This is nonsense. Brahmans were rulers (the Peshwas), moneylenders, landlords (in Tamilnadu for instance but all over India). Even in ancient India the Jatakas show large Brahman landlords. There is no historical substance to the claim of Brahman poverty. From early on, rulers were giving landgrants to Brahmans,
by Farida Majid
Brahmins were not rich people in the pre-colonial India. That is how the caste system was meant to work.
Money handlers were the Banya, the traders, the Saodagors, the shopkeepers, etc. The workers were the wealth producers, and though they were the lower castes, Brahmins had no power to snatch the fruit of their labor because the priestly caste was restricted from doing that by strict Shastriya laws.
Hindu kings and princes were of Kshatriya caste. Even the rich temple managers, those who were at the gate, receiving money, alms and gifts from the devotees, were surprisingly non-Brahmans.
Brahmins and economy were kept as far away from each other as possible. Brahmins were to lead an austere life, be devoted scholars, and do priestly duties for the community.Brahmins were strictly prohibited from engaging in commerce.
There were, of course, thieves and thugs among Brahmins. When caught thieving Brahmins were to be punished 16 times the punishment that a shudra would normally receive for the same crime. For certain crimes, such as stealing food stuffs like a juicy cuke from the vine of someone else's garden, a Brahmin would be punished less than a shudra, or not punished at all based on the logic that the poor Brahmin had no means of livelihood other than begging or what he received as fee for his priestly duties.
It is the British who invented in their fertile 19th century imagination (curiously, not before their colonial intentions of gobbling rich India) the unreal formula of upper caste equals upper class.
In Mughal India the potters, weavers, fishermen, washermen, dairy men, and even ordinary
farmers were economically better off than a poor Brahmin.
The British not only looted our wealth, but did something no other looter of India did. They
destroyed our wealth-producing economic system, and then institutionalized the caste
system as an empty shell of social oppression.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was of a Banya caste. He was not a Brahmin and hence had no
firsthand knowledge of Sanskrit and the Shastra or the Hindu jurisprudence. He had no authority to make pronouncements on whether or not caste system could be abolished, or that it was "an integral part of Hinduism." Had he been a learned Brahmin with some command of Shastra and the laws, he could have and should have boldly opted for abolishing the caste system seeing that it served no useful economic purpose any longer.
A generation before Gandhi there were learned Brahmins, and I know of one, who
strongly proposed the abolition of the caste system. But I doubt the British would let go of an
instrument to beat the poor with, one that they could innocently claim not to have "invented."
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