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Perceptions of Brahmins - II

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Chintana

Active member
A favourite expression of approbation in the community is "God-fearing." But his conformity is a convenience rather than conviction, arising partly from his reluctance to be the "odd man out". Ancient taboos atavistically present in him are observed in letter rather than in spirit as in the obligatory rituals regularly performed. His house has its sacred and secular spaces clearly demarcated. Even today, in villages and small towns where the "flat culture" has not yet found its way, a traditional Tamil Brahmin house has the ancient layout of increasingly "sacred" space as one goes inwards with the right of admission to each strictly caste-graded. In cities, where the "drawing-cum-dining room" layout has insinuated itself into domestic architecture, the Pooja room is inviolable.


A Tamil Brahmin's modernity is equally skin-deep, readily discarded in the privacy of his home. He eagerly sheds his trousers and shirt the moment he is back home and gets back to his comfortable lungi and bare chest. Until recently, alcohol was not a domestic amenity even among the more affluent and "modern" Tamil Brahmins and was meant mostly for others who might visit. Though for professional reasons and for compulsions of livelihood, he will go to the end of the earth, he is by no means as cosmopolitan, readily jettisoning his cultural baggage and merging with homogenized non-descript new environment. His domestic pieties are preserved whether in New Delhi or New Jersey and his twin-passion of temple worship and Carnatic music are never ever abandoned wherever he is.

Like the Jew to whom he is often compared, he is a great survivor. One of the earliest communities to have eagerly embraced the exhilarating new opportunities offered by English education in the early 19th century, the Tamil Brahmins had acquired a near monopoly of the much coveted Government employment of the times. This had naturally led to upper caste non-brahmin resentment, which effectively politicised itself in the first decades of the last century. When this self-consciousness captured political power and formed governments in the 1920s in the Madras Presidency, it pursued vigorously a policy of reservation that ended the Brahmin's earlier monopoly of government jobs. This was the signal for the great Tamil Brahmin Diaspora that still continues.

Denied opportunities at home, the Tamil Brahmin sought and found newer pastures in Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta. Caste-neutral professions such as accountancy and journalism became the alternatives. Still later, newer professional opportunities abroad, notably in the United States, became the magnet. And with the ascendancy in recent years of the new information technology where brainpower is more important than capital investment, this dispersal has become a flood. Almost every English-educated middle class Tamil Brahmin family has a younger member abroad.

Like much else in the world and in this country, the Tamil Brahmin profile is no doubt changing. The younger generations are conspicuously deracinated and some of the unique qualities of this community are getting blurred and homogenized with the rest of the world. Older generations still around are often disconcerted by the fact that the young Yuppies are losing their unique traits such as the love of their mother tongue and routine absorption of domestic pieties in an ambience of soft Hinduism.

Sanskrit slokas and Tamil Prabandam verses that used to reverberate in the house in the stillness of the evening are being heard less and less. Raucous rock music is displacing the softer Carnatic melodies and ancient civilities are being replaced by modern brusqueness in the attitude of the young towards the elders. But deep down, not much has changed. They are still the world's best second-rate men.

The author, a former Editor of The Indian Express, is a distinguished scholar in English and Tamil. An English version of Kamba Ramayana edited by him was published last year. {end}
 

lotus_quartz

Active member
Interesting observations, though a little outdated especially with respect to authors' assertion that the modernity of tambrams is only skin deep.

Point to ponder is: Do tambrams continue to live the life as per the perceived stereotype or live the way their conscience permits, their intellect and ability affords them and their individuality guides them ?
 
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Chintana

Active member
I have responded to this sentiment in the Who are we? - II thread, LQ. Do you want to check that out and give your comments?

Chintana
 

lotus_quartz

Active member
Dear Chintana Madam ji,

When dealing with lesser mortals including mental ibeciles like me, please grant extra lattitude to cover for lapses and gaps in comprehension.

The exchange between your kind self and Rt. Hon. (My Dear Bro) KRS sir ji went up to such metaphysical levels that I was left gaping with open mouth unsure of what exacly was going on.

Please elucidate me with your personal opinion on the issue highlighted against this thread.

As far as my personal opinion goes, you already would have got an inkling from the way I phrased the issue "....Do tambrams continue to live the life as per the perceived stereotype or live the way their conscience permits, their intellect and ability affords them and their individuality guides them ?..."



I have responded to this sentiment in the Who are we? - II thread, LQ. Do you want to check that out and give your comments?

Chintana
 
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Chintana

Active member
Dear Chintana Madam ji,

When dealing with lesser mortals including mental ibeciles like me, please grant extra lattitude to cover for lapses and gaps in comprehension.

The exchange between your kind self and Rt. Hon. (My Dear Bro) KRS sir ji went up to such metaphysical levels that I was left gaping with open mouth unsure of what exacly was going on.

Please elucidate me with your personal opinion on the issue highlighted against this thread.

As far as my personal opinion goes, you already would have got an inkling from the way I phrased the issue "....Do tambrams continue to live the life as per the perceived stereotype or live the way their conscience permits, their intellect and ability affords them and their individuality guides them ?..."
Dear Sri LQ,

I did smile at this posting as I understood the tone and the intent of the message. I did not by any means mean to intimidate anybody. I just shared my views that's all.

I do not expect everybody to have my kind of interests, that does not mean that others are any greater or lesser in the eyes of God.

I am happy to present effective arguments but am neither terribly proud of what I know nor embarrased by what I don't know. I don't know many, many things.

Actually what I meant was Kamakshi posted this in the Who are we? -II thread. I have responded to that. I meant to direct you there.

Hope to see your response there.

Regards,
Chintana

So please be assured
 

vanam9394

Member
This is an interesting article every Tamilian should read:


Politics apart, Brahmin-bashing is rampant in literary and cultural worlds
Ashokamitran



The acclaimed Tamil writer opens his heart to S. Anand on the experience of being a Brahmin in Tamil Nadu.
For the Tamil Brahmins, it has been one century of being on the defensive. The community feels castrated. The Brahmins have never anyway been the placard-holding type; they have rarely expressed their feelings openly. The Tamil Brahmins have been used to taking insults. Hence perhaps the lack of visible protests or reactions. Theirs is a guilt-ridden existence, their spirit has been killed by a negative self-perception… They have been driven to a quiescent state. Their situation is very similar to that of the Jews in the 1930s.
With the anti-Brahmin movement dictating the terms, the urban Brahmins began to eschew ethnic markers that revealed their identity. They gave up the kudumi (tuft), began to sport moustaches like non-Brahmins, changed the manner in which they spoke Tamil, changed their attire, some even began to eat meat… they did everything so that they are not identified as Brahmins in the public sphere. These were all modes of defence, strategies for survival.
Today, few Brahmins speak the brahminical dialect. Despite all these camouflages, even today 50 percent of the Brahmins stand out in a Dravidian setup. One can easily mark them out physically! They are so obvious! Over the years, it has been fed into their psyche that they are different from the Dravidians. The Dravidian movement always called them vandherigal (immigrants/ outsiders)… Even in non-Vedic classical texts, there’s an injunction to safeguard and feed the Brahmins.
The Sangam epic Silappadikaram was written by a Jain monk, Ilango Adigal. When a wronged Kannagi ordains the burning of Madura, she says: ‘Let the city burn except the Brahmins and cows.’ Even the Jaina author showed high regard for the Brahmins. But the last 50 years have been very tough. The Brahmins gave up on government jobs, and in whatever they did have had to work harder to prove themselves. Natural discipline and thrift are brahminic qualities that have survived. If a nonbrahmin has a windfall he just spends it on meat and drink. The Brahmin always saves for the rainy day.
Though not a follower of the math, I had some regard for the earlier pontiff. In 1951, my mother was widowed. In 1954, Periyaval (Chandrashekarendra Saraswati) had camped in Chennai’s T.Nagar area as part of chaturmasya. It was a time when M.S. Subbulakshmi sang for the first time in the presence of Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, but at that point he ignored her and Sadasivam too. My mother repeatedly visited the Acharya on an empty stomach at his T. Nagar camp, but he never blessed her with the holy water since she was an unshaven widow. I never had much interest even in Chandrashekarendra Saraswati. The last I saw him was when my son and I attended the centenary celebrations of Periyaval (Chandrashekarendra Saraswati). He was a merely an exhibit on the occasion. It was humiliating to the Paramacharya.
After Jayendra Saraswati took over, I never visited the math. Jayendra Saraswati has been silly at times, making loose remarks and courting controversy. But when his arrest happened, I personally felt very shocked. Now, I’m indifferent. There must have been something murky in the Kanchi math. But the manner in which the case has been treated makes us feel that there is indeed persecution. Irrespective of a Brahmin’s faith or belief in the Kanchi math, the arrest of the Shankaracharyas and the manner in which the case is being dealt with is a humiliation for the entire community. The only sign of hope after the Shankaracharya’s arrest is that several women have come out in protest.

This is encouraging and extraordinary for the community. Brahmin-bashing is not confined to politics. It is a pastime of the cultural and literary worlds as well. Even the Tamil film industry merely caricatures the Brahmin. It is a totally non-brahminised public sphere that Tamil cinema depicts. It is very difficult for a Brahmin to get a foothold in the film industry today—as an actor, assistant director or lyric writer. Earlier, when Brahmins played a significant role in establishing the film industry, the world of cinema had a neutrality, but today an obviously non-Brahmin ethos permeates it.
[When pointed out that Kamal Haasan and Mani Rathnam are significant Brahmins in the industry today:] Kamal Hasan is a beef-eater who to debrahminise even espoused the philosophy of the Dravidar Kazhagam. Mani Rathnam is an intelligent filmmaker, he is a good entertainer, and yet the intellectual class of the little magazines circle targets every film he makes. There’s an undercurrent of anti-brahminism in everyday life.
The Tamil Brahmin community appears doomed. I see no possibility of a good leadership emerging from this community. Jayendra Saraswati certainly would not have made for a good leader. He is very poor in his understanding of religion or politics. C. Rajagopalachari would have been a good choice, but then he is not around. Institutions like Thambras cannot really provide the leadership we need. A Brahmin resurgence is very unlikely. Even in terms of Brahmin tradition, very few are learning the Vedas.
Maths may offer freeships for Vedic pursuits but there are few takers. Priesthood or the Vedic way of life is no longer a viable means of livelihood. Nor are there any Brahmin landlords left. My father-in-law owned a lot of land. Each time he got a daughter married, he sold a part of it… today his family owns no land. Even rituals have merely become social occasions. The marriage rituals are also much-abbreviated to reduce costs. Fortunately, the upanayanam (thread ceremony) still continues, but this is more an occasion to meet up with relatives. Sandhyavandanam should be done three times a day by a thread-wearing Brahmin. It is good thing to do. But who performs it? A Brahmin does sandhyavandanam only once in his lifetime and that is on the day the thread is bestowed on him. 50 years hence, perhaps even upanayanam would be given up.
Rituals are not easy to follow. They require a lot of energy and money. The 13-day post-death rituals are very, very difficult to observe. When my sister died, we stopped with the cremation rituals. Soon we may not have priests who know how to perform these obsequies. I have told my sons not to perform them for me... I of course remember my father on the day of his death, but I also wonder why are we really bringing the spirits of the dead back to this stupid world.
 
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We are having a fear about the brahmin community and it's future but in Kanchipuram
most of Iyyengars are having a extreme enemity and hatred on iyyers that is those who are belonging to saivates or smarthas.At present their partiality and enemity grew bigger and they are now ready to give anything to all except to Iyyers.
for an instance
a house was vaccant at thiruvengada nagar little kanchipuram .that belongs to an iyyengar .Name parthasarathy iyyengar residing at sannathy street little kanchipuram
as a tenent i approached to have his portion for rent.
I have introduced as a smartha iyyer and with my family details and solvency to pay rent etc
that iyyengar parthasarathy dodged four times today tomorrow like this
and at last he denied no idea let his house to me
why such cruel aversion on iyyers and how our communal integrity will grow
what TAMBRAS and other organizations will do to our community's future
Such cruel iyyengars has to change his aversion and partiality
SAKTHI RAVICHANDRAN MA M.PhIl PGDCA CIEFL "B"
 
Dear Sakthi Ravi.. Not only iyengars do this.. I'm an iyengar. I planned to buy a resale flat at Matunga, Mumbai who's owner is Palakad iyer. They refused to give me and they sold to one gujarati at the same rate which i had offered him..So, please don't blame only iyengars..In young generation have to come together. After seeing Dasavatharam, now split is going more..
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
This is an interesting article every Tamilian should read:


Politics apart, Brahmin-bashing is rampant in literary and cultural worlds
Ashokamitran

....
Sir,

Some personal views:

1) When my house was robbed, my brahmin neighbours came out openly to help, when no one else bothered.

2) When people in my home were sick, again my brahmin neighbours went far out of their way to help.

3) When we being non-brahmins (with a working mum who never had time) were at a loss abt what to do when for the departed souls or wondered aloud abt various prayers and all, our brahmin friends helped and guided.

I do not know if there is any brahmin or non-brahmin difference. I have not seen anything like that so far. When people live and interact together, who is associating anyone with 'caste'? All the people above happenned to be brahmins now when i think of it...

Sometime i wonder why are brahmins targetted? after having made a list and removed items from it point by point, i now feel its all only propaganda. Just anti-hindu politics with the brahmanical communites at the core.

In the present time, i feel it is better to look at people as collective hindus bringing together people from every strata, rather than dividing in the name of communities....that too within the priestly communities of iyer-iyengar, it shd be unthinkable...
 
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