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Template:Short description Anti-Brahminism is a term used in opposition to caste-based hierarchical social order which places Brahmins at its highest position.[1][web 1] Initial expressions of Anti-Brahminism emerged from instances of pre-colonial opposition to the caste system in India, ideological influences during the colonial period,[2] and from a colonialist Protestant Christian understanding of religion in the 19th century, which viewed "Brahminism" as a corrupted religion imposed on the Indian population.[3] Reformist Hindus, and also Ambedkar, structured their criticism along similar lines following the 19th century criticism of "Brahminism,"[3] opposing the dominant position Brahmins had acquired by the time of British rule in the 19th century.


"Brahminism" refers both to the historical Brahmanical tradition and ideology of the late Vedic period (ca.1100-500 BCE), as to

...a sociopolitical ideology that encodes a memory of an ideal past and a vision of society in the future, one in which Brahmins occupy the highest place [...] their superior position in society and their superior knowledge stems from birth. This makes them naturally, intrinsically superior to all other humans [...] Brahmanism then is the most perfect form of conservatism, a status quoist ideology par excellence, entirely suitable to elites who wish to perpetuate their social status, power and privilege.[web 1]

"Anti-Brahminism" or "Non-Brahminism" is a movement in opposition to caste based discrimination and hierarchical social order which places Brahmins at its highest position.[1][web 1] B. R. Ambedkar stated:

By Brahmanism, I do not mean the power, privileges and interests of Brahmins as a community. That is not the sense in which I am using the word. By Brahmanism, I mean the negation of the spirit of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.[web 2]


Pre-Colonial times[edit]

According to Novetzke, initial expressions of Anti-Brahminism emerged from instances of pre-colonial opposition to the caste system, ideological influences during the colonial period.[2]

19th century colonialism[edit]

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According to Gelders and Delders, the structure of present-day anti-Brahminism has its roots in 19th century India and colonial views on the position and influence of Brahmins. 19th century colonial rulers viewed India's culture as corrupt and degenerate, and its population irrational. In this view, derived from a Protestant Christian understanding of religion, rooted in the Protestant opposition against the Catholic Church, the original "God-given religion" was corrupted by (Catholic) priests, which was extended by comparison to the Brahmins in India, and the Brahmin-dominated type of Hinduism, for which the term "Brahminism" was used, was supposedly imposed on the Indian population.[3]

20th century[edit]

In the late 19th and early 20th century, with the rise of nationalist and rationalist movements, criticism against Brahminism came from both Brahmins and from low-caste Hindu communities. Reformist Hindus, but also Ambedkar, structured their criticism along similar lines following the 19th century criticism of "Brahminism."[3]

According to Beteille, in Tamil Nadu the traditional position of Brahmins had been enforced with the beginning of British rule, profiting from western education and turning to an urban lifestyle.[4] They monopolized the new urban jobs and entered the Indian Civil Service, gaining strongholds in government and bureaucracy,[4] and also dominated the Congress Party.[5] This widened the gap between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, but opposition quickly mounted.[5] Anti-Brahminism became organized with the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu. This party was composed of non-Brahmins (who were typically part of either the feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes, or merchant castes) and was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins.[6] With the dawn of the 20th century, and the rapid penetration of western education and western ideas, there was a rise in consciousness amongst the lower castes who felt that rights which were legitimately theirs were being denied to them.[5] In 1920, when the Justice Party came to power, Brahmins occupied about 70 percent of the high level posts in the government.[web 3] After reservation was introduced by the Justice Party, it reversed this trend, allowing non-Brahmins to rise in the government of the Madras Presidency.[citation needed] In the 1930s, anti-Brahmanism was disseminated among the masses by the Self-Respect Movement.[7]

One of the most prominent proponents of Anti-Brahminism was Dalit leader B. R. Ambedkar. Another prominent proponent was Dravidian leader Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. Periyar called on both Brahmins and non-Brahmins to shun Brahminism.[8]

See also[edit]


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Printed sources
Web sources

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bhargava, Rajeev (2019-07-23). "What does it mean to oppose Brahmanism?" [archive]. The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X [archive]. Retrieved 2021-07-23. Anyone who consents to, endorses or justifies this hierarchical order, regardless of his caste, creed or gender, is then a ‘Brahmanist’.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj (july 2, 2021), Police action over actor Chetan Kumar’s remarks sparks row in Karnataka [archive], The Hindu
  3. Tehelka (2006), Superiority in Numbers [archive]

Books about anti-Brahmin riots in 1948 in Maharashtra and India. : In the absence of documented or accessible records, fragments of this trauma exist in the works of several people—Vasanti Bhide Marathe’s 1 February 1948: Turning Point, Pratibha Ranade’s Smaranvela, Vyankatesh Madgulkar’s Vavtal, Priya Prabhu’s Gandhi Vadhotttar Jaalpol, M.G. Patkar’s Gandhi Hatya: Itihaasaache hi Ek Paan, Madhu Kulkarni’s Te Daha Divas among many others. - Vikram Sampath:Savarkar, Contested legacy

Further reading[edit]

  • Politics and Social Conflict in South India, the Non-Brahman Movement and Tamil Separatism, 1916–1929. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. By Prof. Eugene Irschik [archive] [archive]

External links[edit] [archive] [archive] [archive]