Video: How Britain replaced slavery with the coolie trade – Deep Sehgal

Newly arrived coolies in South Africa

This is a professionally-made must see video about a little discussed period of Indian history under the British Raj ⇓


Video: Shashi Tharoor on the British contribution to India – The Indian Express

Shashi TharoorContrary to popular opinion, the presence of British in India did more harm than good. The colonial empire incessantly looted and plundered one of the richest countries in the world for 200 years. – Shashi Tharoor

Author and politician Shashi Tharoor is known for his verbose tweets and quick-witted repartee. The former diplomat, who is currently serving as a full-time MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, is not known to mince words and this was proved yet again when he was asked if India has not benefited from the presence of British, especially while imbibing skills in the field of engineering, infrastructure and education.

Tharoor, who was attending the Melbourne Writers Festivals 2017 in Australia, did not hold back his words as he went on to ‘school’ the person asking the question and others in the crowd. He categorically explained how, contrary to popular opinion, the presence of British in India did more harm than good, and that the colonial empire incessantly looted and plundered one of the richest countries in the world for 200 years. He went to say that education was the last thing on the British colonialists’ minds and that they left India in ashes. This part comes after 44:55 in the video.

Shashi Tharoor’s earlier speech at the Oxford Union (2015) ⇓

East India Company dubashis and the birth of anti-Brahminism – Vedam Gopal

East India Company official with his dubashi

East India Company Coat of Arms (1698)The Tamilian tradition of giving generous accommodation has been fully exploited by the foreigners, by trapping the greedy local groups who literally sold their own motherland to unscrupulous traders. – Vedam Gopal

Not to repeat the bad deeds of our ancestors which we come to know through true history and repeat their good deeds only are the priority duty of our younger generation.  This only will determine the true fate of our country’s future.

It is highly unfortunate that untruth and lies-galore are the basis of such false history. Culture, social justice, right without duties as a contagious disease, secularism, industrial development etc., are the false fabric of such historical mockeries. Net results are our own low self-esteem, slavish mentality, mischief-mongering, creating confusion, dis-integrating our national fervour by splitting it are the mindset of to-day’s conditions. If we refuse to digest true history, the aforesaid negative attitude will be very difficult to erase and change.

The Madras Presidency comprises of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka, Lakshadweep Islands, Orissa and part of Maharashtra.  East India Company of Britain, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Danish, Austrian business interest colonized the Indian shores between 16th to 18th centuries. Principally Portuguese in Goa, French people in Pondicherry, and Madras, Calcutta, Mumbai were controlled by the British. The autocratic rule of the Portuguese and British overlords by spear-leading religion, killing the innocents, loot of the treasures is the true face of such plunderers.

The tabulation below was presented in an article, “Indic Mercantile Collaboration with Abraham Invaders” (Bharata Bharati, 6th April 2017). In the article selfish groups of merchants who collaborated with foreigners are only given. No mention had been made about the dubashis who brokered between the foreigners and local merchants.


In the 16th century Tamilnadu was the leading state in business across the oceans. The foreigners who were well aware of such back-drop began to plunder the country like the modern-day NGO’s, corporate camouflaged as global business and software giants. For both the sorry state of affairs is the product of our meek submissions. We never read that the travails of history are the sorry state of affairs. A little room given to such foreigners turned into an over looking situation of which tactics they are adept.

The Tamilian tradition of giving enormous accommodation has been fully exploited by the foreigners, by trapping the greedy local groups who literally sold their own motherland to unscrupulous traders. Yes, such are the open secrets of our weak history. One such avatar is the contribution of the dubashis. The word dubashi is Hindi or Sanskrit or Persian is still a controversy. Some says the Chennai term dubakoor (born liar) is the forerunner of dubashi.  The people who in the beginning doing the translator job between foreign and local traders slowly began to turn into brokers. Cheap local procurement and undue profits from foreign elements were chief ways of expanding their assets. With their British and French fervour, their dressing and cultural habits followed suit. Also did they undertake the cooking, washing, shaving ordeals of the alien households and proved their servitude? There were even dubashi who attended the personal requirements of the governor’s female clan. Also these suited servants arranged for wine parties and visit there with full suit crossing the board kept written as “Dogs And Indians Are Not Allowed”. This base attitude has been truly delineated by Vaithi of  Thillana Mohanambal fame.

Apart from this, assisting in land distribution, maximising the revenue, creating artificial shortage of essentials and engaging in food grain distribution with greedy profits, colluding with governors themselves in looting the treasury and getting caught and punished legally are the shameless traits of such selfish groups. Many enjoyed the grandeur of bungalows with huge gardens and revelled like anything. Building mansions like colonial officials, purchasing estates, spending the ill-gotten wealth in temple building activities as a social cover up, turning into trustees of the temples in Chennai Rajadani with the governor’s connivance. Celebrating the kumbhabishekams, marching on horse, elephant and palanquin with melam, nadasuram and band vadiyam. To have grandiose name patronage of musicians and dancers, as also devouring the temple properties in devious ways. Running lending banks and giving loan even to foreign traders. Initially procuring plots in their native village and becoming mirasdar.  Extending the plots further in the surrounding villages and becoming jamindar. Their greed did not stop here and they extended their plots in more villages and becoming inamdar (no need to pay any tax and permitted to collect tax from the villagers). Sometime in the absence of governors took acting governor job and collected undue taxes from the local merchants and not paid into the treasury. Also dubashis served the Nawabs as well and cunningly created rift between the British and Nawabs with selfish advancements.    

An English circular describes the dubashi as follows: Much has been said about these monsters, but it is impossible to say too much until the whole race of them both with the English jargon and without it, are entirely eradicated. They will correspond with your enemies, they will plunder you of your property and after they have enriched themselves at your expenses, they will throw you into jail. All currency is in their hands, hoarded up and lost to the state.” (C. G. Heyne in his tracts.)

A few among such people were of a philanthropist nature with benevolent attitude.  

After the fall of Vijayanagar Empire, Tamilnadu turned into a chaotic land. There were Mogul invaders, the European traders with long-grabbing greed, conversions taking their toll, the palaiakarars misbehaving like clan chieftains and becomes local mutineer’s order of the day. Thalavai Arianada Mudaliar served efficiently for three generations of Vijayanagar Empire.   

“Chola times Brahmins administered the sabahs of villages as autonomous socio-political units. The pre-Vijayanagar polity of the Tamils was permissive of such autonomy while the imperialist policy of all the governments from Vijayanagar downwards spelt the ruin of these semi-autonomous villages.”

Arianada Mudaliar created 72 pallayams after dissolving the grama sabah which was controlled by the Brahmins. Some of his own community people were appointed as palaiakarars. Because of utter disunity of these palaiakarars, Kattabomman was complicitly handed over to the British by Ettappan and Vijaya Raghunatha Thondaiman. Ramalinga Mudaliar – Dubashi – Major Banerman. This man only showed the secret passage of the Panchlankurichi Fort enabling the British to completely demolish it to the ground level. The internal clash of the Pandian kings, one brother went to north and approached Maalikhafur’s help. This paved the way for interference of Moguls’ in Tamilnadu’s ruling clan.  

One Maruda Nayagam Pillai converted to Islam alias Yusuf Khan was an ordinary sepoy who by his clever and powerful maneuvers was in the good books of the palaiakarars, Moguls and English alike to such an extent. Thus became the ruler of Madurai. But was discretely handed over to the British by the Moguls and was finally hanged to death. Like Tipu Sultan, Yusuf Khan is also hailed as a patriot (freedom fighter) who fought against the British. His life history was to be portrayed by our Kamal Hasan through silver screen and is yet to see the light of the day.

The invasion and colonization of the British was mainly in Madras, to-day’s Chennai sea front. The land was called Armagon probably called so because it was acquired from one Arumuga Mudaliar. Here they built a small fort. It can well be called a battery of godowns (Clive Battery).  It was also called Durgarayapattinam. What I presume is to-day Armenian street was Armagon and to-days Royapuram might be Durgarayapattinam.

Thaniappa Mudaliar, otherwise known as Lazurus Trimorthy, of the Agambadi Mudali (Vellala) caste who was a founder (?) of the French East India Company in Pondicherry, died on the twenty-first day of Chittrai (month) of Promodhuta (year) corresponding to the current year 1691 A.D. He lies interned in St. Andrew’s Church, Chennapatnam (Madras).

He was converted as Christian in Mylapore, thereafter was called Lazurus Motha, Francois Martin was the priest who recommended, thereby he went to Pondicherry. He was the enabler for the French settlers in the year 1673-74. He served there for 40 years and died at Madras. An epitaph has been written about him by Francois Martin. The descendent of Thaniappa Mudaliar also were dubashis for the French. His son Muthappa alias Antonio was helpful in bringing the Indian weavers to Pondicherry.  His son Kanakaraya Mudaliar (alias Peary) was helpful in mint facility. He was instrumental in acquiring and acceding Karaikal to French. Whether the Lazurus Church at Luz was built in memory of (Lazurus Trimorthy) is not yet corroborated.

The situation obtaining at Tamilnadu at that time: “The important cultivating class was Tamil Vellalars. They are not only important part of rural population but also they were employed in government service, particularly the village revenue collectors (karnams) and in trade and commerce. Districts like Tanjavur and Trinellvellai Vellalas were very orthodox in religious practice, some time even more than a Brahmin. The Vellalas were for the most part concentrated in the inland areas west of the city of Madras, particularly the districts of Coimbatore, Salem and North Arcot. They were also large numbers in south in Trinellvelli district. One description of the Vellalas position in Coimbatore characterized them as ‘truly the backbone of the district’ It is these who by their industry and frugality create and develop wealth, support the administration, and find the money for imperial and district demands.

“As their own proverb says ‘The Vellalar’s goad is the ruler’s scepter” Because the Vellalas were so widely diffused throughout Tamil area, they could not protect themselves against several of sub groups (jatis) who called themselves Vellalas but whose origin was among groups considerably inferior to the Vellalas in social position. Accounts of the emergence of Vellalas as important landholders in Madurai and other districts indicate that they achieved this position only under British rule, usually by ousting their Telugu counterparts the Kapu or Reddi cultivators, who had previously migrated into the area. At the start of the 20th century, the great landholding cast group in Madras was the Vellalas in the Tamil area.  (Politics and Social Conflict in South India by Eugene F. Irschick.)

Largest group of dubashis serving during 1650 to 1850 were the Mudaliars and Pillaimars is a historical fact. Later certain Telugu Brahmins and Komatti Chettiyars were also serving as dubashis.  The Vellalars were keenly inclined to be in the good books of the British and Christian lords, thereby getting enough influence and favors that were their sole aim. Several of them converted into Christianity. The bust of a converted Vellala Coho is still there in Pondicherry church complex. First time one Arumuga Navalar a Vellala of Sri Lanka wrote the Bible in Tamil. The Madras University and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was nicknamed the Mudaliar Munnetra Kazhagam. Here for a period of 27 years Dr. Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar was the vice-chancellor.  In the guise of literature and historical research Vellallas collaborating with Christian contaminating authenticated facts and written text books and propagating bogus information as facts. Their sole aim was to divide the Hindu religion, turn Tamil people mood against nationality, to separate the Brahmins against Tamilians, etc.   

Typical examples of some people who have contributed for adulterated history, culture and literature are Devaneya Paavaner, Aappa Duraiyar, and Deivanayakam Pillai (all converted Christian). This man Deivanayakam Pillai said in one of his research paper that saint Thiruvalluvar was a disciple of apostle Thomas and these Dravidian idiot’s are keeping mum. Others in the list are Manonmaniam Sundaranar, Venkata Challapathy, Kanakasabai Pillai, Aravanan, Marai Malai Adikal, Bharathidasan, Kundrakudi Adikalar — the list goes endlessly. This Vellalar muting is not only in Tamilnadu, the same muting in Sri Lanka is the root cause of countless number of innocent Tamils killed in the undeclared civil war recently. The main reason is changing faith and colluding with Christians.   

Why at all they served as dubashis? 1) Trading benefits; 2) The short route of brokering without investment; 3) The socially backward class were keen in getting converted and serve the British (slave mentality); 4) Joining the military of the foreign forces; 5) In the village administration cornering the karnam and other positions. The Tamil Brahmins never engaged such devious tactics. But later on, even the Brahmin joined the bandwagon and overtook the caste Hindus. But the race was won by the tortoise as the saying goes.  At that period, the group that was close to the British Madras Presidency was Ananda Rangam Pillai, Sunku Rama Chetty, Muthu Krishna Mudaliar, Narayana Pillai etc., of which Brahmins did not partake.   

1841 was the year the high school (Macaulay’s education) system was started. 1853 was the year of the first college. 1857 was the year of the first university reforms and regulations. 1857 to 2017 for 160 years, if three generation were involved, in the first generation the Brahmins were the lead group of literate in the city. They never interrupted anybody from learning. Legally they stood for social upliftment. The second generation saw the Brahmins were lagging behind. Reason being the Justice Party, Pachaiappa’s College, Christian College and Madras University were the fortress of the Mudaliars and a few caste Hindus. Their contribution just ruined the Tamil language, for two generations were doctored  about Tani Tamil, Tamizhan religion and Hindu religion are different, Dravida Nadu are the alibis for twisting the literary, cultural and historical facts. Anti-Brahmanism was the main aim fueling the hate and untouchability clashes, ruining the Tamil fabric is their only contribution. After Independence in the name of reservation, they have isolated the Brahmins from pillar to post and who are at the threshold of Tasmac.  In the capital city of Delhi one Brahmin Trust SULAB is operating public toilets and poor Brahmins are working there as scavengers, in the railway stations Brahmins are doing coolies job, a few Brahmin ladies driving auto rickshaw in Chennai and in the interior Tamilnadu one Brahmin girl took the job of burial in the cemetery. Now I hope that anti-Brahmin caste Hindus hearts may be cooled with joy.     

Only after the British expanded their trading activities, colonizing many areas and turned into ruling class, the Indian Civil Service enrolled the Brahmins as clerks, accountant, lawyers, advocates and judges etc., and not as dubashi.

Brahmins role as Dubash and their influence seems to have been disproportionate to their actual number in the company services. Mostly Telugu and Marati Brahmins who have former trading tie with Europeans and some had family ties with earlier Muslim rulers. Most of the Dubash are Tamil Vellalars, Pillai, Yadava and Chetty. Initially Tamil Brahmins are reluctant to have personal service with Europeans, instead accepted some bureaucratic or scholarly positions with the company.”

At that time backward caste and Brahmins were poor. The high caste Hindus were rich land lords, temple trustees, owners of many tenants in the city. They were not ready to take up the government jobs. The poor Brahmin took the lead. They were not jealous about the prosperous caste Hindus and never blamed them at all. This situation prevailed for a short span of time and the Britishers were also aware it. Also the Britishers were afraid of the high numbers of Brahmin involvement in the freedom fight. Hence they started issuing circulars to put hurdles in their advancement. Also they sowed the seeds of Arya/Dravida ethnic clashes.   

“During 1853, the British found the virtual monopoly of a single caste in public service. The revenue establishment in Nellore district was controlled by 49 Brahmins and all from the same family. Collectors should be careful to see that the subordinate appointments in their districts are not monopolized by members of a few influential families. Endeavour should always be made to divide the principal appointments in each district among several caste. (Proceedings of the Board of Revenue 9.3.1854. Similar type of notification was issued during the years 1857, 1907).

Lamentation of Sri Lankan Tamil (Pulambal): “During British rule the Jaffna Vellalas were favored by the British and the Vellalas became doctors, engineers, lawyers. Judges and civil servants throughout Ceylon. There was near total domination by the Vellalars in education and employment throughout Sri Lanka. Even in Sinhala areas the Vellalas dominated. The Sinhalese became angry and jealous but since they did not know the difference between Vellalas and non-Vellalas, they turned their ire on the entire Tamil community. The hapless non-Vellalas had incurred the wrath of the Sinhalese and had to suffer because of the misdeeds of the Vellalas. As a consequence of this the civil war erupted. So it is the Vellalas who are responsible for the plight of the Tamils.”

First of all this Mudali, Pillai and Vellala are not caste.  Mudali means: first rank in everything. During the Vijayanagar rule the king gave this Mudali title to army general Ariyanadan. Similarly Pillai title also given to certain people related to king’s families, some say it came from Kanaku Pillai (village clerk), in the web search lot of abuse information’s are available and the title’s origin not yet established. Likewise the word Vellala is derailed from the word vellanmai. During Sangam period vellanmai means: hosting and serving the guest. Thus the word vellanmai become Vellala caste of landlords and farmers. Like this it is very difficult to find out the base root of certain Tamil caste. There is a fight still going on in Tamilnadu to claim the ruling class status from almost all the communities except Brahmin. If we type Mudaliar Archives in Wiki, you will find one discussion panel comprising all the sub caste of Vellalas fighting each other with lot of evidence to establish who is ruling class, who is devadasi class, etc., and it runs countless number of pages.     

Puthiya Tamizhaham leader Mr. Krishnaswamy says in Vellalar group there are 153 sub castes and he suggests and recommends all sub caste groups to add Vellalar, Mudaliar title along with their group name at the end. He gives us examples also. Thuluva Vellalar to add Mudaliar in the bracket, Sengunther to add Mudaliar in the bracket, Senai Thalaiver to add Mudaliar in the bracket.  Likewise Pillaimar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Sozheya Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Karkatha Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Kodikal Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket. 

For a long duration in Tamil History the Vellalars were very close and had cordial relationship with Brahmins and treated them with respect. The same treatment was given to Brahmins by other Tamil caste people also. During the start of Vijayanagar Empire the rift between Brahmins and Vellalas started. Vellalas included Nayakers (Vanniyars) in the army and along with Vadugars they started distancing from Brahmins which took wild shape during British time and gave birth to separate Dravida Nadu excluding Brahmin. This Vellalas, Vadugars, Vaniyar combination strength in Tamilnadu is more than +15%. And minorities support them always. Without the mindset change of these Dravidian Donk…s, it is very difficult to bring the Tamil masses into the national stream. To know more about Vellalars twisting of history, culture and literature please visit website of South Indian Social History Research Institute by authors Mr. S. Ramachandran and Mr. Pravaahan. Here lot of articles with literary evidences denying the twisted theories of Vellalars and other Dravidian supporters, tearing them into gossip pieces.                                               

List of Dubashis

List of dubashis on record, their heirs and relations who for the last three generations were eking out a living and available names are as follows:

  1. Ananda Rangan Pillai – Dubashi & Trader – French Governor Joseph Francois Duplex – Pondicherry – 1726 – his diary is a worthwhile and important historical document – Thiruvenkadam Pillai’s son – his close associate was Naina Pillai – he was punished for colluding with Governor and lost his life in jail – a relative of this person is – Kuruva Pillai – in a  similar accusation of conceit with Governor – escaped and sought refuge in France and converted to Christianity – Bharathi and many other poets have eloquent praise about Ananda Rangan Pillai.
  2. Petro Kanakaraya Mudaliar – Broker & Dubashi – French East India Co. – for 24 years (1722 to 1746) – converted to Christianity – his bust is installed in Pondy St. Andrews Church – he was the builder of the church also – he has arranged common community feast many times – his coffin was imported from France and carried him in his last procession – the mansion built by him is now maintained by ASI – father Danappa Mudaliar – first dubashi of French – Christian convert – translated Thirukural in French
  3. Vallal Pachiappa Mudaliar – Dubashi & Trader – Philanthropies  – between the ages of 16 to 21 amassed huge fortunes in his profession – Henry Pony, Thomas Pony were Mayor Brothers for whom he had worked – first Indian to write a WILL for his property/wealth – he had two wives from different castes – his property was locked for 40 years in legal battle – then a trust was created for a value of approximately Rs. 4500 cores – so say Wiki: “As the 1990s dawned, it was reported that the Trust was worth over 4,500 cores, one of the biggest in that part of the world. Apart from administering religious charities from Kanyakumari to Varanasi, it ran six colleges, a polytechnic and 16 schools in Tamil Nadu, helped several medical facilities and owned several properties in the State.” Without any Christian influence started first Hindu college (Pachaiappa’s). ¶ Ramanuja Kavirayar has written a Panchatchara Maala about him – A simple man in life, he bathed in Cooum River and worshipped Komaleeswarar routinely – Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar Temple received enormous funds from him; his form etched in a pillar can be viewed even to-day – he was also trustee of several temples – a facsimile stamp was released by Indian Postal Department – donated Rs. 4.5 lacs for Hindu religious entities – Rs. 7.5 lakhs for Hindu student English education – every day free food distribution to poor people and Brahmins was one of his routine charity at Komaleeswarar Temple – he built choultry and agraharams – gave donation for the renovation of Chidambaram Temple – he helped Brahmins to visit religious places like Kasi, Rameswaram – in his WILL he mentioned about 30 charitable houses built by him – his friends Iyaa Pillai and Muniya Pillai were also dubashis – one of his student Narayana Pillai was the dubashi for Mayors Henry Bouni and Thomas Bouni.
  4. Avadanam Pappaia – Telugu Brahmin with knowledge of Persian and French – 1789 – worked under John Holland and Edward Holland the Governor’s brothers – his collusion with the Governor was exposed – lost his position along with Governor – a street in Choolai is named after him as “Pappa Theru” – Scotland’s one Walter wrote about his misdemeanors in a novel called The Surgeon’s Daughter – has worked for Thomas Parry as well – was in a good terms with Arcot Nawabs – the case went on but no record of punishment is there.
  5. For over 66 years a Telugu Brahmin Rayasum Pappaia, his brother and his son Vayasum Venkatachalam were chief dubashis of the St. George Fort.
  6.  Likewise Nal Vellala Manali Muthukrishna Mudaliar’s family were the dubashis from mid 1700 to the beginning of 1800 – he was assistant to Governor Picot – his son Venkatakrishna Mudali also continued to serve as dubash – the Britishers demolished a temple in the present high court complex – thereafter he brokered with British and earned a lot from it – then he bought a land and invested money and then built the Chennakesava Perumal Temple in Flower Bazar – also the Mallekeswarar Temple in nearby area. ¶ In 1785 Manali Muthukrishanan invited carnatic singer Ramaswamy Dikshadar to Madras – he patronized the family as well – his sons were Muthuswamy, Chinnaswamy & Baluswamy – of the three Muthuswamy Dikshadar later became famous as one of the three carnatic musical stalwarts – Muthuswamy Dikshadar has written 40 Sanskrit kirtans – because of his influence with British rulers, Venkatakrishna Mudaliar used to take Dikshadar along with him to the Fort – after watching the band performance the Dikshadar brought out the idea of including violin in Carnatic music – Muthuswamy Dikshadar beginning to observe keenly the violin music format – only thereafter he wrote the 40 Sanskrit kirtans – these Sanskrit kirtan are till date called the English Notes – Muthukrishan Mudaliar died in 1792 – however his son Venkatakrishnan continued the support to Dikshadar family and rendered all help.
  7. Raja – Sir – Chevalier – Rao Bahadur – S. Ramaswamy Mudaliar – Dubashi – Dymes & Co – amassed wealth within a short span of time – but his father was a building contractor gave yellow notice on insolvency and died – Ramaswamy Mudaliar was a member of Indian National Congress – went to England – he served as the 158th Madras Sheriff – he was also member of the facilitation committee of the 50th anniversary of King Edward (7) & Queen Alexandria – but he did not go to London – he established a choultry near Chennai Central – built health centers at Royapuram and Thirukazhukundram – built a children’s hospital at Cuddalore.
  8. Kovur Sundresa Mudalior – Dubashi – East India Co. – his mansion-house is in Black Town – he was an ardent lover of Thiga Iyer kirtanas – he invited him to his house – there he wrote 5 kirtanas – the starting stanza of Kovur Sundaresa song is very famous – this is the name of Lord Siva of Kovur – but still some controversy lies about whom for this song was sung.        
  9. Kumarappa Mudaliar – Dubashi – Governor Thomas Sanderson (1749).
  10. Poondamaali Thuluva Vellala – Dubashi Family – Subu Devanyaka Mudaliar was the trustee of Chennai Nunkambakkam Agasthiar Temple – a big framed portrait work of him is still in the temple hall – his grandfather has served as dubash under Iyarcoat an army officer (1720).
  11. Ramalinga Mudaliar – Dubashi – Major Bannerman – the one who sent Kattabomman to the gallows.
  12. Vandalur Venkatanarayana Pillai – Dubashi – Charles Bouchier (1767) and also George Strattaon (1776).
  13. Thuluva Vellala Kesava Mudaliar – Dubashi – Temple Trustee – 1700.
  14. Elam Babu Vellala – Dubash Family – acquired many villages and formed estate
  15. Thottikalai Kesava Mudaliar family – Dubashi & Jamindars
  16. Vayalur Kulantee Veera Perumal Pillai – Dubashi – Governors – Thomas Rumbolt (1778) – Lord George Macartny (1781) – Sir Archibold Cambel (1786) – in his WILL of 1793 has written about the Sri Hari Kota estate and Indamdar lands.
  17. Ponna Pillai – Dubashi – 1804 – lost his family in fire accident in cotton stock-up godown.
  18. Nota Vayal Narayana Pillai – Dubashi – Madras Council – Governor Charles Bouchier – also for some more time under George Powney (1750) – he was also called Powney Narayana Pillai.
  19. Venkatrangan Pillai – Dubashi – George Powney – was accused of corrupt practices – a grain godown at Black Town – a Garden House at Thondaiyarpet – a series of tenements at Muthaialpet & Triplicane.
  20. One Thuluva Vellala family man of Ponneri Taluq Mootia Mudaliar (probably Muthaiah Mudaliar) – he has served as dubashi in East India Company’s military secretariat for 40 years – his sons were also served as such for some more time – in the beginning of the 18th century one of his son was awarded the title of “Principal Native Manager & Record Keeper”.
  21. Vandalur Venkatachalam Pillai – Dubashi – (1687) – Governor Elhi Yale – his son dubashi – (1740) – Governor Morse – two of his uncles were dubashis at the time of Warren Hastings – Venkatachalam Pillai was also in the good terms with Nawab Mohamed Ali – there is a written family biography of their servitude.
  22. The first dubashi of Binny & Co. was Challappa Vekatachala Mudaliar.
  23. Paappa Pillai – Dubashi – Madam Duplex – French East India Co. – Kuruva Pillai – French Dubashi – Alakanada Pillai – First dubashi of East India Co. – has donated profusely to Mallikeswarar & Ekambareshwarar Temples.
  24. Some other dubashis are – Sunka Rama Cheey, Kalavai Chetty, Kalastri Chetty & Thibu Chetty.
  25. Beri Dimmappa – Dubashi – Governors – Francis Day – Andre Gogan – he has donated to Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple and Mallikeswarar Temple – his son Beri Venkatadri built the Guindy Lodge i.e. the present Raj Bhavan.
  26. Chinna Tambi Mudaliar – Dubashi & Trader – Madras Port – his three wives had each two children – all were dubashi & jamindar.
  27. Kupuswamy Mudaliar & Sons (1840 – 1911) – Dubashi & Traders.
  28. Devan Bahadur V.Shanmuga Mudaliar (1874) – Dubashi & Trader. 
  29. Muthu Mudaliar (1790) – Dubashi – Nawab Umarathullah.
  30. Chidambaram Ramaswamy Mudaliar -Purasawakkam – Dubashi & Liquor Trader – London Gazatte.
  31. Divan Bhadur C.Natesa Mudaliar – Doctor – served as dubashi at Gorden Woodroffe Co. for some time – fore runner of the Dravidian Movement.
  32. P. T. Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker – Sabedar Major in British Army – conferred the title of “Lee” – Dubashi – Chand & Co. – there are many schools and trusts in his name.
  33. Vempakkam Krishna Iyer (his nickname is Kabal Krishnan) – Dubashi – Grain Merchant – in 1820 engaged in salt business near Masulipatinam – his son Vempakkam Raghavachari (1834) – got high post in police as deputy superintendent. 
  34. Even C. N. Annadurai first joined as dubashi to support EVR – more details about the various dubashis is not readily available. If we get it it will be a very long list

Mudali Street Names in Chennai

Appu Mudali Street, Adanjan Mudali Street, Solaiappa Mudali Street, Sadiappa Mudali Street, Naattu Subbaraya Mudali Street (all in Mylapore). C. S. Mudali Street, Ayalur Muthaiah Mudali Street (Ch-79), Pachaiappa Mudali Street, Manar Mudali Street, Devaraja Mudali Street (Ch-1), Gangadara Mudali Street (Ambattur), Lakshmana Mudali Street, General Muthaiah Mudali Street, Mannarappa Mudali Street, Veeraragha Mudali Street, Damodara Mudali Street, Daanappa Mudali Street, Narayana Mudali Street (Ch-1), Ponnaappa Mudali Street, Bemasena Mudali Street, Vadivelu Mudali Street (Ambattur), Thoppai Mudali Street, Iya Mudali Street(Ch-1), Thambi Mudali Street (Ch-1), Perumal Mudali Street (Ch-2),  Ganapathy Mudali Street (Ambattur), Vinayaka Mudali Street, Strontton Muthaiah Mudali Street, Periannan Mudali Street (Seven Wells), Thaniappa Mudali Street (Parrys), Anantavelu Mudali Street (Perampur), Prakasham Mudali Street (Ch-17), Kandapa Mudali Street (Sowcarpet), V. S. Mudali Street (Saidapet), Kuppu Muthu Mudali Street (Triplicane), Mallan Ponnappa Mudali Street (Triplicane), Krishappa Mudali Street (Triplicane), Balakrishna Mudali Street (Mambalam), Talakulam Mudali East Street (Anna Nagar), Venkatachala Mudali Street (Mint), Babu Mudali Street, Elaia Mudali Street (Jafarkhanpet), Thulasinga Mudali Street (Perambur).

Thus among the street names in Chennai, I guess, there may be more than 25% named after Mudaliars. Why such caste names have been removed intently is bright and clear. Even English people’s street names have also being gradually changed. Other than Mudali street names, other caste people’s name also popular in Chennai streets. But rarely can you see more than one house owned by other castes notable figure name in such streets and yet they were called after them. A majority of Mudaliars were small traders yet they owned at least 5 to 10 houses in each street.  Their rental income was their main source of livelihood. How did they acquire such large number of houses? These were the groups started first constructing small hall in the front portion of their houses and renting it for petty shops in the residential area. Wearing dark bordered dhotis and moving about holding murasoli and viduttalai papers are symbols of their pedantry lifestyle.

Dravidianism and Anti-Brahmanism

From Sangam Age up to Vijayanagar Kingdom was establishment, there was no big caste rivalries, cultural clashes in Tamilnadu. Kalappirar’s suppression was possible only because of caste and cultural unity is an open truth seen by everyone. Nayanmars and Alwars constituted from all castes shows their literary prowess.  Among Nayanmars, 13 were Vellalars. Ramayana fame Kambar, Peria Puranam fame Sekkizhar and Ottakuthar were Vellalars. All the aforesaid dubashi should have been adequately literate to do as such popular jobs. The caste Hindus who fought along with Brahmins in the Independence Movement were they not literate?

Even Adi Shankara, the supreme realization propagator of Brahma Jnana who as confronted and asked a Puliya to clear his way, when he put out the question of asking him “to move aside with his body or soul”, was instantly enlightened and sang the Maneesha Pancha Ratna. Appothi Adigal was Brahmin, Thirunavukarasar was a Vellala. Even without seeing him he named his name for the following, cow and calf, utensils for cooking, annadanam service, and water pandals. Paada Puja without physically seen him when he visited his abode, his son went out to pluck plantain leaves for his feast and bitten by a snake, hiding the incident he served the food. All this reveal not an iota of caste or cultural differences. Likewise Ramanuja is a Brahmin and Thirukacha Nambi is a Vellala, did he not cleanse his feet and show his devotion. Brahmin Madura Kavi Alwar’s de facto guru was Vellala Nammalvar. Thirugnana Sambandar always kept along with him Thiruneelakanda Yazhpanar to accompanying him with Yazh music in spite of the latter being from untouchable caste. U. Ve. Sa. is a Brahmin, did he not devoutly study Tamil under Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. And we can add many such queer combinations.

East India Co. was wound up and the official British Rule was functioning from 1858 only. Even prior to this, land ceiling, stoppage of money flow from the treasury, withdrawal of post and titles (Sir, Rao, Bahadur, Diwan, Jamindar, Mirasdar, Inamdar, Lee, Bethro and Chevalier). All who ruled the roost were affected enormously. Also these Dravidian hawks were as devout as Brahmins, wearing cross threads, tilaks, rudrakshas and panchakacha etc., but dramatically changed wearing trim black coat, wearing the foul-smelling jaree turban and angavastram to please the Britishers. Later Brahmins were also copying the same fashion is true. Brahmin’s who quickly mastered English were the much sought after.

After seizure of several government jobs, political influence and governing prowess got a beating. Freedom movement of the congress was widely supported by Brahmin strength and their resounding influence only created jealous cleaving of other Hindus. This was their greatest disappointment. Until yesterday, the Brahmins who eked out a living by seeking alums by writing poems about land lord’s hospitality and philanthropic acts (Bharati also wrote like this on several occasions due to his poor condition, half-heartedly), Brahmins clad the VIP with parivattam  and poornakumbham whenever they visit temple to felicitate. Now because of their English education sitting in all higher post of government as advocates, judges, and dictating terms to others’ lives. This ended up with unlimited jealousy and unscrupulous twisted tongues began to fuel the anti-Brahmin temper. (The learned caste Hindus abuses are given in later paragraphs below). They shamelessly began to wag their tails around the English lordship. The people who served under these upper caste Hindus also followed their master’s footprints pitiably.        

The Brahmins, the most wanted one for powerful governing services. As soon as he took the freedom flag in his hand, the British totally shaken and began to pull down his meritorious services by cunningly ruining his friendship circle, adopted the divide and rule weapon of Brahmin and non-Brahmin, Arya and Dravida dramatics. Also in the census before 1871 Britishers mentioned Vellalars as Chur Shudra and sowed the seeds of hatred, i.e. the tactics of British. Apart from this out of 30 core of India’s population, British brought 7 cores of people under the Criminal Tribes Act. In the 1911 population census they branded 1) Hindus, 2) Spirit Worshippers & Adivasis, 3) Outcastes (Untouchables). Yes? This was the portrayal of our country. First time the word “untouchable” was coined by the British administration in the census record. (Even from Purana period this type of separatism was there but all the time lot of Hindu monks and social leaders attempted to minimize the difference and to some extent they were successful also). To accuse the Brahmins of all such absurdity is clearly unreasonable.

The Brahmins sure did have an inherent class unity, to up-lift the poor and suffering lot the men in power did help adequately.  This was evident not only during their predominant period even when Mr. Baktavatsalam ruled started filling large government postings with Vellalars. Even Periyar was anti-Brahmin, anti-Mudaliar, and anti-Malyalee, and anti-minority stirs were frequently conducted.

The class/clan affinity of Brahmins was for superior to die-caste hatred stance of some Hindu caste mongers.  That is why even this day the Dalits are suppressed. Brahmins lived on isolation whereas some caste Hindus totally kept them away. The aforesaid two attitudes are basically and substantially different. With such isolation only can the Brahmins continue his ordained religious duties? As relationship and societal influence will alter one’s basic qualities, this he has always duty bound to insulate himself.   

“In Tamil Nadu the Brahmins represented in 1891 only 3% of the population and were concentrated in the Kaveri delta. Correlatively, Tamil society was more fragmented and fluid. If the Vellalas – a caste of Shudra cultivators claiming the statute of Kshatriya – represented 12.42% of the population, no caste, even not this one, extended its domination over more than one district. In fact, in most districts the Vellalas shared the dominance with warrior castes, migrated from Andhra Pradesh between the 15th and the 18th century and with castes of craftsmen and merchants.”

Vellalars should be called “vaishyas“, this was suggested in Varuna Chindamani, a literary piece published by Kanaka Sabai Pillai. For this Bharathiar wrote a poem as a preface or forward. He deeply supported such a stance of Vellalars. Professor Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai also stubbornly opposed the word “shudra”. The fragrant flower of the Dravidians is the Vellalars, he declared. Shankarachariyar called the Vellalars as shudra was a common accusation. That was why Brahmin’s also openly call them as such, that was another charge. Sekkizhar, the Vellala author of Periyapuranam, calls himself proudly as “Sar Shudra” caste. The rise and influence of Buddhism, Jainism and the long foreign domination of the soil was the backdrop of such discriminating practices of varnasrama which went out of sight of our culture several centuries ago. To rekindle such abhorrent practices with ulterior motives of dividing the peace of the society atmosphere is absurd. Whether a Brahmin or a Vellala, who ever does it is totally unjustified. The greatest folly and mockery of the situation is the Vellala, who accused the Brahmin for varnasrama system, sought the status of vaishya in that abhorrent varna steps.  To-day no one calls anyone as shudra.  Brahmins calls others as non-Brahmins. Even after the disappearance of these shudra castigations, parpan, parayan and parpana budhi, para budhi which are still alive and who are responsible for such mean stances. Where did the other caste mongers budhi run and hide?  

In 1917, Pitty Thiagaraja Chetty, in the Justice Party first conference said that “Brahmins who without following their ordained tradition of religious practices, were well learned in English and thereby usurped governing jobs, advocates and judges positions and mastering the art of inquiry and dictating terms for others was his basic grudge. They should revert back to their traditions of Veda adhyayana under a banyan tree or riverfront, performing homams & offering ahudis, receive and give alms, continue their spiritual inquiry and then would the other communities slowly learn the administration techniques in phased manner and come up in life.  If not the Brahmins are the real stumbling block in the latter’s advancement and livelihood.”

Apart from this, Vellalar Vedachalam alias Maraimalai Adigalar, once in a Nellore public speech (1923, March 22) openly stated that Brahmins influence in this area is alarming. “Oh when will the Brahmins go out of sight from India without a trace of their foot prints?”         

In 1917, Ra. Pi. Sethu Pillai repeated “Ozhukkam udaimai kudimai izhukkam  izhinda pirappay vidum”, and while explaining the meaning of this kural he poured venomous condemnation of Brahmins. At present day our people own earned money are not spent for the education of their children instead, spending the money for the welfare of vadiar parpan foolishly without any thought process. Caste, kula divisions and difference are the creation of Brahmins is a great drawback to our country’s advancement, these one and all should perceive. Can anyone continue to feed venomous snakes or dare to cure a tiger from diseases? Is there anyone like that in the world? Did anyone give weapons to the enemy whose sole aim is to kill us? The sermons go like this!

Such were the venomous outpouring of even the well-educated and elite groups who took staunch anti-Brahmin hegemony. Yes literates, prominent poet and adinamada heads were also included in the hate campaign.

In Vellala caste plenty of gems of people contributed to Tamil literature, culture and religion. Starting from Kamban, Ottakoothar, Sekkizhar, Va. U. Se, Thillaiadi Valliammai, Shanbhaharaman, 13 Nayanmars and the list goes endlessly. Once Tamilnadu was in the forefront for whole of India in guiding principles. Such people’s heirs now engaged in all false propagandas due to alien brain wash. People called Rajaji as the conscience of Gandhi but the Dravidian people call C. N. Annadurai who wrote Kambarasam and calling him as South Indian Gandhi. Why such countless literate and ill-literate filthy stuff always claiming Dravidian superiority and roaming still is my anguish. Such were the venomous outpouring of Dravidians who took staunch anti-Brahmin hegemony.  

Now anti-Brahmanism is a blunt-edged sword. So anti-Vadugars, Tani Tami Desiyam is the perpetrators of Dravidian hawks. Their basic claims are 1) “Achieve Dravidanadu or else Sudukadu” — yes this slogan only got buried and dropped the Dravidanadu; 2) “Duty, Dignity & Self Respect” — everything lost its charm and thrown to the winds like a kite now catches thread of power, positions and title are the dominant social fervor. Dravidians, whose object anti-Brahmanism was the feeding stock of the profounder, prostrated before a Brahmin lady. Even after her death, the Dravidians just to retain in power still shamelessly saluting the lady who got a jail number award in the court case for illegal wealth.


  1. The Dubashes of Madras, Susan Neiled Basu, CUP, Rochester;
  2. Politics and Social Conflicts of South India, Eugene F. Irschick;
  3. The Madura Country, J. H. Nelson, Madras Government (1868);
  4. Indigenous Society, Temples and the Early Colonial State in Tamilnadu (1700-1835), Kanakalatha;  
  5. Madras Pattinam, Narasaiah (Tamil);
  6. Dravida Iyakkam Punaivum Unmayum, Malarmannan (Tamil);
  7. Caste Politics in North, West and South India before Mandal: The Low Caste Movements between Sanskritization and Ethnicisation, Christophe Jaffrelot, Paris.

» Vedam Gopal is a retired company official with an interest in Tamil history, politics and society. His articles in Tamil appear on the Tamil Hindu website and Hindu Unity blog. This article was translated from Tamil to English by V. Ramachandran. 

Caste-based Reservations

Logic behind the perversion of caste – Ram Swarup


Ram SwarupThe self-styled social justice intellectuals and parties do not want an India without castes, they want castes without Dharma. This may be profitable to some in the short run but it is suicidal for all in the long run. – Ram Swarup

Today casteism is rampant. It is a new phenomenon. Old India had castes but no casteism. In its present form, casteism is a construct of colonial period, a product of imperial policies and colonial scholarship. It was strengthened by the breast-beating of our own “reformers”. Today, it has acquired its own momentum and vested interests.

In the old days, the Hindu caste-system was an integrating principle. It provided economic security. One had a vocation as soon as one was born—a dream for those threatened with chronic unemployment. The system combined security with freedom; it provided social space as well as closer identity; here the individual was not atomised and did not become rootless. There was also no dearth of social mobility; whole groups of people rose and fell in the social scale. Rigidity about the old Indian castes is a myth. Ziegenbalg (1682 – 1719) writing on the eve of the British advent saw that at least one-third of the people practised other than their traditional calling and that “official and political functions, such as those of teachers, councillors, governors, priests, poets and even kings were not considered the prerogative of any particular group, but are open to all”.

Nor did India ever have such a plethora of castes as became the order of the day under the British rule. Megasthenes (ca. 300 BCE) gives us seven-fold division of the Hindu society; Hsuan Tsang (ca. 650 CE) the Chinese pilgrim mentions four castes. Alberuni (973 – 1048) too mentions four main castes and some more groups which did not strictly belong to the caste system.

Even the list of greatly maligned Manu contained no more than 40 mixed castes, all related by blood. Even the Chandals were Brahmins on their father’s side. But under the British, Risley (1851 – 1911) gave us 2,378 main castes, and 43 races! There is no count of sub-castes. Earlier, the 1891 census had already given us 1,150 sub-castes of Chamars alone. To Risley, every caste was also ideally a race and had its own language.

Caste did not strike early European writers as something specially Indian. They knew it in their own countries and saw it that way. J. S. Mill (1806 – 1873) in his Political Economy said that occupational groups in Europe were “almost equivalent to an hereditary distinction of caste”.

To these observers, the word caste did not have the connotation it has today. Gita Dharampal-Frick, an orientalist and linguist [currently at Heidelberg University], tells us that the early European writers on the subject used the older Greek word meri which means “a portion”, “share”, or “contribution”. Sebastian Franck (1499 – ca. 1543) used the German word rott (rotte) meaning a “social group”, or “cluster”. These words suggest that socially and economically speaking they found castes closer to each other than ordo or estates in Europe.

The early writers also saw no Brahmin domination though they found much respect for them. Those like Jurgen Andersen (1669) who described castes in Gujarat found that Vaishyas and not the Brahmins were the most important people there.

They also saw no sanskritisation. One caste was not trying to be another; it was satisfied with being itself. Castes were not trying to imitate the Brahmins to improve social status; they were proud of being what they were. There is a Tamil poem by Kamban (ca. 1180 – 1250) in praise of the plough which says that “even being born a Brahmin does not by far endow one with the same excellence as when one is born into a Vellala family”.

There was sanskritisation though but of a very different kind. People tried to become not Brahmins but brahmavadins. Different castes produced great saints revered by all. Ravidas (ca. 1450) a great saint, says that though of the family of Chamars who still go through Benares removing dead cattle, yet even most revered Brahmins now hold their offspring, namely himself, in great esteem.

With the advent of Islam the Hindu came under great pressure; it faced the problem of survival. When the political power failed castes took over; they became defence shields and provided resistance passive and active. But in the process, the system also acquired undesirable traits like untouchability. Alberuni who came with Mahmud Ghaznavi (971 – 1030) mentions the four castes but no untouchability. He reports that “much, however, as these classes differ from each other, they live together in the same towns and villages, mixed together in the same houses and lodgings”.

Another acquired another’s trait; they became rigid and lost their mobility. All mobility was now downward. H. A. Rose (1867 – 1933), Superintendent of Ethnography, Punjab, from 1901 to 1906, author of A Glossary of Punjab Tribes and Castes, says that during Muslim period, many Rajputs were degraded and they became scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Many of them still retain Rajput gotra of Parihara and Parimara. Similarly, G. W. Briggs in his The Chamars, tells us that many Chamars still carry names and gotra of Rajput clans like Banaudhiya, Ujjaini, Chandhariya, Sarwariya, Kanaujiya, Chauhan, Chadel, Saksena, Sakarwar; Bhardarauiya, and Bundela, etc. Dr K. S. Lal (1920 – 2002) cites many similar instances in his recent Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India.

The same is true of Bhangis. William Crooke (1848 – 1923) of Bengal Civil Service tells us that the “rise of the present Bhangi caste seems, from the names applied to the castes and its subdivisions, to date from the early period of Mohammedan rule”. Old Hindu literature mentions no Bhangis of present function. In traditional Hindu rural society, he was a corn-measurer, a village policeman, a custodian of village boundaries. But scavenging came along with the Muslim and British rule. Their numbers also multiplied. According to 1901 Census, the Bhangis were most numerous in the Punjab and the United Provinces which were the heartland of Muslim domination.

Then came the British who treated all Hindus equally—all as an inferior race—and fuelled their internal differences. They attacked Hinduism but cultivated the caste principle, two sides of the same coin. Hinduism had to be attacked. It gave India the principles of unity and continuity; it was also India’s definition at its deepest. It held together castes as well as the country. Take away Hinduism and the country was easily subdued.

Caste in old India was a cooperative and cultural principle; but it is now being turned into a principle of social conflict. In the old dispensation, castes followed dharma and its restraints; they knew how far they could go. But now a caste is a law unto itself; it knows no self-restraint except the restraint put on it by another class engaged in similar self-aggrandisement. The new self-styled social justice intellectuals and parties do not want an India without castes, they want castes without Dharma. This may be profitable to some in the short run but it is suicidal for all in the long run.

In the old days, castes had leaders who represented the culture of the land, Who were natural leaders of their people and were organic to them. But now a different leadership is coming to the fore: rootless, demagogic and ambitious, which uses caste slogans for self-aggrandisement. – The Indian Express, 13 September 1996

» Ram Swarup (1920–1998) was a Sankhya philosopher, yogi, and colleague of historian Sita Ram Goel. Together they founded the publishing imprint Voice of India in New Delhi, to give Hindu intellectuals a voice when the mainstream media refused to give them any time or space .

Glossary of the Tribes and Castes

Where is the Brahmin, seeker of the highest truth? – Makarand Paranjape


Prof Makarand R. ParanjapeIndia is filled not only with Brahmin-baiters and Brahmin-haters, but also of brainwashed and de-brahminised Hindus. … The main strategy is to ascribe all the evils not only of the caste system but of Hinduism itself to “Brahminism.” – Prof Makarand Paranjape

No right-thinking Indian can justify the ancient régime of varna vyastha, whose injustices, inequalities, and indignities have survived into our own times. Yet, arguably, it is caste, not ideology, that is still the driving force in Indian society and politics. This contradiction of repudiation-reification makes us pose the moot question, “Has the Brahmin disappeared from India?”

Some 20 years ago, Saeed Naqvi, in The Last Brahmin Prime Minister of India, conferred that dubious distinction on P. V. Narasimha Rao. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ascension to the august office proved Naqvi wrong. Rani Sivasankara Sarma’s autobiographical account in Telugu, The Last Brahmin, published soon after Naqvi’s, also asks similar questions, though from a socio-religious, rather than political, standpoint.

I was startled to learn that on his last visit to India in 1985, the great philosopher and teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti raised the same question in his conversation with Professor P. Krishna at Rajghat, Varanasi (A Jewel on a Silver Platter: Remembering Jiddu Krishnamurti by Padmanabhan Krishna). Krishnamurti is quick to clarify that “Brahmin” is “Not by birth, sir, that is so childish!” As the conversation unfolds, Krishnamurti narrates a story to illustrate.

After defeating Porus, Alexander is impressed by the efficiency of the former’s administration. Alexander hears that the person responsible, Porus’s Brahmin Prime Minister, has left the capital after the loss. Sending after him, Alexander is further surprised at the Brahmin’s refusal to call on him. Deciding to visit him instead, Alexander asks, “I am so impressed with your abilities. Will you work for me?” “Sorry,” says the Brahmin, “I must teach these children; I no longer wish to serve emperors.”

Krishnamurti’s tale is a variation of the story of Alexander the Great and the Stoic. The latter refuses to give up philosophy even in face of the monarch’s threats or blandishments; clearly, this story has both Greek and Indian versions. Krishnamurti concludes: “That’s a Brahmin—you can’t buy him. Now tell me, Sir, has the Brahmin disappeared from this country?”

In thus defining a Brahmin, Krishnamurti is following a tradition as old as the Buddha. In Canto 26 of the Dhammapada titled, “Who is a Brahmin,” the Tathagata says, “who is devoid of fear and free from fetters, him I call a Brahmin.” Verse after verse clarifies, enumerates, and explains the qualities: “He who is contemplative, lives without passions, is steadfast and has performed his duties, who is free from sensuous influxes and has attained the highest goal—him I call a Brahmin” (386). “Not by matted hair, by lineage, nor by birth (caste) does one become a Brahmin. But the one in whom there abide truth and righteousness, he is pure; he is a Brahmin” (393).

Traditionally, those born in the Brahmin jati were supposed to aspire to and espouse such high ideals, whether Vedic or Buddhist. But in these contentious times, the Buddha’s words themselves have been politicised. There are many “modern” translations of the Dhammapada where the word “Brahmin” has been removed completely. The Vedas, of course, are rejected altogether for being “Brahminical.” The object is clearly to attack, denigrate, and destroy the abstract category called “Brahmin.”

Often, the main strategy is to ascribe all the evils not only of the caste system but of Hinduism itself to “Brahminism.” Actually, the latter word was invented by Orientalists to refer to the worship of “Brahman” in contra-distinction to the Buddha, which was called Buddhism. The rule of Brahmins, though there was possibly never such a thing in actual Indian history, should more properly be termed “Brahminarchy”, a term no one uses. Much misinterpretation has also entered our own languages through the back translation of “Brahminism” as “Brahmanvad.” The latter is understood as the ideology of Brahmin domination promoting a hierarchical and exclusionary social system.

Maharaja NandakumarThe history of anti-Brahminism should not, however, be traced to Phule, Periyar, or even Ambedkar, who were all trying to reform rather than destroy Hindu society. The real culprit was more likely British imperialism. If the Muslim invaders tried to annihilate the Kshatriyas, the British attempted to finish off the Brahmins. After the East India Company assumed the overlordship of Bengal, their first execution was of “Maharaja” Nandakumar, a leading Brahmin opponent of the Governor-General, Warren Hastings. On 5 August 1775, Nandakumar was hanged for forgery, a capital crime under British law. But how was such a law applicable to India?

Macaulay, though an imperialist, called the execution a judicial murder. He accused Elijah Impey, the first Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court, of colluding with Hastings.

The hanging of Nandakumar took place near what is now the Vidyasagar Setu. The entire Hindu population shunned the British, moving to the other bank of the river, to protest against British injustice and to avoid the pollution caused by the act.

Today, India is filled not only with Brahmin-baiters and Brahmin-haters, but also of brainwashed and de-brahminised Hindus. My own university, JNU, is full of pamphlets and posters against Brahminism, one even blaming “Brahminical patriarchy” for the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed, who went missing on 15 October 2016. Anti-Brahminism, however, is never considered hate-crime or hate-speech. Why? Don’t Brahmins have human feelings or rights? Brahmins, moreover, are soft targets, scripturally and culturally enjoined not to retaliate. As the Dhammapada (389) puts it, “One should not strike a Brahmin; neither should a Brahmin give way to anger against him who strikes.”

Is it time intellectually to re-arm Brahmins so that they maintain both their own dignity and the veneration of their inherited calling? Does the ideal of the Brahmin continue to be relevant to India, whether we define a Brahmin as one who cannot be bought, a seeker of the highest truth, or a teacher and guide? Shouldn’t such a person, regardless of the jati she or he is born in, continue to be a beacon of light and leadership? As to those born into the community, they may well remember the Kanchi Paramacharya’s sage advice: Fulfill the responsibilities but do not expect the privileges of your birth. – Swarajya, 6 January 2017

» Prof Makarand Paranjape is an author and teaches English at JNU, New Delhi. 

Brahmin & Moghul

See also

For Britain, lessons from the Empire as it exits EU? – Rafia Zakaria

Tipu Sultan's mechanical tiger attacking a wooden Englishman

Rafia Zakaria While Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe was certainly not the exploitative one that defined its colonial enterprise, there are some commonalities of tone and tenor here that are worth noting. Chief among them is the premise that Britons generally give more than they receive. It is, in sum, a message to fellow Britons: we have done much “good” in the world, and the world has not paid us back. – Rafia Zakaria

That the castles and museums of the United Kingdom are filled with the treasures of its former colonies is a fact well known to all. Upon entering Windsor Castle one sees the crown (among various others) of the kingdom of Togo. Also on display are other things from other kings: the finery of Maharaja Ranjit Singh stares from inside one glass case; a 500-year-old Persian carpet adorns the cordoned-off centre of another room. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) houses one of Tipu Sultan’s swords and the infamous musical organ carved into a wooden sculpture of a tiger felling a British soldier.

If the British feel any remorse about their plunder, it is not made explicit in the arrangement of such objects. Instead, how these artefacts are curated, presented and lit all seem to reiterate what the British very likely believe: the exemplary safekeeping and artful exhibition is a favour to those to whom these objects belong, who would have otherwise destroyed, smuggled or sold them off.

One of the latest exhibitions mounted in the V&A follows a similar line. Comprised mostly of objects from the museum’s extensive collection, the exhibit titled Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London commemorates the career of the man who was father to Rudyard Kipling and the force behind the Mayo School of Industrial Arts, now National College of Arts, in Lahore. It is a tale compellingly told through Kipling’s sketches of local craftsmen, intricately carved doors from Chiniot and beautiful silver inkwells.

The arrangement of the objects, and the anointing of Lockwood Kipling as a curator, illustrator, architectural sculptor and visionary par excellence presents a very particular thesis regarding the British and their activities in India. Pages from The Journal of Indian Art, his crucial role in the establishment of art schools in Bombay and Lahore, his training of craftspeople, and his conversion of ordinary objects into objects of art all point to the larger premise that the British hold dear: without them there would be no Indian art, and definitely no appreciation of art.

This, then, is the more pernicious thesis about empire, increasingly en vogue and cherished in post-Brexit Britain. The day I happened to walk through the exhibit was in fact Brexit Day, the official occasion when British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered the letter to her European Union counterparts. The year since the Brexit vote has undoubtedly been one of great uncertainty for the British. Those who voted to leave allege that being in the EU was a raw deal, not quite worth it. There had never been enough reciprocity, never enough gratitude.

All of these premises are interesting to consider when walking through the Lockwood Kipling exhibit at the V&A. While Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe was certainly not the exploitative one that defined its colonial enterprise, there are some commonalities of tone and tenor here that are worth noting. Chief among them is the premise that Britons generally give more than they receive. It is, in sum, a message to fellow Britons: we have done much “good” in the world, and the world has not paid us back.

All of this is, of course, a lie. The British plundered India, used its natural resources, eviscerated its existing institutions and generally created a hierarchy that they dominated and that enabled them to cart away India’s treasures for the sort of “safekeeping” they still claim to be undertaking. The former colonies who suffered under them have long known these British claims to be untruths; they have also been forced to reckon with the aftermath, with the realisation that the lost glory of the past—whether it was Mughal or Ottoman or Rajput—cannot be the basis of the victories of the present.

Perhaps, for the first time since Partition, Britain is once again in retreat. Seventy years ago, it looked away from India, carrying away its spoils and treasures to the extent it could, leaving behind borders and hatreds that still bleed today. Now, it turns away from Europe with the same sulky petulance, the same attitude of having been inadequately rewarded for its imaginary magnanimity.

This second retreat, however, while different in character and circumstance, suggests an inwards gaze that the British have perhaps not seen since the colonial era. If the British Empire in retreat created revisionist histories that placed colonisers at the heart of the preservation of the subcontinent’s art and heritage, post-Brexit Britain will similarly create ones that suit the purposes of the present. In a supreme irony, the conquering British of the past can, in this sense, learn from those it once conquered who are used to looking back, indeed, very far back for consolation and confirmation of their own glory. – The Asian Age, 6 Apri;l 2017

» Rafia Zakaria is an author and a columnist for Dawn in Pakistan.

British crown with Koh-i-Noor diamond (front cross center)

Indic mercantile collaboration with Abrahamic invaders – Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, Kirtivardhan Dave & Aparna

Brahmins blessing British flags


Considering the invasion of Sind in the eighth century A.D., which was part of political India during that time, India has been colonized for about 1100 years. During this entire period, the territory controlled by the colonial occupiers has waxed and waned, but the occupiers were present in significant parts of India. Such long durations of colonisation would not have been possible without large-scale internal collaboration. As Karen Leonard articulates, “A ruler’s authority was strongest where the political order was closely interwoven with the cosmic, religious, and cultural order, that is, where political legitimacy was based on the maintenance of that traditional order. In Mughal India, with a ruling class which was largely Muslim and initially drawn from outside, economic and political alliances were extremely important to maintenance of the state.”[14] Note that the statement applies for any colonial regime, which is not rooted in the culture of the land. In other words, a colonial regime cannot last long unless it allies with internal powerful socio-economic groups, which we denote as collaborators.

The history of internal collaboration has not been documented.  It is, of course, a history of shame; it is a history of pain.  Yet this is precisely why this history needs to be told and retold. The documentation has lacked because history in India has been viewed through political prisms. The historians of leftist persuasions have denied that the Islamic conquest of India was an invasion, despite the fact that the conquerors were Arabs, Turks, and Central Asians, and arrived into India from outside. Their atrocities have been outright denied or significantly suppressed[49][50] and portrayed as equal to Hindu atrocities on other religions[48]. That the British conquest of India was an invasion has not however been denied, but the brutalities have been substantially diluted. This happened because of close links between the establishment historians and the Nehruvian Left, which was in turn closely associated with the British establishment. The historians of the rightist persuasion have not denied the colonial nature of either the Islamic or the British invasion. They have, however, posited the British conquest as milder than the Islamic one, and have also remained oblivious to the major atrocities the British perpetrated.[46][47] More importantly, they have completely glossed over the internal Indic collaboration with the invaders, Islamist and British. It is the tale of internal Indic collaborations that we seek to narrate today.

There were four major categories of Indian populace that collaborated with the invaders: the hereditary royalty, the administrative nobility, the martial classes and the business classes, who we refer to as the merchants. The hereditary royalty and the martial classes fed into the military infrastructure that the invaders used to conquer parts of India and also to suppress rebellions; at times, the duo assisted the invaders in their defence in wars and rebellions outside the boundary of India.  The nobility provided administrative support in formulating and executing the policies that enabled the invaders to exploit and suppress the Indians. The stories of all these collaborations need to be documented. But, in this article we focus on mercantile collaboration with invaders.

The Indic (Hindu, Jains, Sikhs) and the Parsee merchants formed the critical financial backbone of the invading regimes.  They financed the civil and military operations of the invaders.  The finance was direct, in many instances, comprising of loans and tributes; indirect financing was in the form of taxes imposed on trading transactions. They took control of budding indigenous resistance movements, supplanted the principled leaders whenever they could, with compromised substitutes of their choices, in turn rendering the resistances ineffective. Since, Indian merchants have been major players in transnational trade comprising India, China, Arabia, Africa, and the Far East, they served as intermediaries between invading regimes in India and powers outside India such as the Europeans. They utilised their roles as negotiators to acquire benefits for the conflicting parties, but, most importantly, they sought to further their own economic interests, which included averting wars that were essential for the defence of the state, but might disrupt their trading activities. In the process, they acquired significant influence with the invaders to the extent that they could enthrone and dethrone rulers and their deputies. They used their influence to further the economic and social interests of their clans and their narrow communities. In lieu of financial benefits, even the most barbaric and fanatic and tyrannical among the invading rulers, from the Islamists to the Europeans, appeased the wealthy mercantile communities. For one, the invaders invariably exempted the mercantile communities from political, economic, social and religious persecution they subjected others to. They frequently extended economic concessions and at times, discriminated in favour of powerful mercantile communities and even against their own communities. They also arrived at agreements with other political powers, keeping in mind the economic interests of the mercantile community. The merchants secured all the above by threatening economic strife or relocation en masse whenever they believed that the political choices were contrary to their economic and social interests. They however, did not even bat an eyelid when other Indic communities were subjected to unspeakable brutalities, powered by their financial muscle. They also actively connived with the invaders while the latter brutally oppressed other Indic communities, through slavery, abduction, rape and forcible conversion.

This model of operation was quite conducive to the interests of the invaders. They could simply appease small, but powerful, communities which were furthering the interests of the ruling regime, and exploit politically, economically and socially, the rest of the populace which comprised of the disempowered sections of India, namely the lowly peasants, the artisans, and later on, the industrial workers and the middle class.  This is the model which both the Islamists and the Europeans relied on. This is the model that made wealthy merchants willing accomplices in the crimes of the invaders. In fact, the merchants are likely to better prosper in an exploitative regime, which is invariably a fitting characteriser for a colonial regime, more often than for an indigenous regime. For instance, when powerful merchants decided that certain invading regimes were sub-optimal for their avarice as also social interests, they replaced them with a different invading regime, completely oblivious to the repercussions on the commoners.  They never ever rebelled themselves, nor did they fund indigenous rebels even when they wanted to replace regimes.  During replacement of regimes, there is inevitably a period of instability; this is when indigenous rebels have tried to replace the invading regimes altogether. This is also when the merchants sided with the invaders of their choice and suppressed the rebels that were asserting themselves, taking advantage of the instability associated with the replacement. This phenomenon has been observed across regions, from Bengal to Sindh and across different mercantile groups. In fact, there is evidence that merchants preferred to operate under invading regimes as opposed to indigenous tributary rulers. This is because those indigenous rulers were taxing the merchants more and the peasants less, and the invading overlords behaved just the opposite.

The above mercantile paradigm can be understood in view of a key age-old characteristic that defines them. Merchants typically rise by allying with the most powerful to the extent that they can manage, and extract their profit by exploiting those below, and exploitation amplifies with the decrease in social and political power of the groups in question.  This is why they facilitated the invader regimes who were powerful because they were firmly ensconced in power. Besides, the invader regimes invariably allowed the merchants to exploit the populace to the maximum, far more than any indigenous ruler, rooted in the soil, would permit.  It is also pertinent that whenever the merchants funded political forces within India, they chose those who were colluding with the invaders—this tradition continued from Man Singh of Amber to Mohandas Gandhi. In contrast, the Indic forces who were resisting invaders always had to struggle for financial resources—this tradition continued from Maharana Pratap through Shivaji to revolutionaries and Subhas Bose.

In fact, we observe that this mercantile characteristic has expressed itself throughout the world and in different time periods:

1) The earliest of the merchant republics was Carthage that depended heavily on slave labour for agriculture at home, and trade in its ships abroad. During the first Punic war between Rome and Carthage, the Carthaginian senate was made up of rich aristocracy and merchants, and also led by a leading merchant and aristocrat, Hanno the Great. The senate leaders remained oblivious to all but their mercantile interests in Africa and Spain, and the Senate tried to weaken Carthaginian war effort in the war against Rome. It demobilised the Carthaginian navy, refused to pay the mercenaries of Hamalcar Barca, leading to a mercenary revolt.[1] Eventually, this led to the loss of Sicily and Sardinia at the hands of a Rome that had recovered from its earlier defeats.  It is important to note that the Roman navy was in fact inferior at the beginning and they had to reverse-engineer a wrecked Carthaganian ship and also bring in Greek naval innovations. If Carthage had pushed their initial naval advantage, they could have probably won. So even technological and military superiority was not enough to stop defeat owing to mercantile compromise motivated by narrow pecuniary interests.

2) In medieval times, mercantile Venice engineered the destruction of the fellow Christian Byzantime empire during the Fourth Crusade, allied with or adopted a neutral stance vis-a-vis the Ottomans when the Muslim Ottomans and Catholic Spain were fighting a life and death struggle throughout the 16th century. The merchants on the Rialto put profits above Christendom, as Crowley puts it [2].

3) The French merchants often supported the revolution there, but motivated again by the narrow group-interests. In contemporary France, power lay in birth alone, and the French nobility relegated the merchants to the lowest of the social strata, the Third Estate, along with the peasants, artisans, industrial workers etc. Besides the parlous condition of the French finances made the merchants, who had lent heavily to the French state, tremble at the thought of the country declaring bankruptcy. So, ironically, it was the slave traders who campaigned for liberty, equality and other noble ideals, while continuing their profession all along.[3]

4) The Jewish merchants sought in vain to secure their own trading interests at the expense of the rest of the Jews. The Rothschilds, Petscheks and the Weinmanns all focused on saving their property from the Nazis, while the Jewish commoners were being expelled and disempowered.[4] The head of IG Farben group, Weinberg, long-continued in Nazi Germany, making huge concessions, till the Nazis made it impossible for him to operate.[4] George Soros has repeatedly adopted anti-Israel stances.[5]

Typically, it is the Left in every country that exposes the misdeeds of the wealthy merchants; it was, therefore, expected that the scholarly Left would have, by now, comprehensively dissected the long history of collaboration between the merchants and the invaders. In contrast the establishment historians of leftist persuasion have sung hosannas to eminent collaborators among the big industrialists, a phenomenon that points to a colossal failure of the Leftist intelligentsia. A fountainhead of Leftist intelligentsia, Bipan Chandra, has described Birla as “the brilliant political leader and mentor of the capitalist class, whose political acumen bordered on that of the genius.”[15]   The only eminent scholarly exception seems to be the research of Suniti Ghosh, who has meticulously documented the collaboration of the merchants with the British. But given the ideological prism the Indian Left applies on even the scholarly issues, it is unsurprising that Suniti Ghosh would stay firmly away from mentioning the collusion of big businessmen with the British establishment through the Communist Party of Great Britain (Shapurji Saklatvala, was a nephew of Jamshetji Tata, and also a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was the ideological mentor of the Communist Party of India), far less the collaboration of the wealthy merchants with the Islamist invaders. This isolated and partial examination seems to suggest that the collaboration between the British and industrialists rose in a vacuum, without a historical precedent. But the incontrovertible truth that would emerge from our documentation is that there exists a long-standing tradition of collaboration of the merchants with invaders, at least from the period of the Delhi Sultanate.  Even during the British period, the merchants continued to collaborate with the Islamists who advocated and eventually succeeded in partitioning India, leading to massive casualties in form of death, rape, and forced human migration of millions. On the other hand, the scholarly right seems to presume that the invaders succeeded for as long as they did, in spite of a united Indic resistance; they consider only a few Indic collaborators, viewing them as individuals, as exceptions rather than the norms. In other words, they have remained oblivious to the systemic large-scale collaboration of a wide variety of Indic social strata. It is this deficiency that we seek to redress.

Incidentally, the only nation that has been persecuted as much as the Hindus is the Jews. As already mentioned, extremely wealthy and influential Jewish merchants focused only on saving their wealth; while the Jewish masses were being harassed and hounded out, they collaborated with the oppressors of their nation both actively through their anti-Israel stances and passively through their inaction and indifference. There is therefore a strong similarity between the conduct of the two communities. There is however a stark difference as well. Many Jewish historians have documented, clinically and ruthlessly, the betrayals perpetrated by their merchants.  The famed Holocaust historian, Raul Hilberg,  has documented the games played by the Rothschilds, Petscheks and the Weinmanns to save their property from the Nazis, and have pointed out that their battle was not a Jewish battle, but separate battles to save their financial interests, and that they wanted to “live through Nazism, if not with Nazism.”[4] The Jewish Right has harshly criticized George Soros for his anti-Israel stances.[5]

We exclude the Muslim merchants from the purview of the current article on collaboration with invaders. This is because, first, most of the Muslim merchants during the Islamic regimes did not have Indian origin—they were Arabs, Turks and Persians. Thus, if they were seeking to usher in a rule that was native for them, the charge of betrayal does not apply to them. There were, however, some Muslim mercantile communities of Indian origin like the Bohras and the Khojas of Gujarat and Sindh. Yet, their cooperation with Muslim rulers in betraying Muslim commoners have a fundamentally different connotation from the collaboration of Indic and even Parsi merchants with Muslim and European rulers in betraying Indic commoners. A common religious heritage was shared in the former case, but not so in the latter one. The exploitation by Muslim rulers of Muslim commoners was limited to economic exploitation alone, religious persecution was naturally exempt. During the British regime, again, the British rulers economically and politically exploited the Muslim masses, quite like the Hindu masses, but never sought to convert either on a large scale. And, Muslim merchants such as Currimbhoy and Aga Khan indeed had no problems cooperating with the British who were bombing the Pashtuns in North West Frontier Province. Even the massacre of the non-violent Khudai Khitmatgar in the streets of Peshawar during the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre evoked no condemnation from the Muslim merchants. The Muslim merchants thus became party to economic and political exploitation of the Muslim masses by Muslim and European regimes, but rarely to religious exploitation. Thus, collusion of Muslim merchants with the Muslim and British regimes represent a different phenomenon, from that between the Indic and Parsi merchants, and deserve a separate study. Another important point is that during the British regime the Muslims were largely seeing themselves as a different nation and were seeking their own territory. So the dynamic of Muslim mercantile collusion with British regime can be best understood by visiting the history of Partition which is beyond the purview of the current series. Thus, we focus only on the collusion of Indic and Parsi merchants with the invading regimes which undermined the political, social and economic interests of the nation.

We include the Parsi merchants in our study though technically they can not be described as Indics. This is because they did not share any religious or racial commonality with the invaders who India were blessed with in the last 1200 years. Their ancient religion shared some common features with the Indic religions. They have resided in India for long, ever since they lost their original home to the Muslim Arabs who conquered Iran. So,    ideally they should have become products of the Indian soil.

The demography of invaders and merchants

There were two major categories of invaders in India: 1) Islamic and 2) Europeans. The Islamic ones comprised of pre-Mughals (Arab invasion of Sind, eighth century AD, Turko-Afghans, eg, Ghazni, Ghori and Delhi Sultanate, 11th century AD to 1524 AD), Mughals (Central Asian Mongols, 1524-1707 AD), Post Mughal (later Mughals, Bengal Nawabs, Hyderabad Nizams, 1707 AD to 1948 AD). The European invasion comprised of the rules of different East India Companies (Portugese, English, Dutch, French, 1510 AD-1857 AD), British crown (1857 AD to 1947 AD).   

Who were the merchants? We get an insight from Gurcharan Das, who is extremely friendly to business. “Indian industry originated with the old merchant castes and they continue to dominate till today. 15 of the 20 largest industrial houses in 1997 were of Vaishya/Baniya trading castes. 8 were Marwaris.  (Similarly, in contemporary Pakistan, most of the 22 families who reputedly own half the nation’s wealth are Kutchi Memons, the leading Muslim trading caste of undivided India.)’’[11]  This description gives an indication of the social composition of the mercantile community. The trading castes that Gurcharan Das alludes to essentially reside in the north and west of India, and emerge from the ethnicities of Marwaris,  Parsis, Sindhis and also the states of Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The trading castes of these regions overlap significantly, for example among the Punjabis, Khatris comprise of the bulk of the merchants, (the Punjabi Banya castes comprised the bulk of the rest), Khatris also resided in Sindh. Similarly, Bhatias resided in both Sindh and Gujarat. Parsis mostly resided in Gujarat and Bombay, but they have always considered themselves ethnically distinct from Gujaratis and Marathis. The mercantile groups have historically been concentrated in regions surrounding the trans-national trade route connecting India to Central Asia. Historically, many of these regions were not conducive to large-scale agriculture, which probably explains the dominance of mercantile groups in these, at least relatively speaking.  We mark the trans-national trading routes and the surrounding regions from which many of the mercantile castes originated.

Indian mercantile communities homeland areas

In South India, the only major trading community is the Chettiars. Beyond the groups named so far, there are other segments of the populace whose merchants have collaborated with the invaders in specific periods, particularly, many Bengali merchants accrued substantial wealth by acting as agents of the East India Company during its ascent in the 1790-1850 period.  They disappeared right after, for a variety of reasons, but left behind a trail of persecution, comparable to the merchants of other communities during this period.  This suggests that the mercantile collaboration is rather a class property than an ethnic one; it is just that some ethnicities have greater percentage of merchants and longer mercantile traditions than others.

We would describe the collusions of the principal collaborators among each of these, progressing chronologically as per periods of Indian history. The following table summarizes which groups collaborated with which invaders, the summary will be documented in subsequent pieces.

Merchant communities that collaborated with the foreign invaders of India

In our series of articles, we separately dwell on different periods and different invaders. We start with the Muslim rule, move on to the Europeans other than the English (Portuguese, Dutch and the French) and subsequently conclude with the English rule. In each category, we enumerate some sample atrocities of the regimes in question, focussing on the rulers who were substantially assisted by the Indic merchants. Subsequently, we document the collusion of the Indic merchants with the rulers in question.

The bulk of the sources we have utilised in our analysis of the merchants, and the corresponding mercantile communities, who collaborated with the Islamic regimes are drawn from the works of individuals who are strongly pro-business (Taknet, Gurcharan Das, Gita Piramal, Timberg, Medha Kudayisiya, etc), or from impeccable historians (R. C. Majumdar, Kalikinkara Dutta, Jadunath Sarkar, Claude Markovitz, Pedro Machado, etc), or from contemporary European travellers, who were mostly neutral (Bernier, Manucci, etc).

Social basis for symbiosis between the mercantile groups and invaders

Mercantile groups comprise of a minuscule fraction of the population of Indian subcontinent, yet control the bulk of India’s wealth. As Scott Levi points out that in 1965 Marwari financial houses collectively controlled 7.5 billion rupees in assets and Parsi ones controlled 4.7 billion rupees in capital. In 1965 the Marwari and Parsi populations were respectively at most (or barely exceeded) 20 lakhs and 90,000.  Similarly, the Ismailis in Pakistan, with less than 1% of the country’s population, by 1959 controlled over 50% of the country’s industrial assets. The Nattukottai Chettiars dominated the banking and textile trade of South India as early as 1896, with the population of only 10,000 including women, children, and others not directly involved in commercial activities.[10] In our series, we would argue that this disproportionate concentration of wealth is a direct outcome of preferential treatment the merchants received from the long-standing invading regimes in India, and the devastation the invader-merchant duo jointly perpetrated on the bulk of the rest of the populace. Such coalitions prosper over long durations, only when they are founded on shared economic and political benefits, and mutually beneficial social characteristics. We will explore the first two in the remainder of the series, in this article we focus on the social characteristics of the mercantile communities and the invaders that ideally suited the needs of each other.

Social insularity of mercantile groups

First, many of the mercantile communities were deeply clannish. They insisted on recruiting into their businesses from only their communities.

We first consider the Marwari traders.

  • We start with the house of the Jagat Seths, which had emerged from Nagaur at the edge of Marwar and Shekhawati, in Rajasthan. They constituted the biggest business house in all of India in the eighteenth century. They resided in Murshidabad during this period. They were Oswal Jains,[12] and they mostly hired their employees from their own community, which resided in UP and Rajasthan.[12]  One of the early leaders of the house, Manikchand, for example, preferentially encouraged the Oswals to settle in Murshidabad.  At one time, there were as many as 500 Oswals in Murshidabad and their dwellings were clustered together near the house of the principals.  The inhabitants of Murshidabad named this colony Mahajantoli.[12]  Taknet has written, that wherever the Marwaris settled in British India, they used to invite traders of their community from their home-towns to join their businesses, motivated by their cultural tradition encapsulated in an old Marwari saying, “The right place for money in is one’s own hand, the right place for a brother is one’s own side.”[7] Another old Marwari tradition that reflects the same sentiment is that “Baitno chayan mein huo bhala kairh; ravno baniya mein, huo wala bairhi” —“It is proper to sit in the shade, whether the shade be of a thorn tree; it is proper to live amongst one’s brethren even if there is a feud amongst them.”[7]
  • Things did not much improve in the twentieth century either. Another big businessman from Shekhawati, G. D. Birla “preferred to hire men from his own community.”[15] Gita Piramal has written, “There were a few non-Marwaris [in G. D. Birla’s firms], the exceptions that proved the rule. …”Those few non-Marwaris who joined the organisation rarely made it to the top,” said another manager quoted in a magazine’s assessment of G. D. Birla’s managerial strengths done in the sixtees.”[15] Apparently one of G. D. Birla’s core tenets were “select reliable Marwaris, train them in his own way, and then trust them to get on with their job.”[15]  We learn from Piramal, that GD rigidly adhered to these three principles throughout his life. In time, they came to be handed down from father to son, becoming part of the Birla corporate culture.  Certainly, GD’s favourite grandson, Aditya was a true believer … most of his top ranking executives were Marwaris.”[15] Thus, Aditya Birla was as clannish as his grandfather, despite being educated at MIT and being born only a few years before independence.
  • That G. D. Birla, had an acute consciousness of his caste, becomes apparent from a letter he wrote to another contemporary big businessman, Walchand, on 26th May 1936, to admonish him on a public position the latter assumed on Jawaharlal Nehru: “You have rendered no service to your caste men.”[15] G. D. Birla used to say “… I think caste is what holds this country together. Abolish caste and India is in trouble.“[15]

The Parsis displayed the exact same preference for their clan. Piramal has written, “J. R. D. [Tata] was often accused of being Parsi-centric, … ‘if anything, the trend to hire Parsis is increasing after JRD’ says Francis Menezes. … Even the Tata organisation admits that its mid-levels are packed by Parsis.  One executive recruitment agency pegged the figure at 80 per cent.”[15]

Claude Markovits has documented that the Sindhi merchants from Hyderabad in Sindh  used to run their firms as “closed shops”, hiring only members of their own caste from their own town, even in firms that operated abroad, to the maximum possible extent that the local laws permitted them. He has written, “One wonders why the principals of the Sindwork Firms (in Manila) were so adamant about wanting to employ only Hyderabadis in their shops, with a few exceptions. They themselves argued that these were the only ones who had the necessary skills and that they could also be trusted more than locally recruited employees. Both arguments actually look slightly doubtful. The skills involved in working in the shops, leaving aside accounting and Sindi correspondence, which obviously could not be entrusted to strangers, were not so specialized that local employees could not have been trained to acquire them. The argument about trust is not totally convincing either; disputes often arose between Hyderabadi employers and their Hyderabadi employees, as shown by the evidence of many court cases in the British Consular courts in Egypt and Morocco. Besides, in strictly economic terms, Hyderabadi employees cost much more than local ones, given the need to pay for the travel and board.”[20]

The Chettiars are also well-known for their clannishness. The Beri Chettis were distinct from the other Tamil castes by being termed a “left hand caste”, which was distinct from other local merchant castes which were “right hand castes”.[40] The Nattukottai Chettiars lived separately in large fort like mansions; hence the name Nattukottai (land fort) Chettiars.[40]. The Beri Chettis, the biggest of the Chettiar bankers and traders with the different East India companies, had a feud with the right hand castes and fought caste wars with them over caste “honour” involved in contracts with the East India Companies.  To quote,[39] “The riot of 1652 was the first of many occasions when the leading merchants found it expedient to exploit social tensions between the right and left hand castes to advance their economic interests,” which left the British governors of Madras perplexed as evidenced by their horrified letter to their superiors in London, expressing their confusion over the riot.[39]

The same observation can be made for Khatris and Gujarati trading castes. For example, the founder of the Burdwan Raj family in Bengal, was a Punjabi Khatri, Abu Rai, who had arrived in Bengal in the sixteenth century (very likely in the trail of the Mughal forces). The family used to appoint mostly fellow Khatris (none of whom were from Bengal) as their diwans and other top administrators, connect mostly with other Khatri bankers, and socialize with Khatris.[41] Raja Tilakchandra had for example appointed a Punjabi relative and former diwan, Lala Amirchandra, as “sole administrator of his affairs and guardian to his son’’, and was known to be partial to fellow Khatris.[41] While most of the Hindu zamindars in Bengal used to marry locally, “The zamindar of Burdwan, on the other hand, usually imported youthful Khatri spouses from outside Bengal.”[41]

As the above evidence shows, there were community businesses, like Marwari businesses, Sindhi businesses, Gujarati businesses, but there never was a Hindu business, and there is none now either. Ironically, though, any criticism of individual businessmen of any community is deflected on the grounds that they are “Hindu business”.

Contempt for indigenous plebeians

Second, the merchant communities, by and large, showed a deep disconnect with, and even strong contempt for, the indigenous plebeians. We cite a few instances to elucidate the point.

  • In the Republic of Panama, by mid 1920s the Sindhi merchants from Hyderabad in Sindh had established a complete monopoly over that sale of “Oriental” goods to the passengers of the ships which crossed the Panama Canal, a trade which was worth 7 million US dollars. They were the richest of the Indian communities in this Central American Republic and they had forged some political connections. When a new immigration law which threatened to prevent the entry of Indians and other Asiatics came before Parliament in 1926, they submitted a memorandum to the President of the National Assembly, representing themselves as members of the Hindu colony. The memorandum was signed by the manager of two of the largest firms, and presented a three-pronged argument. Claude Markovits has summarized their arguments as:  “First, regarding the racial aspect, they refuted allegations that they were a ‘degenerate’ race, stressing, on the contrary, the purity of their blood maintained through strict adherence to the caste system: ‘We are proud to belong to a high caste of East Indians which we can safely call an Aristocracy, and from this point of view, we do not permit foreign blood to be introduced. ... ‘They then proceeded to differentiate themselves from Indians of the coolie class, conceding that ‘against this type of Hindu … exclusion (would) be deemed justifiable from an economic standpoint.’ … In the last part, they considered the moral aspect: ‘From this point of view, our behaviour as foreigners correspond exactly to our inborn pride of the caste system, a caste which is moderate in living principles, but without vices.’ … They ended with a plea not to be confused, in the new law, with coolies or third-class migrants….’’[20]
  • Marwari landholders and moneylenders often brutally extorted the plebeians of the places they inhabited, much more than local ones. For example, the extractive nature of the relation between the moneylenders (many of whom were Marwaris) and the peasants (mostly Koches and Rajbanshis) in Jalpaiguri and British Sikkim exacerbated the 1896-97 famine in the region, with little relief by the moneylenders.[25]  The Satara district gazetteer notes that, “Of all moneylenders, the Marwar Vani has the worst name and is harshest and most unscrupulous in his dealings with his debtor.’’ [26] and “Except Marwari and Gujarati Vanis, the larger moneylenders and landholders to a certain extent from a regard to their good name and from kindly feeling treat their debtors with a certain amount of leniency.’’[26]  In Manipur, the role of the Marwaris in fomenting local famine to enhance profits has been catalogued by Rajendra Kshetri.[27]
  • Mohandas Gandhi, who was born in a mercantile caste (the same as that of Ambanis) of Gujarat, and who strongly believed in the hereditary caste system, has on a number of occasions revealed a deep contempt for peasants, industrial workers and untouchables, he mostly sought to exclude them from the freedom struggle.[22][23][24]

It was probably because of this contempt that the merchant groups felt for the commoners that they could turn a blind eye when the plebeians were being socially, political, and economically persecuted by the invaders. More specifically, while the merchants prospered and became politically influential, the indigenous plebeians were being enslaved, forcibly converted, starved, and their women were being wantonly abducted and raped.

The contempt for the commoners perhaps emerged from the lack of connections the merchants had with any land. They  were never rooted in any land. There is for example a common Marwari saying, “Alien land is better than your own home if it gives you money.”[7]   They were therefore constantly on the move, in search of wealth, and were rarely involved with any of the activities that would bond them to the land.  They never bonded with the lands they moved to either. In[19] Hall-Matthews points out that “… [the moneylenders] wanted to hold peasants in thrall via the threat of court eviction orders and extract the entire surplus value of their production. Marwaris had little interest in the land and rarely permitted or underwrote farm improvements such as well building, which might have enabled peasants to pay off their debts.”[19] Similarly, B. R. Nanda points out, citing a Census 1911 report, that the Marwaris were the first to pack up and leave when any epidemic struck the region.[13] Consequently, the merchants merely viewed the land they lived in as a place to make money. We observe the same attribute in Parsi merchants. Bharat Ratna JRD, Tata, his father R. D. Tata, his mother Sooni, his brother Jimmy, and his brother Dorab, have all been interred in London. Dorab’s ashes are placed in a London cemetery, though he had died in India.[15]

Resistance to an invader inevitably emerges from attachment to the land one calls home. Notably, one of the strongest resistance against the invaders emerged from peasant and tribal rebellions, both these communities are deeply attached to their lands. Let us also recall the last days of  revolutionary Rashbehari Bose, who had spent about thirty years in exile in Japan. A prominent Malayan-Indian barrister of Penang, Nedyam Raghavan, who headed the All-Malayan Indian Independence League, had known Rashbehari Bose closely, starting from March 1942 until Rashbehari retired from public life in July 1943.[42] Nedyam Raghavan has written about the sentiments of Rashbehari Bose in his last days: “Though in failing health, he was full of cheer, full of life. However, he said his health was giving way. … With prophetic foresight, he also saw Indian Freedom looming in the distance. He said, before the war ended India would be free. In a feeble voice, not perhaps believing it himself, he added that he would return to a Free India. He did not. He left Singapore. I was afraid for his finances as I knew he had given everything to the Movement. I felt he would be in need; and ventured to send him a cheque. He returned it with many expressions of thanks. No; his needs were few and though he had given all his property to the Movement and was returning to Japan with empty hands, he felt certain that he would be looked after and properly taken care of. He needed no money. It was not long before that we heard that he has left us forever; but in leaving us, he left behind the cherished memory of a good friend and a great patriot through whose life ran one unbroken purpose – that of winning India’s freedom.[42] M. Sivaram, a Reuters journalist in South East Asia, who had known Rashbehari from 1942 onwards has written, “He spoke of his ambition in life—to die in Free India, in a hermitage somewhere in the Himalayas.”[42] On the 21st of January, 1945, he passed away in his sleep[42][43] with a plaque of Bande Mataram overhead and a Tulsi bead in his hand.[42] Similarly, Shyamji Krishna Verma, another Indian revolutionary who had lived in Europe for long and died there, had made prepaid arrangements with the local government of Geneva and St Georges cemetery to preserve his and his wife’s ashes at the cemetery for 100 years and to send their urns to India whenever it became independent during that period. This then were the attachment to the land that dominated the psyche of the leaders of the resistance.

Transnational trading connections

Third, the merchants were a part of the transnational trading networks dominated by Muslim countries and Muslim merchants.  The latter were their colleagues, their partners, their allies.  It was here that they formed partnerships, and not with the plebeians of the lands they lived in. The transnational trader network, dominated by Muslim merchants, was often hand in glove with the imperialistic powers like the Islamist empires or the European nations, and as such, the merchants favoured partnerships with the groups their partners favoured. Consequently, their socio-economic interests induced a familiarity with the imperialistic Islamists and the Europeans, rather than the small local kingdoms, and predisposed their surrender to the imperialists.

Even before the Islamic invasions started in India, the collaborations along the transnational trader network had led to the rapid capitulation of Buddhism to Islam in Central Asia and Afghanistan, without even an iota of a resistance. The replacement of Buddhism by Islam along the silk route, where the merchants quickly adopted Islam is chronicled in “Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road.”[29] Prominent Buddhist traders and nobles along the Silk Road including the Barmakids converted quickly to Islam and served the Abbasid Caliphate.[33] Then, at the start of the Islamic invasion in India, that is, during the Arab conquest of Sindh, the Buddhist traders of Nirun and Siwistan, submitted tamely to the Arabs and advised their countrymen to submit too;[28] they had traded widely in the Umayyad Arab empire. Unlike common propaganda, the same sources falsely used to claim that “common Buddhists” welcomed Muslims, in reality the Nirun Buddhists went to a town to convince them to surrender to Muslims but they refused.[33]

Why merchants and invaders could ally?

We can at this point develop a good understanding as to the social basis for the alliance between the merchants and invaders.

Through transnational trade, the merchants and invaders had close economic and political links prior to the invasions. So they were natural allies, to start with, in some sense. Next, merchants were socially insular, belonged to communities of small size, were indifference to the plight of the humanity outside their community, and bore severe contempt for commoners. Thus appeasing the merchants would incur low-cost for the invaders as they would at best need to secure the welfare, social, political and economic, of a small segment of the populace. In return, the invaders could secure the cooperation of an influential and wealthy group, and use the same to accomplish their political, social and economic goals, by exploiting the bulk of the remaining large section of the populace.

To understand the underlying social cause for preference of the merchants for invaders as opposed to the indigenous regime, we need to note that the animosity between the merchants and the commoners was reciprocal. Examples indicate that the former bore contempt for the latter. And, the relative prosperity of the merchants—possibly from selling high value foreign imports to the elite who in turn paid for it by their appropriations from the commons—and their exploitative dealings indicated before, rendered the  merchants unpopular with the commons. Note that several peasant rebellions targeted the invading regime, and their mercantile and money-lending intermediaries, equally.

So the merchants needed regimes that would keep the commoners under tight control, that is, maintain the existing social and economic status quo, which were in favour of the merchants.  Now, let us observe that over the last 1200 years, the three main invasive forces have been broadly two phases of the “Arab” and “Persianate Turko-Islamic”, the Persianised-Turko-Mongol-Islamic and the third of West-European, dominated by the British. In each case the invader had strong religio-racial constructs of their own distinction and had in fact a disincentive to integrate with the locals. In fact they saw themselves as extensions of earlier imagined empires or imperialisms whose world-centres and therefore by extension their own, lay outside the geography of India. For the merchants, therefore, such a self-consciously “foreign” invader who however militarily overwhelms and crushes the indigenous unreliable commons is a blessing in both ways: such a force would not identify with the natives to become a commonly united elite—commons force would remain dependent on the merchants as financial intermediaries, would maintain the mercantile need for direct physical risk-avoidance, would keep the commons politically and militarily emasculated. That is why merchants were so closely bonded to the specifically racist and religiously imperialist forces of Islamic Middle East/Central Asia, and western Europe and its Christianity.  This is also why they funded the wars of the invaders against the indigenous inhabitants of the country.

There are other social causes which cemented the alliance between invaders and Indic merchants, we enumerate those next.

Excessive emphasis on wealth acquisition leading to commoditisation of core human values

Fourth, social stature in mercantile communities was closely linked to acquisition of wealth, and immense social value was associated with the latter. There is an old Marwari saying: “Kodi bin kimat nahin, saga na rakhe sath, huva ja namo hath men, bairi bujhe baat”—“You are cared for only if you have money; your near and dear ones will be with you in case you have money.”[7] Accordingly, in his late 50s, when G. D. Birla told his elder brother, Rameshwar Das, that he was no longer motivated to pioneer new industries, RD chided GD, “If you stop your activities now, your prestige will suffer. Even your own children may ignore you.”  Then GD subsequently re-entered the world of business,[15] Markovits has written that in the Sindhi Bhaiband caste, ranking between different Bhaiband segments was largely determined by wealth, and “what better way to display one’s wealth and enhance one’s prestige in such a mercantile society than  to offer jobs to scions of poorer families in the community.” Markovits has conjectured that this was the reason why Sindhis always sought to hire from their community in their home towns, even for the firms that operated abroad.[20]

It was perhaps because of this excessive import associated with wealth that the concept and sense of commodity was perhaps extended from direct products of economy to more abstract items like people, land, ideology, culture, or sense of indigenous proto-nationhood. All such “commodities” would be devalued and also become tradable in a world that is full of tradable commodities. The mercantile mind from this stage has become a detached exchanger of everything around him as a commodity, from economic goods to people to land to religion to statehood. Thus we see a singular or almost callous detachment from the very people of one’s own land, and attachment to an invading force to keep on the main agenda smoothly ongoing financial profiteering. It is this quality which enables merchants to bolster the invaders, as and when they assess them to be in their own pecuniary interests, without any compunction. It is also this quality which allows the invaders to rely on the merchants, knowing well that their loyalty could be procured through financial rewards.

As an illustrative example of this commoditisation, we show how G. D. Birla dealt with social challenges exactly as he would go about sealing a business deal. In 1925, the Birla family in 1925 had arranged a match for Rameshwar Das Birla (G. D. Birla’s eldest brother) with a Kolavari Maheshwari lady from the United Provinces. But the Calcutta Maheshwaris expelled the Birlas from the community in response, as they regarded the UP ones as aliens.[15] G. D. did not seek to defy the community on the ground that such injunctions were regressive and impinging on his family’s private space. Instead, he sought to prove his community wrong applying the same caste and the “purity of blood” metric which they adhered to. He called Pundas from different parts of the country and had them study the geneological ledgers.  Pundas were able to prove that according to orthodox standards, Rameshwar Das’ father in law was a ‘bisa’ (better than others) Maheshwari. In other words, the bride was of “good blood”. When the next all-India Maheshwari mahasabha appointed a committee to study the issue, GD ensured that it was packed with his supporters Braj Lal Biyani and Shree Krishna Das Jaju. The dice was thus loaded in his favour.   The Mahasabha gave a verdict that the Kolavars were an integral part of the Maheshwari society.[15] This was no different from hostile takeover of a company, or securing a favourable decision by packing the boardroom of a company with one’s own clique. Thus, social regulations and caste norms, which he had great faith in, were to him commodities that he could procure  through standard trade practices.

Core religious tenets

Fifth, most of the mercantile groups were deeply religious and subscribed to religious creeds that attached a high premium with the concept of ahimsa or non-violence.  Many of them (possibly with exception of the Sindhis and the Khatris) were Jains and Hindu Vaishnavas. Some forms of Vaishnavism in North and East India attached high import to ahimsa, Lord Krishna was worshipped therein as a mischievous child, or even a consort, but rarely as the warrior and statesman that he was seen to be in Mahabharata. Non-violence provided a pliant universalist framework of pacifism which allowed the traders to come across as non-threatening to the networks they sought to belong to, to maximize their pecuniary gains. It is perhaps not a coincidence that early Buddhism have been significantly driven by and attracted the “setthis” and “sarthavaha” leaders. Same goes with Jainas.

The invaders would find this value system of ahimsa  invaluable for their ends, because the principle of non-violence could be gainfully utilized to avert just wars in defense of the nation and motivate abject surrenders to the invaders. Once the invader  has assumed control, non-violence on the part of the indigenous populace would impede effective resistance and retain the status quo which is in favour of invaders. Note that the merchants rarely insisted that the invading rulers follow the creed of non-violence, yet many times they championed the same as lofty moral goals for the indigenous rulers and the resisting populace. Since the non-violence yardstick did not apply to the invaders, they could secure substantial benefits through unilateral application of violence; this for example is exactly how the British crushed mass dissent and revolutionary movements. Thus, non-violence provided a moral and religious sanction for abject compromises with the invaders.

It is of course  ironic  that the leaders of  the mercantile groups who adhered to the creed of ahimsa, financed invading regimes that perpetrated worst forms of violence on the indigenous Indic population, which included war, slavery, forcible conversion and destruction of temples. Many times they directly financed the military operations of the invaders against indigenous Hindu regimes. They were also direct participants of slave trade, spanning Africa, Middle East, South America, India, and ivory trade which decimated the wild herds of elephants that roamed the plains of Africa. Even more ironical is that the same individuals often became religious leaders of their communities as well. Lala Lajpat Rai, who was born in a Jain trader (Aggarwal) family has flagged similar contradictions among  merchants: “I  was born in a Jain family. My grandfather had an all-covering faith in ahimsa. He would rather be bitten by a snake than kill it. He would not harm even a vermin. He spent hours in religious exercise. To all appearances, he was a very virtuous person, who held a high position in his fraternity and commanded great respect. … He believed in ahimsa, that perverted ahimsa which forbids the taking of any life under any circumstances whatsoever, but he considered all kinds of trickeries in his trade and profession as not only valid but good. They were permissible according to the ethics of his business. I have known many persons of that faith who would deprive the minor and the widow of their last morsel of food in dealings with them but who would spend thousands in saving lice or birds or other animals standing in danger of being killed.’’[21]

The mercantile minds likely resolved such contradictions  by maintaining a degree of separation from the actual act of violence, while completely ignoring their role in enabling the same. They funded commercial hunting, provided ships and finance for slave trade, and employed extremely ruthless means to extract resources from their creditors, but rarely came into contact with the animal products or directly joined the actual acts themselves.  In Cotton and Famine in Berar: 1850-1900,[30] Satya has noted how the Marwaris themselves did not go after their debtors, but sent Rohillas and Pathans [whose methods were extremely ruthless] after them.  Similarly, they traded humongous amounts of ivory, which was obtained by hunters who decimated elephant herds in East Africa,[32] but there is no record of the merchants hunting the animals themselves. And, they financed military conflicts, but didn’t participate in the actual acts, they also financed regimes that perpetrated the barbarities mentioned in the previous paragraph, but didn’t execute the same themselves. Thus, the merchants and moneylenders could remain true in letter to their doctrine of non-violence, even while facilitating the worst forms of violence on the hapless peasants and animals.

Social conservatism

The mercantile communities were invariably extremely socially conservative, regardless of their formal education levels. The caste consciousness and the importance of the purity of blood were very high as we have already enunciated. We elaborate on other aspects now. Piramal has noted that G. D. Birla’s attitude remained conservative towards women. He never sought women’s emancipation.[15]  Indeed, in the Bengal council, he opposed extending an extension of suffrage to women.[34] He largely represented the values of his contemporary community. At that time, for example, the Marwari Sanatan Dharma Sabha, used to routinely excommunicate individuals who supported widow remarriage.[34] The Marwari Sanatan Dharma Sabha was however based in Calcutta where the remarriage of Hindu widows was legalized more than fifty years back, in 1856 AD, primarily due to the efforts of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. In their defense, the levels of formal education were low in the Marwari society of Birla’s times, Birla himself had received very limited formal education, and did not associate any import to the same. But Sindhis had greater amount of formal schooling than the Marwaris. Yet, they were as conservative in matters of religion, and gave only limited support to reformist causes, even if some of them, particularly in  Southern Africa, were active Arya Samajists.[20]  And, the Parsi community was one of the most well-educated in India at that time; yet, the leading merchants therein appear to be equally conservative. Sir Homi Mody, who was quite well educated and was a leading member of the Tata group,  preached that “a woman’s place is in the home and the kitchen” all his life, even while addressing women’s group, like the Ladies Branch of the National Indian Association.[44]

This conservatism is closely related to the fact that the merchants are typically conformant of prevailing social values. This social milieu and psyche would thwart the emergence of rebels from the corresponding communities. This is because challenging unjust social and political norms is a defining attribute of a rebel.  Not surprisingly, we observe that the merchants have largely remained loyal to existing political regimes, even when, or especially when, the regimes were run by invaders. It goes without saying then that the invaders would look for exactly this attribute in potential allies.


We conclude by underlining the outlook with which the information outlined in this article, and to be elaborated upon in the resulting series, ought to be viewed.

Religio-ethnic constructs do not usually determine individual choices, pursuit of specific vocations might as our documentations indicate.

  • Swami Dayanand Saraswati, a Gujarati Brahmin, promulgated an important reform movement in Hinduism, which led to the emergence of a large number of revolutionaries in North India. the Arya Samaj movement was an important social rebellion of its times, and sought to reconvert the Hindus who had been converted to Islam, which was almost unprecedented at that time. almost all the Hindu revolutionaries who emerged from Punjab had an Arya Samaj background. Arya Samaj also repudiated caste, fostered a large number of inter-caste marriages, notwithstanding the fact that caste consciousness is strong in the state where its founder was born.[31] Shyamji Krishnavarma, a Bhanushali from Mandvi in Gujarat,  began the first real Indian revolutionary publication called Indian Sociologist in London in 1905.  Two of his closest associates were Sirdarsingh Raoji Rana and Madam Bikaji Rustomji Cama. He also offered scholarships to Indian students who would not accept any post under the British government. He began the India House, the incubator of many later revolutionaries, from all over India,  including people like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra, and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya. He offered many more lectureships and scholarships to aspiring revolutionary students and others to actively spread the message of India, organised the Desh Bhakta Sahba (Society of Patriots) and should properly be called the organiser of the revolutionaries.[35]
  • Regardless of their emphasis on non-violence, the Jain community has given India armed revolutionaries against the British. Two Jain brothers, Moti Chandra and Manik Chandra (or Jai Chandra) killed the Mohant of Nirmaj in 1913, and were sentenced to death for the same. They wrote in a letter to their revolutionary comrades from their death cell they were not afraid of death, they want nothing from life, and that they would remain content in any situation God has destined for them. Revolutionary Sachin Sanyal has written about these two brothers in his memoirs, describing them as revolutionaries, he has not narrated why the Mohant had to be assassinated, it may be inferred that the Mohant was a British collaborator.[45]  Next, an Oswal Jain from Mewar in Rajasthan, Bama Shah, funded the military resistance of Maharana Pratap against Akbar, therefore he stands in sharp contrast to another Oswal Jain, Jagat Seth, who had continually funded the later Mughals and the Islamist Bengal Nawabs. Neither Bama Shah nor his immediate ancestors however had any connection to the mercantile profession, Jagat Seth did.
  • While many Khatri traders collaborated with the invaders, the Khatris have a redoubtable reputation for scholarship, education and revolutionary thinking. Many Sikh Gurus were Khatris, the Arya Samaj had a high affiliation among Khatris,[37] and one of the editors of the Ghadar (a revolutionary newspaper in US), Ramnath Puri, was also a Khatri [38].
  • Coming to the modern times, one of the scholars who challenged the established contemporary intellectual and social norms of his time emerged from a mercantile group of North India. We are referring to Sita Ram Goel here. Along with some colleagues, he led the intellectual deconstruction of core principles of Islam, both from the religious and political angles. This was certainly not an act of conformance, as this was in direct contradiction to the contemporary social norm that considered religions, particularly those followed by minorities in India, as above reproach and critical analysis. Scholars in Europe and USA embarked on a similar endeavor only since 11 September 2001, which would be several decades after Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup published their scholarly works on Islam and Muslims. Sita Ram Goel also published criticisms of Jawahar Lal Nehru, which was again unusual at his time. Further, Koenraad Elst, a colleague of Sita Ram Goel and a product of the same school, has provided valuable insights into mercantile characteristics, and how those compromised the BJP enough to undermine the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that some of its leaders were spearheading.[36]  The social resistance that this group have had to battle for this intellectual mission can be assessed from the fact that they have been denied the platform to publish in most eminent venues including in the official mouthpiece of the supposed Hindu nationalist RSS. Goel was definitely an intellectual rebel in his own way.
  • Broadly speaking, given the large scale collaboration between different powerful segments of the Indic populace and foreign invaders, that becomes evident on any careful study of Indic history, it seems that we are, as a collective, the children of collaboration.  But this would be a natural reality of any nation that has been subjugated for more than a thousand years.  This is because those who resisted the colonials invariably perished early, often without reproducing, and the collaborators flourished with the backing of the invaders.  But we are more than the sum total of our genes; our genes may well determine our physical, anatomical and physiological characteristics, but our souls give us our values. The soul is not a product of heredity.
  • Otherwise, how can one explain an Aurobindo Ghosh composing the best treatises of Indic philosophy, given that his father was so deracinated that he wanted his son to grow up as an Englishman.  His father had shipped him off to England, where, in his formative years, he knew only European languages and remained uninitiated in even his mother tongue, leave alone other Indic languages.
  • Nor can one explain a Madan Lal Dhingra, who came from a family of Khatri traders, martyring himself with the last words: “I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the mother but his own blood. And so I have sacrificed the same on her altar. The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves. My only prayer to God is that I may be re-born of the same mother and I may re-die in the same sacred cause till the cause is successful. Vande Mataram!”[16][18] He was but a son of an influential British stooge.  His father disowned his own son, for the crime of taking up arms against the colonial occupiers; Dhingra’s family continues to deliberately stay away from social events commemorating his martyrdom.[9]
  • Madam Cama came from a family of Parsi traders and collaborators of the British empire. She, nevertheless, raised the Indian flag for the first time in International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart in 1909, moved a resolution in favour of the Freedom of India with the help of Jean Jaures, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxembourg,[36] and edited two revolutionary newspapers, Bande Mataram, and Madan’s Talwar,[35] and became a mentor for many revolutionaries like Tirumalachari and to an extent, even Lala Hardayal, later on.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai was born a Jain Aggarwal Bania. He was one of the foremost Arya Samajis of his time, a trade union leader who led the formation of the AITUC in 1920, an extremist leader, who, along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, encouraged a strong position on the freedom of the country, a stance that was unpalatable to the moderate Congress. He also helped revolutionaries like Rashbehari Bose and Manabendranath Roy. He fearlessly exposed the hypocrisies of Jain traders including those of his own grandfather.
  • By the theory of genes alone, Subhas Chandra Bose would remain an anomaly. He was the greatest revolutionaries and anti-imperialist that India has ever produced. Yet, his values seem to be in stark contrast to those of his parents, Janakinath Bose and Prabhabati Bose, and even those of the sibling closest to him, Sarat Bose.  Subhas Bose was “a bitterly and irremediably anti-British politician,” [8] (note prepared by British intelligence personnel, M. J. Clauson,  on 15 December 1932) and an “implacable foe of British rule in India.[8] In contrast, his father, Janakinath Bose, believed that the British rule was benevolent. Janakinath felt a sense of gratitude to the British, for maintaining law and order, creating a legislative council with Indian members and for introducing Indians to the English  language, and literature. The British rewarded him for his loyalty by appointing him as a government pleader, next, to the Bengal legislative Council in 1912 and finally bestowed on him the title of the Rai Bahadur.[17] Prabhabati Bose was obsessed with fair complexion, was herself very fair in skin colour, and could pass for an Italian or even an English woman. She favored the lighter-colored among her children and grandchildren. While choosing a bride for one of her sons, she would put the arm of the  candidate in question side by side with hers, and compare the skin colours on the inside of their forearms.  She would approve of the bridal choice if the prospective bride was fairer than her. Many, including some in the Bose family suffered a lifelong stigma due to this ranking by colour.[17]  Sarat Bose shared none of Subhas’ revolutionary characteristics, as also the proclivity to lead mass resistance against colonial occupiers. Subhas Bose led the INA in actual war against the British.  Sarat Bose’s conduct was a study in contrast. During the first INA trial, the Calcutta students organized a mammoth demonstration on November 21, 1945.  They invited Sarat Bose to join and lead them, and expected at least him to come, if not the other top Congress leaders. But Sarat Bose did not come, he just sent a letter calling on the students to disperse and “not to be misled into adventurist actions, instigated by the Communists.”[17] Later on January 6th 1947, Sarat Bose resigned from the Congress working committee, when he felt that he was being excluded from their deliberations concerning transfer of power and partition. Then on January 13th 1947 Sarat Bose announced the formation of the Azad Hind party at a meeting of the INA personal and others in Calcutta.  Naturally, the party went nowhere.[17]

We would then be what we choose to be, we are what we make ourselves. After all, we are all born in joy (amritasya putra), born with a natural divinity which we just need to recognise and resurrect. As the Gita says,

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि
न्यायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूय: |
अजो नित्य: शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे || 2.20, [6]

The soul is neither born, nor dies. Once in existence, it does not ever cease to exist. The soul is not born, it is eternal, and it is undying. It is not killed when the body is destroyed.


The authors would like to provide additional information about what this article is about, and also what it is not about. The piece had clearly mentioned that multiple Indic groups had collaborated with the invaders. Our article was not trying to determine which class was the most responsible for India’s long slavery. That can be done only after a detailed study of collaboration of other classes have been undertaken. We have just started on that path. So as of now the article or rather the series of articles should only be seen as a documentation of mercantile collaboration, of which there would be plenty of examples produced subsequently. – MyIndMakers, 1 January 1970


  1. Polybius, Histories, Book 1, Chapters 66, 67
  2. Roger Crowley, Empires of the Sea
  3. David Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution
  4. Raul Hilberg, Destruction of the European Jews
  5. Daniel Greenfield, The Jewish People vs George Soros, See
  6. Veda Vyas, Bhagavadgita
  7. D. K. Taknet, The Marwari Heritage
  8. Nanda Mookherjee, Subhas Chandra Bose: The British Press, Intelligence and Parliament, Jayasree Prakashan, Calcutta 700026, 1981
  9. Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, and Dikgaj, Did Mahatma Gandhi really oppose Violence? See
  10. Scott C. Levi, The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade
  11. Gurcharan Das, India Unbound
  12. J. H. Little, The House of Jagat Seth
  13. B. R. Nanda, Life and Times of Jamnalal Bajaj
  14. Karen Leonard, The ‘Great Firm’ Theory of the Decline of the Mughal Empire, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 21(2), April 1979, pp. 151-167, Cambridge University Press
  15. Gita Piramal, Business Legends
  16. Madan Lal Dhingra at
  17. Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: Biography of Indian Nationalists, Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose
  18. Reginald Massey, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the Forgotten Indian Martyrs, Abhinav Publications. See more at My Experiments with Swaraj—Dissecting Mohandas Gandhi at
  19. D. Hall-Matthews, Peasants, Famine, and the State in Western Colonial India
  20. Claude Markovits, Global World of Indian Merchants
  21. Lala Lajpat Rai, Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah—A Truth or a Fad? 
  22. Dikgaj, Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Latha Isloor, How Gandhi and Nehrus subverted Hindu grassroot peasant movements in collusion with British and Islamists, Part I. See
  23. Dikgaj, Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Latha Isloor, How Gandhi and Nehrus subverted Hindu grassroot peasant movements in collusion with British and Islamists, Part II. See
  24. Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, The Cow Protection of Mahatma Gandhi—Appeasing Muslims and Bullying Dalits. See
  25. Malabika Chakrabarti, The Famine of 1896-97 in Bengal: Availability or Entitlement Crisis
  26. James Campbell, Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol. XIX, Satara District
  27. Rajendra Kshetri, The Emergence of Meetei Nationalism
  28. K. S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, Ch. 3
  29. Johan Elverskog, Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road
  30. Laxman D. Satya, Cotton and Famine in Berar: 1850-1900
  31. R, K. Pruthi, Arya Samaj and Indian Civilisation
  32. Pedro Machado, Ocean of Trade
  33. Mirza Kalich Beg, Chach Namah
  34. Medha M. Kudayisya, The Life and Times of G. D. Birla
  35. A. C. Bose, Indian Revolutionaries Abroad: 1905-1922
  36. Koenraad Elst, BJP vis-a-vis Hindu Resurgence, Ch. 3. See
  37. Nina Puri, Political Elite and Society in the Punjab
  38. Maia Ramnath, Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Chartered Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire
  39. Kanakalatha Mukund, The Trading World of the Tamil Merchant
  40. Surendra Gopal, Born to Trade: Indian Business Communities in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia
  41. John R. McLane, Land and local kingship in 18th century Bengal
  42. Radhanath Rath & Sabitri Prasanna Chatterjee, Rashbehari Basu: His Struggle for India’s Independence, Published by Biplabi Mahanayak Rashbehari Basu Smarak Samiti
  43. M. Sivaram, The Road to Delhi
  44. P. Mankekar, Homi Mody: A Many Splendored Life
  45. Sachin Sanyal, Bandi Jiban
  46. Sita Ram Goel, Story of Islamic Imperialism in India
  47. Koenraad Elst, The British were not guilty of Partition. See
  48. Romila Thapar, Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage
  49. Richard Eaton Interview in Tehelka. See
  50. Arun Shourie, Objective Whitewash for Objective History. See

Sixty-six Namdhari Sikhs were blown up by canon by the British for protesting against cow slaughter in 1872.

British India in 1909 corresponded to the borders of the India of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

See more articles in this series

  1. Islamic Rulers and Indic Big Merchants: Partnerships and Collaborations
  2. How Muslim Rulers Economically Exploited the Underclass and Appeased the Merchants
  3. Institutionalized Slavery in the Muslim Regimes and Indic Mercantile Complicity
  4. Indifference and Exemption of Indic Merchants to Religious Persecution of the Rest of the Populace by Muslim Invaders
  5. Indifference and Exemption of Indic Merchants to Religious Persecution of the Rest of the Populace by Muslim Invaders
  6. Mercantile Collaboration in Different Regions – Gujarat
  7. The Exploitation of Commons through Islamist-Indic Mercantile Collusion in Bengal