Who were the shudras ?

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The Ramayana also deals with the subject of creation. One account of it will be found in the second Kanda. [f32]It says :

"Perceiving Rama to be incensed, Vasishtha replied.' 'Jabali also knows the destruction and renovation of this world. But he spoke as he did from a desire to induce you to return. Learn from me, lord of the earth, this (account of) the origin of the world. The universe was nothing but water. In it the earth was fashioned. Then Brahma Svayambhu came into existence, with the deities. He next, becoming a boar, raised up the earth, and created the entire world, with the saints, his sons, Brahma, the eternal, unchanging, and undecaying, was produced from the ether (akasa). From him sprang Marichi, of whom Kasyapa was the son. From Kasyapa sprang Vivasvat: and from him was descended Manu, who was formerly the lord of creatures (Prajapati). Ikshvaku was the son of Manu, and to him this prosperous earth was formerly given by his father. Know that this lkshvaku was the former king in Ayodhya."

There is besides this another story of creation. It occurs in the third Kanda and is in the following terms: [f33]

"Having heard the words of Rama, the bird (Jatayu) made known to him his own race, and himself, and the origin of all beings. "Listen while I declare to you from the commencement all the Prajapatis (lords of creatures) who came into existence in the earliest time. Kardama was the first, then Vikrita, Sesha, Samsraya, the energetic Bahuputra, Sthanu, Marichi, Atri, the strong Kratu, Pulastya, Angiras, Prachetas, Pulaha, Daksha, then Vivasvat, Arishtanemi, and the glorious Kasyapa, who was the last. The Prajapati Daksha is famed to have had sixty daughters. Of these Kasyapa took in marriage eight elegant maidens, Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kalaka, Tamra, Krodhavasa, Manu and Anala. Kasyapa, pleased, then, said to these maids: ' ye shall bring forth sons like me, preservers of the three worlds.' Aditi, Diti, Danu and Kalaka assented; but the others did not agree. Thirty-three gods were borne by Aditi, the Adityas, Vasus, Rudras, and the two Asvins. 'Manu, (wife) of Kasyapa, produced men. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. 'Brahmins were born from the mouth, Kshatriyas from the breast, Vaishyas from the thighs, and Shudras from the feet' so says the Veda. Anala gave birth to all trees with pure fruits."


As an illustration of what the Puranas have to say, I extract the following passages from the Vishnu Purana : [f34]

"Before the mundane egg existed the divine Brahma Hiranyagarbha the eternal originator of all worlds, who was the form and essence of Brahma, who consists of the divine Vishnu, who again is identical with the Rik, Yajus, Saman and Atharva-Vedas. From Brahma's right thumb was born the Prajapati Daksha; Daksha had a daughter Aditi; from her was born Vivasvat; and from him sprang Manu. Manu had sons called lkshvaku, Nriga, Dhrishta, Saryati, Narishyanta, Pramsu, Nabhaganedishta, Karusha, and Prishadhra. Desirous of a son, Manu sacrificed to Mitra and Varuna. but in consequence of a wrong invocation through an irregularity of the hotri-priesta daughter called Ila was born. Then through the favour of Mitra and Varuna she became to Manu a son called Sudyunma. But being again changed into a female through the wrath of lsvara (Mahadeva) she wandered near the hermitage of Budha the son of Soma (the Moon); who becoming enamoured of her had by her a son called Pururavas. After his birth, the god who is formed of sacrifice, of the Rik, Yajus, Saman, and Atharva Vedas, of all things, of mind, of nothing, he who is in the form of the sacrificial Male, was worshipped by the rishis of infinite splendour who desired that Sudyumna should recover his manhood. Through the favour of this god lla became again Sudyumna."

The Vishnu Purana then proceeds to give the following particulars regarding the sons of Manu :

  1. (i)              Prishadhra became a Shudra in consequence of his having killed his religious preceptor's cow.

  2. (ii)            From Karusha the Karushas.Kshatriyas of great power were descended.

  3. (iii)           Nabhaga, the son of Nedishta became a Vaishya."

The above is the story of the Solar race. The Vishnu Purana[f35] has also a parallel story relating to the Lunar race which according to it sprang from Atri just as the Solar race from Manu :

"Atri was the son of Brahma, and the father of Soma (the moon), whom Brahma installed as the sovereign of plants. Brahmins and stars. After celebrating the rajasuya sacrifice, Soma became intoxicated with pride, and carried off Tara (Slar), the wife of Brihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, whom, although admonished and entreated by Brahma, the gods, and rishis, Soma refused to restore. Soma's part was taken by Usanas; and Rudra, who had studied under Angiras, aided Brihaspati. A fierce conflict ensued between the two sides supported respectively by the gods and the Daityas, etc., Biahma interposed, and compelled Soma to restore Tara to her husband. She had, however, in the meantime become pregnant, and bore a son Budha ( the planet Mercury), of whom when strongly urged, she acknowledged Soma to be the . father. Pururavas [f36]was the son of this Budha by lla, the daughter of Manu. Pururavas [f37] had six sons, of whom the eldest was Ayus. Ayus had five sons; Nahusha, Kshattravriddha, Rambha, Raji and Anenas.

Kshattravriddha had a son Sunahotra who had three sons, Kasa, Lesa and Gritsamada. From the last sprang Saunaka, who originated the system of four castes. Kasa had a son, Kasiraja,of whom again Dirghatamas was the son, as Dhanvantari was of Dirghatamas."

Compare these ideologies of creation with those set out in Chapter 2 and what do we find? I think the result of comparison may be set down in the following propositions: (1) one is sacerdotal in colour and character, the other is secular; (2) one refers to a human being Manu as the progenitor, the other refers to God Brahma or Prajapati as the originator; (3) one is historical in its drift, the other is supernatural; (4) one speaks of the deluge, the other is completely silent about it; (5) one aims at explaining the four Varnas, the other aims at explaining the origin of society only.

These differences are many and fundamental. Particularly fundamental seems to be the difference in regard to Chaturvarnya. The sacerdotal ideology recognizes it, but the secular ideology does not. It is true that an attempt is made to combine the two by explaining, as is done in the Ramayana and the Puranas, how Manu's progeny developed into four Varnas. But obviously this is an attempt to mould the two ideologies into one. This attempt is deliberate and calculated. But the difference between the two ideologies is so fundamental that inspite of this attempt they persist as two separate ideologies. All that has happened is that instead of one we have two explanations of Chaturvarnya, supernatural Chaturvarnya produced by Purusha, and natural Chaturvarnya as developed among Manu's sons. That the result should be so clumsy shows that the two ideologies are fundamentally different and irreconcilable.. It is a pity that the existence of two such ideologies recorded in the Brahmanic literature has not been noticed by scholars who have dealt with the subject. But the fact of their existence and their significance cannot be ignored. What is the significance of the existence of two such ideologies fundamentally different and irreconcilable? To me, it seems that they are the ideologies of two different Aryan races— one believing in Chaturvarnya and the other not believing in Chaturvarnya— who at a later stage became merged into one. If this reasoning is well-founded then this difference in ideologies disclosed by the Brahmanic literature furnishes further evidence in support of the new theory.


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