Curse of Caste


Curse of Caste

I

They came on bullock-carts
loaded with gods
   Indra
        Agni
           Varuna
               Rudra
traversed sinuous mountain ranges
         rivers
gurgling outlandish tongues
their children caged as poultry
their priests chanting weird mantras
     spells
         charms
             curses
                 hymns
drank the soma juice
choking with the sacrificial bleating
of rams

II

Agreed, all societies structure themselves
   Out of scant need to function sans bother
Just as individuals must come together
   In order better to protect themselves

All men are born equal, so say the Wise
   But the Elders do not know how to stem
Rishis who would seek to mock them
   By claiming they were twice-born to rise

Above all mankind for wasn’t it the decreed omen
   For the Primaeval Being that the self-chosen few
Should forever speak for the Brahman in lieu
   Of Purusha’s helpless eyes, brain, heart and abdomen

The only difference between the Brahmin
   And the rest of the menial human race
Is that they were born with Brahma’s grace
   So that they could spurn the rest as vermin

Yet India’s underside boasts of invisible millions
   Who have no place in sacred Hymns of Man
They weren’t created by Rig-Veda: only as Harijan
   May they hang out in limbo as Gandhi’s minions.

Resources

Roughly, the Hindu caste system is broadly divided into four sacrosanct strata ; yet there are literally tens of sub-castes in each category :

1.	Brahmin (the priesthood caste, supposedly on top of the social hierarchy), followed by :
2.	Kshatriya (the princely hereditary and/or ruling warrior caste) ;
3.	Vashya (the commercial trading, professional and land-owning agricultural castes) ;
4.	Sudra (the menial serving and peasant castes),
followed by the Out-caste :
5.	The Untouchable or scavenging caste ( which has not found authority in the above Vedic hymn. )

« brahmano ‘sya mukham asid,
bahu rajaniah krtah ;
uru tad asya yad vaisya ;
padbhyam sudro ajayata. »

Rigveda, X, 90, 12 (sans signes diacritiques)

"His mouth was the Brahman, his two arms were made the warrior,
his two thighs the Vaisya ; from his two feet the Sudra was born."

Transl. & translit. by Arthur A. MacDonnell (1854 – 1930), 1917

© T. Wignesan - Paris, 1998 - (from the sequence/collection: "Words for a Lost Sub-Continent", 1999.)

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