Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Epistolary style of the Brahmans

The “Description of the character, manners and the customs of the people of India” (pages 269-271) published in 1817 ( translated from a French manuscript of 1806) provides these examples of how a Brahman addressed a person who was his inferior;, one who was his equal; and a person who was his superior.

Letter to an Inferior.

“They, the Brahman Soubaya, to him Lakshmana, who has all good qualities, who is true to his word, who by the services he renders to his relations and friends, resembles the Chintamani; Asirvadam.

Year of Kilaka, the fourth day of the month Phalguna, I am at Banavara, in good health. Send me news of thine. As soon as this letter shall have reached thee, thou shalt go to the most excellent Brahman Anantaya, and prostrating thyself at all thy length at his feet, thou wilt offer him my most humble respect, and then, without delay, thou shalt present thyself before the Shetty Rangapa, and declare to him that if he shall now put into thy hands the three thousand rupees which he owes me, with interest at twenty-five per centum, I will forget all that is passed, and the matter shall then be at an end. But if, on the contrary he makes shifts and continues to defer the payment of the money, tell him that I am acquainted with a method of teaching him that no person shall safely break his word with a Brahman, such as I am. This is all I have to say to thee. Asirvadam."

Letter to an Equal.

To them the Lord, to the Lord Ramaya, who possesses all the good qualities which can render a man esteemed; who is worthy to obtain all the favours which the Gods can bestow; who is the beloved of beautiful women, who is the particular favourite of Lakshmi; who is great as the Mount Meru, and who has a perfect knowledge of the Yajur veda: the Brahman Subaya; Namaskaram"

The year Dnrmati, the fifteenth of the month Phalguna, I am at Bailore, where I and all the members of my family enjoy good health. I shall learn, with great gladness, that it is the same with you; and I trust you will inform me particularly of all the subjects of satisfaction and contentment which you experience.

On the twenty-second of the month above mentioned, being a day in which all good omens unite, we have chosen that the marriage of my daughter Vijaya Lakshmi shall be celebrated. I beg you will honour the ceremony with your presence, and be here before that day with all the persons of your household, without excepting any. I expect you will put yourself at the head of the solemnity, and that you will be pleased to conduct it. And if there is any thing in which I can be of service to you, have the goodness to let me know it. This is all I have to apprise you of. Namaskaram"

Letter to a Superior.

To them the Lord, to the Lord Brahman, to the great Brahman Anantaya, who are endowed with every virtue and all good qualities ; who are great as Mount Meru; who possess a perfect knowledge of the four Vedas; who, by the splendour of their good works, shine like the Sun; whose renown pervades the fourteen worlds: I, Kishenaya, their humble servant and slave, keeping my distance, with both hands joined, my mouth closed, mine eyes cast down ; wait, in this humble posture, until they shall vouchsafe to cast their eyes on him who is nothing in their presence. After obtaining their leave approaching them with fear and trembling, and prostrating myself at my whole length before the flowers of Nenuphar on the ground where they stand; and, thus submissive, with respectful kisses, will I address their feet with this humble supplication:

The year Vikari, the twentieth of the month Paushya, I, your humble servant and slave, whom your Excellence has deigned to regard as something, having received with both hands the letter which you humbled yourself by writing me; after kissing it and putting it on my head, I afterwards read with the profoundest attention, and I will execute the orders it contains, without departing from them the breadth of a grain of Sesamum. The affair on which your Excellence has vouchsafed to command me is in good progress, and I hope that, by the efficacy of your benediction, it will soon terminate to your entire satisfaction. As soon as that happens, I, your humble servant and slave, shall not fail to present myself (agreeably to the orders of your Excellence) at the flowers of Niluphar of your holy feet. I now entreat your Excellence to impart to me the commands and instructions necessary to enable me so to demean myself as to be agreeable to their will, and that you will clearly point out to me in what manner I may render myself most acceptable to your blessed feet. For this, it will suffice, if I receive from your bounty a leaf of betel indented with your nail, in care of some confidential person, who can verbally explain the orders of your Excellency. Such is my humble prayer."

1 comment:

Ranjit.V.S said...

I for one never believe what any Christian preacher/ writer has to write about us.
Sad even after 63 years after Independence vestiges of slave mentality exist. The Europeans read Christians tried every trick in their proselytization trade to make Hindus loose their self esteem and they have achieved it admirably after their exit.

The Europeans hated the Brahmins because they stood like pillars against their cult and hence wrote whatever they pleased. Fortunately unlike what this French wrote there is living proof of French atrocities in Pondichery.

Read" M. Arunachalam, in Christianity in India: A Critical Study, writes, "… Portuguese sacked the famous Tiruchendur Murugan Temple .. and threw the idol into the sea. .., in 1654, the chieftain Vadamalaiyappa Pillai of Tirunelveli, salvaged the idol .. and installed it at the present Tiruchendur temple."[41]
He continues, "The Tirumalai Nayak Mahal .. is another example. Jealous of its magnificence, the British began demolishing it, but public agitation checked it and what we have today is only a part of what was originally there."

The British were generally less destructive than the Portuguese and the French, but they did not hesitate to attack temples .. desecrate them as a means of intimidating the local populace. They fired on the temples of Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh ..; and Victoria Terminus in Bombay is built on the original site of that city's famous Mumbai Devi Temple. In Madras they obliterated the small Hindu shrines that once stood inside Fort St. George. The fort now contains St. Mary's Church, the first Protestant church built east of Suez.
But it is the French who vied with the Portuguese in their Christian zeal to destroy Pagan places of worship. Henry Love, in Vestiges of Old Madras, records that they used temples as …
Sita Ram Goel, in History of Hindu-Christian Encounters, quoting The Private Diary of Anand Ranga Pillai, gives a graphic account of the destruction of the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple at Pondicherry by the French governors wife, Madame Dupliex, and the Jesuits. He writes, "The Vedapuri Iswaran Temple was the principle place of worship for the Hindus of Pondicherry. The Jesuit missionaries built the Church of St. Paul adjacent to it and obtained an order from the King of France that the Hindu temple should be destroyed ...

"The first incident …took place on March 17, 1746. ….. two unknown persons entered the .. Temple carrying in a vessel of liquid filth, which they poured on the heads of the Gods around the altar, and into the temple, through the drain of the shrine of Iswaran; and having broken the pot of dirt on the image of the God Nandi, they went away through a part of the building which had been demolished' ...

"As the report of this sacrilege spread, Hindus 'from the Brahmin to the pariah,' held a public meeting. The governor, Dupliex, when he heard of it, sent his chief peon to disperse the meeting.... The people, however, defied the order and protested, you better kill us all'...

".. on December 31, 1746. 'It was reported, he writes, tonight at 7, that an earthen jar, filled with filth, was thrown from within the grounds of the Church of St. Paul, into the Temple of Vedapuri Iswaran. It very nearly fell on the head of Sankara Aiyan,...

"…'Yesterday,' …, '200 soldiers, 60 or 70 troopers and sepoys were stationed at St. Paul's Church …... This morning, M. Gerbault (the engineer), the priests with diggers, masons, coolies and others 200 in all, with spades, pick--axes and whatever is needed to demolish walls, began to pull down the southern wall of the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple and the outhouses. ….

"Then Fr. Coeurdoux of Karikal came with a great hammer, kicked the Lingam, broke it with his hammer, and ordered the Coffrees and the Europeans to break the idols. Madame went and told the priest that he might break the idols as he pleased..... Then [the native convert ] Varlam also kicked the great Lingam …….