Often the theory of varnasankara or mixed castes and untouchability are discussed together in Indian academia mainly to rationalize the link between low occupational status of lower castes and untouchability. There is no obvious link between the two; for Ambedkar argued beef eating by the Buddhist broken men had resulted in the imposition of untouchability on them by Brahmins.
In Dharmasutras and Manusmriti, by varnasankara theory, brahmanical writers basically meant that various mixed castes arise due to the ‘miscegenation’ among members of the four varnas, which they categorise under anuloma and pratiloma rules thus deciding the respective status of mixed castes. It is interesting to note, the ways in which the theory of varnasankara is interpreted by various scholars.
Vivekanand Jha1 wrote a few articles on the phenomenon of varnasankara to explain the origin of untouchability and vehemently critique Ambedkar by arguing that he tried to push the date of untouchability by denying the very being of the Chandalas. Scholars simply made presence of Chandala and his profession, as criteria for untouchability. By doing this, they established untouchability even before it originated. All this is done for the obvious reason of covering up the fact of Brahminic history of beef eating and the transformation of Hindu religion from himsa, to ahimsa and then back to himsa in the context of the larger struggle between Buddhism and Brahmanism in India.
One notices a confused explanation by Jha not only concerning varnasankara but about untouchability too. In the context of varnasankara or mixed castes, one fundamental question scholars failed to answer is why the Brahmins’ acute hatred towards Shudras is suddenly directed towards the Untouchables? Is there any relationship between the Shudras and Untouchables? Which Buddhist past of broken men was Ambedkar trying to highlight? This paper is an attempt to understand these questions through Ambedkar’s writings in his various volumes.
Simultaneous belief and disbelief in Varnasankara theory to justify the untouchability of certain sections
Jha maintains that varnasankara is theoretical,(it is of course theoretical, but his main reason to think that it’s theoritical emerges from the belief that Chandala who is a progeny of a Brahmin father and a Shudra mother, being so degraded could possibly not have any Brahmin blood in him) but at the same time, refers to it as a real phenomenon by linking the occupational status of lower classes and untouchability. On varnasankara, Jha wrote various articles namely: From Tribe to Untouchable: The Case of Nishadas (1958), Varanasankara in the Dharma Sutras: Theory and Practise (1970), Stages in the History of Untouchables (1975); Candala and the Origin of Untouchability (1986-87); Social Stratification in Ancient India: Some Reflections (1991); Caste, Untouchability and Social Justice: Early North Indian Perspective (1997).
In his article, Social Stratification in Ancient India: Some Reflections (1991) Despite, pointing out varnasankara2 which first occurred in Dharmasutras3 as fictional and theoritical, he uses the theory as a cause for untouchability. For instance, Jha writes “Dharamsastra4 writers employed new theoretical concepts to explain the social phenomenon. One such concept was the theory of varnasankara which was used to explain the status of several emerging groups and the untouchability of sections like the Chandalas, the latter being simply regarded as the lowest pratiloma caste—offspring of a hypogamous union between a Shudra man, or a man from the fourth varna, and a Brahmana woman” (1991: 30).
By arguing this Jha depicts the same tendency that Ambedkar had warned about the Hindu orthodox writers’ understanding of the origin of untouchability.
Ambedkar pointed out that in order to insist untouchability is a very ancient phenomenon, orthodox Hindus argue that it is not enjoined only in the Smritis which are of late origin but in the Dharma Sutras too that are dated some centuries before B.C.5 (1990 : 7.359). Ambedkar crucially highlights that Dharmasutras are much earlier texts than Smritis and “impure as a class came into existence at the time of the Dharmasutras and untouchability came into being much later than 400 A.D.” (1990 : 7.372, 242). He critiques the orthodox Hindu writers who identify the impure with the untouchables and further argues that in searching for the origin of untouchability, care must taken to distinguish the untouchables from the impure as they are distinct (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.242).
Ambedkar stressed that until Manusmriti’s6 time i.e, around 2nd century C.E. there was no untouchability (1990 : 7. 379). He based this conclusion on the fact that Manu was not against cow killing7 and considers it as an impure animal causing ceremonial pollution, so killing it was a minor sin (Ambedkar 1990 :7. 343–44). Hindu king (Chandragupta II) later abrogated the Manu’s laws of vedic requirement of cow killing and calls it a mahapataka, (mortal sin), when go-hatya was placed on the same footing as brahma hatya during 412 A.D.(Ambedkar 1990 : 7. 348–49).
Jha too makes the same mistake and interprets impurity at the time of Dharmasutras as untouchabilty for he assumes that the terms antya, antah, bahya, antyayoni8 implies the ‘lowest’ or some sort of segregation and the term encompasses the Chandalas along with the other lower castes. (1970: 280–81). In other words, for Jha, the presence of Chandala made him assume the existence of untouchability despite scholars pointing out that the vedic period has no trace of untouchability though Chandalas as a class were present (Leslie 2003: 27). To assert his point of untouchability being very ancient he argues that it developed in stages where the Chandala’s position kept getting worse.
In another article Caste, Untouchability and Social Justice: Early North Indian Perspective (1997) Jha gives an even more confused explanation of the varnasankara, treating it as a real phenomenon as he writes “the social fabric at this time was, however, in a tremendous flux and several professions, crafts and tribes were crystalizing as distinct entities. Neither their existence could be ignored, nor could they be identified with the four existing varnas. This gave rise to the theory of varnasankara or mixed castes, which ascribed their origin to interbreeding among the members of the four varnas and also their progeny from anuloma (in natural order, or union with woman of lower varna) and pratiloma (in inverted order, or union with woman of higher varna) unions” (1997: 23–4).
Jha’s discomfort with the theory of varnasankara, mainly arises from his concern for the sexuality of the upper caste women only, otherwise he displays ample trust in this theory by suggesting that low occupation prescribed by the varnasankara theory (which this scheme prescribes on the basis of birth based on mixing of varnas) as the truth. Jha, for instance writes “the occupation has played a vital role in status determination in this country, and one great merit of the smriti is that it enlightened us about the vocations of a number of the so-called mixed castes” (1975: 19).
Highlighting his anxiety for sexuality of upper caste women, Jha writes “it is difficult to see how a whole people we see could be the outcome of illicit unions between brahamana women and Shudra males. Moreover, it would seem unwise to imagine so much brahmana blood in the veins of these hated and backward aboriginals” (1970: 282). Jha’s analysis of untouchability is clearly confusing, subjective and not based on facts.
He fails to explain why Chandalas, remains such a hated category given that the theory of varnasankara is fictional? In explaining the position of Chandala, Jha remains perpetually unsure as he states “evidently closer integration of the Chandalas in society involved further depression in the status of this latter vedic tribe. The theoretical origin of the Chandalas from the most hated pratiloma union of Shudra men with brahmana women reflected this disdain, though such union on any considerable scale was unthinkable within varna-jati structure and was never a tangible social reality” (Jha 1997: 23).
Mikeal Aktor though, does a very elaborate study on untouchability and varnasankara but ends up locating it in the purity-pollution paradigm despite highlighting the absence of untouchability in the vedic period and at the time of Dharamasutras (2008). Locating untouchability at the time of Dharamasutras citing varnasankara as the reason wipes out the struggle between Buddhism and Brahminism along with the whole history of transformation that Brahminism went through to overpower Buddhism.
Interpolating purusha sukta theory or the chaturvarna theory in Rig Veda: from ranking of varna to the ranking of castes in varnasankara
Occupational status, ranking of various castes and in fact the very conceptualization of castes that we have now results from the Purusha Sukta or Chaturvarna theory of Rig Veda (Ambedkar 1990: 7.21) and varnasankara theory.
Varnasankara theory basically generates the hierarchy of castes based on hierarchy of varnas established in Purusha Sukta9 theory of Rig Veda. It is through anuloma/pratiloma marriage rules that the link between Purusha Sukta theory and varnasankara is brought through. Often scholars10 mistake varnasankara as giving rise to the anuloma and pratiloma rules which suggests that varnasankara is not a deliberate exercise by the Brahmins.
Those who argue that varnasankara was just a brahmanic attempt to explain the situation on ground, failed to explain why smriti writers have to devise such a degrading arrangement of ‘approved’ and ‘disapproved’ marriage rules of anuloma and pratiloma creating mixed castes to explain the changing situation. Jha in his articles, especially critiqued Ambedkar’s work and conveniently ignored his explanation of the ‘origin of mixed castes’ in the Riddles in Hinduism and his critical analysis of the Purusha Sukta theory in Who were the Shudras?: How they came to be the Fourth Varna in the Indo Aryan Society?
Scholars like Max Muller, Colebrook, Max Weber11,Julia Leslie and others mark Purushasukta theory as a later interpolation12 in the Rig Veda. Ambedkar emphasised that Purusha Sukta or the Chaturvarna theory establishes Brahmins as ‘lords of the earth’. So, it is extremely urgent for Brahmins to attach it with the sanctity of the Rig Veda, thus explaining its need for interpolation in the Vedas (2014:4 .9,25, 251).
Leslie writes “Purushasukta verse is often used to assign Rig Vedic authority to the varna theory but it almost certainly represents a deliberate post-Vedic reworking of an ancient theme for latter political purposes” (2003: 27). Also the term Shudra was first mentioned in the Purushukta theory only and is responsible for relegating Shudras to the fourth varna who earlier were a part of the Kshatriya varna argues Ambedkar. Apart from this discrepancy, Ambedkar13 also explains how Purusha Sukta theory14 contradicts Rig Veda’s secular theory regarding the origin of the Indo-Aryans and goes beyond its theory of division of labour and “converts the scheme of division of workers into fixed and permanent occupational categories” (1990 : 7.30).
Interpolation of Purusha Sukta theory also becomes evident as various Vedas give different explanations of not only the origin of varnas but also of the Vedas. As apart from the theory of the origin of four varnas, Purusha Sukta theory contains the theory of the origin of Vedas too in Rig Veda (Ambedkar 2014 : 4. 19,128, 249–50).
But Vedas other than Rig Vedas, Brahmanas, Manu Smriti, Ramayana, Mahabahrata and the Puranas seem to have no unanimity on the origin of Vedas (Ambedkar 2014 :4. 249–251). In fact they give 11 different explanations15 of the origin of the Vedas. On the origin of various varnas, various Vedas, assign different originators like “from Purusha, from Manu, from Prajapati, from Vratya and from Soma; Brahmanas don’t even acknowledge all above and vacillate between Prajapati and Brahma, Manusmriti offers two types of explanations; Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas support Manu as the progenitor of the four varnas” (Ambedkar 2014 : 4.249–50).
But this doesn’t end here, “Brahmanic writers messed up the origin of Manu too. In Ramayana Manu is female, in Mahabharata Manu is male, Vishnu Purana instead of ascribing the origin of Manu proceeds to ascribe the origin of varna to his sons, in another place it ascribes it to Manu female line of daughter Ila” and so on; the inconsistency concerning the origin of four varnas further multiplies (Ambedkar 2014 : 4.249–250).This complete incapacity to explain the origin of the Vedas, their authors, their authority, that Ambedkar terms it as Brahminic ‘exercise in the art of circumlocution’ to mainly to preserve the Purushasukta theory. As Rig Veda being made the exponent of Chaturvarna, Brahmins made incessant attempts to declare it ‘infallible, Nitya (eternal) and Anandi (beginning less)’ (Ambedkar 2014 : 5.181). They called it Apurusheyato claiming it as free from faults and frailties (Ambedkar 2014 : 4.25) against the evidence of Anukramanis16 (suggesting the human origin of Vedas) in the Vedic period. Claiming that Vedas are sanatan (eternal) has the effect of making caste divine beyond questioning.
The dubiousness of the Purusha Sukta theory is further revealed by the fact that two theories of the origin of cosmos exist in Rig Veda. The mention of another origin of cosmogony is expounded in the 72nd hymn of the 10th mandala of the Rig Veda (Ambedkar (1990 : 7.26–27). This cosmogony explains the creation ‘ex nihilo where being was born of non-being’, thus entirely different from Purusha cosmogony where various classes emanate from Purusha’s body (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.27). Ambedkar crucially asks, “why in one and the same book two such opposite cosmologies should have come to be propounded? Why did the author of the Purushasukta think it necessary to posit a Purusha and make all creation emanate from him?” (1990 : 7.27).
Undoubtedly, as already argued, Purusha Sukta theory has a direct bearing on the creation and ranking of the four varnas and consequently on the mixed castes which varnas produce through varnasankara. Brinkhaus writes “the varnasankara groups were linked to the varnas without forming a fifth varna beyond the scheme authorised in the Purusha Sukta” (Brinkhaus, quoted in Aktor 2008: 94). This is exactly what Ambedkar had already argued: that Manu was creating mixed castes or varnasankara17 in order to prevent Chaturvarna from breaking18.
Apart from Ambedkar, Tambiah highlights this fact too, which Jha was aware of, but he neither considers anuloma & pratiloma marriage rules nor the Purusha Sukta or Chaturvarna theory as problematic.
Tambiah clearly states that “the four varnas are explicitly ranked, and it is from this base the mixture of varna according to the key or overlapping technique is exploited to generate jati categories…we should keep in mind that this initial ranking of the four varnas is a crucial feature in the subsequent generation and ranking of hybrids” (1973:196). Further highlighting the intentional creation of mixed castes, Tambiah writes, “we start with four ranked varna categories (derived on the basis of hierarchical taxonomy) and because the procedures for mixing are themselves evaluated as approved or disapproved etc., the categories progressively generated are themselves in turn automatically ranked. There by enabling us to comprehend a whole universe of numerous castes all in principle capable of being ranked and interrelated into a single scheme…It seems to me that pratiloma is a convenient intellectual device for generating various disapproved categories, assigning them degraded positions and ideologically explaining and rationalising why so many groups in the caste hierarchy are placed in low or downtrodden positions” (1973: 207).
Marking marriage rules as ‘Approved’ and ‘Dissaproved’ while ensuing ‘Bastardization’
The ‘approved’ and ‘disapproved’ character of anuloma and pratiloma marriage rules is further revealed from the fact that Manu neither mentions the caste born out of the sankara between Brahmins and Kshatriyas nor indicates whether the begotten caste will be anuloma or pratiloma (Ambedkar 2014 : 4.220). Apart from this discrepancy, the Smritikaras were not unanimous on the names of castes produced by the mixing of the same varnas, as they produced different castes19 by conjugating the same two castes (2014 : 4.220).
It is only Ambedkar, who clarifies that Manu’s explanation of genesis of mixed castes as an exercise to pervert history and defame the most respectable and powerful tribes into bastards (2014 : 4.224). Thus, the theory of mixed castes20 or varnasankara is not the theory of ‘assimilation’ or ‘acculturation’, or ‘induction’ as scholars argue, rather a wholesale bastardization of independent tribes. Ambedkar notes, how the tribes like Abhiras, Ambashtas, Andhras, Magadhas, Nishadas, Vaidehaka have a completely different past altogether but are falsely implicated in this theory and given a bastardized identity.
Reason behind developing the varnasankara theory by Brahmins lies in the fact that they found the social reality as completely inverse of what they prescribed in the Chaturvarna scheme or the Purusha Sukta theory. Manu basically brought the theory of varnasankara to support the theory of Chaturvarna. Ambedkar argues “that it is possible that Manu realized that the Chaturvarana had failed and that the existence of a large number of castes which should neither be described as Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras was the best proof of the breakdown of the Chaturvarna and that he was therefore called upon to explain how these castes who were outside the Chaturvarana came into existence not withstanding the rule of Chaturvarnas” (2014 : 4.225). Without the theory of varnasankara, various castes could not have been created. Though scholars marked varnasankara theory as theoretical, but unlike Ambedkar, they failed to point out that caste is an unnatural system. It is true that the theory of varnasankara is theoretical, but the effect it has on those it was deliberately imposed on tells us the history of caste and its oppression.
Claiming untouchabilty during Buddha’s time and marking Ambedkar as an ’emotional’ writer
Given the history of untouchabilty attached with the question of Brahmanic counter-revolution against Buddhism through giving up beef eating, it becomes necessary for Jha to locate the origin of untouchability in the remote past, much before the texts prescribed it, especially in the time of Buddha itself. He concludes that apartheid against Chandalas was widely practised during Buddhism and writes “it is amusing to see Ambedkar deny the very being of the Chandala in his bid to push ahead the date of the beginning of untouchability in his country” (Jha 1975: 22). Writing against Ambedkar’s view on origin of untouchability, Jha argues “to say that adherents to Buddhism became untouchables after the establishment of brahmanic ascendency is more than an unwarranted over-simplification of a complex social phenomenon” (1975: 23). Jha stresses that “beef eating by those who continued as Buddhists as a reason by Ambedkar for the origin of untouchability is not specified in any Brahmanical, Buddhists or Jain texts up to A.D. 600” (1986-87:31).
Jha while maintaining this line of argument even ignored the Vedvyasasmriti which clearly states that “the Charmakars (Cobbler), the Bhatta (Soilder), the Bhilla, the Rajaka (washerman), the Puskara, the Nata (actor), the Vrata, the Meda, the Chandala, the Dasa, the Svapaka, and the Kokila– these are known as Antyajas as well as others who eat cow’s flesh.”(Ambedkar 1990 : 7.319).
Ambedkar stressed that “generally speaking the Smritikars never care to explain the why and how of their dogmas. But this case is an exception. For in this case, Veda Vyas does explain the cause of untouchability. The clause “as well as others who eat cow’s flesh” is very important. It shows that the Smritikars knew that the origin of untouchability is to be found in the eating of beef” (1990 : 7.319).
Anxiety towards beef eating by Brahmins and this revelation by no one other than Ambedkar made Jha call him emotional, unbalanced, and a subjective writer with ‘capricious choice of data’ who is indulging in ‘wild generalizations'(1975: 21–22).
Similar to D.N. Jha, Jha too mentions that Buddhism had failed to confront caste and untouchability and that “beef-eating had nothing to do with the origin of untouchability. It was not prohibited in the Dharmashastras texts until the early medieval period” (1991:1). Like other scholars21 Jha too relies heavily on Jataka stories to argue that apartheid against the Chandalas was strictly observed at the time of the Buddha and that “it is not even considered necessary to refer to his untouchability” (1975: 21).
Katulkar clarifies that “jataka are not tales of Buddhist lifestyle alone but it is the description of events that happened at that time. The characters in Jataka were both Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists. It is therefore natural in Jataka to include Buddhists as well as non-Buddhist practices” (2016: 5). It is tragic that Jha tried to cull out the untouchable status of Chandalas through the instances mentioned in the Jatakas, of the Chandala’s pursuit as a corpse remover, cremator, nightguard, sweeper, public performer and musician etc. But this equating of Chandalas with untouchability in Jataka (which is recent) is not surprising as in early Buddhist texts like Vinaya, the Brahmin displeasure at certain Buddhist ascetic practices was quite common (I will take up this point in the last section). And Ambedkar has already warned of interpolation in various Buddhist texts as well.
Though what is crucial is to understand whether these occupations mentioned above were actually low and tabooed in Buddha’s time? Deriving the untouchable status of Chandalas from the occupations they were engaged in, is also critiqued by Omvedt. She writes the “term referring to birth and occupation are never used to categorise any essential features of people or to ascribe people, as a result of their occupation, to a particular birth defined status groups…while many different occupations are described, there is no sense of an inherent polluting quality or ‘bad’ quality linked to any of them. No real ‘castes’ or ‘varnas’ are shown there either” (2003: 132).
Origin of untouchability: Reverence towards cow and ‘Repugnance’ for untouchables
Jha was keenly aware of Ambedkar’s thesis on untouchability and took keen interest in rejecting his arguments concerning the origin of untouchability. Similar to other scholars, Ambedkar’s explanation of the origin of untouchability arising “out of repugnance of the Hindu community, which as a result of Buddhism developed a reverence of cow, towards those who have not ceased to eat the cow” (2014 : 17 (2).148) was unimaginable by Jha too. Ambedkar very crucially highlights that “untouchability has its origin in this notion of repugnance. And that notion of repugnance is based on the reverence or irreverence to the cow” (2014 : 17 (2).148). Brahmins in order to outbid the well-accepted opposition of Buddha to kill a cow for sacrificial purposes strategically turned themselves to vegetarianism. To gain an overall ascendency over Buddhism, Brahmins not only banned the killing of cows but also proclaimed that no living creature should be harmed (Ambedkar 2014 : 17 (2).146-48).
But the “present day Untouchables as broken tribe-men living on the border being poor continued eating the flesh of a dead cow for it did not involve the Himsa of the cow” (Ambedkar 2014 :17 (2).144). Being “the poorest of the poor and socially on the lowest rung of the ladder they stuck to Buddhism the longest. It required a mighty force exerted over a long period of years to bring them round. When nothing else would work, social ostracism and untouchability were applied. Their practise of eating dead cow was exploited against them. It was really a punishment for sticking to Buddhism when others had deserted it” (Ambedkar 2014 : 17 (1).305).
‘Shudras of The Indo-Aryan Society are not the same as Shudras of The Hindu Society’
One often finds in various studies on Shudras, their classification as nirvasit/anirvasit (excluded/non-excluded), sat/asat (cultured/uncultured) groups. But if Manu’s exclusion for the Shudra community was so complete, what do these divisions imply? Who is a non-excluded, cultured Shudra? The Varnasankara list is made up of which kind of shudras, scholars don’t know? Ghurye depicts this division of Shudras in Bengal and states four subclasses of Shudras indicating their status with regard to food and water22. He largely argues that those Shudras who ‘behave properly according to Brahmins’ ideas’ are called as sat shudra and only this shudra is allowed to practise rites and sacraments without Vedic formulae. He marks this as an effort in Shudra’s religious emancipation (1957: 92–94).
Jaiswal in her article Changes In The Status and Concept of The Shudra Varna in Early Middle Ages gives an equally confusing explanation as she writes “in terms of power and prestige, early medieval India as a whole developed a social system having three broad strata, the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, or Rajput and the Shudra in the North and the Brahmana, the sat-Shudra and the asat-Shudra in the South and the East…the main contradiction is not between the ‘twice born’ and ‘once born’ but between the mixed castes born out of approved and disapproved unions. In former category not only the four principal varnas were placed but all those non-brahmin castes of high social status who were described as sat Shudra or uttam sankaras.
The distinction between anirvasita and nirvasita Shudra appears in North as early as in the time of Panini but Patanjali’s commentary indicates that even in second century B.C., the higher Shudras who could eat from the plate of Arya without defiling it permanently, were either foreigners settled in India such as the Sakas and Yavanas or artisan groups of blacksmiths, washermen, carpenters, etc., from whom the nirvasita Shudras, such as the Chandals and the Mrtapas, were clearly separated” (1980: 15). Thapar explains the difference between sat and asat shudra (which she marks as pure and unclean) as difference in the status of their work (2003).
It is clear from the above explanations that scholars had no idea why Shudras were divided into these classes or why such terminology occurs? It is also difficult to understand even if some shudras are pure or clean why their progeny is listed as mixed castes? Making it a Shudra and Untouchable division is simple but will not work as Shudra within the Chaturvarna, as a savarna but a non-dvija and contrasted with Traivarnikas (dvijas, the three upper castes) where as the untouchables are though non-dvijas but outside the Chaturvarna, as avarnas (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.35–36). Basically scholars mix the two Shudras mainly because they don’t want to acknowledge that the anirvasit Shudra, as the Shudra of the Indo-Aryan society, was part of the Kshatriya varna and has no relation with the Shudra of the Hindu society as Ambedkar highlighted.
Ambedkar explained that basically there was no relation between nirvasit and anirvasit Shudra. Ambedkar crucially emphasises that the “present day Shudras are a collection of castes drawn from heterogenous collections and racially different from the original Shudras of the Indo Aryan society…The systems of pain and penalties was no doubt originally devised by the Brahmins to deal with the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan society, who have ceased to exist as a distinct, separate, identifiable community. But strange as it may seem the code intended to deal with them has remained in operation and is now applied to all low-class Hindus, who have no stock with the original Shudras” (1990 : 7.10–11).
He further stressed “that the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan society in course of time became so degraded as a consequence of the severity of the Brahmanical laws that they really came to occupy a very low state in public life. Two consequences followed this, one consequence was a change in the connotation of the word Shudra. The word Shudra lost its original meaning of being the name of a particular community and became a general name for a low-class people without civilization, without culture, without respect and without position.The second consequence was that the widening of the meaning of the word Shudra brought in its train the widening of the application of the code. It is in this way that the so-called Shudras of the present day have become subject to the code, though they are not Shudras in the original sense of the word. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the code intended for the original Shudras were different from the present-day low class people, this tragedy—massacre of the innocents—would have been avoided ” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.10–11).
Ambedkar concluded that “Shudras of the Hindu society are not the racial decendants of the Shudras of the Indo-Aryan society” and that in Hindu society this name was just used as epithet where as in Indo Aryan society it was a proper name for one single people who belonged to a particular race (1990 : 7.10–11). And “this difference was very much clear among the Dharamsutrakaras and to highlight this they made distinctions between sacchudra and asacchudra and between anirvasit Shudra and nirvasit Shudras. Sachudra means a cultured Shudra and asacchudra means an uncultured Shudra. Nirvasita Shudra23 means a Shudra living in the village community. Anirvasit (nirvasit) Shudra means a Shudra living outside the village community…the correct interpretation is that sacchudra and nirvasita Shudra refer to the Shudra of the Aryan society and the asacchudra and the anirvasit Shudra refer to the Shudra by epithet who had begun to from part of the Hindu society” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.201–202).
Sat/Asat Shudra: Those living outside the village already, How can they be segregated?
The scheme of varnasankara also poses the question of how the Brahmin hatred towards Shudra was transferred towards the Chandalas as reflected in it? Not only there exists a confusion about varnasankara and the Chandala situation among scholars but they also give unsatisfactory explanations regarding the relation between Shudras and the untouchables too. Scholars simply want to content themselves with the information that there existed two kinds of Shudras; nirvasita (excluded) and anirvaista (non-excluded), without explaining that how a Shudra being so hated by the Brahmin becomes anirvasita or non-excluded group? Scholars include among nirvasita shudra, Chandalas and mrtapas.
To explain this scholars often quote the usual remarks on Panini by Patanjali who writes that “Panini seems to have included the candala and mrtapa (a person who watches dead bodies) in the list of those Shudras who lived outside towns and villages, and contact with whom permanently defiled the bronze vessels of the brahmanas” (Jha 1970: 282; 1975: 18). Jha notes that Panini here highlights that “samhara davanda24 compound which can only be formed from the several subdivisions of Shudra that are not niravasita (excluded). Implicitly, he considered all the lower sections of society covered under the two broad categories of nirvasita (excluded) and anirvasita (not excluded) Shudras. Niravisita is obviously not different from groups represented by such generic terms as anta, antya, antyayoni, antyavasayin, bahya etc. It is true that despite his acquaintance with the Chandala, Panini does not name him in connection with the nirvasita Shudra, but his residence outside the inhabited Aryan settlement implies such an assumption” (1986-87: 10).
Despite Panini not including Chandalas in the nirvasita (excluded) group, Jha assumes that lawmakers wanted to keep Chandalas at a distance from the settled Aryan population and as result he quickly assumes that the term like anta, antya, antyayoni, antyavasayin and bahya are used to denote segregation and Chandalas. Jha writes “the law giver’s unmistakable objective behind these prescriptions is to keep the Chandalas at a distance from the settled Aryan population and to prohibit physical contact with them as completely as possible. Terms like anta, antya, antyayoni, antyavasayin and bahya used in precise sense and applied to Chandalas and the allied sections attest their effective segregation as a natural corollary to the ardently preached and widely shared notion of pollution and its actual practise vis-à-vis the Chandalas” (1986-87: 7). Here Jha already assumes that Chandalas were Untouchables hence were segregated.
Aktor partially accepts Jha’s argument of denoting these terms highlighting territorial segregation but unlike him he does not apply it to the Chandalas. He writes “as has already been pointed by Vivekannd Jha, this topographical segregation may also be the source for the various generic terms that are used to classify groups of low castes. Terms such as antya, antyaja, antyavasayin, antavasayin and similar expressions all denote someone or something to an end, whether in spatial sense (‘at the boundary’) or as a matter as sequence (‘the last’, ‘the lowest’)” (Aktor 2008: 25). As Jha was writing against Ambedkar’s theoy of origin of untouchability as a late phenomenon in the smritis, that also not till the time of Manusmriti, he tried hard to show that whatever norms were prevalent against the Chandalas at the time of Dharamasutras basically highlights the untouchability of Chandalas. Often exaggerating pollution as untouchability, Jha states “notion of pollution becomes a potent reality and is seen in full display with respect to the Chandala, whose untouchability is not left in any doubt” (1975:15).
Antyas not ‘The end of creation’ but ‘The end of the village’
It is important to note that Ambedkar not only analysed these terms separately to understand if they have anything to do with untouchability or not also points out that the term asprshya also does not have the same meaning as untouchability has now. Ambedkar finds the argument that the term Antya, denoting Untouchables, as completely absurd. He argues that “Hindus learned in Shastras argue that it means one who is born last and as the Untouchable according to the Hindu order of divine creation is held to be born last, the word antya means an Untouchable. The argument is absurd and does not accord with the Hindu theory of creation.
According to it, it is the Shudra who is born last. The untouchable is outside the scheme of creation. The Shudra is savarna. As against him the Untouchable is avarna i.e outside the varna system. The Hindu theory of priority in creation does not and cannot apply to the Untouchable. In my view, the word Antya means not end of creation but the end of the village. It is the name given to these people who lived on the outskirts of the village. The word Antya has survival value. It tells us that there was a time when some people lived inside the village and those who lived outside the village, i.e. on the Antya of the village, were called Antyaja…The use of the word Antya, Antyaja and Antyavasin has thus double significance. In the first place, it shows that living in separate quarters was such a peculiar phenomenon that a new terminology had to be invented to give expression to it. Secondly, the words chosen to express in exact terms the conditions of the people to whom it applied, namely that they were aliens” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.278–79). Aktor too highlights the application of these terms in spatial sense as highlighted above.
Instead of quickly imposing all the above terms on lower castes unlike Jha, Ambedkar breaks the question of untouchability at various levels of inquiries. Ambedkar highlights that the term asprshya in Dharmasutra does not mean untouchables, and asks if asprshya of the Dharmasutras and asprshya of modern India are same? (1990 : 7.360). He further tries to identify if “classes indicated by the terms antya, antyaja, antyavasin and bahya are the same as those indicated by the term aspryshya which etymologically means an Untouchable” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.360–361) or not. Unfortunately, Dharamsutras and smritis not only fail to say “who were included in the category of asprshya” but also does not help to “ascertain whether the classes spoken of as antya and bahya were same as asprshya” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.363). Dharamsutras also do not explain which class is included in the term antyavasin and antyajas, though they are listed by smritis. But the smritis like madhyamangiras, atrismriti and vedavyasa smriti are not unanimous on which classes it will include (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.364).
Given the uncertainty of sutras and smiritis, Ambedkar begins to inquire into the information available on each term separately in the religious texts ‘to ascertain if any of these terms formed into the category of asprshya or untouchables?’ Ambedkar highlights that in Manu’s analysis anulomas were the bahyas and pratilomas were the hinas and were lower than the bahyas, but none of them Manu regards as untouchables (1990 : 7.363). Antya is mentioned by Manu though not enumerated by him, but Medhatithi suggests Antya as Mleccha and Bhuler translate Antya as a low-caste man (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.364).
Ambedkar suggests that “there is nothing suggesting Antyas as untouchables rather in all probability, it is the name given to those people who were living in the outskirts or end (Anta) of the village as very well documented in the Brahadaranyaka Upanishad where it uses the phrase ‘disam anta’ or the end of the quarters translated to end of the periphery is not a farfetched translation” (1990 : 7.364). Coming to antyajas, they are described as soldiers in the army, as trade guilds but nowhere called as Untouchables (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.364). Term antyavasin meant two things, firstly a brahmachari living in the house of his guru during his studentship as mentioned in Amarkosha and secondly it meant a group of people (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.364). With these findings Ambedkar concludes “the social condition of the people called antyavasin, antya, antyaja, as is available from ancient literature, obviously it is not open to say that these classes were Untouchables in the modern sense of the term (1990 : 7.365).
‘Thinking untouchables were always untouchables’ is wrong
Jha’s argument of segregation of Chandalas due to the pollution they cause is questionable. This is contradictory to the argument where he states “the idea of regions tabooed for the Aryans is mooted and autochthonous tribes bordering Aryan settlement are mentioned but the generic term anta is yet to acquire the precise meaning of untouchables it did in days ahead” (1975: 14). Given this, it is difficult to understand how those who were already living at the periphery can be segregated due to pollution at all. Ambedkar clearly argues “Untouchables were broken men from defeated tribes, different from settled tribes and their problem being shelter and protection. When Hindu society passing from nomadic to settled village community, founded the village and broken men lived in separate quarters outside the village as they belonged to different tribes so of different blood” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.273–77; 17(1). 302–303). Thus untouchables from the very beginning lived outside the village and the untouchability has nothing do with their living outside the village (1990 : 7.277).
A major mistake in understanding the situation of untouchables mainly occurs from the belief among them that “untouchables were always untouchables. This difficulty will vanish if it is borne in mind that there was time when the ancestors of the present day untouchables were not untouchables vis-à-vis the villagers but were merely broken men no more and no less, and the only difference between them and the villagers was that they belonged to different tribes” argues Ambedkar (1990 : 7.280). Thus they were not deported and made to live outside the village because they were declared untouchable (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.280).
Impurity and untouchability are two different things
Ambedkar goes further and inquires if the term asprshya had the same connotation in the Dharmasutras as it has now, by talking the case of Chandalas as an illustration of class called asprshya. But the difficulty arises as there were five kinds of Chandalas and which kind of Chandala is called for purification is not clear (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.367). As enumerated in Gautamadharamsutra, Vasisthadharamsutra, Baudhyanadharmasutra and Manusmriti the “pollution by the touch of the Chandala was observed by the Brahmin only and the pollution was observed on ceremonial occasion only” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.367). On the basis of this detail Ambedkar calls for differentiation between the impure and untouchable status. He stressed “it is crucial to understand that untouchable pollutes all and all times, while impure causes pollution to Brahmin only and only on ceremonial times” (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.367).
Ambedkar marks this aversion towards Chandalas as a case of impurity and not of untouchability. He differentiated impurity with untouchability. This differentiation is not a simple distinction but it rather brings forth the hidden history and cause of untouchability and has a bearing on the date of commencement of untouchability in India. If one remembers Ambedkar argued that untouchability was not present during Manu’s time and that beef eating by the Buddhist broken men led to the imposition of untouchability on them by Brahmins. On the basis of this finding Ambedkar not only rejected the theory of racial differentiation between Hindus and untouchables but also the occupational basis as the cause of untouchability (1990 : 7.242).
Another proof that Ambedkar attaches to highlight that communities mentioned in the Dharmasutra were not Untouchables, is the list of communities given in the Order-in Council. Order-in-Council is a schedule of hereditary untouchables prepared by the Government of India in 1935 under the Government of India Act 1935 (1990 : 7.259).
Smritis enumerate only 12 communities whereas Order-in-Council has as much as 42925 communities despite the fact that the two lists belong to the same class of people (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.367). About the two lists: Ambedkar argues that the list contained in the Shastras is a list of the Impure and the list contained in the Order-in Council is a list of the Untouchables (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.364). This list is proof contrary to the claim that impure and untouchables are the same, for if they are same why do the Smritis fail to mention them, asks Ambedkar. The cause of untouchability in India can only be understood if one understands the crucial distinction between Untouchables and the Impure. While “impure as a class came into existence at the time of the Dharmasutras, the untouchability came into being much later than 400 A.D.”26 (Ambedkar 1990 : 7.242).
Scholars like Mikeal Aktor who despite being aware of Ambedkar’s thesis on untouchability choose to ignore him but came to the same conclusion as Ambedkar’s. In his quest to understand the phenomenon of untouchability, Aktor analyzes various hypotheses given by various scholars like Ghurye (1969), Sharma (1990), Jha (1975; 1986), Brinkhaus (1978), Mukherjee (1988). He writes,”with regard to the demographic groups discussed here, the sources outside the normative texts are few, and I shall therefore refrain from entering into a discussion of the suggested hypotheses” (Aktor 2008: 85). On untouchability, similar to Ambedkar’s findings (of difference between impurity and untouchability concerning Chandalas), Aktor writes “but the particular rules prescribing the various precautionary measures, which together can be seen as forming an untouchability complex, are only partly collected in the Dharmasutras and we do not find abstract notions such as ‘untouchable’ or ‘untouchability’ in these texts. Only Manavadharmasatra (10.51-56) deals collectively with several rules imposed on the same groups (Chandalas and svapacas), but these rules do not, strictly speaking, include untouchability…And only in the younger layer of Vishnusmriti and in Katyanasmriti…we find the term ‘untouchable’ (asprsya) as an explicitly generic term denoting a group of people” (2008: 65).
Jha’s case is understandable, but what stopped Aktor in acknowledging Ambedkar’s thesis on untouchability is not clear. In an annotated critical selection from The Untouchables, Anand and George write “both Ambedkar and Aktor cite Kane (1941a) yet we find that Ambedkar’s 1948 work (or any of his other writings on Brahmanic Hinduism) is rarely referred to among both historians and indological scholars working on ancient India, caste and such. When Vivekanand Jha and his mentor R.S. Sharma do engage with Ambedkar, they are dismissive of what they call his tall, untenable claims. Ambedkar admittedly does not approach untouchability in a cold academic tone, but treats it as an aspect of history that irreparably affects him and condemns a wide swathe of population to an unequal life. The academic untouchability Ambedkar is condemned to, by the learned becomes all the more stark when modern scholars (D.N. Jha in The Myth of Holy Cow or Mikeal Aktor in his many essays on Untouchability), with the necessary institutional support and access, often citing the exact same verses through the same secondary sources, arrive often at the near-same deductions as Ambedkar. Except, the questions they ask and the conclusions they draw tend to be at odds” (2020).
The ignored Buddhist past
Arguing that during Buddhism, Chandalas were equally despised as untouchables is basically the projection of the same Brahmanical purity-pollution framework by the scholars. Chandala association with dead bodies, cremation ground, clothes of the dead, for scholars, seems to justify their impure status and their untouchability as Jha does (Jha 1975, 1986). But they failed to realize what Brahmins interpret as impure or polluting in Buddhism constitutes the ascetic practices. Attachment with dead was not feared rather used for gaining valuable knowledge.
Zysk pointed that, there was a dramatic shift in the medical paradigm from a magico-religious approach of the vedic period to an empirico-rational approach to healing in India (1991: 26). This occurs mainly due to close associations between medicine and heterodox ascetic traditions that led to a significant growth of Indian medicine in early Buddhist monastic establishment. The “heterodox ascetics generally known as sramanas (Pali samana), seeking liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth, abandoning the society remained indifferent or even antagonistic to Brahmin orthodoxy of class and ritualism based on sacrifice to gods of vedic pantheon” (Zysk 1991: 26). Ascetic monks, indulging in ‘direct observation of decaying corpse’ was not polluting, but a way of understanding human anatomy not only for ‘demonstrating the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence’ through gaining ’empirical understanding of body’ (Zysk 1991:35).
In fact ‘cemetery or smasana asceticism‘ and meditation was an accepted practice in the Buddhist legal codes or Vinaya, a document prescribing how monks should ideally live (Witkowski 2016: 1). The “list of Indian Buddhist ascetic practices, or dhūtagunas (lit. ‘qualities of purification’) includes the term śmāśānika, often translated as ‘one who dwells in a cemetery'” (Witkowski 2019: 825). Some of the other dhūtagunas commonly practised and accepted among Buddhists includes “araññaka (forest-dwelling), pindapātika (alms-begging), rukkhamūlika (staying at the foot of a tree), sosānika (staying at the cemetery), abbhokāsika (staying in the open air), nesajjika (remaining in a sitting posture), yathāsanthatika (sitting on the seat offered), and ekāsanika (eating only once a day)” (Freiberger 2006: 244).
The two practices followed under cemetery asceticism comprise of pāmśukūlika, “a practice which, in this case involves retrieving material for one’s monastic robes from corpses” and the second is aśubha-bhāvanā, or “corpse meditation” (Witkowski 2016: 1). Gleaning from the passages of Vinaya, it becomes clear that ascetic trips to the cemetery was not a rarity and scavenging for pāmśukūla was a standard practice in the early Buddhists monastery (Witkowski 2016: 9). The pāmśukūlika literally means “‘the refuse fabric’ but it also doubles as shorthand for the practice of ‘wearing refuse fabric’ itself” (Witkowski 2017: 296).
In stark contrast to the Brahmin worldview, Witkowski emphasises that “the cemetery ascetic is a Buddhist monk who becomes ritually pure not just through his presence in the cemetery but as a result of his regular physical contact with the human corpses housed there” (2016: 9). Confirming the banality of these ascetic practises involving large monastic communities one notices various references in Dharmaguptaka-vinaya of regulating “both the technologies for transforming robe material scavenged on the charnel ground as well as disputes over ownership that arises among the various claimants in the ascetic fraternity” (Witkowski 2019: 853). The monks were not prevented from going to the cemetery and were expected to follow the instructions regarding ‘how he should scavenge for garments to make robe’, ‘how he should negotiate with the individual charged with guarding the graves’, how they could prevent arousal through ‘proper corpse meditation techniques’ etc. (Witkowski 2016: 6). Apart from corpse meditation, monks often engage in ‘resupplying their stock of bedding and seating’ and other necessary items from the cemetery that had been discarded by the householders in the community (Witkowski 2019: 843).
Very crucially, Witwoski argues that the historical presence of Buddhist monks in the cemetery could be compared to the passages in the Brahmanical legal text Manusmriti, that allows the impure caste of Chandalas to “take the clothes, beds and ornaments of those condemned to death”… This parallel in the Brahmanical legal tradition between the practices of Buddhist monastics and Chandalas hinges on textual references to “these concrete objects of daily life” (2019: 843). Along with this “communities of cemetery monks were perceived by Brahmins as identical in purity and economic status to the Chandalas because of their location in the nexus of spatial relations” (Witkowski 2020). This argument reminds us of Ambedkar’s argument about untouchables, explaining that they were not untouchables but just broken men and considered impure mainly because they were Buddhists on whom Brahmins imposed impurity (1990: 7.315) probably because they were engaged in these dhūtagunas ascetic practices which challenged the Brahminical world view.
These Buddhist practices basically highlight the truth premised on direct experience and reason, reflecting detachment and impermanence of life. Buddha rejected the Brahminical view of truth based on Vedas where they emphasized Vedas as ‘the final authority of all social and religious doctrine’ and rather argued ‘truth is something to which any one of the dasa indriyas can bear witness” (Ambedkar 2003: 17(3). 335). Ambedkar laments the loss of this rationalistic approach of Buddha’s to truth and argues that we were in grip of counter-revolutionaries and marks Bhagvat Geeta and Manu Smriti as the gospel of counter-revolutionaries (2003: 17(3). 336).
Evidently the description of Chandalas, especially their association with the cemetery, emerges very vividly in Manu’s description and discrimination against them. For instance, Jha writes “Chandala …is to carry the corpses of persons who have no relatives and to hang criminals by royal command and in accordance with law…the economic lot of the Chandala is patently deplorable. His food depended on others and is to be given him in broken dishes in which he eats it. He is to wear garments of the dead or to take for himself the clothes of executed criminals. The bed and ornaments of the latter also to belong to the Chandalas” (1986-87: 12). It will not be far fetched to stress that the wearing of clothes of the dead and begging food encompasses the ascetic dhūtagunas like pāmśukūlika and pindapitika.
Ambedkar in his Grammar and Dictionary of the Pali (in his Volume 16), lists many terms like this. For instance: dhūtagunas is “thirteen ascetic practises, the observance of which is meritorious in a Buddhist priest”, pindapitika as “sixth dhūtaguna percept and enjoins eating from one vessel only” (2014 : 16. 107, 285). Ambedkar refers to words like “asubha kammattans,obtained by the contemplation of a corpse fissured from decay” and “recollection of death, meditation on dead”27 (2014 : 16. 107, 285). This evidence brings forth the link between broken men, Buddhists and untouchables which Ambedkar espoused to highlight through the history of the struggle between Brahminism and Buddhism.
 He was the director at Indian Council of Historical Research, and editor of the journal, Indian Historical Review (20 vols, 1974–94) along with some other journals. His theme of doctoral thesis (1972) concerns the early history of Untouchables on which he published several papers.
 Varnasankara or mixed castes are ‘those castes the member of which are born of parents who do not belong to the same caste’. Varnasankara is often written as varnasamkara too. Literally Manu has classified various castes under specific groups like Aryan castes (the four varnas), Non-Aryan castes (those rejecting the Chaturvarna order), Vratya castes (believers in Chaturvarna turned rebels), Fallen castes (Kshatriyas demoted to Shudras for rejecting Aryan rites and/of Brahman services) and Sankara castes or mixed castes. For details see, Riddle No.18- Manu’s Madness or The Brahmanic Explanation of The Origin of The Mixed Castes, BAWS, Vol.4, 251–225.
 The term Varnasamkara appears in Baudhayana Dharmasutra and samkara in the Gautama Dharmasutra, whereas the concept figures in law-books of Gautama, Baudhyana and Vasistha, for details, see Jha (1970).
 Manavdharmashastra, is another term used for Manusmriti. Ambedkar call it ‘Bible of Hindus’ which contains the ‘philosophy of Hinduism’. For more details see, Philosophy of Hinduism, BAWS, Vol. 7, 28-29.
 Max Muller dated Dharmasutras somewhere around between 600 B.C and 200 B.C. see, Riddle no. 4-Why Suddenly the Brahmins Declare the Vedas to Be Infallible and Not to Be Questioned?, BAWS, Vol.4, 27.
 For details on dating of Manusmriti and origin of untouchability see, When Did The Broken Men Become Untouchables, BAWS, Vol.7, 370-79.
 For more details on Manu’s opinion on Cow see, Did The Hindus Never Eat Beef?, What Made The Brahmins Become Vegetarians? BAWS, Vol. 7, 323–28, 341–344.
 See page 16 of this article.
 This theory is also known as the theory of origin of universe or cosmogony and is mentioned in the 19th hymn of the Tenth Mandala of the Rig Veda. For details on hymn see, The Riddle of The Shudras. BAWS, Vol.7, 21–22.
 For details see, Chakravarti (2009: 54–55), Rege (2013: 155).
 For details see, The Number of Varnas, Three or Four?, BAWS, Vol.7, 132–137.
 For details see, Number of Varnas, Three or Four?BAWS, Vol.7, 134–37.
 For details see, Who were The Shudras? How They Came To Be The Fourth Varna in The Indo-Aryan Society ?, BAWS, Vol.4.
 For details see, The Riddle of The Shudra, BAWS, Vol. 7, 21–36.
 For details see, Riddle No. 3- The Testimony of Other Shastras on The Origin of The Vedas, BAWS, Vol.4, 19–24.
 For details see, Riddle No. 5-Why did The Brahmins Go Further and Declared That The Vedas Are Neither Made By Man Nor God?, BAWS, Vol.4, 28–36.
 Arvind Sharma (1978) in a complete mythological paper writes that it is hard to establish a relation between Purusha Sukta and Jati aspect of the caste system. This happens as he does not take in to account the mechanism of varnasankara ‘method’ of creation of castes. Through the varnasankara theory only four varnas are turned into numerous mixed castes. One should also remember that caste is endogamy and varnasankara theory is voilation of endogamy leading to bastardization. So varnasankara theory was also used as a preventive to inter-caste marriages. Thus in a way Manu violated endogamy to preserve endogamy. Also see, Brinkhaus in Aktor (2008 :98).
 See, page 9 of this article.
 For details see, Riddle No.18-Manu’s Madness or the Brahmanic Explanation of The Origin of The Origin of The Mixed Castes, BAWS, Vol.4, 220.
 For a complete list of mixed castes, see Riddle No.18-Manu’s Madness or the Brahmanic Explanation of The Origin of The Mixed Castes, BAWS, Vol.4, 215–225.
 See, Katular 2016.
 See, Ghurye (1957: 8).
 Ambedkar has erroneously marked nirvasita Shudra as living in the village community and anirvasita Shudra as living outside the village community.
 For a detailed explanation of Panini’s use samhara davanda in context of anirvasit sudra see, Aktor (2008: 67–71).
 For details see, Untouchability Among Hindus, BAWS, Vol 7.
 See page 3 of this article.
 For more details see, BAWS, Vol. 16.
Shubhi is a Research Scholar in the Center for Political Studies, JNU and has a keen interest in Baba Saheb’s Writings.