the term has been too controversial, causing irreparable damage to the Indian
society and outrage for its use in derogatory manner aimed for social suppression,
indicating lowest status of the larger population of India since long time, we need to
have a brief look at the reality.
most importantly word ‘Shudra’
appears in the only hymn, Purusha Sukta,
which otherwise is completely absent from Rig Veda. Many attempts have been
made by various scholars to find the real meaning of the Shudra and who were they. The people Dasa, Dasyus have been
mentioned many a times in Rig Veda, though contemptuously for their different
faith. But Purusha Sukta mentions, instead
of Dasa-Dasyus, the Shudras, as name
of a class of the people, that too in a hymn that has been proven to be a later
in later Vedic texts the term Dasa and Dasyus (equivalent to Iranian Daha,
Dahyu), used in Vedas for the people, goes on vanishing and remains just as a
suffix of the personal names or denotes the servants. They, Dasa/Dasyus, no
longer remains to be a set of the people, whether rival or not. Rather while
speaking of fourth section of the society, the people other than Vedics, the
term Shudras have been applied in the
sudden shift in the terminology, assigned for the class of the people clearly
means that the Vedic had come across the new set of the people and needed a new
term to address them. It also is clear that the Dasa/Dasyu people were left
far behind by the time of this hymn was composed. Rather appearance of the term Shudra for people is in itself a proof
that the Vedic geography had changed from Afghanistan to India.
also is evident because, we should note here that, the term “Shudra” or its equivalent is not present
in Avesta at all. What we find is Daha – Dahyu, equivalent to Dasa and Dasyus,
in Avesta applied to the people of the land or compatriots. To Rig Veda they
are the people those adhere to the different faiths and thus were enemies. It would
appear the term Shudra has been
emerged from nowhere which have no meaning whatsoever! This sure creates a
problem for the proponents of Indigenous Aryan Theory as well.
let us not forget here that the term Shudra
have no etymology, neither in so-called IE languages or Dravidian languages. R.
K. Pruthi suggests that perhaps Shudra was
originally the name of non-Aryan tribe. (Indian Caste System, edited by R.K.
Pruthi, Discovery Publishing House, 2004, page 72) It may surprise us why then
this tribe never came across the Vedic people to make its slightest mention in
whole bulk of Rig Veda except for Purushsukta
where suddenly it forms a major part of the society?
suggests that the people those were taken in the personal service by the
victorious Aryans were called as Shudras. According to him, the term was later
applied to those all who were out of three Varnas. (Radhamadhav Vilas Champu,
Preface, Edited by Vi. Ka. Rajwade, Sarita Prakashan, reprint2014, page 130-31)
opines that the Shudras could be a
tribe but afterwards came to signify anybody who was not a full-fledged Arya or
a foreigner who has been partially assimilated by Arya culture. He further states
that, from Sutras Shudra denotes a
person other than the member of three Varnas, i.e. Brahmina, Kshatriya and
Vaishya.(Some Aspects of Ancient Indian
Culture, By D. R. Bhandarkar, 1989, page 12) Interestingly the term “Varna” for class too is new Vedic
innovation because it is absent from Avestan scripts!
removed Aryan and replaced with Vedic, it will be clear from above opinions of
the scholars that those all who were not Dasas or Dasyus or Vedics, those all
lived in the Indian subcontinent, practiced different religion, were Shudras for the Vedic people. The fact
is, though in Purushasukta, Shudra
seemingly is enumerated as fourth class of Vedic religion; it was never at all
we carefully read the RV 10.90.12, it makes clear that, the head of Purusha
became Brahmin, hands became Kshatriya, and thighs became Vaishya….but Shudras
were born of his feet. Feets didn’t become Shudra but were produced from it. It
clearly indicates the distinction between Vedic and non-Vedics. (The
was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made.His thighs became
the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced. (RV
10.90.12, Trans. Griffith))
term only would apply to Indian people as Purushasukta
is a very later composition that got inserted in Rig Veda that mentions Indian
tropical seasons too for first times and also uses the term Shudra
for people first time and in the only verse.
have been essential for the Vedics to name the people other than them or it was
a term already in use to address the people of India. Those who were originally
Vedics and those were converted to Vedic religion and set in one of the three
Varnas, authorized to Vedic recitals and ritualistic practices, were but
naturally Vedics and part of three Varnas as Bhandarkar suggests.
of the masses, following their traditional pre-Vedic religion seems to have been named as
Shudras. Or alternatively it could have been
a term used by Indians to address themselves from ancient times, but then the
original term must have been phonetically quite different and Shudra could be the corrupt Vedic form,
thus making us impossible to find its origin or any etymology. Vedic
corruptions of other loanwords are not new. It can be proved from one
instance that Vedics in India pronounced corrupt form of the country name
‘Meluha’ (Melukkha) as ‘Mlechchha’, which, later on lost its original meaning
and became synonym of the people who spoke strange or foreign languages. (The
Indus Civilization, by A. H. Dani and B. K. Thapar, page 274,)
could have happened with “Shudra” which
in later course of the time became a derogatory term; originally, it couldn’t
have been the case. The fact is, we forget, Shudras were non-Vedic class,
practicing idolatry from ancient times which was banned in the Vedic religion.
Shudras were not authorized for Vedic rites or recitals because simply they
didn’t need it for the sake of their own distinct religion they had preserved
and still is practiced by the majority.
fact which we should not forget here is the Vedic class had not vanquished the
local populations to enforce their languages and culture upon them, as many
social activists like to believe. Rather we see uninterrupted Indian tradition
of the culture since minimum of 7000 BC. R. N. Dandekar has explicitely stated
that there is no significant iinfluence on the Indians those are practicing
their religion since pre-Vedic times. The present Vedics cannot be blood-linked
with the original preachers those had come to India; those too must have lost
their ethnicity after inter-mingling in Indian populace. We find there have been the
Vedics in India of different ethnicity and language groups because they are
one whose ancestors had embraced to the Vedic faith in remote past. There is
no foreign blood or so-called Aryan element in them to boast of. The Vedic
religion became dominant after medieval period has socio-economic-political reasons.
fact remains that the two religions, Vedic and pre-Vedic, coined together under
common umbrella name ‘Hindu” were always and are distinct in practice, rituals
and philosophy. The fact is that, although Vedics accepted idolatry gradually,
they maintained their independent identity of religion with retaining all
rights over Vedas, related literature and Vedic rites.
This cannot be called as
assimilation of equal footings. The evil spell of many socio-psychological
conditions, especially birth-based inequality, are direct or indirect products
sum up, Shudra was never a part of
Vedic society, but indeed was an independent religion they are following from
ancient times. To Vedics, like Dasa,
Dasyus of Iran those followed different religions and hence looked upon
contemptuously, similarly Shudras too
became a derogatory term in Vedic literature to the adherents of different
religion. The over-glorification of the Vedas and their divine origin, as we
have seen in this chapter, has been a carefully nourished myth and deserves the
rejection in totality.
harm it has done, in the form of seeding inferiority complex and sense of the
inequality in the minds of non-Vedic masses, needs to be removed in the light
of the bare facts!