Caste-based discrimination and untouchability have been the cornerstones of the Indian social order and their religious sanction has been questioned time and again. In the 19th century, Jotirao Phule pioneered the tradition of digging the truth out from the mass of disinformation through deconstruction of myths. Prominent among those who took this tradition forward in the 20th century were Dr Ambedkar and Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu. Here, Kanwal Bharti reviews Jigyasu’s work, Ishwar aur Uske Gudde.
Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu’s book Ishwar aur Uske Gudde came out in 1959. A decade had passed since India attained freedom from the slavery of the British. The Brahmins were in the control of the government and political power. They began enslaving people’s minds with religious education. This did not hurt the dwij castes, for they were in power and privileged. But the majority of the people – the Dalits and the Backwards – became poorer and more ignorant of material reality. Their faculty of reason was muddled with ideas of god and the afterlife. They were made to believe that their poverty, illiteracy and backwardness were god’s will, and some almighty decides who lives a life of misery and who will be prosperous; that man has no role in deciding his destiny. In the introduction of the book, Jigyasu writes that to perpetuate their hegemony and protect their opulent lives, the religious gurus of the Hindus imagined and constructed such gods and their incarnations, who were blind devotees of their thinking, their great well-wishers, the killers of their opponents and their obedient servants in forcing the masses to accept their views, so that they could continue to exploit the people and society without any hindrance (Ishwar aur Uske Gudde, Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu, p 5).
To free India from the slavery of the Hindu religion, Jigyasu dwells on the idea of god from the Buddha’s perspective. This 60-page book comprises 18 essays apart from the introduction and conclusion. Five essays in the appendix are about Ram. The first essay following the introduction is titled “Ishwarvadiyon ki Daleelein”. According to Jigyasu, the first and the foremost weapon of the theists is the theory of cause and effect. The theists argue that this world could not have come into existence without a creator. God is that creator. God is the eternal truth and is indestructible. Jigyasu, quoting theist saints, says that even the most knowledgeable and the most powerful men in the universe cannot have their way and their efforts are frustrated by an unknown power (ibid, pp 7-8).
In “Ishwarvadiyon ki Daleelein”, Jigyasu has presented the thinking of select materialists to counter the arguments of the theists. He begins with Charvak, who declared that “Vedas, god, soul, heaven, yagnas, curse etc are all part of the bag of tricks of charlatans”. According to Charvak, “Only life is truth. After the body is destroyed, nothing remains, no soul, nothing.” Jigyasu writes that Jain scholars do not believe in god. He says, “According to Jain belief, this universe is eternal. It has two elements – animate and inanimate. When a conscious man becomes equipped with Samyak Darshan (true perception), Samyak Gyan (true knowledge) and Samyak Charitra (true character), he obtains the supreme position of god and becomes worshippable – a ‘darshan’-worthy Tirthankar.” Similarly, Jigyasu writes that Buddha had also contradicted the theory that god is the creator of this universe. “If every effect has a cause then there must be a cause for the emergence of god. If god caused the creation of this world then god will have to be the cause for the good and the bad, the happiness and the sorrow, the compassion and the cruelty, the love and the enmity in this world.” According to Jigyasu, Buddha terms the contention of the theists that not a leaf sways without the wish of the god, as laughable and crude. “If humans are puppets of god then they can’t be responsible for their good or bad deeds, neither sins nor saintly actions.” Is god the creator of this universe? Buddha answers this question thus: “If the universe is eternal and has come into being without any cause, then, it does not need anyone to run its affairs. If the universe was created at some point in time, then the time that has elapsed since its creation will have to be a finite number – these many million or billion years. The question, then, would be whether the god was dormant, doing nothing in the period before he brought the universe into being” (ibid, pp 12-23).
After negating the concept of god, in the fourth essay, Jigyasu focuses on “Ishwar ki ot mein shikar” (Shooting off god’s shoulders). In this essay, Jigyasu cautions people against fake gods and their hypocrisy. “Those who love to wallow in luxuries weave myriad webs of lies to lure and cheat the gullible masses. When the people begin to see through their stratagems and start disbelieving them, they create false gods to terrorize and frighten the people, reducing them to their obedient followers and slaves. They indulge in hypocrisies to exploit the masses. The ignorant, gullible masses become alienated from the real god and the true religion, falling into the trap of the pageantry and the glitter of falsehoods, and start practising a phony religion. Hiding behind their fake gods, these people hunt the public” (ibid, p 18).
In the second essay, Jigyasu elaborates his concept of the real god. He writes, “Only a universal god can be the real god.” He writes that the scholar-saints have termed god as invisible, imperceptible, nameless, formless, eternal, infinite, limitless, unborn, immortal, imperishable, beyond time and senses, unknowable, unrecognizable and omnipotent. On this basis, he argues, “If god is as these words describe him then he cannot be the legacy of any particular caste or religion. He should be the sole master not only of this earth but also of the moon, the sun, the stars and the infinite universe that exists beyond the skies.” Jigyasu argues that such a god “cannot be confined within the boundaries of any particular nation. He must be the creator of all countries, continents and groups of islands and must be fluent in the languages spoken in all the nations of the world” (ibid, pp 19-20).
Further, Jigyasu, after dwelling on, “Kya kaviyon dwara kalpit ishwar ishwar nahin hai?” (Is the god imagined by the poets not god?)” and “Asli Ishwar aur kalpit ishwar” (Real god and imaginary god), seeks to illustrate his views with a doll. In the essay titled “Gudia sarkar aur gudia khudai”, he writes that the puppeteer, hidden behind a screen, uses strings to make the puppets dance to his tunes and entertains the audience. Similarly, there are puppet governments, who dance to the tunes of their masters. According to Jigyasu, during the Second World War, Hitler installed such puppet governments in all the countries he invaded. These puppet governments did what he wanted them to. Similarly, he writes, “In capitalist countries, a leader is appointed and the country is run in his name. The leader is controlled by a clique of capitalists, who benefit from his decisions.”
In his essay “Pracheen Kshatriya-Brahmin Sangharsh aur Brahmanon ki Vijay”, he has given an excellent example of “puppet gods” in ancient India.
He writes: “In olden times, erudite Kshatriyas like Gautam Buddha and Tirthankar Mahavir made their entry into the arena of religion. Ignoring the Brahmins, the Vedas and the Brahmanical religion, they began preaching their own respective religions. This shows that at one time, the Kshatriyas did not accept the leadership and the hegemony of the Brahmins. But the Brahmins, ultimately, emerged victorious in this strife that lasted for ages. The Kshatriyas acknowledged their defeat and agreed to play second fiddle to the Brahmins. Lashing out at these tamed Kshatriyas, the Brahmins proclaimed loudly: ‘Adhik balam Kshatriya balam, Brahmatenjo balam balam [Damn the power of the Kshatriyas, the majesty of the Brahmins is the real power]’. To perpetuate their hegemony and dominance over the Kshatriyas, the shrewd Brahmins struck upon the idea of installing puppet gods. They imagined incarnations and presented Krishna and Ram as ideal Kshatriyas. Singing paeans to the religiosity of Ram and Krishna and more emphatically, to their love for the Brahmins and their superhuman abilities, the Brahmins gave them the status of gods. They built an aura around Ram and Krishna, which outshone the real god’s aura, and used the duo to preserve their supremacy. They convinced the Kshatriyas and the others that the Brahmins are great scholars and noblemen who are supreme and worshippable, with the power to ruin others by their curse. The people started holding them in awe” (ibid, pp 27-28).
Jigyasu has written essays on Ram and Ravana and on the incarnations of Vishnu, which are analytical and of historic importance. In the essay, “Ram-Ravana yuddha ka aitehasik rahasya”, he has exposed many “secrets”. He writes that the Aryans, who came from Central Asia, entered the Indian subcontinent from the north. They went deeper and deeper into the subcontinent in several waves and made Ayodhya their capital. According to Jigyasu, the Aryan missionaries were the first to enter a new country. They would usurp land and start performing yagnas and other rituals. The Aryan armies would follow. Jigyasu writes that the indigenous inhabitants managed to see through these tricks and started disrupting their yagnas and rituals. “Ganesh, who was said to be the son of Shiva, was the hero of the disruptors. The indigenous inhabitants, who have been described as Daityas and Rakshasas in Brahmanical canon, drew strength from their worship of Shiva. They fought the Vedic gods and the Aryans.” According to Jigyasu, “Ravana was a Shaivite king of the Gond tribe. An indigenous inhabitant, Ravana was dead opposed to the Vedic culture. He had ordered his associates to destroy Vedic culture. Tulsidas describes the order in these words: “Dwij-bhojan, makh, hom, saradh, sabkai jaye karo tum badh” (Disrupt the meals, yagnas, havans and shraddhs of Brahmins). Tulsidas describes the consequences of this diktat in the following words:
“Jehi vidhi hoyee dharm nirmula, so sam karahin ved-praticula
Jehi-jehi des dev dwij pavaheen, nagar-gaon-pur aag lagavaheein”
(They did everything against the Vedas. They did everything to strike at the roots of religion. Wherever they found cows or Brahmins, they set that city, village or hamlet, ablaze.)
Jigyasu continues, “This description echoes the struggles waged against invaders by the people of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Greece, China etc during the last World War.” From this angle, he says, Ravana did nothing wrong if he fought to protect his country from Aryan imperialism. He says that those who call Ravana a sinner are supporters of the Aryans (ibid, pp 29-30).
Jigyasu has also made two “revelations” about Sita in “Ravan Sambandhi Nayee Khoj”. The first is that Sita was Ravana’s daughter and that was why he did not break the Shiva Dhanush despite being capable of it. He obviously could not have taken his daughter as his wife. Jigyasu also says that Ravana had not abducted Sita but had taken her to Lanka for her security with her consent. The other “revelation” is that Ravana was a Buddhist and a staunch believer in non-violence. According to Jigyasu, this finds mention in Acharya Narendra Dev’s treatise Buddha Dharma Darshan. Narendra Dev has quoted from a Mahayan Buddhist scripture Lankavatar Sutra. Jigyasu had written a separate book Ravana aur uski Lanka in which he has made many more revelations.
There are two other important essays in the book – “Brahmanon ke Shaap ka Aatank” and “Vishnu ke Avatar Kis Liye Hote Hain”. In “Brahmanon ke Shaap ka Aatank”, Jigyasu argues that although Ram was said to be an incarnation of god, born to kill Ravana and others and to protect the Devas and the Brahmins, one should not forget that during the era of Ram, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas were in conflict. Ram was created to end this conflict. In the Ramayana, Ram, who is god-incarnate and a Kshatriya, is shown bowing before the Brahmins. According to Jigyasu, “Rahul Sankrityayan says that the ideal of Ram was fashioned keeping in mind the Brahmin victory march led by Pushyamitra Shunga, to upstage the Buddhist Dashrath Jataka and to make people fear the curse of Brahmins.” Thus, it can be concluded that though the story of the Ramayana is fictional, it does reflect contemporary history. Ram represents Pushyamitra and Ravana, a pillar of Buddhist society. It is a historical fact that Buddhism was uprooted from India during the regime of Pushyamitra.
Jigyasu writes, “A boon or a curse of a Brahmin is the pivot around which revolves not only the Ramayana, but almost every story in Sanskrit literature.” Thus Rama’s birth was attributed to the blessings of a Brahmin and Dashrath’s death to the curse of a Brahmin. Shakuntala’s husband, king Dushyant, forgets her dear wife due to the curse of a Brahmin. Even the Yaksha of Meghadootam is separated from Yakshini, his wife, due to a Brahmin’s curse” (ibid, pp 35-36).
In the context of “Gudia Khudai” (puppet gods), Jigyasu’s essay “Maharshi Dayanand aur Unka Satyarthprakash” is also worth a read. Whenever the Dalits and the Backwards in India raised the banner of revolution, the Brahmins initiated a counter-revolution and did not rest till the fire of the revolution was put out. For Jigyasu, Maharshi Dayanand was one such counter-revolutionary. He writes, “After the establishment of the British rule in India, the spread of Western education, intellectualism and material sciences and the religious rationalism of the Christian missionaries shook the foundations of the Brahmanical religion. The rationalists were rapidly losing their reverence for the Brahmanical religion and the god propped up by the Brahmins. Moreover, thousands, who had had enough of the exploitation and atrocities in the name of religion, were embracing Christianity and Islam because the God of Christianity and the Allah of Islam were not puppet gods like Rama and Krishna, who took birth to serve the interests of a particular brand of religious salesmen, dance to their tunes and finish off their rivals. The far-sighted Brahmins realized that the fortress of their religion had begun crumbling and that made them extremely anxious and worried. It was in such times that a Maharshi was born into a Brahmin family. His name was Dayanand Saraswati.”
Jigyasu has this to say on how Dayanand Saraswati triggered a counter-revolution: “He founded an organization called Arya Samaj, along the lines of the Christian and Muslim organizations and wrote a book called Satyarthprakash, which was the bible of the Arya Samajis. He sought to provide a new veneer to the Brahmanical religion. As in Islam, Satyarthprakash talks of the existence of only one god; negates idol worship, polytheism and incarnation and declares that Ram, Krishna and other puppet gods of the Brahmins are not real gods but ‘ideal, great personalities’. It also says that the birth-based Varna system should be replaced with a system based on one’s aptitude and nature. It also rubbishes astrology, Puranic rituals, ‘Shraddha’ for the dead etc and rejects the notion that visiting a place of pilgrimage or taking the holy dip in a river will bring great rewards.” So far so good. These reforms were useful and timely. But, Jigyasu writes that in the final chapter, Dayanand repudiates other religions, which are better than the Brahmanical religion, by describing them as against the Vedas (ibid, p 39-40). This is counter-revolution. Dayanand does not reject the Vedic Varna order. The fact is that monotheism or polytheism made little difference to the Brahmins, who were mainly concerned about the fate of the Vedic Varna system. They did not want it to be dismantled.
Jigyasu elaborates further in the next essay, “Arya Samaj ke sath Brahmin Panditon ka pact aur uska parinam Pakistan”. He writes, “Some clever Brahmin pandits, hailing the Vedic religion, came to control the Arya Samaj. Arya Samaj versus anti-Vedic religions like Christianity and Islam became the subject matter of innumerable debates. In public meetings, Arya Samaj was openly referred to as ‘Safarmaina ki paltan’ [platoon of sappers and miners]. This religious confrontation brewed a storm of communal hatred, triggered innumerable riots and the peaceful atmosphere of India, built so assiduously by saints and great men, became infused with poison.”
This communal divide ultimately led to the partition of India. In Jigyasu’s view, the Arya Samaj was responsible for the partition. He has used interesting metaphors to describe the communal divide. He writes, “The wages of the Arya Samaj-Brahmin pact were extremely inimical for the country. Just as the Aryan Hitler had launched a global war using the Jews as sacrificial goats to bring the entire world under Nazi domination; driven by the desire to establish the rule of the Aryans or in other words, a Brahmin-dominated Hindu kingdom, in the entire world, or at least in India, Islam, Christianity and other anti-Vedic religions were sought to be used as sacrificial goats. Everything was ready and the goats had been tethered to the yup [the column to which animals to be sacrificed in a yagna are tied]. But just when some enterprising Vedic Arya missionaries, actuated by the desire to gobble up everyone through the stratagem of ‘Shuddhi’, had raised the sword to bring it down on the goats, the goats broke free and escaped into the open. They kicked up a big row, breaking the limbs of Indian nationalism. They divided India into two parts and a big chunk became Pakistan” (ibid, p 42).
The Brahmins had no remorse for the partition of India. In fact, they were happy that they were now free to expand their Brahmanical religion. In his essay, “Sampradayik vistaar ka ek naya latka”, Jigyasu writes, “The creation of Pakistan was a godsend for the Brahmanical religion.” How? He writes that the “horrendous blood-letting and destruction brought about by the population exchange, singed the newly sprouted plant of democracy but turned the banyan tree of Brahmanical hegemony and culture lush green. The Arya Samajis, who, till yesterday, were deriding idols and Satyanarayan Ki Katha, became great patrons of Hindu temples and mythology and were ready to fight against the heretics and lay down their lives.”
After the partition, Brahmins held the reins of power. There was nothing to stop them. They used every ounce of their energy to establish the dominance of the Brahmanical religion. Jigyasu has painted a vivid picture of those times, which most Indians of today know little about. But those who lived then can recall with complete clarity how rapidly the Brahmanical religion struck roots. Jigyasu writes, “They [Brahmins] came up with a new device of Kirtan. It continues today. Huge Kirtan corpuses have been created. Kirtan Mandalis have sprung up in cities, villages and mohallas from one end of the country to the other. There is kirtan and akhand kirtan singing in homes. Even the government-owned radio service plays kirtan. Like frogs in the rainy season, colourful Swamis can be seen everywhere. Their enchanting voices fill the air and move heaven and earth in their sermons on the Gita and the Ramayana, attesting to the belief in incarnation and preaching Bhaktivad endlessly, peppering their sermons with quotes from philosophers from all over the world and running roughshod over science … In this mega-endeavour, musical instruments like drums, mridang, harmonium, fiddle, sarangi, cymbal and majira are used and with great fanfare, gullible people are made to chant ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ to make them blind devotees of Rama-Krishna and other puppet gods of the Brahmins … to strengthen the shaking foundations of the Brahmanical religious empire.” Jigyasu writes, “When the brains of the Hindus are ground to a fine powder by the millstones of Kirtan, how will the seeds of rationality sprout?” (ibid, pp 43-44)
Jigyasu has rightly said that the Brahmins had launched Kirtan as a device to preclude Hindus from developing a rational mind. In conclusion, Jigyasu says that the Brahmanical propaganda is a sort of “caste dictatorship”, that is “National Fascism”. According to him, propping up puppet gods and turning the people into their blind devotees is not religiosity but a crime against the people. He says that organizing Ramleelas and burning the effigies of Ravana every year is not Indian culture, it is a laughable spectacle (ibid, p 45).
The book ends with five appendices, each of which contains an article. The first is “Mahatma Gandhi ke Ram”, the second “Maharshi Dayanand aur Ram-Krishnadi Avatar”, the third, “Kabir Saheb ke Ram”, the fourth, “Santpravar Raidas Saheb ke Ram” and the fifth “Ramayan mein bhi Ram ke ishwar hone mein ashanka.” All the five articles are significant and deserve a brief discussion. In the first article, Jigyasu has bitterly criticized the Ram of Mahatma Gandhi. During the Independence movement, Jigyasu was so impressed with Mahatma Gandhi that he wrote a tract titled “Bhagwan Gandhi”. But the same Gandhi turned into a publicist of the Brahmanical religion. He wrote that Gandhi, whom he had described as “Bhagwan” and was given the title of Father of the Nation, continued all his life to sing the rabidly communal “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram”, which was opposed to nationalism and the national duty. But he could never prove that his Raja Ram was a god (ibid, p 50). Jigyasu writes: “The fact is that this communal tune of the Mahatma was only aimed at deluding the Brahmanical Hindus. His personal beliefs were very different. Once he had said, “Till now, I used to say that god is truth but now I say that truth is god.” But Jigyasu raises a question, “A person who believes that truth is god – why should he use the communal Ramdhun?” Jigyasu writes, “The answer to this question is that just as a bird-catcher uses grains to lure the birds into his trap, so Mahatmaji used the Ramdhun to appeal to the religious sentiments of the ‘Brahmanical Hindus’ and make them a part of his politics” (ibid, pp 47-48).
In the second article, Jigyasu has made it clear that Maharshi Dayanand had refuted the idea that Ram, Krishna and others were incarnations of god. He has quoted from Dayanand’s Satyarthprakash to say, “The question is whether god has incarnations. The answer is no, because the Yajur Veda talks about ‘Ajekmaan’ and ‘Savaryagachhukramkayam’” (ibid, p 51). In the third and the fourth articles, Jigyasu dwells on the Ram of Kabir and Raidas. He says that the Ram of these saints was not communal Ram or king Ram but “Atam Ram”. In support of his contention, Jigyasu has quoted several couplets by Kabir and Raidas.
Prathme Saligram hai, dooje pharsa Ram
Teeje Raja Ram hain, chauthe atam Ram
Ramai nirantar atma, sab ghat aatho jam
Yahee te santan dharyo, Ram tasu ko naam
According to Jigyasu, Raidas, too, believed in a universal god. In his Vani, he proscribes the worship of Dashrath’s Ram and instead ordains the worship of “Satyaram”. A couplet by Raidas, quoted by Jigyasu, puts forth Raidas’ idea of Ram beautifully: “Bhai re, Ram kahan mohi bataon? Satyaram take nikat na jao” (ibid, pp 52-57).
In the fifth article, quoting from Goswami Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, he insists that Sita’s husband Ram was not god. The reference is to the Balkaand. In Agastya’s ashram, Shiva bows before Ram, addressing him as Sacchidanand. This makes Sati suspicious:
Sankara Jagat-Vandya Jagdisa, Sur Nar Muni Sab Navat Sisa.
Tinh nripasuhi kinh parnama, kahi sachchidananda pardhama
Sati was confused. How can Shivji, the king of gods, whom the entire universe worships, before whom the gods, the men and the saints all bow their heads – how can he address the son of a king as Sacchidanand, because
Brahma jo vyapak viraj aj, akal aneeh abhed
So ki deh dhari hoyee nar, jahi na jaanat Ved
(The one who is omnipresent, never-born, is Kala-cheshta-rahit, indestructible and seamless, about whom even the Vedas do not know – can he ever be a human?)
Jigyasu says that Sati’s doubts knock the bottom out of the theory of incarnation. But Tulsidas dismisses it as “a woman’s foolishness” and goes on to write about the life of Ram. He made one mistake, though. “The mistake was that Sati along with Shiv saw Ram lamenting his separation from his wife. Then how could the same Sati, after the passage of thousands of years, have given a boon to Sita that as Parvati, she would have Ram as her husband?” (ibid, pp 57-58)
On the basis of these five testimonies, Jigyasu concludes that Ram, the son of Dashrath, could not have been god. He was a Suryavanshi Kshatriya king, who was a great devotee and patron of the Brahmins and who killed Ravana, the opponent of the Vedic religion, to re-establish the authority of the Brahmanical religious order. “Later, the Brahmin poets shaped his character as they wished, converted him into their puppet god and spread his tales far and wide to procure unfair gains.”
There is then little doubt about whether this book would have opened the eyes of the Dalit and backward castes in the 1970s.
(Translated from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia)
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