The Layered Life — Hinduism

I don’t live in an illusionary world. I don’t believe money isn’t important. But at the same time, I don’t screw my nose when I see poor kids crowding outside a restaurant or a temple hoping to get some food (which is probably going to be their only meal of the day). I don’t date men just because they are rich. I don’t befriend rich people if I see they are assholes. I am real. I know the reality. And it can be managed – meaning, you can be good, you can have ethics and principles without being a hypocrite fuckhead.

Having been born in a devout Hindu family, I saw Hindu customs followed thoroughly & sincerely and witnessed all its idiosyncrasies in its most natural form, including the caste system / caste obsession.

As I’ve grown up and read about other religions, met people living vastly different lives from the one I saw at home, it has confirmed my belief that the Hindu caste system sucks donkey’s balls.

I did think earlier, while convincing myself that the caste system was formed eventually by the people who wanted political and economic control, but I can’t fool myself because the evidences of it in the many main Hindu texts discard this possibility.

I finished reading The Mahabharata a couple of days back. While it is an overwhelming highly recommended read for everybody, I hate to admit how very-normally, in a very matter-of-but-natural way, it demeans the ‘lower caste’ people from the ‘upper caste’ people, and how one’s birth determines almost everything about a person. If you’re born low, you’ll always be low irrespective of your deeds. I’ll briefly mention two incidents from The Mahabharata below and then talk about other incidents.

Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.

These are such serious issues that it’s difficult to believe that they exist in revered texts.

Incident 1 –

The forest of Varnavata where the 5 Pandava brothers were sent by their conniving uncle Dhritrashtra and cousins. Pandavas were supposed to live in a house built here for them. This house had been made from inflammable material. Their plan was to burn down the house at midnight when all the 5 brothers would be fast asleep in it, so that they would burn to death.

The Pandavas received warning about this and planned an escape route. However, they felt it important to leave behind 6 human bodies within the house so that when people would inspect the burnt remains of the house the morning after the massacre, they would be convinced of the death of the Pandavas and of their mother Kunti.

Now, to solve this ‘serious’ problem, Yudhishthira, the eldest brother who is so popular for his honesty, kindness and righteousness, agrees to allow a poor Nishada woman and her 5 sons in the house. They, by the way, had come to them on the eve of the massacre, begging for a resting place and food for a night, asking for their merciful godliness! (Nishadas are lower-caste people.)

Yidhishthira allows them to stay in the house, secretly planning to use them as guinea pigs for this ‘great’ plan.

That evening, when the Nishada woman and her 5 sons fell asleep in the Pandavas’ house (probably blessing the Pandavas for their charity), the 5 brothers and their mother Kunti escape from the house minutes before it is burnt down by a man hired by their cousin Duryodhana.

It is confirmed in the text that the Nishada woman and her 5 sons get burnt and die.

Nowhere, I repeat nowhere, in the text thereafter do we see the Kind and Honest Yudhisthira or his brothers or their mother sparing one single thought to the innocent Nishada family and their unnecessary victimization in a battle that wasn’t theirs.

Incident 2 –

When the 5 Pandava brothers were young and learning the art of warfare under the tutelage of Dronacharya, Arjuna (the 3rd Pandava brother) was the most superior archer of them all and was greatly loved by his teacher.

One day, while going through a forest, the brothers found a young boy firing arrows with more skill and art than our dear Arjuna. When asked who his teacher is, the boy (named, Ekalavya) says his teacher his Dronacharya. This wasn’t exactly true because the great Drona had refused to teach Ekalavya because Ekalavya was born in a lower caste and also couldn’t have paid the high fees demanded by Dronacharya. So Ekalavya just learnt archery by watching Dronacharya performing it.

Wasn’t he a genius!

Arjuna became insecure at seeing someone better than him and asked Dronacharya to stop him. Worried about his job security, Dronacharya devises a cruel method to stop Ekalavya from outshining Arjuna. By asking Ekalavya to pay his fees by cutting off his thumb!

Thus maimed, Ekalavya was out of the path to glory for Arjuna – the upper caste boy.

The Natya Shastra

The Natya Shastra is an old text that is a kind of a rule book for the art of theatre. Like everything else of theatre, it devotes considerable focus on ‘language’. It mentions how language should come off of real life too.

And thus, it very normally goes on to state the different levels of language that are to be used by different castes and classes of people, as per their caste!

For example, a Brahmin male is allowed usage of certain words that a Brahmin female and all other ‘lower’ people in the caste pyramid are not allowed to use. Similarly, a Brahmin woman can use certain words that no one below her can use.


A Custom of Death –

There’s a Hindu custom. I have seen it practised in my family too.

When someone dies, after the 13-day mourning ritual, it is customary to purify the room where the deceased lived (and died). The last of the purification steps is to invite a beggar to the room. You just pick any random beggar off the street. And you serve him a complete lunch meal in the room of the deceased. You give him a gift too. And send him off.

Why this?

Because the beggar symbolically absorbs all the remaining negativity left by the death.

Having given the chance to have a full square meal – which is a near-impossible treat for them most of their lives – no beggar ever refuses this chance. They probably don’t even know why they are being given this royal, loving treatment.

It’s not because we give a fuck about their hunger; it’s because we don’t!

I still remember when we followed this custom on the death of my grandmother, the 18-19 year old handicapped boy (the beggar) was so happy at being given food and a gift inside a house so grand, he couldn’t have imagined before what things we keep inside houses that are beyond the pavement corners that he called a ‘house’ all his life, and by people who till now and after today would kick him away like a germ. Not exaggerating, he was shaking with happiness!

The rich, thus literally stave off the bad vibes and negativity on to a poor person.

Do you find this sickening like I do?


One thought on “The Layered Life — Hinduism

  1. That’s a great thing that you are real and practical in life. I also feel cast system is a severe disease in Hinduism. You mentioned very good incidents from Mahabharata, and that book is filled with many incidents like those. For eg. Karan, the ” illegal ” son of kunti never got respect from anyone due to being a ‘sut-putra’, a lower class in society and even he got a punishment (shraap) from his guru for telling a lie that he is a brahmin, a upper class.
    The second incidence is about the God Krishna, that he himself was in the side of so called Dharma is with pandavas but he gave his complete army to adharama is kauravas and that army was completely destroyed by Arjuna, my question is that in that army the soldiers were only praja of Krishna but what was their mistake that they got punishment.
    There are many major issues in Indian society which are directly connected to great dharmas of Indian culture, specially non equality and injustice towards females either they are upper class or lower class are the same whatever religion they belong Hinduism, Islam or Christianity or any else.
    But be true, honest, real in your thoughts and even alone you can make a change, not in society may be in someone’s life.
    Best of luck.

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