Thursday, November 17, 2016

The riddle of the Shudra, the Rajanya and the Kshatriya!

The scholars have miserably been misled or it has been a deliberate act on their part that they have tried to portray ancient India through the Vedic eyes, without paying any heed at the stark open facts those are present, known and yet neglected. Even the inferences they have tried to derive from the Vedic texts are only to prove their age-old notions, no matter how they are wrong. This is why the picture of the ancient Indian society and Vedic society is distorted for they did not consider them separate, independent entities. It is clear from the available evidences that Shudra was a tribe, located in North-West India and other tribes or people too were present across the country, known by their various tribal or regional names, still, they mix all while explaining the origin of the Shudras.

It also is agreed fact that the term Shudra nowhere appears in the Rig Veda except Purusha Sukta (RV 10.90) and that this hymn is the late interpolation in the Rig Veda. When did this interpolation happened is open to the speculations, but the fact is the hymn in question too went through many modifications/additions in course of the time. It is believed that the hymn gave divine sanction to the permanent four-fold social order to seed the inequality and injustice amongst Hindu society.

The Sukta has two verses those describe how the four Varna were originated. It is as under-

ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृतः 
ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत १२

Here, we will just focus on the second highest class or rank that is named as “Rajanya”. This would mean that the Rajanya was standing second to the Brahmina. In the later Vedic literature the trem Rajanya goes on gradually vanishing and is replaced with Kshatriya. It is assumed by all the scholars and tradition that the Rajanya and Kshatriya are interchangeable or that Rajanya and Kshatriya are the equivalent terms.
What are the facts?  Are really Rajanya and Kshatriya are the equivalent or the truth is otherwise?

Rajanya word has been used in the Rig Veda and Atharvaveda as generic class of the warriors. The Aitareya Brahmina it is said that the Rajanya requests Kshatriya for a place at Devayajna (sacrifice for gods). There are rituals mentioned in the Brahmana literature where appears conflict between Rajanya’s and Kshatriya’s. Kaushitaki Upanishad differentiates the Kshatriys and Rajanyas. Rig Veda mentions several times of Rajanyas and Kshatras and the terms are not interchangeable. Rajanya term is used for the kins of the kings, nobles and scions. Shatapath brahmina too mentions Rajputra, Rajanya and Kshatraputra separately. From these instances it would be clear that the Rajanya and Kshatriyas were different entities. In Avesta too, a contemporary book to Rig Veda, the word Kshatriya and Kshatra appears as  xšāyaθiya ("emperor") and xšaθra ("realm") The word Rajan too appears in the old Persian literature. (See Zamyad Yast 88-90)

This would mean that the term Kshatra and Rajanya existed simultaneously in those contemporary (Vedic and Zoroastrian) societies. The word Rajan would mean the King (elected or otherwise) and Rajanya meant, accordingly different scholars, either kinsmen of the Rajan (King) or the ruling (even ex) families from whom Rajan would be appointed or chosen. In short, Rajanya is ruling power and Rajan is chosen from them to rule. In a tribal society, though social classification was loose, the class of the Rajanya was held equally important to priestly families or just lower to them. The mention of this term as a class in the Purushasukta would mean that the Rajanyas had emerged as a distinct social class by the time of its composition.

The term Kshatra appears in the Rig Veda about 9 times. The meaning of Kshatra means power. The power was based on the greater control over the Jana and its territory. It can be seen the relationship between Vish and Kshatriyas was not always cordial as Kshatriyas controlled the Vish (Vaishya). In short, the Kshatra were either feudal class or warrior class in general.

It will appear from the Vedic literature that the Kshatriyas (or Kshatras) and Rajanyas were contemporaneous and formed two distinct classes in the Vedic society. There were rivalries too between these two classes. Rajanya would mean the kins of the ex or present kings those only could claim the thrown. Kshatriya was a class that would control the territories and would act as a middleman between Vish and the King for collecting the tributes. We can easily surmise that the Kshatriyas were the feudal lords of the tribal times those would establish authority over land or cattle and would collect taxes from the Vish. Rajanyas too possibly sometimes acted as Kshatriyas, but their status was higher as evidenced by Purushsukta itself. What most importantly we have to note here that the Rajanya and the Kshatriya were not one and the same.
However, the main question remains and that is why Purush Sukta does not mention at all the Kshatriya class? Instead, it mentions Rajanya. It would mean that the Rajanya was a larger society than of the Kshatriyas and they, being insignificant in number and position, did not form a social class in the early Vedic society where Rig Veda was composed.

However, we must note here that the Kshatriya varna has no divine sanction as it is not mentioned in the Purushsukta and equivalent literature. Considering Kshatriya second in the Vedic social order has been a gross mistake of the scholars. There is no explanation in the Vedic literature why Rajanyas were dropped and Kshatriyas replaced in the so-called divine social order.

 Though in later course usage of the term Rajanya seems gradually vanishing, still Aitareya Brahmin frequently uses it. (e.g. AB 1.5.2) This would mean that till the time of compositions of the early parts of the Brahmana literature the Rajanya class was well in existence and enjoying the social status that was granted by the Rig Veda.
Now, the question arises that why Rajanya class disappeared from the Vedic society and for all ritualistic purpose and authority Kshatriyas were replaced when they did not have any divine sanction?

To understand this, we need to analyse the geographical shift of the Vedic people and the new societies they came across and their endeavour to adjust in the new social environmental circumstances while readjusting their religious rules.

It is now well-established fact that the geography of the Rig Veda and the Avesta were in close vicinity. This does prove that the Vedic society was originally established in the Afghanistan (most probably southern part). The memory that Shatapath Brahmina preserves goes like this :

“Videgh Mathava, residing on the banks of the Saraswati river, accompanied by his family priest Goutama Rahugana and Agni, symbol of Vedic culture, marched onwards. Through crossing the northern mountains (Uttaragiri), drying the rivers and burning the forests, he reached the Sadanira river. The legend tells that when Videgh Mathava asked Agni, where he should make his abode, the Agni told him to reside to the east of the river.” (SB 1.4.1, 14-17)

The myth, preserved by Brahmana, clearly indicates that from the banks of Saraswati, a group of the Vedic people had marched towards a river to find refuge. The group marched through the northern mountains, those could only be Hindukush and rivers flowing through that region, to reach the uninhabited place to settle.

Modern scholars normally try to equate this river with Gandaki that flows from Nepal through India, finally feeding Ganga. However, from the Mahabharata’s accounts on this river, it could not be Gandaki but some other river flowing through Gandaki and Sarayu. Amarasinha of Amara Kosha asserts Sadanira to be synonym of Karatoya River, flowing through north of Bengal. Anyway, Sadanira means ‘abounding in water’, which can be applied to any river that is full of abundant water. The myth also indicates that the area across the river was swampy and inhabitable.

Thus, the invasionist scholars of those times from this myth had considered Aryan expansion from west to the east, occupying the lands and regions towards Gandaki River of Bihar (or Bengal), is not tenable. The river Sarasvati mentioned here should not to be confused with a mythical Sarasvati river, but it was the river of the same name still flowing in southern Afghanistan. Had it been a victorious march, as some scholars suggest, towards Sadanira that located in Gangetic region, they needed not to reside in inhabitable area because those regions were already populated as it is evidenced by the Archaeological findings.

Videgh Mathav and his companions might have deserted their original homeland to find new habitat because of the constant struggles with Zorostarian religion or political reasons. We get many instances of such struggles in the Vedic literature, recorded in the form of the myths, where Vedics were defeated. Videgh Mathav and his companions abandoned their original habitat and they, crossing Hindukush entered north-eastern parts of the India to find a place to seek the refuge. They found such place near a river to which they named Sadanira and on its banks, in marshy-swampy region they made their first settlement. This must have been the north-west part, Sindh, of India.

Here we get many historical as well as mythological proofs that the tribe Shudra was also located at north-western part of India. Alexanders historian Diodoros, who  accompanied Alexander in his expedition to India,  notes of a tribe named “Sodrai” (Greek corrupt form of the Shudra) which resided in Sindh region. Alexander seems to have built a city naming after himself, Alexandria, on the banks of a river. (The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great-As described by Arrien, Q Curtius, Diodoros, Plutarch and Justin, edited by J. W. Mcrindle, page 354) Ram Saran Sharma confirms that “There is no doubt that Sudra existed as a tribe in the fourth century BC.” (Sudras in Ancient IndiaA Social History of the Lower Order Down to Circa A.D. 600 by RS Sharma).

Mahabharata records that a Shudra tribe along with Abhira tribe from north-west participated the great war. (Mahabharata 6-10.65) Also the same Shudra tribe finds independent mention in a list of peoples conquered by Nakula during his victorious march before the coronation of Yudhisthira. Gian Chand Chauhan states, “The plethora of references to the term Sudras along with the Abhiras show that the Sudras was an old tribe flourishing at the time of the Great War in the sapta-sindhava region.” ( Some Aspects of Early Indian Society, by Gian Chand Chauhan, page 54)

Now it should be clear that the Shudra was a tribe. It was located in the north-west regions of the country and their immediate neighbors and alleys were Abhiras. Also it should make clear that the Shudra was never a class but a tribe that dwelt in India along with several tribes like Surasenas, Sibis, Nishads, Panchals, Kurus and so on.

The Shudra tribe, being inhabited in north-west parft of India,  in Sindh region, in all probabilities these were the people Vedics came across first and decided to live with in their teritorry.

We know from the Rig Veda that the Vedic people’s known geography was limited. Earlier they were aware of the major river Indus and few western tributaries, but their knowledge of the vast regions beyond Indus was limited and was of hearsay sort. It seems that, when they entered Indus region, they came across the  region they decided to settle was within the territory occupied by the Shudras, completely unknown to them. Hence, the term Shudra appears nowhere in rest of the Rig Veda.

How Shudras accommodated the Vedics in their territory is a matter of speculation. However, the refugees could not afford to be hostile with the hosting countrymen. The number of the Vedics those found refuge here could not be much. Had they waged war and acquired their territory they needed not to reside in marshy and swampy land. There is no mention of such war between Shudras and Vedics in any of the Vedic literature, so, the Shudras might have accommodated them without any hassle.

Here, let us conclude that the handful of the Vedics came to India and found refuge in the territories of the Shudra tribe. Looking at their limited knowledge of geography, they addressed all those beyond the region of Shudras with the same term though later they later came to know of many tribes or Jana those were located elsewhere as well. (Hindustan name too emerged from the River name Sindhu, as foreigners initially didn’t know the lands beyond that river. The name given to the limited geographical area became name od the entire subcontinent.)

Here, we come to the solution of our main issue, why the term Rajanya instead of Kshatriya and why Shudra came to be the fourth division of the society? Let us solve it as under-

1.     Being small in number, residing in a separate village or two, a settlement, where they lived on the mercy or friendship of the Shudras those resided around in their independent settlements.

2.     Whatever portions of the Rig Veda and other literature they had brought with them were rearranged, classified and then the later additions started.

3.     Purushasukta clearly indicates, from its language and mention of the seasons, that this composition was made when they had set foot in India, as Max Muller suggests, it is entirely modern in its character and diction. (‘A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature’, by F. Max Muller, Pub.: Williams and Norgate, , 1859, p. 557)

4.     In the Purushsukta, Rajanya appears in the second rank because in all probabilities, besides priests, Rajanyas were larger in the number those had joined this expedition. The Kshatras were completely absent or very meagre in number, hence there was no need to assign them any position in the social order.

5.     Vedics gave Shudras the fourth place, not to demean them, but to make a cosmic social order without whose mention it would be incomplete, though they knew very well that these people are different, racially as well as by religious faith.
Purushasukta indicates that though the Shudras are mentioned as a part of the cosmic society, they are not at all the part of the Vedic society. This is evident from the verse 

ब्राह्मणोऽस्य मुखमासीद् बाहू राजन्यः कृतः
ऊरू तदस्य यद्वैश्यः पद्भ्यां शूद्रो अजायत 

 where it has made very clear that “The Brahmana was his [God’s] mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaishya, from his feet the Shudra was produced.” The feet didn’t become the Shudra, because the composer of the hymn knew very well that the Shudras were not part of the Vedic community, though an important society. The distinction was very clear to them.

6.     The Yajurveda declares that “शूद्रार्यावसृज्येताम  (Shudra and Arya were created.) [Yajurveda 14/30] Here also there is clear distinction between Arya (Vedic) and Shudra. Here we do not find any contemptuous view about the Shudras. The only probable reason is at the time of composing these hymns Vedics were on good terms with the entire Shudra tribe.

7.     In fact it does not appear that the purpose of the Purushasukta was to make permanent stratification of the social order. Even the term “varna” does not appear in this hymn.

8.     The Vedics, for they were few in number, must have in need of the servants and maids to assist them in farming, cattle tending and household work. They had to hire such people in need from the surrounding Shudra community. From Vedic literature, it appears, the Vedics in India too preferred to delve in the villages. They avoided cities. The menial force they hired too must have been living in the separate settlements, besides the Vedic Villages.

9.     Manusmruti, as mentioned in the last chapters, mentions of the Shudra kings and their domains. Aitareya Brahmina mentions of the Shudra kings those ruled beyond Vindhya mountain. (AB 7.13-18) However Mahabharata mentions of the Shudra tribe together with Abhiras. This would mean that by the time of early Manusmriti, the Vedics considered all other tribes as Shudras. By the time of Mahahabharata, Vedics could make a distinction between other tribal or Jana names and Shudra tribe.

10.                         During this vast span of the time the term Rajanya was gradually dropped because the original Rajanyas those had walked with the entrants lost their entity in the course of the time. The Kshatriya emerged as the second ranking class, though it had no Vedic sanction. The Kshatriyas, it clearly seems, were later converts to the Vedic faith or it became an epithet to address warriors of the local populace.

11.                        From Shudra’s tribal kingdom, Vedic spread to promote their religion, gained royal patronage of the Kuru’s and Panchal’s to begin with and converted some to their fold. (See “The Rigveda, trans. By Griffith, preface.) The first recension of the Manusmriti seems to have been composed in Kuru-Panchal region to which they named “Aryavarta”.  By this time, rajanya had lost all the significance and Kshatriya became a synonym of valour and the authority.

12.                        The Vedics, till Brahmina era, and new recruits to the Brahmin fold, continued with the same life style, they preferred villages and took services from the needy of the surrounding regions. They, it clearly seems, habitually continued the practice of calling them as Shudra.

13.                         By this time, with the addition of the new recruits, the number of the Vedics and their needs had grown. To meet them they naturally required more serving staff, which was met with the gifts of the slaves or hired workmen. They resided in the Vedic villages, though in independent colonies.    

14.                        As Vi. Ka. Rajvade (Preface, Radhamadhavavilasachampu) states, because of the close contacts with the menial class, the cross illicit relations too started creating social problems in the Vedic order. In the beginning they accommodated the off springs in their fold, assigned them some castes, but later on it was prohibited for it created chaotic condition in Vedic society. They started enforcing many restrictions on them in an order to maintain purity of their religion and social order.

15.                        Smritis are evident of this fact that all the restrictions, those sound humiliating and cruel sometimes were on the class that was employed (or the people gifted by the patrons) in their service. Except in Sindh region there never was any other Shudra tribe. Though Vedic habitually addressed their servants as Shudras, it wasn’t and couldn’t be the case. People from other tribes too must have joined their services or people from any tribe could have been gifted to them by the patrons, to all for sake of the convenience, collectively, they called Shudras. The fact was always otherwise and is evident from the Vedic scriptures too!

16.                        The Vedics assigned Kshatriya and the Vaishya status to those who were indigenous warriors or trading/farming people, who had officially entered in their fold. Those all, who had not embraced Vedic faith, were Shudras in their eyes. By this time it seems Shudra had become a derogatory term to them to use against those all who despised or avoided their religion. We can understand how this could have happened. The Shudras (their working class that included people from many tribes) daily association had caused tremendous harm to their social structure and hence had became despicable and yet unavoidable!

17.                          It seems from the Manusmriti, some Vedics conducted sacrifices for the Shudras (non-vedic tribes/janas) and received the fees. Such Vedics were too were avoided by the Vedics who thought they were loyal to the tradition. Calling such host who performed sacrifice for his benefit too was despised with addressing him with the term Shudra.

18.                        The so-called Shudras, though not belonging to the Shudra tribe at all, enjoyed their titles and traditional ways of the life with the faiths they had nourished from ages. It were Vedics who termed all those who were non-Vedics, hostile to the Vedic religion,as Shudras. They offered their respects to only those who were sympathetic towards their religion but had not embraced their faith. Stories enumerated by Mahabharata of Vena, Nahusha etc. tells us the fact that they were not ready to accept Vedic faith and hence were killed by the Vedic Brahmins. These may be fabricated stories, created in an order to establish their superiority, but they suggest their hostilities towards the kings too, who did not accept or patronised their religion. To even Gautam Buddha, Vedic tradition calls “Vratya Kshatriya”, a kshatriya who has not undergone any Vedic ritualistic custom.

19.                        The term Kshatriya was offered to only those, who either had became Vedic or patronized their religion. This way, we can find neither Solar nor Lunar race was Kshatriya in origin. Either the title Kshatriya was used for them suo motto, to please them or to those who had converted to their religion. Whatsoever the case may be, we find several stories of Kshatriya-Brahmina rivalries because the new recruits to that fold, especially kings, desired upper hand in the social religious order. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishada goes to the extent by declaring the Kshatriya born first and hence superior over Brahmin. It declares that the Brahmina should take lower seat in the Rajasuya sacrifice. (BU 1.4)

From above, it will be clear that how Rajanya finds place in the Purushsukta because then thee didn’t exist any Kshatriya in early Vedic community which travelled to India. They had rajanyas and a Rajan (in form of the Videgh Mathav), hence rajanya became a part of divine body. They made the Shudras a part of the social order but not considered them as the part of the Vedic order, because they were not Vedics, but the Vedics depended on their mercy and assistance they tendered for their survival. It is very much possible that the Vedics lived in the Shudra kingdom for 3-4 generations to reorganize themselves before they marched out in the eastern regions to spread their faith.

They applied the term Kshatriya, a rare term used in Rig Veda, to the new converts (or patrons) hailing from the royal families and warriors  and glorified the term so much so that even today Indian populace is crazy about it, though the term was unimportant to the early Vedics for the term had no place in the divine order that was proclaimed by much-hyped Rig Veda.

As we have seen, it should not be forgotten that the term Kshatriya is not equivalent to Rajanya at all. Both were distict classes in the original Vedic society when located at their original homeland. The journey of the Vedic religion in India has to be closely analysed to know the facts, which was avoided or neglected by the earlier scholars. Unless the entry of the Vedicism in India and its methodological spread is understood, the riddles of our present social structure, which is largely based on the self-nourished myths and sheer misunderstandings, cannot be solved. We shall discuss in the next chapter why the Kshatriya (and Vaishya) class came to be eliminated in the later course of the time.  



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

“Who were the Shudras” : A critique


“Who were the Shudras – How they came to be the Fourth Varna in the Indo-Aryan society” is a scholarly written book by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, which was first published in 1946.  While the debate over original homeland of the Aryans was a highly debated issue, Dr. Ambedkar found it necessary to probe in to the origins of the Shudra Varna, which is considered to be lowest in the Vedic social order, devoid of any Vedic ritualistic rights,  and hence an oppressed but largest part of the so-called Hindu society. The common understanding was, the Shudras were the indigenous aboriginal communities those were defeated by the invading victorious Aryans, enslaved by them and were termed as Shudras while making their social four-fold order in the process of assimilation, while maintaining their supremacy by denying any social, economic or Vedic religious rights to them.

Dr. Ambedkar proposed a new theory through this book to explain origin of the Shudra Varna. The theory is outlined as under:

(1) The Shudras were one of the Aryan communities of the Solar race. 

(2) There was a time when the Aryan society recognized only three Varnas, namely. Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.

(3) The Shudras did not form a separate Varna. They ranked as part of the Kshatriya Varna in the Indo-Aryan society.

(4) There was a continuous feud between the Shudra kings and the Brahmins in which the Brahmins were subjected to many tyrannies and indignities.

(5) As a result of the hatred towards the Shudras generated by their tyrannies and oppressions, the Brahmins refused to perform the Upanayana of the Shudras.

(6) Owing to the denial of Upanayana, the Shudras who were Kshatriyas became socially degraded, fell below the rank of the Vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth Varna.


Dr. Ambedkar explains that the original Shudras were part of the Indo-Aryan community and to devaluate them the code was invented and was strictly applied.  The other Shudras were not from the Indo-Aryan communities, were racially different, but to widen the application of the code to the innocent masses the term was used for them also. He says that the original word “Shudra” lost its original meaning of being a name of a particular community and became a general name for a low-class people without civilization, without culture, without respect, and without a position. He asserts that “ If the Hindu lawgivers had enough historical sense to realize that the original Shudras were different from the present low-class people this tragedy- this massacre of the innocents – would have been avoided.” He laments that the code that was meant for the original culprit Shudras is applied to the present day Shudras is unfortunate. (See preface)

However,  the fact is the word Shudra appears nowhere in Rig Veda except Purushsukta which is, Dr. Ambedkar too is aware of, a late addition to Rig Veda. Even if considered the Kshatriyas and the Shudras ranked equivalent, the fact is Purushasukta does not mention Kshatriya while enumerating the Varnas originating from the divine sacrificial body of the Purusha. Rather it mentions Rajanya, not KSHATRIYA and both the terms have different connotations. Both are not the equivalent to each other. Rajanya is mentioned as a second highest rank in the Vedic social order, however, Kshatriya does not appear at all as a name of a class or Varna. However, it seems Kshatriya was inserted removing Rajanya in later literature. That way, Purushsukta does not sanction any status to Kshatriya…rather it does not acknowledge it at all! 

There are many feuds mentioned in Rig Veda, but the word Shudra appears nowhere, though Dr. Ambedkar says Shudra and Kshatriya were equivalent. Dr. Ambedkar emphatically states that the Brahmins, out of hatred, denied Upanayana of the Kshatriyas and hence they fell lowest in the social order. At the least, the Vedas do not support this assumption. Upanayana was not a ritualistic ceremony in Vedic period at all hence there could not arise any issue over whether or not to deny Upanayana of any person of any rank.

The term Shudra finds no etymology. Dr. Ambedkar shows how false etymologies were attempted to explain the words whose original meaning was lost or forgotten by the half-educated people of those times. (page 107)  Dr. Ambedkar finds the word is a proper name of a tribe or a clan to which historians of Alexander mention as a “Sodari” (Sodrai) tribe Greeks came across in northwest India. Aitareya Brahmana informs us that beyond Vindhya ruled various Shudra tribes. Dr. Ambedkar also provides proofs of the mention of the Shudra as a tribe in Mahabharata, Markandeya and Brahma Purana. 

The main question is who were the Shudras? Dr. Ambedkar insists that the Shudras were Kshatriyas. Not only that, he states that “The Shudras were so important a class of Kshatriyas that some of the most eminent and powerful kings of the ancient Aryan communities were Shudras.” (page 121)

To prove his statement, Dr. Ambedkar gives an evidence from Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 40 . 38-40) where it is said that a Shudra of the name Paijavana performed fire sacrifice (Yajna) and donated heavily to the priests. Dr. Ambedkar has cross-checked 9 extant manuscripts of the Mahabharata, southern and northern recessions, and found different 9 variant readings of the word “Paijavana”.   To name a few variants, word “Paijavana” is found as pailavano, Yailanamo, YaJane, Vaibhavano etc. in different editions. Also, only six manuscripts agree that the person who conducted sacrifice was Shudra. Rest three does not mention as such.

In fact there are only three verses that mention this name, incident of Yajna, donation to the Brahmins and Varna of the person in question. Dr. Ambedkar treats the “Paijavana” reading as correct and yes, it is. So let us take it as an indisputable fact that there was a Paijavana, a Shudra of ancient times, performed sacrifice and Brahmins had no problem to perform the sacrificial rituals for a Shudra. Dr. Ambedkar illustrates that in preceding verses on the same chapter it is written that Shudra has no right at all to have wealth and is prohibited from chanting any Vedic mantra. Dr. Ambedkar derives that Shudras of ancient times weren’t denied the right to have conducted Yajnas for their benefit. (126-127)  

However, it seems from Manusmriti that sacrifices performed for Shudras weren’t unknown. Manusmriti verse 3.178  proclaims that “The giver (of a Sraddha) loses the reward, due for such a non-sacrificial gift, for as many Brahmanas as a (guest) who sacrifices for Sudras may touch (during the meal) with his limbs.”

From this, it seems that though the Brahmins, those performed sacrifices for the Shudras, were looked upon contemptuously; still there existed the Brahmins who did that job.  

Also, Shudra kings were not unknown to Manusmriti as verse 4.61 proclaims that “ Let him not dwell in a country where the rulers are Sudras, nor in one which is surrounded by unrighteous men, nor in one which has become subject to heretics, nor in one swarming with men of the lowest castes.”

This only does mean that even during the time of Manusmriti, there were numerous Shudra Kings and some Vedic Brahmins those performed sacrifices for them.

However, we have to discuss in more detail as Dr. Ambedkar’s premise of the whole theory depends on this sole incident mentioned in Shantiparva.

This is mainly because Dr. Ambedkar has connected identity of Paijavana with a Rig Vedic The- battle- of- Ten Kings fame king Sudasa who happened to be the son of Pijavana, hence also was called Paijavana. According to Dr. Ambedkar Shudra Paijavana of Mahabharata and King Sudas, who also was known as Paijavana, are one and the same, hence Shudras were Kshatriyas.

Superficially logic may sound very convincing, but then we have to look into the matter more seriously. First of all, Mahabharata nowhere mentions the famous battle of the ten kings in the entire bulk in which Sudasa had emerged as the celebrated hero after defeating the Puru and other tribes. This has surprised many scholars that why most illustrious war finds no mention whatsoever in Mahabharata where most of the ancient stories are enumerated?

Dr. Ambedkar shows that in Vishnu Purana, there are at the least two Sudasas, one is in the genealogy of Sagara and another one in the Puru family.  They obviously are different than the Sudasa of Rig Veda. Dr. Ambedkar also gives the family tree of Sudasa, of Rig Veda, where at one place he has inferred that Divodasa (father of Sudasa) is Pijavana.

We should not forget here that the Mahabharata genealogies are restricted to the regions where the distinct Puru/Kuru clan (descendants of Nahusha) ruled and not the Sudasa. Hence, there was no need to mention the Sudasa or his predecessors or successors in the Puru/Kuru lineage in Mahabharata. Most probably, the later writers of the Mahabharata had borrowed the names of Yayati’s sons such as Puru, Anu, Druhyu (From Sharmistha) Yadu and Turvasu (From Devyani) from the Rig Vedic tribal names to bridge the missing or forgotten link in the genealogy. In reality, there cannot be any possible relationship of these tribe-names with the personal names of Yayati’s sons, unless they were borrowed directly from the Rig Veda. If we try to assume that, the Yayati’s sons, establishing different kingdoms, formed the Rig Vedic tribes, we do not get any such support from the Mahabharata. Yayati had cursed his other sons, except Puru, when they declined to transfer their youth to him. (1.84, Mahabharata) However, the name Sudasa nowhere appears in Mahabharata.

Dr. Ambedkar too asserts that Bharata tribe of Rig Veda and Doushyanti Bharat of Mahabharata are distinct entities. (page 141)  

Considering this, the Bharata/Puru lineage of Mahabharata would seem to be rather fictitious, fabricated unless the Kurus borrowed the Rig Vedic names right from personal names such as Nahusha, Yayati (composers of some Rig Vedic verses) to tribal names like Puru, Anu, and Druhyu etc. or the names were, too, common to have been used by all other societies including the Vedics and others in different original forms.

And most importantly, Sudasa, a king of celebrated fame, who does not find any mention in any story, a passing reference to one Shudra Paijavana in Mahabharata cannot be linked with Rig Vedic Sudasa. However, Dr. Ambedkar states emphatically that this Shudra Sudasa belonged to the illustrious line of kings of Bharata tribe from which the country acquired name “Bharata”. (page 141)

We have seen earlier that Manusmriti knows there were Shudra rulers and the Brahmins those performed sacrifices for Shudras. Hence, the Mahabharata, which came to the final form only after 3rd century, finding mention of one Shudra Paijavana, for whom a sacrifice was performed, doesn’t come as a surprise. This Paijavana need not to be a part of Indo-Aryan (or Vedic) community.  Even if he was a Shudra, either king or a wealthy person, from non-Vedic community, could have performed sacrifice if he had desired to do so. Because some Vedic Brahmins used to do so in exchange of the heavy donations even if they were despised by their own brethren. Paijavana of Mahabharata too donated handsomely to the Brahmins.  

So, Paijavana of Mahabharata and Paijavana Sudasa of Rigveda are distinctly different  personalities. We have more proofs to make this point.

Dr. Ambedkar mentions a Rig Vedic feud that involves rivalry between his two priests, Vashishtha and Vishvamitra. It is assumed by the scholars as well that the rivalry between seer Vishwamitra and Vasishtha was the major cause behind the battle of ten kings. It is believed that Sudasa removed Vishwamitra from the post of chief priest. Hence, an anguished Vishwamitra left Sudasa to gather forces against him. However, to our surprise, we do not find any support to this assumption in Rig Veda as there is no mention of such event taking place. In all probabilities, the war was fought over religious issues as Rig Veda describes enemy, including the Purus, as ‘ayajju’, non-sacrificers or over the political supremacy issue. Hence there arises no reason why Brahmins would have treated him (Sudasa) a “Shudra” by denying Upanayana to him or his successors to proclaim them Shudras. And Mahabharata mentions Paijavana, to whom Dr. Ambedkar identifies with Sudasa, as a Shudra.  However, there appears no feud in the Vedic literature that would indicate rivalry between two classes, i.e. Brahmin and Kshatriyas. Rather the stories concerning to such rivalries emerge in late Brahmana period.

Hence, it would be the far-fetched statement that “…A Shudra to be an Aryan, a Shudra to be a Kshatriya, and a Shudra to be a king! Can there be a greater revelation? Can there be anything more revolutionary?” (page 139) We must bear in mind that in Rig Veda, Sudasa is nowhere mentioned as being Kshatriya, but mention is simply as Rajan.

Hence, considering Shudra class as a part of the Indo-Aryan community may not help us. Paijavana of Mahabharata can be anyone with the identical name the way Puru, Anu, Druhyu etc. appears in Mahabharata as personal names, which in fact are the names of the tribes, not individuals, in the Rigveda. Hence, comparing either genealogy with other does not yield any satisfactory result. Shudras couldn’t have been part of the Indo-Aryan club and their religion. The only fact, the way Dr. Ambedkar puts forth, that there were two types of the Shudras, one being the Shudras for whom the code was intended and enforced and the other was completely outside of Vedic religious pale, enjoying their own faiths, kingdoms and wealth.

The Shudra Varna does not appear anywhere in Rig Veda, except Purushsukta, only because Vedic Aryans had not come across this set of the people. Shudras were foreigners and unknown to them. It was never part of their Indo-Aryan or Vedic society hence it constituted of only three varnas. Dr. Ambedkar has deliberated on this issue in his book and has concluded in support of his theory that the two specific verses from Purushasukta is a forgery that sanctified Chaturvarnya.  In his opinion, there were only three Varnas in that period and Shudras belonged to Kshatriya Varna. (page151-52).

We all are aware of the Vedic designs of falsities and recklessly fabricating anything by interpolating to which they call sacred books. It is clear that the Purushsukta is a later interpolation. Not only this but Purushasukta too is not composed at once but there are seemingly different layers, fabrication of different times.

But this is not enough to prove that the Shudras were Kshatriyas of Indo-Aryan community. As stated earlier, the Vedics had not come across this new set of the people while delving in their own geography. The known people, whether friends or foes, find mention throughout Rig Veda except for the Shudras. This term finds no satisfactory etymology too in any language. It has no certain meaning. Why were Indo-Aryans forced to invent a term to name so-called degraded Kshatriyas which has no meaning? And how could such people, those enjoyed the high status of Kshatriya accepted such a degradation without wielding weapons?

Vedic religion came to India, not through the invasion. It came by missionary sort of work by the refugees. They came across the new people to whom they named Shudra or Shudra is a corrupt form of an original name of the people. “Sodari” (Or Sodrai) mentioned by Alexanders historians too is a corrupt Greek form of name of a tribe that inhabited North-West India. The Vedic refugees too first might have come across this tribe first and this name stuck to all the people residing in India, the same way as Hindustan name for the entire country was used first only for the people living in Indus valley that later was applied to the whole subcontinent. I have discussed more on this issue here.

Hence, Dr. Ambedkar’s theory gives us a foresight but does not satisfactorily solves the problem of the Shudras. Indeed it raises more questions.

It seems that the code that was intended against the Shudras those were a menial class taken in the personal service to meet daily needs. Rest of the people, though designated as Shudras by the Vedics, were free from that code which is evidenced by Manusmriti itself.  In the later course of the time the scope of the code was widened, but history does not prove that the Shudras heeded to it in practical life. The only worst influence the code (especially Vedic religious stories) seeded in the minds of the Shudras (non-Vedic people) was a sense of birth-based inequality among themselves.  So much so that almost every caste from so-called Shudra class tries to connect with Kshatriya origin to attain high social status. This is the outcome of the sheer influence of Vedic mythical stories those glorify Kshatryadom. Why this class lost its place from the Vedic society has been attempted to explain through some mythical stories, especially of Parshuram, but these stories are the product of the quite late era and have the completely different explanation to them. They also are not related to the era in question. The reasons behind fabricating such stories are completely different and not related to the Brahmin-Kshatriya rivalry, as Dr. Ambedkar suggests. 

Hence, the proposition that the Shudras were Kshatriyas and Rig Vedic Sudasa=Paijavana of Mahabharata, equation is not tenable on the ground of the proofs those are available before us. 

The fact, neglected by the scholars, remains that Kshatriya Varna has no Rig Vedic sanction. It places Rajanya in the second order, without mentioning Kshatriyas, though the term Kshatriya appears at the least 9 times in the Rig Veda. Rajanya was removed in the later course and was replaced with Kshatriya, but the term Shudra did not vanish, which is not present at all in the rest of the rig Veda. 


Had Shudras being Kshatriyas and the Kshatriyas were degraded in the later course, Kshatriyas wouldn’t find any place in the Vedic social order. In fact, this change, Rajanya being replaced with Kshatriya suggests more dramatic occurrences in the history of Vedic people on which we will discuss in next chapter.