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Harsh Realities. Think

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While writing about the Tamil Brahmin Community, I have used the word
pre-eminent and not dominance. There are many who would like to believe that the
Brahmin Community was dominant in Tamil Nadu. I am wondering about the basic

How do you define a community as prosperous? Just because a small number of
individuals occupy high positions, become industrialists, and become politically
powerful, can you say the entire community is prosperous? No. Until the majority
of the community become prosperous you can not classify the entire community as

This is exactly what has happened to the Tamil Brahmin community. Success of a
small minority of individual Tamil Brahmins was being interpreted as the success
of the community. We have mistaken the trees for the forest.

It is the curse of India that we are divided into innumerable sects, castes and
sub castes. This is the major reason preventing the unity of the country. This
has prevented the Unity within communities also. Fortunately some communities
have produced leaders who rose above these petty differences and united their
community. The outstanding example was Sri Narayana Guru in Kerala who united the
Ezhava community and took them forward. In Tamil Nadu Pasumpon Muthuramalinga
Thevar united the Thevar community.

But most communities have not had such leaders. The Tamil Brahmin community has
never produced a leader who could unite the community and work for the common

I was talking about how education and economic progress was restricted to a
minority in the Tamil Brahmin community. Some of us might have thought it is
because of their being traditional. No Sir. It was because they were poor and/or
did not belong to certain sects/subsects/villages.
We did have a number of
lawyers, administrative officials, industrialists and others. But none of them
did think of the entire community. To take an example at the time when the Tamil
Brahmins were occupying very high positions in the British government and had
started a number of industries, the Tamil Brahmins of Palghat ( then part of
Madras presidency) were going to Bombay for jobs, and those from the Southern
districts were going to Burma and Malaya for jobs.

When in the sixties the then director of technical education was denying boys
who had H and D+ in pre-university admission in engineering colleges, there were
Brahmin ministers in the state and central governments. Tamil Brahmins occupied
high positions in the administrative services. What did they do for us? They got
admission for their family people and cronies. When a Vice chancellor declared
openly that he will eliminate Tamil Brahmins from the educational field and did
it or when someone high up said he would get rid of Brahmins from judiciary,
what did these people do?

In the sixties when boys came out of IIT, Madras, how come even the rank holders
could not get a job in Tamil Nadu and had to go to Bombay? Someone had written
about Meritocracy. When was merit ever recognized especially in Tamil Nadu?

There is a religious institution which has grown by leaps and bounds in the last
4 decades. Prime Ministers, Presidents and all the mighty of the land patronized
it? But during the same period the condition of the community went down. How
much did the community benefit by the growth of this institution?

For any community to prosper the members of the community should work for the
welfare of all the members of the community and not only people from their own
Interesting write up. I don't know if the views were your own or if they were gained from a reading of history.

The sad thing about all Tamil Brahmin communities is the lack of intra community bonding and help. I would like to think that this is derived from a sense of superiority about one's Brahmin identity, because such a thought is very empowering, but it probably derives from a more basic cause - rarefaction. Cultural rarefaction has always been a feature of Tamil Brahmin households - and there is a social modesty associated with this cultural rarefaction.

The emphases in modern Tamil brahmin families on success as opposed to scholarship and achievement is another factor.

It has to be admitted that a sycophantic mentality did prevail amongst the Tam Brahms who did enter the administrative services. This was because of the effective Aryan Race theory propaganda used by the British to separate the intellectual wheat from the chaff, which successfully roped in the Brahmins into their lobby and which led to a lot of Brahmins who were not scholarly or otherwise administratively excellent occupying positions in the administrative hierarchy.

When the Raj was dismantled, the leaders changed as did many key administrators, but some administrators remained markedly unchanged. As a result, the last notable Tami Brahmin figure of real administrative importance, who was effective at the level of the state of TN as well as the national level, was C Rajagopalachari.

After this, capable Tamil Brahmin children were sent to the IITs or the RECs and the Dravidian movement effectively pushed them out of India more and more, and out of TN the most. The result of this has been that most Tamil Brahmins capable of administrative positions have been brainwashed to believe that they are not going to be administratively or politically successful and have therefore given up hopes of a decent representation at the centre. They have reconciled to either trying to get to Bangalore, Mumbai or the US or living there or otherwise training their children to do so.

The very intellectual foundation of the Tamil Brahmins is in the temples of Tamil nadu. The intellectual, philosophical and religious foundation of our community is an essential part of our identity. This identity, when removed from our community, leaves it barren and incapable of progress, because it is so tied to our cultural identity. When one is denied residence in that state because of a lack of justice and because of Caste politics, it is quite possible that there should be groups elsewhere which support the cause of the Tamil Brahmins.

Such a group has not been created because of the narrow interests of each family which sent their children to the US or to other big cities in search of fortunes, success and money. Although this prospecting has paid off, it has led to a decay in the community back home, which now lacks clear cultural leadership. Powerful minds are required to unite people. But Profoundly Powerful minds are required to unite intellectuals. The Tam Brahm community is known to be one of the intellectual communities in India, despite the recent slump. There is no doubt that we can produce great minds because of our way of life. There should be intellectual advocates of this way of life, who can get their voices heard. They should be profoundly intelligent, and not merely capable leaders. I don't know if our community, in its current migratory, US Dollar-sychophancy will produce such a leader.
Dear Sri Nacchinarkiniyan ji and Sri tech-rsr ji,

This is a very important topic. Let me give my two cents, literally on this topic. You both seem to be very much more intellectual than me to tackle this topic. But sometimes, being ignorant and naive has its advayage, I suppose.

A society evolves in stages. Like a feudal society eveolved from local feudal lordships to Rajas to Maha rajas and eventually to emperors and democracy. Our Brahmin community is no exception. Remembering that our folks came in to their 'pre-eminent' positions perhaps not more then about five or six generations before independence, the cycle usually starts at the bottom at feudalism - hence taking care of one's family and then the sect first. Used to be that TVS hired only Iyengars, but then I was pleasantly surprised to hear that TVS Srinivasan has a broader outlook. Things are improving.

But a catalyst is needed to unite. Someone who is above politics, sectarianism and the like. I can name several Brahmin politicians of today and they all fall short. The TamBrahms organization is also a joke.

We need an 'apolitical', 'secular' (within Hindus) organization that is human rights based that is 'viewed' by all Hindus as a broad based organization that speaks for the welfare of our community, in spite of politics. And this is a tall order.

It can not just be the 'intellectuals'. It should include ALL views (including the conservative and orthodox, as well as the progressives (otherwise we will fail, as we are a small community).

Again, my two cents.

Interesting write up. I don't know if the views were your own or if they were gained from a reading of history.
This is unwritten history gained from family annals and sharing of experiences with people over decades.

This was because of the effective Aryan Race theory propaganda used by the British to separate the intellectual wheat from the chaff, which successfully roped in the Brahmins into their lobby and which led to a lot of Brahmins who were not scholarly or otherwise administratively excellent occupying positions in the administrative hierarchy.
The Aryan theory owes its origin to the comparative philology of Indo-European languages. The original propounders of the theory like Max Muller were neither colonialists nor interested in British rule. They were romanticists who were thrilled to find a common factor between the Indians and themselves. They were condemned by the colonialists who could never accept that Indians belonged to the same race as the westerners. The Aryan theory was welcomed by people like Lokamanya Bala Gangadhara Tilak.

The first use of the Aryan theory for political purposes was Mahatma Phule in Maharashtra to lead a Dalit movement. This was before Caldwell's work on Philology of Dravidian languages. Then the political parties in Tamil Nadu took it up to get popular support.

It is the Indian political parties who have used/continue to use the Aryan theory to divide the people and rule.

There are a number of Tamil Brahmins in the Indian Administrative Services even today. But very few if any opt for Tamil Nadu. The switchover from IAS to Engineering was a deliberate step because of the perception that it was easier to get employment if you are professionally qualified. There is no guarantee that you could pass the IAS examination. But if you join the engineering college you are on your way to gainful employment.

This was a subject matter of discussion among the elder members of families/village. Almost all the boys in my family born in 1940s and 1950s are Engineers. Some of them studied engineering after BSc. since they could not get admission after PUC. Studied in colleges all over India. Banares University, Waltair, Suratkal, Warangal, Pilani, Ranchi, Pune, Mumbai, Karad, Sangli et al. Never thought one moment about leaving the village. That was the way of life. Nothing to do with Dravidian parties.

Since Tamil Nadu was not a Industrially developed state and most of the jobs being available only in Bombay and Calcutta people went there.

Tamil Brahmins from the Pandya Nadu and Kerala left for Bombay, Calcutta, Burma and Malaya even before the Justice party was born. My great grand father left the village when he found that there was no scope for the legal profession in the village. ( End of nineteenth century).

The Tamil Brahmins left the villages to improve their economic conditions. My great grand father left the village though he had agricultural land because he was a lawyer.

The very intellectual foundation of the Tamil Brahmins is in the temples of Tamil Nadu.
I beg to disagree. I had enumerated the duties of the Brahmins as per the earliest Sasthras in one of my earlier posts. It does not include any connection to the temples at all. Only the temple priests were involved in the temple. Even going to temples is not compulsory or mandatory for the Brahmins. We stayed near the temples, because that is where we were expected to stay. Like the Vaisya community usually resided near the main market. Some Brahmins managed temple lands. But most of them came there because each community had a definite place in the village.
1. Until our grandfathers time, we brahmins used to possess and cultivate farm
lands. Now, after the 'Tiller owns the land' idea was proposed and actively
promoted in the late 1950s, we started selling our lands and slowly migrated to
nearby towns, then the state capital (Chennai) and then other metros.

2. The 1980s and 1990's saw most of our brahmin boys going abroad, in search of
higher education and employment, mainly because of reverse discrimination faced
by them in Tamilnadu. They felt so dejected and despondent to live here.

3. This kind of en masse migration resulted in concentration of brahmins in some
pockets, especially urban and metropolitan towns. It was accompanied by selling
of our lands and houses in the villages and small towns for a pittance. All
agraharams became a thing of the past and kindle only nostalgic memories in the
elders. (Now they are occupied by Chettiars, Muslims and other communities).

4. Since brahmins who used to be dispersed and found everywhere, started hiding
their identity by stopping smearing of 'Vibhuthi' or 'Thirumann' on their forehead,
keeping their 'poonool' (Muppuri Nool) hidden from the sight of others and not
willing to discuss anything regarding their native place, forefathers etc. in
public, it became more convenient and easier for the attackers. And most
pitiably, when some atrocities were carried out somewhere, others in the
community kept quiet, saying "Kadavulnnu oruthan irukkan; avan ellathaiyum
paarthukkuvan". This kind of passiveness and resignation made us still weaker.

5. Even today, I am seeing brahmins hesitating to talk to strangers and the less
acquainted, even if they are known to be from brahmin community or from a
friendly/non-hostile group. Thus, we are not extroverts, in general.

6. We brahmins are stickers to rules and regulations and never openly help people
from modest background. This we unknowingly do, only to satisfy our ego of
being neutral and unbiased to everyone. On many occasions, this goes to a
stupid extreme. In this process, are we not aware that we are seen as rigid-
postured, arrogant and inaccessible, especially when we occupy good positions
in the society.

7. Most importantly, after we gave up the professions of vedic learning and
teaching, we have become job-seekers, not job-givers. Of course, I am happy to
note that is of late changing slowly.

8. When we brahmins follow double standards - one for the rich and the powerful
and another for the commoners, we fall from the high pedestal on which we were
seated and lose our credibility and respect instantly. For, like the High court and
the Supreme court, people used to look up to brahmins as the last resort, for any
guidance, dispute resolution etc. in the society.

9. Nothing is lost even today. Let us make our voice heard everywhere, without
having recourse to abuse or violent fight. We will use all legal means and
institutions, like Subramaniam Swamy does.

10. Let us not forget our roots, wherever we go. We shall not feel shy of learning
our mother toungue and speaking in it. This is my humble request to all.
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