35.) Who Is Afraid of Varnasankara?

Arjuna raises an alarm in the first chapter of the Bhagavadgītā, by holding out the spectre of varṇasaṅkara if he were to engage in combat with his enemies, the Kauravas. Almost every student of the Gītā is familiar with these lines. An English translation of these lines would run as follows (I.38-47):

Even if their minds are so sick with greed that they do not see the evil that is brought on by the destruction of family, and the crime that lurks in the betrayal of friendship, how can we fail to know enough to shrink from this crime, we do see the evil brought on by destruction of the family, Janārdana?

“With the destruction of a family the eternal family Laws are destroyed. When Law is destroyed, lawlessness besets the entire family. From the prevalence of lawlessness the women of the family become corrupt, there is class miscegenation, and miscegenation leads to hell for family killers and family. Their ancestors tumble, their rites of riceball and water disrupted. These evils of family killers that bring about miscegenation cause the sempiternal class Laws and family Laws to be cast aside. For men who have cast aside their family Laws a place in hell is assured, as we have been told.

‘Woe! We have resolved to commit a great crime as we stand ready to kill family out of greed for kingship and pleasures! It were healthier for me if the Dhārarāṣṭras, weapons in hand, were to kill me, unarmed and defenseless, on the battlefield!’

Having spoken thus, on that field of battle, Arjuna sat down in the chariot pit, letting go of arrows and bow, his heart anguished with grief.[1]

This concept of varṇasaṅkara has not gone unnoticed by historians of ancient India.

The continual injunctions to the king to ensure that ‘confusion of class’ (varṇa-saṁkara) did not take place indicate that such confusion was an ever-present danger in the mind of the orthodox brāhmaṇ. The class system was indeed a very fragile thing. In the golden age the classes were stable, but the legendary king Vena among his many other crimes, had encouraged miscengenation, and from this beginning confusion of class had increased, and was a special feature of the Kali-yuga, the last degenerate age of this aeon, which was fast nearing its close. The good king, therefore, should spare no effort to maintain the purity of the classes, and many dynasties took special pride in their efforts in this direction.[2]

Arjuna thus is acting in line with a well-established tradition when he voices his fears. P.V. Kane alludes to Arjuna’s fears in the following words:

Even in such a philosophical treatise as the Bhagavad-gītā (I. 41-43), it is said ‘when women become corrupt (or demoralized), intermingling of varṇas arises; saṁkara necessarily leads the whole family and the destroyer of the family to hell. By the reason of these transgressions of the destroyers of the families which bring about varṇasaṁkara, the ancient caste observances and family observances are subverted.’[3]

In striking contrast to Arjuna’s reaction, Manu, who as a sociologist should be even more alarmed, is far more restrained in his approach to varṇasaṅkara. First of all, he allows for three ways in which varṇasaṅkara may come about (X.24): (1) by member of one varṇa having sexual intercourse with member of another varṇa; (2) by marrying women who ought not to have been married (such as a sagotra girl) and (3) by the neglect of the duties peculiar to one’s varṇa.[4] So intermarriage among varṇas is only one of the ways in which varṇasaṅkara might come about, according to Manu.

Such intermarriage among varṇas in Hinduism can take two forms: anuloma or pratiloma, involving either hypergamy or hypogamy respectively. Thus in the literature:

The type of marriage known to anthropologists as hypergamous, when the husband is of higher class than the wife, was by no means disapproved of; on the other hand hypogamous marriage, when the wife’s status was higher than that of the husband, was always frowned on. The former was ‘in accordance with the direction of the hair’ (anuloma), smooth and natural, while the latter was ‘against the hair,’ or ‘brushing the wrong way’ (pratiloma). This distinction is to be found in other societies; for instance in Victorian England the peer who marriaged an actress rarely incurred the same scorn and ostracism as the lady who married her groom.[5]

The word varṇasaṅkara is used by some authors to include both anuloma and pratiloma marriages,[6] while in the hands of others it is restricted to pratiloma marriages.

It seems that, in the matter of varṇasaṅkara, Arjuna is an alarmist and Manu a realist.


[1] J.A.B. van Buitenen, The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1981) p. 73.

[2] A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1967) p. 146.

[3] P.V. Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institution, 1974) Vol. II Part I, p. 60.

[4] Ibid., p. 60.

[5] A.L. Basham, op.cit., p. 146-147.

[6] P.V. Kane, op. cit., Vol II Part I, p. 59-60.

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7 Responses to “35.) Who Is Afraid of Varnasankara?”

  1. aa Says:

    My first impression is this an alarmist post, ‘gotcha’ kind of stuff.

    1-Context is Different than sociology research:

    Here, Arjuna is talking of destruction of his own familly. He is looking at demise of his cousins, his respected and beloved in a bloody war. Contrary to possible perception of the author, he is not researching for his next paper on religious studies, anthropology or sociology. The slander of near and dear ones could be hurtful. Here the bloody death could be more hurtful. To wash his hands after the death of his relatives whom he embraced yesterday, but would never meet again could be numb. This situation could be different than sociology research, when all the stake usually is the next paper and goodwill of guide.

    2- Arjuna is depressed and he is is trying to avoid that:

    Arjuna is horrified at the reality of the bloody specter. He thinks somehow he himself should die instead of getting into this mess. He had lost his control of emotions. This is the context. If he is depressed, he is trying to avoid confronting it by saying – Hey, some thing more is at risk here than this specter at being war with his relatives…

    3- does this post trying to avoid something ?

    But it was in poor taste to read the sensational title which is misleading. It back stabs…Arjuna the warrior had few movements when he was second to others…here was the movement when he was trying to escape from himself, and was creating the arguments to avoid self confrontation. What Arjuna fears is the destruction where he would kill his near and dear ones ( Think of mere destruction of friendship or may be heritage – may be in a familly and imagine how devastating it is) .

    when he voices his fears. P.V. Kane alludes to Arjuna’s fears in the following words: Even in such a philosophical treatise as the Bhagavad-gītā

    Kane didn’t understand the negative feelings at the specter of a self destructive bloody war. Kane is too busy to impress others by being philosophical and supposedly argumentative …otherwise how could he miss it.

    To repeat, Arjuna fears is the destruction and is trying to avoid his anxieties by putting it through an argument. This is very humane even for the giant.

    My thoughts are that, This title “Who Is Afraid of ..” is trying to hide anxieties and ceratin confusion as well as incompetence of Kane by manufacturing an argument on Varnashankara .

  2. aa Says:

    krupaya ….bisidannidamabrabit:

    seedanti mama gAtrANi, mukham ca parishushyati – 28th

    na ca shaknomyabasthatum bhramateba ca me manah -30

    With that, the following set of arguments of a great warrior lost in emotions in verge of a great war, is far from illusion of consistency as presented by Kane :

    1-na ca sreyoanupasyami…
    2-nakankye vijayam
    3-na ca rajyam sukhani
    4-Kim bhoge…
    ..What to do with such a kingdom obtained through such means….What purpose in such enjoyement and such a life ?

    ..they are relatives !
    Forget about the world…not worth for heaven and worlds combined….

    …Hey, we are going to be sinned….
    …By killing these idiots , definitely one inviting sin…
    Hey…it is not appropriate to kill them…
    how can one be happy by doing that …?
    Even though the perverted don;t understand the dosa and papa…
    Here are the following sins of massacring one’s own family…
    And then Arjuna got into the hyperbole on problem of massacring one’s own family… Yeah…He is talking of why he should massacre his own family.

    Mr Kane finds whatever he wanted to find. Even in such a philosophical treatise is a shadowy proclamation by Kane merely to imply what he wants to find is the obvious way !

    The fear of Arjuna mayn’t be losing an intellectual style postulation and PhD thesis… Arjuna’s fear is in the very first line of this post and it is explicit. There is no ambiguity in why he is alarmed – he is standing there with tons of weapons to kill with his own in a devastating war. Rest of all he is justifying….

    Justification is Similar to what sociologists and indologists do when they justify the aryan dravidan and other derogatory remarks on Bharat. Some of these sociologists and god forbid anthropologists, have their interest in their fascination of dirty theories or human skulls and bones , and how to make money and fame from universities using that fascination . How many volumes of justification have they made to “logically” describe India using non existent aryan dravidian racial stuff ? Arjuna is doing similar stuff here because of Moha. His problem is that he doesn’t want to fight the war. Rest all are arguments.

  3. Ramakrishna U Says:

    Namaste Shri Sharma-ji,

    I have read quite a books of yours and sincerely thank you for all of them.

    You may well be aware of the verses 18.20-18.39, in the final chapter of Gita, when Lord Krishna clears this delusion of Arjuna, about varNAshrama-dharma, as well. The delusion can manifest in many ways, and the fear of varNA is one of them. We know that the other delusions have been cleared by the Lord in other chapters, leading to Arjuna finally declaring in 18.73: “My delusion has been destroyed by you O Krishna …”.

    May I also refer you to the wonderful article (PDF link) by Shri. Prof. V. Krishnamurthy on varNA system according to Gita? Prof. VK, as he is known, is a wonderful expositor of Gita, a retired professor of Mathematics as well, and has a great website on Advaita.

    So, can we can conclude that the “real realist” would be Lord Krishna. (In truth, He would be beyond the dualistic classification of realist/alarmist, but that is when words are unnecessary!)

    Regards,
    Ramakrishna

  4. Ramakrishna U Says:

    Namaste Prof. (Shri) Sharma-ji,

    I have read quite a books of yours and sincerely thank you for all of them.

    You may well be aware of the verses 18.20-18.39, in the final chapter of Gita, when Lord Krishna clears this delusion of Arjuna, about varNAshrama-dharma, as well. The delusion can manifest in many ways, and the fear of varNA is one of them. We know that the other delusions have been cleared by the Lord in other chapters, leading to Arjuna finally declaring in 18.73: “My delusion has been destroyed by you O Krishna …”.

    May I also refer you to the wonderful article (PDF link) by Shri. Prof. V. Krishnamurthy on varNA system according to Gita? Prof. VK, as he is known, is a wonderful expositor of Gita, a retired professor of Mathematics as well, and has a great website on Advaita.

    So, can we can conclude that the “real realist” would be Lord Krishna. (In truth, He would be beyond the dualistic classification of realist/alarmist, but that is when words are unnecessary!)

    Regards,
    Ramakrishna

  5. John McCain Says:

    Is that a secret muslim code?
    You are all going to Guantanamo when I’m elected president, folks!

  6. s.p. attri Says:

    UPA’S FRAIL AND FLIMSY TERRORISM-CONTROL
    By S.P. Attri (USA )
    ———————————————————————-
    1. Terrorism is not something simple or naïve. Terrorism requires arms, financing, planning, and a safe haven. Practically, all terrorists who have attacked India, have a safe haven in Pakistan. Pakistan has earned the well-deserved title of “ Epicenter Of Terrorism. “ Subsequent to Mumbai’s Terrorist-Attack, and India’s success at the UN, Pakistan has been directed by the UN, to crack down on terrorists, to ensure no terrorism takes place from its soil. To do service to the UN’s demand, Pakistan has made a great show of crack-down on its terrorists. Pakistan is creating the illusion of disappearance of terrorists inside its country ( with the closing of terrorist-camps ). But reality is different, and this show of crack-down is a story of deception that the Pakistan government is writing, it is an award-winning performance, on the part of Pakistan government.

    2. This show of crack-down on the terrorist-camps, is meant to draw attention away from Pakistan. It is a farce. It is a farce to hoodwink the International Community. The Jehadis inside these terrorist camps, have not disappeared, they have just fallen into shadows. They are lying low in these camps, stirring & vibrating with vigor & excitement, and ready to puncture the hateful-Kafirs. Those who accept the phoney-explanations of Paki government, without question, are suckers. This kind of farce was carried out, after terrorist-attack on the Indian Parliament as well. Pakistan is well-practiced in this species of deception.

    3. What about the UPA government in India ? UPA government is in big trouble. Gloom, shame, and huge anger across the country, subsequent to Mumbai attack, is putting the UPA on the spot, for neglect of country’s security. UPA has dumped Home Minister Shivraj Patel, and is scheming to toss a few more scape-goats, to appease people’s anger. Besides, any consequences of UPA’s measures are going to be cosmetic, cover-up, and short-lived.
    UPA is going to be reluctant, to take stout measures against Moslem terrorists, they would not want to part with Moslem votes. This is the demeanor of Congressites & of Phoney-Liveral politicians of India. This demeanor has brought the security of India, to such a sad & dangerous path. UPA is certainly on a dangerous journey.

    4. It is the vote-bank politics of Phoney-Liberal politicians of India, that has resulted in the repeal of POTA, and is holding up the clearances of anti-terror laws, drafted by Gujarat & Rajasthan . The present cosmetic ( band-aid type ) measures of the UPA lack credibility. Measures of this type, have let us down in the past, and each time hundreds of Indian & Hindus have been killed.

    Worse than that, UPA’s model of approach, has a strong anti-Hindu bias. Strong anti-terror laws are being used against suspected imaginary Hindu terrorists, but such laws are not being used against, Moslems who have been arrested for terror, in many cities of India.

    5. Right-minded people know that, terrorism is an extra-ordinary crime, and extra-ordinary crimes require extra-ordinary laws & procedures to prosecute & punish these criminals. But both the Congress & UPA have refused to use tough & potent anti-terror laws. In fact, the PM has claimed that, India has stronger anti-terror laws than either the US or the UK. Is it any wonder that Indians & Hindus have paid such a heavy price, for the botching up of anti-terror laws, by the UPA government ?

    The reluctance of UPA government to hang Afzal Guru, is a perfect example of dereliction of national security-duty. Why has Afzal Guru not been hanged so far ?
    Answer: Because of Congress & UPA’s fear of losing Moslem votes.

    What this shows is that, UPA is willing to forego the lives of hundreds of innocent Indians ( mostly Hindus ), for the purpose of securing Moslem votes.

    6. Isn’t it time to, identify the internal culprits of terror, and remove these miscreants from seats of power ?
    Would the people of India fall for the cosmetic security measures of UPA ?
    Would the people of India lower their security expectations from UPA government ?

    Each of these two questions is, what the Americans label as a:

    “ Sixty-Four Thousand Dollars Question .”

    Surinder Paul Attri

  7. s.p. attri Says:

    THE EPICENTER OF TERRORISM
    By S.P. Attri ( USA )
    —————————————————-
    1. Because of its note-worthy eminence in terrorism, Pakistan carries the name-brand of “ Epicenter Of Terrorism, “ a title of real distinction. What we have seen & are becoming apprised of is that, the encampment of world’s deadliest terror groups is in Pakistan. These terror-groups want to establish Islamic states every where in the world. For their mission, they are willing to kill & get killed. Their chieftain, Hazrat Mohammad, tried to make his Moslems, fanatic, ferocious, & fearless, in pursuit of misdeeds of murder & misery. In Quran it is stated :

    “ Count not those who were slain in Allah’s way as dead, but rather living with their Allah, by him provided, rejoicing in the bounty that Allah has given them…….”

    Note: If those who have been slain in the way of Allah, are not dead, they why should they be afraid of death ? Then why can’t they continue their acts of terrorism, without any concern or moral compunction ?

    2. Is there any mystery that, that Hazrat Mohammad’s teachings, injected hatred, prejudice, and barbaric violence, into the hearts of ignorant Moslems, and resulted in the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of millions of innocent Kafirs ( Non-Moslem Infidels ), of the world through fourteen centuries. Moslems are taught that everything in the world is Allah’s creation, and belongs to Allah. So Moslems can freely use ( and possess ) everything that is in the world ( the implication here is that, Kafirs are in illegal possession of what they have ), and build an Islamic empire ( every where in the world ). Moslems reject every other Kafir ( Non-Moslem ) religion or culture, and describe it as Jahiliyya ( Ignorance ). It is the same stock of ignorance, that prevailed in Arabia, before Mohammad’s time. Considered in the ideological sense, Islam bears a very close affinity & resemblance to both Fascism & Communism.

    3. In Islam, it is the greatest sin & heinous crime, not to believe in Mohammad ( and his teachings ). So Mohammad’s teachings in Quran & Hadis, are the starting point of the thinking of these terrorist-groups. Both Quran & Hadis provide an ideological-boost, to their transnational-terrorism. The Islamic Clergy tutoring these Jehadi groups, makes it clear to them that, an absolute confrontation exists ( they don’t have any nagging doubts about it ), between Moslems & Kafirs, between Dar-Ul-Islam & Dar-Ul-Harb, and that it is their duty to free the world of all Kufr ( that is, of all Kafir/Non-Moslem religions & cultures ), with the use of military prowess. When the objective is this immense & cardinal, the Moslem faithfuls find it very helpful, to use clandestine organizations. Thus Moslem terrorist groups of Pakistan ( and of other places ) develop a network of associated organizations & fronts. They quickly move into throngs like students, labor unions, and other skilled & unskilled groups, to force-multiply & propel their design of establishing new Islamic states, & bring about new Islamic order of ages.

    4. Do these terrorist-groups have any difficulty, finding faithful Jehadi-pupils in Pakistan ? Not at all ! In fact, thousands volunteer each week, all of them are eager to become, the revolutionary-vanguard of Islamic-Jehad, against the hateful Kafirs of the world. The revolutionary-rhetoric of these terror-groups, draws heavily from the themes of Quran & Hadis. The power of these terrorist-groups stretches out, far & wide into the Moslem society of Pakistan. They have roaringly-infiltrated Pakistani military & intelligence agencies. They glean powerful support, supplies, and training from the Pakistani military & intelligence agencies. Because of this far-flung support, lots of deadly terrorist-groups have become established in Pakistan, some of them are named as “ Mujahideen-Militia. “

    5. There is no doubt nor any skeptical concern that, Mumbai-attack was the product of sophisticated thinking & planning. It could not have been possible without the “ Active “ support of Pakistani state apparatus. But Pakistan is denying this. Pakistan is even refusing to accept the bodies of killed-Jehadis, as that would amount to confession of guilt. Pakistan had refused to accept the bodies, of its soldiers killed in Kargil war too, because that would prove that it was the aggressor. As usual, Pakistan is trying to lie its way, out of a problem, this time around as well.

    6. To put it simply, Jehadies & Terrorist-Groups, constitute a half of Pakistani-Establishment. India, USA, UK, and the UN, are trying to get Pakistan to crack down on its terrorist groups, and close down their camps. Pakistan is making a big show of crack-down on the terrorists, but in actual matter of fact, Pakistan is doing nothing of the sort. The terrorists have just gone into the shadows, and are running as freely as ever. This farce should not amaze any rational person.

    Why would the government of Pakistan, act against the Jehadis ( and terrorist groups ), when its own intelligence agancies ( ISI et al ) & its own military, are so profusely-involved, in supporting & strengthening these terrorist-groups ?

    7. India ought to dismiss the fallacious-explanations of Pakistan, and take strong action, to disband & destroy the terrorist groups & camps, inside Pakistan, so that they think twice, before daring to attack India again.

    Surinder Paul Attri

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