Brahmin

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Brahmins in white dress performing the Bhumi Puja ritual yajna around fire

Brahmin (Sanskrit: ब्राह्मण) is a varna (class) in Hinduism specialising as priests, teachers (acharya) and protectors of sacred learning across generations.

Quotes[edit]

  • The Brahmins and the Untouchables belong to the same race.
    • B.R. Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, vol.7, p.302, quoted in Elst, Koenraad, The Saffron Swastika, vol II, p. 608
  • Mahommad bin Qasim's first act of religious zeal was forcibly to circumcise the Brahmins of the captured city of Debul ; but on discovering that they objected to this sort of conversion, he proceeded to put all above the age of 17 to death, and to order all others, with women and children, to be led into slavery. The temple of the Hindus was looted, and the rich booty was divided equally among the soldiers, after one-fifth, the legal portion for the government, had been set aside.
  • A Brahmin was a Brahmin not by mere birth, but because he discharged the duty of preserving the spiritual and intellectual elevation of the race, and he had to cultivate the spiritual temperament and acquire the spiritual training which could alone qualify him for the task.
    • Sri Aurobindo: Ghose, A., Nahar, S., & Institut de recherches évolutives. (2000). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de recherches évolutives, also quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The Brahmans who were custodians of the idols and idol-houses, and “teachers of the infidels”, also received their share of attention from the soldiers of Allãh. Our citations contain only stray references to the Brahmans because they have been compiled primarily with reference to the destruction of temples. Even so, they provide the broad contours of another chapter in the history of medieval India, a chapter which has yet to be brought out in full. The Brahmans are referred to as magicians by some Islamic invaders and massacred straight away. Elsewhere, the Hindus who are not totally defeated and want to surrender on some terms, are made to sign a treaty saying that the Brahmans will be expelled from the temples. The holy cities of the Hindus were “the nests of the Brahmans” who had to be slaughtered before or after the destruction of temples, so that these places were “cleansed” completely of “kufr” and made fit as “abodes of Islam”. Amîr Khusrû describes with great glee how the heads of Brahmans “danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet”, along with those of the other “infidels” whom Malik Kãfûr had slaughtered during the sack of the temples at Chidambaram. Fîrûz Shãh Tughlaq got bags full of cow’s flesh tied round the necks of Brahmans and had them paraded through his army camp at Kangra. Muhmûd Shãh II Bahmanî bestowed on himself the honour of being a ghãzî, simply because he had killed in cold blood the helpless BrãhmaNa priests of the local temple after Hindu warriors had died fighting in defence of the fort at Kondapalli. The present-day progressives, leftists and dalits whose main plank is anti-Brahminism have no reason to feel innovative about their ideology. Anti-Brahminism in India is as old a the advent of Islam. Our present-day Brahmin-baiters are no more than ideological descendants of the Islamic invaders. Hindus will do well to remember Mahatma Gandhi’s deep reflection--“if Brahmanism does not revive, Hinduism must perish.”
    • S.R. Goel in Shourie, A., & Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Vol. II
  • “What the Brahmans as protectors of their culture achieved in those days,” writes Wilhelm von Pochhammer, “has never been properly recorded, probably because a considerable number of people belonging precisely to this class had been slaughtered. If success was achieved in preserving Hindu culture in the hell of the first few centuries, the credit undoubtedly goes to the Brahmans. They saw to it that not too many chose the cowardly way of getting converted and that the masses remained true to the holy traditions on which culture rested…”
    • Wilhelm von Pochhammer. India’s Road to Nationhood: A Political History of the Sub-Continent trs. by S.D.Marathe, Allied Publishers (Bombay, 1961). Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6
  • The Buddha too said that moral conduct and mental disposition, not birth, determined who is a Brahmin.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • An earlier anti-Brahmin activist, Ramaswamy Naicker, had said that "we will do with the Brahmins what Hitler did with the Jews". Another slogan of his was: "If you see a snake and a Brahmin, kill the Brahmin first".
    • Ramaswamy Naicker, Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • The Jews are only interested in themselves, and nobody else. They somehow contrive to have the rulers in their pocket, participate in governance and conspire to torture and suck the lives out of other citizens in order that they live (in comfort). ... Are they not comparable to the Brahmins who too have no responsibility but have the rulers in their pocket, have entered the ruling dispensation and been lording over (all of us)?
    • Periyar E.V. Ramasamy writing in his magazine Kudiyarasu. (Naan Sonnal Unakku Yen Kopam Vara Vendum, vol. 4, p. 532, compiled by Pasu. Gowthaman)
  • Yudhishthira in the Mahabharata says the following: The marks of the shudra are found in a brahmin; but a shudra is not necessarily a shudra nor a brahmin a brahmin. in whomever a brahmin's marks are found, he is known as a brahmin and in whomever they are not found, him we designate as a shudra.
  • One immediate consequence of the murder which is usually left unmentioned in the numerous hagiographies of the Mahatma is the wave of revenge which hit the Hindu Mahasabha, the RSS and most of all, the Chitpavan Brahmin caste. It seems that most hagiographers were embarrassed with the way the apostle of non-violence was mourned by his fans as well as by others who merely used the opportunity for, as in Red Fort Trial (p. 4) P.L. Inamdar puts it, ‘the manhunt of Maharashtrian Brahmins irrespective of their party allegiance by non-Brahmins in Poona and other districts.’ Offices and houses were burnt down, numerous people were molested and at least eight people were killed, according to an official tradition. However the article ‘Gandhi is killed by a Hindu’, published by The New York Times on 31 January 1948, puts the number of mortal victims in Bombay (now called Mumbai) alone, and on the first day alone, already at fifteen. Locals in Pune (where of course the Hindu Rastra office was set on fire, along with the offices of other pro-Hindu papers) told me they estimated the death toll in Pune alone at fifty. One of the rare studies of the event, by Maureen Patterson, concludes that the greatest violence took place not in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur, centres of Hindu nationalism, but in ‘the extreme southwest of the Deccan plateau—the Desh—of the Marathi linguistic region’, including Satara, Belgaum and Kolhapur. Then, as now, press reporting on communal rioting was under strict control, and Maureen Patterson reports that even decades after the facts, she was not given access to relevant police files. So, we may not know the exact magnitude of this ‘Gandhian violence’ until all the records are opened, but the death toll may well run into several hundreds.... But unlike in the case of the anti-Sikh pogrom, where a few local Congress leaders were brought to trial after a long delay, and where references to the events keep on being made in studies of ‘communalism’, the Mahatma riots had no consequences for the perpetrators and were flushed down the memory hole, probably because the accused in the latter case did not have a high profile.
    • About mass killings of Brahmins after the assassination of Gandhi. P.L. Inamdar , M. Patterson. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.

Quotes from pre-19th century sources[edit]

  • The Brahmans were the very keys of the chamber of idolatry, and the infidels were dependent upon them.
    • Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi by Shams Siraj Afif. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1994). Muslim slave system in medieval India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6
  • "As they (the Brahmins) surpass other learned men in their treatises on morals, and on physical and religious sciences, and reach a high degree in their knowledge of the future, in spiritual power and human perfection, they brought proofs based on reason and testimony.... and so skilfully represented things as quite self-evident... that no man could now raise a doubt in His Majesty."
    • About Akbar's encounter with Brahmins. Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh by Abdul Qadir Badaoni, Persian text, Calcutta, 1865, vol. II, p. 257. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 2
  • [Brahmans] surpass other learned men in their treatises on morals....His Majesty, on hearing… how much the people of the country prized their institutions, commenced to look upon them with affection.
    • About Akbar. Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh by Abdul Qadir Badaoni, vol. II, quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Vijaya Gupta wrote a poem in praise of Husain Shah of Bengal (1493-1519 AD). The two qazi brothers, Hasan and Husain, are typical Islamic characters in this poem. They had issued orders that any one who had a tulsi leaf on his head was to be brought to them bound hand and foot. He was then beaten up. The peons employed by the qazis tore away the sacred threads of the Brahmans and spat saliva in their mouths. One day a mullah drew the attention of these qazis to some Hindu boys who were worshipping Goddess Manasa and singing hymns to her. The qazis went wild, and shouted: “What! The haramzadah Hindus make so bold as to perform Hindu rituals in our village! The culprit boys should be seized and made outcastes by being forced to eat Muslim food.” The mother of these qazis was a Hindu lady who had been forcibly married to their father. She tried to stop them. But they demolished the house of those Hindu boys, smashed the sacred pots, and threw away the puja materials. The boys had to run away to save their lives.
    • Vijaya Gupta. Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. ISBN 9788185990231
  • In short, it was the holy place of the Hindus, which the Malik dug up from its foundations with the greatest care… and heads of the Brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet,’ and blood flowed in torrents.
    • Amir Khusrow, Khazainu’l-Futuh. About Sultan ‘Alau’d-Din Khalji (AD 1296-1316) and his generals conquests in Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu) Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. III, p. 90-91 (S.A.A. Rizvi's translation says that temples at Birdhul touched the sky with their tapes, and reached the nether world in their foundations, but they were dug up (Khalji Kalina Bharata, p. 169)
  • “The narrative of thy battles eclipses the stories of Rustam and Isfandiyar. Thou didst bring an army in one night from Dhangan to Jalandhar… Thou didst direct but one assault and by that alone brought destruction upon the country. By the morning meal not one soldier, not one Brahman, remained unkilled or uncaptured. Their beads were severed by the carriers of swords. Their houses were levelled with the ground with flaming fire… Thou has secured victory to the country and to religion, for amongst the Hindus this achievement will be remembered till the day of resurrection.”
  • The king seizes the Brahmanas, pollutes their caste and even takes their lives. If a conch-shell is heard to blow in any house, its owner is made to forfeit his wealth, caste and even life. The king plunders the houses of those who wear sacred threads on the shoulder and put scared marks on the forehead, and then binds them. He breaks the temples and uproots tulsi plants… The bathing in Ganga is prohibited and hundreds of scared asvattha and jack trees have been cut down.
    • Jayananda: Chaitanya-mañgala, (a biography of the great Vaishnava saint), about the Navadvipa region on the eve of the saint’s birth in 1484 AD. Quoted from Goel, S. R. (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India.
  • According to the official report of Col. Fullarton of the British forces stationed in Mangalore, worst type of brutalities on Brahmins were committed by Tipu Sultan in 1783 during his siege of Palghat Fort which was being defended by the Zamorin and his Hindu soldiers. "Tipu's soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see. It is asserted that the Zamorin rather than witness such enormities and to avoid further killing of innocent Brahmins, chose to abandon the Palghat Fort".
    • Malabar Manual by William Logan (Printed and published by Charitram Publications under the editorship of Dr. C.K, Kareem, Trivandrum). p. 500. Also quoted in Ravi Varma, " Tipu Sultan: As Known In Kerala" in Tipu Sultan: Villain or hero? : an anthology. (1993).
  • Ziyauddin Barani voiced his opinion against the Hanafi school when he wrote as follows in his Fatwa-i-Jahandari: “If Mahmud… had gone to India once more, he would have brought under his sword all the Brahmans of Hind who, in that vast land, are the cause of the continuance of the laws of infidelity and of the strength of idolators; he would have cut off the heads of two or three hundred thousand Hindu chiefs. He would not have returned his Hindu-slaughtering sword to its scabbard until the whole of Hind had accepted Islam. For Mahmud was a Shafiite, and according to Imam Shafii the decree for Hindus is Islam or death, that is to say, they should either be put to death or accept Islam. It is not lawful to accept jiziya from Hindus who have neither a prophet nor a revealed book.”
    • Fatwa-i-Jahandari, quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. ISBN 9788185990231
  • [Sultan Firoz Tughlaq] convened a meeting of the learned Ulama and renowned Mashaikh and suggested to them that an error had been committed: the Jiziyah had never been levied from Brahmans: they had been held excused, in former reigns. The Brahmans were the very keys of the chamber of idolatry, and the infidels were dependent on them (kalid-i-hujra-i-kufr und va kafiran bar ishan muataqid und). They ought therefore to be taxed first. The learned lawyers gave it as their opinion that the Brahmans ought to be taxed. The Brahmans then assembled and went to the Sultan and represented that they had never before been called upon to pay the Jiziyah, and they wanted to know why they were now subjected to the indignity of having to pay it. They were determined to collect wood and to burn themselves under the walls of the palace rather than pay the tax. When these pleasant words (kalimat-i-pur naghmat) were reported to the Sultan, he replied that they might burn and destroy themselves at once for they would not escape from the payment. The Brahmans remained fasting for several days at the palace until they were on the point of death. The Hindus of the city then assembled and told the Brahmans that it was not right to kill themselves on account of the Jiziyah, and that they would undertake to pay it for them. In Delhi, the Jiziyah was of three kinds: Ist class, forty tankahs; 2nd class, twenty tankahs; 3rd class, ten tankahs. When the Brahmans found their case was hopeless, they went to the Sultan and begged him in his mercy to reduce the amount they would have to pay, and he accordingly assessed it at ten tankahs and fifty jitals for each individual.
    • Shams Siraj Afif, quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6 [1]
  • Such was the erosion of demography and prosperity that after the capture of Brahmanabad, "all people, the merchants, artisans and agriculturists were divided separately into their respective classes, and (only) ten thousand men, high and low, were counted. Muhammad Qasim then ordered twelve dirhams weight of silver (i.e., twelve silver coins or their equivalent) to be assigned to each man (for rehabilitation), because all their property had been plundered."15 The Brahmans, "the attendants of the temples were likewise in distress. For fear of the (Muslim) army, the alms and bread were not regularly given to them, and therefore they were reduced to poverty."16 From the destruction of Debal to the end of the campaign temples had been broken with the zeal of an iconoclast and their purohits and other dependents had no employment, no income. "It was ordained (by Qasim) that the Brahman should, like beggars, take a copper basin in their hands, go to the doors of the houses, and take whatever grain or other thing that might be offered to them, so that they might not remain unprovided for."
    • Chachnama, E.D. vol. I, quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 4
  • Mahomed Kasim levelled the temple and its walls with the ground and circumcised the brahmins. The infidels highly resented this treatment, by invectives against him and the true faith. On which Mahomed Kasim caused every brahmin, from the age of seventeen and upwards, to be put to death; the young women and children of both sexes were retained in bondage and the old women being released, were permitted to go whithersoever they chose... On reaching Mooltan, Mahomed Kasim also subdued that province; and himself occupying the city, he erected mosques on the site of the Hindoo temples.
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated into English by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, 4 Volumes, New Delhi Reprint, 1981. p. 234-238
  • “Mahomed Shah now sat down before Condapilly and Bhim Raj, after six months, being much distressed, sued for pardon; which being granted, at the intercession of some of the nobility, he surrendered the fort and town to the royal troops. The King having gone to view the fort, broke down an idolatrous temple, and killed some bramins, who officiated at it, with his own hands, as a point of religion. He then gave orders for a mosque to be erected on the foundation of the temple, and ascending a pulpit, repeated a few prayers, distributed alms, and commanded the Khootba to be read in his name. Khwaja Mahmood Gawan now represented, that as his Majesty had slain some infidels with his own hands, he might fairly assume the title of Ghazy, an appellation of which he was very proud. Mahmood Shah was the first of his race who had slain a bramin…”
    • Sultãn Muhammad Shãh II Bahmanî (AD 1463-1482) Kondapalli (Andhra Pradesh)
  • The symptom of the kings being the protectors of religion is this:- When they see a Hindu, their eyes grow red and they wish to bury him alive; they also desire to completely uproot the Brahmans, who are the leaders of kufr and shirk and owning to whom kufr and shirk are spread and the commandments of kufr are enforced…
    • Z. Barani, Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi. citing Shykh Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi . Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (2001). The story of Islamic imperialism in India. ISBN 9788185990231
  • I very much lament for what has happened to the groves in Madhura. The coconut trees have all been cut and in their place are to be seen rows of iron spikes with human skulls dangling at the points. In the highways which were once charming with the sounds of anklets of beautiful women, are now heard ear-piercing noises of Brahmins being dragged, bound in iron fetters.
    • Gangadevi. On the condition of Madurai under the Muslim rule. Chattopadhyaya, Brajadulal (2006), Studying Early India: Archaeology, Texts and Historical Issues, Anthem Press, ISBN 978-1-84331-132-4

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