24/02/09

why is renuka chowdhury a chowdhury?

because a certain group of progressive kammas, prominent among them being tripuraneni ramaswamy, in the early part of the last century, had started a rationalist protest movement, a rebelllion against brahminism, ritual and caste. forget the rationalist...rebellion... part, what remains of the movement now are vague theories about how the kammas are connected with the kayasths and jats and other equally interesting formulations. why was it important for the kammas to claim kinship with those north indian communities? because it'd place them on a higher notch in the varna hierarchy- the kayasths, depending on the region, claim a kshatriya or brahmin status.

the practice, among some kammas, of appending the title chowdhury to their names started around that interesting period in recent history. not all kammas like to embellish their names with that armour- only those who believe strongly, i guess, that the kammas have been wrongly thrust with the lowly status of shudrahood.

renuka chowdhury is probably the only politician to have spoken out, admirably and consistently, against the sri ram sene goons and in support of young women's right to choose how and where they spend their free time. but i still can't see why she chooses to be a chowdhury- the rationale behind the adoption of the title chowdhury, roughly, is an endorsement of the worldview the sri ram sene advocates: every man and woman should be aware of his/her place in the hindu social order.

5 comments:

praveen said...

on an unrelated note....

It'll be interesting to see the statistics of "kammas" in prominent positions. I think they dominate more than the "brahmins". :-)

Kiran said...

The blog is a valid social comment . But it would presumptious to hold the individual guilty of her name. Perhaps it was her fathers idea and she let it be wishing not to make a statement about it.

Coming to those historical times you were referring to. I think its not a bad idea for Shudras all over India which includes powerful castes such as Kammas, Reddies, Jats to come together on a common platforms overcoming lingusitic differences. Not only will this be a force against Sanskritization (as coined by MN Srinivas) this might strengthen the values cherished by Indian constitution

Puluki said...

Most Chowdhury's I know wear their names with pride as it reminds them of their fuedal lordship and its accompaniment of power, granduer and wealth. The awareness of chaturvarna classification on castes is not evident among their formation of caste identity and it is more of a recent phenomenon among academic sociologists. After all who cares if a set of non landowning Brahmin priests have classified them as inferior in some arcane scripture which they never get to read. The Brahmin priests of the past who were dependent on the largesse of the landowner would have had no problem in re-classiying their patrons to a higher level in the caturvarna system if it benefitted them. But the Brahmin influence on these middle caste has been minimum.

kuffir said...

praveen,

yes, you would find more kammas in positions of political power in andhra pradesh. but on an average, i consider the brahmins the most secure, financially and otherwise, social group in india.

kiran,

as i pointed out, the adoption of the appellation is of recent origin- people have a choice. and as you know, the telugu surnames are inherited, the titles are an unnecessary appendage- you don't have to retain titles like 'reddy', 'raju' 'shastri', 'chowdhury' etc., and renuka chowdhury has taken the 'chowdhury' from her husband's name (sridhar or sudhir chowdhury)- more reason for her to drop it, considering she wishes to work for women's empowerment etc.,

puluki,

i disagree with you on a couple of issues- but thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Kiran,

What is this crap against Sanskritization?. Sanskrit doesn't belong to Brahmins, neither is India's cherished history and tradition.

When you try to club Kammas and Reddys under Sudras, regardless of how naive you try to pretend, your casteism came out loud and clear. Last thing we want to do is replace one evil with another evil. Unfortunately, it already happened.

 
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