Skip to main content

Imagine! Lord Ram, a Kshatriya, didn't have 'right' to convert tribals into Brahmins

Shukleshwar Mahadev temple in Anaval village
By Rajiv Shah/ The other day, I was informally talking with a younger friend on caste situation in Gujarat. In order to explain how caste has taken shape, he told me his own example. “I am supposed to be Anavil Brahmin”, as he said this, I wondered where these Brahmins are placed in the Brahmin caste hierarchy, which is known to be pretty rigid, and has many sub-castes.
This friend – whom I don’t want to name in order not to embarrass him (I know he does not believe in casteism in either traditional sense of the term) – said, “Well, I don’t think they are among the top of the caste ladder.” Then, he went to explain to be me the myth that is prevailing about the origin of the Anavils.
Pointing out that all Anavil Brahmins belong to a village called Anaval in the Mahuva taluka of Surat district of South Gujarat, he said, “We were all said to tribals. According to this story, when Lord Ram reached Gujarat after he was wandering around in forests during his 14 year long exile, he decided to offer meal to Brahmins in Anavil.”
“However”, this friend continued, “When the Lord found that they were all tribals in Anaval, in order to offer them them, he converted them all into Brahmins. So we are all originally South Gujarat tribals turned into Brahmins by Lord Ram, if this story is to be believed.”
A few minutes later, this friend returned back to me to tell me with another anecdote. He said, according to this story, as Lord Ram found that there were “no Brahmins in Anaval village, he decided to import Brahmins from Benaras.”
So far off? I wondered. It would have taken several days for the messenger to reach Benaras, and another several days for them to come to Anaval. Interesting, indeed. “Yes, interesting”, he said, smiling, but continued. “They reached Anaval, accepted meal from the Lord. They stayed put, married tribal women, and we are all supposed to be their descendants.”
As I was interested in what all he said, I decided to look up on the web to find out what the myth is all about. Anaval is a large village, with a gram panchayat, and has a population of about 7,000 people and around 1,500 households.
My friend had already confirmed, Anavil Brahmins have been “bhumihars”, a landowning class of agriculturists, a job which Brahmins are not supposed perform – the site also stated confimed. But what surprised me was, Wikipedia, the popular site which is authored by individuals “citing” references, sought to deny that they were made Brahmins by Lord Ram.
Undermining a Lord’s power? I was taken aback. Wikipedia reads, “It is wrongly attributed that they were made Brahmins by Bhagwan Ram. Bhagwan Ram was Kshatriya by varna and was not allowed to perform any ritual as per varna system in those days. Even if he was seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, he had to rely on sage Vasishtha for rituals for himself and his kingdom so how come he could have performed ritual to convert Anavils to Brahmins?”
Now this was terribly interesting. Much against what the Hindutva propagandists that there was no casteism in ancient, here were Wikepedia “authors” (I am sure they must be Anavils) emphatically stating that casteism existed thousands of years ago. Imagine! Casteism in those was so strong that even Lord Ram didn’t have the “right” to make anyone Brahmin, a higher caste than Kshatriya, to which the Lord belonged! Wow!
Be that as it may, the site continues, “The fact is Anavil Brahmins are originally from Bihar and they came to Surparka kingdom in Konkan region with Bhagwan Parahuram who is sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Anavil Brahmins are not performing any rituals the same way bhumihar Brahmins are not performing in different parts of India.”
This argument is based on the premise that they come from Parshubhumi – the land between Vapi and Tapi in Gujarat, and “dominate” in the Parshubhumi – Valsad, Navsari and Surat districts of the state, “where they have been significant land-owners and have an influential role in politics.”
A blogger site by one Anup Desai seeks to give more “details” on this. It says, “Based on my research with due diligence, I'm convinced to believe that Anavils are from ancient Surparka kingdom that existed from Narmada river to Raigad district of present day Maharashtra. That kingdom was established from Lord Parshuram.”
However, this site does not stop here. It goes so far as to say that “historically speaking, Anavils are Baloch tribe and that's the reason why they don't get united too often as traditionally they are fiercely independent due to their background and ancestry. Baloch tribe travelled from present day Baluchistan to Bhojpur in Bihar and from there it scattered into different directions in India.”
The blogger site considers present-day Anavils having the same “independent” trait of the Baluchs. It says, “I see even now that Anavils are very different in their thinking, and even culturally from other Gujarati castes. In fact, I was told many times that I am not like typical Gujarati and being an Anavil… It is very natural as Anavil's genes are not the same as other typical Gujarati castes.”

Comments

TRENDING

Dangerous trend? Castes, communities making efforts to infiltrate IAS at entry level

Inside IAS academy, Mussoori By Rajiv Shah/ The other day, I was talking to a former colleague of the Times of India, Ahmedabad. I have known him as one of the reasonable and rational journalists. He later served in a TV. When in TV, he would often tell me anecdotes of how they would report events if they failed to reach the spot on time: “We would just say, here the attack took place, and that was the place from where the attackers attacked.”

When Ahmed Patel opined: It's impossible to win a poll in Gujarat if you're a Muslim

By Rajiv Shah/ Ahmed Patel has passed away. It is indeed sad that he became another Covid victim, like thousands of others across the world. His loss appears to have been particularly felt in the Congress corridors. I know how some party leaders from Gujarat would often defend him even if one “negative” remark was made on him. “I personally cannot tolerate any criticism of Ahmedbhai”, Shaktisinh Gohil, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, appointed Bihar in charge ahead of recent assembly polls, told me about a couple of years ago during a tete-e-tete in Ahmedabad.

World of Mahabharata is stacked against women, today things aren't much different

Controversial American Indologist Audrey Truschke , associate professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University, Newark, in a detailed essay, “The living Mahabharata”, points to how “immorality, sexism, politics, war” in the “polychromatic Indian epic pulses with relevance to the present day”.  ***