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Mlechchha

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Mlechchha
#1
Some say "Mlechchha" word was used in ancient times to describe a particular set of foreign people. Maybe so. However I have seen in the rural areas of north India, Hindus using this word 'Mlechchha' to describe anyone with unclean habits, even another Hindu. In my childhood, during winters, when we children used to be reluctance to take bath, I remember my own grand father scolding us as '...are you Mlechchha!'

I think whatever be the historical origin of the word, 'Mlechchha' had come to be widely used not in the racial terms but practical terms. Mlechchha meant anyone of unclean habits, 'Ashauch'. And this was important for Hindus, since Shauch - cleaneliness - is the first Niyam of Ashtanga Marg, and a great divine virtue. In this thread, I would like to discuss, what are those habits, which Hindus would traditionally treat 'unclean'.

1. Aversion to daily bathing. Europeans as well as Arabs, were known to not take very frequent bathes. Remember the Muslim culture of public 'Hammams' and weekly baths before the Namaz of Jumma. There are paintings of Mughal Emporers being given bath by their servants. Bathing was an "occasion".

2. As a result of not bathing, bodily stink. And to fight the stink, heavy use of perfumes. Usage of heavy perfumes by males of ordinary populace, is distinctively muslim culture, from Egypt to India.

3. No concept of 'Juthan'. Once the food from the plate has been tasted by a person, in Hindu civilization it is considered not fit for consumption by other. Hindus offer the food to God before eating it. This offering is different from Christian/Muslim/Jewish 'prayer' of thanks. For Hindus, the act of eating is a holy and spiritual exercise - a Yagna indeed, and food its Samidha. Hindus eat Juthan of God and nobody else's. Food that has been tasted by another person is not fit for offering to God. This concept is alient to Europeans or Muslims. Is there a proper English word for 'Juthan'? Closest that may come is 'Ort', but even that does not express what is expressed by 'Juthan'. Likewise, Muslims don't have any concept like this. Whole Muslim party may eat from one single plate. Have you ever seen a muslim marriage feast - if you have then you know what I mean. Recently, there was a news shown on Indian News channels that at some spot in Mumbai, near a dargah, water of Arab Sea had turned sweet. They were repeatedly showing a scene where Muslims of the area had collected the water in a flower-pot (gamlaa) and all were drinking from it directly (putting their lips on it, one by one).

4. Marrying the cousins or close relatives. Hindus maintain the need to avoid marriages among same Gothra, thereby avoiding marrying a "blood" relative. Modern knowledge of genetics supports this to avoid various genetic deseases. However, Europeans and Muslims very commonly marry their cousins and other close relatives. (I read somewhere, Mumtaj Mahal was Shahjahan's real Maami - wife of brother of mother) For Hindu eye, this is incest of the first order, and very deplorable.

5. Eating forbidden food - including meat and tamasic food as a regular diet.

6. Taming animals of tamasic temparament as domestic pets. This includes fouls, cats, pigs, turkey etc.

There are many more things, but this is to start with...what do the other members think?
#2
I would suggest renaming the thread to indicate what you really want to discuss. Dr. Kalyanram is doing yeoman research into Mlechhas and their potential link to Harappa civilization.

How about Non Hindu customs and practices in India? Or Foreign customs and practices in India?
#3
Mlechchha may have historically meant a race of people - which the latest researches may dig out. But traditionally, this world has come to somehow mean 'unclean'. I was using the term in same spirit. Hard to do away the usage from the yore.

One website says regarding this term:

Mleccha: offensive meateater.
- A foreigner, barbarian, man of an outcast race.
- Any person who does not speak Sanskrit and does not conform to the usual Hindu institutions.
- A person who lives by agriculture or by making weapons.
- A wicked or bad man, a sinner.
- He who eats beef and indulges in self-contradictory statements and is devoid of righteousness and purity of conduct (according the law-giver Baudhâyana).
- Copper; vermilion.
#4
<!--QuoteBegin-Bodhi+Aug 29 2006, 01:55 AM-->QUOTE(Bodhi @ Aug 29 2006, 01:55 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Mlechchha may have historically meant a race of people - which the latest researches may dig out. But traditionally, this world has come to somehow mean 'unclean'.  I was using the term in same spirit.  Hard to do away the usage from the yore.

One website says regarding this term:

Mleccha: offensive meateater.
- A foreigner, barbarian, man of an outcast race.
- Any person who does not speak Sanskrit and does not conform to the usual Hindu institutions.
- A person who lives by agriculture or by making weapons.
- A wicked or bad man, a sinner.
- He who eats beef and indulges in self-contradictory statements and is devoid of righteousness and purity of conduct (according the law-giver Baudhâyana).
- Copper; vermilion.
[right][snapback]56369[/snapback][/right]
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Bodhi,
Traditionally the word Mllecha signifies a person who has no "Hindu Jaati". This is why it was used for foreigners who had no Jaati.

Also in ancient times a person could loose his jaati by doing or not doing a certain things.

-Digvijay
#5
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Bodhi,
Traditionally the word Mllecha signifies a person who has no "Hindu Jaati". This is why it was used for foreigners who had no Jaati.

<b>Also in ancient times a person could loose his jaati by doing or not doing a certain things.</b>

-Digvijay
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Can we identify and discuss reasons for these 'things' please?

I know one is sea voyage. Does it include boat rides? Or sea voyage to distant lands.
If the later how about land travel to distant lands?

One reason I was told was due to coming in contact with ashudh food. Thats why people used ot take their cooks along.
#6
While there was a ban on sea travel, I don't even think it was strongly enforced at all or else how come the Tamil kings had countless wars in Srilanka, also if there was such a strict ban on sea travel we wouldn't be having so many Hindus in Srilanka, I think the ban was mostly confined to the paper (atleast in the case of kings).
#7
Mlechchha and the Latin word barbarian mean exactly the same thing, someone who mispronounces. Once again shows the Indo-European connection, and the Brown Aryan invasion of Europe and establishment of Roman culture.



<!--QuoteBegin-Bharatvarsh+Aug 29 2006, 11:37 PM-->QUOTE(Bharatvarsh @ Aug 29 2006, 11:37 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->While there was a ban on sea travel, I don't even think it was strongly enforced at all or else how come the Tamil kings had countless wars in Srilanka, also if there was such a strict ban on sea travel we wouldn't be having so many Hindus in Srilanka, I think the ban was mostly confined to the paper (atleast in the case of kings).
[right][snapback]56423[/snapback][/right]
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
#8
Bharatvarsha Ji and Ramana Ji, I agree with you both.

I have never come across any authentic reference to shastras decreeing against voyage. On the contarary, Indians were pioneering voyagers up until 12th century. And as all of us would know, word "Navigate" itself may have been derived from sanskrit "Nau-gati" - "movement on sea". There are records that Chinese traders used to send their produce to India, and from the Indian ports, Indian navigators and traders used to distribute it all around the world along with the Indian produce. In Jain traditions, we can find various stories related to voyages too.

So I think, the restriction on voyage must have been introduced in middle ages, indeed due to somewhat dependence on Ashudh food or living. Also it may have been limited to only Brahmins.

ALSO, important to note. Indian Navy traders were - probably - among the first of Indians to have taken to Islam - (due to mixing with Arab traders?). It was through these neo-converted navigators that Islam spread in the Eastern Asia. Restriction on voyage was enforced as a result?
#9
<!--QuoteBegin-agnivayu+Aug 29 2006, 02:51 PM-->QUOTE(agnivayu @ Aug 29 2006, 02:51 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Mlechchha and the Latin word barbarian mean exactly the same thing, someone who mispronounces.  [right][snapback]56424[/snapback][/right]
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Agnivayu-ji, very interesting point. "Barbarian means who mispronounces."

Even in common Hindi of today, we have a world "baD-baD" (I dont know how to represent the phoenics of the sound in written word) ... but this word means speaking gibberish... Badbadana may have come from "barbar" - who can not properly pronounce.

Just Curious:
- Barbara is common female name in the west. Any links with 'barbar'?
- Mughal 'Babur'. Does his name have any link with 'barbar'?

So, again, what is the origin of word 'Mleccha'...and if we already had the word barbar, why have another word to denote same thing?
#10
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Just Curious:
- Barbara is common female name in the west. Any links with 'barbar'?
- Mughal 'Babur'. Does his name have any link with 'barbar'?
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Mughal "Babur' means tiger from babbar or sher.
Western name barbara
from thinkbabynames.com
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->It is of Latin origin, and its meaning is "foreign woman." The adjective was originally applied to anyone who did not speak Greek; it has the same root as "barbarian."<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

and
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->ALSO, important to note. Indian Navy traders were - probably - among the first of Indians to have taken to Islam - (due to mixing with Arab traders?). It was through these neo-converted navigators that Islam spread in the Eastern Asia. Restriction on voyage was enforced as a result?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

That is what I too think.
#11
Thanks Ramana. And what does Humayun mean, and Auragzeb?

About Voyage. From the history of Maldives, Malaysia, Sumatra, etc, the role of voyage is evident in spread of Islam in Indian Ocean region.

Sumatra:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Islam was well established by the time Ibn Battuta visited Sumatra in about 1350 where he found Sultan al-Malik az-Zahir "a most illustrious and open-handed ruler, and a lover of theologians." Marco Polo had found the Kingdom of Sumatra inhabited by idolaters (read : Hindus) a few years before in 1292 CE, but the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Perlak on the same island had changed from idolaters to Muslims <span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>owing to contact with merchants who continually resort here in ships.</span>
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->http://www.icv.org.au/history2.shtml

Maldives:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The importance of the <span style='color:red'>traders in the Indian Ocean by the twelfth century A.D. may partly explain why the last Buddhist king of Maldives converted to Islam in the year 1153. The king thereupon adopted the Muslim title and name</span> (in Arabic) of Sultan (besides the old Divehi title of Maha radun or Ras Kilege) Muhammad al Adil, initiating a series of six islamic dynasties consisting of eighty-four sultans and sultanas that lasted until 1932 when the sultanate became elective.

The person responsible for this conversion was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat. His venerated tomb now stands on the grounds of Hukuru Mosque, or miski, in the capital of Malé. Built in 1656, this is the oldest mosque in Maldives. Arab interest in Maldives also was reflected in the residence there in the 1340s of the well-known North African traveler Ibn Battutah.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_th...uction_of_Islam

So I think Indians on the coastal areas may have tried to renounce/avoid voyage to restrict the spread of Islamic influence into Southern India through voyages...

By the way a good resource about India's maritime history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_maritime_history
#12

1. Barbara
This onomatopoetic word, having the same meaning as in Greek, also occurs in Sanskrit originally. (MBh, R., KâTh).

2. Bâbr
This Iranic word is related to Sanskrit vyâghra, through Prakrit stages: bâghra > bâgra or bâbra.
The Chaghatay Turks (Timurids), called Mughals, adopted this Iranic word, as they had adopted more Persian elements.

3. Mleccha
This word did originally include people closely linked to the Arya culture. In the MBh king Yudhishthira and Shri Vidura could speak and understand Mleccha Bhasha, which means that Mleccha Bhasha was closely resembling Vaidika Bhasha of the Kurus.
As cultural Aryavarta was shrinking from Sindhu border (Aitareya Brahmana) to Haryana-W-UP rivers (classical Kalpasutra), the older Vaidika Vacasas developed into regional Brahmana Bhashas which around the time of Shri Panini had 2 dominant conservative Bhashas: Udicya and Pracya. The regional Bhashas (Vibhashas?) developed in the forms known later from Kavyas and seen also through the Pali Canon and Piyadassi inscriptions.
Mleccha, unattested in this form before the Shatapatha, is related to the Pali form Milakkha, a desa in Aparanta, according to the Pali Canon.
The Dhatus of both variant words have a cognate in mrakShayati or mrkShayati: to speak indistinctly or incorrectly Dhâtup.

The word was transferred from the indigenous people who didn't uphold their ancient colloquial features, customs and culture to newcomers in their areas, who were even farther away from these traditions.

#13
nice post ishwa. Welcome to the board. Do you know meanings of the words - Humayun and Aurangzeb?
#14
Thank you, Bodhi. Nice to be here.
Humayun seems to mean luck, cheerfulness (from humay, Pers.)
Aurangzeb seems to mean suitable to the throne (Pers. origin).

It is remarkable that the Mughals adopted many elements, like names, from the Shi'a culture of the Persians.


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