Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Janajaati as bedrock of Hindu civilization: Itihaasa Bharati

Janajaati as the bedrock of Hindu civilization and thought: Itihaasa Bharati

The proposal is to set up Itihaasa Bharati as an advanced research institution to study contributions of janajaati of Hindustan to hindu thought, culture and heritage and to create the foundations for organizing Hindumahasagar Parivar, considering the maritime nature of hindu civilization for over 5 millennia.

There is a close relationship between the Kurukba, Lambadi, Yenadi, Yerukula and Chenchu janajaati and Shri Venkateshwara of Tirupati, Lord Ayyappan in Kerala and Mata Vaishno Devi in Jammu also appear to have janajaati links. Sandhya Jain notes (Sandhya Jain, 2004, Adi Deo Arya Devata, Delhi, Rupa and co., pp. 45-46, p. 60, p. 266): “Ibbetson, DCJ, Report on the Census of Punjab, 1881, Vol. 1, Calcutta, 1883…concluded, caste was more a social than religious institution…its allegedly hereditary nature ws nothing more than a presumption; that castes were essentially guilds; and that the earliest guild was a tribe based on common descent. A large number of caste division or sub-caste units, such as gotras, were essentially tribal in origin…The Manbhum Bhumij have forgotten their native speech and speak Bengali. Risley found the tribe far advanced on the road to caste-hood; they were employing Brahmins of low status in their rites of passage (Risley, H., The People of India, 2nd ed., by W. Crook, 1915: 75). Yet old social and cultural patterns can still be discerned. Like the allied Munda tribe of Ranchi, the Bhumij are grouped in patrilineal exogamous clans (gotras) affiliated to the respective ancestral villages where the clan ossuaries are located (Sinha, Surajit, State formation and Rajput myth in tribal central India in: The state in India 1000-1700 ed, Herman Kulke, OUP, 1995: 310-11). Gotra is thus clearly the organizing principle of tribal societies.…the Mundas of Chotanagpur, who were organized in exogamous septs called Kilis, changed their kilis into Gotras, Sandi Kili becoming Sandil Gotra and Nom Tutu Kili developing into Bhoj-Raj-Gotra (Roy, Saratchandra, 1912, The Mundas and their Country: 410). The Koch tribes of Assam used their creativity to emerge as Bhanga-Kshatriya or Rajbansi, and claim affinity with Rajputs (Risley, 1915: 74-76, 92)…In Manipur, the Meitheis consider the seven lairemas (goddesses) as the female ancestors of the seven clans (viz., Ningthouja, Angom, Khimal, Moirang, Lu-wang, Sarang-Leisangthem and Khaba-a-Ngenba), which came to be identified with the seven Brahminical gotras under Hindu influence.”

Many janajaati are recognized in the Mahabharata. Centre-place is accorded in hindu culture to divinities Jagannath, Khandoba, Murugan, Ganesh (the latter two as sons of Shiva), Naga, Devi. Janajaati-hindu are a socio-cultural continuum, the doctrines of dharma have permeated throughout hindu society with the Mahabharata and Ramayana lore.

Defining characteristics apply equally to both categories such as claims of descent from a common ancestor, common language, endogamy and clan exogamy, jaati councils, certain taboos in matters of diet and marriage alliances, and limited self-sufficiency. The janajaati are indeed the bedrock of Hindu civilization.

More intensive studies are needed on many socio-cultural facets such as samskaras, including exemplified by veneration of pitrus (ancestors), forms of marriage and marriage practices, the exchange of tambula, janajaati panchayats, evolution of agama traditions, vastu shastra, building of mandirams, s’ilpa s’astra, vis’vakarma traditions and many ancient treatises available on a variety of social sciences ranging from ayurveda to alchemy and metallurgy. The studies should also include study of evolution of languages in Bharat. Two dominant cultural unity markers of itihaasa bharati or Hindu civilisation which evolved indigenously, are: 1. languages of Sanskrit and Prakrits and 2. jaati. The cultural idiom expressed by these markers are related to the core doctrines of vrata, dharma, rina., yoga and karma. Sanskrit and Prakrits are the grammatically-correct and spoken streams flowing out of the interactions among munda, dravidian and indo-aryan dialects operating in a linguistic area circa 5000 years Before Present.

Let us take a look at what the ancient writers in Bharat had to say about the language situation in various parts of the country. Manu notes (10.45):

mukhaba_hu_rupajja_na_m ya_ loke ja_tayo bahih
mlecchava_cas' ca_ryava_cas te sarve dasyuvah smr.ta_h

This shows a two-fold division of dialects: arya speech and mleccha speech. The language spoken was an indicator of social identity. In ancient Bharatiya texts, mleccha, a Prakrit, was recognised as an early speech form, a dialect referred to in S'atapatha Brahman,a and Mahabharata, a dialect which required a translator for a Mesopotamian transacting with a sea-faring Meluhha merchant of Saptasindhu region. Jaati is an extended kinship group which evolved out of the interactions related to the core doctrines. No wonder, Mahavi_ra explains jaina ariya dhamma in mleccha (ardhamagadhi), which differentiates into the present-day language kaleidoscope of Bharat. It is not a mere accident that the discourses of the Buddha were in Pali, a lingua franca of the times. automatic transformation of ardhama_gadhi speech into the languages of the listeners is a way of affirming the nature of the lingua franca, Prakrit, when Mahavira communicates Jaina dhamma as ariya dhamma. There is explicit permission to use Prakrit, as a non-ariya language, that is non-use of grammatically correct Samskr.tam, to communicate to all people: This is categorically stated in Kundakunda's Samayasa_ra, verse 8: yatha n.a vi sakkam an.ajjo an.ajjabha_sam vin.a_ du ga_hedum taha vavaha_ren.a vin.a_ asakkam

This is a crucial phrase, vyavaha_ra or vavaha_ra, the spoken tongue in vogue, or the lingua franca, or what french linguists call, parole. The use of vyava_hara bha_sa, that is mleccha tongue, was crucial for effectively communicating Mahavira's message on ariya dhamma. The study of Sanskrit and Prakrit as parallel cultural streams, together with yajna and vrata as parallel streams of dharma should be explored further through studies in an institution such as Itihaasa Bharati to unravel the contributions of janajaati to hindu thought, culture and heritage and to constitute a Hindumahasagar parivar (Indian Ocean Community).

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, 10 March 2005

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Hindumahasagar Parivar: janajaati contributions to hindu culture,heritage