History of Conversion





In  the  ancient  history  of  India,  in

several  places  references  to  the  Nagas  are

available.   Who  ware  those Nagas?   Are  they

Snake?   Is it true?  But Hindus believe it. The

ancient  history  can be dug out  from  Buddhist

literature.   It  shows  that the Devas  were  a

community  of  human  beings.  There  were  many

Devas at the time of Gautama Buddha.  Those came

to him to  have  their doubts  and  difficulties

removed.   Buddhist  canonical  literature  also

throws a flood of light on the puzzling question

of the Nagas, like womb born and egg born Nagas.

So it was  the  name  of human  community.   The

founder  of  the kingdom of Magadha is known  by

the name   of  Sisunag  and   belonged  to   the

Non-Aryan race of NAGAS.


Brahminical  writers  has not  write  any

history  though  they were the sole literate  to

write history.  It is also true that a plenty of

historical  events  were   there.   The  writing

available  as a history of India are not at  all

history, it is only mythology to amuse woman and

depressed  class.  Like the word Deva, what does

this mean?  Along with this word Deva, the names

of Yakshas  who were guarding the palaces, Ganas

were guarding the Devas, Gandharvas were amusing

the Devas  by  music   and  dancing.   Kinnaras,

Asura, Rakshas were also there.


Reading  the Religious literature of  the

ancient  Aryans  one comes across the  names  of

various communities and groups of people.  There

were first of all the Aryans with their fourfold

divisions  of Brahmins, Kshariyas, Vaishyas  and

Shudras.  Besides them and apart from them there

were (i)  Asuras  (ii)  Suras   or  Devas  (iii)

Yakshas   (iv)  Gandharvas   (v)  Kinnars   (vi)

Charanas (vii) Ashvins and (viii) Nishadas.  The

Nishadas  were  a  jungle people  primitive  and

uncivilized.   The Gandharvas, Yakshas, Kinnars,

Charanas  and Ashvins were professional  classes

and not  communities.  The word Asura is generic

name given  to  various  tribes known  by  their

tribal names   of  Daityas,   Danavas,   Dasyus,

Kalananjas,    Kaleyyas,       Kalins,    Nagas,

Nivata-Kavachas,   Paulomas,     Pishachas   and

Raxasas.   We do not know if the Suras and Devas

were composed  of  various tribes as the  Asuras

were.  We  only  know  the leaders of  the  Deva

Community.   The  well known amongst  them  were

Brahma,  Vishnu,  Rudra, Surya,  Indra,  Varuna,

Soma etc.


The  Asuras and Suras were communities of

human beings as the Aryans were.  The Asuras and

Suras were  descended  from   the  common  father

Kashapa.  The story is that Daksha Prajapati had

60 daughters,  of  them thirteen were  given  in

marriage  to  Kashapa.  Diti and Aditi were  two

among the  13 of Kashapa’s wives.  Those born to

Diti were  called Asuras and those born to Aditi

were called  Suras  or Devas.  The two fought  a

long and  a bloody battle for the sovereignty of

the world.   This  no  doubt  is  mythology  and

mythology  though it is history in hyperbole  is

still history.


The  Aryans were not a race.  The  Aryans

were a collection  of  people.  The cement  that

held them  together  was their interest  in  the

maintenance  of  a type of culture called  Aryan

culture.  Any one who accepted the Aryan culture

was an Aryan.   Not  being a race there  was  no

fixed type of colour and physiognomy which could

be called  Aryan.   There was no dark  and  flat

nose people   for  the   Aryans  to  distinguish

themselves  from.  The whole of this edifice  of

colour prejudice  as being factors for  division

and antagonism  between Aryan and the Dasyus  is

based upon  a  wrong  meaning given to  the  two

words Varna  and  Anas  which   are  used   with

reference  to  the  Dasyus.  The ward  Varna  is

taken to  mean colour and the word Anas is taken

to mean  without  nose, Both these  meaning  are



Varna  means  Caste or group and Anas  if

read as  An-As  means cultivated  speech.   That

statement that the Aryans had a colour prejudice

which determined  their  social order is  arrant

nonsense.   If  there were any people  who  were

devoid of  colour prejudice it is the Aryans and

that is  wrong  to  say  that  the  Dasyus  were

non-Aryans  by  race.   The Dasyus  were  not  a

pre-Aryan  race  of aboriginals of  India.   The

Dasyus were  members of the Aryan community  who

were deprived  of the title of Arya for opposing

some belief  or cult which was an essential part

of the Aryan  Culture.  How this belief that the

Dasyus were Non-Aryans by race could have arisen

it is difficult  to  understand.   In  the   Rig



Indra  says:  “I (Indra) have killed with

my thunderbolt for the good of the man, known as

Kavi.  I  have protected Kupa by adopting  means

of protection.   I  took up the thunderbolt  for

killing  Susna.   I have deprived the Dasyus  of

the appellation of Arya”.


Nothing can be more positive and definite

than this  statement of Indra at the Dasyus were

Aryans.   Further and better proof of this  fact

can be had  in the impeachment of Indra for  the

various  atrocities  he had committed.   In  the

list of atrocities for which Indra was impeached

there was  one  charge  namely  the  killing  of

Vratra.   Vratra  was the leader of the  Dasyus.

It is unthinkable  that  such a charge could  be

framed against Indra  if  the Dasyus  were  not



Dr.Ambedkar said “The history of India is

laid to begin with the Aryans who invaded India,

made it  his home and established their culture.

Whatever  may be the virtues of the Aryan, their

culture, their religion and their social system,

we know   very  little   about  their  political

History.  Indeed notwithstanding the superiority

that is  claimed  for the Aryans as against  the

Non-Aryans,  the  Aryan  have left  very  little

their political  achievements  for   history  to

speak of.  The political History of India begins

with the  rise  of  a Non-Aryans  people  called

NAGAS, who  were  the powerful people  whom  the

Aryans were  unable  to conquer, with  whom  the

Aryan had  to  make peace, and whom  the  Aryans

were compelled  to  recognize as  their  equals.

Whatever  fame  and  glory   India  achieved  in

ancient times in the political field, the credit

for it goes  entirely  to the non-Aryans  Nagas.

It is they  who made India great and glorious in

the annals of the world.”


It  is  erroneous  to  believe  that  the

Shudras  were  conquered by the Aryan  invaders.

In the first  place  the story that  the  Aryans

came from  outside India and invaded the natives

has no evidence to support it.  There is a large

body of  evidence that India is the home of  the

Aryans.   In  the  second   place  there  is  no

evidence  anywhere  of any warfare having  taken

place between  Aryans and Dasyus but the  Dasyus

have nothing  to  do with the Shudras.   In  the

third place  it is difficult to believe that the

Aryans were  a  powerful people capable of  much

military prowess.  Any one who reads the history

of the Aryans  in India in their relation to the

Devas will  reminded  of the  relationship  that

subsisted  between the villeins and their  lords

during the  feudal  times.  The Devas  were  the

feudal lords  and the Aryans were the  Villeins.

The innumerable  sacrifices  which   the  Aryans

performed  have  the look of ducal dues paid  to

the Deva.   This servility of the Aryans to  the

Devas was  due to the fact that without the help

and the  protection of the Devas they could  not

withstand the assaults of the Asuras.  It is too

much to  presume  that so effete a people  could

have conquered the Shudras.  Lastly there was no

necessity  to  conquer  the Shudra.   They  were

Aryans in the only sense in which the word Aryan

is used,  namely,  the upholders of  the  Aryans

Culture.   Two  things  are   clear  about   the

Shudras.   Nobody  has ever contended that  they

were dark  and flat nosed.  Nobody has contended

that they  were defeated of enslaved the Aryans.

It is wrong  to treat the Dasyus and Shudras  as

one and  the same.  As a people they may be  the

same.  But culturally they were quite different.

The Dasyus were Non-Aryans in the sense they had

fallen away  and  rebelled   against  the  Aryan

culture.   The  Shudras on the other  hand  were

Aryans i.e.   they  were believers in the  Aryan

way of life.   The  Shudras was accepted  as  an

Aryan and  as  late as Kautilya’s Artha  Shastra

was addressed an Arya.


The  Shudras was an integral, natural and

valued member  of  Aryan Society is proved by  a

prayer which  is  found  in the Yajur  Veda  and

which is  offered by the Sacrificer.  It runs as



“…O  Gods  Give  lustre   to  our  holy

priests, set lustre in our ruling chiefs, Lustre

to Vaisyas,  Sudras:   Give,   through   lustre;

Lustre unto me.”


It  is  a remarkable  prayer,  remarkable

because it shows that the Shudra was a member of

the Aryan  Community  and was also  a  respected

member of it.1


What  was  the  position  of  the  Shudra

before Manu?   Manu treats the Shudra as  though

he was an  alien  Non-Aryan not entitled to  the

social and  religious  privileges of the  Aryan.

Unfortunately  the  view that the Shudra  was  a

Non-Aryan  is  too  readily   accepted  by   the

generality  of the people.  But there can be  no

doubt that  this  view  has  not  the  slightest

foundation  in  the  literature of  the  ancient



Due     mostly    to     the     ignorant

interpretations   of  Sayanacharya   some   very

curious  beliefs  prevail  even among  the  best

informed  people about these communities  namely

the Aryans,  the Asuras and the Devas and  their

inter-relation  and their consanguinity.  It  is

believed  that  the  Asuras  were  not  a  human

species  at  all.   They are held to  have  been

ghosts and  goblins who plagued the Aryans  with

their nocturnal  visitation.  The Suras or Devas

are understood  to  be  poetic  deifications  of

nature’s  forces.  With regard to the Aryans the

belief is  that they were a fair race with sharp

nos and  had  a great deal of colour  prejudice.

As to the  Dasyus it is asserted that a Dasyu is

only another  name for a Shudra.  The Shudra  it

is said  formed the aboriginals of India.   They

were dark  and  flat  nosed.    The  Aryans  who

            invaded  India  conquered  them  and  made  them

            slaves and  as a badge of slavery gave them  the

            name Dasyu  which it is said comes from the word

            Das which means a slave.


Ati-Shudras   means     untouchables   or

Avarna’s  were  the out of creation and that  is

the reason  Savarna’s  hate them as they do  not

come under   Varna   Dharma    i.e.    Brahmins,

Kshatriyas, Vaish and Shudras who were born from

Brahma’s   mouth,   shoulder,   Thai  and   foot

respectively.   Therefore  Avarna’s   or  dalits

could not   mixed   with   the   other   Savarna

communities  including Shudras.


Numerous  writings of foreign  travellers

and works  of  anthropologists show that  before

the advent  of Christianity in India, dalits had

a religious  system  of their own.   Dalits  are

concerned  with  their local village  goddesses.

The female goddesses appear predominant.  Unlike

in Hinduism   they    emerge    as   independent

unblushing  erotic female figures.  Be it  Kali,

Sitala, Manasa in Bengal or Mariamma, Poleramma,

Peddamma,  or any local deity, they have nothing

in common  with  the  goddesses   of  the  Hindu

pantheon.  They worship kuladevata (caste deity)

and Inti devata (family deity) is several places

till date.


There  were  claims  and  counter  claims

about Christianity  in  India on the eve of  the

Pope’s visit  in 1999 regarding conversions  and

re-conversion  in particular.  It is due to  the

real facts   that  80%  of   the   converts   to

Christianity  are  either dalits or tribals  and

the conversion  debate concern about them.  Here

we have  to be remember that how much  political

will is there to absorb these unfortunate people

to either  fold.   If it is for  only  political

motivated  then their evil design will not  work

in a long run.


How  the ati-sudras or present day dalits

came to  be  defined as Hindu  is a question  to

those who  are today claims it have yet to  give

answer.  The dalits and tribals have always been

outside  the  pale of the chaturvarna scheme  of

stratification.   They are in several places not

allowed  to  enter Hindu temples not  served  by

Hindu priests,  and  not  allowed  to  read  the

‘sacred’ texts of Hindu religion.  Then how can

one count  them as Hindus?


The  debate points to the dubious  manner

in which  facts  are recklessly  misinterpreted.

The sudden   rhetoric   displaying    love   and

brotherliness   for   the    dalits   by   Hindu

narcissists  reveals  the desire to  hold  their

hegemonic    social    structure    intact    by

incorporating  dalits and tribals into a  social

system which  had  no  space for them  till  the

missionaries,  and more specifically Britishers,

came to  India.


In  Bengal  Gurucharan Thakur one of  the

most respected   leader  of   dalits  took  full

advantage  to  educate his community under  then

the British  rule  though   the  Savarna’s  were

deadly against  his community to come to contact

with Britishers.   But DR.C.S.Mead an Australian

missionary  helped him to achieved a lot in  the

field of  education.   As a result a  galaxy  of

leader were  born among the dalits community  in

Bengal.  The incident as Dr.B.R.Ambedkar elected

from Bengal   was  the   contribution  of   that

education movement by Shri.Guruchand Thakur.


The dalits saw the contrast between caste

Hindus, Muslims and the Missionaries.  It is not

the missionaries  who converted the dalits.   It

is the dalits  who  opted  for   a  religion  of

compassion   and   concern.     When   Christian

missionaries  realized that the incorporation of

dalits into  the  Hindu fold was  the  strongest

obstacle  to  spread the Christian  faith,  they

adopted a new policy to change their way of life

by establishing  schools  and colleges,  and  by

introducing  social  reform  among  the  dalits.

Though at  present they are not giving any extra

care to   the  dalits  for   admission  in   the

established   educational   institutions.    The

sudden aggressive mood and the claim that dalits

are a part   of  Hindutva  is   the  result   of

insecurity   arising  from   the  loosening   of

Brahminical dominance.


Indeed,  it  needs to be emphasized  that

dalits have   advanced  to  a  stage  in  Indian

History  where  they can express their  identity

independent of outside sympathy.  They no longer

need patrons  and godfathers.  Today they are in

a position  to speak for themselves.  It is also

pertinent  to  note  that the interests  of  the

dalits and  the Hindus are antagonistic to  each

other.   Even  before  the   arrival  of   Aryan

immigrants,   dalits   and    tribals   had   an

independent   culture,  highly   democratic   in

nature.   The  religion,  beliefs,  customs  and

ideals of  dalits and tribals have been the very

anti-thesis  to the inegalitarian,  exploitative

and repressive culture of the Hindus.


Dalits  are  not incapable of choice  and

they cannot  be  lured because they are poor  on

the other  hand those who still think that  they

will be  able  to  control the dalits  as  their

forefather  did  thousand  of   years  by  false

propaganda instead of giving proper education to

the masses  of  this  country.   I  think  those

people are  incapable  to think forward  in  the

modern day also.


Most  of the orthodox Hindus are repelled

by the doctrine   of   Class   war   which   was

propounded  by Karl Marx and would be  certainly

shocked  if  they were told that the history  of

their own  ancestors probably furnishes the most

cogent evidence  that  Marx  was  searching  for

support  of his theory.  Indeed there have  been

numerous  class  wars between Brahmins  and  the

Kshatriyas  and only the most important of  them

have been   recorded   in   the  ancient   Hindu

literature.   We have record of conflict between

the Brahmins   and  the  Kings   who  were   all

Kshatriyas.   The first of these conflicts was a

conflict  with  King  Vena,   the  second   with

Pururavas,  the third with Nahusha, fourth  with

Nimi and  fifth with Sumukha.  There is a record

of a conflict  between Vashishtha a Brahmin  and

Vishvamitra  an  ordinary  Kshatriya and  not  a



From  a study of Puranas(Vyas) it appears

that Indra,   the  leader  of   the   Devas   or

Devtas-now  called  Brahmans,  got  Brahma-vidya

from vishwarupa-elder  brother of Vratrasur, but

killed his own guru.  Sukhdev Muni S/o Vyas says

that the  Chandogya Upanishad Chapter 5, part 3,

Section  7-“Then  the king(Pravahan) was  in  an

embarrassed  condition  and he suggested to  him

that he  should  wait a while.  Then he said  to

him, “Because,  as you, O Gautama, have said  to

me, this  doctrine  or  teaching  has  not  been

formerly   before  you,    in circulation   among

Brahmans,  that is why even in the whole  world,

the rulership  has  remanded among  the  warrior



We  can get more from the ”  BRAHDARANYAK

UPANISHAD” 2nd chapter, 1st Brahman, described


15-“Thereupon  Ajat Satru said:  That  is

indeed an   opposite  reversed   trend  that   a

Brahmans  proceeds  to a Kshatriya, as  a  pupil

inorder to get the Brahman explained to him.”


6th   chapter-2nd  Brahman   said,   7-“I

approach  you  as  a  pupil,  o  king”  said  he

(Gautama) with these words (i.e., I approach you

as a pupil)  particularly the ancestors used  to

enter (the  presence of a teacher) for  learning

the teaching.   And  he, (Gautama) through  this

confession  of  his  being a  pupil,  he  become

his(Pravahan’s) apprentice.


8-And he (Pravahan) said, “As, truly as I

wish that  you Just like your ancestors,  remain

well minded  towards us, it is equally true that

this lore  or knowledge has been never possessed

by a Brahman up to this day.”


“But  I  wish to communicate it  to  you,

because  who would be able to refuse it to  you,

when you  talk  (in this humble way)?  This  are

few records.


Asuras  were  also a member of the  human

family and  not  monsters.    According  to  the

Satpatha   Brahmana,   the    Asuras   are   the

descendants  of  Prajapati  the   lord  of   the

creation.   It  is  recorded  that  they  fought

against  the  Devas  for the possession  of  the

earth and  that they were overcome by the Deva’s

and they finally thrown out from the power.


Pushyamitra  destroyed Buddhism and  even

he declared  hundred  golden coin prize who  can

killed a Buddhist.


The  first three census reports of  1881,

1891 and 1901 were limited in scope and excluded

the dalits.   With the introduction of  separate

electorate,  communal statistics gained  greater

significance.   Communities became  increasingly

conscious not only of their own numbers but also

those of the other communities.  Then the number

game was   being  played   between  Hindus   and

Muslims.  In that period dalits were used by the

politically  motivated caste Hindus.  The census

proved to  be  a  blessing in disguise  for  the

dalits whose  numbers came to be decisive in the

political  life  of the country.   Centuries  of

neglect  began  to the gradually replaced  by  a

cautious handling of them by the Hindus, only to

be incorporated marginalised Hindus.


The history of Prithiraj and Jaichand who

first fought  against  each   other  and  latter

Jaichand called Md.Ghori.  After that the Muslim

rule by  Md.Ghori  stay here permanently.   Then

Mughal era,  Akbar’s period to Bahadurshah Jafar

and total   abot  762  years   of  Muslim   rule

experienced  this country.  Then the  Britishers

came and  rule  near  about 200 years  and  they

civilized  the nation, given them common dressed

and common   language,  they   tried  to  spread

education  to  all.  Then the rein came  to  the

hand of  Brahmins as we see Nehru to  A.B.Bajpai

at present,  but  the countries  running  rulers

fails to  uplift  the  masses   and  give   them

education,  economic  emancipation  and  overall

social change.   Which is sole criteria to fully

development of a country.







  1. DR.Ambedkar’s  writing   &  speeches

vol3, p-419-420






Among  the claims made by the Hindus  for

asserting  their superiority over other  nations

the following  two  are mentioned.  One is  that

there was  no slavery in India among the  Hindus

and the   other   is   that  Untouchability   is

infinitely less harmful than slavery.


The  first statement is of course untrue.

Slavery  is  a very ancient institution  of  the

Hindus.  It is recognized by Manu, the law giver

and has  been elaborated and systematized by the

other Smriti writers who followed Manu.  Slavery

among the   Hindus  was   never  merely  ancient

institution  which  function only in some  hoary

past.  It  was  an institution  which  continued

throughout  all Indian history down to the  year

1843 and,  if  it had not been abolished by  the

British Government by law in that year, it might

have continued even today.  While slavery lasted

it applied to both the touchables as well as the



The  untouchables  by   reason  of  their

poverty  became subject to slavery oftener  than

did the  touchables.   So  that up to  1843  the

untouchables  in  India  had   to  undergo   the

misfortune  of being held in double  bondage-the

bondage   of   slavery  and   the   bondage   of

untouchability.   The  lighter of the bonds  has

been cut  and the untouchable is made free  from

  1. But  because the untouchables of today  are

not seen  wearing the chains of slavery on them,

it is not  to  be supposed that they never  did.

To do so  would  be to tear off whole  pages  of



The  first  claim is not so widely  made.

But the  second is.  So great a social  reformer

and so great  a  friend of the  untouchables  as

Lala Lajpat  Rai in replying  to the  indictment

of the Hindu  Society by Miss Mayo insisted that

untouchability  as  an  evil   was  nothing   as

compared  with  slavery  and  he  fortified  his

conclusion  by  a  comparison of  the  Negro  in

America  with  the  untouchables  in  India  and

showed that  his conclusion was true.  Coming as

it does from Lala Lajpat Rai the matter needs to

be more closely examined.


Is  untouchability  less   harmful   than

slavery?    Was   slavery    less   human   than

untouchability?   Is  slavery hamper the  growth

more than  untouchability does?  Apart from  the

controversy  raised  by  Lala  Lajpat  Rai,  the

questions  are  important and their  discussions

will be  both  interesting and instructive.   To

understand  this  difference it is necessary  to

begin by stating the precise meaning of the term

slavery.   This  is imperative because the  term

slavery  is also used in a metaphorical sense to

cover social  relationship  which is kindred  to

slavery  but which is not slavery.  Because  the

wife was  entirely in the power of the  husband,

because  he  sometimes ill-used her  and  killed

her, because  the husband exchanged or lent  his

wife and  because he made her work for him,  the

wife was  sometimes  spoken  of   as  a   slave.

Another  illustration of the metaphorical use of

the term is its application to serfs.  Because a

serf worked  on  fixed   days,  performed  fixed

services,  paid  fixed sums to the lord and  was

fixed to  the land, he was spoken of as a slave.

These are  instances of curtailment of  freedom,

and inasmuch as they are akin to slavery because

slavery also involves loss of freedom.  But this

is not the  sense  in which the word is used  in

law, and  to avoid arguing at cross purpose,  it

would be  better  to base the comparison on  the

legal meaning of the word slavery.1


In layman’s language, a person is said to

be slave  when  he is the property  of  another.

This definition is perhaps too terse for the lay

reader.   He may not understand the full  import

of it without  further   explanation.   Property

means something,  a term which is used to denote

a bundle  of  rights  which a  person  has  over

something  which  is his property, such  as  the

right to  possess, to use, to claim the  benefit

of, to transfer  by  way  of sale,  mortgage  or

lease and  destroy.   Ownership therefore  means

complete  dominion  over  property.  To  put  it

concretely,  when  it is said that the slave  is

the property  of  the master, what it  means  is

that the  master can make the slave work against

his will, take the benefit of whatever the slave

produces  without the consent of the slave.  The

master can lease out, sell or mortgage his slave

without  consulting the wishes of the slave  and

the master  can  even kill him in the  strictest

legal connotation  of  the term.  In the eye  of

the law the slave is just a material object with

which his master may deal in any way he likes.


In  the  light of this legal  definition,

slavery   does   appear  to    be   worse   than

untouchability.   A slave can be sold, mortgaged

or leased;   an  untouchable   cannot  be  sold,

mortgaged  or leased.  A slave can be killed  by

the master without being held guilty for murder;

an untouchable  cannot  be.  Whoever causes  his

death will  be liable for murder.  In fact,  the

slave could not be killed with impunity, the law

did recognize   his  death  as  being   culpable

homicide as it did in the case of the death of a

freeman.   But taking the position of the  slave

as prescribed by laws the difference between the

condition  of  the slave and the untouchable  is

undoubtedly  clear that the slave was worse  off

than the untouchable.


There  is however another way of defining

a slave  which  is  equally  legal  and  precise

although  it  is not the usual way.  This  other

way of defining  a slave is this:  A slave is  a

human being  who  is not a person in the of  the

law.  This  way of defining a slave may  perhaps

puzzle some.   It may therefore be necessary  to

state that in the eye of the law the term person

is identical with the term human being.  In law,

there may  be human beings whom the law does not

regard as  persons.   Contrariwise there are  in

law persons  who  are  not human  beings.   This

curious  result arises of the meaning which  the

law attaches  to  the  word   person.   For  the

purposes  of  law  a  person is  defined  as  an

entity,  human  or  non-human, in whom  the  law

recognized  a capacity for acquiring rights  and

bearing  duties.  A slave is not a person in the

eye of the law although he is a human being.  An

idol is  a person in the eye of the law although

an idol  is an inanimate object.  The reason for

this difference will be obvious.  A slave is not

a person  although he is a human being,  because

the law does not regard him as an entity endowed

with the   capacity  for   rights  and   duties.

Concisely an idol is a person though not a human

being because the law does-whether wisely or not

is another  question-recognize the capacity  for

rights and duties.  To be recognized as a person

is of course  a very important fact fraught with

tremendous   consequences.   Whether    one   is

entitled  to  rights  and  liberties  upon  this

issue, the   rights   which   flow   from   this

recognition  as person are not only as life  but

are as vital  as life.  They include right  over

material   things,  their   acquisition,   their

enjoyment  and  their dispposal-called right  to

property.   There are others far more  important

than these   rights   over    material   things.

Firstly,  there is the right is respect of one’s

own person-a  right not to be killed, maimed  or

injured  without  due  process of law  called  a

right to life, a right not to be imprisoned save

in due process  of law-called right to  liberty.

Secondly, there is a right to reputation-a right

not to be ridiculed or lowered in the estimation

of fellow  men, the right to his good name  i.e.

the right  to  the respect so far as it is  well

founded  which others feel for him shall not  be

diminished.   Thirdly, there is the right to the

free exercise  of powers and liberties (There is

a distinction   between   Rights,    Power   and

Liberties  which  perhaps need to  be  explained

especially in a treatise intended for the common

man.  When  it is vain that a person has a right

it means  that it is a duty on some other person

either to  make the right real by fulfilling his

duty or  not  to  injure that right by  a  wrong

doing or non-doing.


There  is a distinction between right and

liberty  which  is some times lost by using  the

word right  in  a wider sense so as  to  include

liberty.   For instance it is said that a person

has a right  i.e.  he is at liberty to do as  he

pleases  with  his own;  but this omits to  take

into account  that a person has no right and  he

is not at  liberty to interfere with the liberty

of another.   The distinction between right  and

liberty  may  be stated thus;  Rights of  person

are concerned  with  things which other  persons

“ought”  to  do for him.  Liberties of a  person

are concerned  with  things  he   ‘may’  do  for



Liberties  are acts which a person may do

without being restrained by the law.  The sphere

of a person’s  legal  liberty is that sphere  of

activity  within  which  the law is  content  to

leave him alone.)


Every   person   is    entitled   without

molestation  to  perform all lawful acts and  to

enjoy all  the privileges which attach to him as

a person.   The most specific right of this kind

is to be   the   unmolested   pursuit   of   the

occupation  by  which a man chooses to gain  his

livelihood.  Under the same head falls the right

of every  person  to the free use of the  public

highways,  of  navigable rivers and  all  public

utilities.   It also includes the right of every

person that  the machinery of the law, which  is

established  for  the protection of all  persons

shall not  be  maliciously set in motion to  his

detriment.   Thirdly,  there  is  the  right  of

immunity  from damage by fraud or coercion-it is

a right  not to be induced by fraud to assent to

a transaction which causes damage, and not to be

coerced  into acting contrary to one’s desire by

force.   Fourthly,  the rights of a  person  are

those which  are  collectively   called   Family

Rights.     These   family     rights   may   be

distinguished    as     ‘marital’,   ‘parental’,

‘tutelary’, and ‘dominical’.  The marital right,

the right  of a husband as against the world, is

that no other man shall, by force or persuasion,

deprive him of his wife’s society, still less be

criminally  intimate  with  her.   An  analogous

right might  conceivably be recognized as  being

vested in the wife and is recognized in parts of

America.   The  parental  right extends  to  the

custody  and control of children, to the produce

of their  labour till they arrive at the age  of

discretion  without interference.  The  tutelary

right is  the right of the parent to act as  the

guardian not for the benefit of the guardian but

for that  of  the  ward…..    whose  want   of

understanding  he supplements and whose  affairs

he manages.   The right is infringed by killing,

by injuring  so as to make him less valuable  or

by enticing him away.


Not  being a person, a slave had, so  far

as law is  concerned, none of these rights.  The

untouchable  is a person in the eye of the  law.

It cannot  therefore be said that he has none of

the rights  which  the law gives to a  ‘person’.

He has the  right to property, to life, liberty,

reputation,  family and to the free exercise  of

his liberties  and his powers.  Define the slave

as one may,  either as a piece of property or as

one who  is  not a person, it appears  that  the

slave was worse off than the untouchable.


This  is  so if we consider only  the  de

jure position  of  the slave.  Let  us  consider

what was  the de facto position of the slave  in

the Roman  Empire  and in the United States.   I

take the following extracts from Mr.Barrow;2


“Hitherto,  it  is the repulsive side  of

household slavery that has been sketched.  There

is also  another aspect.  The literature reveals

the vast household as normal.  It is, of course,

the exception.   Large slave staffs  undoubtedly

existed,  and they are generally to be found  in

Rome.  In Italy and the Provinces there was less

need of display;  many of the staff of the Villa

were engaged  in productive work connected  with

land and   its  produce.     The   old-fashioned

relationship  between foreman and slave remained

there;   the  slave was often a  fellow  worker.

The kindliness  of  Pliny towards his  staff  is

well-known.    It   is   in    no   spirit    of

self-righteousness and in no wish to appear in a

favourable  light  in  the eyes  of  the  future

generations  which  he  hoped   would  read  his

letters  that  he tells of his distress  at  the

illness  and death of his slaves.  The household

(of Pliny)  is  the salves’  republic.   Pliny’s

account  of  his  treatment  of  his  slaves  is

sometimes  regarded  as  so much in  advance  of

general  or  even occasional practice as  to  be

valueless  as evidence.  There is no reason  for

this attitude.


From  reasons both of display and genuine

literary interest, the rich families attached to

their households,  slaves trained in  literature

            and art.  Calvisics Sabinus is said by Seneca to

have had  eleven slaves taught to recite  Homer,

            Hesioid,  and nine lyric poets by heart.   ‘Book

cases would  be  cheaper’,said  a  rude  friend.

‘No, what  the household knows the master knows’

was the  answer.   But, apart from such  abuses,

educated  slaves  must have been a necessity  in

the absence  of  printing;…  The busy  lawyer,

the dilettante   poet,  the    philosopher   and

educated  gentlemen of literary tastes had  need

of copyists  and readers and secretaries.   Such

men were naturally linquistic also;  a librarius

who dies at the age of twenty boasts that he was

‘literatus Graecis at Latinis’.  Amanuensis were

common enough;   librarians  are to be found  in

public and private libraries………  Shorthand

writing  was in common use under the Empire, and

slave Notary were regularly employed….


Many    freemen,      rhetoricians    and

grammarians  are  collected  by Snetonius  in  a

special  treatise.  Verrius Flaccus was tutor to

Austus’s  grandsons,  and at death was  publicly

honoured  by  a statue.  Scribonius  Aphrodisius

was the  slave and disciple of Orbilius and  was

afterwards  freed  by  Scribenia.   Hyginus  was

librarian  of  the  Palatine Library,  in  which

office he  was followed by Jullius Modestus, his

own freedman.  We here of freedmen historians of

a slave philosopher who was encouraged to argue

with his  master’s,  friends’ slaves  and  freed

architects,  Freemen as doctors occur frequently

in the inscriptions,  some of them  specialists;

they had  been  trained  in  big  households  as

slaves,  as  is  shown by one or  two  examples;

after Manumission  they  rose  to  eminence  and

became notorious for their high fees.”


“The  tastes  of some section of  society

demanded  that  dancers,   singers,   musicians,

mountebanks,  variety artists, athletic  trainers

and messieurs  should be forthcoming.  All these

are to be  found  in slavery, often  trained  by

teachers who had acquired some reputation”3


* * * *


“The age of Augustus was the beginning of

a period    of    commercial    and   industrial

expansion…..slaves  had  indeed been  employed

(in arts  and  crafts)  before, but  the  sudden

growth of trade….  their employment in numbers

that would  otherwise  have   been  unnecessary.

Romans engaged  more  freely and more openly  in

various  forms  of   commercial  and  industrial

venture.   Yet,  even so the agent  became  more

important, for commercial activities became more

widespread;    and  such   agents  were   almost

necessarily  slaves…(this  is so) because  the

bonds of  slavery (are elastic).  They could  be

so relaxed  as  to  offer an incentive  (to  the

slave) to  work  by the prospect of  wealth  and

freedom,  and  so  tightened  as  to  provide  a

guarantee  to  the master against loss from  the

misconduct  of his slave.  In business contracts

between  slave  and master third person seem  to

have been common, and the work thus done, and no

doubt, the   profits   were   considerable……

Renting  of  land to the slave has already  been

noticed….   and  in  industry  much  the  same

system was  used  in various forms;  the  master

might lease  a bank, or a business of the use of

ship, the  terms  being  a fixed return  or  the

slave being paid on a commission basis”.4


” The earnings of the slave became in law

his peculium.   Once  the peculium was saved  it

might be  used  to  a variety of  purposes.   No

doubt in  many  cases this fund was expended  in

providing  food or pleasure….But peculium must

not be regarded   merely  as    petty   savings,

casually  earned and idly spent.  The slave  who

made his master’s business yield profits, to his

own profit  too, very often, had a keen sense of

the best use to make up his own money.  Often he

reinvested  it  in his master’s business  or  in

enterprises  entirely unrelated to it.  He could

enter into  business relations with his  master,

from whom  he  came to be regarded  as  entirely

distinct, or he could make contract with a third

person.   He  could  even  have  procurators  to

manage his  own property and interests.  And  so

with the  peculium  may be found not only  land,

houses, shops but rights and claims.


“The activities of slaves in commerce are

innumerable;   numbers  of them are  shopkeepers

selling  every  variety  of food,  bread,  meat,

salt, fish, wine vegetables, beans, Aupine-seed,

honey, curd,  ham, ducks, and fresh fish, others

deal in  clothing-sandals,  shoes,   gowns   and

mantles.  In Rome, they plied their trade in the

neighbourhood  of  the  Circus Maximus,  or  the

Porticus  Trigeminus;  or the Esquiline  Market,

or the Great  Mart (on the Caolian Hill) or  the



The extent to which slave secretaries and

agents acted  for  their masters is  shown  very

clearly  in  the receipts found in the house  of

Caecilius Jucundus at Pompei.


That  the State should possess slaves  is

not surprising;   war, after all, was the affair

of the State  and  the  captive  might  well  be

State-property.   What  is   surprising  is  the

remarkable  use made of public slaves under  the

Empire and  the  extraordinary  social  position

occupied by them….”


“Public  slave  came to mean  before  the

Empire a slave of the state employed in its many

offices, and the term implied a given occupation

and often  social position.  The work of  slaves

of the State,  slaves  of   the  townships,  and

slaves of  Caesar  comprises much of what  would

now fall to parts of the higher and the whole of

the lower  branches of the civil services and of

the servants  of Municipal Corporations, working

both with  head  and hands…In the  subordinate

levels (of the Treasury) there worked numbers of

clerks and  financial officers, all freedmen and

slaves.   The business dealt with must have been

of vast  range…The Mint…  the immediate head

was a knight,   in   charge   of   the   minting

processes…a  freedman  was placed  under  him,

served freedmen  and slaves…From one branch of

State service,   at   any   rate,  slaves   were

rigorously  excluded,  except  on   one  or  two

occasions  of exceptional stress.  They were not

allowed  to fight in the Army because they  were

not thought  worthy of honour.  Doubtless  other

motives   were  present  also;    it  would   be

dangerous  experiment  to train too many  slaves

systematically in the use of Arms.  If, however,

slaves served  merely in the fighting line, they

are regularly  to  be  found  in  great  numbers

behind it  employed  as  servants,  and  in  the

commissariat and transport.  In the fleet slaves

were common enough”.5


Such  was  the de facto position  of  the

slave in  Roman Society.  Let us turn to the  de

facto position of the Negro in the United States

during the  period in which he was slave in  the

eye of the  law.  Here are some facts which shed

a good deal of light on his position:


“Lafayette  himself  had   observed  that

white and  black seamen and soldiers had  fought

and messed  together  in the Revolution  without

bitter difference.   Down in Granville  Country,

North Carolina,  a  full   blooded  Negro,  John

Chavis,  educated  in Princeton University,  was

conducting  a private school for white  students

and was a licentiate under the local Presbytary,

preaching  to white congregations in the  State.

One of his  pupils  became   Governor  of  North

Carolina,  another  the State’s  most  prominent

Whig senator.   Two  of his pupils were sons  of

the Chief Justice North Carolina.  The father of

the founder  of the greatest military academy of

the State attended his school and boarded in his



Slave  labour  was used for all kinds  of

work and  the  more  intelligent  of  the  Negro

slaves were  trained as artisans to be used  and

leased.   Slave  artisans would bring  twice  as

much as  an  ordinary field hand in the  market.

Master craftsmen   owned  their   staff.    Some

masters,  as  the system became  more  involved,

hired slaves  to  their  slave  artisans.   Many

slave artisans  purchased  their freedom by  the

savings   allowed  them   above  normal   labour



”  The  advertisements for  runaways  and

sales are an index to this skill.  They received

the same  or  better wages than the  poor  white

labourer  and  with the influence of the  master

got the  best jobs.  The Contractors for masons’

and carpenters’  work in Athens, Georgia in 1838

were petitioned  to  stop showing preference  to

Negro labourers.   ”  The white man is the  only

real, legal, moral, and civil proprietor of this

country   and   state.   The    right   of   his

proprietorship  reached  from  the date  of  the

studies  of  those   whitemen.   Copernicus  and

Galileo,  who  indicated the sphericity  of  the

earth;  which sphericity hinted to another white

man, Columbus,  the  possibility by  a  westerly

course of  sailing,  of finding land.  Hence  by

whitemen  alone  was this continent  discovered,

the whitemen  alone,  aye,  those  to  whom  you

decline  to give money for bread or clothes  for

their famishing  families, in the logical manner

of withholding  work from them defending Negroes

too in the  bargain.”  In  Atlanta  in  1858,  a

petition   signed  by  2  white  mechanics   and

labourers  sought  protection against the  black

slave artisans  of masters who resided in  other

sections.   The  very  next  year  sundry  white

citizens  were  aggrieved that the City  Council

tolerated  a Negro dentist to remain and operate

in their  midst.   ‘In justice to ourselves  and

the community  it  ought to be abated.  We,  the

resident of Atlanta, appeal to you for justice’.

A Census  of  free Negroes in  Richmond  County,

Georgia,  in  1819 showed  carpenters,  barbers,

boatcorkers,  saddlers,  spinners,  millwrights,

holsters,  weavers,  harness   makers,   sawmill

attendants   and  steamboat   pilots.   A  Negro

shoe-maker  made  by  hand the  boots  in  which

President  Munrow  was   inaugurated.    Harriet

Martineau  marvelled at the slave workmanship in

the delicately    tiled    floors    of   Thomas

Jefferson’s  home  at Monticello.   There  still

stands in  the big house of the old  plantation,

heavy marks   of  the  hands   of  these   Negro

craftsmen,  strong mansions built of timber hewn

from the  original  oak and pinned  together  by

wooden pins.   Negro  women skilled in  spinning

and weaving  worked  in the mill  Buckingham  in

1839 found  them  in  Athens,  Georgia,  working

alongside  with  white  girls  without  apparent

repugnance of objection.


Negro  craftsmen in the South, slave  and

free fared  better  than their brothers  in  the

North.   In 1856 in Philadelphia, of 1637  Negro

craftsmen  recorded, less than two-thirds  could

use their   trades;     ‘because    of   hostile

prejudice’.   The  Irish who were  pouring  into

America   from  the  very   beginning   of   the

nineteenth  century were being used in the North

on approximately  the same motives of preference

which governed   Negro  slavery.     ‘An   Irish

Catholic’, it was argued in their favour,’seldom

attempts to rise to a higher condition than that

in which  he  is placed, while the  Negro  often

makes the attempt with success.  Had not the old

Puritan  Oliver  Cromwell, while the traffic  in

black slaves  was  on,  sold all the  Irish  not

killed in  the Drogheda Massacre into Barbados?’

Free and  Fugitive  Negroes  in   New  York  and

Pennsylvania were in constant conflict with this

group and  the  bitter hostility  showed  itself

most violently  in  the draft riots of  the  New

York.  These  Hibernians  controlled   the  load

carrying  and  the common labour jobs,  opposing

every approach of the Negro as a menace to their

slight hold  upon  America and upon a  means  of



Such  was  the de facto condition of  the

Roman slave  and  the American Negro slave.   Is

there anything   in   the   condition   of   the

Untouchables  of India which is comparable  with

the condition  of  the  Roman   slave  and   the

American Negro slave?  It would not be unfair to

take the  same period of time for comparing  the

condition  of the Untouchables with that of  the

slaves under  the  Roman  Empire.    But  I   am

prepared   to  allow  the   comparison  of   the

condition  of the slaves in the Roman Empire  to

be made  with the condition of the  Untouchables

of the present  day.  It is a comparison between

the worst of one side and the best of the other,

for the  present  times are supposed to  be  the

golden age  for the Untouchables.  How does  the

de facto  condition of the Untouchables  compare

with the de facto condition of the slaves ?  How

many Untouchables  are engaged as the slaves  in

Rome were,  in  professions  such  as  those  of

Librarians,  Amanuenses, Shorthand writers?  How

many Untouchables  are engaged as the slaves  in

Rome were,  in such intellectual occupations  as

those of        rhetoricians,       grammarians,

philosophers,  tutors, doctors and artists?  How

many Untouchables are engaged in trade, commerce

or industry  as  were the slaves in Rome?   Even

comparing  his  position with that of the  Negro

while he  was a slave it cannot be said that the

condition  of  the Untouchable has been  better.

Is their  any  instance of  untouchables  having

been artisans?    Is  there   any  instance   of

untouchables  having  maintained a school  where

Brahmin children have come to sit at his feet in

search of  learning?   Why  such   a  thing   is

unthinkable?   But it has happened in the United

States of  America.   In comparing the de  facto

condition  of  the Roman slave and the  American

Negro I   have   purposely   taken  the   recent

condition  of  the  Untouchables as a  basis  of

comparison  for  the  simple   reason  that  the

present  times are supposed to be the golden age

for the  untouchables.   But comparing even  the

condition  of  the untouchables in modern  times

they are   certainly  a   sunken  community   as

compared  with  the condition of slaves in  time

which historians  call  barbarous.    There  can

therefore,  be  no doubt that untouchables  have

been worse  off  than  slaves.  This  of  course

means that untouchability is more harmful to the

growth of  man  than slavery ever was.  On  this

there is  a paradox.  Slaves who were worse  off

in fact than slaves.  What is the explanation of

this paradox?   The question of all questions is

this;  what  is  it  which helped the  slave  to

overcome  the rigorous denial of freedom by  law

and enabled  them to prosper and grow?  What  is

it that  destroyed  the  effect of  the  freedom

which the  law  gave  to  the  untouchables  and

sapped his  life of all vitality and stunted his



The  explanation of this paradox is  quit

simple.   It  will be easily understood  if  one

bears in  mind  the  relation  between  law  and

public opinion.   Law and public opinion are two

forces which  govern  the conduct of men.   They

act and  react  upon each other.  At  times  law

goes ahead  of public opinion and checks it  and

redirects  in  channels which it thinks  proper.

At times public opinion is ahead of the law.  It

rectifies  the  rigour of the law and  moderates

  1. There  are also cases where law and  public

opinion  are  opposed to each other  and  public

opinion  being  the stronger of the two  forces,

disregards  or  sets  at  naught  what  the  law

prescribes.   Whether through compulsion arising

out of convenience  of commerce and industry  or

out of the  selfish desire to make the best  and

the most  profitable use of the slaves or out of

considerations  of humanity, public opinion  and

law were  not  in  accord  with  regard  to  the

position  of the slave either in Rome or in  the

United States.  In both places the slave was not

a legal  person  in the eye of the law.  But  in

both places he remained a person in the sense of

a human being in the eye of the society.  To put

it differently  the  personality which  the  law

withheld from the slave was bestowed upon him by

society.   There  lies  a  profound   difference

between slavery and untouchability.  In the case

of untouchable  just the opposite has  happened.

The personality  which the law bestowed upon the

untouchables  is  withheld by society.   In  the

case of  the  slave  the   law  by  refusing  to

recognize  him as a person could do him no  harm

because  society recognized him more amply  than

it was called  upon  to do.  In the case of  the

untouchables  the  law by recognizing him  as  a

person failed  to do him any good because  Hindu

society is determined to set that recognition at

naught.  A slave had a personality which counted

notwithstanding  the  command  of the  law.   An

untouchable  has no personality in spite of  the

command  of  the  law.    This  distinction   is

fundamental.    It   alone   can   explain   the

paradox-the social elevation of the slave loaded

though he  was with the burden of legal  bondage

and the  social  degradation of the  untouchable

aided as  he  has  been with the  advantages  of

legal freedom.


Those  who have condemned slavery have no

doubt forgotten  to take into consideration  the

fact that   in   a   sense    slavery   was   an

apprenticeship  in  a  business, craft  or  art,

albeit compulsory.   Unmitigated   slavery  with

nothing  to compensate the loss of freedom is of

course to be condemned.  But to enslave a person

and to train  him  is  certainly better  than  a

state of  barbarity  accompanied   by   freedom.

Slavery  did mean an exchange of  semi-barbarism

for civilization,  a vague enough gift but  none

the less  real.   The   full  opportunities  for

civilized  life  could  only be  fully  used  in

freedom,   no   doubt,  but   slavery   was   an

apprenticeship,  or  in the works of  Prof.Myres

“an initiation into a higher culture”.


This  view  of  slavery  is  eminently  a

correct view.  This training, this initiation of

culture  was undoubtedly a great benefit to  the

slave.  Equally it involved considerable cost to

the master  to train his slave, to initiate  him

into culture.   “There  can   have  been  little

supply of  slaves  educated or  trained,  before

enslavement.   The alternative was to train them

when young slaves in domestic work or in skilled

craft, as  was indeed done to some extent before

the Empire,  by  Cato, the Elder,  for  example.

The training  was  done  by his  owner  and  his

existing  staff indeed the household of the rich

contained  special  pedagogy for  this  purpose.

Such training took many forms:  industry, trade,

arts and letter”.


The  question  is  why   was  the   slave

initiated  into the high culture and why did  it

not fall  to the lot of the untouchable to be so

initiated?  The question is very pertinent and I

have raised  it  because  the   answer  to   the

question  will further reinforce the  conclusion

that has been reached namely that untouchability

is worse  than  slavery and that is because  the

slave had  a personality and the untouchable has



The  reason  why the master took so  much

trouble  to train the slave and to initiate  him

in the higher  forms  of labour and culture  was

undoubtedly the motive of gain.  A skilled slave

as an item  was more valuable than an  unskilled

slave.   If sold he would fetch better price, if

hired out  he would bring in more wages.  It was

therefore  an  Investment to the owner to  train

his slave.   But  this is not enough to  account

for the   elevation  of  the   slave   and   the

degradation  of the untouchable.  Suppose  Roman

society  had  an  objection to  buy  vegetables,

milk, butter,  water  or wine from the hands  of

the slave?    Suppose  Roman   society  had   an

objection  to  allow  slaves to touch  them,  to

enter their  houses,  travel with them in  cars,

etc.  would it have been possible for the master

to train   his   slave,  to   raise   him   from

semi-barbarism  to a cultured state?   Obviously

not.  It is because the slave was not held to be

an untouchable  that the master could train  him

and raise him.  We again come back therefore, to

the same  conclusion-namely, that what has saved

the slave is that his personality was recognized

by society  and what has ruined the  untouchable

is that  Hindu  society  did not  recognize  his

personality,  treated  him  as unfit  for  human

association and common dealing.


That  the slave in Rome was no less of  a

man because  he was a slave, that he was fit for

human intercourse  although he was in bondage is

proved by  the attitude that the Roman  Religion

had towards the slave.  As has been


“…..Roman religion was never hostile to

the slave.   It  did not close the temple  doors

against  him;   it did not banish him  from  its

festivals.  If slaves were excluded from certain

ceremonies, the same may be said of free men and

women-being excluded from the rites of Bono Dea.

Vesta and Ceres, women from those of Hercules at

the Ara  Maxima.  In the days when the old Roman

divinities  counted  for some-thing,  the  slave

came to  be  informally included in the  family,

and could  consider himself under the protection

of the gods of the household….Augustus ordered

that freed   women   should   be   eligible   as

priestesses  of Vesta.  The law insisted that  a

slave’s  grave should be regarded as sacred  and

for his soul Roman mythology provided no special

heaven and  no  particular hell.   Even  Juvenal

agrees that  the slave, soul and body is made of

the same stuff as his master…”




There  was  no  stigma  attached  to  his

person.   There was no gulf social or  religious

which separated  the  slave at any rate in  Rome

from the  rest  of  the   society.   In  outward

appearance  he did not differ from the free man;

neither   colour  nor   clothing  revealed   his

conditions;   he witnessed the same games as the

freemen,  he shared in the life of the Municipal

towns, and  employed  in state service,  engaged

himself  in  trade and commerce as all free  men

did.  Often  apparent equality in outward things

counts for  more  the   individual  than  actual

identity  of rights before the law.  Between the

slave and  the  free,there seems often  to  have

been little  social  barrier.  Marriage  between

slave and  freed  slave  was very  common.   The

slave status carried no stigma on the man in the

society.  He was touchable and even respectable.


Enough  has  been  said   to  show   that

untouchability  is worse than slavery.  The only

thing that  is  comparable to it is the case  of

the Jews  in the middle ages.  The servility  of

the Jews  does  resemble  to   some  extent  the

condition  of  the untouchables.  But  there  is

this to   be  said  about   it.    Firstly   the

discrimination  made  against the Jews was  made

upon a basis  which is perfectly  understandable

though not  justifiable.  It was based upon  the

Jews obstinacy  in  the matter of religion.   He

refused  to accept the religion of the  gentiles

and it is  his  obstinacy  which  brought  about

those penalties.   The  moment  he gave  up  his

obstinacy  he  was free from  his  disabilities.

This is  not the case with the untouchable.  His

disabilities  are not due to the fact that he is

a protestant  or  non-conformist.    The  second

thing to be said about these disabilities of the

Jews is  that  the Jews preferred them to  being

completely assimilated and lost in the Gentiles.

This may  appear strange but there are facts  to

prove it.   In this connection reference may  be

made to  two instances recorded in history which

typify the  attitude  of  the Jews.   The  first

instance  relates  to   the  Napoleonic  regime.

After the National Assembly of France had agreed

to the declaration  of the Rights of Man to  the

Jews, the  Jewish question was again reopened by

the guild  merchants and religious reactionaries

of Alsace.   Napoleon  resolved  to  submit  the

question  to  the  consideration   of  the  Jews



“He   convened  an   Assembly  of  Jewish

Notables  of France, Germany and Italy in  order

to ascertain  whether the principles of  Judaism

were compatible   with  the    requirements   of

citizenship  as  he  wished to fuse  the  Jewish

element  with  the   dominant  population.   The

Assembly, consisting of 111 deputies, met in the

Town Hall  of Paris on 25th July, 1806, and  was

required  to  frame replies to twelve  questions

relating  mainly  to the possibility  of  Jewish

patriotism,  the permissibility of intermarriage

between  Jew  and non-Jew, and the  legality  of

usury.   So  pleased  was   Napoleon  with   the

pronouncements  of the Assembly that he summoned

a Sanhedrin  after  the  model  of  the  ancient

council  of  Jerusalem to convert them into  the

decrees  of  a legislative  body.The  Sanhedrin,

comprising  71  deputies from  France,  Germany,

Holland  and Italy, met under the presidency  of

Rabbi Sinzheim  of  Strassburg on  9th  February

1807, and  adopted  a  sort   of  charter  which

exhorted  the Jews to look upon France as  their

father land,  to  regard its citizens  as  their

brethren,  and to speak its language, and  which

also pressed  toleration  of  marriages  between

Jews and  Christians  while declaring that  they

could not  be sanctioned by the synagogue”.   It

will be  noted  the  Jews  refused  to  sanction

intermarriages  between Jews and non-Jews.  They

only agreed   to  tolerate   them.   The  second

instance  related  to  what  happened  when  the

Batavian  Republic was established in 1795.  The

more energetic  members of the Jewish  community

pressed  for  the removal of  many  disabilities

under which  they laboured.  “But the demand for

the full  rights  of  citizenship  made  by  the

progressive Jews was at first, strangely enough,

opposed   by  the  leaders   of  the   Amsterdam

community,  who feared that civil equality would

militate against the conservation of Judaism and

declared  that  their co-religionists  renounced

their rights  of citizenship in obedience to the

dictates  of  their faith.  This shows that  the

Jews preferred  to live as strangers rather than

as members  of  the  community.   It  is  as  an

‘eternal  people’ that they were singled out and

punished.   But  that is not the case  with  the

untouchables.  They too are in a different sense

an “eternal  people”  who are separate from  the

rest.  But  this separateness is not the  result

of their  wish.   They are punished not  because

they do  not  want  to mix.  They  are  punished

because they want to.


Untouchablity  is  worse   than   slavery

because  slave  has personality in  the  Society

while the  untouchable  has no  personality  has

been made abundantly clear.  But this is not the

only ground  why  untouchability is  worse  than

            slavery.  There are others which are not obvious

but which are real none-the-less.


Of  these  the  least   obvious  may   be

mentioned  as  the first.  Slavery, if  it  took

away the  freedom of the slave, it imposed  upon

the master  the  duty to maintain the  slave  in

life and  body.   The slave was relieved of  all

responsibility  in  respect  of  his  food,  his

clothes  and  his shelter.  All this the  master

was bound  to  provide.  This was of  course  no

burden because  the  slave earned more than  his

keep.  But  a security for board and lodging  is

not always possible for every freeman as all


earners  now  know to their cost.  Work  is  not

always available  even to those who are ready to

toil but  a  workman  cannot   escape  the  rule

according  to which he gets no bread if he finds

no work.   This rule, no work no bread, the ebbs

and tides  of business, the booms and depression

are vissicitudes  through  which all  free  from

them.  He gets his bread-perhaps the same bread,

but bread-whether  it  is boom or whether it  is

depression.    Untouchability  is   worse   than

slavery because it caries no such security as to

livelihood  as  the  latter  does.   No  one  is

responsible   for  the   feeding,  housing   and

clothing of the untouchable.  From this point of

view untouchability  is  not   only  worse  than

slavery  but is positively cruel as compared  to

slavery.    In  slavery  the   master  has   the

obligation  to  find work for the slave.   In  a

system of  free  labour workers have to  compete

with workers   for  obtaining   work.   In  this

scramble   for  work  what   chances   has   the

untouchable  for a fair deal?  To put it shortly

in this  competition  with   the  scales  always

weighing  against  him by reason of  his  social

stigma he  is  the last to be employed  and  the

first to  be fired.  Untouchablity is cruelty as

compared  to slavery because it throws upon  the

untouchables the responsibility for maintaining

without  any  way of earning his  living.   From

another aspect also untouchability is worse than

slavery.   The slave was property, and that gave

the slave  an advantage over a free man.   Being

valuable, the master out of sheer self interest,

took great  care of the health and well being of

the slave.  In Rome the slaves never employed on

marshy and  malarial land.  On such a land  only

freemen  were  employed.    Cato  advises  Roman

farmers  never  to employ slaves on  marshy  and

malarial   land.   This   seems  stranger.   But

a little  examination  will  show that  this


quite natural.   Slave was valuable property and

as such  a  prudent man who knows  his  interest

must not  expose him to the ravages of  malaria.

The same  care need not be taken in the case  of

free man  because  he is not valuable  property.

This consideration resulted to the great benefit

of the slave.   He was cared for as no one  was.

This consideration  is completely absent in  the

case of  the  untouchable.  He is neglected  and

left to starve and die.


The second or rather the third difference

between  untouchability  and   slavery  is  that

slavery    was     never     obligatory.     But

untouchability   is   obliged.   A   person   is

“permitted” to hold another as his slave.  There

is no compulsion  on him if he does not want to.

A Hindu  on the other hand is “enjoined” to hold

another  as untouchable.  There is compulsion on

the Hindu  which  he cannot escape whatever  his

personal wishes in the matter may be.






“Slavery,  it must be admitted, is not  a

free social  order.   But can untouchability  be

described  as a free social order ?  The  Hindus

who came  forward  to defend  untouchability  no

doubt claim  that  it is, They, however,  forget

that there     are       differences     between

untouchability   and    slavery    which   makes

untouchability  a worse type of an unfree social

order.   Slavery  was   never  obligatory.   But

untouchability  is  obligatory.   A  person   is

permitted  to hold another as his Slave.   There

is no compulsion on him if he does not want to .

But an Untouchable  has  no option.  Once he  is

born an  Untouchable,  he is subject to all  the

disabilities  of  an  untouchable.  The  law  of

slavery  permitted  emancipation.  Once a  slave

always a  slave  was not the fate of the  slave.

In untouchability  there is no escape.  Once  an

Untouchable  always  an Untouchable.  The  other

difference is that untouchability is an indirect

and therefore  the  worst  form of  slavery.   A

deprivation  of  a man’s freedom by an open  and

direct way  is a preferable form of enslavement.

It makes the slaves conscious of his enslavement

and to become  conscious of slavery is the first

and most  important  step  in   the  battle  for

freedom.   But  if  a  man is  deprived  of  his

liberty  indirectly  he has no consciousness  of

his enslavement.   Untouchability is an indirect

form of  slavery.   To tell an Untouchable  ‘you

are free,  you  are a citizen, you have all  the

rights of a citizen’, and to tighten the rope in

such a way  as  to leave him no  opportunity  to

realize  the ideal is a cruel deception.  It  is

enslavement  without  making   the  Untouchables

conscious  of their enslavement.  It is  slavery

though it  is untouchability.  It is real though

it is indirect.   It  is enduring because it  is

unconscious.   Of the two orders  untouchability

is beyond doubt the worse.”


Religion  has  also  mixed  up  with  the

untouchability,  education the basic  foundation

of the humanity    was     closed    to    them.

Grammarians,  Philosophers, tutors, doctors  and

artists  were  slaves in Rome but it was  absent

among the untouchables.6






  1. Unhappy India.
  2. Mr.Barrow,  Slavery  in  the   Roman

Empire, p 47-49)

  1. Slavery in the Roman Empire, p63
  2. (Slavery   in   the  Roman   Empire


  1. Ibid pp 130-147 2.Charles C

Johnson’s The Negro in American


  1. Dr.B.R.Ambedkar     Writings   and

speeches, vol p15





















Of the first missionary to India who came

and sowed  there the seed of Christianity  there

is no record.   It is believed that Christianity

in India  is  of  apostolic  origin  and  it  is

suggested  that  the apostle St.Thomas  was  the

founder   of  it.   The   apostolic  origin   of

Christianity  is  only a legend  notwithstanding

the existence  of  what  is  called  St.Thomas’s

Mount near Madras which is said to be the burial

place of  the  Apostle.   There is  no  credible

evidence  to  show  that  the  gospel  was  even

preached  in  India  during the  first  Century.

There is  some  evidence  to show  that  in  the

second century  the Gospel had reached the  ears

of the dwellers  on  the Southern Indian  Coast,

among the  pearl  fishers  of   Ceylon  and  the

cultivators  on  the  coasts   of  Malabar   and

Coromondel.   This news when brought back by the

Egyptian Mariners spread among the Christians of

Alexandria.   Alexandria was the first to sent a

Christian  Missionary  to India, whose  name  is

recorded  in history.  He was Pantoenus, a Greek

stoic who   had  become  a  Christian  and   was

appointed by Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria

as the principal  and  sole   catechist  of  the

school of   the  Catechumens,   which  had  been

established  for the instruction of the  heathen

in the facts  and doctrines of Christianity.  At

some time  between  the  years 180 and  190  the

Bishop of Alexandria received an Appeal from the

Christians  in  India to send them a  Missionary

and Pantoenus was accordingly sent.  How long he

was in India,  how  far inland he travelled  and

what work he actually did, there is no record to

show.  All that is known is that he went back to

Alexandria,  and  took charge of his school  and

continued to be its principal till 211 A.D.


Little  is  known of the progress of  the

Gospel on Indian soil through the third century.

But there  is this fact worthy of notice.  It is

this that when the Council of Nicaca was held in

325 A.D.   after  the conversion of the  Emperor

Constantine  Johannes,  one  of  the   Assembled

prelates  described himself as “Metropolitan  of

Persian  and  of  the Great India”.   This  fact

seems to  indicate that there was at that time a

Christian  Church of some bulk and  significance

planted  on the Indian Coast.  On the other hand

this probably   implied  little   more  than  an

episcopal  claim  to what had always, as in  the

Book of  Esther,  been considered a province  of

the Persian Empire.


The  scene  shifts   from  Alexandria  to

Antioch  and from the beginning of the third  to

the end  of  the fifth century.  It  is  Antioch

which took  the  burden of Christian  enterprise

upon its own shoulder.


The  sixth century was the last  peaceful

year for  Christian  propaganda.  This seems  to

mark the  end  of one epoch.  Then followed  the

rise of  the Saracens who carried the Koran  and

Sword of  Mahammad  all  over Western  Asia  and

Northern  Africa, then threatened Europe  itself

up to Vienna  and  from Spain into the heart  of

France.   The result was that all the  Christian

people were  distracted  and   their  Missionary

effort was held up for several centuries.


The  voyage of Vasco de Gama in the  year

1497 to India marks the beginning of a new epoch

in the history of Christian Missionary effort in

India and the most serious and determined effort

commenced   with  the  arrival   of  the   great

Missionary Francis Xavier in the year 1542.  The

Portuguese  were the first European power in the

East and the earliest efforts of modern times in

the direction  of Christianizing the natives  of

India were  made  under   their  auspices.   The

conversions  effected under the auspices of  the

Portuguese  were  of course conversions  to  the

Roman Catholic  faith  and were carried  out  by

Roman Catholic Missions.


They were not, however, left long without

rivals.   The  Protestants  soon came  into  the

field.   The earliest protestant propaganda  was

that of the Lutherans who established themselves

in Tranquebar in 1706 under the patronage of the

King of Denmark.  The able and devoted Schwartz,

who laboured   in  Trichinopoly    and   Tanjore

throughout  the second half of the 18th  Century

was a member  of this mission, which has  since,

to a great  extent,  been  taken   over  by  the

Society for the propagation of the Gospel.


Next came the Baptist Mission under Carey

who landed  in Calcutta in 1793.  Last came  the

Anglican  Church  which entered  the  Missionary

field in  1813  and since then the expansion  of

Missionary enterprise was rapid and continuous.


Thus   Christian  propaganda    has   had

therefore  a  long  run in India.  It  had  four

centuries  before  the rise of the Saracens  who

caused a  break in the Mission Activity.   Again

after subsidence  of  the  Saracens it  has  had

nearly four   centuries.   This   total  of  six

millions   is  the  fruit   gathered  in   eight

centuries.   Obviously this is a very depressing

result.   It depressed Francis Xavier.  It  even

depressed  Abbe Dubois who, writing in 1823 some

three hundred  years after Xavier, declared that

to convert  Hindus to Christianity was a forlorn

hope.  He  was  then  criticized   by  the  more

optimistic  of Christian Missionaries.  But  the

fact remains  that  at  the end of  this  period

there are  only about 6 million Christian out of

a total  population of about 358 millions.  This

is a very  slow  growth indeed and the  question

is, what are the causes of this slow growth.


It  seems  to  me that  there  are  three

reasons  which  have  impeded   slow  growth  of



The  first  of  these reason is  the  bad

morals of  the early European settlers in  India

particularly  Englishmen who were sent to  India

by the East  India Company.  Of the character of

the men who were sent out in India.  Mr.Kaye, an

Apologist  of  the  Company   and  also  of  its

servants  speaks  in the following terms in  his

“Christianity in India”.


“Doubtless there were some honest, decent

men from  the middle classes amongst  them…But

many, it appears from contemporary writers, were

Society’s  hard bargains-youngstars perhaps,  of

good family,  to which they were a disgrace, and

from the  bosom of which therefore they were  to

be cast  out, in the hope that there would be no

prodigals  return  from the ‘Great Indies’.   It

was not   to  be  expected   that  men  who  had

disgraced  themselves  at home would  lead  more

respectable lives abroad.


“There were, in truth, no outward motives

to preserve morality of conduct, or even decency

of demeanour;   so  from  the  moment  of  their

landing  upon  the  shore of  India,  the  first

settlers  cast  off  all these bonds  which  had

restrained  them in their native villages,  they

regarded     themselves        as     privileged

beings-privileged to violate all the obligations

of religion  and morality and to outrage all the

decencies  of life.  They who went, thither were

often desperate  adventurers,  whom England,  in

the emphatic language of the Scripture, had spud

out;  men  who sought those golden sands of  the

East to  repair their broken fortunes;  to  bury

in oblivion  a sullied name;  or to bring,  with

lawless  hand  from the weak  and  unsuspecting,

wealth which  they  had  not  the  character  or

capacity  to  obtain by industry at home.   They

cheated;   they  gambled;    they  drank;   they

revelled in all kinds of debauchery.  Associates

in vice,  linked  together by a common  bond  of

rapacity,  they still often pursued one  another

with desperate malice, and, few though they were

in numbers,  among them there was no fellowship,

except a fellowship of crime.”


“All this was against the new comer;  and

so, whistle  the depraved met with no inducement

to reform,   the   pure   but   rarely   escaped

corruption.   Whether they were there initiated,

or perpetrated in destructive error, equally may

they be    regarded   as     the   victims    of



How  bad were the morals and behaviour of

the early  Christians  can be gathered from  the

following  instances  quoted by  Mr.Kaye.   “The

Deputy-Governor of Bombay was in 1669 charged as



That  he hath on the Sabbath day hindered

the performance  of public duty to God  Almighty

at the accustomary  hour, continuing in drinking

of health;   detaining  others with him  against

their wills;   and  whistle he drank,  in  false

devotions  upon  his knees, a health devoted  to

the Union, in the time appointed for the service

belonging  to the Lord’s day, the unhappy sequel

showed it  to be but the projection of a further



“That  to  the  great   scandal  of   the

inhabitants of the island, of all the neighbours

round about,  both  papists and others that  are

idolators,  in dishonour of the sobriety of  the

Protestant  religion,  he had made frequent  and

heavy drinking  meetings, continuing some  times

till two  or three of the clock in the  morning,

to the neglecting  of the service of God in  the

morning  prayers, and the service of the Company

in the meantime  had stood still while he slept,

thus perverting and converting to an ill private

use, those  refreshment intended for the factory

in general.”


On these charges he was found guilty.  In

the factories  of  the East India Company  there

was enough of internecine strife and the factors

of the Company  committed scandalous outages  in

defiance  both  of  the  laws  of  God  and  the

decencies  of man.  They fought grievously among

themselves;   blows  following words;   and  the

highest  persons  in the settlement settling  an

example  of pugnacity with their inferiors under

the potent influence of drink.


The  report of the following incident  in

extracted  from  the  records of  the  Company’s

factory at Surat:-1


“We  send  you honours  our  consultation

books from  the  21st  of August  1695  to  31st

December 1696, in which does appear a conspiracy

against  the  President’s life, and a design  to

murder the guards, because he would have opposed

  1. How  far  Messrs.  Vauxe and  Upphill  were

concerned,  we leave to your honours to judge by

this and depositions before mentioned.  There is

strong presumption  that  it was intended  first

that the  President should be stabbed and it was

prevented  much through the vigilance of Ephraim

Bendall;   when  hopes  of that  failed  by  the

guards being doubled, it seems poison was agreed

on, as by the deposition of Edmund clerk and all

bound to  secrecy upon an horrid imprecation  of

damnation  to the discoverer, whom the rest were

to fall upon and cut off.”


In  the  same  document is  recorded  the

complaint  of  Mr.Charles  Peachey  against  the

president of the Council at


“I  have  received  from you  (i.e.   the

President)  two  cuts on my head, the  one  very

long and  deep,  the  other a  slight  thing  in

comparison  to  that.  Then a great blow  on  my

left arm,  which has inflamed the shoulder,  and

deprived  me  (at present), of the use  of  that

limb;  on  my right side a blow on my ribs  just

beneath  the  pap,  which is a  stoppage  to  my

breath,  and  makes  me   incapable  of  helping

myself;   on  my  left   hip  another,   nothing

inferior  to the first;  but above all a cut  on

the brow of my eye.”


Such  was the state of morality among the

early English  Settlers who came down to  India.

It is enough  to  observe  that  these  settlers

managed  to work through the first eighty  years

of the seventeenth  century  without building  a

Church.   Things  did  not improve in  the  18th

Century  without building a Church.  Things  did

not improve  in the 18th Century.  Of the  state

of morality among Englishmen in India during the

18th Century this is what Mr.Kaye has to say;


“Of  the  state of Anglo  Indian  Society

during the  protracted Administration of  Warren

Hastings,   nothing  indeed  can   be  said   in

praise…   those  who  ought to have  set  good

example,  did grievous wrong to Christianity  by

the lawlessness  of their lives….Hastings took

another  man’s  wife with his consent;   Francis

did the same without it….It was scarcely to be

expected  that, with such examples before  them,

the less  prominent members of society would  be

conspicuous for morality and decorum.  In truth,

it must be acknowledged that the Christianity of

the English  in  India was, at this time,  in  a

sadly depressed state.  Men drank hard and gamed

high, concubinage  with the women of the country

was the  rule rather than the exception.  It was

no uncommon  thing for English gentlemen to keep

populous  zenanas.   There  was   no  dearth  of

exciting   amusement  in   those  days.   Balls,

masquerades,     races        and     theatrical

entertainments,   enlivened   the   settlements,

especially  in  the cold weather;  and the  mild

excitement  of duelling varied the pleasures  of

the season.  Men lived, for the most part, short

lives and  were  resolute  that they  should  be

merry ones.”


The  drunkenness, indeed, was general and

obstructive.   It  was  one   of  the  besetting

infirmities-the   fashionable     vices-of   the

period…At     the         large     presidency

towns-especially       at        Calcutta-public

entertainments were not frequent.  Ball suppers,

in those  days,  were little less  than  orgies.

Dancing  was impossible after them, and fighting

commonly took its place.  If a public party went

off without a duel or two, it was a circumstance

as rare  as  it was happy.  There was  a  famous

club in  those  days,  called Selby’s  Club,  at

which the  gentlemen  of Calcutta were  wont  to

drink as  high  as  they gamed, and  which  some

times saw drunken bets of 1,000 gold mohurs laid

about the  merest  trifles.  Card parties  often

sat all  through  the  night, and if  the  night

chanced  to be a Saturday, all through the  next



Honourable  marriage was the  exceptional

state….The  Court  of  Directors of  the  East

India Company….were  engaged in the good  work

of reforming  the  morals of their  settlements;

and thinking   that   the   means   of   forming

respectable  marria *********       they who did

not marry, and  the  demand  was   by  no  means

brisk,-were,  to  say  the least of  it,  in  an

equivocal   position.   For  a  time  they  were

supported  at  the  public   expense,  but  they

received  only  sufficient  to  keep  them  from

starving,  and  so it happened naturally  enough

that the  poor  creatures betook  themselves  to

vicious  courses,  and sold such charms as  they

had, if  only to purchase strong drink, to which

they became  immoderately  addicted,   with  the

wages of their prostitution.


The   scandal   soon   became  open   and

notorious;   and  the President and  Council  at

Surat wrote  to the Deputy Governor and  Council

at Bombay,  saying;  “Whereas you give us notice

that some  of the women are grown scandalous  to

our native  religion and Government, we  require

you in the  Honourable  Company’s name  to  give

them all  fair  warning  that   they  do   apply

themselves  to  a  more   sober  and   Christian

conversation:   otherwise  the sentence is  that

they shall  be deprived totally of their liberty

to go abroad, and fed with bread and water, till

they are  embarked  on board ship for  England.”

said Kaye in his Christian in India p106


How  bad were the morals and behaviour of

the early  Christians  can be gathered from  the

three following  instances which are taken  from

contemporary records.


Captain  Williamson  in his ‘Indian  Vade

Mecum’ published about the year 1809


“I  have  known various instances of  two

ladies being conjointly domesticated, and one of

an elderly   military  character   who   solaced

himself  with no less than sixteen of all  sorts

and sizes.  Being interrogated by a friend as to

what he  did  with such a member, “Oh”,  replied

he, ‘I give  them little rice, and let them  run

about’.   This  same gentleman when  paying  his

addresses  to  an  elegant  young  woman  lately

arrived from Europe, but who was informed by the

lady at  whose  house she was residing,  of  the

state of  affairs,  the description closed  with

‘Pray, my  dear, how should you like to share  a

sixteenth of Major?”


Such   was    the    disorderliness   and

immorality among Englishmen in India.  No wonder

that the  Indians marvelled whether the  British

acknowledged  any God and believed in any system

of morality.   When  asked  what he  thought  of

Christianity   and  Christians  an   Indian   is

reported   to   have   said    in   his   broken

English-“Christian  religion,   devil  religion;

Christian  much drunk;  Christian much do wrong;

much beat,  much  abuse others”-and who can  say

that this judgment was contrary to facts?


It  is true that England herself was  not

at the relevant   time   over    burdened   with

morality.   The English people at home were  but

little distinguished  for  the purity  of  their

lives and  there  was a small chance of  British

virtue dwarfed  and dwindled at home,  expending

on foreign  soil.   As observed by Mr.Kaye  “The

courtly  licentiousness  of the Restoration  had

polluted the whole land.  The stamp of Whitehall

was upon  the currency of our daily lives;   and

it went   out  upon  our   adventurers  in   the

Company’s  ships, and was not , we may be  sure,

to be easily   effaced  in  a   heathen   land”.

Whatever  be  the excuse for this immorality  of

Englishmen in the 17th and 18th Century the fact

remains that it was enough to bring Christianity

into disrepute,  and  make its spread  extremely



The  second impediment in the progress of

Christianity  in India was the struggle  between

the Catholic  and  Non-Catholic   Missions   for

supremacy in the field of proselytization.


The  entry of the Catholic Church in  the

field of  the  spread of Christianity  in  India

began in  the  year  1541 with  the  arrival  of

Francis  Xavier.  He was the first Missionary of

the new  Society of Jesus formed to support  the

authority  of  the  Pope.  Before  the  Catholic

Church entered this field there existed in India

particularly  in  the  South a  large  Christian

population  which belonged to the Syrian Church.

These Syrian  Christians,  long  seated  on  the

coast of  Malabar, traced their paternity to the

Apostle  Thomas,  who it is said  “went  through

Syria and  Cilicia  conforming   the  Churches”.

They looked  to  Syria as their spiritual  home.

They acknowledged the supremacy of the patriarch

of Babylon.   Of  Rome  and the Pope  they  knew

nothing.   During  the rise of the  Papacy,  the

Mahomedan   power,   which   had   overrun   the

intervening  countries, had closed the gates  of

India against the nations of the West.  This had

saved the  Syrian  Churches  in India  from  the

Roman Catholic  Church.   As  to  the   question

whether  the Christianity of the Catholic Church

was the true form of Christianity or whether the

Christianity  of the Syrian Church was the  true

form I am  not  concerned here.  But  the  facts

remain that  the Portuguese who represented  the

Catholic Church in India were scandalized at the

appearance  of  the Syrian Churches  which  they

declared   to   be   heathen  temples   scarcely

disguised.   The  Syrian Christians shrank  with

dismay from  the  defiling  touch of  the  Roman

Catholics  of Portugal and proclaimed themselves

Christians and not idolators.  The other is that

the Malabar Christians had never been subject to

Roman supremacy  and  never  subscribed  to  the

Roman doctrine.


The  elements  of a conflict between  the

two Churches   were   thus   present   and   the

inquisition  only  gave  an   occasion  for  the



The  inquisitors  of Goa discovered  that

they were  heretics and like a wolf on the fold,

down came  the  delegates of the Pope  upon  the

Syrian Churches.   How great was the conflict is

told by  Mr.Kaye in his volume already  referred



The  first Syrian prelate who was brought

into antagonism  with Rome, expiated his want of

courage  and  sincerity in the dungeons  of  the

Inquisition.   The second shared the same  fate.

A third,  whose  sufferings  are more  worth  of

commiseration,   died  after   much  trial   and

tribulation  in his diocese, denying the  Pope’s

supremacy  to  the last.  The Churches were  now

without  a Bishop, at a time when they more than

ever needed  practical countenance and  support;

for Rome  was  about to put forth a mighty  hand

and a stretched-out  arm.  Don Alexis de Menezes

was appointed  Archbishop  of Goa.  It  was  his

mission less to make new converts than to reduce

old ones  to  subjection;  and he flung  himself

into the  work of persecution with an amount  of

zeal and heroism that must have greatly endeared

him to Rome;   Impatient of the slow success  of

his agents, he determined to take the staff into

his own hand.  Moving down to the South, with an

imposing  military force, he summoned the Syrian

Churches  to submit themselves to his authority.

The Churches  were  under  an  Archdeacon,  who,

sensible  of the danger that impended over them,

determined to temporize, but at the same time to

show that  he was prepared to resist.  He waited

on the Archbishop.   An escort of three thousand

resolute men who accompanied him on his visit to

Menezes, were with difficulty restrained, on the

first slight and delusive sign of violence, from

rushing  on  their opponents and  proving  their

burning  zeal in defence of their religion.   It

was not a time for Menezes to push the claims of

the Romish  Church.   But no fear of  resistance

could divert  him  from  his  purpose;   and  he

openly denounced  the Patriarch of Babylon as  a

pestilent  schismatic, and declared it a  heresy

to acknowledge  his supremacy.  He then issued a

decree forbidding all persons to acknowledge any

other supremacy  than that of the Roman Pontiff,

or to make  any mention of the Syrian  Patriarch

in the service of their Church;  and, this done,

he publicly  excommunicated the acknowledge head

of the Syrian  Churches,  and  called  upon  the

startled   Archdeacon  to  sign   the  writ   of

excommunication.   Frightened and confused,  the

wretched  man  put  his  name  to  the  apostate

document;   and  it was publicly affixed to  the

gates of the Church.


This   intolerable  insult  on  the   one

hand-this    wretched    compromise    on    the

other-roused  the fury of the people against the

Archbishop, and against their own ecclesiastical

chief.   Hard was the task before him, when  the

latter went   forth  to   appease  the   excited

multitude.   They would have made one  desperate

effort to  sweep  the Portuguese intruders  from

their polluted  shores;  but Archdeacon  pleaded

with them  for forbearance;  apologised for  his

own weakness;  urged that dissimulation would be

more serviceable  than  revenge;   promised,  in

spite of  what  he  had done,  to  defend  their

religion;  and exhorted them to be firm in their

resistance of Papal aggression.  With a shout of

assent,  they  swore that they would  never  bow

their necks to the yoke, and prepared themselves

for the continuance of the struggle.


But  Menezes  was  a   man  of  too  many

resources to be worsted in such a conflict.  His

energy and  perseverance were irresistible;  his

craft was  too deep to fathom.  When one  weapon

of attack  failed, he tried another.  Fraud took

the place  of violence;  money took the place of

arms.  He  bribed those whom he could not bully,

and appealed  to the imaginations of men when he

could not work upon their fears.  And, little by

little, he succeeded.  First one Church fell,and

then another.   Dangers  and difficulties  beset

them.  Often   had  he  to   encounter   violent

resistance, and often did he beat it down.  When

the strength  of  the Syrian Christians was  too

great for  him,  he  called in the  aid  of  the

native princes.   The unhappy Archdeacon,  weary

of resistance     and        threatened     with

excommunication,  at last made submission to the

Roman Prelate.   Menezes  issued a decree for  a

synod;  and, on the 20th June 1599, the Churches

assembled  at Diamper.  The first session passed

quietly  over,  but  not   without  much  secret

murmuring.   The  second, at which  the  decrees

were read,  was interrupted at that trying point

of the ceremony  where,  having  enunciated  the

Confession  of  Faith, the Archbishop  renounced

and anathematized the Patriarch of Babylon.  The

discontent of the Syrians here broke out openly;

they protested   against  the   necessity  of  a

confession  of  Faith,  and urged  that  such  a

confession  would  imply  that   they  were  not

Christians  before the assembling of the  Synod.

But Menezes  allayed  their   apprehensions  and

removed  their  doubts, by publicly  making  the

confession  in  the  name  of  himself  and  the

Eastern  Churches.   One of the Syrian  Priests,

who acted   as   interpreter,   then  read   the

confession  in  the  Malabar language,  and  the

assembled  multitude repeated it after him, word

for word,  on  their  knees, And so  the  Syrian

Christians  bowed  their  necks to the  yoke  of



Resolute to improve the advantages he had

gained,  Menezes  did  not   suffer  himself  to

subside  into  inactivity,  and to bask  in  the

sunshine  of his past triumphs.  Whether it  was

religious  zeal or temporal ambition that  moved

him, he  did  not relax from his  labours;   but

feeling that it was not enough to place the yoke

upon the  neck  of  the  Syrian  Christians,  he

endeavoured,  by  all means, to keep  it  there.

The Churches  yielded  sullen  submission;   but

there were  quick-witted, keen-sighted men among

them, who,  as the seventeenth century began  to

dawn upon  the world, looked hopefully into  the

future,  feeling assured that they could discern

even then  unmistakable evidences of the  waning

glories  of  the Portuguese in the East.   There

was hope  then  for  the Syrian  Churches.   The

persecutions  of Menezes were very  grievous-for

he separated   priests    from    their   wives;

excommunicated,  on trifling grounds, members of

the churches;   and destroyed all the old Syriac

records  which  contained  proofs of  the  early

purity of their faith.


The  irreparable  barbarism of this  last

act was  not to be forgotten or forgiven;   but,

in the midst  of all other sufferings, there was

consolation  in  the thought, that this  tyranny

was but  for a time.  “Sixty years of  servitude

and hypocrisy,  “writes Gibbon,” were  patiently

endured,  but  as soon as the Portuguese  empire

was shaken  by  the courage and industry of  the

Dutch, the  Nestorians asserted with vigour  and

effect the  religion  of   their  fathers.   The

Jesuits  were  incapable of defending the  power

they had  abused.   The arms of  forty  thousand

Christians  were  pointed against their  falling

tyrants;   and the Indian Archdeacon assumed the

character  of  Bishop  till a  fresh  supply  of

Episcopal gifts any Syriac missionaries could be

obtained  from the patriarch of Babylon”.   Such

briefly  narrated,  were  the   results  of  the

oppression  of  Menezes.  In the course  of  six

months that  ambitious and unscrupulous  prelate

reduced  the  Syrian church to bondage, and  for

sixty years  they  wore  the galling  chains  of

Rome.  But  Menezes trusted in his own strength;

he came  as  an  earthly   conqueror,  and   his

reliance  was on the arm of temporal  authority.

“His example,   “writes    Mr.Hough,”should   be

regarded  as  a beacon to warn future  Christian

missionaries   from  the  rock   on   which   he

foundered.   Without faith and godliness nothing

can ensure  a  Church’s prosperity.  Failing  in

these, the  prelate’s  designs,  magnificent  as

they were  deemed, soon came to nothing;  and it

deserves  special  remark,  as  an   instructive

interposition  of  Divine Providence,  that  the

decline  of  the  Portuguese interest  in  India

commenced  at the very period when he  flattered

himself  that he had laid the foundation of  its



There  was no such open conflict  between

the Catholic   Church    and    the   Protestant

Missionaries.   There  was   however  sufficient

rivalry  between them to prevent cooperation and

conceited  activity  the  lack   of  which  also

prevented a rapid growth of Christianity.


The third reason which is responsible for

the slow  growth  of Christianity was the  wrong

approach  made by the Christian Missionaries  in

charge of  Christian  propaganda.    The   early

Christian  Missionary  started his  campaign  by

inviting   public  disputations   with   learned

Brahmins  on  the  comparative   merits  of  the

Christian  and the Hindu religions.  This was  a

strange  way of going about his task.  But there

was a plan  behind it.  The Christian Missionary

felt that  his  task  of converting  the  masses

would be  easy of achievement if he succeeded in

converting the Brahmin and the higher classes of

Hindus.   For  they and the Brahmins  held  sway

over the  masses.   And  the   easiest  way   of

converting   the  Brahmin  was   to  defeat   in

disputation  and  to show him that his  religion

was an error.   The Christian Missionary  wanted

to get at  the Brahmin.  Nothing can explain why

the Missionaries   started  so   many   schools,

colleges, hospitals etc., except this namely the

Christian  Missionary  wanted  to  establish   a

contact  with  the Brahmin.  That the  Christian

Missionary  has been deceived is now realized by

many.  The  Brahmin and the higher classes  have

taken full   advantage  of    the   institutions

maintained  by  the   Christian  Missions.   But

hardly any  one of them has given any thought to

the religion  which  brought these  institutions

into existence.


There  is  nothing strange in this.   The

pursuit of the Brahmin and the higher classes of

Hindus by  the Christian Missionaries was doomed

to fail.   There  would be no common ground  for

the disputation    between       Hinduism    and

Christianity  and where there is a common ground

the Hindu could always beat the Christian.


That  there could be no common ground for

disputation between Hindus and Christians is due

to the fact   that  the  two   have  a   totally

different  attitude to the relations of theology

to philosophy.   As  has been well  observed  by



“The  Educated  Hindu, when he  considers

religious   questions,  refuses    to   separate

theology  from philosophy and demands what shall

appear to  him  a reasonable cosmogony.  It  has

been shown  in  dealing with Hinduism  that  its

prevailing tendency is pantheistic, and although

for at least   two  thousand   years  sect  have

constantly  been  forming   which  asserted  the

duality of God and Spirit, there has always been

a tendency  to  relapse into pantheism,  and  to

regard the present world as an illusion produced

by Maya.   The average Christian however gets on

with very  little philosophy and regards that as

a rule as more speculative than essential to his

religious beliefs.  The methods of thought which

a man has  been brought up to regard, inevitably

affect the  conclusions at which he arrives, and

it appears  to  me  that this forms one  of  the

reasons  why to the majority of educated  Hindus

the idea    of    accepting    Christianity   is

incredible.   To take a single concrete example,

the ordinary educated Hindu laughs at the belief

that God  created  the Universe out of  nothing.

He may believe  in  a  creation,   but  he  also

postulates  the  necessity for both  a  material

cause, matter   and  an   efficient  cause,  the

creator.    Where   his     belief   is   purely

pantheistic,   he  also  has   no   regard   for

historical evidences.  A further difficulty on a

fundamental  point  is caused by the  belief  in

transmigration,  which is based on the idea that

a man must  work out his own salvation and  thus

conflicts  entirely  with the belief  in  Divine



Thus  the  Hindu  speaks   in  terms   of

philosophy  and the Christian speaks in terms of

theology.   There  is thus no common ground  for

evaluation, or commendation or condemnation.  In

so far as both have theology the Christians with

their God  and  Jesus as his son and the  Hindus

with their  God and his Avatars, the superiority

of one over the other, depends upon the miracles

performed  by them.  In this the Hindu  theology

can beat  the  Christian   theology  is  obvious

enough and  just  as  absence of  philosophy  in

Christianity  is responsible for its failure  to

attract  the  Brahmin  and the  Educated  Hindu.

Similarly  the  abundance of miracles  in  Hindu

theology  was enough to make Christian  theology

pale off  in comparison.  Father Gregory a Roman

Catholic  priest  seems  to have  realized  this

difficulty  and  as his view is  interesting  as

well as  instructive I give below the quotations

from Col.Sleeman’s book in which it is recorded.

Says Col.  Sleeman:3


“Father  Gregory,  the   Roman   Catholic

priest,  dined  with us one evening,  and  Major

Godby took  occasion  to ask him at  table,’What

progress  our  religion  was  making  among  the



“Progress”?  said he, “why, what progress

can we ever hope to make among a people who, the

moment we  begin  to  talk  to  them  about  the

miracles  performed by Christ, begin to tell  us

of those  infinitely more wonderful performed by

Krishna,  who lifted a mountain upon his  little

finger,   as   an  umbrella,   to   defend   his

shepherdesses  at  Govardhan  from a  shower  of



“The  Hindoos never doubt any part of the

miracles  and  prophecies of our  scripture-they

believe  every  word of them and the only  thing

that surprises  them  is that they should be  so

much less  wonderful  than  those of  their  own

scriptures,   in  which   also  they  implicitly

believe.   Men who believe that the histories of

the wars  and amours of Ram and Krishna, two  of

the incarnations  of  Vishnu, were written  some

fifty thousand  years  before   these  wars  and

amours actually took place upon the earth, would

of course  easily believe in the fulfillment  of

any prophecy  that might be related to them  out

of any other  book;  and, as to miracles,  there

is absolutely  nothing  too   extraordinary  for

their belief.   If a Christian of respectability

were to  tell  a  Hindoo that, to  satisfy  some

scruples of the Corinthians, St.Paul had brought

the sun  and moon down upon the earth, and  made

them rebound  off again into their places,  like

tennis balls,  without  the slightest injury  to

any of the three planets(sic), I do not think he

would feel  the slightest doubt of the truth  of

it;  but  he would immediately be put in mind of

something still more extra-ordinary that Krishna

did to amuse  the milkmaids, or to satisfy  some

sceptics  of his day, and relate it with all the

naivete imaginable.”


As  events in India have shown this was a

wrong approach.   It  was   certainly  just  the

opposite  to  the one adopted by Jesus  and  his

disciples.   Gibbon  has given a description  of

the growth  of Christianity in Rome which  shows

from what  end  Christ and his disciples  began.

This is what he


“From  this impartial, though  imperfect,

survey of  the process of Christianity, it  may,

perhaps  seem  probable that the number  of  its

proselytes  has  been excessively  magnified  by

fear on  one side and by devotion on the  other.

According  to  the irreproachable  testimony  of

origin,  the proportion of the faithful was very

inconsiderable  when compared with the multitude

of an unbelieving  world;   but, as we are  left

without   any   distinct   information,  it   is

impossible  to  determine, and it  is  difficult

even to  conjecture,  the  real numbers  of  the

Primitive  Christians.   The   most   favourable

calculation,  however, that can be deduced  from

the examples  of  Antioch and of Rome  will  not

permit us  to imagine that more than a twentieth

part of  the subjects of the empire had enlisted

themselves  under the banner of the cross before

the important  conversion  of Constantine.   But

their habits  of  faith, of zeal, and  of  union

seemed to  multiply their numbers;  and the same

causes which   contributed  to    their   future

increase  served to render their actual strength

more apparent and more formidable.


“Such   in  the   constitution  of  civil

society   that,   whilst  a  few   persons   are

distinguished  by  riches,  by honours,  and  by

knowledge,  the body of the people is  condemned

to obscurity,   ignorance  and   poverty.    The

Christian  religion,  which addressed itself  to

the whole  human race, must consequently collect

a far greater  number  of  proselytes  from  the

lower than  from  the  superior ranks  of  life.

This innocent  and natural circumstance has been

improved  into  a very odious imputation,  which

seems to  be  less  strenuously  denied  by  the

apologists  than it is urged by the  adversaries

of the faith;   that the new sect of  Christians

was almost entirely composed of the dregs of the

populace, of peasants and mechanics, of boys and

women, of  beggars and slaves;  the last of whom

might sometimes  introduce the missionaries into

the rich  and  noble  families   to  which  they

belonged.   These obscure teachers(such was  the

charge of  malice and infidelity) are as mute in

public as  they are loquacious and dogmatical in

private.   Whilst  they   cautiously  avoid  the

dangerous encounter of philosophers, they mingle

with the   rude   and   illiterate  crowd,   and

insinuate  themselves  into  those  minds,  whom

their age, their sex, or their education has the

best disposed   to   receive    the   impression

superstitious terrors.


“This  favourable  picture,   though  not

devoid of  a faint resemblance, betrays, by  its

dark colouring  and  distorted   features,   the

pencil of  an  enemy.   As the humble  faith  of

Christ diffused itself through the world, it was

embraced  by  several persons who  derived  some

consequences  from  the advantages of nature  or

fortune.   Aristides, who presented an  eloquent

apology  to the emperor Hadrian, was an Athenian

philosopher.   Justin  Martyr had sought  divine

knowledge  in the schools of Zeno, or Aristotle,

of Pythogoras,   and   of   Plato,   before   he

fortunately  was  accosted  by the old  men,  or

rather the  angel,  who turned his attention  to

the study  of  the Jewist prophets.  Clemens  of

Alexandria  had acquired much various reading in

the Greek, and Tertullian in the Latin language;

Julius Africanus  and  Origen possessed  a  very

considerable  share  of  the learning  of  their

times;   and,  although the style of Cyprian  is

very different from that of Lactantius, we might

almost discover that both those writers had been

public teachers  of rehtoric.  Even the study of

philosophy  was  at length introduced among  the

Christians,  but it was not always productive of

the most  salutary  effects;  knowledge  was  as

often the  parent of heresy as of devotion,  and

the description  which  was   designed  for  the

followers  of Artemon may, with equal propriety,

be applied  to  the various sects that  resisted

the successors  of the apostles.  ‘They  presume

to alter  the  holy scriptures, to  abandon  the

ancient rule of faith, and to form their opinion

according to the subtile precepts of logic.  The

science of the church is neglected for the study

of geometry, and they lose sight of Heaven while

they are   employed  in   measuring  the  earth.

Euclid is perpetually in their hands.  Aristotle

and Theophrastus   are  the   objects  of  their

admiration;    and  they   express  an  uncommon

reverence  for the works of Galen.  Their errors

are derived  from  the  abuse of  the  arts  and

sciences  of the infidels, and they corrupt  the

simplicity  of the Gospel by the refinements  of

human reason.”


“Nor  can it be affirmed with truth  that

the advantages  of birth and fortune were always

separated  from the profession of  Christianity.

Several  Roman citizens were brought before  the

tribunal of Pliny, and he soon discovered that a

great number of persons of every order of men in

Bithynia  had  deserted  the religion  of  their

ancestors.   His  unsuspected testimony may,  in

this instance,  obtain more credit than the bold

challenge  of  Terbullian,   when  he  addresses

himself  to the fears as well as to the humanity

of the proconsul  of  Africa,  by  assuring  him

that, if he persists in his cruel intentions, he

must decimate  Carthage,  and that he will  find

among the  guilty many persons of his own  rank,

senators  and matrons of noblest extraction, and

the friends  or  relations of his most  intimate

friends.  Its appears, however, that about forty

years afterwards   the  emperor   Valerian   was

persuaded  of the truth of this assertion, since

in one of  his  rescripts he evidently  supposes

that senators,  Roman  knights,  and  ladies  of

quality were engaged in the Christian sect.  The

Church still  continued to increase its  outward

splendour  as it lost its internal purity;   and

in the reign  of  Diocletian   the  palace,  the

courts of justice, and even the army concealed a

multitude  of  Christians   who  endeavoured  to

reconcile  the  interests  of the  present  with

those of a future life.


And  yet these exceptions are either  too

few in number,  or too recent in time,  entirely

to remove   the  imputation  of  ignorance   and

obscurity  which has been so arrogantly cast  on

the first  proselytes of Christianity.   Instead

of employing  in  our  defence the  fictions  of

later ages,  it will be more prudent to  convert

the occasion  of  scandal  into   a  subject  of

edification.   Our serious thoughts will suggest

to us that  the apostles themselves were  chosen

by providence  among  the fishermen of  Galilee,

and that  the  lower  we  depress  the  temporal

condition  of  the  first Christians,  the  more

reason we  shall find to admire their merit  and

success.   It  is incumbent on us diligently  to

remember that the kingdom of heaven was promised

to the poor  in spirit, and that minds afflicted

by calamity   and   the   contempt  of   mankind

cheerfully  listen  to  the  divine  promise  of

future happiness;   while, on the contrary,  the

fortunate  are satisfied with the possession  of

this world;   and  the wise abuse in  doubt  and

dispute  their  vain superiority of  reason  and



Similarly  Hallam in his ‘History of  the

Middle Ages’  speaks of the class from which the

early Christians were drawn.


The  reason  why Christianity became  the

religion  of  all citizens of Rome i.e.  of  the

higher classes  as  well  was   because  of  two

extraneous  reasons.   The first reason was  the

making of  Christianity  state   religion  which

meant the proscribing every other religion.  The

second reason  was  the  change in  the  law  of

inheritance  by  the Roman Emperors  after  they

became converts  to Christianity a  preferential

right to  inherit  the property of  the  parents

over a child which had remained pagan.


This  only shows that the people to  whom

Christianity  made  a  natural appeal  were  the

poorer classes  and  it  is   among  them   that

Christianity  first  spread without the help  of

law or other extraneous advantage.


The  early Christian Missionary began  by

reversing  this natural order of things.  I call

it natural  because it befits human  psychology.

Prof Thorndyke(Psychology   vol  i)    a   great

authority on Psychology says- “That a man thinks

is a biological  fact.  But What he thinks is  a

sociological  fact”.  This profound observation,

the early   Christian    Missionary   absolutely

overlooked.   Every  kind  of   thought  is  not

agreeable to every person.  This is evident from

the fact that capitalism appeals to the rich and

does not  appeal  to the poor.  On the  contrary

socialism  appeals  to  the poor  but  does  not

appeal to  the rich.  This is because there is a

very intimate  connection between the  interests

of a man  and the thoughts which have an adverse

effect on  his interests.  He will not give them

any quarters   in  his   mind.   Applying   this

            analysis  of the working of the human mind it is

            clear that  the  Brahmin and the higher  classes

            could never   be  receptive  to  the   Christian

            doctrine.   It  preaches brotherhood of man  and

            when applied  leads to equality of man.  Now the

            interests  of the Brahmin and the higher classes

            is to maintain  the system of  Chaturvarna-which

            is a system  based upon inequality and which  in

            the scale  gives  them  a higher  rank,  greater

            opportunity  to dominate and exploit the others.

            How can they be expected to accept Christianity?

It means   a  surrender  of   their  power   and

prestige.   To have pursued them has been a vain

effort and  if the pursuit had been continued  I

am sure  there would have been no Christians  in

India at  all.  The number of Christians we  see

in India  today  is  due to the fact  that  some

Christian Missionaries saw the futility of this.

If they  had not realized this error and started

to win over  the lower classes, there would have

been no  Christians in India at all.  Even today

hundreds and thousands of high caste Hindus take

advantage   of  Christian   schools,   Christian

colleges  and Christian hospitals.  How many  of

those who  reap these benefits become Christian?

Every one  of  them takes the benefit  and  runs

            away and  does  not even stop to  consider  what

            must be  the merits of a religion which  renders

            so much service to humanity.



























How  old is Christianity in India?   What

progress  has it made among the people of India?

These are   questions  which  no   one  who   is

interested  in the Untouchables can fail to ask.

The two  questions  are so intimately  connected

that the   endeavour   for     the   spread   of

Christianity would be hopeless if there were not

in India  that vast body of untouchables who, by

their peculiar  circumstances, are most ready to

respond to the social message of Christianity.


The following figures will give some idea

of the population   of  Indian   Christians   as

compared   with  other   communities  in   India

according to the Census of 1931.


INDIA AND BURMA                       


Population by      1921 Census  Increased 1931 census

Religion                        Decreased


Hindu              216,734,586     10.4    239,195,141

Muslims             68,735,233     13       77,677,545

Buddhist            11,571,268     10.5     12,786,806

Sikh                 3,238,803     33.9      4,335,771

Primitive religions  9,774,611     15.3      8,280,347

Christian            4,754,064     32.5      6,296,763

Jain                 1,178,596      6.2      1,252,105

zoroastrain            101,778      7.8        109,752

Jews                    21,778     10.9         24,141

Unreturned              18,004               2,860,187



Total      316,128,,721    10.6    352,818,557



It  is true that during the 1921 and 1931

Christianity  has shown a great increase.   From

the point  of  growth  Sikhism takes  the  first

place.   Christianity  comes  second  and  Islam

another proselytizing religion comes third.  The

difference  between the first and the second  is

so small  that  the  second  place  occupied  by

Christianity  may  be  taken to be  as  good  as

first.   Again the difference between the second

and the  third  place  occupied by Islam  is  so

enormous  that  Christians may well be proud  of

their having  greatly outdistanced so serious  a



With  all this the fact remains that this

figure of  6,296,763  is  out  of  a  total   of

352,818,557.   This  means  that  the  Christian

population in India is about 1.7% of the total.





               GENERAL INFORMATION                     





Total Population of India               988,000,000*


Total Area in sq.kms                      3,287,263


The following data were compiled from the

information  sent  in  by   Dioceses,  from  the

“Statistical  Year Book of the Church 1987”  and

from CRI Directory 1990.



Total Catholic Population in India        14,908,000 *


% of Total Population of India                  1.51 *


Personnel & Parishes


Diocesan Priests                               8,621


Religious Priests                             14,353 *


Religious Brothers                             1,972 *


Religious Sisters                             76,150 *


Major Seminarians                              6,310 *


Major/Minor Seminarians


(Diocesan & Religious)                            62


Institute of Theology                              7


Parishes & Quasi Parishes                      6,277


Personal Prelatures                                1


Mission Stations                              17,467


Rel.Clerical Congregations                        43


Rel.Brothers’ Congregations                       17


Rel.Sisters’Congregations                        190



* Figures updated from recent sources






In   how  many  years   and  after   what

expenditure?   As  to  expenditure   it  is  not

possible   to   give   any   accurate   figures.

Mr.George  Smith in his book on “The  Conversion

of India”  published  in 1893  gives  statistics

which serve  to give some idea of the  resources

spent by  Christian Nations for Missionary  work

in heathen countries.  This is what he says:


“We  do  not  take   into  account  their

efforts,  vigorous and necessary, especially  in

the lands  of Asia and North Africa occupied  by

the Eastern Churches for whom Americans do much,

nor any  labours for Christians by Christians of

a purer  faith and life.  Leaving out of account

also the  many  wives  of missionaries  who  are

represented  statistically  in  their  husbands,

Rev.  J.Vahl, President of the Danish Missionary

Society, gives us these results.  We accept them

as the most  accurately compiled, and as  almost

too cautiously  estimated  where   estimate   is

unavoidable.   In  Turkey  and Egypt  only  work

among the Musalmans is reckoned.



1890            1891


Income(English Money)           2,412,938lb     2,749,340


Missionaries                          4,652         5,094


Missionaries unmarried ladies         2,118         2,445


Native Ministers                      3,424         3,730


Other Native helpers                 36,405        40,438


Communicants                        966,856     1,168,560



We  abstain from estimating in detail the

results  for 1892, as they are about to  appear,

and still  less  for the year 1893, but  experts

can do this  for themselves.  this only we would

say, that  the  number  of  native  communicants

added in  those  two years has been very  large,

especially  in  India.   Allowing for  that,  we

should place them now at 1,300,000 which gives a

native Christian community of 5,200,000 gathered

out of all non-Catholic lands.


Dean Vahl’s statistics are drawn from the

reports of 304 mission societies and agencies in

1891, beginning  with  Cromwell’s   New  England

Company, for America, in 1649.  On the following

page the  details are summarised from  seventeen

lands of  Reformed  Christendom.    The   amount

raised in  1891 by the 160 Mission Churches  and

Societies  of the British Empire was 1,659,830lb

and by the  57  of the United States of  America

786,992lb.   Together  the   two  great  English

speaking   peoples  spent   2,446,822lb  on  the

evangelisation  of the non-Christian world.  The

balance  302,518 was contributed by Germany  and

Switzerland,   Netherlands,   Denmark,   France,

Norway, Sweden, Finland and in Asia.”


It  is  not possible to give any idea  of

the resources  now utilized in the cause because

they are  not published.  But we have sufficient

data to  know  how  many years it has  taken  to

produce these 6 millions of converts.
































Four principal objections have been urged

by the opponents  against the conversion of  the



  1. What  can the Untouchables  gain  by

conversion?   Conversion  can make no change  in

the status of the Untouchables.


  1. All   religions   are  true,   all

religions  are  good.  To change religion  is  a



iii.   The conversion of the Untouchables

is political in its nature.


  1. The conversion of the  Untouchables

is not genuine as it is not based on faith.


It   cannot   take   much   argument   to

demonstrate  that the objections are puerile and



To   take  the   last  objection   first.

History  abounds with cases where conversion has

taken place  without any religious motive.  What

was the  nature of its conversion of Clovis  and

his subjects to Christianity?  How did Ethelbert

and his Kentish subjects become Christians?  Was

there a  religious  motive  which  led  them  to

accept the new religion?  Speaking on the nature

of conversions  to  Christianity that had  taken

place during the middle ages Rev.Reichel says:4


“One  after another the nations of Europe

are converted to the faith;  their conversion is

seen always  to  proceed from above, never  from

below.  Clovis yields to the bishop Remigius and

forthwith he is followed by the Baptism of 3,000

Franks.   Ethelbert  yields  to the  mission  of

Augustine  and  forthwith all Kent  follows  his

example;   when his son Eadbald apostatizes, the

men of Kent  apostatise  with   him.   Essex  is

finally  won by the conversion of King Sigebert,

who under  the influence of another king,  Oswy,

allows himself  to be baptised.   Northumberland

is temporarily  gained by the conversion of  its

king, Edwin,  but falls away as soon as Edwin is

dead.  It  a new accepts the faith, when another

king, Oswald,  promotes  its diffusion.  In  the

conversion of Germany, a bishop, Boniface, plays

a prominent  part, in close connection with  the

princes  of  the  country,  Charles  Martel  and

Pepin;   the latter, in return for his patronage

receiving at Soissons the Church’s sanction to a

violent act of usurpation.  Denmark is gained by

the conversion of its kings, Herald Krag, Herald

Blastand  and Canute, Sweden by that of the  two

Olofs;   and  Russian, by the conversion of  its

sovereign,  Vladimir.   Everywhere  Christianity

addresses  itself  first to kings  and  princes;

everywhere  the bishops and abbots appear as its

only representatives.


Nor  was  this all, for where a king  had

once been  gained, no obstacle by the  Mediaeval

missionaries  to  the  immediate  indiscriminate

baptism   of  his   subjects.   Three   thousand

warriors  of  Clovis  following the  example  of

their king,  were at once admitted to the sacred

rite;  the  subjects of Ethelbert were  baptised

in numbers after the conversion of their prince,

without   preparation,  and   with  hardly   any

instruction.   The Germans only were less  hasty

in following  the example of others.  In Russia,

so great  was the number of those who crowded to

be baptised  after the baptism of Vladimir, that

the sacrament had to be administered to hundreds

at a time.”


History  records  cases where  conversion

has taken  place  as a result of  compulsion  or



Today  religion  has  become a  piece  of

ancestral  property.   It passes from father  to

son so does  inheritance.   What genuineness  is

there in   such   cases  of   conversion?    The

conversion  of  the Untouchables if it did  take

place would  take after full deliberation of the

value of   religion  and  the   virtue  of   the

different  religions.  How can such a conversion

be said  to be not a genuine conversion?  On the

            other hand,  it  would  be  the  first  case  in

            history  of genuine conversion.  It is therefore

difficult  to understand why the genuineness  of

the conversion  of  the Untouchables  should  be

doubted by anybody.


The  third objection is an ill-considered

objection.   What political gain will accrue  to

the Untouchables  from their conversion has been

defined  by  nobody.   If there is  a  political

gain, nobody  has  proved  that it is  a  direct

inducement to conversion.


The  opponents of conversion do not  even

seem to  know that a distinction has to be  made

between  a  gain  being a direct  inducement  to

conversion  and  its  being only  an  incidental

advantage.   This distinction cannot be said  to

be a distinction    without     a    difference.

Conversion may result in a political gain to the

Untouchables.   It  is  only where a gain  is  a

direct inducement  that  conversion   could   be

condemned   as  immoral  or  criminal.    Unless

therefore the opponents of conversion prove that

the conversion  desired  by the Untouchables  is

for political  gain  and for nothing else  their

accusation  is  baseless.  If political gain  is

only an  incidental  gain then there is  nothing

criminal  in conversion.  The fact, however,  is

that conversion  can bring no new political gain

to the Untouchables.   Under the  constitutional

law of India  every religious community has  got

the right to separate political safeguards.  The

Untouchables  in  their present condition  enjoy

political  rights  similar  to those  which  are

enjoyed  by the Muslims and the Christians.   If

they change  their  faith the change is  not  to

bring into  existence political rights which did

not exist  before.   If they do not change  they

will retain  the  political  rights  which  they

have.  Political  gain  has no  connection  with

conversion.   The  charge is a wild charge  made

without understanding.


The second objection rests on the premise

that all  religions teach the same thing.  It is

from the premise that a conclusion is drawn that

since all  religions teach the same thing  there

is no reason  to  prefer one religion to  other.

It may be  conceded that all religions agree  in

holding  that the meaning of life is to be found

in the pursuit  of ‘good’.  Up to this point the

validity  of  the premise may be conceded.   But

when the  premise  goes beyond and asserts  that

because of this there is no reason to prefer one

religion to another it becomes a false premise.


Religions  may be alike in that they  all

teach that the meaning of life is to be found in

the pursuit  of  ‘good’.  But religions are  not

alike in  their answers to the question ‘What is

good?’ In  this  they   certainly  differ.   One

religion holds that brotherhood is good, another

caste and untouchability is good.


There  is  another respect in  which  all

religions  are  not  alike.   Besides  being  an

authority  which defines what is good,  religion

is a motive  force for the promotion and  spread

of the ‘good’.   Are all religions agreed in the

means and   methods   they   advocate  for   the

promotion and spread of good?  As pointed out by

Prof.Tiele, religion is:5


“One  of  the  mightiest  motors  in  the

history of mankind, which formed as well as tore

asunder  nations,  united  as  well  as  divided

empires, which sanctioned the most atrocious and

barbarous  deeds,  the  most  libinous  customs,

inspired  the  most admirable acts  of  heroism,

self renunciation,    and     devotion,    which

occasioned  the most sanguinary wars, rebellions

and persecutions,  as well as brought about  the

freedom  happiness  and peace of nations-at  one

time a partisan  of tyranny, at another breaking

its chain,   now  calling   into  existence  and

fostering a new and brilliant civilization, then

the deadly foe to progress, science and art.”


Apart  from these oscillations there  are

permanent   differences   in   the  methods   of

promoting  good as they conceive it.  Are  there

not religions  which  a advocate violence?   Are

there not religions which advocate non-violence?

Given these  facts  how can it be said that  all

religions are the same and there is no reason to

prefer one to the other.


In raising the second objection the Hindu

is merely  trying  to  avoid an  examination  of

Hinduism  on its merits.  It is an extraordinary

thing that  in  the controversy over  conversion

not a single  Hindu  has  had   the  courage  to

challenge  the Untouchables to say what is wrong

with Hinduism.   The  Hindu  is  merely   taking

shelter  under  the  attitude generated  by  the

science of comparative religion.  The science of

comparative   religions  has   broken  down  the

arrogant  claims of all revealed religions  that

they alone are true and all others which are not

the results  of  revelation   are  false.   That

revelation  was  too arbitrary,  too  capricious

test to  be  accepted for distinguishing a  true

religion  from  a false was undoubtedly a  great

service   which  the   science  of   comparative

religion  has rendered to the cause of religion.

But it must  be  said  to be discredit  of  that

science   that  it  has   created  the   general

impression that all religions are good and there

is no use and purpose in discriminating them.


The first objection is the only objection

which is  worthy of serious consideration.   The

objection   proceeds  on   the  assumption  that

religion is a purely personal matter between man

and God.  It is supernatural.  It has nothing to

do with  social.   The  argument   is  no  doubt

sensible.   But its foundations are quite false.

At any rate,  it is a one-sided view of religion

and that  too based on aspects of religion which

are purely historical and not fundamental.


To  understand the function and  purposes

of religion it is necessary to separate religion

from theology.   The primary things in  religion

are the usages, practices and observances, rites

and rituals.   Theology is secondary.  It object

is merely  to  nationalize them.  As  stated  by

Prof Robertson Smith in his book The Religion of

the Semites:


“Ritual   and  practical   usages   were,

strictly  speaking  the  sum  total  of  ancient

religions.   Religion in primitive times was not

a system belief with practical applications;  it

was a body  of  fixed traditional practices,  to

which every  member  of society conformed  as  a

matter of  courage, Men would not be men if they

agreed to  do  certain things without  having  a

reason for   their  action;    but  in   ancient

religion  the reason was not first formulated as

a doctrine  and then expressed in practice,  but

conversely, practice preceded doctrinal theory.”


Equally  necessary it is not to think  of

religion  as  though it was super- natural.   To

overlook  the  fact that the primary content  of

religion  is  social  is  to  make  nonsense  of

religion.  The Savage society was concerned with

life and  the  preservation  of life and  it  is

these life   processes  which   constitute   the

substance  and  source  of the religion  of  the

Savage society.  So great was the concern of the

Savage society  for life and the preservation of

life that   it  made  them   the  basis  of  its

religion.  So central were the life processes in

the religion  of  the Savage society that  every

thing which  affected  them became part  of  its

religion.   the ceremonies of the Savage society

were not  only  concerned  with  the  events  of

birth, attaining  of manhood, puberty, marriage,

sickness,  death  and  war but  they  were  also

concerned with food.


Among the pastoral peoples the flocks and

herds are  sacred.   Among agricultural  peoples

seed time  and harvest are marked by  ceremonies

performed  with some reference to the growth and

the preservation   of  the    crops.    Likewise

drought, pestilence, and other strange irregular

phenomena  of nature occasion the performance of

ceremonies.  As pointed out by prof.Crawley, the

religion  of the savage begins and ends with the

affirmation and consecration of life.


In   life   and   preservation  of   life

therefore  consists the religion of the  Savage.

What is  true  of the religion of the savage  is

true of  all  religions wherever they are  found

for the  simple  reason   that  constitutes  the

essence  of  religion.  It is true that  in  the

present   day  society   with  its   theological

refinements  this essence of religion has become

hidden from  view  and is even  forgotten.   But

that life   and   the   preservation   of   life

constitute  the essence of religion even in  the

present day society in beyond question.  This is

well illustrated  by Prof.Crawley, when speaking

of the religious  life of man in the present day

society he says how:


“man’s  religion does not enter into  his

professional  or social hours, his scientific or

artistic  moments;  practically its chief claims

are settled  on  one day in the week from  which

ordinary  worldly  concerns  are  excluded.   In

fact, his  life is in two parts;  but the moiety

with which   religion   is   concerned  is   the

elemental.    Serious  thinking    on   ultimate

questions   of  life  and   death  is,   roughly

speaking,  the  essence of his Sabbath;  add  to

this the  habit of prayer, the giving of  thanks

at meals,  and  the  subconscious  feeling  that

birth and  death, continuation and marriage  are

rightly  solemnized by religion, while  business

and pleasure  may  possibly be consecrated,  but

only metaphorically   or  by  an   overflow   of

religious feeling.”6


Students  of  the origin and  history  of

religion  when  they  began their study  of  the

Savage society  became  so much absorbed in  the

magic, the  tabu  and  totem and the  rites  and

ceremonies connected therewith they found in the

Savage society that they not only overlooked the

social processes  of  the savage as the  primary

content  of  religion  but they failed  even  to

appreciate  the  proper  function of  magic  and

other supernatural  processes.  This was a great

mistake  and has cost all concerned in  religion

very dearly.   For  it  is responsible  for  the

grave misconception   about     religion   which

prevails  today among most people.  Nothing  can

be a greater  error than to explain religion  as

having arisen  in magic or being concerned  only

in magic for magic sake.  It is true that Savage

society  practises  magic, believes in tabu  and

worships  the totem.  But it is wrong to  suppose

that these  constitute the religion or form  the

source of  religion.  To take such a view is  to

elevate  what  is incidental to the position  of

the principal.   The  principal   thing  in  the

religion  of the savage are the elemental  facts

of human  existence such as life, death,  birth,

marriage, etc., magic tabu and totem are not the

ends.  They are only the means.  The end is life

and the preservation of life.  Magic, tabu, etc.

are resorted  to  by the Savage society not  for

their own  sake  but  to conserve life  and  its

exercise evil influence from doing harm to life.

Why should  such occasions as harvest and famine

be accompanied by religious ceremonies?  Why are

magic, tabu  and totem of such importance to the

savage?  The only answer is that they all affect

the preservation  of life.  The process of  life

and its  preservation  form  the  main  purpose.

Life and  preservation  of life is the core  and

center of  the  religion of the Savage  society.

That today  God  has taken the place  of  magic,

does not  alter  the  fact that God’s  place  in

religion is only as a means for the conservation

of life  and  that  the end of religion  is  the

conservation and conseration of social life.


The  point  to which it is  necessary  to

draw particular  attention  and  to  which   the

foregoing  discussion lends full support is that

it is an error to look upon religion as a matter

which is  individual,  private   and   personal.

Indeed as  will  be  seen   from  what  follows,

religion  becomes a source of positive  mischief

it not danger   when  it   remains   individual,

private  and personal.  Equally mistaken is  the

view that  religion is the flowering of  special

religious instinct inherent in the nature of the

individual.   The correct view is that  religion

like language  is  social  for the  reason  that

either is  essential  for  social life  and  the

individual  has to have it because without it he

cannot participate in the life of the society.


If  religion is social in the sense  that

it primarily  concerns  society,  it  would   be

natural  to ask what is the purpose and function

of religion.


The  best statement regarding the purpose

of religion  which I have come across is that of

Prof.  Charles A Ellwood.  According to him:


“religion  projects the essential  values

of human  personality and of human society  into

the universe  as a whole.  It inevitably  arises

as soon  as  man tries to take valuing  attitude

toward his  universe,  no matter how  small  and

mean that  universe may appear to him.  Like all

the distinctive  things  in  human,  social  and

mental life, it of course, rests upon the higher

intellectual  powers  of man.  Man is  the  only

religious  animal, because through his powers of

abstract  thought  and  reasoning, he  alone  is

self-conscious  in the full sense of that  term.

Hence he  alone  is able to project  his  values

into the  universe  and  finds necessity  of  so

doing.   Given, in other words, the intellectual

powers of  man,  the  mind  at  once  seeks   to

universalize  its  values as well as its  ideas.

Just as rationalizing processes give man a world

of universal  ideas, so religious processes give

man a world  of universal values.  The religious

processes are, indeed, nothing but rationalizing

processes  at  work  upon   man’s  impulses  and

emotions  rather  than upon his precepts.   What

the reason  does for ideas, religion does, then,

for the  feelings.  It universalizes them;   and

in universalizing  them,  it  brings  them  into

harmony with the whole of reality.”


Religion emphasizes, universalizes social

values and  brings  them  to  the  mind  of  the

individual  who is required to recognize them in

all his acts in order that he may function as an

approved member of the society.  But the purpose

of religion is more than this.  It spiritualizes

term.  As  pointed  out by  Prof.   Ellwood:(The

Religions reconstruction)


“Now these mental and social values, with

which religion  deals men call ‘spiritual’.   It

is something  which  emphasizes as we  may  say,

spiritual  values, that is, the values connected

especially  with  the personal and social  life.

It projects  these values, as we have seen, into

the universal  reality.   It gives man a  social

and moral  conception  of the  universe,  rather

than a merely mechanical one as a theatre of the

play of   blind,  purposeless   forces.    While

religion  is not primarily animistic philosophy,

as has often  been  said, nevertheless  it  does

project  mind,  spirit, life, into  all  things.

Even the  most primitive religion did this;  for

in ‘primitive  dynamism’ there was a feeling  of

the psychic,  in  such  concepts   as  mana   or

manitou.   They  were   closely  connected  with

persons  and  proceeded from person,  or  things

which were  viewed  in an  essentially  personal

way.  Religion,  therefore,  is a belief in  the

reality  of spiritual values, and projects them,

as we have  said, into the whole universe.   All

religion-even        so-called         atheistic

religions-emphasizes  the spiritual, believes in

its dominance,   and  looks  to   its   ultimate



The  function  of religion in society  is

equally  clear.   According to Prof.Ellwood  the

function of religion:


“is  to  act  as  an  agency  of   social

control,  that is, of the group controlling  the

life of  the individual, for what is believed to

be the good  of  the larger life of  the  group.

Very early,  as  we have seen, any  beliefs  and

practices  which  gave  expression  to  personal

feelings  or  values of which the group did  not

approve were branded as ‘black magic’ or baleful

superstitions;  and if this had not been done it

is evident  that  the unity of the life  of  the

group might  have  become   seriously  impaired.

Thus the  almost necessarily social character of

religion stands revealed.  We cannot have such a

things as purely personal or individual religion

which is  not  at the same time social.  For  we

live a social  life and the welfare of the group

is, after all, the chief matter of concern.”


Dealing  with  same question  in  another

place, he says:


“the  function of religion is the same as

the function  of  Law and Government.  It  is  a

means by  which  society exercises  its  control

over the  conduct of the individual in order  to

maintain  the social order.  It may not be  used

consciously  as a method of social control  over

the individual.   Nonetheless  the fact is  that

religion  acts as a means of social control.  As

compared  to  religion, Government and  Law  are

relatively  inadequate means of social  control.

The control  through  law and order does not  go

deep enough  to  secure  the  stability  of  the

social order.    The  religious   sanction,   on

account  of  its being supernatural has been  on

the other  hand  the  most  effective  means  of

social control,  far more effective than law and

Government  have  been or can be.   Without  the

support  of  religion,  law and  Government  are

bound to  remain  a  very  inadequate  means  of

social control.   Religion is the most  powerful

force of  social  gravitation without  which  it

would be  impossible to hold the social order in

its orbit.”


The foregoing discussion, although it was

undertaken  to  show that religion is  a  social

fact, that   religion  has  a  specific   social

purpose  and  a definite social function it  was

intended to prove that it was only proper that a

person if  he was required to accept a  religion

should have  the  right to ask how well  it  has

served the  purposes  which belong to  religion.

This is   the  reason  why   Lord  Balfour   was

justified   in   putting   some  very   straight

questions  to  the positivists before  he  could

accept Positivism    to    be     superior    to

Christianity.   He  asked  in  quite   trenchant



“what  has  (positivism) to say  to  more

obscure  multitude  who are absorbed,  and  well

nigh overwhelmed,  in the constant struggle with

daily needs  and  narrow  cares;  who  have  but

little leisure  or  inclination to consider  the

precise  role they are called on to play in  the

great drama  of ‘humanity’ and who might in  any

case be  puzzled to discover its interest or its

importance?  Can it assure them that there is no

human being  so  insignificant as not to  be  of

infinite  worth  in the eyes of Him who  created

the Heavens,  or  so feeble but that his  action

may have  consequences  of infinite moment  long

after this  material system shall have  crumbled

into nothingness?   Does it offer consolation to

those who  are  bereaved, strength to the  weak,

forgiveness to the sinful, rest to those who are

weary and heavy laden?”


The   opponents   of    conversion    are

determined not to be satisfied even if the logic

of conversion was irrefutable.  They will insist

upon asking  further  questions.  There  is  one

question  which  they  are always eager  to  ask

largely  because they think it is formidable and

unanswerable;   what will the Untouchables  gain

materially   by  changing   their  faith?    The

question is not at all formidable.  It is simple

to answer.   It  is  not the  intention  of  the

Untouchables  to make conversion an  opportunity

for economic  gain.  The Untouchable it is  true

will not  gain  wealth by conversion.   This  is

however  no  loss because while they  remain  as

Hindus they  are doomed to be poor.  Politically

the Untouchables  will lose the political rights

that are  given  to the Untouchables.  This  is,

however  ,  no real loss.  Because they will  be

entitled  to the benefit of the political rights

reserved for the community which they would join

through   conversion.   Politically   there   is

neither   gain   nor    loss.    Socially,   The

Untouchables  will gain absolutely and immensely

because  by conversion the Untouchables will  be

members  of  a  community   whose  religion  has

universalized  and equalized all values of life.

Such a blessing  is  unthinkable for them  while

they are in the Hindu fold.


The answer is complete.  But by reason of

its brevity   it   is  not    likely   to   give

satisfaction  to  the opponents  of  conversion.

The Untouchables need three things.  First thing

they need is to end their social isolation.  The

second thing   they  need  is   to   end   their

inferiority complex.  Will conversion meet their

needs?   The  opponent  of   conversion  have  a

feeling  that the supporters of conversion  have

no case.   That  is  why they  keep  on  raising

questions.   The case in favour of conversion is

stronger than the strongest case.  Only one does

wish to spend long arguments to prove what is so

obvious.   But  since it is necessary to put  an

end to all  doubt,  I am prepared to pursue  the

matter.  Let me take each point separately.


How  can they end their social isolation?

The one  and  the only way to end  their  social

isolation  is for the Untouchables to  establish

kinship  with  and get  themselves  incorporated

into another  community  which is free from  the

spirit of caste.  The answer is quite simple and

yet not  many will readily accept its  validity.

The reason is, very few people realize the value

and significance  of kinship.  Nevertheless  its

value and significance are very great.10


Caste  system  is an ascending  scale  of

hatred and  descending  scale of  contempt.   In

India economic  and social pressure are the main

reasons  to  convert in other faith.   Converted

tribals   have  better  access   to   jobs   and

education, which redefines social relationships.

They have   taken   basic   services   such   as

rudimentary  health care and education deep into

the forest  where even the government has yet to

reach.   Thus,  in Khondmal district, the  Khond

tribals consider themselves socially superior to

the Scheduled  Caste  Pannos, many of whom  have

converted   to   Christianity  to   escape   the

inequality.   Says a district official:  “It  is

the Panno  who interacts with the outside  world

on behalf of the Khond.  Most are poor, but when

the Panno Christian’s lot improves, the Khond is

unable to  accept  it.”  The  Panno  Christian’s

assertion  is disliked by both tribals and upper

castes;  it’s easy to engineer tension in such a










Once   he  said  that  “I  do  not   mind

untouchables, if they so desire, being converted

to Islam  or Christianity”.  In 1928, there  was

held a meeting  of the International Fellowship,

a body devoted to promoting fellow feeling among

persons of different faiths.  It was attended by

Christian  Missionaries as well as by Hindus and

Moslems.   Mr.Gandhi was also present.  At  this

meeting  the  question was raised as to how  far

the fellowship  could remain true to its  ideal,

if those  who  belonged to it wished to  convert

others to  their own faith.  In the debate  that

followed,   Mr.Gandhi    spoke.     His   friend

Mr.C.F.Andrews, writes concerning the discussion

as follows:7


“At  the back of this question, there was

a definite  challenge  to  the  whole  Christian

Missionary position in India.  Missionaries of a

liberal  type of mind had been finding great joy

in the Fellowship…..Then came Mahatma Gandhi’s

declaration.   He stated that in doing so, or in

joining  the  Fellowship,  if   there  was   the

slightest wish, or even the slightest thought at

the back  of the mind, to influence, or convert,

any other  member  of the Fellowship,  then  the

spirit of  the movement could be destroyed.  Any

one who  had  such  a wish ought  to  leave  the



On  being further questioned by Christian

Missionaries  ‘Whether  if  they  possessed  the

greatest  treasure  in the World, they would  be

wrong in  wishing  to share it’,  Mr.Gandhi  was

quick to  rebuff their presumption.   Mr.Andrews

says-“he  said emphatically;  “and he would  not

move from that position at all”.


Mr.Gandhi’s   opposition   to   Christian

conversion  is  by  now quite well  known.   And

since 1936  he  has  become   quite  a  virulent

adversary  of  all  missionary  propaganda.   He

particularly   objects  to    the   missionaries

spreading   the  Christian   Gospel  among   the

Untouchables.   His  antagonism   to   Christian

Missions  and the conversion of Untouchables  to

Christianity  is  based on certain  propositions

which have  been  enunciated  by  him  in  quite

unmistakable  terms.  I think the following four

propositions   may  be  taken  to  sum  up   his

position.   I  give them in his own  words.   He



  1. “My  position is that all  religions

are fundamentally  equal.  We must have the same

innate respect  for all religions as we have for

our own.   Mind  you, not mutual toleration  but

equal respect.”a


  1. “All I want them (the Missionaries)

to do is  to  live  Christian   lives,  not   to

annotate them.* Let your lives speak to us.  The

blind who  do  not  see the rose,  perceive  its

fragrance.   That is the secret of the Gospel of

the rose.  But the Gospel that Jesus preached is

more subtle  and fragrant than the Gospel of the

rose.  If  the  rose needs no agents, much  less

does the Gospel of Christ need agents”.c


As  to the work of the Christian Missions

he says:


III.  “The social work of the missions is

undertaken  not for its own sake, but as an  aid

to the salvation  of  those who  receive  social

service.**…While  you  give medical help,  you

expect the  reward in the shape of your patients

becoming Christians.”d


As to the Untouchables he says


  1. “I  do  maintain….that  the  vast

masses of Harijans and for that matter of Indian

humanity,  cannot understand the presentation of

Christianity,  and  that,   generally  speaking,

conversion, wherever it has taken place, has not

been a spiritual  act in any sense of the  term.

They are  conversions of convenience.# They (the

Harijans)  can  no more distinguish between  the

relative merits (words omitted?) than can a cow.

Harijans have no mind, no intelligence, no sense

of difference between God and no-God.”


Gandhi  advises the Christian Missions in

the following  somewhat  offensive terms  as  to

what would be proper for them to do.  He said;


“If  Christian  Missions  will  sincerely

play the  game….they  must withdraw  from  the

indecent competition to convert the Harijans….


“Just…forget  that  you have come to  a

country of heathens and (to) think that they are

as much   in   search  of   God  as   you   are;

just…feel that you are not going there to give

your spiritual  goods to them, but that you will

share worldly  goods  of which you have  a  good

stock.   You  will  then do  your  work  without

mental reservation  and  thereby you will  share

your spiritual  treasures.   The knowledge  that

you have  this mental reservation, i.e.  you are

expecting  a  man to be a convert in return  for

service, creates a barrier between you and me.”


“The  history  of India would  have  been

written  differently if the Christians had  come

to India  to  live their lives in our midst  and

permeate  ours  with their aroma, if  there  was



This  hostility of Mr.Gandhi to Christian

Missions  and  their  work  is  of  very  recent

origin.   I  do  not know if it  can  be  traced

beyond the Yeola Decision.


It  is as recent as it is strange.  I  do

not know  of  any declaration made by  Mr.Gandhi

expressing  in such clear and determined  manner

opposition to the conversion of the Untouchables

to Islam.   The  Muslims have made no secret  of

their plan  to  convert the  Untouchables.   The

plan was  given  out  openly from  the  Congress

platform by the late Maulana Mohomed Ali when he

presided  over  the   Presidential  address  the

Maulana pointed out it clear terms that:


“The   quarrels  (between    Hindus   and

Musalmans)  about  Alams  and  pipal  tress  and

musical  processions  are truly  childish;   but

there is one question which can easily furnish a

ground for  complaint  of unfriendly  action  if

communal  activities are not amicably  adjusted.

This is  the  question of the conversion of  the

suppressed  classes,  if Hindu Society does  not

speedily  absorb them.  The Christian missionary

is already  busy  and no one quarrels with  him.

But the moment some Muslim missionary society is

organized  for  the same purpose there is  every

likelihood  of an outcry in the Hindu press.  It

has been  suggested to me by an influential  and

wealthy  gentleman  who  is able to  organize  a

(Muslim) missionary society on a large scale for

the conversion  of the suppressed classes,  that

it should be possible to reach a settlement with

leading  Hindu gentlemen and divide the  country

into separate  areas  where   Hindu  and  Muslim

missionaries  could  respectively   work,   each

community  preparing  for each year,  or  longer

unit of  time, if necessary, an estimate of  the

numbers  it  is prepared to absorb, or  convert.

These estimates  would,  of course, be based  on

the number  of  workers  and funds each  had  to

spare, and  tested by the actual figures of  the

previous  period.   In this way  each  community

would be  free to do the work of absorption  and

conversion, or rather of reform, without chances

of collision with one another.”


Nothing  can be more explicit than  this.

Nothing can be more businesslike and nothing can

be more  materialistic  than this  pronouncement

from the  Congress platform.  But I am not aware

that Mr.Gandhi  has ever condemned it in the way

in which  he  now  condemns   the  endeavour  of

Christian  Missions to convert the Untouchables.

Nobody from Gandhi’s camp protested against this

outrageous  suggestion.  Probably they could not

because the Congress Hindus believed that it was

their duty  to help the Musalmans to fulfil what

they regarded  as their religious duty, and that

conversion is a religious duty with the Musalman

nobody can  deny.  At any rate the Hindu leaders

of Congress, as stated by George Joseph in 1920,

held “that  it  was  the religious duty  of  the

Hindus to help Muslims in the maintenance of the

Turkish   Khilafat  over  the   Arabs   in   the

Jazirut-al-Arab  because Muslim theologians  and

political  leaders assured us that it was  their

religious  duty.   It  went  against  the  grain

because  it  meant the maintenance of a  foreign

Government  over  Arabs;   but   Hindus  had  to

stomach  it because it was urged on them as part

of the religious  duty of the Hindus(Harijan,8th

February  1936 p415) If this is true why  should

Gandhi not  help  the  Christians  to  carry  on

conversion   because   conversion  is   also   a

fulfillment of their religious duty.


Why there should be a different measuring

rod today  because it is the Christians that are

involved  is  more  than   one  can  understand.

Mr.George  Joseph was well within bounds when he



“The only difference is that there are 75

millions  of  Muslims  and   there  are  only  6

millions  of Christians.  It may be  worth-while

making peace  with Muslims because they can make

themselves  a thorn in the side of  Nationalism:

Christians  do not count, because they are small

in numbers.”


That  Mr.Gandhi is guided by such factors

as the relative  strength  of the Musalmans  and

Christians,  their relative importance in Indian

politics,  is evident from the terms he uses  in

condemning   what   he   calls  “propaganda   by

villification”.  When such a propaganda emanates

from Christian   missionaries  he   uses   other

language to condemn it.


On  the  other  hand when  he  comes  out

against  a propaganda emanating from the  Muslim

all that he says:8a


“It  is  tragic to see that  religion  is

dragged   down  to  the   low  level  of   crude

materialism  to  lure people into mission  which

the most  cherished  sentiments of  millions  of

human beings are trodden under foot.


“I  hope that the pamphlet has no support

from thoughtful  Musalmans who should read it to

realize the mischief such pamphlets can create.


“My  correspondent  asks me how  to  deal

with the  menace.   One remedy I  have  applied,

viz, to  bring hereby the vilifying  propaganda

to the notice  of the responsible Muslim  world.

He himself  can claim the attention of the local

Musalman leaders to the publication.  The second

and the   most   important  thing   to   do   is

purification  from  within.   So   long  as  the

position  of untouchability remains in the Hindu

body it  will be liable to attacks from outside.

It will  be proof against such attacks only when

a solid  and impregnable wall of purification is

erected  in  the  shape of complete  removal  of



The  ferocity  of  the   former  and  the

timidity  and softness of the latter are obvious

enough.   Surely  Gandhi must be regarded as  an

astute “respecter of persons”.


But  apart  from this difference  in  his

attitude    towards    Muslim    and   Christian

propaganda,  have Mr.Gandhi’s arguments  against

Christian  Missions,  which  I  have  summarized

above, any  validity?   They  are  just  clever.

There is  nothing profound about them.  They are

the desperate  arguments of a man who is  driven

to wall.   Mr.Gandhi  starts  out  by  making  a

distinction  between  equal tolerance and  equal

respect.   The  phrase “equal respect” is a  new

phrase.   What  distinction  he  wants  to  make

thereby  is difficult to recognize.  But the new

phraseology  is  not without significance.   The

old phrase  “equal  tolerance”   indicated   the

possibility  of  error.  “Equal respect” on  the

other hand  postulates  that all  religions  are

equally  true  and equally valuable.  If I  have

understood  him  correctly then his  premise  is

utterly  fallacious,  both logically as well  as

historically.   Assuming the aim of religion  is

to reach  God-which  I  do not think  it  is-and

religion  is the road to reach him, it cannot be

said that  every  road is sure to lead  to  God.

Nor can  it  be said that every road, though  it

may ultimately  lead to God, is the right  road.

It may be that (all existing religions are false

and) the  perfect  religion  is   still  to   be

revealed.   But  the fact is that religions  are

not all  true and therefore the adherents of one

faith have a right, indeed a duty, to tell their

erring friends  what  they  conceive to  be  the

truth.   The  Untouchables are no better than  a

cow is a  statement which only an ignoramus,  or

an arrogant  person, can venture to make.  It is

arrant nonsense.   Mr.Gandhi  dares to  make  it

because  he  has  come to regard himself  as  so

great a  man  that the ignorant masses will  not

question  his  declarations  and  the  dishonest

intelligentsia  will  uphold him in whatever  he

says.  Strangest  part  of his argument lies  in

wishing  to  share  the   material  things   the

Christian  Missions can provide.  He is prepared

to share  their spiritual treasures provided the

Missionaries  invite him to share their material

treasures “without obligation”.(What he minds is

an exchange.)  It is difficult to understand why

Mr.Gandhi  argues that services rendered by  the

Missionaries  are baits or temptations, and that

the conversions  are  therefore  conversions  of

convenience.   Why is it not possible to believe

that these  services  by  Missionaries  indicate

that service   to  suffering   humanity  is  for

Christians  an  essential requirement  of  their

religion?   Would  that be a wrong view  of  the

process  by  which  a person  is  drawn  towards

Christianity?  Only a prejudiced mind would say,



All  these  arguments  of  Mr.Gandhi  are

brought  forth to prevent Christian Missionaries

from converting  the Untouchables.  No body will

deny to   Mr.Gandhi  the  right   to  save   the

Untouchables  for Hinduism.  But in that case he

should have  frankly  told Missions  “Stop  your

work, we  want now to save the Untouchables, and

ourselves.  Give us a chance!” It is a pity that

he should  not have adopted this honest mode  of

dealing  with  the menace of  the  Missionaries.

Whatever  anybody  may say I have no doubt,  all

the Untouchables,  whether they are converts  or

not, will  agree that Mr.Gandhi has been grossly

unjust to  Christian  Missions.   For  centuries

Christian  Missions  have  provided for  them  a

shelter, if not a refuge.


This attitude of Mr.Gandhi need not deter

either the  missionaries  or  the  Untouchables.

Christianity  has  come to stay in India  and  ,

unless the  Hindus in their zeal for nationalism

misuse their  political,  social   and  economic

power to  suppress  it,  will live and  grow  in

numbers and influence for good.

















What  Christianity has achieved in  India

therefore   becomes   a   proper   subject   for

examination  from  the  points of view  both  of

Christian Missions and of the Untouchables.


That   Christian  Missions    have   been

endeavouring to provide the corpus sanum for the


people of  India  and  to create the  Mens  Sana

among those  who  have  entered   the  fold   is

undeniable.  It would be difficult in this place

to describe  all  the activities carried  on  by

Christian  Missions in India.  The work done  by

the Missionaries  falls  under five heads:   (1)

among children.   (2) among young men, (3) among

the masses,  (4)  among women and (5) among  the



The  work  done is vast.   The  following

figures  will give an idea of the scale on which

the work for education and relieving sickness is

being carried on.



                      BURMA & CEYLON.


  1. Hospitals                    256
  2. Dispensaries                 250
  3. Sanatoriums                  10
  4. Leper Homes                  38
  5. Medical Schools              3
  6. Number of Hospital Beds      12,000
  7. Number of Sanatorium Beds    755
  8. Doctors,Foreign              350
  9. Doctors, National            390
  10. Nurses,  Foreign             300
  11. Nurses,  National            900
  12. Student Nurses               1,800
  13. Operations, Major            44,000
  14. Obstretrics, Total           32,000
  15. In-Patients                  285,000
  16. Out-Patients                 2,600,000







  1. Elementary Schools     13,330   611,730
  2. Secondary  Schools        302    67,229
  3. Colleges                   31    11,162
  4. Theological  Colleges and

training Schools           25       556

  1. Bible training  Schools     74     2,855
  2. Teacher training Schools    63     3,153









Technical & Training Schools 1,514


Hostels & Boarding Houses    1,765


Orphanages                   1,085


Creches                      228


Hospitals                    704


Dispensaries & Health Centres 1,792


Leprosaria                   111


Rehabilitation Centres       102


Homes for Aged,

Destitutes & Handicapped     455







Institution             No              Students


K.G.  &  Nursery  Schools 3,785         455,079

Primary Schools           7,319       2,326,555

Secondary Schools         3,765       1,789,104

Colleges                    240         213,392



What  have the Hindus to show as  against

this?  Historically   speaking,     service   to

humanity  is  quite foreign to Hinduism  and  to

Hindus.   The Hindu religion consists primarily,

of rituals and observances.  It is a religion of

temples.   Love of man has no place in it.   And

without  love  of man how can service to man  be

inspired?   This  is  well   reflected  in   the

purposes  and objects for which Hindu  charities

are given.  Very few people, even in India, know

the extent  to which caste determines the  scope

and objects of charities provided by the Hindus.

It is difficult  to  get full and precise  facts

relating to Hindu Charities.


That  caste can influence doctors in  the

ministration to the sick was a charge made among

certain  doctors  in Bombay in 1918  during  the

influenza epidemic.


Comparatively  speaking, the achievements

of Christian  Missions  in the field  of  social

service are very great.  Of that no one except a

determined opponent of every thing Christian can

have any doubt.  Admitting these great services,

one may raise two questions.  Are these services

required  for the needs of the Indian  Christian

Community?   Are  there any needs of the  Indian

Christian Community which have not been attended

to by Missions?


It  is  necessary  to bear in  mind  that

Indian Christians  are  drawn chiefly  from  the

Untouchables  and,  to a much less extent,  from

low ranking  Shudra castes.  The Social Services

of Missions  must,  therefore, be judged in  the

light of  the needs of these classes.  What  are

those needs?


The  services rendered by the Missions in

the fields  of education and medical relief  are

beyond the  ken of the Indian Christians.   They

go mostly to benefit the high caste Hindus.  The

Indian Christians  are  either too poor  or  too

devoid of  ambition to undertake the pursuit  of

higher education.   High  schools, colleges  and

hostels   maintained   by   the  Missions   are,

therefore,  so  much  misplaced  and  misapplied

expenditure from the point of view of the uplift

of Indian  Christian.   In the same way much  of

the medical aid provided by the Missions goes to

the Caste  Hindus.  This is especially the  case

with regard to hospitals.


I  know  many missionaries realize  this.

None the less this expenditure is being incurred

from year to year.  The object of these services

is no doubt  to  provide  occasion  for  contact

between  Christian  Missionaries and high  caste

Hindus.   I  think it is time  the  Missionaries

realized that the pursuit of the Caste Hindus in

the hope of converting them to Christianity is a

vain pursuit  which  is sure to end in  complete

failure.   Mr.Winslow, I think, is correct  when

he concludes  his survey of the attitude of  the

intelligentsia  of India towards Christianity by



“….Whilst  the  work  of Duff  and  the

Serampore  Missionaries resulted in some notable

conversions  and it seemed for a time as  though

English education were going to lead to many and

rapid accessions  to  the Christian Church  from

amongst  those who received it, a reaction  soon

set in and  the  movement died down.  Its  place

was taken  by  the  Theistic   Samajes,  and  in

particular  by the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal, which

enabled  those Hindus who through the  influence

of Western  thought had become dissatisfied with

idolatry  and  caste to surrender these  without

forfeiting entirely their place within the Hindu

system.   For many years Christian  missionaries

hoped and  believed that the Brahmo Samaj  would

prove a  half-way house to Christianity and that

many of  its  members  would in course  of  time

become dissatisfied   with    an    intermediate

position  and  accept the Christian  faith,  but

this hope  has  in the main  been  disappointed,

though a few notable converts have come from the

rank of the Samajes.


* * * * * *


What  then,  does the educated Indian  of

today, more  particularly the Brahman, think  of

Christ?   It  is  perhaps   foolish  to  try  to

generalize….Yet   there  are   certain   broad

features  in  the  picture which may  be  safely

described….There  is a wide-spread  acceptance

of the main  principles  of  Christ’s  teaching,

particularly  of His ethical teaching.  It would

be generally  conceded  that the Sermon  on  the

Mount, while  not  necessarily   containing  any

thing which  might not be paralleled from  other

sources,  is  unsurpassable as a  directory  for

human conduct….Side   by   side    with   this

widespread  acceptance of Christ’s teaching goes

a very general   reverence  for   His  life  and



On  the other hand, the claim that Christ

was and  is, in a unique sense divine is not one

which the  majority  of  Hindus, even  of  those

deeply attracted  by His life, would be prepared

to accept…(They)  would  set Him side by  side

with(their)  own great Prophet, the Buddha.  But

the Christian  claim  that He, and he  only,  is

God.  Incarnate, and that salvation is to be won

through  faith  in  Him, and him  alone,  (they)

reject as   exclusive  and   narrow…Thus   the

Christian  claim  to  possess  the  one  way  of

salvation arouses in India an almost instinctive

repugnance….The    characteristic    religious

attitude  of  the  educated Hindu  to  day  (is)

still, whilst  he greatly reverences Chris,  and

accepts  the main principles of His teaching, he

is quite content to remain a Hindu.”


I  have no doubt that this correctly sums

up the position.   If this is no then the  money

and energy  spent  by the Christian Missions  so

education  and medical relief is misapplied  and

do not help the Indian Christians.


The  Indian  Christians need two  things.

The first thing they want is the safeguarding of

their civil  liberties.   The second thing  they

want is  ways  and  means   for  their  economic

uplift.  I cannot stop to discuss these needs in

all their  details.  All I wish to point out  is

that this  is a great desideratum in the  social

work the Christian Missions are doing in India.






While  what  has   been  accomplished  by

Christian Missionaries in the field of education

and medical aid is very notable and praiseworthy

there still remains one question to be answered.

What has  Christianity  achieved in the  way  of

changing  the mentality of the Convert?  Has the

Untouchable  convert risen to the status of  the

touchable?   Have the touchable and  untouchable

converts  discarded caste?  Have they ceased  to

worship  their  old pagan gods and to adhere  to

their old   pagan  superstitions?    These   are

far-reaching  questions.  They must be  answered

and Christianity  in India must stand or fall by

the answers it can give to these questions.


The  following  extracts taken  from  the

memorandum  submitted by the Christian Depressed

Classes  of South India to the Simon  Commission

throw a  flood  of light on the position of  the

Untouchables  who  have gone into the  Christian

fold so   far  as  the   question  of  caste  is



“We  are  by  religion  Christians,  both

Roman Catholics  and Protestants.  Of the  total

population   of   Indian   Christians   of   the

Presidency  the  converts   from  the  Depressed

Classes  form  about sixty per cent.   When  the

Christian  religion  was preached in our  lands,

we, the  Pallas, pariahs, Malas, Madigas,  etc.,

embraced  Christianity.  But others of our stock

and origin were not converted and they are known

to be the  Hindu  Depressed Classes,  being  all

Hindus or  adherents to the Hindus in  religion.

In spite,  however,  of our  Christian  religion

which teaches us fundamental truths the equality

of man and  man  before  God, the  necessity  of

charity  and  love  for  neighbours  and  mutual

sympathy  and forbearance, we, the large  number

of Depressed  class converts remain in the  same

social condition as the Hindu Depressed Classes.

Through  the  operation of several factors,  the

more important  of  them being the strong  caste

retaining  Hindu  mentality of the  converts  to

Christianity,     and       the    indifference,

powerlessness and apathy of the Missionaries, we

remain today  what  we  were  before  we  became

Christians-untouchables-degraded  by the laws of

social position  obtaining in the land, rejected

by caste  Christians,  despised by Caste  Hindus

and excluded  by  our own Hindu Depressed  Class



“The  small proportion of the  Christians

of South  India, whose representatives are found

in the Legislative  Council, say, in Madras, are

caste Christians,   a   term   which  sounds   a

contradiction,  but which, unfortunately, is the

correct  and accepted description of high  caste

converts  from  Hinduism,  who  retain  all  the

rigour and exclusiveness of caste.  Particularly

in the Mofussil parts and the villages, they who

ought to be our fellow Christians follow all the

orthodox   severity   and   unreason  of   caste

exclusion;   they  damn  us   as  “Panchamas  or

Pariahs”  and ignore our Christian claims and in

the fullness of their affluence, power, prestige

and position  exclude us poorer Christians  from

society,….      Frequent       outbursts    of

anti-Panchama  activity  are the scandal of  the

South Indian  Christian  life,   and  the  least

attempt  on our part to better our lot,  forward

our progress  and  assert our elementary  rights

call down   the   wrath  and   fury   of   every

man-official   and   non-official-Christian   or

Hindu, who  claims  a   foolish  superiority  of

birth.    Denying   the   very  foundations   of

Christianity,  contrary to all love and  charity

and brotherhood,  our “fellow-Christians”  treat

us even  in  the  Churches as  Untouchables  and

Unapproachables,  and  relegate us  to  separate

accommodation  removed from their precincts  and

barricade  their portions by means of iron rails

and walls  and fencing.  There are several such



“In   the   matter    of   reception   of

sacraments,  a  most ridiculous  segregation  is

practised  to  avoid pollution;  our  claims  to

educate our children and train them for life are

ruthlessly  denied  and through sheer  prejudice

our children  are  denied   access  to  schools,

convents,   hostels,  boarding   houses,  or  if

admitted,  are assigned an ignominious  separate

accommodation.   Tracing  his descent from  high

caste Hindu  progenitors  the   caste  Christian

looks for  social status and position and  finds

factor in  the eyes of his fellow caste-men, the

Hindus.    He   treats   the   Depressed   Class

Christians   in  the  same   way  as  the  Hindu

Depressed Classes are treated by the Hindu Caste



This  is a terrible indictment.  It is  a

relief to  know  that it does not apply  to  all

parts of   India  nor  does  it  apply  to   all

denominations  of  Christians.  the  picture  is

more true   of  the  Catholics   than   of   the

Protestants.   It is more true of Southern India

than it  is  of  the Northern  or  even  Central

India.   But the fact remains that  Christianity

has not  succeeded in dissolving the feeling  of

caste from  among the converts to  Christianity.

The distinction    between     touchables    and

untoucbables  may be confined to a corner.   The

Church School  may be open to all.  Still  there

is no gainsaying the fact that caste governs the

life of  the  Christians as much as it does  the

life of the Hindu.  There are Brahmin Christians

and Non-brahmin  Christians.  Among  Non-Brahmin

Christians  there are Maratha Christians,  Mahar

Christians,   Mang    Christians    and   Bhangi

Christians.   Similarly  in the South there  are

Pariah Christians,  Malla Christians and  Madiga

Christians.   They  would not  intermarry,  they

would not  inter-dine.   They are as much  caste

ridden as the Hindus are.


There  is another thing which shows  that

Christianity  has  not been effective in  wiping

paganism  out  of the converts.  Almost all  the

converts  retain the Hindu forms of worship  and

believe  in  Hindu superstition.  A  convert  to

Christianity will be found to worship his family

Gods and  also  the  Hindu Gods  such  as  Rama,

Krishna,  Shankar,  Vishnu, etc.  A  convert  to

Christianity will be found to go on a pilgrimage

to places  which  are sacred to the Hindus.   He

will go  to  pandharpur, and make  offerings  to

Vithoba.   He will go to Jejuri and sacrifice  a

goat to the blood-thirsty god, Khandoba.  On the

Ganesh Chaturthi he will refuse to see the moon,

on a day  of  eclipse he will go to the sea  and

bathe-superstitions  observed by the Hindus.  It

is notorious  that  the Christians  observe  the

social practices  of the Hindus in the matter of

births,  deaths  and marriages.  I  say  nothing

about the   prevalence  of   the  Hindu   social

practices  among the Christians.  In as much  as

these social   practices  have    no   religious

significance  it  matters very little what  they

are.  But  the same cannot be said of  religious

observances.    They  are    incompatible   with

Christian belief and Christian way of life.  The

question  is why has Christianity not been  able

to stamp them out?


The   answer   is   that  the   Christian

Missionaries  although  they have been eager  to

convert  persons to Christianity have never  put

up a determined  fight  to uproot paganism  from

the Convert.  Indeed they have tolerated it.


The   retention   by   the  Converts   to

Christianity of Paganism is primarily the legacy

of the Jesuit  Missions which were the  earliest

to enter  the  field  in   modern  times.    The

attitude   of  the   Catholic  mission   towards

paganism  has come down from the outlook and the

ways and  means  adopted by the Madura  Mission.

This Mission  was  founded by an Italian  Jesuit

Father Robert  de  Nobili.  He came to India  in

  1. Having  learned of the failure of Francis

Xavier he  worked out a new plan.  He decide  to

follow the  footsteps  of the Apostle  Paul  who

observed  that  he must bring all things to  all

men that  he  might save some.   Fortified  with

this belief he went to the Court of Ferumal Naik

King of  Madura  and founded the  famous  Madura

Mission.  The way he started is graphically told

by Dr.J.N.Ogilvie  in his ‘Apostles of India’ in

the following passage:


“through  Madura  there  ran  one  day  a

striking  piece  of  news.  It was  told  how  a

strange  ascetic from some far land had arrived,

drawn to  the holy city by its great repute, and

that he  had  taken up his abode in the  Brahman

quarter  of the city.  Soon visitors flocked  to

the house  of  the  holy man to  see  what  they

should see,  but only to find that the Brahman’s

servants  would not permit their entrance.  ‘The

master,’ they said, ‘is meditating upon God.  He

may not  be  disturbed.’ This merely  helped  to

whet the  people’s desire and increase the  fame

of the recluse.   The  privacy was relaxed,  and

daily audiences  were  granted to  a  privileged



“Seated  cross  legged  on a  settee  the

Sanyasi was found by his visitors, conforming in

every thing to Brahman usage.  Over his shoulder

hung the  sacred cord of five threads, three  of

gold to symbolize the Trinity, and two of silver

representing  the body and soul of our Lord, and

from the  cord  was  suspended  a  small  cross.

Conversation  revealed  the Sanyasi’s  learning,

and observation  and  keen inquiry certified  to

this frugal  and  holy  life.  One meal  a  day,

consisting  of  a little rice and milk and  acid

vegetables,  was  all his food.  Soon  not  only

ordinary  Brahmins  came to see him, but  nobles

also;  and  a great bound in his reputation took

place when,  on  being invited to the palace  by

the King,  the  Sanyasi declined the  invitation

lest on  going  forth  the purity  of  his  soul

should be  sullied  by his eyes lighting upon  a

woman!  Never was a holier saint seen in Madura.

Where the  life  bore  such   testimony  to  his

holiness,  how could his teaching be other  than

true!  His  statement  that  he   was  a  “Roman

Brahman”  of the highest caste was accepted, and

to remove any possible doubts that might linger,

an ancient  discoloured parchment was  produced,

which showed  how  the  “Brahmans of  Rome”  had

sprung direct  from the god Brahma, and were the

noblest   born  of  all   his  issues.   To  the

genuineness of the document the Sanyasi solemnly

swore, and  with open minds the people  listened

to his teaching.


“Book  after book was written by the able

and daring  writer,  in  which   he  grafted   a

modified  Christian doctrine on the Hindu  stem.

Most notable of all such efforts was the forging

of a “Fifth Veda” to complete and crown the four

Vedas received by Brahmans as direct revelations

from heaven.   It was an amazing piece of daring

as bold and hazardous as it would be for a Hindu

to forge  for Christian use a fifth Gospel.  Yet

the forgery  held its place for one hundred  and

fifty years.”


“Brahman  disciples were soon freely won;

baptisms  became  fairly  numerous,  though  the

identity   of   the  rite   with   the   baptism

administered  by  earlier European  Missionaries

was disguised;   and  so far as  outward  tokens

went, the  new  Missionary method was proving  a

success.   Without a doubt progress was  greatly

facilitated    by    the    highly   significant

concessions   that   were   made  to   Hinduism,

especially  in connection with Caste.  According

to de Nobili,  caste  had little  signification.

To him it  was in the main a social  observance,

and so regarding  it  he  saw   no  reason   for

compelling his converts retained the ‘Shendi’ or

tuft of  hair which marked the caste Hindu, they

wore a sacred  cord indistinguishable from  that

of their Hindu neighbours, and they bore an oval

caste mark on their brow, the paste composing or

being made of the ashes of sandalwood instead of

as formerly of the ashes of cow dung.


“For  forty  years  de Nobili  lived  his

life:  a  life  of daily hardship sacrifice  and

voluntary  humiliation, such as has seldom  been

paralleled.   On  February  16, 1656,  he  died,

having reached  his eightieth year.  Nearly  one

hundred  thousand converts have been  attributed

to him, directly or indirectly, and allowing for

much exaggeration  their  number must have  been

very great.”


“In  1673,  John de Britto, belonging  to

one of the  noblest families of Portugal, sailed

for India.   He  is  now a saint  in  the  Roman

Catholic Church.  William Robinson of the London

Missionary  Society and belonging to our own day

said of   him, “His  eminence  as   a  disciple,

intrepid,  selfless  and enduring in  all  great

qualities   that  add  to   the  vigour  of  the

Christian life, is assured.


“He and the Christian converts, after the

disruption  of  the  Kingdom of Madura  and  the

establishment    of    petty    Kingdoms,   were

mercilessly persecuted.


“Yet  in spite of all that enemies  could

do, the  worker  went  steadily   on  with   his

accepted  duty,  and wherever he  journeyed  the

same tale  of success was told.  To the power of

the message   was  added  the   charm   of   the

messenger,  and  his converts were  numbered  by

thousands.   When  by  his  hands  a  prince  of

Marava, Tadia Tevar, was baptized, measures were

quickly  taken to secure de Britto’s death.   he

was mercilessly  done  to death on  February  4,



“Father  Joseph Beschi, an Italian priest

and successor  to  de Britto, reached  India  in

  1. Beschi  adhered  to  the  policy  of  the

“Roman Brahmans,” but in his missionary practice

differed considerably from his predecessors.  De

Nobili,  so long as it had been possible,  acted

the part  of a devout recluse, a holy Guru;   de

Britto had  been chiefly the wandering  Sanyasi,

the holy pilgrim and in their personal life both

had practised   the  greatest   asceticism   and

simplicity.   But  Father Beschi followed a  new

line.  If Hinduism had its ascetics, it had also

its high   priests,  who   lived  in   luxurious

comfort,  and  whose outward  surroundings  were

marked by  pomp and circumstance.  This was  the

line chosen  by Beschi by magnificence he  would

dazzle the  people.  When he travelled it was  a

costly palanquin.   In advance went an attendant

bearing an umbrella of purple silk, at each side

ran servants  with  gorgeous fans  of  peacock’s

feathers,  and in the palanquin, upon a splendid

tiger skin  and  clad  in rich  and  picturesque

robes, reclined the mighty Guru!  But Beschi was

no empty  headed poseur.  His method was adopted

with a full understanding of the people and with

many it  worked well.  Nor does his fame rest on

these extravagances;   it  is   based  upon  his

wonderful  scholarship.   A   born  linguist  he

attained  so complete a mastery over Tamil  that

he became  the ablest Tamil scholar of his time.

No native  scholar was his equal.  “High  “Tamil

as well  as  “Low”, the Tamil of  the  scholarly

Brahman  as  well as the colloquial language  of

the people,  were  equally familiar  to  Beschi.

Dictionaries,  grammars,  works  of  poetry  and

treatises in prose issued from his busy pen, and

they are  read  and valued to the  present  day.

When first  issued  they  delighted  the  native

world of  Southern  India.  So charmed with  his

learning was Chanda Sahib, the Nabob of Vellore,

that he  appointed  him  to high office  in  the

State, and  for  his support presented him  with

four villages  in  the   Trichinopoly  district,

which brought  in  a revenue of  12,000  rupees.

All this  fame  and material  prosperity  Beschi

loyally used for the furtherance of the Mission.

Its palmiest  days  were  in his time,  and  its

rapid decline, leading to its ultimate collapse,

dates from  about the period of Father  Beschi’s

death, which occurred in 1742.”


These  Madura  Missionaries,   in   their

anxiety  to present Christianity to the  convert

free from  any  Western customs that might  give

offence  had  tolerated   among  their  converts

several  Hindu  Customs  as concessions  to  the

converts.   Among  these  concessions  were  the

retention  of the sacred thread and the mark  on

the forehead;   the marrying of children  before

they attained  puberty;   the   refusal  of  the

sacraments  to females at certain times, bathing

as a ceremonial  purification, and other points;

and the refusal to marry and dine outside caste.

These were called the “Malabar Rites.” They were

            abrogated  on  12th September 1744, by the  Bull

            Omnium sollicitudinum  issued(Krishna   District

Manual P  282)  By Pope Benedict XIV  and  since

then every Roman Catholic Missionary is required

to take an oath to obey this Bull.  All the same

the tradition remained that pagan ways and pagan

beliefs  were  not incompatible  with  Christian



It is no doubt true that a great obstacle

in the way  of  the  Missionaries  in  the  16th

Century  was not only the evil example shown  by

bad Europeans  but  also the dislike with  which

European  customs  were  viewed  by  Hindus  and

Musalman  alike.   A wicked European  of  course

caused Scandal,  but a devout European, who  ate

beef and   drank  spirits,    offended   against

Brahmanical  and  Mohammadan tenets and  shocked

native prejudices.    Thus    Christianity   was

despised  as  the religion of the ‘Feringis’  as

Europeans  were contemptuously termed.  To  have

cleansed  the  Christian Missionaries  of  these

impurities  and  infirmities was very  necessary

and not  only justifiable but commendable.   But

it was quite  shameful  and   sinful  for  these

Jesuit Missionaries in their zeal for conversion

to have  gone to the length they did namely, not

to mind what the convert thought and did and how

he lived so long as he was ready to be baptized,

acknowledge  Jesus  as  his   saviour  and  call

himself a Christian.


What  was  the  attitude of  the  Luthern

Mission which came into the field soon after the

Madura Mission  to this great question.   Swartz

the greatest  missionary  in  India who  by  his

piety became  the  peace maker  between  warring

kings was  not a protagonist of the view adopted

by the Madura  Mission.  But did he believe that

Caste and  Christianity  were  two  incompatible

things and  that  a  true  Christian  could  not

believe  in  Caste much less could he make it  a

plan of  his life?  Whatever was his view of the

question  he  certainly  did   not  carry  on  a

campaign in support of it.


What about the Protestant Missions?  What

attitude  did  they take towards this  question?

They have  first of all an excuse on their  side

to plead  if they wish to.  That they came  late

on the scene.   So far as history goes there  is

truth behind   the  assertion   that  they  were

prevented  from  joining the field  until  1813.

This is  due  entirely to the attitude taken  by

the East  India Company towards Mission work  in

their territories in India.


The  attitude of all the European  powers

who went to India were in the beginning of their

career greatly  fired with an enthusiasm for the

conversion  of  the  Indians  to  the  Christian



Speaking  of the Portuguese they were  of

course the  most  resolute in their  propagation

for Christianity  and  suppression of  paganism.

Albuquerque  suppressed  Suti within  Portuguese

India in  1510 and anticipated William Bentic by

fully three  hundred years.  As soon as  Francis

Xavier called out in despair the aid of John III

of Portugal  for  forcible   conversion  it  was

given.   In  the  Duch   East  Indies  the  Duch

Government which was a protestant power, similar

enthusiasm  was  displayed  and strong,  if  not

drastic,  measures were adopted.  The  principle

of state   aid  for   Christian  propaganda  was

accepted  in  Ceylon  right from 1643  when  the

Dutch occupied  that  island.  The  erection  of

temples  and  pagan pilgrimages were  forbidden,

Government   appointments  were   reserved   for

Christians  and  not-attendance   at   religious

schools  treated  as  state offence.   By  1685,

3,20,000 Cinhalese had yielded to these methods.

The same religious fervour was shown by the East

India Company.   In  1614, an young  Indian  had

been brought  to  London by the Captain  of  the

Company’s ship.  The Company educated him at its

own expense  ‘to be an instrument in  converting

some of  his nation’.  His baptism was performed

at poplar.   The  Lord Mayor of London  and  the

Directors  of the Company attended the  baptism.

King James I chose for him the name of Peter and

the priest who baptized him presented him to the

Audience  as ‘the first fruit of India.’ In 1617

there took  place  in Surat the conversion of  a

Mahomedan.  Thus the career of the Company began

with conversions  at  both  ends.  In  1657  the

Directors   applied  to   the  Universities   of

Cambridge and Oxford for a Chaplain ‘the Company

having resolved  to  endeavour the  advance  and

spreading  of the Gospel in India.’ In 1698  the

Company  very  readily accepted a clause in  her

Charter  which required the Company’s  Chaplains

‘should  apply themselves to learn the languages

of the countries,  the better to enable them  to

instruct the Gentoos, who should be the servants

of the Company   or   their   agents,   in   the

protestant religion.’


Suddenly  after 1698 the attitude of  the

Company  seems  to have undergone a  significant

though gradual  change.  While the Portugal  and

the Dutch  Governments  were going on  with  top

speed the  East India Company was slowing  down.

In the very  year the Company seems to have been

of two minds   on  this   question.   While   it

accepted an obligation to train its chaplains in

vernaculars  of India so as to make them  potent

instruments of propaganda it allowed a prayer to

be drawn up for the Company which said ‘that, we

adorning  the  Gospel  of  our  Saviour  in  all

things,  these  Indian  natives  among  whom  we

dwell, beholding  our  good  works, may  be  won

over.’ This  prayer  continued  to  be  offered,

certainly  till  1750.  A close scrutiny of  the

wording  of  the prayer suggests if it does  not

avow the  complete  abandonment of the  original

idea of  active proselytizing.  This attitude of

the Company soon became a matter of controversy.

Friends  of  conversion  were   waiting  for  an

opportunity to force the Company to give up this

attitude.  The Regulating Act of 1773 and Pitt’s

East India  Act  had  put  an end  to  a  ‘State

disguised as a Merchant’ and brought the Company

the chartered  agent  of parliament to carry  on

the Government  of  the Indian Territories.   it

was provided  under the Act that the charter  of

the Company  should  be  only for 20  years  and

should be renewed thereafter.  The year 1793 was

of immense  importance since the revision of the

charter  of the Company was to fall due in  that



To  those  who favoured the diffusion  of

Christian  knowledge the task seemed quite easy.

Wilberforce, who was in charge of the matter had

secured  the  support  of important  persons  in

Parliament.   He had obtained Archbishop Moore’s

blessing,  and still more important he had won a

promise  of support from the minister in  charge

of the East  India Company’s Charter Bill.  As a

preliminary  to the passing of this Bill matters

to be incorporated  in  the charter were put  in

the form  of  resolutions  to be passed  by  the

House of Commons.  One of the resolutions passed

ran as follows:


“That  is  was the peculiar  and  bounden

duty of  the British Legislature to promote,  by

all just  and  prudent means, the  interest  and

happiness  of  the  inhabitants of  the  British

Dominions  in  India;  and that for  these  ends

such measures  ought  to  be   adopted  as   may

generally  tend  to their advancement in  useful

knowledge  and  to  their   religious  and  more



“Be  it  therefore further enacted,  that

the said  Court  of Directors shall be  and  are

hereby empowered  and  required to  appoint  and

send out, from time to time, a sufficient number

of fit and  proper  persons  for  carrying  into

effect the  purposes  aforesaid,  by  acting  as

schoolmasters,  missionaries, or otherwise every

such person, before he is so appointed sent out,

having production   to   the   said   Court   of

Directors,   a  satisfactory    testimonial   or

certificate  from the Archbishop of  Canterbury,

or the Bishop  of London for the time being,  or

from the  Society in London for the promotion of

Christian  Knowledge,  or  from the  Society  in

Scotland for propagating Christian knowledge, of

his sufficiency for these purposes.


And  be it further enacted, that the said

Court of  Directors  are  hereby  empowered  and

required  to give directions to the  governments

of the respective  presidencies  in   India,  to

settle the  destination  and to provide for  the

necessary  and decent maintenance of the persons

to be sent out as aforesaid;  and also to direct

the said  governments  to consider of and  adopt

such other   measures    according    to   their

discretion, as may appear to them most conducive

to the ends aforesaid.”


It  was  largely  due to the  support  of

Dundas that  the  House accepted the  resolution

without  demur.   Wilberforce was deeply  moved.

“The hand  of  Providence’,  he   wrote  in  his

journal,’was never more visible than in his East

Indian Affair.’  This confidence was  premature.

Because,  on the third reading of the Bill,  the

clause was  struck  out  with   the  consent  of

Dundas.   Wilberforce wrote his friend  Gisborne

“My clauses  thrown  out…., Dundas most  false

and double….”


This change of front was brought about by

the Directors  of  the East India Company.   The

East India  trade was a monopoly of the  Company

and no Englishman could enter the territories of

the east  India Company in India without license

from the  Directors  of  the   Company  and  any

Englishman  found  in  the  territories  of  the

Company  without  a  license was  liable  to  be

deported.   The  Company  did not take  long  to

realize  what the effect of the new clause would

  1. It  knew that the clause would require them

to open  the gates of India to the flood of  the

Missionaries  and their propaganda.  Should  the

Missionaries  be  allowed a free hand,  was  the

question  of  the  hour.  As  was  natural  this

became a   subject   of  a   most   interesting,

instructive and bitter controversy and those who

care to  know  it  in its details  may  usefully

refer to  the pages of the Edinborugh Review and

the …of the day.


There   were   three   parties  to   this

controversy.   There  were the Directors of  the

East India Company whose primary interest was to

protect its shareholders who were clamouring for

dividends.   The second party to the controversy

was the English Middle Class which was living on

the East India trade and whose sons were finding

new avenues   for  lucrative   careers  in   the

territories.   Thirdly  there   was  the  Church

Missionary  Society formed in the year…for the

purpose  of spreading the Christian faith.   The

interests of the first two coincided.  They were

for the  maintenance of the Empire and therefore

wanted peace  and  tranquility.  The  third  did

care for  peace but was keen on the substitution

of Indian  superstition by the Christian  faith.

The first   made  a   powerful  combination  and

obliged  all the forces against the third.   The

result was  that  they triumphed and the  Church

Missionary Society lost.  The arguments advanced

by the controversialist  on the triumphant  side

are of course  the  most important and the  most

instructive part of the controversy.


To  the  argument that the propaganda  in

favour of  the  Christian faith should begin  at

once, that  it was wrong to hold that the  truth

though sacred  should be doled out in such a way

and in such bits as to avoid all risk, the reply

given by  Sydney  Smith  was a  stunning  reply.

This is what he said:


“When  we consider for how many centuries

after Christ,  Providence  allowed  the  greater

part of  mankind  to  live and die  without  any

possibility  of their attaining to the knowledge

of the sacred  truths by any human exertion,  we

must be  satisfied  that  the rapid  and  speedy

conversion  of the whole world forms no part  of

the scheme of its Almighty Governor, and that it

can give  no  offence in His eyes if we  do  not

desert our  domestic duties and expose the lives

and worldly  happiness  of   multitudes  of  our

fellow country  men to hazard in our attempt  to

their conversion.”


“The  Directors would be doing their duty

neither  to  the  shareholders nor  the  British

Nation of  they  allowed ‘itinerant thinkers  to

preach the  natives  into insurrection….   The

natives  must  be taught a better religion at  a

time and  in a manner that will not inspire them

with a passion  for  political  change’…   Our

duties to  our  families  and  country  are  set

before us by God Himself.  We are not at liberty

to desert  them in order to give a remote chance

of conferring greater benefits on strangers at a



It  is  arguments  such  as  those  which

prevailed  with  Parliament  and   led  to   the

rejection  of  the Clause in 1793.   Wilberforce

twitted  members of Parliament by reminding them

with, their  Christianity was not a religion  of

convenience but it was a religion established by

law.  But as has been well pointed out, “for the

major portion   of   those   ‘counted’  in   the

eighteenth  century the religion accepted by the

State and Society as a convenience was something

to be used  with  fact and discretion  at  home.

There was  no  need  to  diffuse  it  recklessly

abroad.   The  general atmosphere, as has  often

been pointed  out,  was remarkably like that  of

Augustan  Rome.   To   the  statesman,  thinking

imperially,  all religions were equally  useful,

each in its proper place.” 9


The  attempt  to  open the  door  to  the

Missionaries  failed and the Missionary was shut

out from  India till 1813.  Not only was he shut

out but  the Company’s Government kept a  strict

vigil upon   the   activities  of   such   stray

missionaries  who  contrived  to   go  to  India

without their license.


In  1793  Dr.Carey went as an  interloper

without license.  As he was not allowed to enter

Calcutta   being   without   license,  he   made

Serampore,  14  miles away from Calcutta as  his

base of  operation.   Serampore   was  a  Danish

settlement   and  the  Danes   had   placed   no

restrictions   on   missionaries    or   mission

propaganda.   On  the contrary the  Governor  of

Serampore  actively helped them.  Carey and  his

Mission  was  always suspect in the eyes of  the

Companys  Government.   In  1798  the  Serampore

Mission  decided to engage four missionaries who

arrived  in the year 1800.  They went to  reside

in the Danish  settlement  of Serampore.   As  a

matter of  fact the Governor General had nothing

to do with  them.  But the unconcealed residence

of those unlicensed enthusiasts was too much for

the Company’s   Governor   General    and   Lord

Wellesley  wrote  to the Governor of  Serampore.

“Would His  Excellency  see to the expulsion  of

these interlopers   who  might  at  any   moment

violate  the  territories  of the  British  East

India Company,”  to  which the  Danish  Governor

replied   that  he  would  do  nothing  of   the

kind(J.C.Marshman   Life  &   times  of   Carey,

Marshman  and  word  vol I) Similar  action  was

taken in  1806  when Captain Wickes brought  two

more Missionaries  in  the   ‘Crieterion’  which

anchored  off  Calcutta.  Sir George Barlow  was

then the  Governor  General.   He  took  a  most

extra-ordinary  action to prevent the landing of

these two  missionaries.   He ordered  that  the

Captain be not given his clearance papers unless

he agreed  to  take back the  two  missionaries.

Although  they had gone to live in Serampore and

were in  fact under the protection of the Danish

Crown.   This  was not only a more  unreasonable

attitude towards missionaries but it was also an

attitude  which  could  not but be  regarded  as

hostile.(ibidi p-307)


The  Vellore Mutiny among Indian Soldiers

which took  place in 1806 was quite  erroneously

attributed  to  missionary  propaganda  and  Sir

George Barlow  in a panicky condition  proceeded

to put the   following  restrictions    on   the

activities of the Serampore Missionaries:


  1. The Missionaries remain at Serampore.


  1.    They  must not preach openly in  the



  1. Native converts might preach provided

they are  not  sent  forth  as  emissaries  from



The  vehemence with which the  Government

of Bengal  came down upon the Serampore  Mission

in 1807  for  issuing a tract on Islam in  which

quite inadvertently  the  prophet   Mahomed  was

called an   imposter  also   furnishes   further

evidence  of  the  attitude of  hostility  which

Government  of  the  Company  bore  towards  the



The  Government  of Bengal refuse  to  be

satisfied  with  the apologies of  Dr.Carey  and

insisted  upon  the transfer of the  Press  from

Serampore  to Calcutta in order that  Government

may be in  a  better  position  to  control  the

literature  issued  thereform.  The news  caused

dismay for  it  meant  the   disruption  of  the

mission.   As usual, the Governor of the  Danish

settlement  came  to their rescue and  told  the

frightened  Serampore Missionaries that he would

fight their  battle if the Government of  Bengal

forcibly   removed   the   press  to   Calcutta.

Subsequently  matters were settled and the order

was withdrawn.   But  the fact remains that  the

Government  of  the Company was not a friend  of

the Missionaries.


So  much  for the excuse which  they  can

legitimately  plead.  But what attitude did they

take when  they  were  allowed   after  1813  to

operate  in  the field?  Did they take the  line

that caste  must go from the thought and life of

the Convert?   The  earliest pronouncement of  a

protestant   Missionary  does   not  warrant  an

affirmative answer.


Missionaries     intolerating      caste:

Dr.Heyne  in 1814 wrote:  Missionaries, in  many

instances,  have fallen into a mistake of a very

injurious nature to their rapid or even ultimate

success.  In converting a Hindu to Christianity,

they oblige  him  to adopt a line of conduct  by

which he  loses  his caste;  this, in  India  is

considered such a disgrace, that it must present

a powerful  obstacle  to  conversion.   But  the

political  division of the Hindus is no part  of

their religious  tenets,  though it has been  so

mistaken  by the most enlightened.  In giving to

the Hindus the Christian religion, allow them to

retain their  caste, and they could be found  to

embrace   it   without    reluctance,   and   in

considerable  numbers.”(Krishna District  Manual



But  I do not wish to judge the  attitude

of the Protestant  Missions  to so  important  a

question  from  so  stray a pronouncement  of  a

solitary  individual.  There is evidence to show

that the  Protestant Missions were once early in

their career  called upon to make up their  mind

on this  important issue so that it can be  said

that the  view  maintained  by  the   Protestant

Mission  is  a considered view.  The  time  when

this issue  was discussed seriously was the time

when Rev.Heber  was  appointed   the  Bishop  of

Calcutta.   He  assumed his duties in  the  year

  1. During   his    episcopate    he   toured

extensively in the whole of India and in Ceylon.

In the course  of  his tour, be became aware  of

the sharp  conflict of opinion among  Protestant

Missionaries  to  the question of toleration  of

caste among  converts.   He decided  to  resolve

this difference.  How he went about the business

is told   in  the  words  of  Mr.Kaye  who   has

succintantly narrated it:


“There  was strife, therefore, among  the

missionaries,  which Heber was anxious to allay.

The question had been brought before him, before

he quieted  Bengal.  He had there sought to  arm

himself  with all the information that he  could

obtain,  respecting not only the practice of the

earlier  Protestant  missionaries, but the  true

nature of  the institution of Caste.  There  was

then in  Bishop’s  College a Christian  convert,

known as  Christian David.  He had been a  pupil

of Schwartz;   and  was truly a remarkable  man.

No less  distinguished for his intelligence than

for his  piety,  he  was regarded  by  the  good

Bishop as the one of all others to whom he might

most expediently  refer for the solution of  his

doubts.   Heber drew up, therefore, a series  of

questions,  which  he  submitted to  the  native

Christian,  and  received from him a  series  of

replies,  stated not only in excellent  English,

but with  a force and precision which could  not

be easily surpassed.


“First,  with  regard  to the  nature  of

Caste, it  was declared by Christian David, that

it was,  among  the natives of  Southern  India,

“purely  a worldly idea”-“not connected in their

minds with   any  notion  of   true   or   false

religion,”  that the native converts, drawn from

the higher   castes,    were    disinclined   to

intercourse  with  low-caste proselytes, not  on

religious  or superstitious grounds, but  simply

for social  reasons;   that there  were  certain

distinctions  between  high-caste and  low-caste

persons  not by any means ideal, and that  these

distinctions  were not to be gilded over  merely

by the acquisition   of  worldly   wealth.    He

specially   set  forth   that  low-caste  people

indulged  habitually  in  an  unseemly  mode  of

speech frequently  using  coarse   or   indecent

expressions  very  revolting to the feelings  of

high-caste  men;  and that they were  altogether

less decorous  and self respectful in their  way

of life.  Learning, he said, might elevate them;

and if a  Pariah became learned he was called  a

pundit,  and respected by the Church;  and  then

his brother  converts would associate with  him,

but still  they would not “from worldly fear  or

pride” eat  with  him from the same dish.   From

the days  of Ziegenbalg downwards they had  been

wont to sit at Church in two separate divisions,

and had  communicated  separately at the  Lord’s

table, drinking  out  of the same cup,  but  the

high caste converts drinking first.  As a proof,

however,  that  these  were regarded  as  merely

worldly  distinctions, Christian David said that

high-caste  and  low-caste, among the  Christian

congregations  of  the South, were buried  in  a

common burial    ground,     and    took    part

promiscuously  in the funeral ceremonies, “as if

with the  consciousness, contrary to the heathen

nations, that death levelled all distinctions.”


“Rather   by   mild    remonstrance   and

persuasion   than  by  the   enactment  of   any

stringent  rules, which might have proved  great

obstructions   to   Christianity,    the   elder

missionaries  had  sought to mitigate the  evil;

and Christian  David  declared  that  under  the

ministration   of   Schwartz    the   evil   had

considerably diminished.  But Mr.Rhenius, of the

Church Missionary Society, a truly conscientious

and devout  Christian, had taken other views  of

the duties of Christian teachers, and had gained

over to his opinions the younger missionaries in

the South;  so that they agreed, as I have said,

among themselves,  to make the total repudiation

of Caste,  even  in its mere social  aspect,  an

essential   condition  of   admittance  to   the

Christian  Church;   and   they  had,  moreover,

spoken and    preached    against    the   elder

missionaries-even  the  most venerated of  their

predecessors-denouncing  then as “corrupters  of

the Gospel”  for having permitted such things to

soil the  purity  of Christianity.  Of all  this

Christian David spoke with profound regret.  His

own opinions were naturally inclined towards the

doctrine  and  the  practice of his  old  master

Christian  Schwartz.  The mild interference  and

affectionate  advice  of  the Bishop  might,  he

thought,  dispose  the  hearts  of  the  younger

missionaries  towards  greater   toleration  and



“Very  earnestly and very conscientiously

did Heber  revolve this important subject in his

mind.  It is in accordance with all that we know

of the character of the man, that he should have

inclined towards the more conciliatory practices

of the elder  missionaries.  But he deferred any

final decision,  until  the  opportunity  should

arrive for the collection of further information

and the   delivery  of  a  sounder  and   fuller

judgment  on  the  spot.   When,  therefore,  he

visited   the  Southern   presidency,  he  wrote

letters  of  inquiry  to some of  the  principal

missionaries  and instituted a select  committee

of the Christian  knowledge  Society   for   the

purpose of making further investigation into the

subject.   From  one  letter   written  to   the

Rev.D.Schrievogel,  though  little more  than  a

series of  questions,  the bent of his  opinions

may be derived.   It appeared to him, after much

deliberate   consideration,   that    Cast,   as

represented   to  exist   among  the   Christian

converts   on  the  Coast   was  in  reality  an

institution  differing  little in its  essential

features   from    the    social   exclusiveness

prevailing  in Christian countries.  Is there no

such thing,  he  asked  himself,   as  Caste  in

Europe?   Is  there  no such thing as  Caste  in

America?   Do not the high and the low sit apart

in our English    churches?    Do     not    our

well-dressed high-caste folks go up first to the

altar to  communicate?  Do high and low sit down

to meat  together-do  their children attend  the

same schools?   Are there no Pariahs amongst us?

In other  civilized  countries, is there  not  a

prevailing  sense  of  Caste,   apart  from  all

associations  of worldly distinction?  Does  not

the Spanish  hidalgo  wear   his  Caste  bravely

beneath his threadbare cloak?  Is the wealthiest

mulatto fit companion for the poorest white?  It

may be called   blood,  or   anything  else   in

another;   but in its essential features the one

thing differs  but little from the other.  It is

an intelligible   and    appreciable   Christian

principle that all are not equal in the sight of

God are  equal.  But it is equally certain  that

all are  not equal in the sight of Man;  and  it

is a fair  presumption  that God never  intended

them to  be  equal.  Social  distinctions  exist

every where;   and  if, argued the  Bishop,  the

distinctions  which exist among the converts  on

the Southern    coast    are    merely    social

distinctions, why should we endanger the success

of our efforts  by endeavouring to enforce a law

of equality,  which is maintained among no other

classes of men?


“In  this wise thought Bishop Heber.   He

had said  from the first, that if he could be of

any service  to the Christian cause in India, it

would be  as a moderator-that by a  conciliatory

course,  smoothing  down the asperities  of  the

over-zealship,  he might hope to do much good as

the chief  missionary;  and now he believed that

it was his  duty  to cast in the weight  of  his

authority  upon  the  side  of  those  who   had

resolved  not to pour too much of new wine  into

the old bottles.”


This  view was more forcefully  expressed

by another   Protestant   Missionary  Rev.Robert

Noble who  came out to India in 1841 and was  in

charge of  the Church of England Mission Work in

Masulipatam  made it a rule to exclude  Pariahs,

leather  workers and scavengers from his school.

Defending   himself   against   the  charge   of

introducing  caste  in  the  Christian  fold  he

defended himself in the following terms:


“The  humblest  and most pious  Christian

parents  in England would not allow their  sons,

much less  their daughters, to be educated  with

their footmen,   with  their   cooks  and  their

scullery  maids.  Perhaps I was punished oftener

by my pious  father  for stealing away  to  play

with the  boys of the village than on any  other

account;   while  in the best ordered  Christian

family I  have ever seen, the children were  not

allowed  to  converse  with the servants  or  to

descend  the second step of the stairs into  the

kitchen.  My father would not have allowed us to

mix with  the  cook’s or stable boy’s  children;

nor can  I  see it right to require of  Brahmins

that before  we will teach them the Gospel, they

must sit  down on the same form with the  Pariah

and the  sweeper.   The  requirement  is  to  me

unreasonable and unchristian.”


It  is  true  that many wise  and  devout

Christians  since Heber’s time believed that  he

was altogether wrong;  and that Bishop Wilson at

a later    period    reversed    his    decision

emphatically  pronouncing against all toleration

for the  inequities of caste on the ground  that

it was an ingrained part of Hindu religion.  But

the fact remained not only the official but also

the general  view  of  the  Protest  Missions(An

exception  must however be made in favour of the

Protestant Missionaries of America, In Jyly 1847

the American  Missionaries passed the  following

resolution  regarding  this  question-“that  the

Mission  regards  caste as an essential part  of

heathenism,   and   its   full   and   practical

renunciation, after instruction, as essential to

satisfactory   evidence  of   piety:   and  that

renunciation of caste implies at least readiness

to eat, under   proper     circumstances,   with

Christians  of  any caste.”) in India  regarding

the place of caste in Indian Christianity.


Thus   all  Missionaries    agreed   that

Christianity  should be made easy in order  that

it may spread  among India.  On this point there

seems to  be difference of kind among Catholics,

Lutherners  or Protestants.  Such difference  as

exists is  one of degree.  if there exists Caste

and other  forms among Christian converts it  is

the result of this policy of making Christianity

easy.  In  adopting this policy the Missionaries

never thought  that some day, somebody would ask

them ‘What  good is Christianity for a Hindu  if

it does  not  do  away  with  his  Caste.’  They

misunderstood  their  mission and  thought  that

making a  person Christian was the same thing as

making him a follower of Christ.





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