Date: 10 May 2008


old article-but insightful
The Brahmin and the Hindu
Sandhya Jain, Publication: The Pioneer, December 14, 2004 
http://www.hvk. org/articles/ 1204/59.html

As Swami Jayendra Saraswati stoically braves the onslaught of secular  oppression unleashed by an unholy alliance of Government and media, it is clear  that his tormentors have no case, have failed hopelessly in their nation-wide  fishing expedition, but are nonetheless determined to keep him incarcerated.  Nothing the judiciary has done so far gives ground for hope, so Swamigal's devotees may well prepare for a long eclipse of justice. 

There is no legitimate cause to believe that the Kanchi Peetham's lawyers are not up to the mark, as was initially feared when bail did not materialize on the first day, as it should have. The Matham's meticulously drafted public statement, which appeared in select newspapers on 7 December 2004, reflects the professional skill of those engaged in defending the Swami. We must, therefore, take it in the spirit that the scales are tilted against us. 

The Hindu-hating media has noted with satisfaction that adherents of sannatan dharma lack the terrorizing talents of Abrahamic faiths, and we may concede this. We have tolerated blasphemies such as the Shankaracharya's "plans" to flee to Nepal, but we have not asked how the Snam Progetti employee who became a political embarrassment to Signora Sonia Gandhi successfully escaped from the capital in a most timely fashion. 

Meanwhile, Brahmin-bashers have rushed to fish in troubled waters. It is being said that Ms. Jayalalithaa ordered the action against the Shankaracharya because she needed to shed her pro-Brahmin image and curry favour with the Dravidian masses. It is being insinuated that the Brahmin community is an ogre that has been sucking the blood of the Hindu people for centuries. As the attempt to de-link the Hindu community from the Brahmin preceptor who preserved Dharma through a thousand years of oppression instantly reminds one of the mischiefs of the British Raj, it is worth scrutinizing the language of its modern advocates. 

The Aryan Invasion Theory, raison d'etre for the north-south divide, has been debunked internationally. Brahmin-bashing, however, is one of the corrosive legacies of the Raj that has not been challenged head-on. It is therefore instructive to ask if Brahmins truly monopolized all access to education in the pre-British era, and thus cornered all avenues of employment. What kind of access did non-Brahmin castes have to education in south India before the British liberated them (sic) from the stranglehold of Brahmin control? 

Dharampal (The Beautiful Tree) has effectively debunked the myth that  Dalits had no place in the indigenous system of education. Sir Thomas Munro,  Governor of Madras, ordered a mammoth survey in June 1822, whereby the district  collectors furnished the caste-wise division of students in four categories, viz., Brahmins, Vysyas (Vaishyas), Shoodras (Shudras) and other castes  (broadly the modern scheduled castes). While the percentages of the different castes varied in each district, the results were revealing to the extent that they showed an impressive presence of the so-called lower castes in the school system. 

Thus, in Vizagapatam, Brahmins and Vaishyas together accounted for 47% of the students, Shudras comprised 21% and the other castes (scheduled) were 20%; the remaining 12% were Muslims. In Tinnevelly, Brahmins were 21.8% of the total number of students; Shudras were 31.2% and other castes 38.4% (by no means a low figure). In South Arcot, Shudras and other castes together comprised more than 84% of the students! 

In the realm of higher education as well, there were regional variations. Brahmins appear to have dominated in the Andhra and Tamil Nadu regions, but in the Malabar area, theology and law were Brahmin preserves, but astronomy and medicine were dominated by Shudras and other castes. Thus, of a total of 808 students in astronomy, only 78 were Brahmins, while 195 were Shudras and 510 belonged to the other castes (scheduled). In medicine, out of a total of 194 students, only 31 were Brahmins, 59 were Shudras and 100 belonged to the other castes. Even subjects like metaphysics and ethics that we generally associate with Brahmin supremacy, were dominated by the other castes (62) as opposed to merely 56 Brahmin students. It bears mentioning that this higher education was in the form of private tuition (or education at home), and to that extent also reflects the near equa l economic power of the concerned groups. 

As a concerned reader informed me, the 'Survey of Indigenous Education in the Province of Bombay (1820-1830)' showed that Brahmins were only 30% of the total students there. What is more, when William Adam surveyed Bengal and Bihar, he found that Brahmins and Kayasthas together comprised less than 40% of the total students, and that forty castes like Tanti, Teli,  Napit, Sadgop, Tamli etc. were well represented in the student body. The Adam report mentions that in Burdwan district, while native schools had 674 students from the lowest thirty castes, the 13 missionary schools in the district together had only 86 students from those castes. Coming to teachers, Kayasthas triumphed with about 50% of the jobs and there were only six Chandal teachers; but Rajputs, Kshatriyas and Chattris (Khatris) together had only five teachers. 

Even Dalit intellectuals have questioned what the British meant when they spoke of 'education' and 'learning'. Dr. D.R. Nagaraj, a leading  Dalit leader of Karnataka, wrote that it was the British, particularly Lord Wellesley, who declared the Vedantic Hinduism of the Brahmins of Benares  and Navadweep as "the standard Hinduism," because they realized that the  vitality of the Hindu dharma of the lower castes was a threat to the empire. Fort William College, founded by Wellesley in 1800, played a major role in investing Vedantic learning with a prominence it probably hadn't had for centuries. In the process, the cultural heritage of the lower castes was successfully marginalized, and this remains an enduring legacy of colonialism. 

Examining Dharampal's "Indian science and technology in the eighteenth century," Nagaraj observed that most of the native skills and technologies that perished as a result of British policies were those of the Dalit and artisan castes. This effectively debunks the fiction of Hindu-hating secularists that the so-called lower castes made no contribution to India's cultural heritage and needed deliverance from wily Brahmins. 

Indeed, given the desperate manner in which the British vilified the Brahmin, it is worth examining what so annoyed them. As early as 1871-72, Sir John Campbell objected to Brahmins facilitating upward mobility: ".the Brahmans are always ready to receive all who will submit to them. The process of manufacturing Rajputs from ambitious aborigines (tribals) goes on before our eyes." 

Sir Alfred Lyall was unhappy that ".more persons in India become every year Brahmanists than all the converts to all the other religions in India put together... these teachers address themselves to every one without distinction of caste or of creed; they preach to low-caste men and to the aboriginal tribes. in fact, they succeed largely in those ranks of the population  which would lean towards Christianity and Mohammedanism if they were not drawn  into Brahmanism." So much for the British public denunciation of the exclusion practiced by Brahmins! 

Swami Jayendra Saraswati belonged to this league of Brahmin preceptor so hated by proselytizers. He even rebelled against Paramacharya Chandrashekharendra Saraswati in order to serve the Dalits. He became vulnerable to the present conspiracy because of the liberal access he permitted to himself. 
How the concept of the evil brahmin came about
One of the standard church propaganda is that Hinduism is nothing more than what they call Brahminism. Their objective is to assert that the ills that exist in Hinduism are a creation of the supposedly elitist Brahmins to keep the people suppressed. (Perhaps the church hierarchy is projecting its own method on others!) They have tried to project that the Brahmins are evil and it is in the interest of the rest of the society to get out of their clutches. And the only way to do it would be to leave Hinduism and join Christianity. 
The respect that Brahmins, in general, had (and still have) in the Hindu society is a matter for a separate subject. At the same time, there is no need to deny that there have been some Brahmins who have not fulfilled their dharma to the society. Suffice to say here that most of the great reform movements have been led by Brahmins. Not only in the spiritual field, but also in the social field, Brahmins have been prominent amongst the reformers. 
The fact that the initial approach of the Christian missionaries was to convert the Brahmins exposes their game plan. It has been the standard practice of Christianity all over the world to first convert the influential people, so that they become their ambassadors to the rest of the society. The first successful experience was in the case of the Roman Emperor, Constantine. (The political objective of this Emperor in adopting Christianity has been well documented.) With the power of the state behind it, terrorising the people to accept Christianity was an easy task. This was then used to set up an organisation to control the spiritual lives of the people, while helping the Emperor to control them politically. 
The Brahmins turned out to be people with a different mettle. Since they were not interested in temporal power, they had no need to involve politics in spiritual matters. They saw that there was a lack of spirituality in the Christian ideology. Being highly respected, the example of the Brahmins was emulated and the rest of the community concluded that if Christianity has no merit for the Brahmins, it has no merit for the rest of the society. 
Many Christian researchers have documented the cause of the antipathy of the missionaries towards the Brahmins. Elizabeth Susan Alexander wrote, 
"For the missionaries Brahmans (sic) had been in the forefront of the staunch Hindu opposition to missionary endeavours in Madras Presidency. They had also been the vanguard of the Indian nationalist movement that had taken alarmingly extremist turns." (The Attitudes of British Protestant Missionaries Towards Nationalism in India, Konark Publishers, Delhi, 1994, p 67.)
Only when they could not make a dent with the Brahmins that the missionaries turned to the lower castes. The conversions were obtained through inducements and not through any spiritual conviction. They were somewhat successful only when the temporal power was with the invading Christians and the area was effectively a colony. The missionaries could project themselves to be the benefactors of the lower castes, and ensure that government largesse would flow to them. That it did nothing for them in terms of social upward mobility is clear from the fact that there is a class of dalit Christians. 
A few of the Christian missionaries did have some success with the Brahmins. But, the change took place for secular reasons. This was also the experience in Europe. 
As Judaism w as strongly fought and persecuted (by the Roman Catholic Church) in a large part of Europe, many Jews tried to defend themselves by embracing the religion of the country where they lived, and in this way to keep their property and prosper in business. (Jorge de Abreu Noronha, A New Dimension to the Inquisition, Goa Today, Dec 94.)
It was only when a Brahmin converted to Christianity, would he be employed in the government services. It was only when a member of the higher caste converted to Christianity, would he be permitted to continue with his profitable economic activity. But the success rate in such cases was small, and the rest of the community did not emulate their example. If anything, the converts were treated as outcastes at the social level, and endured more than accepted. 
Some of the Christian missionaries noticed that the whole community held the Brahmins in high esteem in spiritual matters. So they decided to pretend to be Brahmins to attract the people to come to them. The classic example was that of Robert de Nobili, a Jesuit from France, who came to India in the early 17th century. He adopted the saffron robe, started to live in a hut, squatted on the floor for conducting his discourses, became a vegetarian and gave up liquor, projected that he was a Brahmin from Rome and that the Bible was one of the lost vedas, and generally tried to pass himself as another Hindu sanyasi. He was successful, and many Hindus came to him for spiritual reasons. 
But, de Nobili's objective was not to merge himself with the Hindu culture or civilisation. M N Pearson wrote: 
The career of the well-born Italian Jesuit Roberto de Nobili seems to illustrate this change, this decline in cold hard certainty. He is well known for trying to convert Brahmins by using their own arguments. To this end he studied Sanskrit texts, and dressed as a Brahmin. While this may be admirable, as an example of tolerance and open inquiry, it should be remembered first that de Nobili's aim was still, and always, to make converts, and second that his methods got him into hot water with his superiors. (The Portuguese in India, Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1990, p 123.)
The same was also the conclusion arrived at by Abbe Dubois, whom we have encountered earlier. The following comment is relevant: 
The chief cause (of Abbe Dubois' disillusionment with the lack of success of his missionary effort) undoubtedly was the invincible barrier of what we may call nowadays intellectual Hinduism, but which the Abbe called Brahmanical prejudice. He refers regretfully to the collapse of the Church, with its hundreds of thousands of converts, many of them of high caste, established by the Jesuits Beschi and de Nobili in Madura; but at the same time he made no concealment of the real causes of their failure. 'The Hindus soon found that those missionaries whom their Colour, their talents, and other qualities had induced them to regard as such extraordinary beings, as men coming from another world, were in fact nothing else but disguised Feringhis (Europeans), and that their country, their religion, and original education were the same as those of the evil, the contemptible Feringhis who had of late invaded their country. This event proved the last blow to the interests of the Christian religion. No more conversions were made. Apostasy became almost general in several quarters, and Christianity became more and more an object of contempt and aversion in proportion as European manners became better known to the Hindus.' (Editor's Introduction, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, Abbe Dubois, Translated and Edited by Henry K Beauchamp, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 1994, p xxvii.)
In spite of being exposed for the fraud that he was, de Nobili held as an icon of the so-called inculturation programme of the Christian churches. An English current affairs magazine, The Week (Oct 20, 1996), came out with a cover story on the subject of what are called Roman Catholic Ashrams. I corresponded with one of the proponent of the programme, a Spaniard priest who has adopted Shilananda as his name, and asked him if he thought that there is salvation outside Christianity. In reply I was told that I should repent and believe in Christ. The present practitio ners of inculturation are carrying forward the tradition set by de Nobili of pretending to be a Brahmin.  
While in a rural setting one sees Roman Catholic Ashrams, in urban areas Christianity is conducted in pomp and style. In The Week article, a priest in Mumbai, Fr Myron Pereira, is quoted as saying "(The Ashram) makes sense where Fr Shilananda lives, but not in Mumbai where I live. If all I Catholic priests were to adopt the ashram life-style, it would pose practical and emotional problems in big cities." (Emphasis added) The objective of the Roman Catholic Ashrams is to try and fool the simple rural folks. This Ashram programme will not succeed in urban areas where people are more aware of what Christianity is all about. In his objection to conversions of the poor people, Mahatma Gandhi challenged the missionaries to convert him first. Of course, they knew that Gandhiji had made a detailed study of Christianity and there was no possibility that he could be sold the system. Similar was the case with the Brahmins in the pas t. 
It is very unfortunate that the whole concept of the evil Brahmin, propagated by the Christian missionaries for their own sinister objective, is being authenticated by the so-called intellectuals in this country. Great Hindu reformers, including Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi, have recognised the role of the Brahmins in the preservation and propagation of the Hindu culture. Some of the greatest of the Hindu reformers have been, and are, Brahmins. Their contribution to the society in all fields is legendary. 
As said earlier, it is not our contention that the Hindu society has no faults. Blame for this state of affairs has to be with some Brahmins. But to damn the whole class is doing grave injustice. The missionaries had to project the Brahmins as evil because they were the ones who were coming in the way of their proselytisation programme. Today, it suits certain people to damn the community for their petty political games. But, if they were truly evil, would not there have been large conversions of the backward castes to both Christianity and Islam? After all, the clergy of both these systems had the power of the state in many places in India. If the Brahmins were the cause of the miseries faced by the lower castes, the latter would have willingly adopted another system to escape the 'tyranny'. 
Source: Christianity and the Brahmins
http://www.hvk. org/Publications /cihp/ch6. html



May 12, 2008
Om Namah Jesu could well reverberate inside hundreds of Catholic churches in India very soon, if the changing physical face of these places of worship is anything to go by.
The Vatican-blessed process of ‘inculturation’ being implemented by the 168 Catholic dioceses in India has already seen Jesus acquiring the form of a Hindu sage, St John the Baptist with a ‘kamandalu’, grottos in the shape of conch shells, and a church in Bangalore that can easily be mistaken for a temple. 
‘Inculturation’, broadly speaking, is the indigenisation of the Church through the process of assimilating local culture and symbols in construction, layout, interior design, furniture and religious fixtures like the tabernacles. 
So far, around 45 churches across the country have been wholly or partially ‘inculturated’—many have adopted Indian architectural forms and motifs, and quite a few have been refurbished and their interiors redesigned to include murals, panels, furniture et al that have been inspired  
by Hindu religious symbols. The tabernacle at the recently inaugurated Our Lady of Mount Carmel church at Murugani near Dumka in Jharkhand, for example, has been rendered in the shape of a ‘kula’—used by local tribals and people in neighbouring states, including West Bengal, to thresh foodgrains, and regarded as an auspicious symbol. 

This process began gradually in the early 1990s, but gathered momentum about five years ago. “Initially, there was a lot of opposition to this from conservative elements in the Church. For them, any dilution of the European element in church construction, or in the murals depicting scenes from the Bible where all the people look European, or in statues or church articles, was totally unacceptable. That has slowly changed with the growing realisation that the Church has to incarnate the Gospel in the culture in which it is being preached,â€? a senior priest from the Archdiocese of Calcutta told Outlook on condition of anonymity.

Explained Father Varghese Puthussery, the Jesuit Provincial of Dumka-Raiganj who inaugurated the Murugani church, “In many parts of Asia, especially in India, Christianity is inseparably linked with Western culture, which is looked upon as alien. 

Many committed Christians in India feel a split between their Indian cultural experience and the still-Western character of what they experience in the Church. Inculturation, thus, is the Church’s attempt to bridge that divide.â€? The Murugani church is an eloquent example of ‘inculturation’. “The structure is not typical; we’ve incorporated elements of Islamic architecture since many old buildings in this region have a strong Islamic influence. The tribal influence too is very strong in this church. 
The pulpit is a replica of a ‘morai’ used by local Santhal tribals to store grains, the altar rests on a tribal drum, the fibreglass statue of Jesus at the sanctuary looks as if it is carved out of wood, since tribals worship wood-carved deities, and the stained glass windows depicting parables from the Bible have persons with a distinctly tribal look,â€? Subrata Ganguly, the man helping the Catholic Church implement the ‘inculturation’ process, told Outlook.

Ganguly runs Church Art, a firm that designs new churches and renovates existing ones to give them a strong local flavour. “We have worked in all states of the country. In the case of new churches, we formalise a concept after intensive discussions with the local diocese and congregations, and then work with a local architect to give the concept a concrete shape on the drawing board. Next, we work with the contractor to ensure proper construction.

After that, we start working on the interiors and various other objects like the pulpit, the altar, murals, windows and various other objects. With old or existing churches, too, we follow a similar routine. All the moveable ‘inculturated’ objects, including murals and statues, are made at my workshop in Calcutta and transported to the respective sites. Big objects like statues are transported in knocked-down form and then reassembled at the site,â€? says Ganguly.

Remarkable specimens of the studio’s creations exist around the country. Like Jesus sitting cross-legged on a lotus (installed in a church in Hyderabad), or Jesus emerging after a purifying bath in the Ganges with temples on the riverbanks (in a mural in a Haridwar church), or rendered as a typical Bastar tribal priest surrounded by tribal women at a church at Bhopal. At a church at Jhansi, scenes from Christ’s life in a set of 40 paintings has human and animal characters that leap straight out of Amar Chitra Katha and Panchatantra comics. “We’ve installed similar panels in many churches and the feedback has been very good. We’re getting requests to make more such panels and murals, which show biblical characters in Indian forms, from various churches, seminaries and Catholic institutions all across the country,â€? says Ganguly.

“There is greatness and divinity is every culture and the Church draws from that to make itself more acceptable to local congregations. This is more so with tribals and in tribal areas,â€? says Dumka’s Bishop Rev Julius Marandi. ‘Inculturation’, say Catholic priests, is an evolving process specially tailored to different local traditions. “The requirements for an inculturated church or seminary in Northeast India are very different from those at Ambapara in Rajasthan’s Udaipur, where the next ‘inculturated’ church is coming up,â€? explains Ganguly. 

“At a seminary near Shillong, for instance, Jesus is shown in a mural standing under a pine tree with people in Khasi and Garo headgear around him. At Ambapara, we’ll show Jesus as a Bhil tribal. We’ve studied and researched extensively on the Bhils; we always do this before every such project, to get an accurate idea of local customs, traditions and culture,â€? he adds. Already, typical Hindu rituals like ‘aarti’ are being performed inside churches.

At a church in Nadia, the Good Shepherd looks like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 15th century Vaishnavite saint of Bengal, his arms raised in a beatific trance. At this rate, can the cross taking the shape of a trishul be far behind?