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Anti-Brahminism is the ideology of being opposed to Brahminism.


Early criticism against Brahmanism flourished within Sramana movement.[1] Particularly in Nāstika schools of Indian philosophy like Buddhism, Jainism, and others such as Ājīvika, Cārvāka and Ajñana.[2]

Ajñana were the sceptical school of ancient Indian philosophy. A major rival of early Buddhism, Jainism and Vedic Hinduism.[2]

Herein a certain recluse or brahmin does not understand, as it really is, that this is good or this is evil. And it occurs to him: I do not understand what is good or evil as it really is. Not understanding what is good or evil, as it really is, if I were to assert that this is good and this is evil, that will be due to my likes, desires, aversions, or resentments. If it were due to my likes, desires, aversions or resentments, it would be wrong. And if I were wrong, it would cause me worry (vighato) and worry would be a moral danger to me (antarayo). Thus, through fear of being wrong (musavadabhaya) and the abhorrence of being wrong, he does not assert anything to be good or evil and on questions being put to him on this or that matter he resorts to verbal jugglery and eel-wriggling, saying: I do not say so, I do not say thus, I do not say otherwise, I do not say no, I deny the denials. (literally, I do not say "no, no")

— from the Pali text Brahmajala Sutta, first school of Ajñana.[3]

The fourth school of Ajñana scepticism is associated with Sanjaya Belatthiputta.[4] Sanjaya is described as a contemporary of Buddha, as a well-known and celebrated teacher, and as a leader of a sect who was held in high esteem by the common folk. He is said to have taught Sariputta and Moggallāna, before their conversion to Buddhism.[4]

Herein a certain recluse or brahmin is dull, stupid. And by reason of his dullness and stupidity, when questioned on this or that matter, he resorts to verbal jugglery or eel-wriggling: "If you ask me whether there is a next world, then if it were to occur to me (iti ce me assa) that there is a next world, I would pronounce that there is a next world. Yet, I do not say so, I do not say thus, I do not say otherwise, I do not say no, I deny the denials. Similarly with regard to the propositions, "there is no next world", "there is and is not a next world", "there neither is nor is not a next world", "there are beings who survive (death)", "there are no beings who survive", "there are and are no beings who survive", "there neither are nor are there no beings who survive", "there is a result and a consequence of good and evil actions", "there is no result or consequence of good or evil actions", "the Perfect One (Tathagato) exists after death", "the Perfect One does not exist after death", "the Perfect One both exists and does not exist after death", "the Perfect One neither exists nor does not exist after death""

— from the Brahmajala Sutta, attributed to Sanjaya Belatthiputta.[5]

Cārvākas were the atheistic and materialism school of ancient Indian philosophy.[6] They were critical of Brahmanism, as well of Buddhism and Jainism.[7]

There is no heaven, no final liberation, nor any soul in another world, Nor do the actions of the four castes, orders, etc., produce any real effect.

— from the Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha, attributed to Brhaspati[8][9]

Buddhism was critical of Brahmanism, Jainism, Carvaka and Ājīvika.[10]

One is not a brahmin by birth, nor by birth a non-brahmin. By action is one a brahmin, by action is one a non-brahmin.

— From the Vasettha Sutta, attributed to Buddha.[10]

Medieval period[edit]

Criticism against Brahmanism continued up to late medieval period, particularly by some Shaivism and Vaishnavism sects of Hinduism notably with rise of Bhakti movement and Lingayatism.[11] The Bhakti movement in particular encouraged followers to attain spiritual union with God not through sacrifices, rituals, pilgrimages, or prayers, but through the “force of pure love and fervent yearning for God.”[12] The merchant class and agricultural class largely funded the growth of Nāstika sects and religions during ancient and medieval period, who saw them as alternative to expensive Brahmanical ritualism and superstitions.[2]

20th century[edit]

In the early 20th century, criticism against Brahminism came within various sections of Brahmin and other Hindu communities who were part of nationalist and rationalist movement. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an eminent Hindu nationalist leader of the Indian independence movement. He was also an atheist and a staunch rationalist[13] who disapproved of orthodox Hindu beliefs of caste system and dismissed cow worship as superstitious.[14] Being Hindu, for him, was a cultural and political identity.[13]

Anti-Brahminism became organized in the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu. This party, composed of non-Brahmins who were typically feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes and merchant castes and was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins.[15] The Reddys, Mudaliars, are specific examples of South Indian non-Brahmin castes that were involved in the anti-Brahminism movement for about 50 years.[16] With the dawn of the 20th century, and the rapid penetration of western education and western ideas, there was a rise in consciousness amongst the lower castes who felt that rights which were legitimately theirs were being denied to them. In 1920, when the Justice Party came to power, Brahmins occupied about 70 percent of the high level posts in the government. After reservation was introduced by the Justice Party, it reversed this trend, allowing non-Brahmins to rise in the government of the Madras Presidency.[17]

One of the most prominent proponents of Anti-Brahminism was Dravidian leader Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. Periyar's ideology of anti-Brahmanism is quite often confused as being anti-Brahmin. Even a non-Brahmin who supports inequality based on caste was seen as a supporter of brahmanism. Periyar called on both Brahmins and non-Brahmins to shun brahmanism.[18]

Anti-Brahmin violence in Maharashtra[edit]

20th Century acts of violence[edit]

After Gandhi's murder by Nathuram Godse, a Chitpawan, Brahmins in Maharashtra, became targets of violence, mostly by some elements from the Maratha caste.[19][20][21] The exact number deaths are unknown. Thousands of offices and homes were also set on fire. Molestation incidents were also reported during these attacks. On the first day alone, the number of deaths in Bombay were 15 and 50 in Pune.[21]

As per V.M. Sirsikar, "It will be too much to believe that the riots took place because of the intense love of Gandhiji on the part of the Marathas. Godse became a hate symbol against the Brahmins " Donald Rosenthal opines in 1948 that the motivation for the violence was the historical opposition Maratha community faced for their caste status. He writes,"Even today[1948], local Brahmins claim that the Marathas organized the riots to take political advantage of the situation".[20][19]

In Satara alone, the official reports show that about 1000 houses were burnt down in about 300 villages. There were "cruel, cold-blooded killings" as well - for example, one family whose last name happened to be 'Godse' had three of its male members killed.[22]

Maureen Patterson concludes that the greatest violence took place not in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur - but in Satara, Kolhapur and Belgaum. Destruction was very large in Kolhapur was In Sangli, the Jains and the Lingayats joined the Marathas in the attacks against the Brahmins. Here, specifically, the factories owned by the Chitpawan Brahmins were destroyed. This event led to the hasty integration of the Patwardhan states into the Bombay Province by March 1948.[21]

21st century threats of violence[edit]

Purshottam Khedekar, the chief of "Maratha Maha Sangh" (a Maratha caste based organization) and Sambhaji Brigade, published writings in 2011 that had defamatory statements about the sexual habits, orientation and character of Brahmin men and women. He made a call for "instigating communal riots purposefully started to kill Brahmin men." However, Ramteke, an Ambedkarite, has written against Khedekar's writing. He said: “We should keep a distance from Khedekar and his movement against Brahmins. Dr Babasaheb [Ambedkar] never stooped to this level. If we continue to associate with him, it will malign our image. The government should ban the book and the organisation”. In 2011, a news report said that the "Maratha politicians have mostly been silent on the issue". A case has since been registered against Khedekar.[23][24]

Incidences in Tamilnadu[edit]

In the late 1950s, members of Dravidar Kazhagam have been accused of having assaulted the owner of "Hotel Murali Cafe", in Triplicane, Chennai for having the name "Hotel Murali Iyer's Cafe".[25]

In 2015, an 80 year old man and a 12 year old boy were attacked, and their religious symbols were destroyed in public.[26] The assailants were later identified as party members of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, a Periyar inspired party, who yelled "Periyar Vaazhga" (Long live Periyar) during the assault.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Svarghese, Alexander P. 2008. India : History, Religion, Vision And Contribution To The World. p. 259-60.
  2. ^ a b c AL Basham (1951), History and Doctrines of the Ajivikas - a Vanished Indian Religion, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120812048, pages 94-103
  3. ^ Jayatilleke, p. 122-123.
  4. ^ a b Jayatilleke, p. 130-131.
  5. ^ Jayatilleke, p. 131.
  6. ^ "Not scared of God, but man".
  7. ^ Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan; Charles A. Moore (1957). A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy (Twelfth Princeton Paperback printing 1989 ed.). Princeton University Press. pp. 227–249. ISBN 0-691-01958-4.
  8. ^ Ramkrishna Bhattacharya (2011). Studies on the Carvaka/Lokayata. Anthem Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-85728-433-4. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  9. ^ Mādhava (1908). The Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  10. ^ a b J. Abraham Velez de Cea 2013 "The Buddha and Religious Diversity", p.90
  11. ^ "Lingayat." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 09 Jul. 2010.
  12. ^ Schomer & McLeod (1987), p. 1.
  13. ^ a b Kumar, Pramod (1992-01-01). Towards Understanding Communalism. Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. ISBN 9788185835174.
  14. ^ "The man who thought Gandhi a sissy". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  15. ^ Ritualizing on the Boundaries; by Fred W. Clothey;
  16. ^ Lokayan Bulletin. 13. Lokayan. 1996. p. 6.
  17. ^ ""
  18. ^ Omvedt, Gail (2006). Dalit Visions: The Anti-caste Movement and the Construction on an Indian Identity. Orient Longman. p. 95. ISBN 978-81-250-2895-6. Retrieved 17 January 2018.
  19. ^ a b Mariam Dossal; Ruby Malon, eds. (1999). State Intervention and Popular Response: Western India in the Nineteenth Century. p. 11. ISBN 9788171548552.
  20. ^ a b Ullekh N P (2018). The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox. Random House India. p. 39. ISBN 9789385990816.
  21. ^ a b c Koenraad Elst (2001). Gandhi and Godse:A review and Critique. pp. 12, 13, 14. (pg 13,14)Destruction was even larger in kolhapur...(pg14)Shahu Maharaj had actively collaborated with the British against the freedom movement, which was locally identified with Chitpawan Brahmins like B.G.Tilak...(pg14) The biggest violence took place in the seven Patwardhan (Chitpawan) princely states such as Sangli, where the remarkably advanced factories owned by Chitpawans were largely destroyed/ Here, Jains and Lingayats joined the Marathas in the attacks. The events hastened the integration of Patwardhan states (by march 1948) into the Bombay province, an integration opposed by the Brahmins - fearing Maratha predominance in the integrated province which will affect their wealth and social dominance .
  22. ^ City, countryside and society in Maharashtra. University of Toronto, Centre for South Asian Studies. 1988. p. 40. There is no doubt now since about 1000 houses were officially reported to have burnt in some 300 villages spread across all thirteen talukas of the District and Aundh State. There are reports of "cruel, cold-blooded killing" — one family named Godse was said to have lost three male members — and there were other serious physical attacks on Brahmans. In general, the victims of arson and looting were predominantly Brahman...
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Memories of a Violent Movement led by Periyar". Times of India.
  26. ^ "Attacks fuel Brahmin fears". Telegraph India.

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