Some of the greatest sins of the past are often sanctified and served as the most sacred reforms that happened to mankind where narcissistic accounts of hagiography is passed off as history.
So another white man from the Bible belt, this time around a CEO at that, Jack Dorsey, making a sweeping comment made headlines by refurbishing the caste card which pretty much works like a wild card entry at any given time anywhere. It’s been more than 300 years since the British invented the caste card and each time the imperial suzerainty is seemingly threatened or their itinerary peddlers weakened – the communal stratagem of oppression theory is unleashed.
‘Brahminical’ and Oriental term is obsolete and dead hence the dire need to resuscitate the communal air yet again in the spring of uncomfortable political blooms. But it needs a repackaging to meet the ongoing feministic trends hence an appendage to the already loathsome travesty of a word which is now rechristened as ‘Brahminical Patriarchy’!
So what really is ‘Brahminical’, how and when did this term come into usage that is made out to be a mainstream epithet in the liberal lexicons?
Sanskrit literature was becoming a revealing rage amongst European Indologists in the early 19th century, many European scholars like Schopenhaur began accepting and crediting the Indian spiritual supremacy of the Vedas that they described as having solutions to all the problems in the world. Unsuitable as this narrative was to the empirical dreams of the English whose elevation as masters lay in suppressing any superior indigenous faith, it was important to sideline and silence the priestly Brahmans who upheld the Vedic spirit of life in the society hence they came to regard the belief itself as Brahmanical. The first person to coin this term was Max Mueller, a German professor with an English heart that beat and bled for upholding the English suzerainty and advocated Christianity. He referred to the ancient form of Hinduism as Brahmanism in his pursuit to translate the Rig Veda into English for the western audience.
Max Mueller had played a great role in suppressing the assimilation of German nationalism against the British before the WWI with his articulate political analysis. When Max Mueller took up his comparative study of Indo European religions and languages that were funded by the East India Company, his enthusiasm in those scholarly pursuits were born more out of political zeal to set about a path for penetration of Christian ideas into the religious life of Indians that would make the English empirical dreams smoother.
Max Mueller began his research in religious and linguistic studies as a proponent of natural religion which he declared was influenced by physical, psychological and anthropological factors and saw change of religious thought and language as progress in human race. While his contributions in his linguistic studies that brought international focus on the study of Vedas and his scholarly Sanskrit pursuits is commendable, the political mileage he drew for the empire out of his religious and linguistic acumen cannot be overlooked. As a matter of fact he began his religious research in the linguistic path only to understand the composition of the Indian political thought that could benefit the British Empire.
Max Mueller’s biographer Dr.Johannese Voight observes that “His aim was not to analyze anything particular but to compare different elements in order to arrive at a conclusion which he believed were or came close to those laws by which human development was guided”.
Dr.Voight writes that _ “It was Max Mueller’s ambition to discover an interdependence between Buddhist and Christian religions, in a letter to his friend Gladstone he states that he has failed to do so in these terms _ “I cannot resist the impression that there must have been historical contact between the Christian and Buddhist intellectual atmosphere. I cannot explain how it came about I cannot point out the exact historical channel through which the communication took place”.
This was at a time when indigenous faiths had not yet fallen prey to the framework of divisive pigeonholing into religious isms. It is also revealing of the penchant for arriving at definite preplanned conclusions. In all that objectivity of Max Mueller’s philological quest to study the socio-political thought of India through her religious evolution, it cannot be ruled out that Max Mueller had subjectively embarked on an arduous evangelical journey through the scholarly path. And in this comparative study of religions he tried to establish common links of Indo European ancestry so as to decorate and elevate Christianity while equalizing the Vedic virtues as Europe’s own forgotten past and at the same time calling for putting to test, the Hinduism of the day to scientific criticism. The Aryan Invasion Theory was one such unscientific absurdity introduced by Max Mueller which on one hand served to elevate Europeans as the original Vedic followers while propagating back home the theory that it was the priestly superstitious and savage class of Brahmans who oppressively held the masses in a Brahmanical sway which is nothing but Hinduism.
He was introduced to the East India Company by Baron Bunsen and in his comparative research project they saw an opportunity to tell the world that they were not exploiting India but were patrons of learning and culture, thus his project was approved to be funded by the East India Company.
In 1856, in a letter to his friend Baron Bunsen, Max Mueller says _
“India is much ripe for Christianity than Rome and Greece were at the time of St.Paul. The rotten tree has for some time had artificial supports, because its fall would have been inconvenient for the Government….I should like to live for 10 years quietly and learn the language, try to make friends, and then see whether I was fit to take part in work by means of which the old mischief of Indian priestcraft could be overthrown and the way opened for the entrance of simple Christian teachings.”
In an another letter to the Duke of Argyil he writes _ “The ancient religion of India is doomed and if Christianity does not step in – whose fault will it be” and this he said even while 110,000,000 souls were still orthodox Hindus but Dr.Voight argues that Max Mueller’s this statement was with respect to the enlightenment and spiritual evolution as Max Mueller held that the worship of Shiva and other Indian Gods was of an even more degraded and savage character than the worship by the ancient Greeks and Romans of their God Jupiter and others”.
He condemned the dogmatic approach of the Christian missionaries and in a letter to the Argyil in 1865(this was when his Rig Veda volumes were ongoing in its 3rd decade) he wrote _ “The Christianity of the 19th century will hardly be the Christianity of India”. He advocated that radical Christianity be replaced by liberal Christianity allowing interpretations in native heritage he also encouraged Europeans to study Sanskrit. Although he claimed to be a Vedantist, he lived and died a Christian unlike many other European scholars who adopted Hinduism and got cremated on their death. He was highly appreciative of the works of Brahmo Samaj whose works he saw as a movement within Brahmanism ie..Hinduism, by which Christian ideas penetrated the Indian minds.
He was the quintessential liberal of those times who believed that humanism was above nationalism. He supported the spread of Christianity across the world and stood by missionary work. While he advocated penetration of liberal Christianity in India as against the radical forms of European Christianity he encouraged the right of European scholars to criticize traditional interpretations of the sacred writings of Brahmans – which he called as a scholarly duty stating that only that tradition was acceptable which withstood the test of scientific criticism.
Indologists like Max Mueller were to the British what the Sufi saints were to the rise and spread of Islam! They mingled, learnt Sanskrit, learnt scriptures, traveled and prescribed that all faiths were equal but just that only their God made sense.
Indians failed to see this subtle digestion of their faith and a few others like RamMohan Roy, Keshub Chandra Sen sold their souls, who converted and clandestinely advocated Christianity under the shield of reform much like today’s secularism and Freedom of expression rants.
It is said that except Rammohan Roy’s tomb and Max Mueller’s home, there was no other place in England as dear to Indians in those days.
Pratap Chandra Mazumdar, the disciple of Keshub Chandra Sen in a letter to Max Mueller writes _ “A wholesale acceptance of the Christian name by the Brahma Samaj is neither possible nor desirable within measurable time; it would lead to misconception, which would only do harm. But the acceptance of the Christ spirit or as you term it, ‘the essential religion of Christ’ is not only possible but an actual fact at the present moment.”
When Max Mueller asked Keshab Chandra Sen, when the latter was staying with him at Oxford and why he did not publicly declare himself a Christian, Keshab Chandra replied in a very grave and thoughtful tone, “Suppose that that thirty years hence people find out that I was a disciple of Christ, what would be the harm? Only, were, I, to profess myself a Christian now, all my influence would be gone at once.”
The hostile propaganda of Christian missionaries against Hinduism, the pro-Christian and anti-Hindu postures of the Brahma Samaj leaders, the “Young Bengal” movement and the religious reform movement in India were interpreted by Max Mueller as a symptom of decay of the old religious faith in India and a call for Christian penetration.
So brazen was the propaganda that Ramtanu Lahiri an orthodox Brahmin influenced by the Christian spirit of BrahmoSamaj discarded his sacred thread openly and he along with his friends had begun offering beef in their hands and inviting people on the streets to eat it in order to shame those condemning beef-eating as sinful. He denounced caste as a great social and moral evil and saw Hindu customs as superstitious and reprehensible weakness.
Does that remind us of modern day Girish Karnads and beef fests?
While Max Mueller was promoting Sanskrit learning amongst the Europeans, his fellow employee of the East India Company Thomas Macaulay worked to uproot Sanskrit in India and made English learning as the only job giving means. It was for this bait that a Ramtanu Lahiri as a young boy of 10 had run along the palanquin of David Hare to seek English Education, David Hare was an ordinary watch seller who came to India to make a fortune but soon he realized that English and Christianity was a better commodity to sell.
There is no doubt that Max Mueller spent an entire life engrossed in understanding appreciating and critiquing the Vedas and Vedanta philosophy and one may argue that he openly declared his Christian faith till the first four decades of his research but in the end he was a pure Vedantist in mind, but fact is that more than an academic scholar Max Mueller was a keen political analyst all along till the end, in 1899 an year before his death he expressed his gratitude towards India by saying that a country that could produce a Raja RamMohun Roy, a Keshab Chandra Sen, a Behramji Malabari and a Ramabai(Christ facilitators) even in its most unheroic days is not a decadent country.
The Christian missionaries back then had opposed Max Mueller’s idea of liberal Christianity but he had prevailed. Today, if the Cross supersedes the Kalasha on the temple Gopurams of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and many tribal areas it is the Max Mueller’s theory of liberal Christianity employed by the likes of modern day BrahmoSamajs, digesting native heritage and customs while inflicting a European evangelical Christian spirit of hate, towards native cultures that today fails to see the vicious history repeat itself working towards a civilizational disintegration.
But alas our children are still taught that Ram Mohun Roy was a reformist and that an evangelist – who propagated the divisive theory of AIT, as a Hindu sympathizer. Whether Max Mueller was a true missionary or truly a misled scholar it is important that we are not misled in calling out and acting upon the menace of Christian Sufiism that keeps revisiting in their unfinished lands in even more reformist avatars exporting placard activism of one or the other kind while subtly deploying the oriental tool of attack on Brahmanism/Brahminism alias ancient Hinduism.