Christianity and Caste – book review

Brahmin Christians should adhere to the following :

  1. Should not eat out of the hands of Velala and Nadar christians
  2. Should not eat beef, fish and eggs in public
  3. Should sport a sacred thread
  4. Should Apply sandal paste on their forehead
  5. Should employ only upper caste Christians as their servants
  6. Should not eat or drink in public view.
  7. Should not be seen consuming alcohol.
  8. While on travel should eat and drink from behind a screen.
christianity and casteism
christianity and casteism

The above are the injunctions prescribed to Hindu Brahmin converts  who have become christian priests. And who prescribed these ?  Rev. Roberto de Nobili an Italian missionary in AD 1609. Don’t be surprised at the term ‘brahmin-christian’. These improbable classes did exist during the origins of Christianity in India and continue till date.

These and many more of such shocking truths are made evident by Prof. Sivasubramanian, the Marxist scholar and researcher in his Tamil book ‘கிறித்தவமும் சாதியும் ‘ ( ‘Christianity and Caste’)

You might think that the very purpose of getting converted to Christianity has been defeated if one still is a brahmin even after becoming a christian. That is precisely the case. Caste system has reigned supreme in Christianity in India, as it had been reigning supreme in Hinduism then and now. Caste has been a major classification even in Christianity. While seemingly opposing the caste system in Hinduism, christian missionaries have covertly and overtly converted hindus en-masse on caste grounds.

Prof. Sivasubramanian has done pioneering work in this regard. He exposes the depths of caste classification in Christianity and provides clinching evidence that spans 500 years of documentation. He is un-biased and objective and never deviates from the main point – Casteism and Christianity.

He compares the caste system in Hinduism and Christianity and concludes that caste behaves in the same manner, irrespective of the religion it is associated with.

He takes the case of a village called ‘Vadakkankulam’ in South Tamil Nadu, India and traces the history of the village church and the changes that happen to the church as time advances. We are treated to many pages of amazing evidence of the different caste based discrimination that was prevalent in the parish, how each community fought with the other on caste basis irrespective of the fact that Christianity was not supposed to have helped the cause of caste system, how different communities filed cases against one another and the case details and in the end, the stupidity of all that.

Vellala Christians file a case against Nadar Christians asking  Nadars not be seated in a particular place inside the church. Sakkiliar Christians appeal to the Fench / British authorities alleging discrimination by the Parish priest. Pillaimar Christians file a case against Nadar Christians asking them not to use their street. Prof. Sivam quotes as evidence many such cases and also provides detailed judgments to substantiate the prevalence of caste system in Christianity in India.

The learned prof also provides some interesting details on the methods used by the missionaries for conversion of caste hindus like the brahmins. He particularly quotes De Nobili, the Italian missionary who wore a sacred thread like the hindu brahmins. While hindu brahmins wore three threads across their body, De Nobili wore five – three to signify the father, son and the holy ghost and two more to signify Jesus’s body and soul. He ate out of the hands of upper caste converts, was vegetarian and sported a sandal paste on his forehead like caste hindus. Additionally he wore ochre robes and had a stick with a flag ( the stick is called ‘dhandam’ in Hindu ascetic order ). In every way, he wanted to resemble a brahminical sanyasi ( holy man) and thereby attract hindu brahmins into his fold.

De Nobili went further ahead and created a fifth Veda in addition to the four Hindu sacred texts. He called that ‘Yeasu Sura Vedam’. He wrote in Sanskrit so that Hindu Brahmins would get converted based on that feature as well.

Prof. Sivam’s book is a worthy read for anyone interested in the early origins of Christianity in South Tamil Nadu, India.

If you are encountered with a story that Christianity didn’t practice caste system and un-touchability, offer this book as answer.

The English translation of this book is available as ‘The crusade against caste domination in the holy family church at Vadakkankulam’ by Dr.Balasubramanian.

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