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Category Archives: Dalit-Bahujans
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Holi – What is it and how did it originate?
It is well known that Holi forms one of the important festivals among the Hindus. It is supposed to be festival of Shudras, and is one of the three most important ones in India, the others being Dasera and Diwali. The Dasera is in honour of killing of Ravana and Divali is in honour of killing of Narakasur and noted pesant king Bali. The purpose of Holi, indirectly, is concerned with killing of Hiranyakashyap. The important elements of the festival of Holi are as follows:-
1. A pyre is burnt.
2. Abuses are showered on people, and other obscenities are observed. Dirt, mud etc. is smeared.
3. Festivities are indulged in to celebrate the victory.
Also check – Some Random Thoughts on Diwali – Say No To Diwali
The puranas give an account of hokika burning. The traditional story is that a powerful King Hiranya Kashyapu sent his sister Holika to kill his ten year old only son Pralhad, as he was worshipping Barhmnic god Vishnu against his wishes. Holika had a cloth which could resist burning. She sits with Pralhad on a pyre. The wind blows wrapping Pralhad with the cloth and Holika is burnrd to death. Holi is supposed to be celebrated to commomorate this event.
Purpose of writing puranas
Dr. Ambedkar avers that “This literature arose during the period subsequent to the triumph of Brahmins under the leadership of Pushyamitra” (p.257 W&S vol.3) Original authors were non-brahmin sutas, but later they were ousted by brahmins who made monopoly of it. At that time they were finally edited and extra new subjects, apart from five traditional ones, were incorporated. [W&S vol 3, p.255]. But if you consider the fact that the majority of people were only allowed to know either by reading or hearing, and mostly by hearing, only these so called scriptures and nothing else, it becomes evident that the purpose of these books was rather more for false appeasement rather than information or enlightenment, let alone their progress and liberation, so that they don’t aim and strive for any higher literature. The real purpose of Puranas was to misled the dalitbahujan masses regarding their aspirations to knowledge, to curb down their desire for more information and limit their desires to their paltry needs. BSO has always done that and even now, we see that. An example of Gandhi admonishing the savarna leaders for accepting Agnibhoj, an untouchable in the Congress ministry by saying that this will increase the aspirations of these lowly born harijans is well known.
Check also – Raksha Bandhan: Another form of Slavery
In practice, the stories in Puranas were used to present a make shift explanation for unexplainable capture of Buddhist monuments by the Brahmnical priests and to tell the dalitbahujans that the Brahmnical values are their own, when in fact, the masses were opposed to these values. It was also used to regularize the usurpation of Buddhist temples and tirthas, and thus misleading masses about their real history and heritage.
The above quoted story of Holika is nothing but an eyewash to hoodwink the dalitbahujans. This becomes clear from two cardinal facts. These are:-
1. That the fire for burning the holi is brought from an untouchable. [Ghurye: Caste and Race in India, 1969, Popular Prakashan Bombay, p. 26]
2. It is noteworthy that the festival of rejoicing ends by touching an untaouchable and the taking a bath. [“Rigvedi”: marathi book – “aryaachya sanaancha prachin va arvachin itihas” p. 366, 1979, pradnya patha shala mandal, Wai-dist. Satara, M.S.]
There is no satisfactory explanation of these vital clues in this festival in the traditional story of Holika and Pralhada.
Obscenity of Holi
The second aspect of Holi is abusing the people. This goes on from about 15 days before the festival begins and goes on till the culmination of atrocities on the second days of holi. This certainly is a relic of old “Hindu” tradition of adding insult to the injury inflicted upon the old rivals of Hinduism, i.e. Jains and Buddhist. The Jains have somehow, adapted themselves and accepted the supremacy of brahmins, but the Buddhist did not and hence are condemned to be the Untouchables.
Present day obscenity
It is camouflaged in fish pond ceremonies and All fools’ conventions and the like, the original traits are seen even today.
He’s not a Brahman who abhors
the touch of a mahar,
What retribution can he pay?
he won’t throw his life away!
A chandal drives him wild,
it’s his heart that’s defiled.
Tuka says, his caste’s defined
by what fills his mind.
- Saint Tukaram
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(Excerpted from Chapters 11 to 14 of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 1948 work The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?)
The Census Returns [of 1910] show that the meat of the dead cow forms the chief item of food consumed by communities which are generally classified as untouchable communities. No Hindu community, however low, will touch cow’s flesh. On the other hand, there is no community which is really an Untouchable community which has not something to do with the dead cow. Some eat her flesh, some remove the skin, some manufacture articles out of her skin and bones.
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From the survey of the Census Commissioner, it is well established that Untouchables eat beef. The question however is: Has beef-eating any relation to the origin of Untouchability? Or is it merely an incident in the economic life of the Untouchables? Can we say that the Broken Men to be treated as Untouchables because they ate beef? There need be no hesitation in returning an affirmative answer to this question. No other answer is consistent with facts as we know them.
In the first place, we have the fact that the Untouchables or the main communities which compose them eat the dead cow and those who eat the dead cow are tainted with untouchability and no others. The co-relation between untouchability and the use of the dead cow is so great and so close that the thesis that it is the root of untouchability seems to be incontrovertible. In the second place if there is anything that separates the Untouchables from the Hindus, it is beef-eating. Even a superficial view of the food taboos of the Hindus will show that there are two taboos regarding food which serve as dividing lines. There is one taboo against meat-eating. It divides Hindus into vegetarians and flesh eaters. There is another taboo which is against beef eating. It divides Hindus into those who eat cow’s flesh and those who do not. From the point of view of untouchability the first dividing line is of no importance. But the second is. For it completely marks off the Touchables from the Untouchables. The Touchables whether they are vegetarians or flesh-eaters are united in their objection to eat cow’s flesh. As against them stand the Untouchables who eat cow’s flesh without compunction and as a matter of course and habit.
In this context it is not far-fetched to suggest that those who have a nausea against beef-eating should treat those who eat beef as Untouchables.
There is really no necessity to enter upon any speculation as to whether beef-eating was or was not the principal reason for the rise of Untouchability. This new theory receives support from the Hindu Shastras. The Veda Vyas Smriti contains the following verse which specifies the communities which are included in the category of Antyajas and the reasons why they were so included
L.12-13 “The Charmakars (Cobbler), the Bhatta (Soldier), the Bhilla, the Rajaka (washerman), the Puskara, the Nata (actor), the Vrata, the Meda, the Chandala, the Dasa, the Svapaka, and the Kolika- these are known as Antyajas as well as others who eat cow’s flesh.”
Generally speaking, the Smritikars never care to explain the why and the how of their dogmas. But this case is exception. For in this case, Veda Vyas does explain the cause of untouchability. The clause “as well as others who eat cow’s flesh” is very important. It shows that the Smritikars knew that the origin of untouchability is to be found in the eating of beef. The dictum of Veda Vyas must close the argument. It comes, so to say, straight from the horse’s mouth and what is important is that it is also rational for it accords with facts as we know them.
The new approach in the search for the origin of Untouchability has brought to the surface two sources of the origin of Untouchability. One is the general atmosphere of scorn and contempt spread by the Brahmins against those who were Buddhists and the second is the habit of beef-eating kept on by the Broken Men. As has been said the first circumstance could not be sufficient to account for stigma of Untouchability attaching itself to the Broken Men. For the scorn and contempt for Buddhists spread by the Brahmins was too general and affected all Buddhists and not merely the Broken Men. The reason why Broken Men only became Untouchables was because in addition to being Buddhists they retained their habit of beef-eating which gave additional ground for offence to the Brahmins to carry their new-found love and reverence to the cow to its logical conclusion. We may therefore conclude that the Broken Men were exposed to scorn and contempt on the ground that they were Buddhists, and the main cause of their Untouchability was beef-eating.
The theory of beef-eating as the cause of untouchability also gives rise to many questions. Critics are sure to ask: What is the cause of the nausea which the Hindus have against beef-eating? Were the Hindus always opposed to beef-eating? If not, why did they develop such a nausea against it? Were the Untouchables given to beef-eating from the very start? Why did they not give up beef-eating when it was abandoned by the Hindus? Were the Untouchables always Untouchables? If there was a time when the Untouchables were not Untouchables even though they ate beef why should beef-eating give rise to Untouchability at a later-stage? If the Hindus were eating beef, when did they give it up? If Untouchability is a reflex of the nausea of the Hindus against beef-eating, how long after the Hindus had given up beef-eating did Untouchability come into being?….
DID THE HINDUS NEVER EAT BEEF?
TO the question whether the Hindus ever ate beef, every Touchable Hindu, whether he is a Brahmin or a non-Brahmin, will say ‘no, never’. In a certain sense, he is right. From times no Hindu has eaten beef. If this is all that the Touchable Hindu wants to convey by his answer there need be no quarrel over it. But when the learned Brahmins argue that the Hindus not only never ate beef but they always held the cow to be sacred and were always opposed to the killing of the cow, it is impossible to accept their view.
Budget cuts to affect education, health and women’s development most. Dr. Ambedkar had asked governments to spend most on education and health but shame on government for ignoring these two important areas! Seems like government doesn’t want to educate people because then they will start demanding their rights. We strongly condemn such a sick mentality of government.
Siddharth Vihar, the boys’ hostel in Mumbai that was once the site of important political and cultural activity within the Dalit community, has been demolished. Here’s why the demolition means so much more.
February 9, 2015. The 90-odd residents of Wadala’s Siddharth Vihar boys’ hostel – mostly poor Dalit and “lower” caste students from rural Maharashtra – were busy preparing for the upcoming examination season. Around 10am, their studies were interrupted by a group of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials and beat policemen, who asked them to assemble outside the building. Once the students had been herded downstairs, the officials locked the hostel gates. Within ten minutes, the demolition started. The doors and internal walls were the first to go, to ensure that the four-story structure could not be re-occupied. In one stroke, the students were rendered shelterless. With nowhere to go, many are still camped out in the hostel compound.
In another part of the city, the Maharashtra state government is finalizing plans to buy a 2,050sq ft, three-story bungalow in London for Rs 30 crore. This is the house Dalit icon Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar stayed in while studying at the London School of Economics in 1921-1922. The government, with one eye firmly fixed on the Dalit vote in the upcoming local body elections, wants to convert the bungalow into an Ambedkar memorial. On February 18, the cash-strapped government announces that it will dip into the funds allocated to the Mahatma Phule Magasvargiya Vikas Mahamandal – a state-owned corporation whose objective is to help people from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities by offering training and financial assistance so they can be self-employed – to pay Rs 3 crore to a UK-based solicitor to close the deal.
The contrasting responses to these two cases reflect the larger tragedy of contemporary Dalit politics in Maharashtra, where tokenism and symbolism have taken the place of concrete efforts towards the upliftment of the Dalit masses. The state government, which is spending Rs 30 crore on an Ambedkar memorial in another country, did not even notice when an important part of Ambedkar’s legacy was lost forever. Over its 51-year history, Siddharth Vihar occupied a unique role in the struggle for Dalit emancipation in Maharashtra. It was an incubator for Dalit radicals and intellectuals, producing some of the biggest names in Dalit politics, literature, music and theater. And yet there were no public statements on its demise, no long paeans in newspaper columns.
The silence of Dalit leaders on the hostel’s demolition is especially striking. Take, for example,Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) leader Prakash Ambedkar, who is BR Ambedkar’s grandson. He is a vocal supporter of the London memorial. But we haven’t heard a peep from him about Siddharth Vihar, even though he’s involved in a power struggle within the People’s Education Society (PES), the organization that managed the hostel. Nor has there been any statement from his rival Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India (Athawale), who built his political career while at the hostel, and was still living in one of Siddharth Vihar’s dingy rooms when he became a cabinet minister in Sharad Pawar’s 1990 government.
But not everyone is silent. Revolutionary balladeer Sambhaji Bhagat, who stayed at the hostel from 1979-1994, called the day of the demolition a terrible day for the Ambedkarite movement. “This was Babasaheb [Ambedkar]’s dream,” he says, anger palpable even over the phone. “And it was that dream that was torn down.”
In many ways, Siddharth Vihar’s story is linked to that of the Ambedkarite movement. This story begins in 1945, when Ambedkar established PES in order to provide access to education for fellow members of the Dalit community – who had been denied access to education for millennia – as well as people from other underprivileged sections of society. To this end, PES set up schools and colleges all over the country, including Mumbai. Aware of the challenges rural Dalit students faced in coming to a big city, Ambedkar set the plans for Siddharth Vihar in motion. In the meantime, his own residence Rajgriha functioned as a hostel for “lower” caste students.
In 1964, eight years after Ambedkar passed away, Siddharth Vihar’s construction was finally finished. “[Ambedkar] had ensured that the hostel had all the facilities students would need – in every room there were tables, lamps, etc,” says Bhagat. “It was better than most of the government hostels in Mumbai at the time.”
Under the rule of the Marathas and the Peshwas the Untouchables might not spit on the ground lest a Hindu should be polluted by touching it with his foot, but had to hang an earthen pot round his neck to hold his spittle. He was made to drag a thorny branch of a tree with him to brush out his footsteps and when a Brahman came by, had to lie at a distance on his face lest his shadow might fall on the Brahman.
In Maharashtra an Untouchable was required to wear a black thread either in his neck or on his wrist for the purpose of ready identification.
In Gujarat the Untouchables were compelled to wear a horn as their distinguishing mark.
In the Punjab a sweeper was required while walking through streets in towns to carry a broom in his hand or under his armpit as a mark of his being a scavenger.
In Bombay the Untouchables were not permitted to wear clean or untorn clothes. In fact the shopkeepers took the precaution to see that before cloth was sold to the Untouchable it was torn & soiled.
In Malabar the Untouchables were not allowed to build houses above one storey in height and not allowed to cremate their dead.
In Malabar the Untouchables were not permitted to carry umbrellas, to wear shoes or golden ornaments, to milk cows or even to use the ordinary language of the country.
In South India Untouchables were expressly forbidden to cover the upper part of their body above the waist and in the case of women of the Untouchables they were compelled to go with the upper part of their bodies quite bare.
In the Bombay Presidency so high a caste as that of Sonars (gold- smiths) was forbidden to wear their Dhoties with folds and prohibited to use Namaskar as the word of salutation…
From – Manu and the Shudras by Dr. Ambedkar