Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hart's caste system - III

George L Hart's rather innocuous looking work on "Caste in ancient Tamil society" has too many flaws as I have discussed previously. In this post, I am further exploring menstrual blood concept, an argument used very innovatively by Hart. Hart's whole discussion boils down to;

Shamanic native Dravidian tradition was considered uncontrolled and inauspicious by upper class native Dravidians. They also had the similar notion about menstrual blood. Therefore, Dravidian priestly classes indulged in Shamanic traditions were called 'pulayan' (in Tamil), where the root of the word pol* means 'menstrual blood'. These Pulayans became later day untouchables. In other words, a community that became untouchable was the result of unique Dravidian world view. A world view unrelated to north Indian people like Brahmins.

The drawbacks:

1. The word pole meaning menstrual blood is attested in Kannada, Tulu and Kodava Takk but not in the quintessential Dravidian Tamil language. That does not stop George L Hart from giving credit to Tamils for having such stunning world view without any help from Indo-Europeans and does not even discuss the probability of development such high culture in Karnataka region. An unknown Atlantis in Karnataka before Tamil civilization.

2. The biggest Dravidian speaking region Andhra Pradesh does have an equivalent outcasts though their caste identity is not derived from pole. Of course, the caste system in Andhra region was enforced during Satavahana period whose suzerainty over that region predates Tamil literary period.

3. Vediks did have all the taboos associated with menstrual blood exemplified in Manu smriti. If I remember correctly, Vediks did consider worshipping ghost is inauspicious. Krishna says if somebody worships ghost he will become a ghost in the next life.

Menstruation Belt:
My research takes me to the conclusion that menstrual blood meaning of pole is secondary to the word and most likely conceived by Indo-Aryans who merged with Dravidian speaking population in the South. However, as we have seen, purity and pollution concepts are not really part of European Indo-European culture. There is a strong connection between division of society in Norse society and Indo-Aryan society. Though it should be noted that correspondence exists for Ksatriya(chieftains), Vaisya(common people...herders) and Sudra(slaves/serfs) but not for priests. The Norse caste system is three fold whereas Vedic caste system is four fold with priests at the top.

As I have said, European society did not have extreme taboos associated with menstrual blood. So, obviously, if Indo-Europeans of India had it then they might have absorbed it somewhere beyond India as they migrated from Kurgan lands. I did web research on menstrual blood taboo. I considered a motif of segregating women during their menses.

I found this precise motif among;
1. Arabs (Semitic)
2. Jews (Semitic)
3. Zoroastrians (IE)
4. Kalash (IE)
5. Lambani (IE)
6. Roma (IE)

Indeed, there were speculations of Zoroastrian influence on Semitic traditions. However, in this case it is the other way round.If PIE people had this tradition then it should have observed in Norse society. Since it was not the case we can conclude that IE people absorbed concepts of pollution associated with menstrual blood from West Asian people.

Lambani and Roma may suggest this tradition probably was already part of India and likely that Dravidians might have had it. But Lambanis have Y-Hg-R1b lineage in high frequency. This is not observed among Indians and most probably derived from West Asian lineages. Roma practice of menstrual taboo is a mystery. Probably, as this group IE-ised it absorbed Indo-Aryan tradition of menstrual taboo. However, Roma practice of separate dwelling during menses shows a rather West Asian tradition. I guess Hindu practice was not that severe. Probably, they might have picked up that practice during their stay in West Asia.

It is again tough to find original Dravidian view about menstrual blood. There are many Dravidian tribes where I believe Shamanic tradition is still alive and those people have not been made outcasts. I still do not know much about these tribes' view on menstrual blood. I found this article by Paul Zacharia where he states;

Menstruation is, after all, not such a dread sin for everyone in Kerala. There is even a temple where the devi’s ‘menstrual blood’ is revered.

Okay, that is equally pathetic as fearing menstrual blood. Fear and reverence are two sides of the same coin when it comes to spiritual world. So, I believe it may not be diagonally opposite world view.

Development of Menstrual blood taboo:

The moot point is why West Asian society developed menstrual taboo concepts while Europeans did not. A European member at Quetzalcoatl anthropology forum feels concept of purity-pollution is not for the ultimate machos like Europeans. This is a view that finds an echo in Ahmad ibn Fadlan's writings.

But I believe the society that developed a philosophy before inventing a clothing akin to present day underwear might have come up with menstrual blood taboo and the society that developed philosophy after complete covering did not bother about menstrual blood. As we know West Asian society was the first one to develop a civilization.

The greatest contribution of George L Hart to the culture of Tamil "race" with irrelevent Brahmins of Indo-European "race" is that they had a distinct world view that discriminated women and created class of people who would become untouchables, as far as I can see. I was trying to find Tamil responses to that. One Tamil propagandist states that Tamils should be proud of their contribution to Indian society both good and bad. Of course, bad is clearly as explained by George L Hart. He too probably believes a distinct Tamil race. Curiously, In one of the forums, he mentions a word sounding similar to pole being used in Nepal associated with blood rituals. And also, mentions about untouchability in Japan. Well, a bird view observation finds common thread in Buddhism. Again, a religion of Indo-Aryan speaking people.

Another Tamil propagandist claims Tamils did have a unique world view as explained by George L Hart but no it did not lead to all those gory things. Does he think uniqueness of Tamils as explained by George L Hart is 'good'? If he accepts it from a neutral point of view then why he is opposing the conclusions drawn with that world view. That makes me to conclude he thinks that world view is 'good'. What a pity!

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