Who were the shudras ?

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The third and the most unimpeachable evidence in support of my view comes from the anthropometrical survey of the Indian people. Such a survey was first made by Sir Herbert Risley in 1901. On the basis of cephalic index, he came to the conclusion that the people of India were a mixture of four different races: (1) Aryan, (2) Dravidian, (3) Mongolian, and (4) Scythian. He even went to the length of defining the areas where they were massed. The survey was a very rough one. His conclusions have been tested by Dr. Guha in 1936. His Report on the subject forms a very valuable document in the field of Indian anthropology. The map[f38] prepared by Dr. Guha on which he has plotted so to say the distribution of the Indian people according to their head measurements throws a flood of light on the racial composition of the people of India. Dr. Guha's conclusion is that the Indian people are composed of two racial stocks: (1) long headed, and short-headed, and that the long-headed are in the interior of India and the short-headed are on the outskirts.

The evidence of skulls found in different parts of India also goes to confirm this. This is how Dr.Guha sums up the evidence on this point:

"The accounts of the human remains from prehistoric sites given above, though extremely meagre, with the exception of those of the Indus Valley, enable us nevertheless to visualise the broad outlines of the racial history of India in these times. From the beginning of the 4th Millennium B.C. Northwestern India seems to have been in the occupation of a long-headed race with a narrow prominent nose. Side by side with them we find the existence of another very powerfully built race also long-headed, but with lower cranial vault, and equally long-faced and narrow nose, though the latter was not so high pitched as that of the former.

A third type with broader head and apparently Armenoid affinities also existed, but its advent occurred probably somewhat later judged by the age of the site as Harappa from which most of these latter type of skulls came."

Speaking in terms of the Alpine and the Mediterranean race, one can say that the Indian people are composed of two stocks: (1) The Mediterranean or the long-headed race, and (2) the Alpine or the short-headed race.

About the Mediterranean race, certain facts are admitted. It is admitted that it is a race which spoke the Aryan language. It is admitted that its home was in Europe round about the Mediterranean basin and from thence it migrated to India. From its localisation, it is clear that it must have come to India before the entry of the Alpine race.

Similar facts about the Alpine race remain to be ascertained. First is about the home of the Alpine race and second is about its native speech. According to Prof. Ripley, the home of the Alpine race was in Asia somewhere in the Himalayas. His reasons may be given in his own words. Says Prof. Ripley : [f39]

"What right have we for the assertion that this infiltration of population from the East- it was not a conquest, everything points to it as a gradual peaceful immigration, often merely the settlement of unoccupied territory—marks the advent of an overflow from the direction of Asia? The proof of this rests largely upon our knowledge of the people of that continent, especially of the Pamir region, the Western Himalayan highlands. Just here on the ' roof of the world,' where Max Muller and the early philologists placed the primitive home of Aryan civilisation, a human type prevails which tallies almost exactly with our ideal Alpine or Celtic European race. The researches of De Ujfaivy, Topinard, and others localise its peculiar traits over a vast territory hereabouts. The Galchas, mountain Tadjiks, and their fellows are grey-eyed, dark-haired, stocky in build, with cephalic indexes ranging above 86 for the most part. From this region a long chain of peoples of a similar physical type extends.uninterruptedly westward over Asia Minor and into Europe. The only point which the discovery of a broad area in Western Asia occupied by an ideal Alphine type settles, is that it emphasises the affinities of this peculiar race. It is no proof of direct immigration from Asia at all, as Tappeiner observes. It does, however, lead us to turn our eyes eastward when we seek for the origin of the broad-headed type. Things vaguely point to an original ethnic base of supplies somewhere in this direction. It could not lie westward, for everywhere along the Atlantic the race slowly disappears, so to speak. That the Alpine type approaches all the other human millions on the Asiatic continent, in the head form especially, but in hair, colour and stature as well, also prejudices us in the matter; just as the increasing long-headedness and extreme brunetness of our Mediterranean race led us previously to derive it from some type parent to that of the African Negro. These points are then fixed; the roots of the Alpine race run eastward; those of the Mediterranean type towards the south."

On the question of its language there is a certain amount of dispute[f40] as to who introduced the Aryan language in Europe, whether the Nordics (the purest of the Indo-Germans) or the Alpines. But there is no dispute that the language of the Alpine race was Aryan and therefore it is entitled to be called Aryan race in philological sense.


From the foregoing statement of facts, it will be seen that there is a solid foundation in anthropometry and history, in support of the Rig Veda that there were in India two Aryan races and not one. Having regard to this, one cannot refuse to admit that here there is a direct conflict between the Western theory and the testimony of the Rig Veda. Whereas the Western theory speaks of one Aryan race, the Rig Veda speaks of two Aryan races. The Western theory is thus in conflict with the Rig Veda on a major issue. The Rig Veda being the best evidence on the subject the theory which is in conflict with it must be rejected. There is no escape.

This conflict on the major issue also creates a conflict on the issue of invasion and conquest. We do not know which of the two Aryan races came to India first. But if they belonged to the Alpine race then its home being near the Himalayas, there is no room for the theory of invasion from outside. As to the conquest of the native tribes, assuming it to be a fact, the matter is not quite so simple as Western writers have supposed. On the footing that the Dasas and Dasyus were racially different from the Aryans, the theory of conquest must take account not merely of a possible conquest of Dasas and Dasyus by Aryans but also of a possible conquest of Aryans by Aryans. It must also explain which of the two Aryans conquered the Dasas and Dasyus if they conquered them at all.

The Western theory, it is clear, is only a hurried conclusion drawn from insufficient examination of facts and believed to be correct because it tallied with certain pre-conceived notions about the mentality of the ancient Aryans which they were supposed to have possessed on no other grounds except that their alleged modern descendants, namely, the Indo Germanic races are known to possess. It is built on certain selected facts which are assumed to be the only facts. It is extraordinary that a theory with such a slender and insecure foundation in fact should have been propounded by Western scholars for serious scholars and should have held the field for such a long time. In the face of the discovery of new facts set out in this Chapter the theory can no longer stand and must be thrown on the scrap heap.



IT has been shown how untenable the Western theory is. The only part of the theory that remains to be considered is : who are the Shudras? Mr. A. C. Das*[f41] says :

"The Dasas and the Dasyus were either savages ornon-Vedic Aryan tribes. Those of them that were captured in war were probably made slaves and formed the Shudra caste."

Mr. Kane[f42]another Vedic scholar and upholder of the Western theory, holds the view that :

"The word 'Dasa' in later literature means a 'scrf or a slave'. It follows that the Dasa tribes that we see opposed to the Aryas in the Rig Veda were gradually vanquished and were then made to serve the Aryas. In the Manusmriti (VIII, 413) the Shudra is said to have been created by God for service (dasya) of the Brahmana. We find in the Tai. Samhita, the Tai. Brahmana and other Brahmana works that the Shudra occupied the same position that he does in the Smritis. Therefore it is reasonable to infer that the Dasas or Dasyus conquered by the Aryans were gradually transformed into the Shudras."

According to this view the Shudras are the same as Dasas and Dasyus and further the Shudras were the non-Aryan original inhabitants of India and were in a primitive and a savage state of civilisation. It is these propositions which we must now proceed to examine.

To begin with the first proposition. It is not one proposition but is really two propositions rolled in one. One is that the Dasas and Dasyus are one and the same people. The other is that they and the Shudras are one and the same people.

That the Dasas and Dasyus are one and the same people is a proposition of doubtful validity. Such references to them as are to be found in the Rig Veda are not decisive. In some places the terms Dasa and Dasyu are used in a way as though there was no difference between the two. Shambara, Shushna, Vritra and Pipru are described both as Dasas and Dasyus. Both Dasas and Dasyus are described as the enemies of Indra and Devas and specially the Ashvins. The cities of both Dasas as well as of the Dasyus are described to have been levelled down by Indra and Devas. The defeat of both Dasas as well as Dasyus is described as producing the same effect, namely, release of water and the emergence of light. In describing the release of Dabhiti both are referred to, at one place he is said to have been released from the Dasas and at another place he is said to have been released from the Dasyus.

While these references suggest that the Dasas and Dasyus were the same, there are other references which suggest that they were different. This is clear from the fact that the Dasas are referred to separately in 54 places and Dasyus are referred to separately in 78 places. Why should there be so many separate references if they did not form two distinct entities? The probability is that they refer to two different communities.

About the second proposition that the Shudras are the same as the Dasas and Dasyus, one can definitely say that it is without any foundation whatsoever.

To make out a case that the Shudras are the same as the Dasas and Dasyus an attempt is made to treat the word Shudra as a derivative word. The word is said to be derived from Shuc (sorrow) and dm (overcome) and means one overcome by sorrow. In this connection reliance is placed on the story told in the Vedanta Sutra (i.3.34) of Janasruti who is said to have been overcome by sorrow on hearing the contemptuous talk of the flamingoes about himself. [f43]The same derivation is given by the Vishnu Purana. [f44]

How far are these statements well-founded? To say that Shudra is not a proper name but is a derivative word is too silly for words. The Brahmanic writers excel everybody in the art of inventing false etymologies. There is no word for which they will not design some sort of etymology. Speaking of the different etymologies of the word Upanishad given by Brahmanic writers, Prof. Max Muller [f45]said :

"These explanations seem so wilfully perverse that it is difficult to understand the unanimity of native scholars. We ought to take into account, however, that very general tendency among half-educated people, to acquiesce in any etymology which accounts for the most prevalent meaning of a word. The Aranyakas abound in such etymologies, which probably were never intended as real etymologies, in our sense of the word, but simply as plays on words, helping to account somehow for their meaning."

This warning equally well applies to the attempt of the Vedanta Sutra and of the Vayu Purana to make the word Shudra a derivative word suggesting that it meant a 'sorrowful people' and we must therefore reject it as being absund and senseless.

We have, however, direct evidence in support of the proposition that Shudra is a proper name of a tribe or a clan and is not a derivative word as is sought to be made out.

Various pieces of evidence can be adduced in favour of this proposition. The historians of Alexander's invasion of India have described a number of republics as free, independent and autonomous whom Alexander encountered. These are, no doubt, formed of different tribes and were known by the name borne by those tribes. Among these is mentioned a people called Sodari. They were a fairly important tribe, being one of those which fought Alexander though it suffered a defeat at his hands. Lassen identified them with the ancient Shudras. Patanjali at 1.2.3 of his Mahabhasya mentions Shudras and associates them with the Abhiras. The Mahabharata in Chapter XXXII of the Sabha parvan speaks of the republic of the Shudras. The Vishnu Purana as well as the Markandeya Purana and the Brahma Purana refer to the Shudras as a separate tribe among many other tribes and fix their location in the Western part of the country above the Vindhyas. [f46]

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