It requires deeper understanding of the issues involved and a sincere
desire on the part of everyone to change their ways and and genuinely want
to treat each other with fairness and a sense of brotherliness (stemming
from sharing the same land TN)
The migration of Indians to USA ( and meeting with them out of the environment of India and with Christianity as the the refernce relgion) has thrown some interesting light on the inner workings of the minds of Indians, particularly Hindus
I have had occsion to move with various groups of people from various parts of India here in the USA. I have asked them probing questions with the idea understanding the caste dynamics in TN vs the rest of India
Something strikes me very interesting
The animosity between Brahmains and non-Brahmins or Sudhras and non-Sudhras
(by the way can someone give an explanation for the word "Sudhras"}
It is most intense in TN, then comes Kerala and then karnataka then AP and
surprisingly not so much at all in the rest of India!!!
Why is it so ?
the % brahmins in every state is just about the same (3-4%). The overwhelming
majority of the populace belongs to the non-brahmin category So the
feeling (between the two groups ) should be about the same in the other
states of India as well. Right!
How come it is not so ? Why the situation is uniquely differnt in TN?
On close examination two things stand out
1. The social hierarchy in the north was destroyed by the Mogul occupation. TN was essentially untouched by the Moslem invasion
The Moguls also destroyed the temples and the culture (hierarchical that goes with it). The social order (based on religion) was destroyed
2. By virtue of two cultural traits
1. Early rising ( to do sandhya vandhanam (sunrise)) and early memorization
skills the brahmins were able to master the knowledge the Britishers wanted
to run the show. The British influence in TN was more intense than in the
rest of India. In fact the Tamilians were happy with the britishers (unlike
the northerners) In British TN if you could master enough knowledge to
a SSLC you were able to get into the system and by virtue of seniority you were able to move up in the ranks. The ones who got in early were able to move up to a higher postion and had the power to help out others.
1. brahmins were able to secure well paying jobs and positions of power and wealth by virtue of early lead in education
I don't believe that in any other state (till recently) a dispropotionate
% of high paying jobs were held by the brahmins as it was so in TN. Besides
the % of lawyers, doctors, administrative positions quite unlike the other
states in TN (very unique siotuation that did not exist in other
parts of India) out of proportion to 3% population a sizable number of brahmins also became the landowning population (obtained as a gift from local kings, welathy ladnowners or from the temple endowment)in TN. (This is not the case in the other states of India)
Another important factor was even the political control in TN ( in a
democracy the majority group will naturally have a greater control in the
political process) was in the hands of the brahmins to a greater extent
in TN than in other states of India
On top of it, cultural dominance via AIR
Carnatic music is just one form of music enjoyed by a tiny % of the
populace.Music , just like food, is just a matter of taste and what one
is used to. None of it can be really claimed to be better than the other
(it all has to do with the individual) Till recently the people who controlled
the programming of AIR felt everyone had to listen to only carnatic music.
Just imagine in the US the fellow in charge of radio programming feels that "opera" (or hymns and spirituals) is the best music (or high brow music) and everyone has to listen to it and not listen to country, blues, jazz or pop and the other music lovers had no power to change matters
Because of the mogul influence, the music of North India was to the
needs of the common people.
This kind of music favored by one group did not have total dominance
in the other states of India as it was in TN
Bhajans which involve all the people and requires that you be seated on level is a form of North Indian worship. IN the north every worshipper go and do the puja himself or evne touch the gods personlly
IN the north there is more group dancing and perhaps more community orientation
As Sanskrit uses Devanagiri script the Non-Tamilians (Tamil script is
vastly differetn from devanagri) were able to read the religious literture
and in fact were able to perform many rites (that mark the events of life)
themselves. With less of religious control of their lives , less of economic
disparity, the non-brahmins of the north were able to co-exist without
Things are changing slowly and dramatically. People who observe the social scene of today may think nothing has changed. Compared to what it was quite a bit of cahnge has occured. With democracy rapid change can't be brought about
The laws and govrrnment can make only minimal structural change ;only the people can bring about greater change. For that to happen people should want to become [articipants in the change.
The intense competition in education (that exists today) has made every group become early learners. every group gets their kids to study in bala vihar. The early memorization skills enjoyed by one group is now partaken bye veryone.
If you notice the gap between various groups in the entrance examination
is slowly narrowing. To me it really doesn't make much difference whether
one gets 98 or 85 out of 100%. They are all above average and should
have the capacity to learn higher level of knowldege.
Every group is waking up and is not afraid to challenge status quo. with education they are able to vocalize and cogently write about their inner feelings and aspirations for equality and fairness. The media is slowly taking on social issues (not to the extent it is done in the WEST)
If everyone wants to change, practical steps can be taken.
Government and laws won't be able to do much unless people genuinely want to change and religious leaders are willing to take a role in the society and not in individual life alone
More on it later
"Mani M. Manivannan" <email@example.com>
There are some myths and inaccuracies in your otherwise well-intentioned article.
>Early rising ( to do sandhya vandhanam (sunrise)) and early memorization
>skills the brahmins were able to master the knowledge the Britishers wanted
>to run the show.
Brahmins are not the only ones who had the habit of rising early. If
you work in the fields or live in rural areas, generally people rise very
early in the morning. Of course, they don't have the
luxury of reading in the early morning because they are busy earning a living. And as for memorization skill, that too is not unique to the brahmins. Several of the "Avadhanis" (Memory
experts) belonged to other castes. Anybody who had learned Tamil literature, had to have memorized volumes and volumes of texts. Neither of these traits had anything to do with the
brahmin ascendancy during the British era. That is just myth that seems to be common among the urban brahmins.
>On top of it, cultural dominance via AIR
>Carnatic music is just one form of music enjoyed by a tiny % of the
>populace.Music , just like food, is just a matter of taste and what one is
>used to. None of it can be really claimed to be better than the other (it
>all has to do with the individual) Till recently the people who controlled
>the programming of AIR felt everyone had to listen to only carnatic music.
While the modern carnatic music favored by the brahmins and other upper
castes is dominated by the Telugu keerthanas composed by the Sangeetha
Mumurthigal, the classical musical form is much older. It has deep roots
in the Tamil paN and has a wide following in the Tamil country. There
is not a single marriage in Tamil Nadu that will neglect nagaswaram and
mELam. Karukurichi brothers were enormously popular in Tamil Nadu.
And even the early movie
stars such as Thiagaraja Bhagavathar and P. U. Chinnappa were popular precisely because of their musical skills. And even the great M. S. Subbulakshmi did not acquire or master her skills in a brahmin household. She belonged to a caste that specialized in music and other arts. Neither Carnatic Music nor Bharatha Naatiyam (used to be known as Chadhir when it was specialized by Temple dancers), were exclusive to brahmins. Celebration of such classical art forms in AIR or TV was not deemed to be a brahminical conspiracy.
However, it is common knowledge that those in power in AIR and TV promoted 'artists' who were related to them or were from their caste unless they were related to some superior.
>As Sanskrit uses Devanagiri script the Non-Tamilians (Tamil script
>vastly differetn from devanagri) were able to read the religious literture
>and in fact were able to perform many rites (that mark the events of life)
Sanskrit did not have any script - ever. Sanskrit had been written
in all kinds of scripts for hundreds of years. In the South, Sanskrit
had been written in the Grantha script and even now it is not unusual to
find Sanskrit works in Granthas. If you look at the Grantha script
you will find that it has elements from all four major Dravidian languages.
It is not the script that came in the
way of mastering Sanskrit.
I am glad to see that you have taken the first tentative steps to understand the problems from a different perspective. Empathy is not easy in a culture as segregated as the Indian. You literally have to walk with others, play with them, eat with them, and live with them to understand your fellow human being.
It is easy to mock the "Kammai karai chombu" culture as our venerated
'Popcorn' Bashyam does. I am sure his ancestors invented the flush
toilet for his mami to use. But if you are
lowest of the low, not even a sakkili will come to clean your toilet and that is if you are rich enough to have a toilet.
It is interesting that you compared the north and the south and though
about the Mughal influence on the caste structure in the north. But
with all that, caste animosities still run very deep in the North much
worse than the south. If you were only thinking about the relationship
that the brahmins have with other castes in north and south, I am surprised
you missed the obvious.
From: "Ram S. Ravindran" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>There are some myths and inaccuracies in your otherwise
>>Early rising ( to do sandhya vandhanam (sunrise)) and early memorization
>>skills the brahmins were able to master the knowledge the Britishers wanted
>>to run the show.
>Brahmins are not the only ones who had the habit of rising early.
>If you work in the fields or live in rural areas, generally people
>rise very early in the morning.
I agree that the farm workers too rise with the sun
What I have mentioned applies to urban non-brahmins . Again let us concentrate
on a random, average individual representing a group. It maynot apply to
you or me or to quite a few. but I still believe that earlyrising Is a
unique trait among Bs. It is not uncommon in several well-to
-do NB families adults to sleep in late. If you are conditioned to wake up early and particulary to take a shower, you have to do something with your time as opposed to one who is not obligated to rise up early ( to perform an obligation).
And as for memorization skill, that too is not
>unique to the brahmins. Several of the "Avadhanis" (Memory
>experts) belonged to other castes. Anybody who had learned
>Tamil literature, had to have memorized volumes and volumes
Maybe so in some groups but not among all nbs as a whole as it applies
the vast majority of Bs.
Neither of these traits had anything to do with the
>brahmin ascendancy during the British era. That is just myth
>that seems to be common among the urban brahmins.
Somehow I differ
In any learning memorization skills ( though it is ridiculed "«ÅÛìÌ
¿øÄ¡ ¦¿ðÕÀñ½ò¾¡ý ¦¾Ã¢Ôõ) has a lot to do with success particularly if it is
of the Indian type of testing.
The britishers essentially wanted some Indians to run the offices and not make decisions. All their requirements were some one who could read and write and prove that by waving the SSLC certificate. Once you get into the system , seniority would float you step by step to positions of power and authority
>>On top of it, cultural dominance via AIR
>While the modern carnatic music favored by the brahmins and other
>upper castes is dominated by the Telugu keerthanas composed by the
>Sangeetha Mumurthigal, the classical musical form is much older. It
>has deep roots in the Tamil paN and has a wide following in the
There is not a single marriage in Tamil Nadu that
>will neglect nagaswaram ( still what type of music do they play on that
instrument?) and mELam.
And even the
>great M. S. Subbulakshmi did not acquire or master her skills in
>a brahmin household. She belonged to a caste that specialized in
>music and other arts. Neither Carnatic Music nor Bharatha
>Naatiyam (used to be known as Chadhir when it was specialized
>by Temple dancers), were exclusive to brahmins. Celebration of
>such classical art forms in AIR or TV was not deemed to be
>a brahminical conspiracy.
>However, it is common knowledge that those in power in AIR
>and TV promoted 'artists' who were related to them or were
>from their caste unless they were related to some superior.
I am not characterizing it as a conspiracy but pointing our the overwhelmingness,
( turn everywhere you see the same pattern)
The point I was making is the overwhelming dominance of a group far
beyond its proportional representation in the society. In every sphere,
including simple music. Its tastes (in music ) was imposed on the rest.
Till about 15 years ago, the common man was enjoying pop music while AIR
fed only carnatic music (that too in Telugu (while there are many Tamil
that genre in Tamil))
Did AIR play "country" music ? Was there equal time allotted to it?
in charge of programming for the TN audience?
>>As Sanskrit uses Devanagiri script the Non-Tamilians (Tamil script is
>>vastly differetn from devanagri) were able to read the religious literture
>>and in fact were able to perform many rites (that mark the events of life)
>Sanskrit did not have any script - ever. Sanskrit had been written
>in all kinds of scripts for hundreds of years. In the South, Sanskrit
>had been written in the Grantha script and even now it is not
>unusual to find Sanskrit works in Granthas. If you look at the
>Grantha script you will find that it has elements from all four
>major Dravidian languages. It is not the script that came in the
>way of mastering Sanskrit.
Here I was making the case why the North Indian NBs didn't have to work so hard to learn the meaning of shlokas and the other Hindu rites and therefore be on an equal footing as the Bs. Most of the North Indianlanguages use the Devanagri script as is done by Sanskrit.
As a matter of fact I make a case that if all the Hindu ceremonies and shloka's were to be translated into Tamil or English, every Hindu would be on an equal footing. Every one (maybe an elderly person of good social standing) can do the Hindu rites of birth, marriage and death and notdepend on a particular group .
Forget the bogus argument that unless it is said in Sanskrit it loses
its mantric powers. It was the same argument put forward when Bible was
translated from Hebrew, Latin and Aramic. In fact before king Jame's biblewas
translated into English (by the king's order), those who attempted to
do so were beheaded! The priest refused to translate into the common man's language. Now you and I are just ( if we want to be) as well versed in Bible as the Pope himself. A religious person doesn't have to learn a language ( why take the extra step) to practice the religion. I understand I am straying from the main gist of what I was going to say
>I am glad to see that you have taken the first tentative steps to
>understand the problems from a different perspective. Empathy
>is not easy in a culture as segregated as the Indian. You literally
>have to walk with others, play with them, eat with them, and live
>with them to understand your fellow human being.
>It is interesting that you compared the north and the south
>and though about the Mughal influence on the caste structure
>in the north.
But with all that, caste animosities still run
>very deep in the North much worse than the south.
Again the main issue there (actual violence and killing), as it is in the south is between the NB castes of diiferent kinds and *not between the Bs and Nbs*. It, I am guessing, doesn't involve the bs at all
My attempted analysis has to do with differences in the mindset of Bs
Nbs in the North and the south. That is all
>were only thinking about the relationship that the brahmins
>have with other castes in north and south, I am surprised that
>you missed the obvious.
Yes, I am aware of the obvious, but that is not what I set out to look at.
Who is responsible for the current violence and what are the parties
involved and what are the issues? No I didn't look into. it is a different
matter altogether, neverthless very important one too
I want to make it clear that this is purley psychological and sociological
To thiru Loganathan. There is a scholarly book (two volumes on
changing and changing and change by Prof Srinivas of UCLA)
From: Kumar Mallikarjunan <email@example.com>
Ram and friends:
There are two issues here:
1) Casteism and culture
2) Segregation and preference to particular caste
With respect to the first issue, I think we should try to keep our heritage
culture. If you seewe do have several functions and events in our socieity that is very unique to
a particular community.
(I prefer the word community over caste). If we abolish the communal responsibilities by unifying everyone under one umbrella (as Tamil (or) Indian), we will loose all those
treasured heritage and culture. With this, I believe we should respect each other and their culturaldifferences. We should not make any comments to reflect that one's culture is superior. When we try to bring secular relationships among various religions, why not we attempt that within onereligion.
With respect to the second issue, more burning that 40% of populace
working for therest of the population. The historical reasons to this: we do have slavaory
feelings in our system,people raising questions were punished (totatilaterion), power and money rulingthe land, andmany leaders do not want to promote hardwork but try to earn money easily byabsuing the power.All these corruptions run through the history. To remove this type of
inequaity, we should notwaste time talking about it. It should start at the young age (in schools). Everyone should be givenfair and compulsory education. Child labor should be banished. Governmentshould step in andprovide jobs by allocating funds for infrastructure development (e.g. Highwaysbuilt in the U.S.during a economic recession). The foremost activity should be the mediapromoting this equality thatpeople could voice their concern without the fear of being punished.
If we bring enough awareness, the public will raise to the occasion to bring the needed changes. On the other hand, it is those leaders in various parties, looking after their pockets, keep the problemof poverty and casteism alive so that they can remain in power.
Also, the bottom line here is the respect for fellow human being regardless
of their education or
In conclusion, I would like to see a equality among us without the regard
forsex, race, education,
wealth, caste, religion, etc. Once we achieve that, who cares what sex, race, .... caste, religion
one belongs to.
Kumar Mallikarjunan, Ph.D.
Biological Systems Engineering Department
312 Seitz Hall, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Ph: 540-231-7937 Fax: 540-231-3199
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