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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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The Revolt Of The Untouchables

 

(On 20th March, 1927, Babasaheb Ambedkar launched a Satyagraha at Mahad for the right to draw water from the Chawdar Tank. This excerpt from his 'Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability' describes the agitation)

ambedkar_walk_copy

The movement of the Untouchables against the injustice of the Hindu Social Order has a long history behind it, especially in Maharashtra. This history falls into two stages. The first stage was marked by petitions and protests. The second stage is marked by open revolt in the form of direct action against the Hindu Established Order. This change of attitude was due to two circumstances. In the first place it was due to the realisation that the petitions and protests had failed to move the Hindus. In the second place Governments had declared that all public utilities and public institutions are open to all citizens including the Untouchables. The right to wear any kind of clothes or ornaments are some of the rights which the British Indian Law gives to the Untouchables along with the rest. To these were added the rights to the use of public utilities and institutions, such as wells, schools, buses, trams. Railways, Public offices, etc., were now put beyond the pale of doubt. But owing to the opposition of the Hindus the Untouchables cannot make any use of them. It is to meet the situation, the Untouchables decided to change the methods and to direct action to redress their wrongs. This change took place about 1920.

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Religion: Untouchable Lincoln

"Hinduism is not a religion; it is a disease."

One of the few men who have risen from the malodorous sink which is below the lowest caste of India is Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, No. 1 Untouchable. This plump, cheery, bespectacled man of no caste, whose very shadow would outrage high-caste Hindus, managed to get a good education in Indian Government schools, was staked to courses at the University of London and Columbia University by the highly democratic Gaekwar of Baroda. Dr. Ambedkar is probably the only man alive who ever walked out in a huff from a private audience with the Pope of Rome. His Holiness Pius XI having heard from Dr. Ambedkar about the miseries of Indian outcastes, replied: "My son, it may take three or four centuries to remedy these abuses, be patient."

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Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability: Social(Chapter V)

Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability: Social(Chapter V)

THE CURSE OF CASTE

As I have said in the first Essay there cannot be a caste in the single number. Caste can exist only in the plural number. Caste to be real can exist only by disintegrating a group. The genius of caste is to divide and to disintegrate. It is also the curse of caste. Few, however, realise how great is this curse of caste.

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