Sunday, July 16, 2006

Buddhism and Jainism in South India - 2

In my opinion, the historians who work on Buddhism and Jainism in South Indian society should take the following considerations.

1. Non-overlapping of the events
-> Chronological order of the events. I believe the initial evidences could be found around 2nd century BCE and final around 12-13th century CE. While making qualitative interpreatations one should be careful not to overlap the centuries.
-> Settlement remains. One can find evidences of settlement all parts of the region. But one has to be sure whether all those settlements point towards the same period. I mean people move and start a new settlement. A settlement in North during first century CE, Central third century CE, East 5th century CE , South 8th century CE in a region, does not give any clues in 21st century.

2. Implementation of caste system.
-> If you read assertions like Jains or Buddhists imparted the education regardless of the caste one wonders if the society had already been divided along the caste lines since the beginning of the civilization in South India. In my opinion, implemenation of caste system in South Indian society is not uniform and very complicated. Probably, Tamil Nadu might have had caste system around 3-4th century CE (during reign of Pallavas) but it could be as late as 13-14th century in Kerala. Identification of people with various Varnas does not mean implementation of caste system but can only be ascertained by the evidences of rules and regulations they had to follow which had been enforced with the help of rulers.

Anyway, in my previous entry, I mentioned that somehow Tantriks joined Vaidiks. However, it seems in South Indian society Buddhists, Jains, Tantriks, Shaivas and Vaishnavas used to study Vedas, Vedantas along with other religous texts. Probably, this gives clues for how caste consciousness might have creeped into Buddhists, Jains and Tantriks. Now I believe the holocaust of Buddhists and Jains in South India is not a physical process but an intellectual corruption brought about by their access to Vaidik literature. Probably, this would also explain the ease with which Jains of Karnataka embraced Vaishnavism. Vaishnavas of Ramanuja were strong proponents of Vedas and did not accept Shaivas as part of the Vaidik religion. By this time, the strongest opponents of Jains were Shaivas and not Vaidiks(Unlike Tamil Nadu Shaivas of Karnataka rejected Vedas, initially). Anyway, initial non-casteist form of Vaishnavism lost over time and endogamous nature appeared as dictated by Vaidik literature.

Note: In one of the studies(Sahoo et al. 2006), Y-Haplogroup H formed around 45% of Vaishnavas of Karnataka(Tamil speaking Iyengars), unlike Vaishnavas of Tamil Nadu whose Haplogroup frequency matched with other Brahmin caste, Iyers(in another study, Sengupta et al. 2006). Though it might probably support the assumption that native Jains merged their identities with Tamil Vaishnavas, we have to be careful considering the small size of the sample(17).

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