This is a cross-post from Kufr.
The meaning of the word ‘Saraswat’ has more than one origin. One refers to ‘offspring ofSaraswati‘ , the Goddess of learning applied usually to learned and scholarly people. It may also denote the residents of Saraswati river basin. The brahmins of this region who are referred to as ‘Saraswats’ in Mahabharata and Puranas were learned in Vedic lore . They concentrated on studying subjects like astronomy, metaphysics,medicine and allied subjects and disseminating knowledge .
the heading, you’d notice says ‘history’. history? do people really believe that’s history? gods and goddesses are history? do you notice anything like dates in that whole section?
that piece of history whetted my appetite for more such knowledge. this page tells you about the origins of the nambudiris:
The ancient Sangam literature mentions Brahmins ofChera Kingdom (which became Kerala) who may be Namboothiris as there is mention of Perinchellur(Taliparamba) village, which is one of the most important villages for Namboothiris, as a great Vedic village. There is no concrete evidence to suggest migration of Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala but would most probably be the heavily civilised Aryans who took the Red sea route to Kerala even before the 100O BC. The recent evidence of Brahmin migration to Kerala is the Embranthiris who were originally Tulu Brahmins.
no concrete evidence, but they’re most probably heavily civilised Aryans who took the Red sea route to Kerala even before the 100O BC (100O BC?).
what’s funnier (than the content of those histories) is the fact that some people, at least two persons, actually wrote those pages. why? to tell people like me: this is not your history, you can’t bask in the glory of the saraswats or the nambudiris, you can only admire them. but would anyone have written those pages if non-nambudiris/non-saraswats like me didn’t exist? what’s the point of being a brahmin when there aren’t any non-brahmins around? so i am there in those narratives: as, say, most probably the heavily uncivilised native who didn’t take the red sea route to kerala even before the 100O BC, but was born here. no non-indian can read between the lines and spot me, the non-saraswat or non-nambudiri, who doesn’t deserve any history. the nambudiri is the light, i am the shadow that gives the light meaning.
if i ever tell a non-indian that my people studied astronomy, metaphysics and medicine ages ago, i’d be lying. because it was the saraswats who studied astronomy, metaphysics and medicine. so i have to make sure no brahmins, saraswats especially, are around when i tell non-indians that my people studied astronomy, metaphysics and medicine. but a lie is a lie and as long as that page, and less crude but similar pages exist in many forms, i can never really be proud of the fact that ‘indians’ were smart enough to explore astronomy etc a thousand or more years ago. not as long as some ‘indians’ claim that they’re brahmins.
they say the chinese first started making rockets, or something like rockets. it’s quite possible a chinese nobleman first made it. but now, any chinese soldier or hawker or sex worker or scientist or film star could proudly say: we invented rockets. because there is no single endogamous group of people in china who could say: my forefathers invented rockets. so everyone is free to claim that glory.
when someone explicitly tells the world he’s a brahmin, like the writers of those two pages, he’s claiming a lot of history for himself. a history filled with ‘glorious achievements’. you might have problems with the authenticity or incompleteness of that history, but there’s very little you can do about it. the problem is, a lot of history attaches itself even to those who don’t explicitly tell the world that they’re brahmin. a lot of history attaches itself to all brahmins, as long as they’re brahmins, in whatever fashion, for the simple reason that indian history doesn’t have much space for anyone else.
the reason why indian history sounds so much like a bad zombie movie in which the characters seemingly incapable of any voluntary, conscious action so smartly and purposefully keep cornering the conscious, hyperactive ones, is because it implicitly makes the claim that those mostly unconnected with any production produced all of indian science, astronomy, medicine etc. indian history reads so much like mythology because those claiming its ‘glorious achievements’ as their own have no idea whatsoever how those achievements were accomplished– it’s obvious that they know only a part of the story, so they add a lot of mumbo jumbo to complete it, to obfuscate the dalitbahujan contributions. indian history is such a colossal crime because by depriving the dalitbahujans of any past, it steals their future too.
as long as the brahmins, as brahmins, are around, and in very large numbers, in academia and other places that produce history– it’d be very difficult to find anything resembling objective history in that kind of an environment. no, i have no problems with people whose forefathers might have been brahmins filling all available seats in universities with their..behinds.
but as long as people who can trace their ancestry back to the nambudiris or saraswats are around, i might as well give up thinking that i can produce something of value, because indian history tells me i’m totally incapable of producing anything of any value. only the brahmin can.
but mr.dipankar gupta would object to that kind of a caste sneer:
Only recently, a newspaper article, while discussing Narayana Murthy’s inept attempts to wriggle out of his faux pas with the national anthem episode, calmly added without context that one cannot expect much from a Brahmin after all. Now where did that come from? As if to explain further, the journalist went on to remind the readers that Narayana Murthy, the Brahmin, as a Brahmin, also opposed reservation quotas. This is clearly a caste sneer!
yes, that clearly is a caste sneer, because it attributes a negative trait to all brahmins. gupta is trying to say that the journalist accused narayana muthy, the brahmin, of acting as a brahmin. can the word brahmin be sanitized of its history, and of its sociology? can a person just be a brahmin, just as someone can be tall, fat or dark? can someone be a brahmin and not be acting as a brahmin?
isn’t the very claim to be a brahmin, a claim on an exclusive right to a long line of ‘super-achievements’, also an act of consigning almost everyone else to an history of ‘non-achievement’? isn’t that a caste sneer, in a way?
i started on this post nearly two years ago– don’t know if all the links work now. but its logic still seems ok to me, and i feel more confident of that theory today, after reading this article by rahul pandita. he says:
As a Brahmin, does it make me less sensitive to the plight of the poor or the marginalised? Why is it such a big deal that I can wear my Janeu, recite my Hanuman Chalisa, and yet go to Bant Singh’s house in Bhurj Jabbar, thirstily gulp down a few glasses of water, and tell his story? Where is the contradiction?
yes, why is it such a big deal that he wears a janeu etc? i don’t believe the practice of rituals etc make a brahmin. so giving them up won’t make one less of a brahmin, either, in my view.
the big deal is that bant singh can’t just get up and go meet rahul pandita in delhi or mumbai or wherever he lives, gulp down a few glasses of water, and tell his story. bant singh was attacked because he wanted to do exactly what rahul pandita does. get up and go do the things he wanted to do.
the big deal is that rahul pandita has the freedom to do so and bant singh doesn’t.
if you say bant singh lost his freedom of movement because of the line of work he chose to do– organizing farm labour– you’d be wrong because he didn’t have much freedom of choice to begin with. history had seen to that. now rahul pandita, despite being forced out of home ‘at the age of 14′, seems to have done quite well for himself. that’s the contradiction.
when rahul pandita says he’s a brahmin, he’s making a claim on a lot of indian history. when bant singh rebels against his present, he is also rejecting pandita’s history, his claim on privilege. if pandita doesn’t see that, he shouldn’t have undertaken the trip to bant singh’s home.