I started learning Bharatnatyam almost two months back. It’s since childhood that I was interests in this form of dance and now that I’m on a break, I saw a perfect opportunity to start with it. Anyway, as much I’m into a performing art, so am into the literature. While taking lessons I kept hearing few terms and mentions of texts, one of which being the Natyashastra. I hadn’t heard of it before but almost every lesson has the mention of it from the instructors so my curiosity and interest kept growing and I finally decided upon reading it.

Now coming to the actual point. This text, when I started reading I was in awe of, wow I’ll get to learn so much about the history of performing arts, a lot of wisdom, knowledge and what not.
Yes, ofcourse this text has that (I’m still to discover, just had started reading) but what else it does have is loads of discrimination. I am just on the second chapter and each and every verse (even hemistich) is full of discriminating instructions.
So, the second chapter is about how a playhouse (for the performance) should be constructed. There are a lot of instructions on each and every step, from selecting the soil, laying the foundation to actually building up stuff. There are particular time instances (asterisms) on which a particular activity should be carried out (even the measuring of the land). Fine till now. What actually started bothering me was mentions of Varnas, how their sections will be divided, what kind of material will be used for each, what kind of food offerings will be made to Brahmins(yes, they get a lot of food in this whole process of building a playhouse) while development of a section (pillar) for each Varna. Then they go into “purity” of the body, how a disfigured or disabled can’t be in a particular ceremony or touch the soil used to build a particular structure and the likes.

It’s not just about this particular text but as I’ve grown up reading a lot of other and discussing all lot others with friends or people who read, this is present everywhere it seems. We can keep blaming humans of keeping discriminating ideas in their heads and ask them to change, evolve, get liberal but the real problem lies in the foundations and our ancient texts are one of them. If your literature (an important source of your culture and history) is going to teach you discrimination, what can really help. Now when I try to think about what could have caused such discriminations to come into existence and then prosper, one idea (which a lot of discriminators will agree to) is that perhaps this is the absolute truth, maybe discrimination is the law, it came from the Gods. But then there is another idea (which came up from a discussion with a friend, who is equally bothered with such things, while discussing the book, Sapiens) which is, perhaps the Brahmins, who apparently seemed to be the only ones getting the chance to communicate in writing (again due to some social circumstances, could have been the only people getting literate) and they made a really good use of the opportunity to cleverly secure themselves the highest authority in the culture and the benefits that comes with it. Then there were people in power, they needed to be taken cared, and hence the Kshatriyas gets the second place, who also need to assume the role of protectors for the former and similarly depending upon the convenience of the Brahmins, the places were decided for the other Varnas. I really go with the second idea, because in all these years of my life, I haven’t seen this discrimination making any sense in this current world (ahh, although due to the virtue of the social systems based out of them, there definitely are a lot of consequences which seems to a majority as actually being a justified reason for the discrimination). For me, a person’s abilities, character and the foundations of their lives makes all sense and nothing else.

(Well here I’m not talking about the reservation system at all, I really hold different views altogether for that.)

This whole thing pisses me so off that I just want to quit reading that stuff but then I really don’t want to miss out on the good side of it which is the knowledge, the wisdom that I seek in first place. That’s what a literary piece should spread ideally and not an evil of discrimination.

Maybe these systems worked fine in the times they were founded (or imagined) because of some reasons (probably because these groups were limited to their professions according to these Varnas and that’s how they were treated based on them) but the current world is not an ounce the same. It poses no such limitations then why do we keep enforcing the same systems (which actually now just exist in the names of people, literally).
But then while I give this argument, I think, if the systems were relevant then and the texts were also written then, then why would they not have a shadow of them. Why do I have to go all emotional about it, perhaps I can ignore that part as being non contemporary and just go with it. Not everything that the texts has is to be taken in inspiration and be hold accountable, we can sometimes forgive our literature as well.
So, while I’m still mad at all this, I guess I can be okay with it and go on. See ya, have a good day!!