Tackling the myth of Brahmins against educating non-Brahmins

Tackling the myth of Brahmins against educating non-Brahmins

There is a general misconception among people that the so-called non-brahmins long ago were denied education and literacy by brahmins. Moreover, people think, albeit wrongly, that since brahmins acquired the knowledge in the Vedas and other subjects, only brahmins could have appreciated the real need for it.

The above is not true at all as illustrated by the following example of a farmer named Pala Ram. Note that the main reason for some people to not send their children for education in schools (including in gurukuls long ago) was to keep them at home so that they would follow their own family vocation (in farming and carpentry etc.) from their parents directly and without interruption. This was basically to ensure an easy and quick transfer of tradition, vocation and business from parents to their children, instead of having the children spend a long and difficult time getting into a new brahmin-like education and profession which did not promise higher monetary gains anyway, not more than those arising from their own family vocations. Thus it seems the choice in not educating kids was basically with the parents (whatever their vocations) and not others (brahmins etc.).

There were several instances and examples involving parents and children — belonging to the category or caste of non-brahmins who were also quite poor and uneducated (e.g. Satyakama et al.) — who realized the need for education and pursued it successfully without facing much opposition from others. Strictly speaking, the searchers of knowledge were inspired more by the need and appreciation for learning and education in their personal and immediate life (involving perhaps their family, friends and surroundings etc.) and probably less because of their caste label (as brahmin etc.).

Coming back to Pala Ram, he was an illiterate and poor farmer (belonging to a non-brahmin caste), living in my village Ansoli during 1950s when I was still a student in Middle School (grade 5 to grade 8). Pala and his wife had several (perhaps three or four) young daughters and no son. They owned a small piece of land in the village which was not enough to support a family. To make ends meet, Pala ran a small tea-stall by the roadside.

In spite of being uneducated and not rich at all, Pala had a desire to get his daughters educated and have them land good jobs afterwards. Unfortunately, it was not an easy task since there was no school in the village and it was hard for any parent to send his young kids (especially girls) to a school in another village, several kilometers away. Thus Pala must have felt that his dream of getting his daughters educated would probably remain unfulfilled because of lack of educational facilities in the village. Education-wise, the situation in my village was quite hopeless anyway during 1950s — majority of people there were totally illiterate, and I, even though still in grade 6th or 7th then, was already reading and writing letters for others (including some housewives whose husbands were away in the army etc.).

It seems even during these unfavorable circumstances Pala had been waiting for a right opportunity to come along so that he could get his kids educated. Thus, when my father Jagannath decided to approach the government during 1950s to open a primary school for kids in our village, Pala immediately came forward to support him in this venture. He did this in spite of an enormous opposition to the school idea from most of the villagers who thought that a school in our village was a bad idea and a serious threat to the village life and culture. They reasoned that sending their sons and daughters to school for education would spoil them and render them ‘useless’ because they would not be able to do any hard and tough physical work in the fields and at home afterwards. Moreover, they thought that their ’educated’ daughters would not be able to find guys and in-laws willing and ready to marry them.

Needless to say, because of the confusion and opposition to the school idea at home from fellow villagers and the slow action and decision making by the government officials, there was a considerable delay and struggle in getting the school sanctioned. Thus, after several years of trying by my father and others, a primary school for boys and girls in our village was finally approved by the government in 1950s.

To make sure that government did not reverse its decision regarding the school because of pressure and complaints from opponents of school in our village etc., my father insisted on starting the classes immediately even before there was a school building. To make this possible, he emptied a part of our house and gave it rent free to school authorities so that they could hold classes there for children until the school building would be ready elsewhere in a few years. The government officials agreed to his offer and started the school classes in our house by sending a teacher from their education department.

Soon after that, the planning etc. for the construction of a new building for school was commenced. Unfortunately, completion of school building took close to four or five years due to land and other issues, which included some villagers (mostly farmers etc.) opposed to a school in the village and not in favor of education for their children flooding the construction site with water and bringing down the almost completed building. The whole thing had to be rebuilt all over again starting from the foundation.

Incidentally, people who originally were against the school idea and education for their children had their kids and grandkids later qualify as the OBCs etc. for caste based quotas and reservations in education and jobs, which continue to this day. Moreover, some of these people (opposed to education originally) and their descendents, as well as some politicians, might proclaim now, albeit wrongly, that quotas and reservations in education and jobs on the basis of caste (for OBCs etc. only) were a good idea and must continue in future because others in the past (non-OBCs — brahmins etc.) had deprived and discouraged them (OBCs etc.) in getting education. How ironical considering that the reluctance and opposition to education for such children (boys and girls belonging to families engaged in farming, wood working and other manual vocations) in the past would not generally come from outsiders (brahmins etc.) but it came mostly from their own parents and families who wanted their kids to stay engaged in their own family vocation / business, even take over it quickly, without losing time and resources in getting ‘educated’ unnecessarily.

In any case, in spite of the controversies, troubles, struggles and delays in getting the school authorized and constructed, Pala Ram supported the idea of a school for our village and assisted my father throughout in getting it. Incidentally, when the classes started in our house immediately after the school was authorized by government, Pala was among the first to enroll his daughter in grade 1. Soon afterwards there were other parents (including from scheduled castes or ‘dalit’ families), from Ansoli and nearby villages, who enrolled their kids in the new school which had just started classes in our house.

Happily, Pala Ram’s faith in education for kids proved right. Several of his daughters, who got their primary education in school in their own village, went on to become school teachers etc. after pursuing higher (post-primary) education elsewhere.

~ Dr. Subhash C. Sharma



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  • Being myself a brahmin, haven’t seen our elder discriminate people based on caste. On the contrary have seen many principled teachers wold led a simple living, without expecting monetary favors for their services,

  • First-of-all I am not a Brahmin. It is definitely wrong to assume that Brahmins were against non-Brahmins education. Just look at the number of Western Acharyas & Swamis we have in the Western world. Many of them are so well educated in Hindu Dharma that they can impress any Hindu when they listen to their speech. For example Sri Dharma Pravataka Acharya, Radhanath Swami are all Western Gurus.

  • Its all the politicians who play one caste against the other. The Dravidian parties propagated the anti brahmin myth and perpetuated hatred against brahmins. I grew up in a very orthodox environment. I’ve seen my grand mother who never discriminated against the maid servant who was from a slum in mambalam area. She could walk thru our house. Add to that, the maid servant was very strict with us and would pull us up for mischief. She was a non brahmin. She worked at our residence for over 40 years. My uncles and grand parent educated her grand children by paying their fees. She was a member of our family. Participated in every function and all the grand children who were born there were raised by her. There are many such instances in very many houses, that will debunk the Dravidian myth of Brahmin’s discriminating against other castes.

  • The book by dharam pal ( beautiful tree) has extracted the British research from 1800 to 1870 and documented meticulously the state of education in then MadrasPresidency and Bengal . The research clearly talks about number of Brahmin Boys/Girls , Non Brahmin Boys /Girls ( including Muslim Girls) attending schools . When one reads that we understand how Goebellistically we were fooled by British using faultlines.

  • Mostly the ….DMKs and Communists only have sown the seeds of Hatred against the Brahmins, not for doing any good to people, but for their own individual benefits, including political.

  • It has become a fashion for every Tom,Dick and Harry to criticise innocent Brahmins for thier misdeeds.Brahmins never came in other’s ways nor interfered. In most of the villages. , it is a Brahmins family who guide,advise,teach and tell good words to all of other castes.Some politicians trying to blame always brahmins.Bashing brahmins must stop.

  • It is sad that such false allegations have been spread against Brahmins who not only worked for the good of the society but also sufferred for its sake. Our Country and society is paying dearly for this nonsense.

  • It is not totally true that Brahmins did not differentiate. They did and they still do in some places. I personally have seen some places where till date “dalits” are not allowed to enter in a school and temple. I asked for the reason and the answer was ” they are supposed to work in fields and serve higher castes. Otherwise the structure of the society will break.” The person was quite learned and of course a BRAHMIN.

  • All this started prominently after Abrahim started leading a community and occupied place in Indian culture .Our weakness and surrender to this errupted every process. In modern time leaders have to remove the screen on our minds and then rebuild.

  • The author is teleprojectig todays situation to the past. However having said that, we must read the five volume books by Dharma Pal, who was a Gandhi and worked on Indian education system before British. The particular book people must read is called Beautiful Tree. (It is available as PDF.) The book is based on the actual Data obtained by British, in the repository of the all the presidencies in India, namely Madras Presidency, Calcutta Presidency, i,e repartition Punjab and some other regions. It is interesting to see that all villages had at least one School per average. And the time period for education was about 10 years. And the representation of the children was in proportional to the proportional to the populations. That is School demography reflected the Population demography. We also know that India has had from very old times significant number of Universities most of which came to end during Islamic period. These Universities accepted students who were not Indians too. If they could accept a Malechha student, then it would not stand to reason that local students would not be accepted. Lost needs to be researched from the past about such history. That has not been done. left- Congress etc. don’t want to do that. Because it will throw up a narrative that will not be acceptable to these goons.

  • World population was less than a billion until early 1800s and life expectancy was in the 20s [You can check data on the web about life expectancy and world population]. Given this circumstance, how many of you would go to a school and college? Majority of the jobs were in agriculture. Education was never an important factor in the early 1800s and prior.

  • Thanks for the article. At least, I get to tell few guys about the discrimination to goes even today unnoticed where it is done stealthily. Author has taken a very lame and lone reason to justify and morph the discrimination. Some of the discrimination – Brahmins avoid talking or interact with neighbours in the their locality or keep very minimum, they are ready to take the house for rent owned by other caste but never rent their own house other to castes, They will allow their children to play with other castes, but never allow to discuss or group study with other caste children, they create fear psychosis in house maids to other non-brahmins houses, Brahmin teachers cleverly avoids clearing doubts or explaining the things to non-brahmins – unless asked inside the class (they may just say it is nothing you can just read and deviate from actual topic), Brahmin leaders or politicians overly praise person/people referring to their caste and do the same thing to any caste (stealthily injecting the poison by hatred by overly praising the caste to make sure other person thinks about his caste as superior than other), Brahmin leaders/politician always make sure the higher education is given more thrust because they know if primary education is given more thrust other caste people may come in large numbers to compete them (if primary education is not proper, it is like nipping at the bud itself), Brahmin creates fear among other caste in terms of God and rituals – that will only benefits Brahmin and undermine other castes.

  • Since brahmin s will not retaliate the politicians make hatred among brahmin and non brahmins so that they earn votes if they tell this type of complaint against other caste they will behead them its true