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DISCOVERY OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL
Marxist propaganda of the Brahmins as the wicked landowners oppressing the poor
untouchables, is an exaggeration that is seldom true. Most of the landowners in India are
not Brahmins, which was never their traditional occupation. In classical India few groups
aspired to become Brahmins any more than the average medieval European peasant wanted to
become a priest. The powerful Kshatriya or the wealthy Vaishya was the social ideal.
I remember when a western friend first came to India. He saw porters
carrying luggage for wealthier Indians and remarked how the Brahmins were still using the
poorer people as servants. Though he was not a leftist, he was so influenced by the
anti-Brahmin propaganda that he assumed that the rich people were Brahmins and their
wealth was based on caste, which was not the case at all. When I informed him of his error
he was surprised.
Untouchability is also misunderstood. It was originally a matter of
social purity, reflecting the principle of non-violence. Brahmins could not eat out of
utensils in which meat or other impure food articles had been cooked. This led to a ban on
eating with non-Brahmins; particularly those who had impure forms of livelihood like
butchers. This led eventually to a ban on association with such people.