as their priest and
do not even allow them to enter into their quarters. It also explains
why the Broken Men came to be regarded as Untouchables. The
Broken Men hated the Brahmins because the Brahmins were the
enemies of Buddhism and the Brahmins imposed untouchability upon
the Broken Men because they would not leave Buddhism. On this
reasoning it is possible to conclude that one of the roots of untouch-
ability lies in the hatred and contempt which the Brahmins created
against those who were Buddhist.
Can the hatred between Buddhism and Brahmanism be taken to
be the sole cause why Broken Men became Untouchables? Obviously,
it cannot be. The hatred and contempt preached by the Brahmins
was directed against Buddhists in general and not against the Broken
Men in particular. Since untouchability stuck to Broken Men only,
it is obvious that there was some additional circumstance which has
played its part in fastening untouchability upon the Broken Men.
What that circumstance could have been? We must next direct our
effort in the direction of ascertaining it.
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WE now take up test No. 10 referred to in the circular issued by
the Census Commissioner and to which reference has already been
made in the previous chapter. The test refers to beef-eating.
The Census Returns show that the meat of the dead cow forms
the-chief item of food consumed by communities which are generally
classified as untouchable communities. No Hindu community, however
low, will touch cow’s flesh. On the other hand, there is no community
which is really an Untouchable community which has not something
to do with the dead cow. Some eat her flesh, some remove the skin,
some manufacture articles out of her skin and bones.
From the survey of the Census Commissioner, it is well established
that Untouchables eat beef. The question however is: Has beef-eating
any relation to the origin of Untouchability? Or is it merely an
incident in the economic life of the Untouchables? Can we say that
the Broken Men came to be treated as Untouchables because they
ate beef? There need be no hesitation in returning an affirmative
answer to this question. No other answer is consistent with facts as
we know them.
In the first place, we have the fact that the Untouchables or the
main communities which compose them eat the dead cow and those
who eat the dead cow are tainted with untouchability and no others.
The co-relation between untouchability and the use of the dead cow
is so great and so close that the thesis that it is the root of
untouchability seems to be incontrovertible. In the second place if
there is anything that separates the Untouchables from the Hindus,
it is beef-eating. Even a superficial view of the food taboos of the
Hindus will show that there are two taboos regarding food which
serve as dividing lines. There is one taboo against meat-eating. It
divides Hindus into vegetarians and flesh eaters. There is another
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taboo which is against beef eating. It divides Hindus into those who
eat cow’s flesh and those who do not. From the point of view of
untouchability the first dividing line is of no importance. But the
second is. For it completely marks off the Touchables from the
Untouchables. The Touchables whether they are vegetarians or flesh-
eaters are united in their objection to eat cow’s flesh. As against them
stand the Untouchables who eat cow’s flesh without compunction and
as a matter of course and habit.1
In this context it is not far-fetched to suggest that those who have
a nausea against beef-eating should treat those who eat beef as
There is really no necessity to enter upon any speculation as to
whether beef-eating was or was not the principal reason for the rise
of Untouchability. This new theory receives support from the Hindu
Shastras. The Veda Vyas Smriti contains the following verse which
specifies the communities which are included in the category of
Antyajas and the reasons why they were so included.2
L. 12-13 “ The Charmakars (Cobbler), the Bhatta (Soldier), the Bhilla,
the Rajaka (washerman), the Puskara, the Nata (actor), the Vrata, the
Meda, the Chandala, the Dasa, the Svapaka, and the Kolika- these are
known as Antyajas as well as others who eat cow’s flesh.”
Generally speaking the Smritikars never care to explain the why
and the how of their dogmas. But this case is exception. For in this
case, Veda Vyas does explain the cause of untouchability. The clause
“as well as others who eat cow’s flesh” is very important. It shows
that the Smritikars knew that the origin of untouchability is to be
found in the eating of beef. The dictum of Veda Vyas must close the
argument. It comes, so to say, straight from the horse’s mouth and
what is important is that it is also rational for it accords with facts
as we know them.
The new approach in the search for the origin of Untouchability
has brought to the surface two sources of the origin of Untouchability.
One is the general atmosphere of scorn and contempt spread by the
Brahmins against those who were Buddhists and the second is the
habit of beef-eating kept on by the Broken Men. As has been said ,
the first circumstance could not be sufficient to account for stigma of

1 The Untouchables have felt the force of the accusation levelled against them
by the Hindus for eating beef. Instead of giving up the habit the Untouchables have
invented a philosophy which justifies eating the beef of the dead cow. The gist of
the philosophy is that eating the flesh of the dead cow is a better way of showing
respect to the cow than throwing her carcass to the wind.
2 Quoted in Kane’s History of Dharma Shastra-Vol.11, Part 1 p. 71.
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Untouchability attaching itself to the Broken Men. For the scorn and
contempt for Buddhists spread by the Brahmins was too general and
affected all Buddhists and not merely the Broken Men. The reason
why Broken Men only became Untouchables was because in addition
to being Buddhists they retained their habit of beef-eating which gave
additional ground for offence to the Brahmins to carry their newfound
love and reverence to the cow to its logical conclusion. We may
therefore conclude that the Broken Men were exposed to scorn and
contempt on the ground that they were Buddhists the main cause
of their Untouchability was beef-eating.
The theory of beef-eating as the cause of untouchability also gives
rise to many questions. Critics are sure to ask: What is the cause
of the nausea which the Hindus have against beef-eating? Were the
Hindus always opposed to beef-eating? If not, why did they develop
such a nausea against it? Were the Untouchables given to beef-eating
from the very start? Why did they not give up beef-eating when it
was abandoned by the Hindus? Were the Untouchables always
Untouchables? If there was a time when the Untouchables were not
Untouchables even though they ate beef why should beef-eating give
rise to Untouchability at a later-stage? If the Hindus were eating
beef, when did they give it up? If Untouchability is a reflex of the
nausea of the Hindus against beef-eating, how long after the Hindus
had given up beef-eating did Untouchability come into being? These
questions must be answered. Without an answer to these questions,
the theory will remain under cloud. It will be considered as plausible
but may not be accepted as conclusive. Having put forth the theory,
I am bound to answer these questions. I propose to take up the
following heads :-
(1) Did the Hindus never eat beef?
(2) What led the Hindus to give up beef-eating?
(3) What led the Brahmins to become vegetarians?
(4) Why did beef-eating give rise to Untouchability? and
(5) When was Untouchability born?
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Chater XI. Did the Hindus never eat beef ?
Chapter XII. Why did non-Brahmins give up beef-eating ?
Chapter XIII. What made the Brahmins to become vegetarians ?
Chapter XIV. Why should beef-eating make Broken Men
Untouchables ?
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TO the question whether the Hindus ever ate beef, every Touchable
Hindu, whether he is a Brahmin or a non-Brahmin, will say ‘no,
never’. In a certain sense, he is right. From times no Hindu has eaten
beef. If this is all that the Touchable Hindu wants to convey by his
answer there need be no quarrel over it. But when the learned
Brahmins argue that the Hindus not only never ate beef but they
always held the cow to be sacred and were always opposed to the
killing of the cow, it is impossible to accept their view.
What is the evidence in support of the construction that the Hindus
never ate beef and were opposed to the killing of the cow?
There are two series of references in the Rig Veda on which reliance
is placed. In one of these, the cow is spoken of as Aghnya. They are
Rig Veda 1.164, 27; IV.1.6; V 82-8; VII.69. 71; X.87. Aghnya means
‘one who does not deserve to be killed’. From this, it is argued that
this was a prohibition against the killing of the cow and that since
the Vedas are the final authority in the matter of religion, it is
concluded that the Aryans could not have killed the cows, much less
could they have eaten beef. In another series of references the cow
is spoken of as sacred. They are Rig Veda VI.28.1.8. and VIII, 101.
15. In these verses the cow is addressed as Mother of Rudras, the
Daughter of Vasus, the Sister of the Adityas and the Centre of Nectar.
Another reference on the subject is in Rig Veda VIII. 101. 16 where
the cow is called Devi (Goddess).
Raliance is also placed on certain passages in the Brahmanas and
There are two passages in the Satapatha Brahmana which relate
to animal sacrifice and beef-eating. One is at III. 1.2.21 and reads
as follows :-
“He (the Adhvaryu) then makes him enter the hall. Let him not eat (the flesh) of
either the cow or the ox, for the cow and the ox doubtless support everything here on
earth. The gods spake, ‘verily, the cow and the ox support everything
here; come, let us bestow on the cow and the ox whatever vigour belonged to
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other species (of animals); and therefore the cow and the ox eat most. Hence
were one to eat (the flesh) of an ox or a cow, there would be, as it were,
an eating of everything, or, as it were, a going to the end (or, to destruction)...
Let him therefore not eat (the flesh) of the cow and the ox.”
The other passage is at 1, 2, 3, 6. It speaks against animal sacrifice
and on ethical grounds.
A similar statement is contained in the Apastambha Dharma Sutra
at 1, 5, 17, 29. Apastambha lays a general embargo on the eating
of cow’s flesh.
Such is the evidence in support of the contention that the Hindus
never ate beef. What conclusion can be drawn from this evidence?
So far as the evidence from the Rig Veda is concerned the
conclusion is based on a misreading and misunderstanding of the
texts. The adjective Aghnya applied to the cow in the Rig Veda means
a cow that was yielding milk and therefore not fit for being killed.
That the cow is venerated in the Rig Veda is of course true. But
this regard and venerations of the cow are only to be expected from
an agricultural community like the Indo-Aryans. This application of
the utility of the cow did not prevent the Aryan from killing the cow
for purposes of food. Indeed the cow was killed because the cow was
regarded as sacred. As observed by Mr.Kane:
“It was not that the cow was not sacred in Vedic times, it was because
of her sacredness that it is ordained in the Vajasaneyi Samhita that beef
should be eaten.”1
That the Aryans of the Rig Veda did kill cows for purposes of food
and ate beef is abundantly clear from the Rig Veda itself. In Rig
Veda (X. 86.14) Indra says:- “They cook for one 15 plus twenty oxen”.
The Rig Veda (X.91.14) says that for Agni were sacrificed horses,
bulls, oxen, barren cows and rams. From the Rig Veda (X.72.6) it
appears that the cow was killed with a sword or axe.
As to the testimony of the Satapatha Bramhana, can it be said
to be conclusive? Obviously, it cannot be. For there are passages in
the other Bramhanas which give a different opinion.
To give only one instance. Among the Kamyashtis set forth in the
Taittiriya Bramhana, not only the sacrifice of oxen and cows are laid
down, but we are even told what kind and description of oxen and
cows are to be offered to what deities. Thus, a dwarf ox is to be
chosen for sacrifice to Vishnu; a drooping horned bull with a blaze
on the forehead to Indra as the destroyer of Vritra; a black cow to

1 Dharm Shaslra Vichar (Marathi) p, 180.
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Pushan; a red cow to Rudra; and so on. The Taittiriya Bramhana
notes another sacrifice called Panchasaradiya-seva, the most impor-
tant element of which was the immolation of seventeen five-year old
humpless, dwraf-bulls, and as many dwarf heifers under three year-
As against the statement of the Apastamba Dharma Sutra, the
following points may be noted.
First is the contrary statement contained in that Very Sutra. At
14, 15, 29, the Sutra says :-
“The cow and the bull are sacred and therefore should be eaten”.
The second is the prescription of Madhuparka contained in the
Grahya Sutras. Among the Aryans the etiquette for receiving impor-
tant guests had become settled into custom and had become a
ceremony. The most important offering was Madhuparka. A detailed
descriptions regarding Madhuparka are to be found in the various
Grahya Sutras. According to most of the Grahya Sutras there are
six persons who have a right to be served with Madhuparka namely;
(1) Ritwija or the Brahmin called to perform a sacrifice, (2) Acharya,
the teacher, (3) The bridegroom (4) The King (5) The Snatak, the
student who has just finished his studies at the Gurukul and (6) Any
person who is dear to the host. Some add Atithi to this list. Except
in the case of Ritvija, King and Acharya, Madhuparka is to be offered
to the rest once in a year. To the Ritvija, King and Acharya it is
to be offered each time they come.
What was this Madhuparka made of ? There is divergence about
the substances mixed in offering Madhuparka. Asv.gr and Ap.gr.
(13.10) prescribe a mixture of honey and curds or clarified butter and
curds. Others like Par.gr. 13 prescribe a mixture of three (curds,
honey and butter). Ap.gr.(13.11-12) states the view of some that those
three may be mixed or five (those three with fried yava grain and
barley). Hir.gr.I, 12, 10-12 give the option of mixing three of five
(curds, honey, ghee, water and ground grain). The Kausika Sutra (92)
speaks of nine kinds of mixtures, viz., Brahma (honey and curds). Aindra
(of payasa), Saumya (curds and ghee), Pausna (ghee and mantha),
Sarasvata (milk and ghee), Mausala (wine and ghee, this being used
only in Sautramanai and Rajasuya sacrifices), Parivrajaka (sesame oil
and oil cake). The Madhava gr.I.9.22 says that the Veda declares that
the Madhuparka must not be without flesh and so it recommends
that if the cow is let loose, goat’s meat or payasa (rice cooked in
milk) may be offered; the Hir.gr. 1.13, 14 says that other meat should
be offered; Baud.gr. (1.2,51-54) says that when the cow is let off, the
flesh of a goat or ram may be offered or some forest flesh (of a deer,
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etc.) may be offered, as there can be no Madhuparka without flesh
or if one is unable to offer flesh one may cook ground grains.
Thus the essential element in Madhuparka is flesh and particularly
cow’s flesh.
The killing of cow for the guest had grown to such an extent that
the guest came to be called ‘Go-ghna’ which means the killer of the
cow. To avoid this slaughter of the cows the Ashvalayana Grahya
Sutra (1.24.25) suggests that the cow should be let loose when the
guest comes so as to escape the rule of etiquette.
Thirdly, reference may be made to the ritual relating to disposal
of the dead to counter the testimony of the Apastamba Dharma Sutra.
The Sutra says1 :-
“1. He should then put the following (sacrificial) implements (on the
dead body)
2. Into the right hand the (spoon called) Guhu.
3. Into the left the (other spoon called) Upabhrit.
4. On his right side the wooden sacrificial sword called Sphya, on his
left side the Agnihotrahavani (i.e., the laddle with which the
Agnihotra oblations are sacrified).
5. On his chest the (big sacrificial laddle called) Dhruva. On his head
the dishes. On his teeth the pressing stones.
6. On the two sides of his nose, the two smaller sacrificial laddies called
7. Or, if there is only one (Sruva), breaking it (in two pieces).
8. On his two ears the two Prasitraharanas (i.e, the vessels into which
the portion of the sacrificial food belonging to the Brahmin) is put
9. Or, if there is only one (Prasitraharana), breaking it (in two pieces).
10. On his belly the (vessel called) Patri.
11. And the cup into which the cut-off portion (of the sacrificial food)
are put.
12. On his secret parts the (staff called) Samy.
13. On his thighs two kindling woods.
14. On his legs the mortar and the pestle.
15. On his feet the two baskets.
16. Or, if there is only one (basket), breaking it in two pieces.
17. Those of the implements which have a hollow (into which liquids
can be poured) are filled with sprinkled butter.

1 Kane’s vol. II. Part I p. 545.
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18. The son (of the deceased person) should take the under and the
upper mill-stone for himself.
19. And the implements made of copper, iron and earthenware.
20. Taking out the omentum of the she-animal he should cover therewith
the head and the mouth (of the dead person) with the verse, ‘But
on the armour (which will protect thee) against Agni, by that which
comes from the cows.’ (Rig Veda. X.16.7).
21. Taking out the kidneys of the animal he should lay them into the
hands (of the dead body) with the verse, escape the two hounds,
the sons of Sarma (Rig Veda X 14.10) the right kidney into the right
hand and the left into the left hand.
22. The heart of the animals he puts on the heart of the deceased.
23. And two lumps of flour or rice according to some teachers.
24. Only if there are no kidneys according to some teachers.
25. Having distributed the whole (animal), limb by limb (placing its
different limbs on the corresponding limbs of the deceased) and
having covered it with its hide, he recites when the Pranita water
is carried forward (the verse), ‘Agni do not overturn this cup,’ (Rig
Veda, X.16.8).
26. Bending his left knee he should sacrifice Yugya oblation into the
Dakshina fire with the formulas ‘To Agni Svaha, to Kama Svaha,
to the world Svaha, to Anumati Svaha’.
27. A fifth (oblation) on the chest of the deceased with the formula ‘from
this one verily thou hast been born. May he now be born out of
thee. To the heaven worlds Svaha.’ ”
From the above passage quoted from the Ashvalayan Grahya Sutra
it is clear that among the ancient Indo-Aryans when a person died,
an animal had to be killed and the parts of the animal were placed
on the appropriate parts of the dead body before the dead body was
Such is the state of the evidence on the subject of cow-killing and
beef-eating. Which part of it is to be accepted as true? The correct
view is that the testimony of the Satapatha Brahmana and the
Apastamba Dharma Sutra in so far as it supports the view that
Hindus were against cow-killing and beef-eating, are merely exhorta-
tions against the excesses of cow-killing and not prohibitions against
cow-killing. Indeed the exhortations prove that cow-killing and eating
of beef had become a common practice. That notwithstanding these
exhortations cow-killing and beef-eating continued. That most often
they fell on deaf ears is proved by the conduct of Yajnavalkya, the
great Rishi of the Aryans. The first passage quoted above from the
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Satapatha Brahmana was really addressed to Yajnavalkya as an
exhortation. How did Yajnavalkya respond? After listening to the
exhortation this is what Yajnavalkya said :–
“I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender”
That the Hindus at one time did kill cows and did eat beef is proved
abundantly by the description of the Yajnas given in the Buddhist
Sutras which relate to periods much later than the Vedas and the
Brahmanas. The scale on which the slaughter of cows and animals
took place was colossal. It is not possible to give a total of such
slaughter on all accounts committed by the Brahmins in the name
of religion. Some idea of the extent of this slaughter can however
be had from references to it in the Buddhist literature. As an
illustration reference may be made to the Kutadanta Sutta in which
Buddha preached against the performance of animal sacrifices to
Brahmin Kutadanta. Buddha, though speaking in a tone of sarcastic
travesty, gives a good idea of the practices and rituals of the Vedic
sacrifices when he said:
“And further, O Brahmin, at that sacrifice neither were any oxen slain,
neither goats, nor fowls, nor fatted pigs, nor were any kind of living creatures
put to death. No trees were cut down to be used as posts, no Darbha grasses
mown to stress around the sacrificial spot. And the slaves and messengers
and workmen there employed were driven neither by rods nor fear, nor carried
on their work weeping with tears upon their faces.”
Kutadanta on the other hand in thanking Buddha for his conversion
gives an idea of the magnitude of the slaughter of animals which
took place at such sacrifices when he says :-
“I, even I betake myself to the venerable Gotama as my guide, to the
Doctrine and the Order. May the venerable One accept me as a disciple, as
one who, from this day forth, as long as life endures, has taken him as his
guide. And I myself, O, Gotama, will have the seven hundred bulls, and the
seven hundred steers, and the seven hundred heifers, and the seven hundred
goats, and the seven hundred rams set free. To them I grant their life. Let
them eat grass and drink fresh water and may cool breezes waft around them.”
In the Samyuta Nikaya (III,1-9) we have another description of
a Yajna performed by Pasenadi, king of Kosala. It is said that five
hundred bulls, five hundred calves and many heifers, goats and rams
were led to the pillar to be sacrificed.
With this evidence no one can doubt that there was a time when
Hindus –both Brahmins and non-Brahmins –ate not only flesh but
also beef.
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THE food habits of the different classes of Hindus have been as fixed
and stratified as their cults. Just as Hindus can be classified on their
basis of their cults so also they can be classified on the basis of their
habits of food. On the basis of their cults, Hindus are either Saivites
(followers of Siva) or Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu). Similarly,
Hindus are either Mansahari (those who eat flesh) or Shakahari
(those who are vegetarians).
For ordinary purposes the division of Hindus into two classes
Mansahari and Shakahari may be enough. But it must be admitted
that it is not exhaustive and does not take account of all the classes
which exist in Hindu society. For an exhaustive classification, the
class of Hindus called Mansahari shall have to be further divided
into two sub-classes : (i) Those who eat flesh but do not eat cow’s
flesh; and (ii) Those who eat flesh including cow’s flesh; In other
words, on the basis of food taboos, Hindu society falls into three
classes : (i) Those who are vegetarians; (ii) Those who eat flesh but
do not eat cow’s flesh; and (iii) Those who eat flesh including cow’s
flesh. Corresponding to this classification, we have in Hindu society
three classes : (1) Brahmins; (2) Non-Brahmins; and (3) The Untouch-
ables. This division though not in accord with the fourfold division
of society called Chaturvarnya, yet it is in accord with facts as they
exist. For, in the Brahmins 1 we have a class which is vegetarian,
in the non-Brahmins the class which eats flesh but does not eat cow’s
flesh and in the Untouchables a class which eats flesh including cow’s
This threefold division is therefore substantial and is in accord with
facts. Anyone who stops to turn over this classification in his mind

1 The Brahmins of India fall into two divisions (1) Pancha Dravid and (2) Panch
Gauda. The former are vegetarians, the latter are not.
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is bound to be struck by the position of the Non-Brahmins. One can
quite understand vegetarianism. One can quite understand meat-
eating. But it is difficult to understand why a person who is a flesh-
eater should object to one kind of flesh namely cow’s flesh. This is
an anomaly which call for explanation. Why did the Non-Brahmin
give up beef-eating? For this purpose it is necessary to examine laws
on the subject. The relevant legislation must be found either in the
Law of Asoka or the Law of Manu.


To begin with Asoka. The edicts of Asoka which have reference
to this matter are Rock Edict No.I and Pillar Edict Nos.II and
V. Rock Edict No.I reads as follows :-
“This pious Edict has been written by command of His Sacred and Gracious
Majesty the King. Here (in the capital) no animal may be slaughtered for
sacrifice, nor may the holiday feast be held, because His Sacred and Gracious
Majesty, the king sees much offence in the holiday feasts, although in certain
places holiday feasts are excellent in the sight of His Sacred and Gracious
Majesty the king.
“Formerly, in the kitchen of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King,
each day many hundred thousands of living creatures were slaughtered to
make curries. But now, when this pious edict is being written, only three
living creatures are slaughtered (daily) for curry, to wit, two peacocks and
one antelope: the antelope, however, not invariably. Even those three living
creatures henceforth shall not be slaughtered.”
Pillar Edict No.II was in the following terms :
“Thus saith His Sacred and Gracious Majesty, the King :-
“The Law of Piety is excellent. But wherein consists the Law of Piety?
In these things, to wit, little piety, many good deeds, compassion, liberality,
truthfulness and purity.
The gift of spiritual insight I have given in manifold ways: whilst on two-
footed and four-footed beings, on birds and the denizens of the waters, I have
conferred various favours-even unto the boon of life; and many other good
deeds have I done.
For this purpose, have I caused this pious edict to be written, that men
may walk after its teaching, and that it may long endure; and he who will
follow its teaching will do well.”
Pillar Edict V says :
“Thus said His Sacred and Gracious Majesty, the king :
When I had been consecrated twenty-six years the following species were
declared exempt from slaughter, namely :
Parrots, starlings adjutants, Brahmany ducks, geese, pandimukhas, gelatas,
bats, queen-ants, female tortoises, boneless fish, vedaveyakas, gangapuputakas,
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skate, (river) tortoise, porcupines, tree-squirrels, barasingha stag, Brahmany
bulls, monkeys, rhinoceros, grey doves village pigeons, and all fourfooted animals
which are not utilised or eaten.
She-goats, ewes, cows, that is to say, those either with young or in milk, are
exempt from slaughter as well as their off-spring up to six months of age.
The caponing of cocks must not be done.
Chaff must not be burned along with the living things in it.
Forests must not be burned either for mischief or so as to destroy living
The living must not be fed with the living. At each of the three seasonal full
moons, and at the full moon of the month Tishya (December-January) for three
days in each case, namely, the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the first fortnight,
and the first day of the second fortnight, as well as on the first days throughout
the year, fish is exempt from killing and may not be sold.
“On the same days, in elephant-preserves or fish-ponds no other classes of
animals may be destroyed.
On the eighth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of each fortnight, as well as on the
Tishya and Punarvasa days and festival days, the castration of bulls must not be
performed, nor may he-goats, rams, boars and other animals liable to castration
be castrated.
On the Tishya and Punarvasa days, on the seasonal full moon days, and during
the fortnights of the seasonal full moons the branding of horses and oxen must not
be done.
During the time upto the twenty-sixth anniversary of my consecration twenty-
five jail deliveries have been effected.”
So much for the legislation of Asoka.

Let us turn to Manu. His Laws contain the the following provisions
regarding meat-eating :- -
“V.11. Let him avoid all carnivorous birds and those living in villages,
and one hoofed animals which are not specially permitted (to be
eaten), and the Tithbha (Parra) Jacana.
V.12. The sparrow, the Plava, the Hamsa, the Brahmani duck, the
village-cock, the Sarasa crane, the Raggudal, the woodpecker, the
parrot, and the starling.
V.13. Those which feed striking with their beaks, web-footed birds, the
Koyashti, those which scratch with their toes, those which dive
and live on fish, meat from a slaughter-house and dried meat.
V.14. The Baka and the Balaka crane, the raven, the Khangartaka
(animals) that eat fish, village-pigs, and all kinds of fishes.
V.l5. He who eats the flesh of any (animals) is called the eater of the
flesh of that (particular) creature, he who eats fish is an eater of
every (kind of) flesh; let him therefore avoid fish.
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V.16. (But the fish called) Pathine and (that called) Rohita may be
eaten, if used for offering to the gods or to the manes; (one
may eat) likewise Ragivas, Simhatundas, and Sasalkas on all
V.17. Let him not eat solitary or unknown beasts and birds though
they may fall under (the categories of) eatable creatures, not
any five-toed (animals).
V.18. The porcupine, the hedgehog, the iguana, the rhinoceros, the
tortoise, and the hare they declare to be eatable; likewise those
(domestic animals) that have teeth in one jaw excepting


Here is survey of the legislation both by Asoka and by Manu on
the slaughter of animals. We are of course principally concerned with
the cow. Examining the legislation of Asoka the question is: Did he
prohibit the killing of the cow? On this issue there seems to be a
difference of opinion. Prof. Vincent Smith is of opinion that Asoka
did not prohibit the killing of the cow. Commenting on the legislation
of Asoka on the subject, Prof. Smith says:1
“It is noteworthy that Asoka’s rules do not forbid the slaughter of cow, which,
apparently, continued to be lawful.”
Prof. Radhakumud Mookerji joins issue with Prof. Smith and says2
that Asoka did prohibit the slaughter of the cow. Prof. Mookerji relies
upon the reference in Pillar Edict V to the rule of exemption which
was made applicable to all four-footed animals and argues that under
this rule cow was exempted from killing. This is not a correct reading
of the statement in the Edict. The Statement in the Edict is a
qualified statement. It does not refer to all four-footed animals but
only to four-footed animals, ‘which are not utilised or eaten. ‘A cow
cannot be said to be a four-footed animal which was not utilized or
eaten. Prof. Vincent Smith seems to be correct in saying that Asoka
did not prohibit the slaughter of the cow. Prof. Mookerji tries to get
out of the difficulty by saying that at the time of Asoka the cow was
not eaten and therefore came within the prohibition. His statement
is simply absurd for the cow was an animal which was very much
eaten by all classes.
It is quite unnecessary to resort as does Prof. Mookerji to a forced
construction of the Edict and to make Asoka prohibit the slaughter
of the cow as though it was his duty to do so. Asoka had no particular
1. Smith,- Asoka, p. 58
2. Mookerji, Asoka pp. 21, 181, 184
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interest in the cow and owed no special duty to protect her against
killing. Asoka was interested in the sanctity of all life human as well
as animal. He felt his duty to prohibit the taking of life where taking
of life was not necessary. That is why he prohibited slaughtering
animal for scrifice1 which he regarded as unnecessary and of animals
which are not utilized nor eaten which again would be wanton and
unnecessary. That he did not prohibit the slaughter of the cow in
specie may well be taken as a fact which for having regard to the
Buddhist attitude in the matter cannot be used against Asoka as a
ground for casting blame.
Coming to Manu there is no doubt that he too did not prohibit
the slaughter of the cow. On the other hand he made the eating of
cow’s flesh on certain occasions obligatory.
Why then did the non-Brahmins give up eating beef? There appears
to be no apparent reason for this departure on their part. But there
must be some reason behind it. The reason I like to suggest is that
it was due to their desire to imitate the Brahmins that the non-
Brahmins gave up beef-eating. This may be a novel theory but it is
not an impossible theory. As the French author, Gabriel Tarde has
explained that culture within a society spreads by imitation of the
ways and manners of the superior classes by the inferior classes. This
imitation is so regular in its flow that its working is as mechanical
as the working of a natural law. Gabriel Tarde speaks of the laws
of imitation. One of these laws is that the lower classes always
imitate the higher classes. This is a matter of such common
knowledge that hardly any individual can be found to question its
That the spread of the cow-worship among and cessation of beef-
eating by the non-Brahmins has taken place by reason of the habit
of the non-Brahmins to imitate the Brahmins who were undoubtedly
their superiors is beyond dispute. Of course there was an extensive
propaganda in favour of cow-worship by the Brahmins. The Gayatri
Purana is a piece of this propaganda. But initially it is the result
of the natural law of imitation. This, of course, raises another
question: Why did the Brahmins give up beef-eating?

3 See Rock Edict No. I
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THE non-Brahmins have evidently undergone a revolution. From
being beef-eaters to have become non-beef-eaters was indeed a
revolution. But if the non-Brahmins underwent one revolution, the
Brahmins had undergone two. They gave up beef-eating which was
one revolution. To have given up meat-eating altogether and become
vegetarians was another revolution.
That this was a revolution is beyond question. For as has been
shown in the previous chapters there was a time when the Brahmins
were the greatest beef-eaters. Although the non-Brahmins did eat beef
they could not have had it every day. The cow was a costly animal
and the non-Brahmins could ill afford to slaughter it just for food.
He only did it on special occasion when his religious duty or personal
interest to propitiate a deity compelled him to do. But the case with
the Brahmin was different. He was a priest. In a period overridden
by ritualism there was hardly a day on which there was no cow
sacrifice to which the Brahmin was not invited by some non-Brahmin.
For the Brahmin every day was a beef-steak day. The Brahmins were
therefore the greatest beef-eaters. The Yajna of the Brahmins was
nothing but the killing of innocent animals carried on in the name
of religion with pomp and ceremony with an attempt to enshroud it
in mystery with a view to conceal their appetite for beef. Some idea
of this mystery pomp and ceremony can be had from the directions
contained in the Atreya Brahmana touching the killing of animals
in a Yajna.
The actual killing of the animal is preceded by certain initiatory
Rites accompanied by incantations too long and too many to be
detailed here. It is enough to give an idea of the main features of
the Sacrifice. The sacrifice commences with the erection of the
Sacrificial post called the Yupa to which the animal is tied before it
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is slaughtered. After setting out why the Yupa is necessary the Atreya
Brahamana proceeds to state what it stands for. It says:1
“This Yupa is a weapon. Its point must have eight edges. For a weapon
(or iron club) has eight edges. Whenever he strikes with it an enemy or
adversary, he kills him. (This weapon serves) to put down him (every one)
who is to be put down by him (the sacrificer). The Yupa is a weapon which
stands erected (being ready) to slay an enemy. Thence an enemy (of the
sacrificer) who might be present (at the sacrifice) comes of all ill after having
seen the Yupa of such or such one.”
The selection of the wood to be used for the Yupa is made to vary
with the purposes which the sacrificer. wishes to achieve by the
sacrifice. The Atreya Brahmana says :
“He who desires heaven, ought to make his Yupa of Khadira wood. For
the gods conquered the celestial world by means of a Yupa, made of Khadira
wood. In the same way the sacrificer conquers the celestial world by means
of a Yupa, made of Khadira wood.”
“He who desires food and wishes to grow fat ought to make his Yupa of
Bilva wood. For the Bilva tree bears fruits every year; it is the symbol of
fertility; for it increases (every year) in size from the roots up to the branches,
therefore it is a symbol of fatness. He who having such a knowledge makes
his Yupa of Bilva wood, makes fat his children and cattle.
“As regards the Yupa made of Bilva wood (it is further to be remarked),
that they call ‘light’Bilva. He who has such a knowledge becomes a ‘light’
among his own people, the most distinguished among his own people.
“He who desires beauty and sacred knowledge ought to make his Yupa
of Palasa wood. For the Palasa is among the trees of beauty and sacred
knowledge. He who having such a knowledge makes his Yupa of Palasa wood,
becomes beautiful and acquires sacred knowledge.
“As regards the Yupa made of Palasa wood (there is further to be
remarked), that the Palasa is the womb of all trees. Thence they speak on
account of the palasam (foliage) of this or that tree (i.e. they call the foliage
of every tree palasam). He who has such a knowledge obtains (the gratification
of) any desire, he might have regarding all trees (i.e. he obtains from all
trees any thing he might wish for).”
This is followed by the ceremony of anointing the sacrificial post.2
“The Adhvaryu says (to the Hotar): “We anoint the sacrificial post (Yupa);
repeat the mantra (required)”. The Hotar then repeats the verse: “Amjanti
tvam adhvare” (3, 8, 1) i.e.” The priests anoint thee, O tree! with celestial
honey (butler); provide (us) with wealth if thou standest here erected, or if
thou art lying on thy mother (earth).” The “celestial honey” is the melted
butter (with which the priests anoint the Yupa). (The second half verse from)
“provide us” &c. means: “ thou mayest stand or lie, provide us with wealth.”

1. Atreya Brahmana II pp. 72-74.
2. Atrcy Brahmana (Martin Haug) II pp. 74-78
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“(The Hotar then repeats :) “jato jayate sudinatve” &c. (3, 8, 5) i.e., “After
having been born, he (the Yupa) is growing (to serve) in the prime of his
life the sacrifice of mortal men. The wise are busy in decorating (him, the
Yupa) with skill. He, as an eloquent messenger of the gods, lifts his voice
(that it might be heard by the gods).” He (the Yupa) is called jata, i.e., bom,
because he is born by this (by the recital of the first quarter of this verse).
(By the word) vardhamana, i.e., growing, they make him (the Yupa) grow
in this manner. (By the words:) punanti (i.e. to clean, decorate), they clean
him in this manner. (By the words:) “he as an eloquent messenger, &c.” he
announces the Yupa (the fact of his existence) to the gods.
The Hotar then concludes (the ceremony of anointing the sacrificial
post) with the verse “yuva suvasah parivitah” (3, 8, 4), i.e. “the youth
decorated with ribands, has arrived; he is finer (than all trees) which
ever grew; the wise priests raise him up under recital of well-framed
thoughts of their mind.” The youth decorated with ribands, is the
vital air (the soul), which is covered by the limbs of the body. (By
the words;) “he is finer, “&c. he means that he (the Yupa) is becoming
finer (more excellent, beautiful) by this (mantra).”
The next ceremony is the carrying of fire round the sacrificial
animal. The Atreya Brahmana gives the following directions on this
point. It says1 :-
“When the fire is carried round (the animal) the Adhvaryu says to the
Hotar: ‘repeat (thy mantras)’. The Hotar then repeats this triplet of verses,
addressed to Agni, and composed in the Gayatri metre: Agnir Hota no adhvare
(4.15.1-3) i.e. (1) Agni, our priest, is carried round about like a horse, he
who is among gods, the god of sacrifices, (2) Like a charioteer Agni passes
thrice by the sacrifice; to the gods he carries the offering, (3) The master
of food, the seer of Agni, went round the offering; he bestows riches on the
“When the fire is carried round (the animal) then he makes him (Agni)
prosper by means of his own deity and his own metre. ‘As a horse he is
carried’ means: they carry him as if he were a horse, round about. Like a
charioteer Agni passes thrice by the sacrifice means; he goes round the
sacrifice like a charioteer (swiftly). He is called vajapati (master of food)
because he is the master of (different kinds of) food.
“The Advaryu says: give Hotar! the additional order for despatching
offerings to the gods.
“The Hotar then says : (to the slaughterers) : Ye divine slaughterers,
commence (your work), as well as ye who are human! that is to say, he orders
all the slaughterers among gods as well as among men (to commence).
Bring hither the instruments for killing, ye who are ordering the sacrifice,
in behalf of the two masters of the sacrifice.

1 Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II - pp, 84-86
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“The animal is the offering, the sacrificer the master of the offering. Thus
he (the Hotar) makes prosper the sacrificer by means of his (the sacrifcer’s)
own offering. Thence they truly say: for whatever deity the animal is killed,
that one is the master of the offering. If the animal is to be offered to one
deity only, the priest should say : Medhapataye ‘to the master of the sacrifice
(singular)’, if to two deities, then he should use the dual ‘to both masters
of the offering’, and if to several deities, then he should use the plural, ‘to
the masters of the offering’. This is the established custom.
Bring ye for him fire! For the animal when carried (to the slaughter) saw
death before it Not wishing to go to the gods, the gods said to it: Come we
will bring thee to heaven ! The animal consented and said: One of you should
walk before me. They consented. Agni then walked before it, and it followed
after Agni. Thence they say, every animal belongs to Agni, for it followed
after him. Thence they carry before the animal fire (Agni).
Spread the (sacred) grass! the animal lives on herbs. He (the Hotar) thus
provides the animal with its entire soul (the herbs being supposed to form
part of it).
After the ceremony of carrying fire round the animal comes the
delivery of the animal to the priests for sacrifice. Who should offer
the animal for sacrifice? On this point the direction of the Atreya
Brahmana is1 —
“The mother, the father, the brother, sister, friend, and companions should
give this (animal) up (for being slaughtered)! When these words are pronounced,
they seize the animal which is (regarded as) entirely given up by its relations
(parents, &c.)”
On reading this direction one wonders why almost everybody is
required to join in offering the animal for sacrifice. The reason is
simple. There were altogether seventeen Brahmin priests who were
entitled to take part in performing the sacrifice. Naturally enough
they wanted the whole carcass to themselves.2 Indeed they could not
give enough to each of the seventeen priests unless they had the whole
carcass to distribute. Legally the Brahmins could not claim the whole
carcass unless everybody who could not claim any right over the
animal had been divested of it. Hence the direction requiring even
the companion of the sacrificer to take part in offering the animal.
Then comes the ceremony of actually killing the animal. The Atreya
Brahmana gives the details of the mode and manner of killing the
animal. Its directions are3 :

1. Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II p. 86
2. As a matter of fact the Brahmins took the whole carcass. Only one leg each
was given to the sacrificer and his wife.
3. Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II pp. 86-87
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“Turn its feet northwards! Make its eye to go to the sun, dismiss its breath
to the wind, its life to the air, its hearing to the directions, its body to the
earth. In this way he (the Hotar) places it (connects it) with these worlds.
Take off the skin entire (without cutting it). Before operating the naval, tear
out omentum. Stop its breathing within (by stopping its mouth). Thus he (the
Hotar) puts its breath in the animals.
Make of its breast a piece like an eagle, of its arms (two pieces like) two
hatchets, of its forearms (two pieces like) two spikes, of its shoulders (two pieces
like) two Kashyapas, its loins should be un-broken (entire); (make of) its thighs
(two pieces like) two shields, of the two kneepans (two pieces like) two oleander
leaves; take out its twenlysix ribs according to their order; preserve every limb
of it in its integrity. Thus he benefits all its limbs.”
There remain two ceremonies to complete the sacrificial killing of
the animal. One is to absolve the Brahmin priests who played the
butcher’s part. Theoretically they are guilty of murder for the animal
is only a substitute for the sacrificer. To absolve them from the
consequences of murder, the Hotar is directed by the Atreya Brahmana
to observe the following injuction1 :
“Do not cut the entrails which resemble on owl (when taking out the
omentum), nor should among your children, O slaughterers! or among their
offspring any one be found who might cut them. By speaking these words
he presents these entrails to the slaughterers among the gods as well as to
those among men.
The Hotar shall then say thrice : O Adhrigu (and ye others), kill (the
animal), do it well; kill it, O Adhrigu.
After the animal has been killed, (he should say thrice:) Far may it (the
consequences of murder) be (from us). For Adhrigu among the gods is he
who silences (the animal) and the Apapa (away, away!) is he who puts it
down. By speaking those words he surrenders the animal to those who silence
it (by stopping its mouth) and to those who butcher it.
The Hotar then mutters (he makes, Japa); “O slaughterers! may all good
you might do abide by us! and all mischief you might do go elsewhere!” The
Hotar Gives by (this) speech the order (for killing the animal), for Agni had
given the order for killing (the animal) with the same words when he was
the Hotar of the gods.
By those words (the Japa mentioned) the Hotar removes (all evil
consequences) from those who suffocate the animal and those who butter it,
in all that they might transgress the rule by cutting one piece too soon, the
other too late, or by cutting a too large, or a too small piece. The Hotar
enjoying this happiness clears himself (from all guilt) and attains the full
length of his life (and it serves the sacrificer) for obtaining his full life. He
who has such a knowledge, attains the full length of his life.”

1 Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II pp. 86-90
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The Atreya Bramhana next deals with the question of disposing
of the parts of the dead animal. In this connection its direction is1—
“Dig a ditch in the earth to hide its excrements. The excrements consist
of vegetable food; for the earth is the place for the herbs. Thus the Hotar
puts them (the excrements) finally in their proper places. Present the evil
spirits with the blood! For the gods having deprived (once) the evil spirits
of their share in the Haviryajnas (such as the Full and New Moon offerings)
apportioned to them the husk and smallest grains, and after having them
turned out of the great sacrifice (such as the Soma and animal sacrifices),
presented to them the blood. Thence the Hotar pronounces the words : present
the evil spirits with the blood! By giving them this share he deprives the
evil spirits of any other share in the sacrifice. They say : one should not
address the evil spirits in the sacrifice, and evil spirits whichever they might
be (Rakshasa, Asuras, etc.): for the sacrifice is to be without (the) evil spirits
(not to be disturbed by them). But others say: one should address them; for (he
who deprives any one, “entitled to a share of this share, will be punished (by
him whom he deprives); and if he himself does not suffer the penalty, then his
son, and if his son be spared, then his grandson will suffer it, and thus he
resents on him (the son or grandson) what he wanted to resent on you.”
“However, if the Hotar addresses them, he should do so with a low voice.
For both, the low voice and the evil spirits, are, as it were, hidden. If he
addresses them with a loud voice, then such one speaks in the voice of the
evil spirits, and is capable of producing Rakshasa sounds (a horrible, terrific
voice). The voice in which the haughty man and the drunkard speak is that
of the evil spirits (Rakshasas). He who has such a knowledge will neither
himself become haughty nor will such a man be among his offspring.”
Then follows the last and the concluding ceremony that of offering
parts of the body of the animal to the gods. It is called the Manota.
According to the Atreya Brahmana2—
“The Adhvaryu says (to the Hotar): recite the verses appropriate to the offering
of the parts of the sacrificial animal which are cut off for the Manota. He
then repeats the hymn : Thou, O Agni, art the first Manota3 (6.1)”
There remains the question of sharing the flesh of the animal. On
this issue the division was settled by the Atreya Brahmana in the
following terms4 :
“Now follows the division of the different parts of the sacrificial animal (among
the priests). We shall describe it. The two jawbones with the tongue are to be given
to the Prastotar; the breast in the form of an eagle to the Udgatar; the throat with
the palate to the Pratihartar; the lower part of the right loins to the Hotar: the left
to the Brahma; the right thigh to the Maitravaruna; the left to the
Brahmanachhamsi; the right side with the shoulder to the Adhvaryu; the

1. Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) H p. 87
2. Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II p. 93
3. Manota means the deity to whom the offering is dedicated.
1 Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II, pp. 441-42.
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left side to those who accompany the chants; the left shoulder to the
Pratipashatar; the lower part of the right arm to the Neshtar; the lower part
of the laft arm to the Potar; the upper of the right thigh to the Achhavaka;
the left to the Agnidhara; the upper part of the right arm to the Atreya;
the left to the Sadasya; the back bone and the urinal bladder to the Grihapati
(sacrificcr); the right feet to the Grihapati who gives a feasting; the left feet
to the wife of that Grihapati who gives a feasting; the upper lip is common
to both (the Grihapati and his wife), which is to be divided by the Grihapati.
They offer the tail of the animal to wives, but they should give it to a
Brahmana; the fleshy processes (manikah) on the neck and three gristles
(kikasah) to the Gravastut; three other gristles and one-half of the fleshy
part on the back (vaikartta) to the Unnetar; the other half of the fleshy part
on the neck and the left lobe (kloma) to the slaughterer, who should present
it to a Brahmana, if he himself would not happen to be a Brahmana. The
head is to be given to the Subrahmanya, the skin belongs to him (the
Subrahmanya), who spoke, svah sutyam (tomorrow at the Soma sacrifice); that
part of the sacrificial animal at a Soma sacrifice which belongs to Ila
(sacrificial food) is common to all the priests; only for the Hotar it is optional.
All these portions of the sacrificial animal amount to thirtysix single pieces,
each of which represents the pada (foot) of a verse by which the sacrifice
is carried up. The Brihati metre consists of thirtysix syllables; and the
heavenly worlds are of the Brihati nature. In this way (by dividing the animal
into thirtysix parts) they gain life (in this world) and the heavens, and having
become established in both (this and that world) they walk there.
To those who divide the sacrificial animal in the way mentioned, it becomes
the guide to heaven. But those who make the division otherwise are like
scoundrels and miscreants who kill an animal merely (for gratifying their
lust after flesh). This division of the sacrificial animal was invented by the
Rishi (Devabhaga, a son of Sruta). When he was departing from this life,
he did not entrust (the secret to anyone). But a supernatural being
communicated it to Cirija, the son of Babhru. Since his time men study it.”
What is said by the Atreya Brahmana places two things beyond
dispute. One is that the Brahmins monopolised the whole of the flesh
of the sacrificial animal. Except for a paltry bit they did not even
allow the sacrificer to share in it. The second is that the Brahmins
themselves played the part of butchers in the slaughter of the animal.
As a matter of principle the Brahmins should not eat the flesh of
the animal killed at a sacrifice. The principle underlying Yajna is
that man should offer himself as sacrifice to the gods. He offers an
animal only to release himself from this obligation. From this it
followed that the animal, being only a substitute for the man, eating the
flesh of animal meant eating human flesh. This theory was very detri-
mental to the interest of the Brahmins who had a complete monopoly
of the flesh of the animal offered for sacrifice. The Atreya Brahmana
which had seen in this theory the danger of the Brahmins being
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deprived of the flesh of sacrificial animal takes pains to explain away
the theory by a simple negation. It says1 :
“The man who is intitiated (into the sacrificial mysteries) offers himself
to all deities. Agni represents all deities and Soma represents all deities.
When he (the sacrificer) offers the animal to Agni-Soma he releases himself
(by being represented by the animal) from being offered to all deities.
They say : “do not eat from the animal offered to Agni-Soma. Who eats
from this animal, eats from human flesh; because the sacrificer releases
himself (from being sacrificed) by means of the animal”. But this (precept)
is not to be attended to.”
Given these facts, no further evidence seems to be necessary to
support the statement that the Brahmins were not merely beef-eaters
but they were also butchers.
Why then did the Brahmins change front? Let us deal with their
change of front in two stages. First, why did they give up beef-


As has already been shown cow-killing was not legally prohibited by
Asoka. Even if it had been prohibited, a law made by the Buddhist
Emperor could never have been accepted by the Brahmins as binding
upon them.
Did Manu prohibit beef-eating? If he did, then that would be
binding on the Brahmins and would afford an adequate explanation
of their change of front. Looking into the Manu Smriti one does find
the following verses :
“V; 46. He who docs not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and
death to living creatures, (but) desires the good of all (beings),
obtains endless bliss.
“V. 47. He who does not injure any (creature), attains without an effort
what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his
mind on.
“V. 48. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures,
and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment
of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat.

1 Atreya Brahmana (Martin Haug) II p. 80
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“V. 49. Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the
(cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him
entirely abstain from eating flesh.”
If these verses can be treated as containing positive injunctions
they would be sufficient to explain why the Brahmins gave up meat-
eating and became vegetarians. But it is impossible to treat these
verses as positive injunctions, carrying the force of law. They are
either exhortations or interpolations introduced after the Brahmins
had become vegetarians in praise of the change. That the latter is
the correct view is proved by the following verses which occur in the
same chapter of the Manu Smriti. :
“V. 28 : The Lord of creatures (Prajapati) created this whole (world to
be) the sustenance of the vital spirit; both the immovable and
the movable creation is the food of the vital spirit.
“V. 29. What is destitute of motion is the food of those endowed with
locomotion; (animals) without fangs (are the food) of those with
fangs, those without hands of those who possess hands, and
the timid of the bold.
“V. 30. The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food,
commits no sin; for the creator himself created both the eaters
and those who are to be eaten (for those special purposes).
“V. 56. There is no sin in eating meat, in (drinking) spirituous liquor,
and in carnal intercourse for that is the natural way of created
beings, but abstention brings great rewards.
“V. 27. One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water,
while Mantras were recited, when Brahmanas desire (one’s
doing it) when one is engaged (in the performance of a rite)
according to the law, and when one’s life is in danger.
“V. 31. ‘The consumption of meat (is befitting) for scrifices,’ that is
declared to be a rule made by the gods, but to persist (in using
it) on other (occasions) is said to be a proceeding worthy of
“V. 32. He who eats meat, when he honours the gods and manes
commits no sin, whether he has bought it, or himself has killed
(the animal) or has received it as a present from others.
“V. 42. A twice-born man who, knowing the true meaning of the Veda,
slays an animal for these purposes, causes both himself and
the animal to enter a most blessed state.
“V. 39. Swayambhu (the self-existent) himself created animals for the
sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good
of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for
sacrifice is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word).
“V. 40. Herbs, trees, cattle, birds, and other animals that have been
destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher exist-
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Manu goes further and makes eating of flesh compulsory. Note the
following verse :
“V. 35. But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to. dine
at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an
animal during twentyone existences.”
That Manu did not prohibit meat-eating is evident enough. That
Manu Smriti did not prohibit cow-killing can also be proved from the
Smriti itself. In the first place, the only references to cow in the Manu
Smriti are to be found in the catalogue of rules which are made
applicable by Manu to the Snataka. They are set dut below :-
1. A Snataka should not eat food which a cow has smelt.1
2. A Snataka should not step over a rope to which a calf is tied.2
3. A Snataka should not urinate in a cowpan.3
4. A Snataka should not answer call of nature facing a cow.4
5. A Snataka should not keep his right arm uncovered when he
enters a cowpan.5
6. A Snataka should not interrupt a cow which is sucking her calf,
nor tell anybody of it6
7. A Snataka should not ride on the back of the cow.7
8. A Snataka should not offend the cow.8
9. A Snataka who is impure must not touch a cow with his hand.9
From these references it will be seen that Manu did not regard
the cow as a sacred animal. On the other hand, he regarded it as
an impure animal whose touch caused ceremonial pollution.
There are verses in Manu which show that he did not prohibit the
eating of beef. In this connection, reference may be made to Chapter
III. 3. It says :-
“He (Snataka) who is famous (for the strict performance of) his duties
and has received his heritage, the Veda from his father, shall be honoured,
sitting on couch and adorned with a garland with the present of a cow
(the honey-mixture).”
The question is why should Manu recommend the gift of a cow
to a Snataka? Obviously, to enable him to perform Madhuparka. If
that is so, it follows that Manu knew that Brahmins did eat beef
and he had no objection to it.

1 Manu, 209 4 Manu, 48 7 Manu, 70
2 Ibid, 38 5 Ibid, 58 8 Ibid, 162
3 Ibid, 45 6 Ibid, 59 9 Ibid, 142
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Another reference would be to Manu’s discussion of the animals
whose meat is eatable and those whose meat is not. In Chapter
V. 18. he says :-
“The porcupine, the hedgehog, the iguana, the rhinoceros, the tortoise,
and the hare they declare to be eatable, likewise those (domestic animals)
that have teeth in one jaw only, excepting camels.”
In this verse Manu gives general permission to eat the flesh of
all domestic animals that have teeth in one jaw only. To this rule
Manu makes one exception, namely, the camel. In this class of
domestic animals— those that have teeth in one jaw only— falls not
only the camel but also the cow. It is noteworthy that Manu does
not make an exception in the case of the cow. This means that Manu
had no objection to the eating of the cow’s flesh.
Manu did not make the killing of the cow an offence. Manu divides
sins into two classes (i) mortal sins and (ii) minor sins. Among the
mortal sins Manu includes :
“XI. 55. Killing a Brahmana, drinking (the spirituous liquor called
Sura) stealing the (gold of Brahmana) a adultery with a Guru’s
wife, and associating with such offenders.”
Among minor sins Manu includes :
“XI. 60. Killing the cow, sacrificing for those unworthy to sacrifice,
adultery, setting oneself, casting off one’s teacher, mother,
father or son, giving up the (daily) study of the Veda and
neglecting the (sacred domestic) fire.”
From this it will be clear that according to Manu cow-killing was
only a minor sin. It was reprehensible only if the cow was killed
without good and sufficient reason. Even if it was otherwise, it was
not heinous or inexplicable. The same was the attitude of Yajnavalkya1.
All this proves that for generations the Brahmins had been eating
beef. Why did they give up beef-eating? Why did they, as an extreme
step, give up meat eating altogether and become vegetarians? It is
two revolutions rolled into one. As has been shown it has not been
done as a result of the preachings of Manu, their Divine Law-maker.
The revolution has taken place in spite of Manu and contrary to his
directions. What made the Brahmins take this step? Was philosophy
responsible for it? Or was it dictated by strategy?
Two explanations are offered. One explanation is that this deification
of the cow was a manifestation of the Advaita philosophy

1 Yaj. III. 227 and III 234.
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that one supreme entity pervaded the whole universe, that on that
account all life human as well as animal was sacred. This explanation
is obviously unsatisfactory. In the first place, it does not fit in with
facts. The Vedanta Sutra which proclaims the doctrine of oneness of
life does not prohibit the killing of animals for sacrificial purposes
as is evident from II.1.28. In the second place, if the transformation
was due to the desire to realize the ideal of Advaita then there is
no reason why it should have stopped with the cow. It should have
extended to all other animals.
Another explanation1 more ingenious than the first, is that this
transformation in the life of the Brahmin was due to the rise of the
doctrine of the Transmigration of the Soul. Even this explanation does
not fit in with facts. The Brahadaranyaka Upanishad upholds the
doctrine of transmigration (vi.2) and yet recommends that if a man
desires to have a learned son born to him he should prepare a mass
of the flesh of the bull or ox or of other flesh with rice and ghee.
Again, how is it that this doctrine which is propounded in the
Upanishads did not have any effect on the Brahmins upto the time
of the Manu Smriti, a period of at least 400 years. Obviously, this
explanation is no explanation. Thirdly, if Brahmins became vegetarians
by reason of the doctrine of transmigration of the soul how is it, it
did not make the non-Brahmins take to vegetarianism?
To my mind, it was strategy which made the Brahmins give up
beef-eating and start worshipping the cow. The clue to the worship
of the cow is to be found in the struggle between Buddhism and
Brahmanism and the means adopted by Brahmanism to establish its
supremacy over Buddhism. The strife between Buddhism and Brah-
manism is a crucial fact in Indian history. Without the realisation
of this fact, it is impossible to explain some of the features of
Hinduism. Unfortunately students of Indian history have entirely
missed the importance of this strife. They knew there was Brahman-
ism. But they seem to be entirely unaware of the struggle for
supremacy in which these creeds were engaged and that their struggle
which extended for 400 years has left some indeliable marks on
religion, society and politics of India.
This is not the place for describing the full story of the struggle.
All one can do is to mention a few salient points. Buddhism was at
one time the religion of the majority of the people of India. It
continued to be the religion of the masses for hundreds of years. It
attacked Brahmanism on all sides as no religion had done before.

1 Kane’s Dharma Shastra II. Part II. P 776
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Brahmanism was on the wane and if not on the wane, it was certainly
on the defensive. As a result of the. spread of Buddhism, the
Brahmins had lost all power and prestige at the Royal Court and
among the people. They were smarting under the defeat they had
suffered at the hands of Buddhism and were making all possible
efforts to regain their power and prestige. Buddhism had made so
deep an impression on the minds of the masses and had taken such
a hold of them that it was absolutely impossible for the Brahmins
to fight the Buddhists except by accepting their ways and means and
practising the Buddhist creed in its extreme form. After the death
of Buddha his followers started setting up the images of the Buddha
and building stupas. The Brahmins followed it. They, in their turn,
built temples and installed in them images of Shiva, Vishnu and Ram
and Krishna etc.,—all with the object of drawing away the crowd that
was attracted by the image worship of Buddha. That is how temples
and images which had no place in Brahmanism came into Hinduism.
The Buddhists rejected the Brahmanic religion which consisted of
Yajna and animal sacrifice, particularly of the cow. The objection to
the sacrifice of the cow had taken a strong hold of the minds of the
masses especially as they were an agricultural population and the
cow was a very useful animal. The Brahmins in all probability had
come to be hated as the killer of cows in the same way as the guest
had come to be hated as Gognha, the killer of the cow by the
householder, because whenever he came a cow had to be killed in
his honour. That being the case, the Brahmins could do nothing to
improve their position against the Buddhists except by giving up the
Yajna as a form of worship and the sacrifice of the cow.
That the object of the Brahmins in giving up beef-eating was to
snatch away from the Buddhist Bhikshus the supremacy they had
acquired is evidenced by the adoption of vegetarianism by Brahmins.
Why did the Brahmins become vegetarian? The answer is that without
becoming vegetarian the Brahmins could not have recovered the
ground they had lost to their rival namely Buddhism. In this
connection it must be remembered that there was one aspect in which
Brahmanism suffered in public esteem as compared to Buddhism.
That was the practice of animal sacrifice which was the essence of
Brahmanism and to which Buddhism was deadly opposed. That in
an agricultural population there should be respect for Buddhism
and revulsion against Brahmanism which involved slaughter of
animals including cows and bullocks is only natural. What could the
Brahmins do to recover the lost ground? To go one better than the
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Buddhist Bhikshus not only to give up meat-eating but to become
vegetarians— which they did. That this was the object of the
Brahmins in becoming vegetarians can be proved in various ways.
If the Brahmins had acted from conviction that animal sacrifice
was bad, all that was necessary for them to do was to give up killing
animals for sacrifice. It was unnecessary for them to be vegetarians.
That they did go in for vegetarianism makes it obvious that their
motive was far-reaching. Secondly, it was unnecessary for them to
become vegetarians. For the Buddhist Bhikshus were not vegetarians.
This statement might surprise many people owing to the popular
belief that the connection between Ahimsa and Buddhism was
immediate and essential. It is generally believed that the Buddhist
Bhikshus eschewed animal food. This is an error. The fact is that
the Buddhist Bhikshus were permitted to eat three kinds of flesh
that were deemed pure. Later on they were extended to five classes.
Yuan Chwang, the Chinese traveller was aware of this and spoke
of the pure kinds of flesh as San-Ching. The origin of this practice
among the Bhikshus is explained by Mr. Thomas Walters. According
to the story told by him1—
“In the time of Buddha there was in Vaisali a wealthy general named
Siha who was a convert to Buddhism. He became a liberal supporter of the
Brethren and kept them constantly supplied with good flesh-food. When it
was noticed abroad that the Bhikshus were in the habit of eating such food
specially provided for them, the Tirthikas made the practice a matter of angry
reproach. Then the abstemious ascetic Brethren, learning this, reported the
circumstances to the Master, who thereupon called the Brethren together.
When they assembled, he announced to them the law that they were not
to eat the flesh of any animal which they had seen put to death for them,
or about which they had been told that it had been slain for them. But he
permitted to the Brethern as ‘pure’ (that is, lawful) food the flesh of animals
the slaughter of which had not been seen by the Bhikshus, not heard of by
them, and not suspected by them to have been on their account. In the Pali
and Ssu-fen Vinaya it was after a breakfast given by Siha to the Buddha
and some of the Brethren, for which the carcass of a large ox was procured
that the Nirgranthas reviled the Bhikshus and Buddha instituted this new
rule declaring fish and flesh ‘pure’ in the three conditions. The animal food
now permitted to the Bhikshus came to be known as the ‘three pures’ or ‘three
pure kinds of flesh’, and it was tersely described as ‘unseen, unheard, unsus-
pected’, or as the Chinese translations sometimes have it ‘not seen, not heard
nor suspected to be on my account’. Then two more kinds of animal food
were declared “lawful for the Brethren viz., the flesh of animals which had
died a natural death, and that of animals which had been killed by a bird
of prey or other savage creature. So there came to be five classes or

1 Yuan Chwang (1904) Vol. I. p. 55
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descriptions of flesh which the professed Buddhist was at liberty to use as
food. Then the ‘unseen, unheard, unsuspected’ came to be treated as one class,
and this together with the ‘natural death’ and ‘bird killed’ made a san-ching.”
As the Buddhist Bhikshus did eat meat the Brahmins had no reason
to give it up. Why then did the Brahmins give up meat-eating and
become vegetarians? It was because they did not want to put
themselves merely on the same footing in the eyes of the public as
the Buddhist Bhikshus.
The giving up of the Yajna system and abandonment of the sacrifice
of the cow could have had only a limited effect. At the most it would
have put the Brahmins on the same footing as the Buddhists. The
same would have been the case if they had followed the rules observed
by the Buddhist Bhikshus in the matter of meat-eating. It could not
have given the Brahmins the means of achieving supremacy over the
Buddhists which was their ambition. They wanted to oust the
Buddhists from the place of honour and respect which they had
acquired in the minds of the masses by their opposition to the killing
of the cow for sacrificial purposes. To achieve their purpose the
Brahmins had to adopt the usual tactics of a wreckless adventurer.
It is to beat extremism by extremism. It is the strategy which all
rightists use to overcome the leftists. The only way to beat the
Buddhists was to go a step further and be vegetarians.
There is another reason which can be relied upon to support the
thesis that the Brahmins started cow-worship, gave up beef-eating
and became vegetarians in order to vanquish Buddhism. It is the date
when cow-killing became a mortal sin. It is well-known that cow-
killing was not made an offence by Asoka. Many people expect him
to have come forward to prohibit the killing of the cow. Prof. Vincent
Smith regards it as surprising. But there is nothing surprising in
Buddhism was against animal sacrifice in general. It had no
particular affection for the cow. Asoka had therefore no particular
reason to make a law to save the cow. What is more astonishing
is the fact that cow-killing was made a Mahapataka, a mortal sin
or a capital offence by the Gupta Kings who were champions of
Hinduism which recognised and sanctioned the killing of the cow for
sacrificial purposes. As pointed out by Mr. D. R. Bhandarkar1—
“We have got the incontrovertible evidence of inscriptions to show that early
in the 5th century A. D. killing a cow was looked upon as an offence of the

1 Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Culture (1940) pp. 78-79.
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deepest turpitude, turpitude as deep as that involved in murdering a
Brahman. We have thus a copper-plate inscription dated 465 A.D. and
referring itself to the reign of Skandagupta of the Imperial Gupta dynasty.
It registers a grant and ends with a verse saying : ‘Whosoever will transgress
this grant that has been assigned (shall become as guilty as) the slayer of
a cow, the slayer of a spiritual preceptor (or) the slayer of a Brahman. A
still earlier record placing go-hatya on the same footing as brahma hatya
is that of Chandragupta II, grandfather of Skandagupta just mentioned. It
bears the Gupta date 93, which is equivalent to 412 A.D. It is engraved on
the railing which surrounds the celebrated Buddhist stupa at Sanchi, in
Central India. This also speaks of a benefaction made by an officer of
Chandragupta and ends as follows: .. … “Whosoever shall interfere with this
arrangement .. he shall become invested with (the guilt of) the slaughter of
a cow or of a Brahman, and with (the guilt of) the five anantarya.” Here
the object of this statement is to threaten the resumer of the grant, be he
a Brahminist or a Buddhist, with the sins regarded as mortal by each
community. The anantaryas arc the five mahapatakas according to Buddhist
theology. They arc: matricide, patricide, killing an Arhat, shedding the blood
of a Buddha, and causing a split among the priesthood. The mahapatakas
with which a Brahminist is here threatened are only two : viz., the killing
of a cow and the murdering of a Brahman. The latter is obviously a
mahapataka as it is mentioned as such in all the Smritis, but the former
has been specified only an upapalaka by Apastamba, Manu, Yajnavalkya and
so forth. But the very fact that it is here associated with brahma-hatya and
both have been put on a par with the anantaryas of the Buddhists shows
that in the beginning of the fifth century A.D., it was raised to the category
of mahapatakas. Thus go-hatya must have come to be considered a mahapataka
at least one century earlier, i.e., about the commencement of the fourth
century A.D.”
The question is why should a Hindu king have come forward to
make a law against cow-killing, that is to say, against the Laws of
Manu? The answer is that the Brahmins had to suspend or abrogate
a requirement of their Vedic religion in order to overcome the
supremacy of the Buddhist Bhikshus. If the analysis is correct then
it is obvious that the worship of the cow is the result of the struggle
between Buddhism and Brahminism. It was a means adopted by the
Brahmins to regain their lost position.
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THE stoppage of beef-eating by the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins
and the continued use thereof by the Broken Men had produced a
situation which was different from the old. This difference lay in the
face that while in the old situation everybody ate beef, in the new
situation one section did not and another did. The difference was a
glaring difference. Everybody could see it. It divided society as
nothing else did before. All the same, this difference need not have
given rise to such extreme division of society as is marked by
Untouchability. It could have remained a social difference. There are
many cases where different sections of the community differ in their
foods. What one likes the other dislikes and yet this difference does
not create a bar between the two.
There must therefore be some special reason why in India the
difference between the Settled Community and the Broken Men in
the matter of beef-eating created a bar between the two. What can
that be? The answer is that if beef-eating had remained a secular
affair—a mere matter of individual taste-such a bar between those
who ate beef and those who did not would not have arisen.
Unfortunately beef-eating, instead of being treated as a purely secular
matter, was made a matter of religion. This happened because the
Brahmins made the cow a sacred animal. This made beef-eating a
sacrilege. The Broken Men being guilty of sacrilege necessarily
became beyond the pale of society.
The answer may not be quite clear to those who have no idea of
the scope and function of religion in the life of the society. They may
ask: Why should religion make such a difference? It will be clear
if the following points regarding the scope and function of religion
are borne in mind.
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To begin with the definition1 of religion. There is one universal
feature which characterises all religions. This feature lies in religion
being a unified system of beliefs and practices which (1) relate to
sacred things and (2) which unite into one single community all those
who adhere to them. To put it slightly differently, there are two
elements in every religion. One is that religion is inseparable from
sacred things. The other is that religion is a collective thing
inseparable from society.
The first element in religion presupposes a classification of all
things, real and ideal, which are the subject-matter of man’s thought,
into two distinct classes which are generally designated by two
distinct terms the sacred and the profane, popularly spoken of as
This defines the scope of religion. For understanding the function
-of religion the following points regarding things sacred should be
noted :
The first thing to note is that things sacred are not merely higher
than or superior in dignity and status to those that are profane. They
are just different. The sacred and the profane do not belong to the
same class. There is a complete dichotomy between the two. As Prof.
Durkhiem observes2 :—
“The traditional opposition of good and bad is nothing beside this; for
the good and the bad are only iwo opposed species of the same class,
namely, morals, just as sickness and health are two different aspects of
the same order of facts, life, while the sacred and the profane have always
and everywhere been conceived by the human mind as two distinct classes,
as two worlds between which there is nothing in common.”
The curious may want to know what has led men to see in this
world this dichotomy between the sacred and the profane. We must
however refuse to enter into this discussion as it is unnecessary for
the immediate purpose we have in mind.3
Confining ourselves to the issue the next thing to note is that the
circle of sacred objects is not fixed. Its extent varies infinitely from
religion to religion. Gods and spirits are not the only sacred things.
A rock, a tree, an animal, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house,
in a word anything can be sacred.
1 This definiton of religion it by Prof. E’nvile Durkhiem. See his The Elementary
Forms of the Religious Life’ p. 47. For the discussion that follows I have drawn
upon the same authority.
2 Prof. Durkhiem’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life p.38
3 The curious may refer to page 317 of the above book.
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Things sacred are always associated with interdictions otherwise
called taboos. To quote Prof. Durkhiem1 again :
“Sacred things are those which the interdictions protect and isolate;
profane things, those to which these interdictions are applied and which
must remain at a distance from the first.”
Religious interdicts take multiple forms. Most important of these
is the interdiction on contact. The interdiction on contact rests upon
the principle that the profane should never touch the sacred. Contact
may be established in a variety of ways other than touch. A look
is a means of contact. That is why the sight of sacred things is
forbidden to the profane in certain cases. For instance, women are
not allowed to see certain things which are regarded as sacred. The
word (i.e., the breath which forms part of man and which spreads
outside him) is another means of contact. That is why the profane
is forbidden to address the sacred things or to utter them. For
instance, the Veda must be uttered only by the Brahmin and not
by the Shudra. An exceptionally intimate contact is the one resulting
from the absorption of food. Hence comes the interdiction against
eating the sacred animals or vegetables.
The interdictions relating to the sacred are not open to discussion.
They are beyond discussion and must be accepted without question.
The sacred is ‘untouchable’ in the sense that it is beyond the pale
of debate. All that one can do is to respect and obey.
Lastly the interdictions relating to the sacred are binding on all.
They are not maxims. They are injunctions. They are obligatory but
not in the ordinary sense of the word. They partake of the nature
of a categorical imperative. Their breach is more than a crime. It
is a sacrilege.
The above summary should be enough for an understanding of the
scope and function of religion. It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the
subject further. The analysis of the working of the laws of the sacred
which is the core of religion should enable any one to see that my
answer to the question why beef-eating should make the Broken Men
-untouchables is the correct one. All that is necessary to reach the
answer I have proposed is to read the analysis of the working of the
laws of the sacred with the cow as the sacred object. It will be found
that Untouchability is the result of the breach of the interdiction
against the eating of the sacred animal, namely, the cow.
1 The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life p 41, Interdictions which come
from religion must be distinguished from those which proceed from magic to a
discussion of this subject see Ibid. p. 300.
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As has been said, the Brahmins made the cow a sacred animal.
They did not stop to make a difference between a living cow and
a dead cow. The cow was sacred, living or dead. Beef-eating was not
merely a crime. If it was only a crime it would have involved nothing
more than punishment. Beef-eating was made a sacrilege. Anyone who
treated the cow as profane was guilty of sin and unfit for association.
The Broken Men who continued to eat beef became guilty of sacrilege.
Once the cow became sacred and the Broken Men continued to eat
beef, there was no other fate left for the Broken Men except to be
treated unfit for association, i.e., as Untouchables.
Before closing the subject it may be desirable to dispose of possible
objections to the thesis. Two such objections to the thesis appear
obvious. One is what evidence is there that the Broken Men did eat
the flesh of the dead cow. The second is why did they not give up
beef-eating when the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins abandoned it.
These questions have an important bearing upon the theory of the
origin of untouchability advanced in this book and must therefore
be dealt with.
The first question is relevant as well as crucial. If the Broken Men
were eating beef from the very beginning, then obviously the theory
cannot stand. For, if they were eating beef from the very beginning
and nonetheless were not treated as Untouchables, to say that the
Broken Men became Untouchables because of beef-eating would be
illogical if not senseless. The second question is relevant, if not
crucial. If the Brahmins gave up beef-eating and the non-Brahmins
imitated them why did the Broken Men not do the same? If the law
made the killing of the cow a capital sin because the cow became
a sacred animal to the Brahmins and non-Brahmins, why were the
Broken Men not stopped from eating beef? If they had been stopped
from eating beef there would have been no Untouchability.
The answer to the first question is that even during the period
when beef-eating was common to both, the Settled Tribesmen and
the Broken Men, a system had grown up whereby the Settled
Community ate fresh beef, while the Broken Men ate the flesh of the
dead cow. We have no positive evidence to show that members of the
Settled Community never ate the flesh of the dead cow. But we have
negative evidence which shows that the dead cow had become an
exclusive possession and perquisite of the Broken Men. The evidence
consists of facts which relate to the Mahars of the Maharashtra to
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whom reference has already been made. As has already been pointed
out, the Mahars of the Maharashtra claim the right to take the dead
animal. This right they claim against every Hindu in the village. This
means that no Hindu can eat the flesh of his own animal when it
dies. He has to surrender it to the Mahar. This is merely another
way of stating that when eating beef was a common practice the
Mahars ate dead beef and the Hindus ate fresh beef. The only
questions that arise are : Whether what is true of the present is true
of the ancient past? Can this fact which is true of the Maharashtra
be taken as typical of the arrangement between the Settled Tribes
and the Broken Men throughout India?
In this connection reference may be made to the tradition current
among the Mahars according to which they claim that they were given
52 rights against the Hindu villagers by the Muslim King of Bedar.
Assuming that they were given by the King of Bedar, the King
obviously did not create them for the first time. They must have been
in existence from the ancient past. What the King did was merely
to confirm them. This means that the practice of the Broken Men
eating dead meat and the Settled Tribes eating fresh meat must have
grown in the ancient past. That such an arrangement should grow
up is certainly most natural. The Settled Community was a wealthy
community with agriculture and cattle as means of livelihood. The
Broken Men were a community of paupers with no means of livelihood
and entirely dependent upon the Settled Community. The principal
item of food for both was beef. It was possible for the Settled
Community to kill an animal for food because it was possessed of
cattle. The Broken Men could not for they had none. Would it be
unnatural in these circumstances for the Settled Community to have
agreed to give to the Broken Men its dead animals as part of their
wages of watch and ward? Surely not. It can therefore be taken for
granted that in the ancient past when both the Settled Community
and Broken Men did eat beef the former ate fresh beef and the latter
of the dead cow and that this system represented a universal state
of affairs throughout India and was not confined to the Maharashtra
This disposes of the first objection. To turn to the second
objection. The law made by the Gupta Emperors was intended to
prevent those who killed cows. It did not apply to the Broken Men.
For they did not kill the cow. They only ate the dead cow. Their
conduct did not contravene the law against cow-killing. The practice
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of eating the flesh of the dead cow therefore was allowed to continue.
Nor did their conduct contravene the doctrine of Ahimsa assuming
that it has anything to do with the abandonment of beef-eating by
the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins. Killing the cow was Himsa. But
eating the dead cow was not. The Broken Men had therefore no cause
for feeling qualms of conscience in continuing to eat the dead cow.
Neither the law nor the doctrine of Himsa could interdict what they
were doing, for what they were doing was neither contrary to law
nor to the doctrine.
As to why they did not imitate the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins
the answer is two fold. In the first place, imitation was too costly.
They could not afford it. The flesh of the dead cow was their principal
sustenance. Without it they would starve. In the second place,
carrying the dead cow had become an obligaton1 though originally
it was a privilege. As they could not escape carrying the dead cow
they did not mind using the flesh as food in the manner in which
they were doing previously.
The objections therefore do not invalidate the thesis in any way.

1 Owing to the reform movement among the Mahars the position has become
just the reverse. The Mahars refuse to take the dead animal while the Hindu
villagers force them to take it.
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Chapter XV. The Impure and The Untouchables.
Chapter XVI. When did Broken Men become Untouchables ?
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WHEN did Untouchability come into existence? The orthodox Hindus
insist that it is very ancient in its origin. In support of their
contention reliance is placed on the fact that the observance of
Untouchability is enjoined not merely by the Smritis which are of
a later date but it is also enjoined by the Dharma Sutras which are
much earlier and which, according to certain authors, date some
centuries before B.C.
In a study devoted to exploring the origin of Untouchability the
question one must begin with is : Is Untouchability as old as is
suggested to be?
For an answer to this question one has to examine the Dharma
Sutras in order to ascertain what they mean when they refer to
Untouchability and to the Untouchables. Do they mean by Untouch-
ability what we understand by it to-day? Do the class, to which they
refer, Untouchables in the sense in which we use the term Untouch-
ables to-day?
To begin with the first question. An examination of the Dharma
Sutras no doubt shows that they speak of a class whom they call
Asprashya. There is also no doubt that the term Asprashya does mean
Untouchables. The question however remains whether the Asprashya
of the Dharma Sutras are the same as the Asprashya of modern India.
This question becomes important when it is realized that the
Dharma., Sutras also use a variety of other terms such as Antya,
Antyaja, Antyavasin and Bahya. These terms are also used by the
later Smritis. It might be well to have some idea of the use of these
terms by the different Sutras and Smritis. The following table is
intended to serve that purpose :—
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I. Asprashya

Dharma Sutra Smriti

1. Vishnu V. 104. 1. Katyayana verses 433, 783.

II. Antya

Dharma Sutras Smriti

1. Vasishta. (16-30) 1. Manu IV. 79; VIII. 68.

2. Apastambha (III.I) 2. Yajnavalkya I. 148. 197.

3. Atri 25.

4. Likhita 92.

III. Bahya

Dharma Sutras Smriti

1. Apastambha 1. Manu 28.

2. Vishnu 16. 14 2. Narada I. 155.

IV. Antyavasin

Dharma Sutras Smriti

1. Gautama XXXI; XXIII 32 1. Manu IV.79; X.39

2. Vasishta XVIII. 3 2. Shanti Parvan of the
Mahabharata 141; 29-32

3. Madhyamangiras (quoted
in Mitakshara on Yaj.
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V. Antyaja

Dharma Sutra Smriti

1. Vishnu 36.7 1. Manu IV. 61; VIII. 279

2. Yajnavalkya 12.73

3. Brihadyama Smriti (quoted
by Mitakshara on Yajna-
valkya III. 260)
4. Atri. 199

5. Veda Vyas 1. 12. 13.


The next question is whether the classes indicated by the terms
Antya, Antyaja, Antyavasin and Bahya are the same as those
indicated by the term Asprashya which etymologically means an
Untouchable. In other words are they only different names for the
same class of people?
It is an unfortunate fact that the Dharma Sutras do not enable
us to answer this question. The term Asprashya occurs in two places
(once in one Sutra and twice in one Smriti). But not one gives an
enumeration of the classes included in it. The same is the case with
the term Antya. Although the word Antya occurs in six places (in
two Sutras and four Smritis) not one enumerates who they are.
Similarly, the word Bahya occurs in four places (in two Sutras and
two Smritis), but none of them mentions what communities are
included under this term. The only exception is with regard to the
terms Antyavasin and Antyajas. Here again no Dharma Sutra
enumerates them. But there is an enumeration of them in the Smritis.
The enumeration of the Antyavasin occurs in the Smriti known as
Madhyamangiras and that of the Antyajas in the Atri Smriti and
Veda Vyas Smriti. Who they are, will be apparent from the following
table :—
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Madhyamangiras Atri Veda Vyas

1. Chandala. 1. Nata 1. Chandala.

2. Shvapaka. 2. Meda. 2. Shvapaka.

3. Kshatta. 3. Bhilla. 3. Nata.

4. Suta. 4. Rajaka. 4. Meda.

5. Vaidehika. 5. Charmakar. 5. Bhilla.

6. Magadha. 6. Buruda. 6. Rajaka.

7. Ayogava. 7. Kayavarta. 7. Charmakar.

8. Virat.

9. Dasa.

10. Bhatt.

11. Kolika.

12. Pushkar.

From this table it is quite clear that there is neither precision nor
agreement with regard to the use of the terms Antyavasin and
Antyaja. For instance Chandala and Shvapaka fall in both the
categories Antyavasin and Antyaja according to Madhyamangiras and
Veda Vyas. But when one compares Madhyamangiras with Atri they
fall in different categories. The same is true with regard to the term
Antyaja. For example while (1) Chandala and (2) Shvapaka are
Antyajas according to Veda Vyas, according to Atri they are not.
Again according to Atri (1) Buruda and (2) Kayavarta are Antyajas
while according to Veda Vyas they are not. Again (1) Virat (2) Dasa
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(3) Bhatt (4) Kolika and (5) Pushkar are Antyaja according to Veda
Vyas but according to Atri they are not.
To sum up the position reached so far : neither the Dharma Sutras
nor the Smritis help us to ascertain who were included in the category
of Asprashya. Equally useless are the Dharma Sutras and the Smritis
to enable us to ascertain whether the classes spoken of as Antyavasin,
Antyaja and Bahya were the same as Asprashya. Is there any other
way of ascertaining whether any of these formed into the category
of Asprashya or Untouchables? It would be better to collect together
whatever information is available about each of these classes.
What about the Bahyas? Who are they? What are they? Are they
Untouchables? They are mentioned by Manu. To understand their
position, it is necessary to refer to Manu’s scheme of social classi-
fication. Manu divides the people into various categories. He first1
makes a broad division between (1) Vaidikas and (2) Dasyus. He then
proceeds to divide the Vaidikas into four sub-divisions: (1) Those
inside Chaturvarnya (2) Those outside Chaturvarnya (3) Vratya and
(4) Patitas or outcastes.
Whether a person was inside Chaturvarnya or outside, was a
question to be determined by the Varna of the parents. If he was
born of the parents of the same Varnas, he was inside the
Chaturvarnya. If, on the other hand, he was born of parents of
different Varnas i.e., he was the progeny of mixed marriages or what
Manu calls Varna Samkara, then he was outside the Chaturvarnya.
Those outside Chaturvarnya are further sub-divided by Manu into
two classes. (1) Anulomas and (2) Pratilomas. Anulamas2 were those
whose fathers were of a higher Varna and mothers of a lower Varna.
Pratilomas, on the other hand, were those whose fathers were of a
lower Varna and the mothers of a higher Varna. Though both the
Anulomas and Pratilomas were alike for the reason that they were
outside the Chaturvarnya. Manu proceeds to make a distinction
between them. The Anulomas, he calls Varna Bahya or shortly
Bahyas, while Pratilomas he calls Hinas. The Hinas are lower than
the Bahyas. But neither the Bahyas nor the Hinas does Manu regard
as Untouchables.

1. See Manu 1, 45,
2 Ibid
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Antya as a class is mentioned in Manu IV.79. Manu however does
not enumerate them. Medhatithi in his commentary suggests that
Antya means Mlecha, such as Meda, etc. Buhler translates Antya as
a low-caste man.
There is thus nothing to indicate that the Antyas were Untouch-
ables. In all probability, it is the name given to those people who
were living in the outskirts or end (Anta) of the village. The reason
why they came to be regarded as low is to be found in the story
narrated in the Brahadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3) to which reference
is made by Mr. Kane.1 The story is that-
“Gods and Asuras had a strike and the gods thought that they might
rise superior to the Asuras by the Udgithana. In this occurs the passage
‘this devata (Prana) throwing aside the sin that was death to these devatas
(vak, etc.) sent it to ends of these devatas there; therefore one should not
go to the people outside the Aryan pale nor to disam anta (the ends of
the quarters) thinking, otherwise I may fall in with papmani i.e., death.”
The meaning of Antya turns on the connotation of the phrase ‘disam
Anta’ which occurs in the passage quoted above. If the phrase ‘ends
of the quarters’ can be translated as meaning the end of the periphery
of the village, without its being called a far-fetched translation, we
have here an explanation of what Antya originally meant. It does
not suggest that the Antyas were Untouchables. It only meant that
they were living on the outskirts of the village.
As to the Antyajas, what we know about them is enough to refute
the view that they were Untouchables. Attention may be drawn to
the following facts2 :
In the Shanti Parvan (109.9) of the Mahabharat there is a reference
to Antyajas who are spoken of as Soldiers in the Army. According
to Sarasvativiiasa, Pitamaha speaks of the seven cases of Rajakas
included in the term Antyaja as Prakritis. That Prakritis mean trade
guilds such as of washermen and others is quite clear from the
Sangamner Plate of Bhillama II dated Saka 922 which records the
grant of a village to eighteen Prakritis. Viramitrodaya says that
Srenis mean the eighteen castes such as the Rajaka, etc., which are
collectively called Antyajas. In view of these facts how could the
Antyajas be said to have been regarded as the Untouchables?
Coming to the Antyavasin, who were they? Were they Untouch-
ables? The term Antyavasin has been used in two different

1. Kane– History of Dharma Shastra II. Part I. p. 167.
2. Kane– History of Dharma Shastra. Vol. II. part I. p. 70
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senses. In one sense it was applied to a Brahmachari living in the
house of the Guru during his term of studentship. A Brahmachari
was referred to as Antyavasin.1 It probably meant one who was served
last. Whatever the reason for calling a Brahmachari Antyavasin it
is beyond dispute that the word in that connection could not connote
Untouchability. How could it when only Brahmins, Kshatriyas and
Vaishyas could become Brahmacharis. In another sense they refer
to a body of people. But even in this sense it is doubtful if it means
According to Vas.Dh.Sutra (18.3) they are the offspring of a Sudra
father and Vaishya mother. But according to Manu (V.39) they are
the offspring of a Chandala father and a Nishad mother. As to the
class to which they belong, the Mitakshara says they are a sub-group
of the Antyajas which means that the Antyavasin were not different
from the Antyajas. What is therefore true of the Antyajas may also
be taken as true of the Antyavasin.


Stopping here to take stock of the situation as it emerges from such
information as we have regarding the social condition of the people
called Antyavasin, Antya, Antyaja, as is available from ancient
literature, obviously it is not open to say that these classes were
Untouchables in the modern sense of the term. However, for the
satisfaction of those who may still have some doubt, the matter may
be further examined from another point of view. Granting that they
were described as Asprashya we may proceed to inquire as to what
was the connotation of the term in the days of the Dharma Sutras.
For this purpose we must ascertain the rules of atonement
prescribed by the Shastras. From the study of these rules we will
be able to see whether the term Asprashya had the same connotation
in the times of the Dharma Sutras as it has now.
Let us take the case of the Chandalas as an illustration of the
class called Asprashya. In the first place, it should be remembered
that the word Chandala does not denote one single homogenous class
of people. It is one word for many classes of people, all different from
one another. There are altogether five different classes of Chandalas
who are referred to in the Shastras. They are (i) the offspring of

1. Amarkosh II Kanda Brahmabarga Verse II.
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a Shudra father and a Brahmin mother,1 (ii) the offspring of an
unmarried woman2 (iii) the offspring of union with a sagotra woman3
(iv) the offspring of a person who after becoming an ascetic turns
back to the householder’s life4 and (v) the offspring of a barber father
and a Brahmin mother5.
It is difficult to say which Chandala calls for purification. We shall
assume that purification is necessary in the case of all the Chandalas.
What is the rule of purification prescribed by the Shastras?
Gautama in his Dharma Sutra (Chapter XIV, Verse 30) also refers
to it in the following terms :—
“On touching an outcaste, a Chandala, a woman impure on account of
her confinement, a woman in her courses, or a corpse and on touching
persons who have touched them, he shall purify himself by bathing dressed
in his clothes.”
Below is the text of the rule given by the Vasishta Dharma Sutra
(Chapter IV. Verse 37) :—
“When he has touched a sacrificial post, a pyre, a burial ground, a
menstruating or a lately confined woman, impure men or Chandalas and
so forth, he shall bathe, submerging both his body and his head.”
Baudhayana agrees with Vasishta for he too in his Dharma Sutra
(Prasna 1, Adhyaya 5, Khanda 6, Verse 5) says :—
“On touching a tree standing on a sacred spot, a funeral pyre, a
sacrificial post, a Chandala or a person who sells the Veda, a Brahmin
shall bathe dressed in his clothes.”
The following are the rules contained in Manu :—
V. 85 : When he (the Brahmin) has touched a Chandala, a
menstruating woman, an outcaste, a woman in childbed,
a corpse, or one who has touched a (corpse), he becomes
pure by bathing.
V. 131 : Manu has declared that the flesh of an animal killed by
dogs is pure, likewise (that) of a (beast) slain by
carnivorous (animals) or by men of low caste (Dasya)
such as Chandalas.
V. 143 : He who, while carrying anything in any manner, is
touched by an impure (person or thing), shall become
pure, if he performs an ablution, without pulling down
that object.
1. According to all Dharma Sutras and Smritis including Manu Smriti.
2& 3 According to Veda Vyas Smriti (1. 910)
4. According to Yama quoted in Parasura Madhavya.
5. Anusasan Parva (29-17). He is also called Matanga.
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From these texts drawn from the Dharma Sutras as well as Manu,
the following points are clear :—
(1) That the pollution by the touch of the Chandala was observed
by the Brahmin only.
(2) That the pollution was probably observed on ceremonial
occasions only.


If these conclusions are right then this is a case of Impurity as
distinguished from Untouchability. The distinction between the Impure
and the Untouchable is very clear. The Untouchable pollutes all while
the Impure pollutes only the Brahmin. The touch of the Impure causes
pollution only on a ceremonial occasion. The touch of the Untouchable
causes pollution at all times.
There is another argument to which so far no reference has been
made which completely disproves the theory that the communities
mentioned in the Dharma Sutras were Untouchables. That argument
emerges out of a comparison of the list of communities given in the
Order-in-Council (which is reproduced in Chapter II) with the list
given in this chapter prepared from the Smritis. What does the
comparison show? As anyone can see, it shows :—
Firstly : The maximum number of communities mentioned in the
Smritis is only 12, while the number of communities mentioned in
the Order-in-Council comes to 429.
Secondly : There are communities which find a place in the Order-
in-Council but which do not find a place in the Smritis.1 Out of the
total of 429 there are nearly 427 which are unknown to the Smritis.
Thirdly : There are communities mentioned in the Smritis which
do not find a place in the Order-in-Council at all.
Fourthly : There is only one community which finds a place in both.
It is the Charmakar community.2
Those who do not admit that the Impure are different from the
Untouchables do not seem to be aware of these facts. But they will
have to reckon with them. These facts are so significant and so telling
that they cannot but force the conclusion that the two are different.

l. Out of the 429 communities mentioned in the Order-in-Council, there are only
3 which are to be found in the list given by the Smritis.
2. There are also two other communities mentioned in both lists (1) Nata and
(2) Rajaka. But according to the Order-in-Council they are Untouchables in some
parts of the country only. The Chamar is Untouchable throughout India.
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Take the first fact. It raises a very important question.
If the two lists refer to one and the same class of people, why
do they differ and differ so widely? How is it that the communities
mentioned in the Shastras do not appear in the list given in the
Order-in-Council? Contrarywise, how is it that the communities
mentioned in the Order-in-Council are not to be found in the list given
by the Shastras? This is the first difficulty we have to face.
On the assumption that they refer to the same class of people, the
question, assumes a serious character. If they refer to the same class
of people then obviously Untouchability which was originally confined
to 12 communities came to be extended to 429 communities! What
has led to this vast extension of the Empire of Untouchability? If
these 429 communities belong to the same class as the 12 mentioned
by the Shastras why none of the Shastras mention them? It cannot
be that none of the 429 communities were not in existence at the
time when the Shastras were written. If all of them were not in
existence at least some of them must have been. Why even such as
did exist find no mention?
On the footing that both the lists belong to the same class of people,
it is difficult to give any satisfactory answer to these questions. If,
on the other hand, it is assumed that these lists refer to two different
classes of people, all these questions disappear. The two lists are
different because the list contained in the Shastras is a list of the
Impure and the list contained in the Order-in-Council is a list of the
Untouchables. This is the reason why the two lists differ. The
divergence in the two lists merely emphasizes what has been urged
on other grounds, namely, that the classes mentioned in Shastras
are only Impure and it is a mistake to confound them with the
Untouchables of the present day.
Now turn to the second. If the Impure are the same as the
Untouchables, why is it as many as 427 out of 429 should be unknown
to the Smritis? As communities, they must have been in existence
at the time of the Smritis. If they are Untouchables now, they must
have been Untouchables then. Why then did the Smritis fail to
mention them?
What about the third? If the Impure and the Untouchables are one
and the same, why those communities which find a place in the
Smritis do not find a place in the list given in the Order-in-Council?
There are only two answers to this question. One is that though
Untouchables at one time, they ceased to be Untouchables
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subsequently. The other is that the two lists contain names of
communities who fall in altogether different categories. The first
answer is untenable. For, Untouchability is permanent. Time cannot
erase it or cleanse it. The only possible conclusion is the second.
Take the fourth. Why should Chamar alone find a place in the lists?
The answer is not that the two lists include the same class of people.
If it was the true answer, then not only the Chamar but all others
included in the list given by the Smritis should appear in both the
lists. But they do not. The true answer is that the two lists contain
two different classes of people. The reason why some of those in the
list of the Impure appear in the list of the Untouchables is that the
Impure at one time became Untouchables. That the Chamar appears
in both is far from being evidence to support the view that there
is ho difference between the Impure and the Untouchables. It proves
that the Chamar who was at one time an Impure, subsequently
became an Untouchable and had therefore to be included in both the
lists. Of the twelve communities mentioned in the Smritis as Impure
communities, only the Chamar should have been degraded to the
status of an Untouchable is not difficult to explain. What has made
the difference between the Chamar and the other impure communities
is the fact of beef-eating. It is only those among the Impure who
were eating beef that became Untouchables, when the cow became
sacred and beef-eating became a sin. The Chamar is the only beef-
eating community. That is why it alone appears in both the lists.
The answer to the question relating to the Chamars is decisive on
two points. It is conclusive on the point that the Impure are different
from the Untouchables. It is also decisive on the point that it is beef-
eating which is the root of Untouchability and which divides the
Impure and the Untouchables.
The conclusion that Untouchability is not the same as Impurity
has an important bearing on the determination of the date of birth
of Untouchability. Without it any attempt at fixing the date would
be missing the mark.
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THE foregoing researches and discussions have proved that there was
a time when the village in India consisted of a Settled Community
and Broken Men and that though both lived apart, the former inside
the village and the latter outside it, there was no bar to social
intercourse between the members of the Settled Community and the
Broken Men. When the cow became sacred and beef-eating became
taboo, society became divided into two — the Settled Community
became a touchable community and Broken Men became an untouch-
able community. When did the Broken Men come to be regarded as
Untouchables? That is the last question that remains to be consid-
ered. There are obvious difficulties in the way of fixing a precise date
for the birth of Untouchability. Untouchability is an aspect of social
psychology. It is a sort of social nausea of one group against another
group. Being an outgrowth of social psychology which must have
taken some time to acquire form and shape, nobody can venture to
fix a precise date to a phenomenon which probably began as a cloud
no bigger than man’s hand and grew till it took its final all-pervading
shape as we know it today. When could the seed of Untouchability
be said to have been sown? If it is not possible to fix an exact date,
is it possible to fix an approximate date?
An exact date is not possible. But it is possible to give an
approximate date. For this the first thing to do is to begin by fixing
the upper time-limit at which Untouchability did not exist and the
lower time-limit at which it had come into operation.
To begin with the question of fixing the upper limit the first thing
to note is that those who are called Antyajas are mentioned in the
Vedas. But they were not only not regarded as Untouchables but they
were not even regarded as Impure. The following extract from Kane
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may be quoted in support of this conclusion. Says Kane1
“In the early Vedic literature several of the names of castes that are spoken
of in the Smritis as Antyajas occur. We have Carmanna (a tanner of hides)
in the Rig Veda (VIII.8,38) the Chandala and Paulkasa occur in Vaj. S., the
Vepa or Vapta (barber) even in the Rig., the Vidalakara or Bidalakar
(corresponding to the Buruda of the Smritis) occurs in the Vaj.S. and the
Tai.Br.Vasahpalpuli (washer woman) corresponding to the Rajakas of the
Smritis in Vaj.S. But there is no indication in these passages whether they,
even if they formed castes, were at all Untouchables.”
Thus in Vedic times there was no Untouchability. As to the period
of the Dharma Sutras, we have seen that there was Impurity but
there was no Untouchability.
Was there Untouchability in the time of Manu? This question
cannot be answered offhand. There is a passage2 in which he says
that there are only four varnas and that there is no fifth varna. The
passage is enigmatical. It is difficult to make out what it means. Quite
obviously the statement by Manu is an attempt by him to settle a
controversy that must have been going on at the time he wrote. Quite
obviously the controversy was about the status of a certain class in
relation to the system of Chaturvarnya. Equally obvious is the point
which was the centre of the controversy. To put briefly, the point
was whether this class was to be deemed to be included within the
Chaturvarnya or whether it was to be a fifth varna quite distinct
from The original four varnas. All this is quite clear. What is,
however, not clear is the class to which it refers. This is because
Manu makes no specific mention of the class involved in the
The verse is also enigmatical because of the ambiguity in the
decision given by Manu. Manu’s decision is that there is no fifth
Varna. As a general proposition it has a meaning