Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On the Varna System - Part III

Is it important that somebody has to be dvija to learn Vedas ? Are the Sudras prevented from learning Vedas?

Unlike the current versions of the Manusmriti - there is no differentiation in the Vedas of a Sudhra as regards initiation into learning Vedas or performing sacrifices. It appears that the Upananaya was either available for all four classes (including the Sudhras) or that it was not mandatory for reading the scriptures and performing sacrifices.

The Yajurveda ( 26.2) clearly gives rights to a Sudra to perform Yajna and for reading scriptures and shastras. The portion of the hymn means

‘ I have give the benevolent vedic sermon for all human beings – Brahmans, Kshatriyas ( rajhan), Vaishyas and Sudhras, women ,domestic help and other lowly people’.

Rigveda, in its hymn 10-53-4 reads 'panchajanaha - i.e., five classes of people who are entitled to peform yajna should carry out the agnihotra'

The five classes,i.e., the Panchajanaha are clarified by the Niruktha (3-8),as the people of the four varnas and the fifth are the nishadas - the panchamas.

It is quite possible that several more verses could have been purged by people interested in retaining learning within themselves.

Can somebody change his varna ?

There have been several examples of change in Varnas - clearly implying that it is not associated with birth. Let us look at examples - not from the Tamil texts , but from the Vedas, the Ithihasas and the Puranas itself.

Kavash Ailush , son of a slave woman and Vatsa, a son of a sudhra woman are Rig veda Rishis.

Vishwamitra , a descendant of King Kusha and born of Kshatriya parents and himself a king later went on to become a Brahmarishi and authored the Gayatri Mantra. Incidentally, Kaushika was one of the names of Viswamitra. Descendants of Kausika belong to the Kaushika Gotra. Of the 96 clans of Marathas , 11 belong to Kausika Gotra – including that of Sivaji ! – hence the Gotra has Kshatriya descendants. It is common knowledge that Kausika Gotra is also common among Brahmins .

Satyakam Jabal whose parentage was not clear, became a Brahmavadi Rishi (an exponent of highest reality)

• Matanga muni was born of a barber and a brahmin woman who was intoxicated –and was hence a Chandala

Rishi Valmiki was of a lowly birth and was originally a professional highway robber.

Rishi Vyasa was of a lowly birth ( was born to Rishi Parashara and fisherwoman Matchagathi who later became Satyavathi - who later married King Santanu ). Vyasya is known to have compiled and collated the 4 Vedas and is hence called Veda Vyasa . Veda Vyasa, also called Badarayana , wrote the Brahmasutras - one of the three primal works of vedic philosophy ( the three are called the Prasathanathriyam). This work has been commented by Acharya Neelakanda, Acharya Sankara , Acharya Ramanuja etc - who have used this to establish their philosophies. ( Some authors however opine that Veda Vyasa is different from Vyasa who wrote the Mahabharata)

• Slave woman’s son Vidhur became a prime minister for Raja Drithirastra

Sri Ram – a son of a kshatriya and Sri Krishna, son of a yadava king came to be treated as Gods – and venerated even by Brahmins.

• Ram’s ancestor Raghu ( hence Ram was called Raghukula thilala) had a son Pravridha who owing to his misdemeanor became an outcast and a demon.

• Pulastya Rishi’s descendant Ravana came to be treated as a demon ( Pulastya is one of the Sapta Rishis).

• Several of Rishi Vishwamitra’s sons came to be considered Sudhras,

Trishanku – once a king came to be considered a Chandala.

• Rishi Kashyapa – a Brahmin and one of the Sapta Rishis ( the son of Rishi Marichi – one of the mansa putra’s of Brahma) married Daksha Prajapati’s daughter Aditi and from whom descended the Aditya dynasty or the Surya Vamsha – which then became the Ikshavaku dynasty ( named after his great grandson) and later Raghu Dynasty or the Raghuvamsha denoted earlier ( All these being Kshatriyas)

• Rishi Kashyapa’s son from Diti ( also Daksha Prajatpathi’s daughter ) was Hiranyakasibhu ( a demon)

More notes follow....

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