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Anti-Brahminism or Anti-Manuvaad is the ideology of being opposed or expressing hostility towards the Brahmins, who are the priestly caste in Hinduism and traditionally the highest ranked social caste. Anti-Brahminism can manifest itself as the hatred, prejudice, or discrimination directed against Brahmins.
Early criticism against Brahmanism flourished within Sramana movement. Particularly in Nāstika schools of Indian philosophy like Buddhism, Jainism, and others such as Ājīvika, Cārvāka and Ajñana.
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")
The fourth school of Ajñana scepticism is associated with Sanjaya Belatthiputta. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. As well as Sikhism. 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.” 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.
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 who disapproved of orthodox Hindu beliefs of caste system and dismissed cow worship as superstitious. Being Hindu, for him, was a cultural and political identity.
Anti-Brahminism became organized in the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu. This party, composed of upper-class non-Brahmins who were typically feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes and merchant castes and was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins. 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. One of the most prominent proponents of Anti-Brahminism was Dravidian leader Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, who called on Brahmins and non-Brahmins to reject Brahminism. Ramasamy was known for excluding Brahmins from his movement.
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- Editorial by Francois Gautier on anti-Brahmanism