Hindu Integration: Brahmanas and Gramadevatas

Annual Waari – Kalyani Bhogle

The pluralism in Hindu thought is often pegged back to the philosophically sophisticated एकं सत् विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति  from Rgveda – first mandala. While that message underlies a lot of Hindu thought as we know it, it’s often overstated as it sounds sophisticated to the scholars/amateurs studying it. On the other hand, some hymns from the family books, particularly the Rgvedic Hymns 7-82 to 7-89 give a fascinating peek into the mind of the Bharata purohit Vasishta after the Dasarajna Yuddha. The hymns which are very repetitive mostly praise Indra and Varuna for the help given to Sudas(Bharatas) and the Trstus in the Dasarajna where the enemies also worshiped Indra. The important point to glean here is the different functional roles for which these deities are evoked. Indra for war, Varuna for prosperity, Aditi for light, etc. Varuna who is often paired with Mitra or Aryaman, gets paired with Indra here – which scholars (RN Dandekar, Michael Witzel, etc) see as conciliatory.

According to Dandekar, it was out of this experience of bhakti that Vasistha became essential in the conciliation of the Indra- and Varuna-cults and especially in “averting a schism in the Vedic community” by demonstrating “that Varuna and Indra were not antagonistic to each other but… essentially
complementary. ‘Indra conquers and Varuna rules.”

It is fair to speculate that such a conciliatory approach would go on to shape interactions the mainstream Vedic thought would have with non-Vedic deities as these hymns are the victor’s recollection. This conciliation and integration (A) appear much more pragmatic and economic than abstract ideals (B) espoused by एकं सत् विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति or other sophisticated thought from Upanishads or Gita. For B to emerge and sustain, A appears essential. With A established, B in some form or other would follow as evidenced by other Eastern faith systems which also tend to be inclusive. It is fair to say a combination of A and B lays the foundation for the emergence of quintessential pluralism of Hinduism.

Let us segway into a short story: 

  • In a village in Vengurla (South Konkan), there was a local Saint/Warrior (non-Brahmin) who was extremely popular with the masses. 
  • He passed away and his devotees wanted to make a shrine/temple for him. A Kaashyap Brahmin who was a respected man in the village objected. His objection stemmed from the deification of a man (probably Shudra) and placing him on the same pedestal as the Devas. 
  • The Brahmin (who had quite a bit of clout in the village) opposed this Adharma with all his might but was almost overpowered by the “uncouth masses” in the story.
  • The landed or Kshatriya(ish) castes sided with the masses instead of the Brahmin and as a result, the Brahmin couldn’t prevent the deification.
  • Additionally, the humiliated Brahmin was expected to condone the practice and give the shrine his blessings.    
  • He couldn’t be part of this Adharma and hence left his lands, wealth, position, and went northeast and settled in Ichalkaranji near Kolhapur preferring his descendants living in abject poverty over condoning Adharma.
  • The replacement Gaargya Brahmin was happy to support the deification of the Saint. His descendants flourish economically in the village with large lands and respect but suffer spiritually.    
  • The shrine/temple remains popular to this day and most villagers have forgotten about this tale around the origin of that particular deity. 
  • The spiritual suffering of the current Brahmin was removed by the forgiveness of the descendent of the Kaashyap Brahmin some years ago.

This is the fanciful tale of my great-great ancestor as told to me by my Chachera uncle (first cousin once removed). The Gotras are not important to this piece but the emphasis and obsession on Gotra is a salient feature of Brahmanism which deserves some attention. This tale is not very atypical. There have been other documented cases of such squabbles between village Hinduism and Brahmanism. This tale echoes many other tales from South Konkan – those of Ravalnath, Betal, etc. I am unsure if the deity in the tale of my ancestor is Ravalnath or Betal or something else entirely. But the contours of the tale are very similar. In both the cases of Ravalnath and Betal, there was initial resistance to these deities from local Brahmins in the medieval times – especially due to local traditions that involved blood sacrifices and other things frowned upon by Brahmins, but over time these deities got wider acceptance – even among local Brahmins. BetalWhile Ravalnath is a Kuladevata for most Goans (all castes), Betal is a Gramadevata of some local communities. Vithoba, the popular God of Pandharpur( the annual Waari) is a very important figure of the Bhakti movement. Religious scholar and Sahitya Akademi winner RC Dhere who extensively studied Vithoba also hypotheses pre Vedic origins of Vithoba. Khandoba is another deity whose origins are similarly muddy with a range of theories explaining him as the fusion of earlier deities including Kaal Bhairav. Interestingly in the Puranic tale of Kaal Bhairav “his struggle for the atonement of Brahmanhatya” is central. Khandhoba of Jejuri remains a deity for not only the Sudra castes, but Brahmins, Jains, Lingayats, and even some Muslims including the patronage of comparatively tolerant Bijapur Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah. While it would be tempting to dismiss this as some tenuous Donigerish take, the sheer numbers of such stories spread across the country strengthen the hypothesis.

Coming back to the descendants of the uncompromising Brahmin from Vengurla. Today my extended family proudly worships all the Gramadevatas from Ichalkaranji whose origins may be very similar to the one whose foundation my ancestor had objected to. Ironically most of my paternal family follow a plethora of local Saints (in addition to the popular Bhakti Saints), whose tales of the origin have occurred within living memory and hence are far easier to negate. I would not go into rants about these Saints (esp Gajanan Maharaj) whose followers number in millions. While some traditional elite Hindus (especially Urban) are known to have disparaging views of Saints & local deities, mostly these distinctions have weathered away. It is not unlikely to find Hindus who fast on Mondays for Shiva also fast on Thursdays for some local Saint (who mostly claim intellectual or avatarish descent from Dattatraya).  Despite some initial friction, the Brahmanical thought has made its peace with such traditions. Most scholarship refers to this as – the local traditions (non-Vedic) being co-opted by Brahmanism. IMO this is an incomplete way of looking at it as it conflates organic integration which typically occurs over generations with the realization of some highly foresighted plan. Typically humans are not foresighted enough to pull off multi-generational machinations. From a multi-generation evolutionary paradigm, these would make sense but not if you take a snapshot at any particular moment in history.

With this background, we go into realms of pure speculation and come to the Post Vedic deities in Hinduism. The origin of some of these deities is highly contested – especially that of Shiva. While the Rgvedic Rudra is often said to be the precursor of Shiva, the meaning of Shiva is certainly in contrast with Rudra. Whether the Pashupati seal from IVC or other Proto-Lingas are Proto-Shiva or not will likely not be resolved till we decipher the IVC script, but these speculations seem very plausible. Even Parpola doesn’t dismiss them in his Roots of Hinduism. In addition, Parpola makes a good argument in the IVC origins of Durga with seals of Tiger riding goddesses from Kalibangan. Similarly, we can say the Dravidian Murukan and the Vedic Skanda gave rise to the Karthikeya we know today. We still don’t have any intelligent speculation about the origins of Ganesha (other than some references to Gajapati), buts it fair to assume the elephant-headed god is a pretty late addition to the Hindu pantheon. The aim here is not to discuss and speculate the origins of these deities but to guess the mechanisms of integration of these deities and customs into Brahmanism. Brahmins had a huge ritualistic/moral capital, but given the tenuous or conflicting relations they had with the Kshatriyas and other dominant castes (as seen through numerous puranic stories especially those of Parshuram) it is fair to assume Brahmins would not often get their way with subtracting traditions they found Adharmic or uncouth, yet they could continue to shape these traditions from inside with participation. Pressure both from the masses and Brahmins would’ve actively shaped the integration of these traditions for centuries to the point where it’s often hazy where Brahmanism ends and where “Non-Brahmanical” traditions begin. (This probably happened with Sramana or Proto-Sramana traditions competing with Brahmanism but that is a different discussion)

IVC goddess riding Tiger

While it is generally said Brahmanical thought absorbed the local traditions, it is equally or more appropriate to say that the village Hinduism made space for Brahmanism & tamed it – into the diverse and plural fold and this process was not complete for the entire subcontinent when Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Somnath. Scholars like to emphasize Adi-Shankara’s Advaita and Mutts, Upanishads, Rgvedic “एकं सत् विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति” as it appears sophisticated and intellectual. However, the tendency of humans to pragmatically negotiate the boundaries of their traditions (in absence of exclusionary universalist ideas) when they already have multiple modes of worship tends to be underemphasized as it appears uncouth or folk. Roman religion easily absorbed Isis and Cybele into the Roman fold but couldn’t absorb the God of Abraham. In contrast, when Christianity conquered Europe it absorbed the old gods into the Christian fold as Saints but kept them subordinate to the one true god. However, Shiva and Ganesh did not bow done to Indra, and by the time of the Puranas, the mighty Vedic Indra was reduced to an insecure and somewhat petty King of Gods.

Maybe the Brahmin elites & Sanskrit managed to maintain a cohesive identity-based on sacred geography only because they themselves were tamed in similar mechanisms by the natives of the geography. If yes, then Hindu Pluralism and Syncretism is as much a legacy of numerous lost stories as it is of the philosophical moorings of the Vedas, Itihasas, and Upanishads. 


I had been thinking along these lines since my discussion with Mukunda and Omar on the Brown-cast about the roots of Indian pluralism. While commenting please stick to the topic and be civil & constructive. I will delete off comments for this piece.

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43 thoughts on “Hindu Integration: Brahmanas and Gramadevatas”

  1. Great piece.

    The amalgamation of Vedic and non-Vedic religions has happened within historical memory in the Deccan and the South.

    In the North however (Punjab, Haryana, UP, Bihar) it happened in pre-history leading to deities such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman and Durga.

    One thing still astounds me though. There were some remarkable seers amongst the Brahmins (or later co-opted into Brahmins) who added a philosophical heft (In terms of Upanishads, the Bhagavata Gita) to the nascent Hindu faith which enabled it to absorb any other faiths it encountered and yet maintain its core ethos. Rishis like Vasishtha, Yajnavalkya etc.

    The Hindu faith which we have inherited today is a common property of all castes. This is the reason why when our rituals and customs are labelled as “Brahminism” it really is inaccurate if not outright demeaning and infantilizing.

    1. Agreed. This was a great post by Gaurav!

      And definitely wrt the genius of the Rishis and authors of the Upanishads. It really was ahead of its time in so many ways.

      I indeed always thought of Vashishta, Yajnavalkya, Bhrigu, etc… as Rishis or Sadhus rather than Brahmins. This was only something I was exposed to on Twitter where they are called Brahmins.

      I mean I guess they were but it has nothing to do with the reason of why general Hindudom respects them.

      1. True.
        I am probably wrong in calling them “Brahmins”. The Brahmin caste solidified much later than the time in which those greats lived.

      2. If not for the genius of Rishis who wrote the Upanishads etc, the native religion(s) of India would have been without the philosophical underpinnings necessary to resist Islam and Christianity.

    2. When I say Brahmanism – I tend to imply – Elite or Priest-shaped Hinduism as opposed to the broad tent of Hinduism. And historically before being co-opted for identity politics lot of scholars used the term with that specific meaning. Maybe one day the identity politics will go away and the term will remain or we will get a better term for Elite Hinduism (Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasas, and Shashtras).

      The top-down integration is often argued for – what i wanted to argue is a more dynamic two-way traffic which lead to strong bonds of masses with the religion which was further accelerated with Bhakti movement and personal god

      1. “Elite or Priest-shaped Hinduism as opposed to the broad tent of Hinduism”

        Mostly, its very hard to figure out which threads belong to one or the other in the fabric of Hinduism. What may have belonged to the broader tent of Hinduism could become mainstream and incorporated into priestly discourse. Where would you draw the line? Even in the earliest Vedic chants you see evidence of this syncretism.

        Where for instance would you put the very powerful Swaminarayan sect? Ostensibly a subaltern movement, it was started by Ghanshyam Pande, a Brahmin from Eastern UP.

        Its a very tangled web, Hinduism is, not given to neat categorization.

        IMO “Brahminism” is just vague terminology, not easily defined.

  2. This piece information explained the reason behind lots of traditions and customs while worshipping Gramdevatas for me.
    Intersting to follow!

  3. BTW a similar story to the one narrated in the post is of the “Sarayu-pareen” (literally meaning “beyond Sarayu river”) Brahmins of UP and Bihar.

    Lord Ram after having killed Ravana was crowned King and wanted to a Yagna. No Brahmin however came forward to officiate because of Sri Ram having committed “Brahma-Hatya” (Ravana had a Brahmin father).

    A group of Brahmins who eventually did agree to do the Yagna were ostracized by the rest and were settled by Sri-Rama beyond the Sarayu river and hence came to be called Sarayu-pareen Brahmins.

    The point of this story is that rulers in different parts of India have been patronizing various groups of Brahmins in order to legitimize their rule. This has been an oft-repeated pattern leading to the migration & spread of Brahmins all over India.

    1. In movie Article-15 they said that Saryu Pareen are considered low-level Brahmins somewhat like Bhumihars I guess.
      The funniest of conversations is when two 5 foot 2 inch, balding and pot-bellied Brahmin guys aggressively debate on how their lineage is superior and how both of them would never marry into the ‘lower’ gotra of the other as if they are some dream catch. Or how they would claim their ancestral rishis were ‘scientists’ who made rockets and test-tube babies! More funny is when a pujari(priest) thinks he is superior Brahmin while the non-pujari Brahmins would never marry into a priest/purohit’s family (something to do with pride about not begging). I know a brahmin guy from college(around 2010) who would ask a non-Brahmin guy to not chant Gayatri as it is forbidden for non-janeyu-dhari(sacred thread bearing) Brahmins. Brahmins are endless fun to be around! these retards are only outdone by Muslim-Brahmins(i.e. converted Brahmins).

      In our home we had a book called ‘Nitya-karma Puja Prakash’ the manual on how to do daily chores. One glance at it and you can get an idea about the deluded-ness of Brahmins who wrote it.

  4. Interesting piece. One thing it misses out on, which is a common enough thing to overlook, is how significant a proportion Iranic paganism is of the content of N Indian Hinduism.

    There is a non-trivial amount in Northern Hinduism that is really a preservation of Iranic motifs, likely both pre- and post-Zoroastrian elements (and ultimately Zoroastrianism itself). Likely that śaivism itself has remnants of the old Iranic/Bactrian cult of Oesho.

    The Iranic (really Turanic) contribution to the creation of the Sanskrit cosmopolis is a hugely under-studied area of Indology. Hinduism might as well be the Turanian’s last sigh as it is the last breath of the Meluhhans.

    1. I must say I haven’t followed that in detail except for some moderate reading in which Sakas, Kushanas, and Indo-Greeks were integrated (Kushana coins with Oesho/Siva).
      I was going to cover some of that in some other piece maybe if I get enough intuition/insight on the Yavana-interactions along with Sramana interactions – which r a lot more researched.

      The Iranic (really Turanic) contribution to the creation of the Sanskrit cosmopolis is a hugely under-studied area of Indology. Hinduism might as well be the Turanian’s last sigh as it is the last breath of the Meluhhans.


  5. “Saryu Pareen are considered low-level Brahmins somewhat like Bhumihars”
    This is nonsense. I don’t think you can take a movie’s word for it.

    Contrary to your view about unfit, pot-bellied Brahmins, Saryu Pareens have excelled in military service since times immemorial. The famed Purabiya soldiers in the armies of various Maratha principalities were largely SarayuPareen Brahmins. The army of the British East India company which conquered all of India including the Sikh empire and went on expeditions to Afghanistan also had a large representation of Sarayu Pareen Brahmins.

    Infact, the overwhelming majority of British troops in the Anglo-Sikh wars were actually Purabiya sepoys – for example, in the battle of Ferozeshah: 12,000 soldiers of the entire 18,000 total British force were Purbiyas.

    “The Bengal Army of the East India Company preferred to recruit its sepoys from the Brahmins and Rajputs of Awadh and Bihar, in part because they had an average height of 5’8″, an important consideration in an army that valued impressive appearance amongst its soldiers.”

    Native soldiers’ nickname of “Pandy” came from the ubiquitous “Pandeys” which made up the soldiery.

    The sepoy revolt of 1857 made the Britishers stop recruitment from Eastern UP and Bihar and replace it with Punjabi and Pashtun recruitment.

    However, happy to say that now Eastern UP and Bihar again contribute very heavily to the armed forced and Saryupareen Brahmins are well represented with regards to their population.

    Brahmins are gentlemen by choice. 😛
    Seedhe hain to Ram Ram,
    Palat gaye to Parashu-rama.

  6. “The army of the British East India company which conquered all of India including the Sikh empire and went on expeditions to Afghanistan also had a large representation of Sarayu Pareen Brahmins.”

    I mean , no one takes that much pride in their own colonization though. Apart from Punjabis and Bengalis

    “Brahmins are gentlemen by choice”

    Not by choice, i can completely assure 🙂

    1. Sorry, I should have mentioned that I was wrote all the above not to take pride in the fact that Brahmins fought for the East India Company but to show that the image of Brahmins as pot-bellied, unfit folk is wrong.

      In areas of India where the Brahmins are in pretty small minorities (most of the South, Punjab etc) such an image makes sense. In UP and Bihar however Brahmins are present in great numbers and soldiering has ever been a common occupation throughout history.

      For what its worth, it was the mostly Brahmin army of the EIC which did revolt in 1857. Without Brahmin support the rebellion of the petty kings and Zamindars of North and Central India would have fizzled out in a few days.

  7. Gaurav, the history of South Indian Hinduism is not Brahmanas vs Gramadevatas but rather Shaivism vs Vaishnavism. The integration you describe for MH and the Konkan region is not relevant in the South. Rather the history of Southern Hinduism is marked by a lack of integration between Shaivites and Vaishnavites – from the modern era to the historic era to the ancient.

    The Dravidian parties are described as anti-Hindu by media (or the patented Word Smash of Saurav “less Hindu”). I would call them anti-Vaishnavite. There are many DMK members who wear Tripundra on their foreheads, on their vehicles or the walls of their homes. In 1971, Periyar and his acolytes carried out a procession in Salem showing some pictures of Siva and Parvati in a iconoclastic manner. Karunanidhi, the then CM, warned DK in a public speech. This was a first – K had never objected to Vinayak idol smashings or Rama beatings. In fact, in common Tamil parlance – Naamam Pottachu (wearing a UrdhvaPundra) means “getting cheated/to cheat”.

    In Karnataka, the Lingayats have been agitating for a religious identity separate from Hinduism since 1950 and in 2018, Congress supported them. They are influenced by Basavanna, who in turn was inspired by the Nayanar Saints of TN. The most famous deity in South India (after Lord Venkata of Tirupati) is Ayyappa Swamy in Kerala. He is a product of the union of Siva and Vishnu. One can speculate on the societal need to create him.

    The Nayanar Saints, patronized by the Cholas were one of the originators of the Bhakti movement along with their competitors – Alvars, the Vaishnavite saints. The Cholas built the most massive temples ever in India today – all dedicated to Shiva. However in the Sangam era texts (4th-5th century BCE), we find worship of Vishnu (Thirumal) and Krishna (Mayon), patronized by the Pandya chieftains in Madurai. In the famous novel by Kalki, Ponniyin Selvan, there is a subplot between Shaivites and Vaishnavites in addition to the main plot, Cholas vs a remnant clan of the Pandyas.

    If we go back into ancient times, it is mentioned that Sundarar, one of the Saivite Nayanars, belonged to the Bharadvaja clan. Now Bharadvaja the Rishi is the father of Dronacharya who fought on the side of Kauravas. And there is a Sangam era text that mentions that Pandyan kings in ancient times had fought along side Arjuna.

    So we have a continuously attested story of internecine and philosophical war between Shiva worshippers and Vishnu adherents that marks the Hindu geography of the South. For these reasons, I have very little confidence in universal statements regarding Brahmin elitism and integration – they may indeed have some local significance. Change the region – and you have a totally different dynamic.

    1. “So we have a continuously attested story of internecine and philosophical war between Shiva worshippers and Vishnu adherents that marks the Hindu geography of the South.”


    2. Ugra, do you think its possible that the vaishnava-shaiva antagonism could be attributed to the condition that a high “institutional” hinduism (fittingly adapted to imperial hindu polities) only existed in the south and not elsewhere? As such, the sectarian interaction that may have played out on the folk level was politically magnified. The tamil country may have exported bhakti, but not for lack of grandiose seminaries and temples. The northern temple tradition always strikes me as so intimate in comparison. Its as if one is opera and the other is the blues.
      The deccan is an interesting case, where its said that family and clan gods are almost exclusively shaiva or shakti-devis, but hugely popular vaishnava traditions like pandharpur vitthal are more recent overlays. The latter, some claim, is originally a shaiva-related tradition reinterpreted as a vaishnava one. Perhaps we are seeing something similar in the transformation of ambabai —> mahalakshmi .Btw, much like what you say of ayyappa, we have the dattatreya tradition in the deccan that is a synthesis of the trinity.

      1. @Girmit

        Absolutely – institutional Shaivism is a feature of the South. It is not surprising that the Tamil word for temple is “Kovil” (literally, home of the King).

        1. Also worth noting the support of the Vijayanagara Empire to several well-renowned Hindu monasteries that produced a lot of literature and wielded influence. These monasteries competed with each other for influence and patronage, and had their own area of influence. Another form of high institutionalized Hinduism in the South.

    3. In the case of Saivism and Vaishnavism – it would be two elite systems competing with each other – Same with Basavanna – Even thought they are opponents on mainstream thought they would be thought Elite in their own way.
      I thought of Basavanna but thought it better to cover him with Sramanas and other Nastika (Though Elite – thought elite interactions)

      What I am trying to allude to in the piece is the interactions of An Elite strain and a local strain – and how it would be two ways instead of one-way traffic. I would bet (with low odds) for similar interactions in the Sagman era responsible for the spread of Vedic thought down south. (the obvious assumption here being Vedic/elite hindu thought was of Indo-Gangetic origin – works with or without Aryan invasion )

      1. Gaurav, do you think it is a mere co-incidence that one of the two great Itihasaas is about a Northern Kshatriya Vaishnavite Prince fighting a Southern Saivite Brahmin King?

        If you remove the all the layers of dharma, ethics, legends – at the core you have a historical memory of the South being a Saivite stronghold – a fact that is also attested in Puranas that Ravana (gatekeeper of Vishnu in earlier birth) was cursed by Vishnu to be born as his enemy. And what is he born as? A Saivite in the South!!

        To this day, there are exclusively Saiva worshipping large communities of Brahmins and OBCs in the South (>40% of the population). They make it a point to never to go to a Vishnu temple. This is one of the reasons why RJB movement had very trivial impact (political or social) even among the Brahmin/Kshatriya elites in TN and Karnataka.

        If you start with the assumption that the elites were from the Indo-Gangetic plains merging with local strains, you can never explain the primacy of Brahmins in the exclusive Saivite school (Nayanar Saints, Ramayana Itihaasa etc). The truth is elsewhere. This is one of the reasons I have a very low impression of AIT and the theories of Western Indologists, who overlook everyday realities for paper theories.

        The lack of integration defines the South – and you should publish some material on Saivites vs Vaishnavites before Brahmanas vs Sramanas.

    4. @Ugra
      \The Dravidian parties are described as anti-Hindu by media (or the patented Word Smash of Saurav “less Hindu”). I would call them anti-Vaishnavite.\

      There is some truth in what you say. The steam power and personnel for drav movement was and is provided by castes which swear allegience to saivism – to Saiva Siddhanta in particular. The pivotal figure in this is Maraimalai Adigal aka Swami Vedachalam whose influence in Tamil cultural landscape in the 20th C is enormous. He joined hands with E.V.Ramasamy Naicker – aka Periyar to followers. Actually it is funny – Adigal kept vehemently opposing atheist EVR since he thought EVR was a crypto-Vaishavite out to confuse saivites. Then he found out EVR was really an atheist and more than that he really hated brahmins.

      More than saivite -vaishnavite rivalry , there is a language angle. Adigal was the founder of Pure Tamil movement whose aim was to cast out sanskrit influence from Tamil . Brahmins as reps and bearers of Sankritic culture and religion could easily be ‘othered’. Brahmin-Sanskrit hatred was the strategic axis around which Vedachalam and EVR united . EVR was basically a street corner rabble rouser and he had no clue where did he get so much support , if not support aquiscence and sympathy.

      There are lot of problems in casting Saiva Siddhanta as only Tamil or having no influence of sanskrit or brahmins. Anyhow that myth was and is propogated. Saiva Siddhanta owes much to Kashmiri Saivism. That combined with devotionalism of tamil saivite poets called Nayanmar , created SS. Till 19th C , SS writings were much influenced by sanskrit. Saivism in Tamilnadu was as orthodox i.e. Puranas, Varnas and whole Sanskrit caboodle as any other cult in India , except that they had a huge Tamil component.

      This neo-saiva Siddhanta created by Swami Vedachalam is a 20th C phenomenon and supports ridiculous theories like Lemuria so as to maintain how Tamil and Tamils, whose ethnic religion it considers itself to be, are separate and superior to rest of Indians and Hindus. they live in their own echo chambers. Vaguely like Nation of Islam which considers a putative White Scientist downgrading the Black Race after 6000 years of prosperity. The neo-SS provides the social fuel to the dravidian movement

      1. @VijayVan

        Correct, also Rajaji’s (Vaishnavite) outsized role in the Madras State and being the first CM of Tamilnadu did not help at all! He performed the role of a magnetic pole that aligned all the Saivite forces into a movement…like the Kula Kalvi Scheme, Hindi education etc. He was also EVR’s personal lawyer and that confused a lot of people.

        The neo-Saivite movement today lacks intellectual heft and is composed of the flotsam and debris of TN politics – Vaiko, Seeman, Jagath Gasper etc. The public understands that these are just posers and have no real affinity for any of the Saivite traditions.

        1. This is a fascinating topic indeed. Ugra I won’t touch it as I am clearly out of depth here. Maybe later. What is the recommended reading on this?

          1. Gaurav, for starters, you can go through the articles on this website. It is owned by Shri R Nagaswamy – well known historian and archaeologist who retired from public service. He is quite famous and will give you a ringside view of the events of the past 2000 years.


        2. \Kula Kalvi Scheme, Hindi education etc. He was also EVR’s personal lawyer\
          Kula kalvi is a false label invented by EVR in 1953 to denigrate Rajaji’s New Education Scheme in 1953 wherein a child can help his/her father for a few hours to get some marks. Nothing casteist or brahminical about it. But it was projected as casteist successfully by EVR. Kula kalvi is the wrong name for Rajaji’s scheme ,neither on paper or in practice invented as a political slur ,

          Hindi Education, Rajaji was a regular Cngressman and Congress party before 1947 or after had a policy to have Hindi as Link language. Rajaji as a Congressman wanted to teach Hindi in schools in 1938 , but was opposed to ‘Hindi Imposition’ in 1965, wheras EVR was FOR Hindi Imposition in 1965. Rajaji was not EVR’s personal lawyer; they were lifelong friends from their beginnings in Erode

          1. Probably, but in politics…..

            Rajaji did a lot of legal advising, he drew up EVR’s will and also initiated that disastrous PR marriage to Maniyammai for legal reasons.

  8. G, pretty interesting writing which probably we will revisit when we start our next discussion topic (after genetics and linguistics and before toponyms). If the first ‘draft’ of Rg Veda (we are still waiting someone to analyse the title or, at least, to cite Tallageri!) came from ‘outside’, it means that similar elements of mythology already existed somewhere. It is a stretched connection btw Hinduism and Romans with a big, invisible hole in between…Cybele is the Phrygian (i.e. Brygian) goddess of nature. We already confirmed (remember a guy with wide shoulders?) the word loans from Brygian into ‘classical’ Greek, for e.g. the word PIR which is also present in many SA languages (and which origin we will explain). Wiki says that Cybele was in Greece worshiped as Gaea. But this is actually ‘Gaya’ and it has a specific, original and older meaning in a certain language.

    The question is – what was the (religious and linguistic) connection btw Brygians, Greeks, Romans, SAsians and others, where and when it came from. SA scholars and pundits are not ready yet to touch these unexplored areas.

  9. Amazing article Gaurav.

    I would like to add one point:

    Every pooja that I have encountered has a ritual to pray to and perform ahavan (invitation to the pooja) for the gramadevta. So essentially if you are now living in a new village, you had to invite the grama devata of the new village to the pooja.

    I think this can thought of another way where vedic practices were incorporated by others and were made native.

  10. In the open thread, muslims are becoming Krishna Bhakt, and in this thread Dravidians being shiv bhakt, looks like only we N-Indian hindus are missing out.

  11. @GauravL

    Perhaps your Fobby-ness crept through with the spelling of “Segway” — phonics don’t help in certain cases, the actual word is segue. Just gave me a chuckle, lol.

  12. Much of it (Vaishnav vs Shavism) thing is overblown. Convenient answers being looked for to answer the region’s less Hindu-ness vis-v North.

    “Oh we are not less Hindu, we are just more Shaivite” . LOL

    At least the Left, in the North acknowledges its powerless-ness against religion. But our Southern trads still seem to live in their cocoon, thinking about the glory days against Dravidian-ism.

  13. The Indo Gangetic plain is characterized by comparatively higher proportion of Brahmins and varna Kshatriyas. I see echoes of peter turchin’s Elite over production. The end result is that Indo/gangetic plain has not had a historically attested bhumiputra Dynasty in power after the Mauryas. Some people can live in their delusions that this makes them more Hindu?. The Deccan and southern Bhumiputras know it is a power rivalry. My written family history goes back to before 1100 during which the family went from being nominally Jains to being lingayats. Other lingayats were nominally Hindu Shudras before. What is common is the angst against northern control of trade and concomitant control of meta religious and state institutions. Another common thing is continued devotion to kuldevatas. While most kuldevatas are indeed Shaivite, I don’t think it is necessarily Vaishnavite vs Shaivite. It’s northern elite vs southern bhumiputras.

    1. @Bhumiputra

      Your account is very interesting. During the time of the Tevaram trio (Appar-Sambandar-Sundarar) in the 7th century, the main advisers to the Pallavas, Pandyas were Jaina monks. They had great expertise in medicine and logic but were also very insensitive to local traditions and frequently dissing the local populace in matters of administration. The kings patronised the Jaina monks but did not heed the concerns of the populace. So the Tevaram trio were indeed riding a wave of public anger. Starting with the Pallava kings of Kanchi who reconverted to Saivism, they also persuaded the Pandyas.

      Between the 5th and 7th century, the elites of the middle regions of current Tamilnadu and the areas around Kanchi were solidly Jain-oriented.

  14. If one didn’t know the politics of S-India and the role of Hinduism (or the lack there of) within it, one would just assume ,S-India as some sort of Mecca of Hinduism, if we just go by the word of Southern trads.

  15. Can you try to describe a dating of these trends you see in the ancient past into Kali Yuga, Dvaapara Yuga, Treta Yuga, Krita Yuga? One or more of the 27 prior Chaturyugas in our Manvantara? One or more of the six Manvantaras? Prior days of Brahma?

    The ancients were meditators who experienced subjective conciousness correlated with pscychodelic raptures which allowed awareness of parts of the brain and nervous system that most are not concious of.

    Are you familiar with the latest scientific literature on the brain with respect to conciousness, telepathy, telekinesis, remote viewing and pre cognition?

    Rig Veda Samhitas are partly brain sound therapy to facilitate subjective experiences of conciousness and cognitive abilities beyond the scope of general intelligence. They also partly describe visions induced by meditative pychodelic practices.

    How would you categorize the Varnas (if that is even possible) for the matsya, kurma, varaha, narasimha, vaamana avataaras?

    Obviously Rama, Krishna and Buddha were not born to Brahmin varna parents.

    How would you categorize the various species (or speculated inter-dimensional entities) described in the old stories by Varna if that is even possible:
    —Sapta Rishi
    —Gaja-indraaṇaam (as opposed to ordinary Gajas or elephants)
    —Yaadasaam (water creatures)

  16. A vey interesting article. I come from a fairly conventional brahmin family with Shantidurga Parameshwari as kula devi. I married a girl whose family had gramadevas as kula devas, hers was Ayyanar (A married Ayyanar with Purna and Pushkala, not the brahmachari, Ayyapan) and one of her uncles had Karupaswamy as Kula deva.

    In her Kula deva temple complex, there was also a shrine to Madurai Veeran, another hero god. In some temple visits around, I also saw Sudalai Maadan, another local deity. It was quite enlightening at the time.

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