The mighty fortress of Brahmanism
by Vijaya Rajiva on 20 Mar 2012 7 Comments

“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 regarding Hinduism, much like the seven blind men who tried to describe an elephant by touching one part of the animal and proclaiming that it represented the whole 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).

The Indologist Max Mueller 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 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 the lack of understanding of the religion. It was not “Brahmanism” at all. 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 millennia. Its innate strengths could not be analysed or defeated. It was held up by the ordinary Hindu and the traditional acharyas, gurus and maths.

Thousands of Hindus lost their lives defending the sacred sites, whether Somnath or Ayodhya. Hundreds of Hindus continue to lose their lives in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Many brave the inclement weather to visit Amarnath…

Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst observed there is a constant ongoing low level violence against Hindus throughout 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 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 almost always been retaliatory. Benjamin was speaking about the incidents in Kandhamal when the octogenarian Swami Laxmanananda was murdered along with four other sanyasi-disciples for having resisted the church’s conversion activities in that region.

We are not talking about the barbarian invasions. Those are in a category by themselves. The Nestorian Christians (7th & 8th centuries) destroyed Hindu temples; the cruelty, murder and mayhem of the Goa Inquisition of the 17th century is well documented, as is the first Vatican Council in that century, which planned to destroy Hinduism. Journalist Kanchan Gupta has called for an apology from the Church, but none has been forthcoming; indeed the Church in India went ballistic when the topic was mentioned.

Then came the Inculturation-ists, 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 continues under euphemistic titles such as interfaith dialogue.

It has never been understood why there should be an olive branch style dialogue from the Hindu side. Yet we have lofty rhetoric such as “understanding,” respect”, though it remains unclear why a tradition that has accepted and accommodated alien religious/ ethic groups into the country should tie itself up in knots with words such as ‘engage’ with a tradition best known for conquest and violence.

There has been much covert and overt conversion activity by the Church and evangelists through force, fraud and bribery. This is now couple with attempts by social and political groups to overcome Hinduism in various devious ways; with limited success so far.

Among recent assaults against the “mighty fortress” is the State encroachment on Hindu temples and their jurisdiction. This began most noticeably with the ascent to unaccountable power of an Italian Catholic at the Centre. This too is an ongoing process, with temple lands being brazenly stolen as under Chief Minister Samuel Rajshekhar Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. Only prompt action by the sadhu community stopped further incursions in the Tirupati hills some years ago.

Last year, there was a brazen attempt to appropriate the wealth of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum under the rubric of legalisms. The immense wealth generated by the Sabarimala pilgrimage disappears into private pockets.

The allied Communist-Congress-Islamic-Christian forces in Kerala are now seeking to deploy state power to remove the traditional priests in temples from their jobs and replace them with their own candidates. The ploy is to claim that this is being done in the interests of social justice. This claim must be seriously investigated.

Sadly, Hindu politicians have assisted in the enterprise in the mistaken notion that training non-Brahmin priests is the right way to go. While inclusiveness is a sound principle, such an exercise needs to be undertaken with extreme caution – with desiring candidates themselves coming forward to seek training and guidance from traditional priests and teachers, so that the sankaras necessary for such an arduous profession-cum-vocation, which is really a seva to society, can be properly ingrained in the mind of the disciple.

This cannot and should not be the consequence of political nepotism. Yet this is how it has been in Tamil Nadu, where this was first attempted under the DMK regime.

Kerala is now trying the same experiment in the reign of a Christian chief minister from the Congress party.

Non-Brahmins deserve all the social and educational and economic opportunities that all citizens of India should have. But they cannot be genuinely empowered by throwing out existing Brahmin priests! Such careless meddling with temple tradition is fraught with danger. The writer Tamizhchelvan observes,

“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.”

It follows that there is per se no exclusion of non-Brahmins from performing temple rituals, and even serving as pujaris. So there is no need for such ‘social reform’, which is really an euphemism for political intrusion into the affairs of religion and a vulgar form of social engineering for no larger social good.

The preservation of ancient Hindu rituals must be left to families and groups trained in carrying them out as a religious duty. Attempts by deracinated secular Hindus to pervert Hindu dharma at the instigation of non-Hindu faiths is a recipe for disaster.

Post-colonial Hindus indoctrinated by Monier Williams, Max Mueller and Macaulay must refrain from such meddling with the Hindu tradition. Had they lived this great tradition, they would have understood that the complex diversity and continuity of the tradition erected the ‘mighty fortress’ sensed by Monier Williams. It was never the physical handiwork of any particular caste.

The writer is a political philosopher; she taught at a Canadian university 
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