There was a news item in the Times of India dated Aug 18th “Law student hits cop for stopping him from boozing on roadside”. A few days back there were lot of news items and discussions in the print and TV media about “manavarkal kothithu ezhuhirarhal”-students rising with anger in favor of complete prohibition. I am a cynic. I do not believe students as a whole rose against liquor. There are two kinds of student protests 1) just for the thrill of it. This used to happen even in Oxford and Cambridge against the police and authority. Our boys (never girls) protest against government buses, police and join whatever the latest protest is. At other times the male students tease girls students or otherwise. They are not very serious about these protests. Usually such protests are done by only students of particular colleges. Aspirational students from the other colleges do not join. You see the list of colleges from where students protested in this liquor problem and you can prove my contention. Students (now even boys and girls) booze in their hang outs. This is not a common problem for them nor is problem against their aspirations. 2) There are some problems which are against aspirations of the whole community of students. The classic case was Anti Hindi agitation. The compulsory Hindi was against the aspirations of the whole student community of this area, so they rose en masse to protest. Of course there are rare occasions when students of aspirational colleges protested against a social problem-e.g. during the French Revolution(1830s) and the protests in Sixties in Duke university and Berkeley in USA and Sorbonne University in France mainly against Vietnam war. But what happened then. It was said with derision in USA that most of the protester students joined arms manufacturing companies or major law firms. That is the irony of the student protests. I am not under estimating the effect of student protests. It is one of the two communities (laborers and students) which are together in specific locations (during college days, not during vacations in the case of students) and easy to organize. But the very same students when they become adults become most backward human beings. Regarding laborers they are most interested in themselves. There were no labor strikes against liquor. I myself was part of the student protests during Quit India movement. But at a distance of more than half a century and after going through the vicissitudes of life I wonder whether how far were we serious in those protests!
I just now finished reading KA by Roberto Calasso . I have already written some of my vague musings on early Aryan migration in an earlier blog. Now it looks to me that the early Aryans did not believe in Sannyasam (RENOUNCING). There appears to be no renouncers among the early Aryans. It looked as if the first sannyasi (renouncer) was Buddha and his Bikshus. I checked with relevant Wikipedia. We also know that in Hindu social structure there were three stages of life Brahmacharya, Grihastha and Vanaprastha. Vanaprastham is not renouncing but something equivalent to modern “retirement”. To avoid any conflict of interest the elders moved out. (I hope the present day Indian elders consider this concept of Vanaprastha. They need not go to forests but renounce authority of the family). The rishis we have heard about Vasista, Viswamitra, Gauthama, Kanva etc. were not sannyasis . They did not renounce families or life. Their lives might not be luxurious but many of them living in forests they led simple lives. Wikipedia says that there was mention of “Muni” in early Vedic literature, perhaps equivalent to mendicants (I think what you see in present day Kumbh Mela). They were long haired, in dirty clothes (or perhaps nude), soil covered, perhaps unhygienic. But in Puranas there has been no mention of names of any famous Munis though names of number of rishis were mentioned. Perhaps (this is my guess) early Aryans did not have great respect for these mendicants or to the concept of sannyasam. So we can take it the concept of sannyasi became prominent only in Buddhism. But the first famous sannyasi in the Hindu religion was ADI SHANKARA. (8th century CE). Then the history was different. Then Buddhism and Jainism were powerful in the whole of India including in Tamil Country. Many kings and rich trading community were followers of these two apostate religions. Hindu religious leaders had to fight this and that needed unattached savants and fighters to stop onslaught of these two religions and reestablish the Hindu religion among the people. I guess the conflicts were nasty and leading to lot of violence.
In Tamil religion there were Sidhars ( around 500 to 300 BCE)who were renouncers but with great intellectual abilities “knowledgeable in Science, Technology, Astronomy, Literature, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Dance, and provided solutions to common people in their illness and advice for their future” (ref: wikipedia)
I am not an expert, just a person who reads all sorts of books – from philosophy, rereading of epics to mild pornography, periodicals and web pages. I am now reading “Ka” by Roberto Calasso. I am one of those who believe that Aryans did migrate to India at the end of the period of Indus civilization. For that matter if you believe the scientists that Homo sapiens were born to the first primeval mother in Africa then everybody is a migrant. Only dispute is who is the earlier migrant and who is later. For example earlier human migrants in Greece were followed by migrants from the Mesopotamia region. Similarly the first migrants to Taminadu were tribals (present STs) and then those who are loosely called Dravidians. Similarly Harappan population was the previous migrants to Indus valley and then the Aryans came. When the Aryans came I believe that there was no caste system. Perhaps in addition to temporarily settled colonies there were individual persons living isolated in the forest with minimum support by human beings. Food was from the forest. The abodes were simple hut like things made up of forest produce. So they had time not only to do the simple tribal rituals like Agni worship they had lot of time to speculate on intellectual matters like life, matter, death, God etc. These individuals, whom let us call tentatively “rishis” do not have any wants. They do not need defense and so no need of a king (more because they live in isolated spots) and so no need of carpentry and so no carpenter caste, no iron works so no iron smiths perhaps they even wore only “mara uri” (wooden cloth) and so no weavers etc. They might have come into contact with tribal societies in the area who left them alone because these rishis were not going to steal anything from them. So I believe there was no concept of castes during this period of Aryan migration. Even though there appears to be some mention of Chathur varna (Rig veda), at that stage the difference was more due to the quality of people and to some extent color of the skin. Perhaps this chatur varna concept itself might have been later inclusion because if you read rig veda it is only prayers to symbolization of nature like Agni, Varuna, Vayu and their leader as Indra. Perhaps they did not want to leave any remembrances of them, any stone image or any artifact even of gods they worshipped. Though they were polytheists there were not idolaters. As they burnt the dead bodies there are no funeral pots etc. The first stone artifact is only from the time of Buddha.
The concept of caste came much later when the Aryan colonies became more organized into rural and urban set ups and became more complex societies, then the ruling elite started thinking of concept of caste (of course some of those “rishis” might have contributed to this later concept). Perhaps after half a millennium of this concept it was Manu who codified and added his commentary and rules to the concept of caste. So if you want to trash anybody in early Aryan society you should trash Manu. He was such a clever person that what he codified became more and more complex and sustained for nearly 2000 years and still going strong. At this stage even Ambedkar’s seminal work “The Annihilation of Caste” did not have any effect; on the other hand the concept became more divisive.
If the concept of castes was codified by Manu who talks about only four castes how so many castes did come up. This is a question which even radicals should think about and try to find an answer. Is it because in the hierarchy of castes each small group of people tried to form into a caste or sub caste to claim superiority over other groups of the same caste? The Vadgalai Iyengars claim they are superior to Thengalai Iyengars because former follow Vedas in Sanskrit whereas later follow Divya Prapandam in Tamizh. I am told (I do not know how far it is true) there are hierarchy of Dalits also and some groups claim superiority to other Dalit groups. I have even heard one of Tamizh Dalit leaders saying that they were the kings of the country some time back.
These vague musings will continue.