'The mighty fortress of Brahmanism'
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
'The mighty fortress of Brahmanism' is the phrase used by Monier Williams (author of the Sanskrit English Dictionary, 1899) to describe Hinduism. It is a mix of ignorance, hatred, fascination, racism and the desire to overcome this religion by an ignorant colonialist of the 19th century, but it sums up the general ignorance of the Christian West concerning Hinduism, very much like the seven blind men who tried to describe an elephant by touching one part of the animal and claiming that the particular part was indeed the elephant !The exact quote from Monier Williams is :
" When the walls of the mighty fortress of Brahmanism are encircled, undermined & finally stormed by the soldiers of the cross, the victory of Christianity must be signal and complete" ( Modern India and Indians, p.247).
His compatriot Max Mueller the Indologist saw the Rig Veda as the root of all the problems that needed to be resolved (in a private letter to his wife). Macaulay destroyed Hindu education in 1835 by replacing it with English education. He had confidently predicted that the Indians would in 30 years abandon their 'paganism.' Alas, for him, this did not happen. As early as the 12th century the Pope had been setting up councils to learn Indian languages so that the 'pagans', the 'infidels' could be converted to the true faith, Christianity.
The mission to destroy Hinduism would not/could not/ will not succeed simply because of their lack of understanding of the religion. It was not 'Brahmanism'. Even today, writers like Arundhati Roy mistakenly speak about the Brahmanic Hindu state. It is not Brahmanism, but the entire religious and social structure of Hinduism that originated with the Vedas and continued down the millenia. Its innate strengths could not be analysed or defeated. It was also held up by the aam admi Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths. Thousands of Hindus lost their lives defending the sacred sites whether it was Somnath or the Ram temple at Ayodhya since 150 B.C. when the greek king Menander destroyed it. Hundreds of Hindus continue to lose their lives in Bangla Desh and Pakistan. Many brave the hostile atmosphere to continue to go to Amarnath and so on.As observed once by Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst there is a constant ongoing low level violence against Hindus through out India, which is not reported by the liberal media, which, however jumps up and down if even a single member of the minority communities is affected. Even P.N. Benjamin of the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue ( a confirmed Christian by his own statements) has stated that the violence against the Christian community in Karnataka is exaggerated. It is rare and on a very small scale. Hindus have seldom initiated violence, it has in almost all instances been retaliatory. He was also talking about the incidents in Kandamahal when Swami Lakshmananda, the 80 year old Hindu sant was killed for having resisted the conversion activity of the Church in that region.
We are not talking about the barbarian invasions. Those are in a category by themselves.Attempts have been made since the time of the Nestorian Christians (7th & 8th centuries)who destroyed Hindu temples or the cruelty, murder and mayhem of the Goa Inquisition of the 17th century or the first Vatican Council in the 17th century which planned to destroy Hinduism. Journalist Kanchan Gupta has called for an apology from the Church, but none has been forthcoming and indeed the Church in India went ballistic when the topic was mentioned. Then came the Inculturationists (starting with Robert de Nobili in the 17th century)who tried to infiltrate the society by devious means and thus subvert the social and religious order, a process that still goes on under euphemistic titles such as interfaith dialogue (the present writer has written about this in previous articles). It has never been made clear as to why there should be an olive branch style dialogue from the Hindu side. There is lofty rhetoric such as 'understanding,' respect' etc. but again it is not clear why a tradition that has tolerated, even welcomed religious/ ethic groups into the country should tie themselves up in knots with such words and engage with a tradition that has been known for its conquest and violence. Then there is the covert and overt conversion activity by the Church and evangelists through force, fraud and bribery.Then there are the attempts by social groups and political groups to overcome Hinduism in various devious ways, but they too are not entirely successful.
The most recent assaults against the 'mighty fortress'(so called) is the encroachment by the state on Hindu temples and their jurisdiction. This began noticeably with the ascent to power of an Italian Catholic at the Centre. This too is an ongoing process, with temple lands being brazenly stolen as happened under Chief MinisterYS Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. Only the action by the Sadhu community stopped further incursions in Tirupati and so on. Last year witnessed the attempt to appropriate the wealth of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum under the rubric of legalisms. The immense wealth generated by the Sabarimala pilgrimage goes into the pockets of bureaucrats. The allied forces of the Communist- Congress- Islamic- Christian forces in Kerala are now seeking to further use state power to remove the traditional priests in temples from their jobs and replace them with their candidates. The ploy is to claim that this is being done in the interests of social justice. This claim must be seriously investigated.
On this occasion Hindu politicians have alas assisted in the enterprise in the mistaken notion that training non Brahmin priests is the right way to go. In principle this sounds good but extreme caution has to be exercised in proceeding with this project. This was first attempted in Tamil Nadu under the DMK regime and now is being experimented with in Kerala. The way to empower the non Brahmanic community (in the opinion of the present writer) is to provide them with economic prosperity, not throw out the existing Brahmin priests onto the streets. Careless meddling with temples is fraught with danger. The writer Tamizhchelvan has provided an incisive commentary on what happened in Tamil Nadu with the priests (archagas). He has provided some interesting statistics also.
" This 'All Caste Archagas' concept is a Christian ploy. They did the same in Tamil Nadu during the previous DMK regime, which passed a bill framing the 'All Caste Archagas Act'. That was a well crafted political stunt by the DMK regime in the name of 'social justice' (whatever that means).
We have different types of Temples in Tamil Nadu. They are the Agama Temples, Non-Agama Temples, Community Temples and Village Temples. The Agama Temples are the ancient ones which are built as per Agama Shastras and where the rituals are also conducted as per the Agama rules. Here the Sivacharyas (from Siva temples) and Bhattacharyas (from Vishnu temples) have been serving as traditional Archagas for centuries. The non Agama temples are those which are not built as per Agama Shastras and the Agama Shastras are not so strictly followed. The community temples are the ones built and owned by the various communities (castes) who mostly employ their own people as Poojaris. Some have opted for Brahmin poojaris. The Village Temples are mostly manned by Poojaris from the SC, BC, and MBC categories.
"Barring the Agama Temples, in all other temples we have archagas from all castes employed for ages. "
(Comment on 'Swargeeya Madhavji's dream comes to reality' Haindava Keralam, 14/03/2012)
In that context, while social evils such as Untouchability (which scholars have placed as originating around three hundred years before the Christian era) can and is being eradicated, the preservation of ancient Hindu rituals by groups that are trained in carrying them out must be protected, and not treated as part of 'social reform'. MIXING UP the two enterprises is a sure recipe for disaster and will only please those elements in India who would like to see the end of Hinduism. Deracinated and secular Hindus must learn to distinguish between legitimate social reform and the endless ploys devised to destroy Hinduism.
Perhaps this requires that post colonial Hindus who have for so long been indoctrinated by the likes of Monier Williams, Max Mueller and Macaulay revisit the Vedas and the entire Hindu tradition. What has held the country together is Hinduism, not the mighty fortress of Brahmanism of Monier Williams's distorted imagination.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university. Her academic training has been in Philosophy, Literature, Political Science, Political Economy & History).