By providing a credible alternative to Brahmanic tradition, Dr. AH Salunkhe, a scholar of Sanskrit and of Bahujan tradition, brought about a new wave of social consciousness and change in Maharashtra. He is the writer of the much-acclaimed Marathi book Balivansh. We present here excerpts of an interview with Dr. Salunkhe by Prabhakar Dhage, a senior journalist of Goa and Resident Editor of Marathi newspaper Pudhari.
The Establishment has been using legends and fables to befool the Bahujans. In your book Balivansh, you have exposed the vicious attempt at Brahmanisation and distortion of Bahujan gods. What was your objective behind writing this book?
Bali Raja admired even his opponents. This was his strength. According to the pundits, he was an enemy of the Vedas and hence his annihilation was necessary; whereas, even in the Ramayana, Bali Raja has been highly praised. He ensured the equitable distribution of wealth among his subjects. In his regime, the reward was proportionate to the labour. Bali Raja was killed by Vaman by deceit. It was an assault on Bahujan culture. Brahmins did not want Bali Raja’s culture to prosper and grow. An example of this is the Onam festival of Kerala. In Maharashtra too, Vaman was thrust upon the Bahujans. It is said that Vaman banished Bali Raja to Pataal (the subterranean world). But he lives on in the hearts of the Bahujans.
In Maharashtra, on the day of Diwali, women perform the aarti of their brothers and say Ida Pida Tallo Aani Balicha Rajya Yevo (May you get rid of your problems. May the rule of Bali Raja come).This meansthat the Bahujans are still attached to Bahujan tradition and to Bali Raja.
Bali Raja did not accept the concepts of Ved Pramanya, Chaturyavarna and Yagnayaag – concepts that form the bedrock of the Vedic tradition. If our sisters wish for the return of Bali Raja’s rule, it definitely means that he was one of our great ancestors. Here two things are important: 1) Bali is an ancestor of the non-Vedic people. 2) If your ancestor was virtuous, it does not mean that you should just keep on flaunting his greatness.
It is wrong to hail those who murdered our ancestor – an ancestor who was virtuous and who was a protagonist of justice and equality. Vaman killed him by deceit. Then, why should we accept Vaman, who had no morals? Instead, it is our duty to bring the real facts about Bali before the people. Vaman had sought land which he could cover in three steps from Bali. What did he actually seek? His three steps covered Vedas, Yagnas and Vani (voice). These three were used to crush the Bahujans. Our king was killed by deceit. Therefore, we have to brush aside all the three.
In Balivansh, how do you view the old stories?
Even animals are not ready to be sacrificed in Yagnas. But our people are ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of rituals. They need to be made aware of their real history. By looking at our past, we can understand our present better and it will show us the path we should take in the future.This is the objective behind writing the book. For thousands of years, we have been working like animals but still happiness has eluded us, even our basic needs were not fulfilled, and that was because of the Brahmanical system. The coming generations need to understand this.
Once they understand this, their confidence levels will rise. Their life will change. The cobwebs in their minds – which has been mortgaged for years – will be removed. The Bahujans will be delivered, emancipated. Balivansh is an attempt to bring to the fore the culture of the Bahujans through Bali.
The Bali festival was being celebrated in Maharashtra for long. But after your book Balivansh came out, the celebrations have taken a bigger form.
I am not trying to take credit for anything but I want to tell the reformers that if you put your heart into your work, people will definitely support you. There will be problems, of course, but if you work objectively, change will come. This is my belief. The changes that have come about through Balivansh are an example. The youth must take on the failures. They should not try to retreat in the face of failures.
(Translated into Hindi from Marathi original by Shyam Tarke, Wardha)
Published in the October 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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