Friday, 5 September 2014

Brahmins, Sanskrit and the rise of Peoples' Languages--5

There was a long spell of some five centuries when Brahminism took a bad beating at the hand of Buddhists and Jains who logically deconstructed the caste system, Sanskrit as the language of the ruling classes and Vedic Sanatan Dharma as the state religion . Later, as the appeal of these rebel religions declined among the common householders who were unwilling to enter monasteries and lead a life of austere renunciation, Shankaracharya in the 8th Century re- established the Vedic Sanatan Dharma among the common folk . To guide them in their daily lives about performing Vedicrituals the Dharmshastras were written and were explained to the laity by Brahmins who made a cool income by acting as the linguistic go betweens.
Problem arose . What should be the State language ? Sanskrit or the dialects ? The newly rejuvenated Brahmin priests once again managed to reinstal Sanskrit in place of Prakrit . But soon it became obvious that temporal power had shifted from the Sanskrit - medium educated Kshatriya clans to many new kings who belonged to previously marginalised or officially unrecognised caste groups and had , therefore, none to very little knowledge of Sanskrit.
Thus began the rise of the various dialects in the north, known as Apbhransh (those fallen ones in use) . Poets writing peans of praise for their ever hungry for publicity patrons like Chand Bardai ( the writer of Prithviraj Rasso, a long poem in praise of Prithviraj) rose in eminence and were rewarded with bags of gold.
What of Sanskrit ? one may ask. Well Sanskrit now became the repository of scriptures and treatises on ritualistic observance of Dharma. Commentaries and commentaries on commentaries began to be written . With this Sanskrit ceased to be the carrier of creative thought and popular writing. Handled almost exclusively by the Brahmins, it barred women and all out castes (Ved Bahya) groups . Thus its appeal and warmth were reduced considerably and deliberate or otherwise, misinterpretation of religious vows and doctrines grew.   


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