Long, long ago, the Devas were not really for including the Aswini (Ashwini) Twins, the sons of Surya among the Gods, since they were “mere physicians” dealing with the well-being of the body. Then Chyavana MahaRSi, the son of Bhrgu (Bhrigu, Bhrugu), and the husband of Sukanya, was so pleased that his looks and eyes were restored to him, that he accorded the Aswins the status of the Gods.
Later, the RiShis, objected to the inclusion of the Mantras of the Atharva into the Vedas, since they dealt with topics like Ayurveda, technology and other socially useful but not so grand spiritually! The battle was won by Krishna Dwaipayana, Veda Vyasa वेद व्यास, who divided the Vedas into four and made a place for the Atharva mantras.
God in his creative function, was called Viswakarman, those who belong to this Caste were India’s great engineers – think of the rust free Iron Pillar and the bow of Vishnu – they were the weapon makers, gold smiths and all the rest. While they consider themselves as great as, if not greater than Brahmins, and they learn and chant the Vedas as well as conduct their own spiritual activities; most other castes rely only the Brahmins for their yagnyas and other Vedic Rites (Kalpasutra).
While the Rishis pioneered Agriculture (Gautama) and the Brahmins practiced it over the years at some level, there was always a feeling that the pursuit of the divine was a more noble pursuit than the pursuit of engineering and medicine, and I heard that as recently as my grandfather’s generation, people enquired discreetly whether the young one was “learning” – meaning the vedas or not - meaning western education.
During the muslim rule, The Hanafi interpretation of shari’ah was used by Qasim to treat Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains as zhimmis, People of the Book, the same status accorded to Jews and Christians. That meant that they could continue to live under Islamic rule as long as they paid their religious tax (jizyah). Yet another concession to the Hindus was that out of respect for the Brahmins, Qasim decided to give them 3 percent of his government’s revenues.” (Source) The brahmins became the first Indian bureaucrats and they extended their power beyond their traditional religious duties. The brahmins were considered well suited for the job, because, drawing on scriptural authority, the Bhagavata Purana reasoned that “they possess nothing, still having no craving for wealth and kingdom.” (Source)
The story changed with the British Rule. The British “Kings” who had documented contempt for Indian Culture, would not “feed” the brahmins with grants. And so the brahmins had to get an English Education to survive often forsaking their kula-vritti (caste profession). Though they started as clerks etc, they catapulted themselves into the middle and ruling classes, with this education.
With the “English – Ways” or western life style and technology taking the world over by storm, all the other castes saw the advantage of an English Education and aspired for it. Brahmins were seen to have an unfair head start in this great levelling profession and reservations were proposed, demanded and implemented. My young days saw brahmin boys and girls setting themselves on fire after the mandal report when “english education” which was all they perceived as a means of survival, being taken away from them. ”English Education” no longer means science or literature etc. It means interestingly enough Engineering and Medicine. And Business.
Hardly any brahmin parents consider Vedic Education an option for their sons and one boy had to run away from home to a gurukula to train as a priest! The son of our excellent and honoured family priest is a caterer. I personally face such disrespect from some people when I tell them that I am learning the Puranas and Vedas, that I tell people that I am a housewife when asked. I never tell anyone I meet in person that I am student of Sanskrit Scriptures! And I have completely stopped discussing most things except with my family or guru.
Hmm. Full Circle. The highest Vedic and Upanishadic studies are today the lowest, in terms of sought out professions. The money-spinners are at the top of the charts.
What was once considered slightly infra-dig is now considered worth dying for! And thus does human society meander through time!
As an aside, my guruji’s guruji, said that brahmins should withdraw from all other professions and focus only on vedas and vedanta etc. He said that was the purpose and advantage of a brahmin life. My guruji says that everyone should pursue only brahma vidya and that is the only blessing she gives. Interestingly my guruji’s guruji’s students are doing very well as practicing brahmin purohitas/gurus and his own children settled for “ordinary jobs”. A brahmin friend told me, “oh no! we don’t do pourohityam – its too infra-dig, but we do all yagnyas and homas and pujas and so on!”
This world is truly a fascinating place!
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