Drawing the Line: A Comprehensive Rehabilitation of “Caste” in Bharatiya Imagination
Exhibit 1: “To this day they remain true to their ancient laws – the moral, ecological and spiritual dictates of the Serankua and the Great Mother – and are still led and inspired by a ritual priesthood of mamos. They believe and acknowledge explicitly that they are the guardians of the world…their religious training is intense. The young acolytes are taken from their families at a young age, and sequestered in a shadowy world…inside the men’s temple for eighteen years…They are enculturated into the realm of the sacred as they learn that their rituals and prayers alone maintain the cosmic and ecological balance of the world…The message is clear: It (the world) is theirs to protect.” – Sacred Geography, Wade Davis, 2009
Exhibit 2: “There is no notion of linear progression, no goal of improvement, no idealization of the possibility of change. To the contrary, the entire logos of the Dreamtime is stasis, constancy, balance, and consistency. The entire purpose of humanity is not to improve anything. It is to engage in the ritual and ceremonial activities deemed essential for the maintenance of the world precisely as it was at the moment of creation…To violate a law of the Dreaming is a transgression not limited to the moment, but rather one that reverberates through all dimensions, through the eternal past and the limitless future.” – Sacred Geography, Wade Davis, 2009
Exhibit 3: “They have a complex understanding of astronomy, solar calendars, intense notions of hierarchy and specialization. Their wealth is vested in ritual regalia as elegant as that of a medieval court. Their systems of exchange, infinitely more complex, facilitate peace and not war. Their struggle to bring order to the Universe, to maintain the energetic flows of life, and the specificity of their beliefs and adaptations, leaves open the very remarkable possibility that the Barasana are the survivors of a world that once existed…” – People of the Anaconda, Wade Davis, 2009
Two things jump out at me. One, the remarkable similarities between these cultures that Wade is describing and aspects of Hinduism; and two, the loving respect with which this Western anthropologist treats these cultures in direct opposition to the intellectual and aesthetic crusade that the West has launched upon Hinduism for the past 300 years.
It’s time to state openly what many of us suspect privately: the compassion of the West is only reserved for those natural religions and cultures that are dead or dying and they will continue to train all the guns at their disposal at us in order to bring our religion and civilization to the same pitiable state. To help them accomplish this, they have enlisted the support of liberal education, law, and media. In our nation, every year, more of us are taught to hate our ancestors either for their supposed cruelty or for their supposed weakness and above all for their “backwardness”.
This essay aims to shine a light on this ancient place where only darkness currently reigns.
The word “tribe” refers to a group of people who prioritize their group identity over their individual identities. This is not to be confused with the same term that is often used solely to describe hunter-gatherers or forest dwellers (who are also tribal). One can be tribal even living in a city.
I’ve used the words tribe, jaati, and community interchangeably. This is as it should be. Sometimes one of these words may appear as a sub-set of another but that is just splitting hairs. For our purposes and for a true and empathetic understanding of Hindu society, these words are indeed interchangeable. Let no western “anthropologist” tell us otherwise.
In the common but undefined daily usage, the word caste is equal to jaati and the phrase caste-system is the varna vyavastha as applied to communities (and not individuals).
Part One | The Landscape
“Caste” is the flaming tire they throw around our necks and under its weight our heads have hung in shame for 170 years. No matter that the worst case of “caste” based ugliness was nothing compared to the life-long ugliness of their religions — supremacy, slavery, genocide, and world domination through ethnocide.
The World is Not Enough.
All three ideological religions — Christianity, Islam, and Liberalism are, at their root, supremacist and violently expansionist. They insist that they will force their vision upon every human on the planet by all means at their disposal. This agenda of world domination was pursued openly by Early-Christians and Muslims through the genocide and slavery of the indigenous peoples of Europe, Arabia, North Africa, Persia, America, Australia, Siberia, Africa and Bharat, until sometime in the middle of the last millennium Christians were moved to cover up their depravity with phrases such as “the white man’s burden” and “bringing civilization to the world”. This enduring cruelty, that brought death and impoverishment to hundreds of millions, finally came to an end on the wings of the global cataclysm that was Nazi-ism, imposed upon literally the entire human race, under the Christian banner of the hakenkreuz. Simultaneously, an even more perverse off-shoot of Protestant thought, Communism, had infected large parts of the globe, and by the end of the 20th Century had become the single largest killer of ordinary people in human history — 100 million by some estimates. Cortes and Hitler were chicken-feed.
Most important for the brainwashed Hindu to note is that all of this killing was done in the name of God, Liberty, Enlightenment, and Equality and it is time we looked beyond these feel-good words into the heart of the cultures that use them so cynically. These depravities have been normalized by Western academics and their lackeys as a “part of progress” — so much so that most of us look upon this history of violence and see nothing unusual in it at all! We just ignore it. A similar scale of violence perpetrated upon Hindu Bharat by political Islam — from the eighth century all the way till Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan — is made invisible by the self-same “intellectuals”. May curses rain down upon their heads.
If we are true to the Hindu spirit, complaining about injustice is not in our cultural DNA. We move on. But this time we don’t simply move on… We do so with our eyes wide open.
- We recognize the true natures of the three adharmic world-dominating ideologies – They want us dead or converted.
- We build physical and intellectual strength to adequately defend ourselves against them and expand Dharma into their lands.
- We banish shame from our minds.
- We strengthen the bridges of mutual respect and understanding between our communities.
Internalize this — nothing ugly that happened in Bharat can compare to the ugliness, demonic cruelty and depravity of what the forces of adharma have perpetrated upon the world. Allow no Christian, Muslim or Liberal to point fingers at us. Period. Simply cancel whatever they say about us. We will no longer allow ourselves to be accused of crimes by the foremost criminals of the world. Read Bharatiya history, critique Western anthropology, media, economics, and psychology. For many of us who have been brainwashed at school and by their media into accepting a Christian framework of good and evil, we start our debriefing now.
As an important first step, start using the words Dharmic and Adharmic instead of the Christian “good” and “evil,” and observe as entire moralities shift. Start today. Change your darshana. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s time we accept that liberty and equality are not the great ideals we have been taught to believe they are. They are tools for control over ordinary humans by the Western state structure and by morally bankrupt corporations.
In lived reality, the “Follow Your Dream” School of Liberty is nothing but the stepping stone to moral bankruptcy, pornography, broken families, drug abuse, laziness, selfishness, self-indulgence, and narcissism of all kinds.
In lived reality, the “I’m Special, I Deserve whatever the Hell I Want” School of Equality is nothing but the stepping stone to disorder, familial discord, depression, revolution, violence, anti-civilizational weakness, and just plain stupidity.
Every person and community that has stood for something, anything ancestral, anything free, anything self-sufficient, ancient, real and beautiful has been seen as an obstacle to their goal of world political domination – the Native Americans, the Aborigines of Australia, the Hindus of Bharat, the tribes of Africa and South-East Asia, the Pagans of Europe. Most have been wiped off the face of the Earth, either physically or spiritually. We, the oldest and noblest, still stand.
Make it count. We owe it to every one of our ancestors who kept the flame burning, who has shed blood… whose sweat inspired.
Part Two | A Road Runs Through It
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: people don’t need liberty, they need purpose; people don’t need equality, they deserve respect. If the Hindu nation has failed in giving its people purpose and respect over the past two centuries, then we are at fault. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
If we have bought, lock, stock and barrel, the stories that white people have told us about ourselves, we are at fault. Our public intellectuals have betrayed us and our religious leaders have turned inward.
Purpose and Respect.
It was this that the “caste-system” established in Bharat over millennia on a grand and spiritual plane. It led to Bharat’s wealth, its excellence, its beauty, its diversity, and its unity. It may be hard to imagine today with so many “casteless society” narratives being spun from the silken webs of intellectual spiders, but it is true.
The ancient world was, and much of the modern world continues to be, nature-centric (whether agricultural, nomadic, or forest-dwelling). The limits of geography and the sheer hard physicality of a nature-centric life leads automatically to the idea of limits — geographic particularity, tribalness, local cuisines, language diversity, economics of sustainability, nature-connected spirituality, and localized cultural practices. These are all the hallmarks of indigeneity – the idea that “we belong here”. The very same limits also lead indigenous societies to be entropic in nature; they tend to divide themselves into small sustainable groups that draw cultural lines around themselves. For example, the Sentinelese and the Jarawa have lived next door to each other for millennia, but they do not cohabit/copulate/eat together, neither do the Zulu, the Xhosa, and the Sotho. The question to ask is, are these tribes being “casteist”? Obviously not. But then why not? Aren’t these the very traits that have been labeled as “casteist” and strung like a garland around the memories of our ancestors?
We can see now that these basic facets of all tribal life everywhere on the planet are not special to Bharat. Our ancestors were not specially depraved and inhumane when they were being “casteist”: they were merely being naturally tribal and their tribalness was a natural function of their indigeneity. (It was only after the invention of the first geography erasing technologies, the telegraph and the radio, that the global consensus on morality started shifting from the legitimacy of cultural diversity informed by indigeneity towards “universal” ideals and human rights based on those ideals. There is nothing innately superior about these ideals.)
But our ancestral tribes were no ordinary tribes, our jaatis over millennia learned to collaborate and come together to build the wonder that was ancient Bharat. A coalition of tribes such as this land produced has not been seen anywhere else in the world. It is the sole reason why we are still here while the pagans of Europe are in Valhalla, and it is the sole reason why our enemies still hate us. That we could come together in diversity while they could only do so through erasure irks them no end. Hindu society is a daily reminder of their moral failure. The deep compassion of Hindu civilization recognizes the human yearning for tribalness as a natural fact of life, something that may need stewarding and direction but not erasure. It is the “caste-system” that has been our socio-economic skeleton since time immemorial. They have been hacking and hacking away at it for the past two centuries and still it stands, fractured but proud.
The necessary condition for bringing tribes together is economic, but the sufficient condition needed to keep them together is philosophical/spiritual. This miracle was achieved only in Bharat. It was the “caste-system” that brought the tribes of Bharat together for millennia in shared economic and spiritual harmony. This in fact is the true nature and purpose of the inspired idea of Varna. That we are all part of one divine body is an amazing metaphor for existence. For people to think that the feet of the cosmic Purusha are in any way inferior to the arms or head or torso is pettiness. It is in fact an honor to live and work knowing that the entire structure of Dharma rests upon one’s strength. Without Shudra ingenuity, there would be no Vysya wealth. Without Vysya wealth, there would be no Kshatriya strength. Without Kshatriya strength, there would be no Brahmin intellect. Without Brahmin intellect, there would be no Hinduism at all today for all of us to claim. To be grateful and kind towards people who support you is natural. To be respectful to the people who represent a more distilled version of a shared divinely inspired vision is also natural. Both Gratitude and Respect are aspects of Love.
Whenever we have failed in maintaining this basic etiquette we have been at fault. But disrespect and ungratefulness are not genocide. They are not slave-driving. They are not ethnocide. These are not and should not be cause for shame; these are mere blips that need correction in the ocean of amazement that is our civilization. Do Christians and Muslims constantly apologize for slavery, genocide, aboriginal poisonings, re-education camps, rapes, and ethnocide? Do they feel shame, the shame that we are taught to feel about “caste”? Why not? Do you oppress anyone? Have you seen your parents oppress someone? No? How about your grandparents then? No?? Then where does the oppression narrative come from? Newspaper clippings? Where does the oppressed narrative come from? Textbooks? Who writes newspaper articles and textbooks in India?
The on-going discussions in ‘conservative’ circles around whether or not Varna needs to be birth-based or guna-based is a coping mechanism, an attempt to force-fit Hindu history into what would be acceptable to our colonized “liberal” minds. Much better to look at things from an anthropological lens: Varna was and will be birth-based as long as communities exist that feel their tribalism is useful to them (mostly rural Somewhere-People) and it will be guna-based for all people who have shed their tribal identities (mostly urban Anywhere-People). Neither is right or wrong; each is just a state of being. But to extol the virtues of individualism over tribalism as many youths are led to do today tell us two things – one, that we have not understood the true nature of human society and our innate need for community; and two, that we have been brainwashed into absorbing the failing western cultural trope of individualism. Here in Bharat, it is important that our individualisms do not destroy our tribalisms like it has happened in the atomized West…, just as it is important that our tribalisms do not suffocate our individualisms like has happened in many parts of violence-ridden Africa. These two opposing pulls have to continue to work in tandem, informing each other, as they always have. There will be a natural ebb and flow between them. Balance. How each of us performs our jaati-based cultural and/or occupational duties and balances that with our need for a separate self-expression is up to each one of us. In addition, greater pan-Hindu tribalism is being constructed which will occupy some part of our identities. Keeping all this alive within one-self is not hard; it just requires discipline and open-heartedness.
Free-for-all, one-size-fits-all, western-style liberalism… these are not the solutions to our identity-crises, and these attitudes will not lead to our preservation.
Part Three | Road Bumps and Potholes
The systematic attempts being made to erase “caste” at all levels of Indian society today will go down as one of the most egregious acts of state-supported ethnocide in human history on par with the cultural revolution of Mao. Along with cultural extinction, many communities will likely also face physical extinction as history has shown. The fomenting of nationwide self-hate is the hallmark of a still deeply colonized slave state.
By all means, let us address the problems associated with “caste” and our ancient tribal taboos. But let us do it our way. If our solution to these problems is Western-style total erasure then please note that when we take down this skeleton of caste, the entire Hindu edifice will fall. Christians and “liberals” see this and know this, and that is why they have been targeting “caste” since the day they set foot on this land. They know much better than us that once “caste” is gone, once a majority of Hindus themselves believe that “caste” is bad, Hinduism would be finished. We, on the inside, who hate “caste” are merely hastening our own demise much to the glee of our enemies.
Here is the Rev. Joseph Roberts speaking in 1844CE, Madras. In an address to thirty-three missionary groups, he says “Caste is the great barrier in India betwixt the pagans and Christ…
Christianity had 1650 years and Islam 1300 years to touch the hearts of the so-called oppressed populations of Bharat. Ask why our ancestors did not join these cults all these long and difficult centuries, many even welcoming death and impoverishment in place of conversion. This is no joke. All of Persia, the twin civilization of Bharat, 5000 years old, nemesis of the Greeks, epitome of culture, converted to Islam in all of three years. Yes, three.
For those of us who still cling to the twin DNA strands of “I hate myself because I am an oppressor” and “I hate myself because I have been oppressed” it’s time we shed the oppressor-oppressed binary that has taken ahold of our minds, for there is no such thing, it is a fiction, an intellectual Trojan horse. Know this now — “caste” is not the problem. If at all there is a problem between “castes,” it lies in the fact that we have internalized a foreign point of view. The true Bharatiya solution to any Bharatiya issue is the building of bridges between communities using the bricks and mortar of Bhakti and Vedanta under the guidance of religious leaders and realized souls. We in modern India are yet to design the necessary institutions that would carry out this all-important civilizational task.
Walking Out of the Shadow of Ancient Taboos.
Every tribal society has had taboos — from the south-sea islanders where the word originated to the tribes of the Brazilian rainforests. Our jaatis were no exception. Many taboos had ritualistic consequences and some had social consequences. Specifically, taboos around cows, death and dirt led to some Bharatiya communities having to live and eat separately. This is a fact. It is also a fact that these communities have their own temples, deities, traditions, and family lives. They were never denied access to education or work. They were landowners, their families were never broken apart, their spirituality was never stamped on. Even today, in the spiritual wasteland of Pakistan, these communities continue to light the lamp of Dharma long after the lamps of other communities have run out of oil. Why? Because our religion is ours to claim regardless of our jaati. I would much rather have Hindus fight over who is more Hindu rather than the self-hate fuelled fights of who is not Hindu that currently light up our streets.
The phenomenon of endogamous tribes living and eating separately was so wide spread in the ancient world that not one observer of Bharatiya society from Megasthenes to Domingo Paes thought it fit to judge. It was not until the violence-ridden “equality principle” became so widespread in global moral consciousness that common facts of tribal life began to be seen as “social evils”. The equation of “caste” with “oppression” over the past 200 years is a direct result of the application of Liberal Individualist morality (liberty, equality, and fraternity) in the service of the demonization and subsequent destruction of ancient tribal arrangements — a worthy successor to the pagan-annihilation of yesteryears. The question that Bharatiyas must ask is this – “If individualists would not like to be held to tribal moral standards, then how is it fair that our jaatis are held to the moral standards of individualists?”
Unfortunately today, for whatever reason, we are all under the influence of these foreign memes in varying degrees. It becomes imperative, for the sake of its children, that Hindu society builds the right narrative around its social history and provides the right framework for its evolution. For the sake of dharmic communities who have lived under the shadow of taboos it becomes important to answer three questions:
1) Did this discrimination historically amount to oppression? – No (though there were cases of oppression as are to be found in every power structure)
2) Did attitudes of inferiority and superiority coalesce around these taboos in the last two centuries? — Yes
3) Do these taboos continue to be relevant in the modern world? — No
The failure of ancient Bharatiya society to build a rehabilitation mechanism for children who no longer wanted to do taboo work is (in my opinion) a failure to live up to our highest ideals. Modern India has an opportunity to build those mechanisms now, but our continued falling back upon the white man’s oppression template in our attempts at rehabilitation have not led to reconciliation but rather to nation-wide self-hate.
The path to mutual respect has been lit from time immemorial for us by our kings and saints, from Raja Ranti Deva to Ramnujacharya. It’s time Hindu society, both rural and urban, took their messages consciously to heart. With the growing widespread availability of modern medicine, septic tanks, electric crematoriums, and mechanical waste disposal systems along with waste treatment and recycling consciousness spreading among the entire population, the reasons for, and the foundations of, these taboos have fallen away. These three ancient taboos must go. The economics of cow protection and stewarding must be permanently solved by the Indian state, and all other taboo work needs to be re-imagined and traditional practitioners celebrated like all other communities are. Ancestors from these communities have helped grow our food, build our temples, fight our wars, maintain our crafts, take care of our animals, steward our natural resources, and build our houses, apart from performing their jaati duties in everyday village life. Dharmic communities living under the shadow of these taboos must be culturally rehabilitated and this started with the temple entry movement. It is clear and moral that work that nobody wants to do should be done by everyone or by machines.
“Traditions are practices passed on from parent to child over multiple generations ideally all the way back from where memory disappears into the mists of time. Individuals don’t have traditions, they have habits. Only tribes have traditions. Traditions connect people backwards in time with their ancestors, forwards in time with their descendants and sideways across geography with their community. In other words, traditions hold us in place. Culture can loosely be described as a collection of traditions over multiple verticals. People who are anti-tradition are necessarily anti-culture. Everyone who bats for individualism over tribalism is by definition anti-tradition and anti-culture. They can be described as individualists or progressives but certainly not as conservatives.’Conservatives’ who are anti-tradition/tribe/culture are hypocrites. This is definitional, even Jordan Peterson cannot bullshit his way out of this.”
The exceptional have always charted their own paths: for example, Shivaji Maharaj, Mira Bai, Nandanaar, Sant Ravidas, Rani Lakshmi Bai all broke “caste barriers”. But the system is meant to take care of the rest of us ordinary folk. What was different about ancient Bharat was that our ancestral system itself was exceptional. It called upon each one of our ancestors to do their duty, to sacrifice their vaasanas, and step up towards nobility — whether we are talking of Maharana Pratap, Adi Shankara, or the un-named Shudra and SC sculptors of the Chidambaram temple, these are all people who stayed within the system and rose to excellence. One does not have to be exceptional if one can be excellent. The Varna Vyavastha laid the foundations for population-wide excellence knowing full well that exceptionalism would take care of itself.
I am not arguing for a return to what was, as that would be impossible given the forces of global culture and war mongering that we face, but I am arguing for a pride-filled understanding of our ancestors’ lives and a conscious evolution into a society that would better represent them and thereby, us. A people denied access to their past will not be able to define a future for themselves.
Our traditional jaatis were part of an agricultural world. As more Indians move from that world to the industrial world, their occupations will change. They will lose their connections to their ancestral work and their ancestral rituals will become meaningless to them. This much is true. How each of us chooses to deal with this loss is up to each one of us. Ideally, we should engage in communitywide discussions with our elders and community leaders to determine which parts of our ancestral heritage we would like to consider core and carry on unchanged, which parts we would like to re-imagine, and which parts we would like to discard. Each community can then move on fully cognizant and respectful of the past while holding close a conscious set of cultural standards for the industrial age.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people will go through the liberal education factory and end up deracinated and unconnected to their ancestral ways. No Kula Devata for them, no moon-cycle world view, just some odds and ends stuck together performing the role of an anchoring system – isolated islands of Hindu ritual unconnected to either space or time, free-floating in the ocean of Liberalism. It is this societal vacuum that new-age gurus fill.
Sure, let us acknowledge that the emergence of the caste-free modern India is inevitable. But why are we cheering it on as if it is a moral good? Why does it receive state support? Why do those who leave their tribes and become individualists or Liberals hate where they’ve come from? Why do they behave like fresh converts? Why is erasure considered a better solution than pride building?
It is apparent that the acceleration of assaults on ancient practices is mere “virtue signaling” by people who do not really care. These assaults are part of their resumé that they use to get ahead in the non-Hindu Liberal world. Why not instead work towards pride building of all communities? How many people are working to build pride-filled narratives for the blacksmith communities, the carpenter communities, the stone sculptor communities, the agricultural communities, the weaving communities, the spirit of Kshatra? None. While Europe and Japan maintain their ancient practices and craft guilds we are busy disemboweling every single tradition that embodied beauty and brought fame and wealth to our land. The whole “right wing” “conservative” movement in India is a hoax that a colonized people have pulled on themselves.
Can our evolution into modernity not be consciously curated? All it requires is this:
a) The development of the Bharatiya Grand Narrative.
b) The building of modern institutions that are dedicated to the conservation and propagation of traditional knowledge.
c) The adoption of laws that will protect the rights of truly traditional people and institutions to go on doing what they do best.
The rest of us have the rest of the world anyway… don’t we?
Answer this one question – “What do Bharatiya ‘Conservatives’ want to conserve?”
Do “conservative” anti-caste warriors know that the Hindu traditions they sometimes extol have been kept alive for millennia by our jaatis? Do our jaatis not deserve our praise and recognition for this heroic act instead of the censure we heap upon them? It is the tribalism of our jaatis that is strong on conservatism, identity, and pride, and therefore continuity and tradition. When the pride of jaatis has been killed, when the idea of jaati itself derided and outlawed by the liberal law making machine, when “inter-caste” marriage is subsidized by the state with an eye on “caste erasure”, then true conservatives have to ask “what is the vehicle that will keep Hindu traditions alive in the modern world?” Are the anti-caste “conservatives” spending any brain-time on trying to design a new tribalism or even new laws that will protect ritualism, knowledge transfer, and encourage cultural continuity or are they happy cheering for high technology and individualism like their American counterparts?
What will we teach our children about ourselves?
Who are we?
Part Four | A Map
Caste in a New Light.
“Why did Bharatiya cultures survive when all the other pagan cultures slid into extinction? Bharatiya civilization was unique among all the ancient cultures in that it had worked out the terms for a coalition – a delicate dance between the particular and the universal. Our traditions are particular – limited to each jaati and geography but our philosophies are universal, limited not by geography or jaati. To solve ticklish tribal problems, we count on our universalizing philosophies to unite us and to solve totalitarian problems, we count on our innumerable tribal groups to raise the flag of freedom. We have avoided both genocide (extreme particularism) and dictatorships (extreme universalism), for Gods know how many millennia that we have been around.
We are not this or that. We are this and that.”
Unlike other civilizations, Hindu civilization did not aim to erase the past. It did not erase old Gods, it did not erase ancient loyalties, it did not erase ancient tribalisms, but it instead created a series of meta ideas that built bridges of understanding – Varna, Karma, Purusha, Guna, Dharma, Purana….
The coming, or should I say the coalescing of Hinduism in Bharat or anywhere else in the world does not come with violence and uprooting and destruction. It comes as a flowering. It does not erase, it embellishes. It does not degrade, it ennobles. Look at the way Sanskrit and Tamil came together as two sides of Ishvara’s damaroo, coexisting and embellishing each other for millennia until Caldwell. If we do not have a deep sense of this, we will not be able to see our civilization for all its subtlety, complexity, and beauty. Apply the crude yardsticks of western dichotomy and all you will get is a crude reflection of those yardsticks. This applies to all of us schooled in the English medium when we introspect about our religion as well as to the openly antagonistic academicians of the Wendy Doniger school.
So who are we Hindus?
Here is a working anthropological description of Hindu civilization as I know it in all its diversity.
(Knowledgeable readers feel free to add to this. Note that this is not a dharmic definition.)
“We are a coalition of ancient tribes woven together by the strands of mutual respect spun from the spindle of a philosophical religion over a period of ten millennia or more in this, our Deva Bhumi, Bharat.”
While we as individuals may identify with only one or a few aspects of this description, it is important for a true Hindu Nation to recognize all these four pillars and work respectfully towards their strengthening:
Pillar #1: Tribe (Jaati Vyavastha, Kula Devatas, Occupational Guilds, Ancestral Knowledge)
Pillar #2: Coalition and Mutual Respect (Varna Vyavastha, Sampradayas, Mathas, Gurus, Institutions that would work towards building mutual respect, conflict resolution, the national grand narrative and dharma expansion)
Pillar #3: Religion (Dharmic Law, Civilizational Hinduism, Temples, Rituals, Nationwide Festivals, Bhakti)
Pillar #4: Philosophy (Yoga, Vedanta, Enquiry, all other philosophical schools)
Hinduism extends from the Earth to the Sky, from the earthy to the lofty, from the so-called Animism to the most sophisticated philosophical understandings of the human place on Bhu Devi — from Life to Meaning. All of it is us. Allow no westernized “anthropologist” to draw non-existent lines separating these four aspects of us and call each as either “non-Hindu” or “oppression”.
I pray to Ishvara in the big temple at Thanjavur just as easily as I pray to Vediappan under the neem tree in my rice fields. I am involved in civilizational homas designed by the rishis of the Bharata tribe of Haryana just as easily as I participate in local spirit possessions by the female energy, Amman, residing in the termite hill down the road from my house in rural Tamil Nadu. The Western-minded will never understand that we are not this or that; we are this and that.
Unlike every other civilization, Hinduism is both bottom-up and top-down. The place where the bottom-up meets the top-down is the bridge between our local tribalisms (our falling apart) and our national civilization (our coming together). This bridge that our ancestors forged is the most definitive feature of Hinduism. It is represented by our jaatis willingly coming together under the banner of Varna;it is represented by our rishis willingly retreating from the sphere of pure thought and engaging in a down to earth manner with the creation of the necessary conditions for human contentment – Karma, Dharma and Purushaartha; and it is represented by the stitching together of divine alliances between our civilizational Gods and our local Devatas forming a rich tapestry of puranic truths that involve every community in a grand metaphorical national project no matter how isolated they are. Every single Hindu in Bharat feels connected to the national project not because of crude Abrahamic-style dogma but because we are connected by metaphorical truths… a higher plane of existence that has been projected upon our sacred geography granting to our very existence a touch of divinity. These truths inform our national character – patience, understanding, hospitability, generosity, trustworthiness, innocence, wonder, spirituality, a lack of angst, a lack of a sense of victimhood, eternal positivity, belief in human goodness, and an easy willingness to self-sacrifice. This is worth protecting. This is worth building a real, non-metaphorical Hindu state for.
It can be argued that some of that has led to our current weakness, but it does not have to be that way if we are a conscious people. Our problem today is unconsciousness — the unconsciousness that has led to our widespread absorption of Western Liberalism and its tropes of Liberty and Equality, and the manner in which we turn back and use these Western tropes to reject, disgrace, and dissect our own civilization.
- Philosophy is used to undermine Religion –
The “God is within you, why do you need a temple?” school of thought
- Religion is used to undermine the Coalition –
The “Hindu unity can only be built when we uproot the caste system” school of thought.
- Our Coalition is used to undermine our Tribalism –
The “Birth-based Varna is a sin” school of thought.
- Our Tribalism is used to undermine our Civilization itself –
The “We are not Hindu, we are Dravidians, Dalits, and Animists” schools of thought.
Each of these is a very specific problem arising from our unconsciousness as to the true breadth, depth, and greatness of our civilization…. Those metaphorical strands that are simply to be understood from birth and never spoken about. Simply put, we have forgotten who we are. We would rather learn about ourselves from books written in a foreign language by foreign authors than from our own grandmothers.
I give us two visions that I hope will help arrange the magnetic field of our heart’s compass. These are not ideas; these are visions that we need to “feel into”.
Part Five | Home is our Destination
The River of Life
High upon the icy slopes of the Himalayas a glacier melts, drop by drop, into a pool of clear blue water. From this pristine rock pool, a stream flows… sometimes silent, sometimes gushing… always growing. She leaps over boulders, tumbles over rock edges, smoothening all that is hard, and turning lush all that is thirsty.
As she descends into the plains she grows wide and generous. Where previously only the most austere of sadhus could bear to touch her, now ordinary people approach her, fill their earthen pots with her life-giving liquid, and take a piece of her back home to their children.
Through forest and field her waters maintain their relentless onward flow. All along the way she is met by other streams, some large, some small, some tiny… each one carrying a precious cargo of life-giving water from the hills, underground springs, rocky crags, and village pools where they arose. The waters mingle in the big river, their differences surrendered to a higher common purpose. The river grows as wide as the world, the gentle sway of paddy fields her constant companion. Entire cities emerge on her banks. She inspires sublime art and everyday harvest songs with the same felicity. Bharatavarsha is drenched in the sheer beauty of her inexhaustible capacity to gather all and give back more.
From the Himalaya to the Southern Ocean, our waters have come together, each little stream made sacred by association with the big perennial glacial river, adding to her, taking from her, BECOMING her, giving both Life and Meaning to the communities that depend on them. Together they enter the ocean blue… the ocean deep, where all our questions are answered or perhaps where none exist.
Veda and Vedanta, Itihaasa and Purana, Jaati and Varna, Religion and Philosophy.
Now go back and read again.
The Tree of Life.
Raja Ikshvaku’s father, Shraddhadeva Manu Maharaj, has crossed over to this yuga on a boat led by a divine fish. It’s been raining here since before the beginning of time. Water from Indraloka pours down, blessing this land, soaking into her. Bharatavarsha is wet, fertile, green. Bhu Devi stirs. This invitation from the heavens must be met by an equal and opposite yearning, a reaching up for the skies.
A long buried seed feels the pull. Roots emerge… reaching down into the soil, an intricate web of fingers becoming one with Bhu Devi, drawing life-giving sustenance from deep in her heart. The roots are innumerable, strong, stable, deep, connected… and they break out of the soil like muscles on a lion’s back.
From this twisted mass of life, a perfect cylindrical trunk arises, growing, straight, tall… disappearing into the clouds…reaching for the stars…
Out of human sight, in the half light of the mists that float above the Bhu Devi, the trunk branches out, an aerial mirror of the earthy web that it arose from. Some branches are dry, austere; some are leafy; some bent under the weight of flowers. Fragrance is everywhere… bees, monkeys, parrots, vine snakes, tree frogs, the swoop of a bird of paradise…
The branches sway in the breeze. Bits of color are shaken free. They swirl their way down to the ground far below… forming a perfect circle, a carpet of leaves and flowers, fallen again like the rain that started it all.
Our Veda, Our Jaatis, Our Dharma, Our Religion. Sheer Beauty.
Diversity in the service of strength, strength in the service of beauty, beauty in the service of the life-giving pair — the Earth and the Rain, Life and Meaning.
Now go back and read again.
Let us not deride that which our ancestors built. Let us not despise that which we no longer understand. Every part of the Varna tree had its own beauty and spirituality. To think that flowers are better than roots or vice versa betrays a lack of understanding. The Varna tree represented both Life and Meaning… and everything in-between.
It is obvious that the old Varna tree is dying, but those of us who have experienced traditional, compassionate Bharat know its value. We must help plant a new one for the modern world. The soil it stands on is Respect and the air it breathes is (divine) Purpose. We need compassionate leaders and more people willing to take on this responsibility.
In the Varna tree, the further from the ground one was, the greater the self sacrifice that was demanded. But excellence was demanded of all. That was a society based on the idea of giving. Constant giving of Self is an idea that needs to fire us up again.
…that ancient aspiration
“I shall not abandon this dog today from desire of my happiness. Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person that is terrified, nor one that is devoted to me, nor one that seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one that is afflicted, nor one that has come to me, nor one that is weak in protecting oneself, nor one that is solicitous of life. I shall never give up such a one till my own life is at an end.” – Yudhisthira at the gates of Swarga
References, Links and Influences
- The Works of Wade Davis, Canadian anthropologist
- The Darkening Age, Catherine Nixey, 2017
- The Road to Somewhere, David Goodhart, 2017
- Capital, Karl Marx, 1867
- Caste Opposed to Christianity – Rev. Joseph Roberts, 1847
- Census of India, 1921
- The Beautiful Tree, Dharampal, 1983 (https://archive.org/details/TheBeautifulTree-Dharampal/page/n33/mode/2up)
- The Works of Rajiv Malhotra (especially for the development of the terms – “Mutual Respect” and “Bharatiya Grand Narrative”)
- The tweets of @shatrubhanja (especially for the “Veda as glacier” metaphor)
- Mahabharta, Rishi Veda Vyasa, Antiquity
I have also linked to my previous works in order to build a coherent narrative –
Photo Credits: Artranked.com
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