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Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Part 2)

Translated by Gail Omvedt and Bharat Patankar

Chapter 1

Due to the dominance of the selfish Bhat-Brahmans in all government departments, they have been able to so deceive the ignorant farmers with the sham of their self-interested religion that they have no resources left to send their tiny children to school, and even those who have some resources have no desire to do so because they are misguided by the Brahmans.

Those farmers who are resourceless and illiterate have been so much roBhat- Brahmansed by the fraudulent Bhat-Brahman religion that it would be very difficult to see anything like it anywhere in the world. From the beginning the cunning Arya Brahmans have so glibly imposed the crooked schemes of their selfish religion on the farmers that not only is the farmer looted by religious rituals from the time his mother starts menstruating and the Brahman does the ritual of "garbhadan" up to the time of his death, even after his death his son has to bear the burden of doing his shraddh according to the dictates of the crafty religion. It starts from the time the women farmers begin their menstruating, when the Bhat- Brahmans mutter ceaseless prayers and perform religious rituals, and connecting these with Brahman banquets, steal their wealth. The farmers run with such confusion to feed all the friends and relatives of the Bhat-Brahmans with ghee and chapattis that there are hardly any leftover scraps to fill their own stomachs. With this menstruation-pacifying ritual also pacifying the stomachs of the Bhat-Brahmans, they give their blessing to the farmers, advise their women to observe the Saturday fast or the Chaturthi vows, and immediately leave for home. Next the Bhat Brahmans have the women farmers put a garland of Rui leaves around the neck of Maruti or spread a bundle of leaves on the crown of Ganpati on each Saturday and at the time of Chaturthi and take their gift of rice. Some time or another after that, they bluff that the vow has been fulfilled and take large or small Brahman banquets from the farmers.

Once the woman farmer in the natural course of time becomes pregnant, the Bhat Brahman can easily wheedle the farmers, under the pretence of vows taken previously, to have a threaded little Brahman ... Before her delivery, the Bhatji-Buwa makes daily rounds to the farmer's household, praising him with great honeyed speech as a patron and taking from him payment for the vows. Later, if the woman farmer has a son, an unbounded opportunity for wealth breaks out for the Bhat-Brahman. This is how it is done – first the main priest goes to the farmer's house and, asking the time of birth from the ignorant woman who measures time with twine to tie cattle, he finds the most unlucky planet joined to that constellation, and prepares the horoscope in such a way that all the joy of the farmer in the birth of his son is ruined, and he becomes fearful. On the second day, the Bhat-Brahman makes some Brahmans from among his relatives, friends and eating companions to sit chanting and doing rituals in front of the of the lingam, and in the name of fasting forces them to give money for fruits to eat, or for umbrellas if it's the rainy season, or for fans if it's summer and white blankets if it's winter. Along with this the priest does not hesitate to take by sleight of hand oil, paddy, coconuts, dates, supari, ghee, sugar, various fruits and other food for puja from the farmers. To stamp a love for idol worship on the farmers' mind, some Bhats let their hair and beards grow until the meditation rituals are finished. Some eat only fruits and flowers. Through such varied methods of sweet fabrications, by the time the chanting rites have finished the Bhat Brahmans have extorted a great deal of the farmers' wealth. Finally, we all know with what profuseness the Bhat Brahmans manage to extract all kinds of gifts and Brahman banquets at the time of the completion of the ritual itself.

The Arya Bhat-Brahmans do not accept the children of the Shudra farmers into their Sanskrit schools. However, they take some of these children just for practice purposes into their Marathi Prakrit schools, and not only do they take monthly pay for this, but every moonless and full moon night and for so many fraudulent festivals, they claim priest's rations, gifts and one fourth of what the children bring to school for lunch. In return for this, they teach them only letters written in the dust, arithmetic, reading Modi script and Prakrit verses with useless legends and morning songs, leaving them with only enough learning to perform as debating pairs in tamashas. They don't even give them enough education to keep the accounts of their own households – leave aside getting entry as clerks in taluka offices!

At the time the farmer's son is ready for his marriage, the Brahman Joshi goes to his house with almanac in hand. Telling his horoscope, asking the names of the children, and counting on his fingers with a show of pomp, he keeps his own self-interest in mind and shows how some unlucky planet is matched with his horoscope and takes money from the farmer for the chanting and rituals necessary to appease it. Later, at the time of finalizing the auspicious day for marriage of the son, he goes to the bride's house, makes a square rangoli of rice grains on a piece of four-layered cloth, and seating the fathers of the boy and girl on it, and builds a small mound of coconut, date and turmeric pieces. He asks for haldi kum-kum and consecrated rice, and without any concern for the age, merits, class or otherwise of the boy and girl, consecrates a betelnut as Ganpati, and with a chicanery of making offerings, he takes money. Then he makes a scrawl on a piece of paper to represent the auspicious day, and daubing a smear of turmeric on it, gives it to the couple. Then he departs, gathering into the fold of his garment all the goods and money that have been brought, including the rice and the betelnut Ganpati, to take home, break and eat.

Before the time of the marriage, when the bride's family gives clothes to the groom in the Maruti temple, the Bhat-Brahman thrusts one or two coins into the fold of his garment and stuffs some betel leaves and nuts into his turban. Then when the groom goes to the pavilion of the bride, he puts a few grains of wheat on the wooden seat and makes the two stand on that, facing each other. Then, giving open swords to the bride and groom's maternal uncles, he stands them behind the pair. And taking some fine cloth from anyone in the crowd gathered there, he smears some turmeric and red masala across it and holds it as a wedding cloth between the bridge and groom, and humming some verse of classical ragas like "kalyan" and "bhairavi" he says the "shubhamangalam" and marries the ignorant children of the farmers. In so many rich Mali and Kunbi weddings, the Brahmans, with shawls thrown over their bodies, arrive suddenly in order to get their donations, and with great arrogance throw themselves down on bolsters, without caring at all for the friends and relatives of the couple and other guests, making such confusion in the pavilion that it prevents the fathers of the bride and groom from paying proper attention to his invited guests. Can such unsociable boisterous bloated beggars be found in any other country or community? At the moment of marriage, the Bhatji who is doing the ceremony seats the bride and groom before each other, performs various rites, and mutters chants, takes a handful of weeds and makes a fire of them, throwing a bit of ghee and other things in it, and waves some pungent smoke from this "sacred fire" in the direction of the bride and groom and, taking one final donation from their ignorant parents, goes home. On the day of the ceremony of giving saris to the bride, he grabs on to one or two mulish farmers and gets from the parents of the bride and groom whatever amount he demands, and similarly takes money for the marriage fee.

Recounting tales of the extravagant beneficence of Karna, they incite so many welloff farmers to end the marriage with huge gatherings in their houses, and all the Bhat-Brahmans, without any distinction between Vedic, Shastric, Pauranik and simple Brahmans begging by telling stories, take large donations from them and go home. Many pleasureloving Bhat-Brahmans among them, with tiny turbans on their heads and fancy shawls on their laps, sit through the night along with the invited guests, lounging on bolsters, snuffing tobacco and blowing it out through their noses as they listen entranced to the songs of the dancers.

Now we can give a little exposition of how the children of the farmers, after the death of their parents start their family responsibilities and are plundered throughout their life by the tempting tricks of the Bhat-Brahman religion, from its beginning to their death ceremonies.

At the time the children of farmers build their new house, the Shudra labourers carry small baskets of mud in the full heat of the sun. The bricklayers and carpenters climb like monkeys on sky-high scaffolding to set the walls and join the wooden beams to make the house. Because they are grateful to them, the house owners agree to give these harmless labourers a meal of ghee and chappatis. However, before the farmers and workers get the food, the Bhat-Brahmans make rounds night and day to the houses of the farmers, telling them all kinds of myths about religion and bringing to their attention many bogus recommendations of Brahman officials. They then do a fire ceremony before the new house, tie some colored rags to the rafters of the house, and get a meal of ghee and food first for themselves and their whole family, so that only the remainder and leftover food with some jaggery-water is left for the innocent devoted ignorant householders and their workers. Chewing supari, they give an unctuous blessing like a fox yelping after eating sugarcane, grab the donation from the farmers, rub their hands over their stomachs and go home. One or two selfish sadhu Bhat Brahmans become such favoured companions of many immature frolicsome farmers that they captivate them for spreading their name in society, and get them to organize all kinds of meetings in which some Bhat-Brahmans are given shawls and others get donations. Aside from newly built toilets, they also get feasts and donations when new temples and other buildings are constructed by the farmers.

On the first day of every new year during the month of Chaitra, the Bhat-Brahmans go from house to house reading the yearly forecasts to the farmers, and take donations from them. Similarly at the time of Ramnavami and Hanumanjayanti, the Bhat Brahmans collect donations from some well-to-do farmers in their lane, or if all are poor, then take a little from each and take a dinner of ghee and sweet chappatis for the Brahman feast.

During the Jejuri fair, when the farmers with their wives and children go to take a bath in the tank, the Bhat-Brahmans take a donation of one shir-coin from all of them in the name of getting their wishes fulfilled. There are never fewer than 75,000 people at this fair; and while so many playful devadasis sit on the laps of the frolicsome well-to-do farmers, the Bhat Brahmans extort wealth for ghee and sweet chapattis for the happiness of their wives and for their long life. Besides, the Bhat Brahmans share secretly in the merchants' loot of the farmers' treasury when they buy coconut and turmeric to toss in the air before the god Khandoba.

On the eleventh day of Ashad, the Bhat Brahmans take at least a coin every year from those penniless farmers who don't have the resources to give a full Brahman's ration.

When the farmers and their families go to bath in the Chandrabhag river at Pandharpur, the Bhat Brahmans stand on the banks of the river, and take a donation from each of them in the name of fulfilling their wishes. This yatra is never less than a hundred thousand, and some farmers there give an amount sufficient to feed ten Brahman wives, some farmers at least one holy Brahman wife, and while their wives are sitting in the middle room, they tell every farmer, "See here, your Brahman wife is sitting to eat; if you wish to give a donation, do so; otherwise give her a namaskar from afar and go away, so they will send the offerings to the god (Vithoba) before they eat." Hundreds of Brahman badwes at Pandharpur have become rich through this "honest" business.

Every Shravan month at the time of Nagpanchmi, though the native doctors and snake charmers who catch live cobras from holes and extract their poison to hold them in their baskets under their arms and collect money as "Nag-gift devotions" for milk to the cobra have snatched away the ancestral profession of the Bhat Brahmans, they don't bother about filing a case against them, but do puja to snakes made only of stones or mud and take donations from the ignorant farmers.

In the name of the full moon of Shravan, without even noticing the black thread around the necks of the Mahars, they swoop down to get donations from tying Gagabhati white threads around the necks of so many pompous Kunbis[2]. All the farmers have charmed cords put in their hands to get a coin from each of them[3].

At the beginning of the waning moon, the Bhat-Brahmans entice most of the well-off farmers to a week's recitation, and, tying the vina around their necks and putting small cymbals in the hands of their dear friends, they get them addicted to the tabor and make them turn by turn sing songs like parrots and dance with bounding leaps night and day. Sitting before them, leaning voluptuously on bolsters, looking at the fun for a little while, they extort a little money from them every day for snacks, read a third of the chapter of Hari's victorious exploits in the cowshed at night, without telling all the harassment of Yahoda's childbirth, and grab donations from the farmers. On behalf of breaking their fast in the morning, they get a dinner of ghee at the farmer's expense, and leaving the leftover remains of the food for the tabor-players and farmers, they depart for home.

Finally in the concluding Monday of the month of Shravan, the Bhat-Brahmans get from the ignorant God-fearing farmers at least one dinner of ghee and sweet chapattis in the name of their Brahman wives, collect the priests' ration, and after giving all their wives and children dinner, take one or two puran polis and a lump of boiled rice and toss them from afar into the hands of the farmers and somehow satisfy them.

Every Bhadrapad month, using the pretence of the customary worship of Parvati by married women, the Bhat-Brahmans loot one or two coins from the old and young women farmers.

At the time of Ganeshchaturthi, they take donations for clapping their hands before the Ganpatis while singing prayers in the farmers' houses. At Rishipanchami, in connection with the Ganpati festival, they make a shorn farmer widow bob up and down in a puddle of water and extract a dinner of ghee and chapattis along with sweets from the farmers' toil. Overtly pretending to listen to their kirtans, they remain inwardly entranced by some renowned dancer, so engrossed by her melodious songs that they don't cast a single glance in the direction of the Gauri-Parvati made by the potter in the farmers' house.

At the end of Chaturdashi, they take religious contributions from the farmers. At the time of the offering to the ancestors, the Bhat Brahmans of the father's party make all the farmers into an undisciplined crowd and insistently dog their steps so much afterwards that all, even the poor helpless labouring widow, are forced to give donations, gifts and slices of gourds in the name of Ganpati; and they don't let them leave without making them put their heads at their feet. Then can the story of the Bhosles, Gaikwads, Shindes and Holkars be any different?!

~~~~

2. The Shudra people had no custom of tying the sacred thread. Gagabhati took gold amounting to his weight to tie the sacred thread on Raja Shivaji; this custom has gone on since then.

3. Since these rakyas are made of cotton one can get 25 of them for a penny.


Read Jotirao Phule: Shetkaryaca Asud (Introduction) here. And (Part 3) here.

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