Riddle No. 2: The Origin of the Vedas - The Brahminic Explanation Or an Exercise in the Art of Circumlocution


(From 'Religious Riddles' in Part I of the book 'Riddles in Hinduism' by Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar)

There is hardly any Hindu who does not regard the Vedas as the most sacred Book of his religion. And yet ask any Hindu what is the origin of the Vedas and it would be difficult to find one who can give a clear and a definite answer to the simple question. Of course, if the question was addressed to a Vedic Brahmin he would say that the Vedas are Sanatan. But this is no answer to the question. For first of all what does the word Sanatan mean?

The best explanation of the word Sanatan is to be found in the commentary by Kulluka Bhatt on Chapter I Shlokas 22-23 of the Manu Smriti. This is how Kulluka Bhatt defines the word Sanatan1.

"The word Sanatana he says, means 'eternally pre-existing'. The doctrine of the superhuman origin of the Vedas is maintained by Manu. The same Vedas which (existed) in the previous mundane era (Kalpa) were preserved in the memory of the omniscient Brahma, who was one with the supreme spirits. It was those same Vedas that, in the beginning of the present Kalpa, he drew forth from Agni, Vayu and Surya; and this dogma, which is founded upon the Veda, is not to be questioned, for the Veda says, 'the Rig-Veda comes from Agni, the Yajur-Veda from Vayu, and the Sama-Veda from Surya." To understand the explanation by Kulluka Bhatt it is necessary to explain what Kalpa means.


Riddle No. 1: The difficulty of knowing why one is a Hindu


(From 'Religious Riddles' in Part I of the book 'Riddles in Hinduism' by Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar)

India is a congeries of communities. There are in it Parsis, Christians, Mohammedans and Hindus. The basis of these communities is not racial. It is of course religious. This is a superficial view. What is interesting to know is why is a Parsi a Parsi and why is a Christian a Christian, why is a Muslim a Muslim and why is a Hindu a Hindu? With regard to the Parsi, the Christian and the Muslim it is smooth sailing. Ask a Parsi why he calls himself a Parsi he will have no difficulty in answering the question. He will say he is a Parsi because he is a follower of Zoraster. Ask the same question to a Christian. He too will have no difficulty in answering the question. He is a Christian because he believes in Jesus Christ. Put the same question to a Muslim. He too will have no hesitation in answering it. He will say he is a believer in Islam and that is why he is a Muslim.

Now ask the same question to a Hindu and there is no doubt that he will be completely bewildered and would not know what to say.

If he says that he is a Hindu because he worships the same God as the Hindu Community does his answer cannot be true. All Hindus do not worship one God. Some Hindus are monotheists, some are polytheists and some are pantheists. Even those Hindus who are monotheists are not worshippers of the same Gods. Some worship the God Vishnu, some Shiva, some Rama, some Krishna. Some do not worship the male Gods. They worship a goddess. Even then they do not worship the same Goddesses. They worship different Goddesses. Some worship Kali, some worship Parvati, some worship Laxmi.


The Dalit Panther's first leap


Sunil Dighe

(Participant of the Dalit Panther movement in the 70s, Sunil Dighe reminisces here about its hopes and failure. The movement would have been 40 today.)

dalit panthers picture

Each nation has its share of movements but some movements are such that they compel society to give a thought to their calls and demands. They have long-term effects. The Dalit Panther was one such thrilling and stormy movement.

In 1972, a small news item appeared in 'Nava Kaal'. Leading Dalit writers were about to come together in a classroom to discuss the ineffective leadership in the Republican Party and find an alternative answer to it.

Litterateurs like Raja Dhale, J V Pawar, Namdev Dhasal, Avinash Mahatekar, Latif Khatik as well as Baburao Bagul and Bhai Sangare were going to attend the discussion. The approved agenda of discussion was the then Republican Party 's submissive stand on the question of Dalits and their leadership wagging its tail before the Congress Party.

Raja Dhale, a fine writer and poet, ran a newsletter using new methods. Its name was 'Vidroh' (rebellion). In 'Vidroh', his articles, poems, thought-provoking and shocking caricatures shot to fame. Namdev had slowly started gaining fame as a poet.


'Slavery' by Mahatma Phule: Preface



Mahatma Phule



by The Author Himself


jotiba signature 

"The day that reduces a man to slavery takes from him the half of his virtue,"

- Homer.

"Our system of Government in India is not calculated to raise the character of those subject to it, nor is the present system of education one to do more than over-educate the few, leaving the mass of the people as ignorant as ever and still more at the mercy of the few learned; in fact, it is an extension of the demoralizing Brahmin-ridden policy, which, perhaps, has more retarded the progress of civilization and improvement in India generally than anything else."

- Col. G.J. Haly, 'On Fisheries in India'

"Many ages have elapsed since peculiar resources were afforded to the Brahmins; but the most considerate cosmopolite would hesitate to enroll them amongst the benefactors of the world.

They boast of vast stores of ancient learning. They have amassed great riches, and been invested with unbounded power, but to what good end? They have cherished the most degrading superstitions and practised the most shameless impostures. They have arrogated to themselves the possession and enjoyment of the rarest gifts of fortune and perpetuated the most revolting system known to the world. It is only from a diminution of their abused power that we can hope to accomplish the great work of national regeneration."

- Mead's 'Sepoy Revolt'.

Recent researches have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the Brahmans were not the aborigines of India. At some remote period of antiquity, probably more than 3000 years ago, the Aryan progenitors of the present Brahmin Race descended upon the plains of Hindoostan from regions lying beyond the Indus, the Hindoo Koosh, and other adjoining tracts. According to Dr. Pritchard, the Ethnologist, they were an off-shoot of the Great Indo-European race, from whom the Persians, Medes, and other Iranian nations in Asia and the principal nations in Europe like-wise are descended. The affinity existing between the Zend, the Persian and Sanscrit languages, as also between all the European languages, unmistakably points to a common source of origin. It appears also more than probable that the original cradle of this race being an arid, sandy and mountainous region, and one ill calculated to afford them the sustenance which their growing wants required, they branched off into colonies, East and West. The extreme fertility of the soil in India, its rich productions, the proverbial wealth of its people, and the other innumerable gifts which this favoured land enjoys, and which have more recently tempted the cupidity of the Western nations, no doubt, attracted the Aryans, who came to India, not as simple emigrants with peaceful intentions of colonization, but as conquerors. They appear to have been a race imbued with very high notions of self, extremely cunning, arrogant and bigoted. Such self-gratulatory, pride-flattering epithets as 'arya' 'bhudev' etc., with which they designated themselves, confirm us in our opinion of their primitive character, which they have preserved up to the present time, with, perhaps, little change for the better. The aborigines whom the Aryans subjugated, or displaced, appear to have been a hardy and brave people from the determined front which they offered to these interlopers. Such opprobrious terms, as Sudra 'insignificant,' 'Mahari' - 'the great foe' atayanj, chandal etc. with which they designated them, undoubtedly show that originally they offered the greatest resistance in their power to their establishing themselves in the country, and hence the great aversion and hatred in which they are held. From many customs* traditionally handed down to us, as well as from the mythological legends contained in the sacred books of the Brahmins it is evident that there had been a hard struggle for ascendancy between the two races. The wars of Dev and Daitya, or the Rakshas, about which so many fiction are found scattered over the sacred books of the Brahmins, have certainly a reference to this primeval struggle. The original inhabitants with whom these earthborn Gods, the Brahmins, fought, were not inappropriately termed Rakshas, that is the protectors of the land. The incredible and foolish legends regarding their form and shape are no doubt mere chimeras, the fact being that these people were of superior stature and hardy make. Under such leaders as Brahma, Purshram and others, the Brahmin waged very protracted wars against the original inhabitants. They eventually succeeded in establishing their supremacy and subjugating the aborigines to their entire control. Accounts of these conquests, enveloped with a mass of incredible fiction, are found in the books of the Brahmins. In some instances they were compelled to emigrate, and in other wholesale extermination was resorted to. The cruelties which the European settler practised on the American Indians on their first settlement in the new world, had certainly their parallel in India on the advent of the Aryans and their subjugation of the aborigines. The cruelties and inhuman atrocities which Purshram committed on the Kshetrias, the people of this land, if we are to believe even one tenth of what the legends say regarding him, surpass our belief and show that he was more a fiend than a God. Perhaps in the whole range of history it is scarcely possible to meet with such another character as that of Purshram, so selfish, infamous, cruel and inhuman. The deeds of Nero, Alaric or Machiavelli sink into insignificance before the ferocity of Purshram. The myriads of men and defenseless children whom he butchered, simply with a view to the establishment of his co-religionists on a secure and permanent basis in this land, is a fact for which generations ought to execrate his name, rather than deify it.


What Path to Salvation?

Speech delivered by Dr. Ambedkar to the Bombay Presidency Mahar Conference, 31st May 1936, Bombay. Translated from the Marathi by Vasant W. Moon. The typescript of the translation, with handwritten emendations, was presented by the translator to Eleanor Zelliot on 25 January 1988, and has been contributed by her for this website.

Edited by Frances W. Pritchett. Editing has consisted of breaking up very long paragraphs, correcting typographical errors, and making small adjustments in punctuation and in English grammar and usage. All material enclosed in parentheses has been provided by the translator. All material enclosed in square brackets has been added by the editor.

babasaheb reading


Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule - II


Prof. Hari Narke

Continued from here.

(This is the second part of his essay 'Dnyanajyoti Savitribai Phule', published in the NCERT booklet on the 'Savitribai Phule First Memorial Lecture' in 2008. You can read the first part here)


In 1877, Maharashtra was facing a severe drought. It was not possible for Savitribai and Jotirao, who were always keen to help in the face of adversity, to stay inactive, and more so, during such times the couple collected funds, going from village to village. They started the 'Victoria Balashram' in Dhankawadi with the aid of friends like Dr Shivappa where one thousand poor and needy were given meals everyday. Savitribai, with the help of her friends, would cook all this food herself. At the same time, 'epoch-making thinkers' of Maharashtra like Vishnushastri Chiplunkar were engrossed in writing essays on the deteriorating condition of the grammar of Marathi language.


Dr Ambedkar Remembers the Poona Pact in an Interview on the BBC

Transcribed by: Prakash Holayar, Chamarajanagar

Dr Ambedkar was extensively interviewed by the BBC radio in New Delhi in 1955 on a range of topics including his memories of Gandhi, Round Table Conferences, Poona Pact and how political independence was obtained. A portion of the interview related to the famous Poona Pact, transcribed (as faithfully as possible) from the audio record, is reproduced here:

BBC: Coming back to the ‘Poona Pact’, Can you remember all of what Gandhi said to you and what you said to him?

BRA: Oh! I know it very well, the British government had, in the original award which MacDonald had given, had accepted my suggestion. I said look at the Hindus, (they) want there should be a common electorate so that there may be no separatist feeling between the Scheduled Caste and the Hindu. We think if we have a common electorate we would be submerged and the nominees of Scheduled Castes who would be elected would be really slaves of the Hindus not independent people. Now, I told Mr Ramsay MacDonald this is a sort of a thing that he might do! Give us a separate electorate and also give us a second vote in the general election so that Gandhi cannot say that “we are separated” in point of election.