My personal name is Ilaiah and my family name is Kancha. My newly added name after the Brahmin organisations of two Telugu states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana threatened to attack me in the month of May 2016 is Shepherd. Thus, my full name now is Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd. So We in South India – particularly in the state of Andhra Pradesh – write the family name first and the personal name later, unlike the Westerners and North Indians, who write their personal name first and family name later. Even when calling or addressing one another orally we use that name order. My name Ilaiah has been given by my illiterate shepherd parents out of devotion to a local deity called Iloni Mallanna. This deity’s original name was Mallaiah since he was believed to have settled at a village called Iloni I was given the name Ilaiah indicating that village deity was my God. It is a practice in our area that wherever a particular deity exists that place is also considered to be sacred. So our names come to us either after the deity’s name or from the place’s name. But there is a spiritual dimension to every name.
My father’s name was Komuraiah and my mother’s name was Kattamma. These two names also were given by their parents again after two local deities’ called Komurelli Mallanna and Kattameedi Mallanna. My elder brother’s name was Kattaiah given again by my parents after the same deity from which my mother’s name originated. I have four sisters whose names came from the local cultural context – Mallamma, Butchamma, Ramamma, Laxmamma – all have similar divine name origins.
The local god called Mallaiah was believed to have planted himself in that district, Warangal, at three villages: Komurelli, Iloni and Katta. Most of the names of people of productive castes in that area are given after these local deities. Only my sister-in law’s (Kattaiah’s wife) name is Bharathi given by her literate father, whose name was also Mallaiah. Since Mallaiah himself was believed to be a great shepherd many occupational castes—particularly shepherds – gave such names to their children since time immemorial, all relating to that deity and the places. Our family history is the history of sheep, goats, buffalos, the terrain that we lived around, and also the deities that we worshipped.
Ours was a semi- nomadic family before my grandmother and grandfather’s generation. Their names were Kancha Mallaiah and Kancha Lingamma. After my grandfather’s death Kancha Lingamma along with her another widowed sister migrated to a forest zone called Pakal Lake area and settled in that thick forest. I was the first to go to school, college and university from my family. My family members for several generations do not know what education or reading and writing means. Perhaps many generations before my grandmother and grandfather must have had similar names. Since we do not have a family history, even an oral narrative, I do not know how they lived and what their names could have been. But these names around the deities carry a historical heritage. One can find such names all across South India. In Tamil Nadu the name paraiah has itself become an untouchable caste name. Karnataka too has similar names.
What became painful right from my school days was my name – Ilaiah. When I was admitted to class 8th at Narsampet high school my class teacher, Narasimha Chary, the moment he saw the slip that the head master wrote to him allotting me to his section said “why does he send all the useless guys like you to my section. I am not here to teach Ilaiahs, Yellaiahs, Pullaiahs, who know nothing about education, whose brains have nothing to do with education. I cannot suffer teaching guys like you, who could never be taught!” This was section-B and it was supposed to admit less meritorious students as against section A. His name being Nara+Simha (human +lion) his name was seen as great and modern. Whereas the names that end with ‘iah’ were considered by school teachers and the educated elite as a dirty, low-caste names. They would conclude that our mental capacity was indicated by our names.
Throughout that academic year I sat in the class with a feeling that I was not as respectable as the other students. The difference between me as a person and my name as an indicator of myself disappeared. I began to feel that it was because I must be worthless as a person that a “worthless” name like Ilaiah was given to me. I also began to think that my parents were worthless and cultureless; hence they had given me such a worthless name. Once our parents were seen as worthless in our own eyes, our history was bound to suffer a setback. We were rendered history-less!
All along the school education I had a feeling that this name was causing loss of respect, dignity, even loss of life. My brother Kattaiah was also my class mate and we had another class mate called Sambaiah, who came from a toddy tapper’s family. They too must have experienced such humiliation but we never discussed such humiliations because that would kill our spirits even more. In our villages such names were not a major problem as many villagers had only such names which end with ‘iah’.
In our cultural context only the Brahmins, Baniyas, Reddys and Raos would not have such names. I used to have one Brahmin class mate in my village school and his last name was Prasad. In my childhood such a name appeared to be strange and surprising. All my relatives had names like the one that I had but they were not educated. At one stage I began to feel that with such a undervalued name I should not have been sent to school at all. So I began to feel depressed because of my name and, at the same time, angry with the deities who were the source of such unworthy names. I developed antipathy to my socio-spiritual culture itself. When one hates one’s own culture one hates one’s own being. That being becomes a being of Nothing.
I do not know what exactly the etymological meaning of my name is. Or for that matter any other name that ends with those letters ‘iah’. One view is that ‘iah’ in the local Telugu language meant husband of land and cattle wealth. There is a local discourse that ‘ila’ means land and ‘iah’ means husbanding or taking care. In that area land does not mean just land. Land includes people, cattle, other animals, birds and reptiles. A derivative meaning could be that Ilaiah means one who takes care of land and cattle. Each such name could be having a meaning of its own in that local context.
Those who had such names were food producers or cattle rearers. The relationship between land and cattle is very clear. I know for sure that these names have very, very local spiritual cultural roots, which in modern Hindu sociological language was called small tradition or low cultural names. Such names are available all over the South India, which is known as Dravid Land or Buffalo Belt because of the colour of this land’s people – black.
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Quite surprisingly, this English spelling to my name, based on the popular pronunciation in the village environment, was given by my village school teacher—Rajalingam, who considered himself a Hindu. In the early sixties, when I was going to school, our school teacher’s English was not very well grounded. However, he knew that a name like mine and my brother’s should be spelt only that way. My village name itself was Papaiah Pet, which has also gone into revenue and police records of the area. Obviously, I was named after a person called Papaiah. They used to pronounce my name as ‘Iylayya’. All other similar names are pronounced like that. But when the teacher entered my name in the register he entered it in English with a spelling ‘Ilaiah’ and my brother’s name as Kattaiah, and he was the one, who taught us that this spelling for this name pronounces, as my villagers used to pronounce it ‘Iylayya’. The pronunciation and the spelling have been matched through a process of local creativity.
After I finished my school education in Narsampet High School I joined a district level famous College of Arts and Science at Hanamkonda, for the Pre-University Course (PUC). At the college level there were not many persons who bore names like mine. Most of the students had what I later began to call Hindu names. Vishnu, Venkatesh, Suresh, Srinivas, Shastry, Reddy and Rao and so on, and they were considered the respectable, cultural Hindu names. There were also names like Narsimha Reddy or Narsimha Rao. This name Nara+simha actually means ‘human lion’ indicating their ferocious nature. Such names came from the Hindu gods like Narasimha (a half-man half-lion, one of the ten incarnations of Vishnu). Such names were never indicative of production and positive human values, but of destruction. When a human being becomes a lion, he will develop tendencies of hunting others. I was not aware of the implication of this name back then. I was feeling sorry for not having a heroic-violent name like that. It appeared that, if a name indicates violence that person bearing it carries more weight in society. Moreover, it indicates that violence is more respectable. Name is an indicator of culture. The name Narasimha denoted a high caste. Names, like mine, ending in ‘iah’ denoted a lower caste.
I was feeling more depressed because there were no students with my kind of name in my B.A class. But villages around that town had people who had similar names like that of mine. Those three deities were also from them. But the high castes refuse to respect them as they were known as gods of dirty people, whose bodies would smell of sheep and look like buffaloes. Name, colour and caste were the source of respect and social status, not character, behaviour and knowledge. Philosophically, knowledge of production was not considered true ‘knowledge’. Violent names and violent behaviour of persons were part of the knowledge of arrogant people. The deities like that of Mallaiah, who has a huge lower caste following, whose culture was rooted in animal husbandry and food production and not in the killing of fellow human beings, were never respected. Recently a Brahmin Governor of Andhra Pradesh visited the Yadagiri Narasimha temple, roamed around it semi-naked and said Narasimha is the greatest god, who incarnated to control people hierarchically. He never visited the temples of Komurelli Mallaiah or Iloni Mallaiah. When the Governor of the State hates productive deities, and loves killer deities, the culture of humanity begins to crumble. That is what happened in India.
In my school education, I started working more and more to overcome that indignity and humiliation of what our teachers would call “cultural backwardness”, and scored the highest marks in my chool graduation examination. But my marks did not change my status. At college, the feeling of inferiority and indignity only increased. The feeling of having a backward name added to the feeling of looking ugly with the large small pox spots on my face. Added to this was lack of good English as the PUC course was being taught in the English language. To overcome these problems, hopes of learning English and getting a good Government job in the future or becoming a doctor, were keeping me in good spirits. But English was a real nut that needed to be cracked. It was said to be un-understandable, alien. But that was the only language through which one could become a Collector—the bureaucratic head of a district. So I needed to crack that nut.
There were one or two lecturers who thought that there were few bright qualities in me–particularly in my effort to learn English and my attitude to hard work. But even they did not expect much from me. The good qualities in me were always written off by what they considered as a backward name and ugly facial features. With all my efforts to overcome them, I got very low grades in my PUC (Pre University Course) and BA, that is, what we know in India as a pass in third class—or a ‘Gandhi class’. In my PUC, I was hoping to get a first class and overcome the other backwardness by entering medical college, as I had opted for biological studies. But a third grade pass dashed those hopes, forcing me to choose English literature as my major in BA, along with Political Science and History. When I passed my B.A in 1974, I hardly had any hope of getting a seat in M.A. As I barely managed to get a third class with about 45 per cent marks, getting a seat in higher education was difficult.
Indignity and humiliation must have had an effect on my mental faculties. In such a situation, I was no longer myself. I was becoming more and more what others wanted me to be. I was constantly trying to work against myself. When my self-worth was forcefully being kept low by the civil society around me, I naturally suffered from a syndrome of low self-esteem. But I was learning my English in an attempt to overcome that. I would read books and news papers, whether I understood what I actually was reading or not. I would avoid meeting upper caste, confident young fellows. Reading became part of my suffering. I was learning new words. I used to speak in English only to myself, in front of a mirror because I was afraid to speak to others; not those ‘others’ who knew better English but those who were arrogant as human beings.
However, that very same year I got a seat in M.A. Political Science along with History but not in English Literature at Osmania University, Hyderabad, as I had done well in the entrance tests. By then, I was hopeful of becoming an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer, which would give me more respect, status, and of course, plenty of money as the discussions in our educational environment revealed. People in the villages used to believe that a collector can print his own money.
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I joined M.A Political Science. During my B.A course itself I developed a kind of love for political thought, which again was unusual in my university environment. To overcome the humiliation of an apparent personal name and the backward caste culture I was focussing on unusual things like reading of political thought and the history of the West. Knowledge of international thought was giving me increasing confidence. Reading the thoughts of Plato and Marx gave me a different outlook on the world. The struggles of slaves to the working class gave me solace that there were people in the world who suffered more than me. I began to slowly turn my weakness into strength.
But the essences of my backwardness – my name and my ugly- appearance – kept haunting me. After I joined the M.A in Political Science course my name as they wrote it in the rolls – K. Ilaiah – stood so alone as even the very few others with similar “backward” names, who made it to university, started running round to the State Secretariat to change their names. I remember one Ch. Gopaiah, a research scholar in Sociology, went around the State Secretariat month after month, and finally changed his name into Gopala Krishna. He thought that if the Hindu god’s name is adopted discrimination and social humiliation would come to an end. Nobody in our university knew that all those Hindu gods and goddesses were against us. After all, the propaganda about Hindu gods was all powerful around us.
There were two major radical communist student organizations, the Progressive Democratic Students Union (PDSU) and the Radical Students Union (RSU). There was also a rabid Hindu student organization at the university call Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP). But the leaders of all these organizations had highfalutin names of Hindu deities—Visnuvardhan, Rajavardhan, Prasad, Prabhakar, Rukhmini, Lalitha, Geetha and so on. An Ilaiah or a name like that of my mother Kattamma amidst these names was seen as ugly irrespective of the ideology of the leaders.
With the names like that, which end with ‘iah’, a sense of not being part of the community of high culture was with a constant reality for all of us. I too dreamt of going to the secretariat to change my name. What name would I adopt? I did not have the imagination to choose one that would boost my image. At the same time a rational being was emerging in me. In such a trauma of transition, it was confusion not clarity that dominated my thinking. The feeling of having names like Ilaiah, Yellaiah, Mallaiah, Pullaiah, their backwardness and localness, haunted us. At the same time when we went back to our village we were the kings of knowledge. Among the illiterate village masses I felt I was master of masters. A deep desire to become an agent of change was started stirring in me. This desire kept me going.
In the urban other world my name still continued to be the ugliest of all. More significant was that it was associated with an undivine ugliness. That feeling of being considered ugly was a constant living reality. Though as a student of English literature I read that famous saying of Shakespeare “What is in name?” I was experiencing the horrors of my name in my day to day life. Friends would come to my room – where I would sit alone and read – and suggest, Why don’t you change your name; just go to secretariat and get it done.
Those who were making the rounds of the Secretariat would advise me to go along with them. They would tell me that after changing their names their stature in their friends’ circle has gone up. They would tell me that only then they began to feel that they were a part of the Indian nation. This whole cultural context of what is a “good name” or a “bad name” or a “great name” became the bane of my existence. Only brahminized or Aryanised name are linked to the “nationalist” culture. Indian nationalism was couched in Hindu culture and they never considered our names as Hindu as no Hindu deities had names like mine.
I finished my M.A with a first class in 1976, one of many such grades in my class. At that time I had come under the influence of radical Marxism. Reading political philosophy has become my passion. This was largely due to the influence of a deeply Marxist classmate of mine, Vinayak Kulkarni, a Maharashtrian Brahmin boy, whose parents settled down in Hyderabad because of his father’s central government job. Having been born in a highly sanskritized Hindu middle-class family he turned to radical Marxism, then called Naxalism or Maoism. He was an avid reader of political philosophy, a serious Marxist in outlook and practice.
He hated his middle-class culture, decided to become a revolutionary leaving his fairly good chance of becoming a lecturer in the same university. He wanted me to join him as a revolutionary. However, he convinced me to join one of the Maoist groups. He went to work among the Bombay slums. As I write this story he was living among the tribals of Gujarat, who were moving into Christianity in a substantial way. The Maoist revolution did not alter their life significantly but the Christian mission work made a significant difference to their life.
I soon discovered to my chagrin that even among the Marxist-Maoist circles there was none with a name like mine – an inferior name with no cultural heritage of reading books and writing. Several youths from Reddy and Rao landlord families also came into that movement but there was no spiritual sympathy among them. Their caste culture was their protective valve. For us social discrimination and indignity and historically built-in inferiority was non-negotiable even in that movement.
The influence of Western thought was so much that we hardly had any Indian philosopher that we could quote or refer to in our discussions. From Plato to Mao we had respect for only non-Indian thinkers. Of course, many a time M.K. Gandhi was one around whom our criticism would revolve. But we were admirers of Marxist thinkers and bitter critics of the Indian nationalists. I began to feel that there was no political, social or economic thought among Indian leaders and there was no single Indian academic thinker we could appreciate who had a worthy enough thought. In those days even Ambedkar was not known as thinker to us.
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In those heady Marxist-Maoist days, Ambedkar was not known as thinker even to us. At best he was known as the writer of the Indian constitution, which we dismissed as “bourgeoisie” and did not appreciative very much. He was not even on our reading list and not a single book of his was known to us. We were more familiar with the European Renaissance and Reformation than our own palms. Though I was reading all about the world the sense of shame of a worthless name—that too a very, very local name, while living in a university kept haunting me. But as Marxist students, we were such universalists that we knew more about the family and personal lives of Marx and Mao than our own. Their names appeared to be more culturally respectable than that of any Indian upper caste or Hindu name. While we were bitter critics of European imperialism and colonialism we had more respect for their culture, character and civilization. Their names appeared civilizationally far superior to that of the Hindu Gandhi and Nehru.
Suddenly one day when I was searching for some Marxist book in the huge cellar racks of the Osmania University library I came across a book by Isaiah Berlin. The spelling of his first name was exactly like that of mine except that there was an “s” instead of an “l”. (Isaiah—Ilaiah). For a minute I misread the name as Ilaiah Berlin, immediately realizing my mistake. I just picked it up. I looked at the spelling of the name quite carefully. His second name was also familiar to me as I read a lot about the city of Berlin. I read a lot about the fall of Berlin at the end of the Second World War and the building of a Berlin Wall after the war. In fact, I knew more about Berlin than about Delhi or Hyderabad. I tried to read the introduction to Isaiah Berlin’s book quite carefully. It said that Isaiah Berlin was one of the greatest living philosophers and historians of the world. He was not from Germany but was from the UK ((from a Russian Jewish background). I looked at the racks again to find out whether there were any other books that he wrote. There were more than a dozen books written by him. I looked at the name once again. I felt as if I was Isaiah, not Ilaiah. I wrote my name in full in the form that his name figured in my note book – Ilaiah Kancha, not just Ilaiah K. It sounded new. I thought the name Ilaiah Kancha sounded like the name of a world famous historian, philosopher, thinker with whom no Indian thinker would match – Isaiah Berlin. I jumped up and down amidst the book racks—a useless name like mine is very much like that of a world famous historian and philosopher … Waa-re-waa!
I wanted to find out whether there was any historian, philosopher like that with the name of Shastry or Sharma or Reddy or Rao, Patel or Chaudhary, Chatterjee or Banerjee. I began to search in the history and philosophy racks. Somewhere I found a book by Neelakhanta Shastry. But there was no book authored by a Reddy or Rao in the racks of history. I opened the book of Neelakhanta Shastry. It was just an explanatory story book of the history of kings and their wars. Why were Reddys and Raos, who were so powerful in my university and in the state unable to write a book as Isaiah whose name was exactly like that of mine? Were only their only names impressive but not their brains? I relished these thoughts.
Then I began to consider what could have been the source of a name like mine in Britain that ruled this country and even a global empire for so long. As I said earlier, I hated Britain for its colonial character but I admired it for its brains. Though such a small country, how could it rule the whole world? Because of brain power!. Why did Indians not develop such brains? Is it because Isaiahs wrote books there and Ilaiahs were never allowed to read books here?
I started searching for the source of Isaiah Berlin’s name. In one of the book introductions I read that he was named after a famous Israeli Prophet called Isaiah, who lived in 7 centuries before Christ. Isaiah, a prophet? Most surprising! In my country people who have similar names are treated as stupid, dirty donkeys! It aroused a curiosity within me. How come a name like mine which is humiliated and looked down in India, is as similar to that of a great prophet of ancient Israel and also that of a great historian of modern Britain? When I learned that the name Isaiah was a Biblical name that drove me to read the Bible.
When I took up a copy of the Bible and looked at the contents I noticed there were six books whose titles were the names that sounded like mine. Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah. The Bible talks about them in detail. They were all prophetic persons, chosen by God to perform divine and great tasks. Then I found a number of books on Isaiah that agreed that he was one of the greatest prophets before Jesus Christ. In fact, he was the one who predicted the coming of Jesus to change the world. I was pleasantly surprised to know that a hated name like mine in India is a prophet’s name in Israel. Names reflect the cultural condition of a region. The cultural conditions of any given region reflect the production conditions of that geographical location. The names are also indicative of the historical heritages of a given region and also of its people. I knew that my parents were shepherds. They were also agriculturists. The deities that were the source of our names were deeply linked to animal and agricultural economy. My parent’s low social status was constructed around their occupational and cultural life. I was curious to know about the background of Isaiah who became a famous prophet.
A famous writer called Ruth who worked on the relationship between agrarian production and Bible wrote, “Israelite agriculture included the farming of the land and the rearing of animals. In the days of the patriarchs, live stock farming was the major activity; but as the Israelites settled in the land, the role of animals became less important. Herds and flocks were kept basically for their wealth and for food, although meat was much less important than it is in modern Western society. Most families also owned work animals, the ox being the most valuable and the donkey the most common. Neither horses nor camels were used much in agriculture. Horses were kept mostly for military use and camels for trading purposes.” (Agriculture in the Bible).
We can see the similarities between India and Israel – how both of them depended on oxen for cultivation and horses for war. Of course, beef was also used in both countries for food. But sheep, goat, chicken, fish were used for food in both countries quite extensively. The present, medieval and ancient Indian agriculture gives us enough evidence of heavy dependence on bullock power for agrarian production and heavy dependence on the horse for travel and war. The Israel of Isaiah’s period was totally dependent on agriculture, just as my parents were dependent on it during my time.
The Bible has references for all those animals and birds that we can see in India even today. In the region where I was born and brought up – Telangana—the Kakatiya kings and the Golconda rulers used horses for war. But the farmers of all castes and communities used oxen for tilling the land. The agrarian economy of this region had huge similarities with that of the Israelite agrarian economy of ancient times. Similar names of people must have come from similar economic conditions. As we all know that culture is a byproduct of geo-economic conditions. The culture of cultivating similar animals, producing more or less similar agrarian products gives rise to a similar consciousness among the people. This does not mean minor dissimilarities do not exist.
The buffalo is an animal that gives most of the milk that India consumes. Because the white cow-loving Aryans hated this black animal, they likely killed a number of them in ancient times as the white Americans did in the modern times., The Dravidians, on the other hand, loved the buffalo as it was jet black like their own selves. They nurtured it historically. Though there is a reference to the buffalo in the Bible (Gen. 41:18) it was referred to as a riverside animal, not as domesticated dairy animal as we have in India. Does that mean the Israelites were unable to domesticate an animal like the water buffalo, which the Indian Dravidians could easily domesticate and train? Does that mean the ancient Dravidians were more advanced in their knowledge and techniques of domesticating animals than the ancient Israelites? Why did India fall backward when compared to Israel which went on to influence the whole world in spiritual and cultural terms? Why did the Israelites produce world class prophets, philosophers and thinkers and India could not do so?
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After the Aryan invasion took place, the conditions of India changed radically. Aryan warriors killed many Dravidian agrarian thinkers and philosophers. If we take a similar Dravidian mythological example the Dravidian black Jambhavantha, the black queen Tataka and so on, represent that cultural ethos. The Indian sub-continent in that tradition was called Jambhudwipa. But once war heroes but not productive philosophers got hegemonized, the agrarian names that had similar phonetic origins between India and Israel changed quite radically. In Israel the culture of shepherds, carpenters, fishermen, in other words the culture of Gentiles and Samaritans, continued to operate as a living spiritual culture. Their productive spiritual philosophy also continued. At the same time an Aryan Brahmin-like priestly caste/class was emerging side by side with an ideology of idol worship. Temple untouchability, anti-human spiritual militancy of Pharisees in Israel had many similarities with that of ancient Brahminism.
The Israelite Pharisees shared many characteristics with Indian Brahmins. Both of them believed in huge superstitions and idol worship. Both of them believed in a hierarchical construction of society. Both of them believed in inequality being the essence of society. Jesus, a spiritual prophet, who was born in a carpenter family of Joseph and Mary changed the course of the entire Israelite society. Jesus came to be adored by Samaritans and Gentiles of Israeli society because he liberated them from slavery, untouchability and massive exploitation. Somehow the Indian Brahminism did not allow similar prophets, liberators and philosophers to come into existence in India. We must remember that without prophets like Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Isaiah and so on the emergence of Jesus would have been impossible.
Their agrarian economy gave rise to prophets, who constructed a positive spiritual philosophy. Even in India similar philosophers would have emerged. But the Aryan invasion and their war- and violence-loving culture changed the relationship between philosophy and production. Positive philosophers emerged from prophets in Israel because of their non-violent spiritual culture. They too were subjugated, in their case by Egyptians and, later, by Romans. Such a process was checkmated in India. For example, names like Uzziah have come to be adopted more or less with same meaning that South Indian names like Paraiah. But in the later course our great names like Paraiah, Mallaiah were given a meaning of ‘untouchable’ and Sudra. In the Israeli context Isaiah, Jeremiah and so on, became prophets because even the notion of God was constructed out of agrarian culture but not from the culture of war. In India the pre-Aryan agrarian monotheist God was replaced by war gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna and so on. For example, the God deity—Mallaiah of Telangana, was not a war hero but a shepherd like Moses. Their cultural contexts were similar. The most famous name Paraiah also emerged from the leather economy of India. It was an agrarian productive name. But their philosophical essence was destroyed by the Aryan war hero culture.
As I said earlier, the word ‘iah’ here meant husbanding the land and animals. The relationship between agrarian production and similar names indicate that there is a common cultural ethos in both the nations. Ruth writes, “…and Hezekiah (II Chron.32:38), took a special interest in agricultural production, and none more so than Uzziah, who is described as one who ‘loved the soil’ (Chron. 36:10). This prosperity, however, was not enjoyed by everyone. Ahab’s attempt to take over Naboth’s vineyard (I Kings 21) is only one example of how the poor were exploited. The prophet Isaiah condemned those who add ‘field to field’ (Isaiah.5:8)”. It is also clear that Isaiah as a prophet took a stand that exploitation of man by man is against God’s will. As an agrarian prophet he gave the message that God was against adding field to field, in other words usurping the land of somebody illegally. In India because of the Aryan culture a Paraiah, or Mallaiah or Yellaiah, or Muttaiah could not become a moral prophet like Isaiah. The name Isaiah was believed to mean ‘The Lord saves’. In India after the Dravidian notion of God was replaced by the Aryan notion of war gods the meaning of names were turned upside down. The Aryans, who were foreigners, imposed their cultural ethic as essentially ‘Indian’. They deliberately cut the cultural roots between India and Israel.
How Aryans cut India-Israel ties
By taking away the right to read and write from people who came from the agrarian and other production backgrounds, the Dravidian masses, who had similar names, food culture, production culture like of the Israelites, were constructed as Shudras (slaves) and Chandals (Untouchables). This aggressive invasive war hero divinity destroyed our confidence in our own culture. It is in this process food producers were projected as devils and the non-productive consumers were projected as gods.
The agrarian communities, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters and so on who had names like that and also other names were violently prohibited from learning reading and writing after the Aryans invaded India. They declared that only Aryans (mainly Brahmins) could read and write. The Aryans declared that God should be a hero. The mediator between God and the rest of the people should be a saint or priest who should never be concerned about the concept of human equality in the spiritual realm. The Aryans were also against humans becoming prophets in India. This is the main reason why there are no prophets in India. There were and are only Brahmanic saints and they have no love for food producers, artisans, shepherds, carpenters and so on.
Though Gautama Buddha played some sort of prophetic role during his life time, once the Aryan Brahmins got the hegemonic place in the socio-political system his influence on the people was completely destroyed. It began to be restored only after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism. They never accepted Buddha, who was a non-Aryan tribal, as a positive prophet.
I am therefore all the more grateful to my illiterate parents, who gave me a name that came from a similar background as that of the great Israelite prophet, Isaiah. The similarity in the spelling, syllable and pronunciation makes me proud of my background, my history and my heritage.
Why is there a common cultural ground between Israel and South India? Why have the names that became divine and prophetic in Israel become the names of people who were condemned, abused, insulted, treated as “untouchable” and demonic in India?
Normally all ancient names of persons come from their historical divine names. Names like mine (there are in thousands in South India—Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala) even now have their historical roots. They go backwards to our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Perhaps they go back hundreds and thousands of years. If names like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah were Israelite ancestral names surely we Indians would have our ancestral divine names like Paraiah, Mallaiah, Muttaiah, Yellaiah and so on in our area. Such ancient divine names in both these countries seem to have been constructed around the cattle and agrarian economy of these Asian countries. The presence of sheep, goat, cattle economy that was available in Israel was also present in India.
Moses was a shepherd like Mallaiah. If Moses became a prophet with a dignified written history of his own, Mallaiah (Iloni Mallanna), who was also a shepherd, became a deity because he increased the cattle wealth of the people. But after the Aryans invaded this land they were forced to not have a written history of their own. There is a close relationship between writing skills and advancing philosophy and divinity. Once the agrarian communities lost that right to write and read they also lost social status and respectability. With that all their creative faculties remained underdeveloped.
Once the Aryan culture constructed caste and migrated down to South India great names like Mallaiah, which exist in very popular divine forms even now, were reduced to an unworthy status. They established temples to Aryan deities in South India. For example, in Andhra Pradesh a Ram temple is built with massive money and the Komurelli Mallaiah, Iloni Mallaiah temples are reduced to nothing. The agrarian deities have become small cultural deities and the warmongering invader deities have been projected as big cultural deities. Normally the battlefield does not develop an egalitarian philosophy. It only develops destructive and cunning ideas. On the other hand agrarian production constantly negotiates and renegotiates human relations. Since their struggle with nature is part of production and for the common good, their need is to love others in the community. On the other hand, in a warlike situation the other is either suspected or hated. As most of the Aryan spiritual texts were born out of the battlefield they did not develop positive, egalitarian spiritual philosophies. They negated both production and loving relations between all humans. They could not evolve the image of a positive God. For example, the deities that the Aryan thinkers constructed were fundamentally destructive in nature. Therefore, they could not acquire a universal stature.
When Ilaiah takes shelter under the spiritual philosophical umbrella of Isaiah, the self of this ancient nation re-connects to its ancient roots. The common cultural bondage between these two great ancient nations and their people gets re-established.
(These exclusive excerpts from the forthcoming autobiography of Dalitbahujan intellectual and writer Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd were first published by FORWARD Press magazine between October 2012 and February 2013 when the name was only Kancha Ilaiah.)