Hindu Religion and the Shudras

Shrawan K. Shrivastava

Recent press reports have quoted the Shankaracharya of Kashipeeth as claiming that Harijans were never looked down upon in the Hindu religion. To prove his point he cited an example that even Lord Ram ate the fruit offered by Shabri, a Shudra woman.

Anyone who seriously studies the Hindu scriptures cannot but disagree with the Shankaracharya because of the abuses heaped on Shudras. (Shudras include all Scheduled castes, the backward classes and the backward tribes in addition to the so-called Harijans.

Perhaps, keeping these in mind L.R. Bali has aptly titled his book on Hindu religion as “Hindu religion or Hindu slur?”

The statement of the Shankaracharya brings to mind the following injunctions of the Dharma Shastras:

‘Don't teach a Shudra’ – Skand Puran, Vaishnav Kand, Chapter 19.

Low caste people should not be imparted any knowledge. If a teacher tries to preach a Shudra, he would be a victim of many and evil. If a Brahmin teaches a Shudra, other Brahmins should boycott him. Such a Brahmin teacher must be shunned as if he was a ‘Chandal’ and also driven out of the village, educated Shudras should also be ousted. - Brahma Kand Chapter 10.

Punishment for learning to the Vedas

Another injunctions say that the Shudras should be strictly kept away from the Vedas. It is mentioned in the ‘Gautam Dharm Sutra’ that: “If a Shudra happens to hear the Vedic hymns, molten metal should be poured into his ears. If he chants the things he must be slashed with axes etc.

Punishment for seeking equality: Again according to Gautam Dharm Sutra, “If a Shudra ventures to sit on the same level or to sleep in the same bed or to walk on the seem road or to talk as the twice born (Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya), he must be subjected to various punishments. – Gautam Dharam Sutra 2/3/5.

Monu has defined the nature of punishment to be given to the Shudra who dares to sit on the same seat as a Brahmin King. For such a crime a Shudra should be banished from the country after being branded with a red-hot iron or else his buttocks must be sliced away. – Manusmriti 8/281.

‘Manusmriti’ says a Shudra must be treated in such a way as a dacoit treats his victim. Allowing the forcible seizing of the possessions of a Shudra the smriti says: “If a sacrifice in not be completed owing to lack of resources a Vaishya may be approached for funds if he fails to rise to the occasion, necessary funds could be acquired from a rich Shudra by hook or by crook because a Shudra does not have anything to do in a sacrifice.” – Manusmriti 11/13.

Such injunctions are found in other parts of the Manusmriti also (Refer 18/4/7): “According to this verse of Brahmin could take away of Shudras property because a Shudra is not expected to possess any wealth. His master alone has the right to own his (Shudra’s) wealth.” – Manusmriti 8/417.

Slave by birth

The Hindu Dharam Shastras says Shudras are slaves by birth. ‘Manusmriti’ says that God has created Shudras to do menial work for Brahmins. Therefore, he must be treated like a slave. – Manusmriti 8/413.

Rate of interest

The Dharam Shastras give the sanction to realize the highest rate of interest from Shudras. (8/142 ibid.): “The Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishya’s end the Shudras are entitled to pay the rate of interest 2, 3, 4 and 5 percent respectively.

Restrictions on marriage

‘Manusmriti’ declares that of Shudra cannot marry a girl from outside his caste. But a Brahmin can marry in the other three castes also in addition to his own. Similarly Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are allowed to marry girls from castes lower than their own castes. (Vide 13/131 Manusmriti).

Surnames off the Shudras

It is also mentioned in Dharam Shastras that the names of Shudras should reflect their state of bondman ship. In other words, the epithet 'Das' should be tagged to the names of Shudras. (Manusmriti 2/32).

Like ‘Manusmriti’, ‘Yamasmriti’ also enjoins that the word ‘Das’ must be attached to a Shudras name.

Similar injunctions are found in other Hindu Shastras also. Even books on grammar and poetry do not lag behind. Panini wrote in his ‘Astadhyayi’ that a respectable person need not use the protracted sound to a Shudra while reciprocating a salvation. But in the case of the other three castes he has to use it. (Panini 8/2/83).

According to 'Natya Shastra,' Shudras are to be seated near the blue pillar on the north-eastern side of the stage. (Sanskrit Drama P. 386). It also says the Shudra characters should appear dressed in blue color. (Ibid-P. 394-395).

The heroes of Sanskrit drama, must be of a noble descent. (Sahitya Darpan 3/30) and those of ‘Mahakavyas’ (epics) are to be Gods or Kshatriyas or people belonging to noble descent. – Sahitya Darpan 6/316.

Again there is a specification of languages spoken by the characters in the sanskrit drama. The nobility speaks Sanskrit, the lower caste characters Prakrit and the lowest castes, Paisahchi or Magadhi. (‘Dasarupakam’ 2/64-65.)


It is said in the Hindu Dharma Shastras that even the touch of a Shudra makes a high caste Hindu unholy. Therefore, one should shun even the shadow of a Shudra.

The ‘Samvart Smriti’ says that the touch of a sweeper, a fallen person, a corpse, a woman having excessive bleeding during her menstrual period, and a woman having had a recent childbirth, defiles a person. He should take bath if he is touched with these.

Not content with this illogical command, the law books go to the extent of saying that even the sight of the Shudra can pollute a high caste Hindu.

It is mentioned in the 'Parashar smriti' (6/24) that when one gets defiled by the site of a scavenger, the impurity can be removed by looking at the sun.

'Vyas smriti (1/22/12) says Baniyas, Kiratas, Kayasthas, Malis, Chandal's etc. are untouchables. Mere conversation with these people makes a twice born impure and the impurity can be removed by taking a bath. Similarly, impurity caused by the sight of them will be removed by looking at the sun.

The statements of the Dharma Shastras regarding sub-castes among Shudras are highly reprehensible. The following verses appear in the 10th chapter of the ‘Manusmriti’ bear testimony to the the global attitude shown towards the Chandal's and the Svpachs (dog Meat eating Shudras): “The dwellings of the Chandal's and the Svapachs must lie on the outskirts off the village. They can possess only dogs and donkeys as their wealth and they can wear only the clothes removed from the dead bodies. Their ornaments must be made of bronze and they can use only old and broken utensils to cook food. After doing his work, a Chandal must go back to his hut and he should not stand on the streets unnecessarily. He can marry within his caste only. Food should be served to these low castes in broken vessels and that also through servants. A Chandal cannot move in the town and village during night. He must bear Government’s seal on his person while attending to duty. A Chandal's duties include disposal of unclaimed bodies and execution of the condemned criminals, according to the injunctions of the Shastras than the orders of the king. (verses 1051 – 1056)

Inferior to animals

Not only human beings but even God's gets impure by the touch of the Shudra. A verse in the ‘Buddh Harith Smriti’ reads thus: “What should be done if a Shudra enters the outer courtyard of a temple or any other religious place? Making a cow walk on it and after that by smearing the floor with cow urine should purify such a place.

These statements to the show that even animals and a urine and given a better treatment their Shudras.

According to ‘Karika Vriti’, if a Chandal happens to defiles the courtyard of Shiv temple or Vishnu temple by his presence, the area measuring about Hundred meters surrounding the temple must be cleansed.

A Chandal could not take part in any village function. The 'vriti' that's for the that calamities, like the decile in the powers of the presiding deity of the temple, death of the king and destruction of the village and standing crops etc., would occur if proper measures to purify are not begun in time.

“Thus the defilement of temple premises by the touch of a Shudra could prove disastrous to the king as well as to the country. However, the danger could be prevented by performing appropriate rites like sneering the place with cow dung etc.”

Here, once again, more importance is given to the excreta of animals then to the human beings.

A detailed description of the measures to be taken when the temple premises etc. become unholy by Shudras is given in the 'Padmtantra’ Ch. 18: “First cleans the floor with a daub of cow dung and perform the rites to purify the place. After that give food to Brahmins. This must be followed by Vedic chanting and nonstop readings from the Purans. Cows must be shattered at proper places in the vicinity of the temple. This process must be continued for do or four months depending on the gravity of the scene. After this entity of the temple has been restored, the Brahmins, who chanted the hymns and read the Purans, should be appropriately rewarded. The temple's must be renovated and new idols installed accompanied by proper ceremonies. After the installation, the idols must be washed with 1000 pots of water. And finally a grand festival should be arranged. It would prove harmful to both the king's and the country in the cleansing was not properly performed.

Animal waste superior to Shudras

The Shastras also proclaimed that animals excreta is superior to Shudras because drinking of cows urine would purify the person defined by the touch of Shudra. (Samvart Smriti 183).

'Samvart Smriti' says if anyone belonging to the twice born category (Brahmin, Kshatriyas and Vaishya) happened take water by mistake from a holy place or from a river where Shudras what engaged in work, he should purify himself by taking 'panchagavya' –a preparation of cow dung, cow urine, milk curd and ghee.

According to ‘Prashar Smriti’ if a twice born drinks water by mistake from a well that by Shudra he should fast for 24 hours. Again if the drinks the water from the well which had become impure by the touch of utensil belonging to a sweeper, he has to drink cow urine and eat barley soaked in cow's urine for period of three days. (Parasara Smriti Ch. 6).

The impurity caused by the touch of the Shudra is infectious if scriptures are the believed. For, even an indirect touch of the Shudra can defile a caste Hindu. In other words, a twice born can become impure if he is touched by those who have become polluted by coming in contact with the Shudra.

It is mentioned in the ‘Apastambh Smriti’ that a twice born after observing fast for one day and one night had to take ‘Panchgavya’ if he gets polluted by the contact of those who themselves were defiled by drinking water from the well made impure by a Shudra.

Shudra’s divided

The Hindu lawgivers have tried their best to sow the seed of rift among Shudras themselves. They took great care to keep Shudras divided so that the question of their coming together could not arise.

According to ‘Parashar Smriti,’ Chapter 6, if a twice born vomits the water which he drank from the vessel belonging to a scavenger, he can get over the sin by observing ‘Prajapaty’ vow. In case he fails to vomit and it gets absorbed in his body, he must observe the ‘Chandrayan’ vow.

Even these vows have been categorized: ‘Santapan’ for Brahmins, ‘Prajapaty’ for Kshatriyas and ‘Ardh Prajapatya’ for Vaishyas.

If a twice born or a Shudra happens to drink water on milk or God from the vessel of an outcast Chandal, the former can escape from the scene by observing ‘Brahm Varchas’ vow and the later by austerity and charity according to his capacity.

‘Atri Smriti’ also corroborates this practice of atonement of sin with the slight difference. It recommends ‘Chandrayan’ for Brahmins and ‘Santapan’ for Kshatriyas. Vaishyas have to drink ‘Panchgavya’, after observing simple fast for six nights and a Shudra can mitigate the sin by charity after three nights fast.

Right of inheritance

The Hindu law books say that Shudras can marry within their caste only, whereas the twice born are allowed to marry from lower Castes besides their own. That means all of the upper caste men could marry Shudra girls. But the children born of the Shudra woman to a twice born do not have equal rights of inheritance with those born of woman belonging to other three Castes.

According to Manusmriti (9/151), a son born of a Brahmin woman is entitled to inherit three parts of his father’s property, if born to a Kshatriya woman two parts, if born to a Vaishya woman 1.5 parts, while if born to a Shudra woman, 1 part only.

Ban on piety

Death is the reward for a Shudra who performs sacrifices and other religious rites.

Atri Smriti says the king must execute the Shudra who performs sacrifices etc. If he fails to do so, his country would be destroyed like fire by water.

An episode in the ‘Valmiki Ramayan’ says a Brahmin put the blame for the death of his young son on Lord Ram. Then Narad came and explained to Ram that the death was owing to the illegitimate ascetism of the Shudra.

In another context, it is said that Ram saw a boy in the direction of South doing penance. When Ram asked the boy reason for his penance, he replied that he wanted to conquer the ‘Devlok’ and then attain God-hood. He introduced himself as a Shudra named Sambuka. When Ram came to know the identity of the boy, he immediately killed him with his sword. And the gods expressed their gratitude by showering praises on Ram.

As simple as killing of frog

According to the Dharma Shastra, one can take the life of the Shudra in the same manner as one can do in the case of lesser animals like frogs, crows and owl’s.

Manusmriti says one can atone for the sin of killing animals like cats and dogs by observing the same vow as one does after killing the Shudra. – Manusmriti 11/131.

Disparity in legal matters

‘Manusmriti’ forbids a Shudra from giving evidence in the lawsuit involving Brahmins. Similarly, a Brahmin cannot give evidence in the Shudra’s case. Shudras alone can appear as witnesses in the case involving Shudras and the same applies to scavengers also. (‘Manusmriti’ 8/68).

If Kshatriya utters harsh words to a Brahmin, he has to pay a penalty of Hundred coins. In the case of Vaishya, it is raised to 200 coins. But a Shudra has to be given a death sentence for the same offense. On the contrary, the gravity of punishment is highly reduced when it is directed against a Brahmin. He has to pay 50 coins to a Kshatriya and 25 coins to the Vaishya and only 12 coins to a Shudra for committing a crime of impetuosity. (‘Manusmriti Ch. 8).

In short, the scriptures provide maximum punishment for Shudras while the other castes get lesser punishment for the same kind of offense.

The tongue of the Shudra who utters harsh words against the twice born must be cut, says Manusmriti. If they Shudra who announces the name and surname of the twice born or utters impertinent words like “Hey Yagnadatt you are a low Brahmin” etc., a 10 in. long red-hot iron nail is to be thrust into his mouth. – Manusmriti Ch. 8.

Ironically, a Shudra is punished even for doing good deeds. Religious preaching was considered to be righteous act, but Manusmriti says that hot oil must be poured into the mouth and ear of the Shudra who dares to preach a Brahmin.

When the Shudra or a Chandal assaults member of the upper Castes, the very limb with which he had hit must be cut.

Even the Adi Shankaracharya whom the modern Shankaracharyas represent, condemned the Shudras and recommended punishment if they happen to chant or hear Vedic hymns. (‘Brahma Sutra Bhasyam’ 1/3/34-38).


Instructions regarding the treatment to be given to the Shudras can be found in the Purans also.

‘Vayu’ and ‘Brahmanand’ Purans recommended craftsmanship and menial service as the only avocations for Shudras.

The Purans take great care to perpetuate the religious exploitation of Shudras.

‘Vishnu’ Puran says the Brahmin who performs a sacrifice for a Shudra would go to hell. (‘Vishnu Purana’ 2/6/18)

The same attitude is reflected in ‘Vishnu smriti’ and ‘Manusmriti’.

After going through all this, every Human Being would feel the need to Destroy the Hindu Society. So lets wake up and unite to change the attitude of all the fanatics for the benefit of the society.


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