Archive for September, 2012

Varna, Veda, and stuff

Varna, to recapitulate the short but clear exegesis of it in my book Kalicharan’s Veda, is a fourfold work-division of the urban Vedic society, and it corresponds, rather exceptionally, to the present day institutions – The Legislature (Parliament), The Executive (Government), The Judiciary (Court), and The Business – of a sufficiently developed nation and society. This correspondence is no accident, moreover, though how Veda invented Varna will not be discussed here as it is already dealt with in the book. That the Varna devolved into a culture of castes – how the four became respectively the Brahmin, the Kshatriya, the Sudra and the Vaisya castes – is also underscored in the book.

The blanket failure of Indian intellectuals, reformers, saints or leaders – past & present – to understand and spell out this simple historical fact is, however, shockingly beyond amazement, given the reality, the huge bearing, that this issue holds over in relation to the future of India as a country as well as a society.  The closest that anyone came to it was Dr. B R Ambedkar, also known as the father of Indian Constitution, as in his essay Who were the Shudras? in which he nearly hit the bull’s eye when surmising that Sudras were something like the Kshatriyas.  He was again remarkable in his dead-on remarks and assessment on the failure of the prevalent Indian leadership, not only on this account alone (cf. his critique of Arya Samaj) but on all frontiers, when he exposes the nearsightedness and animal greed of theirs and the venal role of the corporate driven media of that time. And nothing has changed today! Or if there are things that make this nation work, then in retrospect,  these were thought out by this great son of Bharati alone, and as if he were to come back to life today, nothing of the current state of affairs would really surprise him, he most certainly would pick up silently from where he left it. (In my mind he scores slightly higher than the other two: Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. These three gentlemen, moreover, didn’t have any common ground at all between them and it is reasonable to believe that they were ill-disposed towards each other).

Coming back to the Rig-Veda, first the word Brahman. This word comes in two accents: the neuter action noun Bráhman meaning prayer, and the agent noun Brahmán which means something or someone related with prayer.  So, as is the case with the Rig-Veda, Brahmán word is used, purposely, to have a double meaning of Brahmán the Varna, or Brahmán the God the you-know-who of this esoteric poetry. Brahmán the Varna, moreover, is different from Brahmin (a word appearing only in the latest, and corrupted, chapter of the Rig-Veda) the caste. To adduce an example, the institution of Army (a constituent, & appendage, of the Legislature) was Brahmánical, as evidenced even today by traces of certain Brahmin warrior castes in India (which clearly stayed behind in India). The similar appendages to the Executive and the Judiciary were, respectively, the Militia and the Police.

There is a suspect play, similar to Brahman, of accents in the words दक्ष (Daks) and रुद्र (Rudra) as well, in a Sanskrit and grammar anterior to that of the Rig-Veda.  The caste names क्षत्र (Kshatriya) and शूद्र (Sudra) can be seen to have some familial connections with these two.  दdenotes power (as in दम) and क्ष denotes action (as in क्षय); so  दक्ष means power of action, or skill. In क्षत्र, त्र means place (as in तत्र), so [action+place] means feudal control. A feudal system explains, perfectly, the ruling caste in an agrarian (land based) society, but fails to relate with the institution, the Varna, of Executive : say, to point to a civil-service officer in charge of irrigation department. The import is that, दक्ष, with a proper accent, could be the name for that institution during the times of Rig-Veda.

Again, in रुद्र, रु means “cry” (as in रुद्) and द्र means to run (as in द्राति) or continuation (as in निद्रा, sleep) or the state of . So रुद्र means the state of crying (or anger). Sounds good to be the word for Judiciary which anyway doles out punishment and fear to criminals, including those in Legislature and Executive. On the other hand, in the caste name शूद्र, शू (as in शूभा) could be seen in the light of the replacement of a negative रु of  रुद्र  with a positive शि (auspiciousness) of the post-Vedic name शिव of  रुद्र.  So शूद्र was meant to reflect दया (compassion)– towards the weak- more than दण्ड (punishment) part of it. To sum it up, रुद्र, with a distinct accent, looks likely to be the representative of Judiciary and its professionals of the Vedic age.

Finally, the Business Varna, a state unto itself,  being the sum (विश्) of the other three, can be related to बृहस्पति, the God who is the sum of दक्ष, रुद्र and ब्रह्मन् (Brahman). And, indeed, the post-Vedic caste वैश्य sounds perilously close to बृहस्पति (compressed from ब्रह्मणस्पति). विश्पति (Head merchant) seems to be phonologically connected to बृहस्पति pronounced normally as वृहस्पति.

Apart from its invention of endogamy, Caste lost the kind of functionality and significance that Varna held; in the post-Vedic agrarian society there were only two classes de facto: the landlords and the landless, quite unmindful of the castes of the constituting peoples. Dasyu Bharat had already arrived!

PS: I will take up this issue again, later, but dear Reader, if you are an Indian, and if you have understood what is meant to be conveyed in these words here, kindly disseminate your knowledge among others.


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