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MLECCHAS

The Vedics referred to all alien cultures and races that were less civilized in ancient times as 'Mleccha'. The term Mleccha means;

  • The uncouth and incomprehensible speech of foreigners.

  • The unfamiliar behaviour of foreigners.

  • Denoting "impure" and/or "inferior" people.

  • Outer barbarians of whatever race or colour.

  • Those who ate Onions, Garlic, cow meat and drank alcohol.

Among the tribes termed Mlechcha were Sakas, Hunas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Bahlikas and Rishikas. The Amarakosha described the Kiratas, Khasas and Pulindas as the Mleccha-jatis. Indo-Greeks, Scythians, and Kushanas were also mlecchas.

The Vayu, Matsya and Brahmanda Puranas state that the seven Himalayan rivers pass through mleccha countries.

The Brahmanas place mlecchas outside the varna.

The Vasistha Dharma Sutra, Chapter 1 Verse 8;

The country of the Âryas (Âryâvarta) lies to the east of the region where (the river Sarasvatî) disappears, to the west of the Black-forest, to the north of the Pâripâtra (mountains), to the south of the Himâlaya.

It is said the term Mleccha occurs for the first time in the late Vedic text, the Shatapatha Brahmana, written somewhere between 3000-800 BCE.

THE SUPREME BRAHMAN

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad;

2.4.11:

Brahman is to be known as Pure Intelligence

3.9.9:

The vital force, is Brahman, for it is vast, being the sum total of all the gods.

3.9.28 (7):

Brahman, which is bliss, being knowledge as well, knows Itself.

BRAHMINS

It is said that there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system, and the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both then and later, a social ideal rather than a social reality.

The word 'Brahmin' as the person in the varna system is for the first time mentioned in the Purusha Sukta verse which is generally considered to have been inserted at a later date.

The Rig Veda Mandala 10, Hymn 90:

  1. When they divided Purusa how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?
  2. The Brahmin was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced.

Vedic yajna rituals mention four to five priests: the hotar, the adhvaryu, the udgatar, the Brahmin and sometimes the ritvij. The functions associated with the priests were:

  • The Hotri recites invocations and litanies drawn from the Rigveda.
  • The Adhvaryu is the priest's assistant and is in charge of the physical details of the ritual like measuring the ground, building the altar explained in the Yajurveda. The adhvaryu offers oblations.
  • The Udgatri is the chanter of hymns set to melodies and music (sāman) drawn from the Samaveda. The udgatar, like the hotar, chants the introductory, accompanying and benediction hymns.
  • The Brahmin recites from the Atharvaveda.
  • The Ritvij is the chief operating priest.

The scriptures say Brahmin is someone who is good and virtuous, not just someone of priestly class. Scriptures repeatedly define "Brahmin" not in terms of family of birth, but in terms of personal qualities.

Gautama Dharmasutra 9.24–9.25:

A Brahmin who has performed the forty sacramental rites, but lacks eight virtues does not obtain union with or residence in the same world as Brahman. A man who may have performed just some rites, but possesses these eight virtues, on the other hand, does.

Manusmriti 2.118:

Better the Brahmiṇ knowing the Sāvitrī alone, if he is thoroughly self-controlled [सुयन्त्रितः = suyantritaḥ = Well controlled], and not he who knows all the three Vedas, but is not self-controlled, and eats all things and sells all things.

Manusmriti 4.11–4.12:

He must never follow a worldly occupation for the sake of livelihood, but subsist by means of a pure, upright and honest livelihood proper to a Brahmin. One who seeks happiness should become supremely content and self controlled, for happiness is rooted in contentment and its opposite is the root of unhappiness.

PUROHITA

Purohita literally means, "one who is placed in front" in the rituals. It was not unusual for a purohita to be the hotṛ or brahmin at a sacrifice for his master, besides conducting other more domestic (gṛhya) rituals for him also. In latter days, with the disappearance of Vedic ritual practice, purohita has become a generic term for "priest".

By all of the above information we get to know in brief what the terms Mleccha, Brahman and Brahmin mean according to the scriptures.

Now my question is;

What other precise information is available in the scriptures, to get a profound and indepth understanding of how a Brahmin was differentiated from the Mlecchas, in the the ancient times? Were they merely differentiated by the geographical region or their language or their accent or their culture or their religion etc?

To give a sample but inadequate example of the same I would quote, from Mahabharat Book 8 Karna parva. It does not offer much understanding of the matter because much of it is said by Karna in scorn towards Shalya who has already rebuked Karna in the same temper.

Mahabharat Book 8 Karna parva Section 40:

... How, indeed, would the Madrakas and the Sindhu-Sauviras know anything of duty, being born, as they are, in a sinful country, being mlecchas in their practices, and being totally regardless of all duties? ... There is no friendship in the Madraka who is mean in speech and is the lowest of mankind. ... The women of the Madrakas mingle, at their own will, with men known and unknown. Of unrighteous conduct, and subsisting upon fried and powdered corn and fish, in their homes, they laugh and cry having drunk spirits and eaten beef. They sing incoherent songs and mingle lustfully with one another, indulging the while in the freest speeches. ... When a Madraka woman is solicited for the gift of a little quantity of vinegar, she scratches her hips and without being desirous of giving it, says these cruel words, 'Let no man ask any vinegar of me that is so dear to me. I would give him my son, I would give him my husband, but vinegar I would not give.'

I am searching for better references like from the Vedas that can give an authoritative understanding of the matter.

Edit 1:

The scope of the term Mleacchas has certainly stretched over time. We don't know when it originated. As I mentioned earlier, it was first stated in the late Vedic text, the Shatapatha Brahmana, written somewhere between 3000-800 BCE. It is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana which was composed at the onset of Kali Yuga, calculated to have occurred around 3100 BCE. It is mentioned in many more scriptures like; the Mahabharat, the origin of which occurs after the very early Vedic period, Manusmriti which belongs to the period of around 1250 BCE and 1000 BCE, Vayu purana which existed in the first half of the 1st-millennium CE, Baudhayana sutras compiled in the 8th to 6th centuries BCE. The meaning and scope has increased as time passed. Moreover in the later periods, the term got connected to the caste system attained by birth, rather than distinguishing a person by his, geographical locality, attire, conduct, attitude, culture, language, gunas, knowledge of the supreme Brahman etc. Further the later meaning of the word could be politically motivated too. Thus I would like to avoid references from the later times.

I hope to narrow down the definition of the distinction between Brahmin and Mleccha to precision, as stated by the earliest [perhaps 3000 BC] era scriptures to middle [arround 100 BC] era scriptures, with the help of feedback from knowledgeable members of the forum.

Edit 2:

Kindly allow me to remove the ambiguities in the post and limit the question to the specific problem.

During the Vedic times, knowing the supreme Brahman was the highest goal of Hindus. We know people pursued that goal, taking great pains. They shunned worldly pleasures and lived the life of a sanyasi, wearing minimum of clothes among the harsh weather conditions, taking food given as alms, owning no property. Pursuing something by shunning all worldly pleasures is no small task, while the rest of humanity lives to pursue worldly pleasures. Knowing the supreme Brahman is the essence of Hinduism. Its gravity is understood by other Hindus and they respected the pursuit of the Brahmins and they stood by them because they too knew the greatness of the Supreme Brahman but only could not surmount the difficulties, of shunning the worldly pleasures, in achieving it. But they knew the greatness of the Supreme Brahman, and that it is essential for liberation from Samsara. So they respected the Brahmins for the greatness of their pursuit. They protected them too, so that the Brahmins, as the one who knows the Supreme Brahman, were available to teach the rest of the Samsaris, the great knowledge of the supreme Brahman.

Now would the Mleccha do the same?

I.e. respect and protect the pursuit of the knowledge of the supreme Brahman?

We know from history what Mlecchas did to this land of Hindus and the Hindu Dharma, which I am least interested here. I am just raising it to show that they, the Mlecchas, were destructive of the Hindu Dharma or the pursuit of the Supreme Brahman. Hindus were not only obstructed from the pursuing Hindu Dharma they were even forced to convert to other religions.

Now since the Mlecchas were destructive to the Hindu Dharma and were incapable of comprehending the greatness of the Supreme Brahman and the greatness of the Hindu Dharma, they had to be shunned and kept at abeyance. Thus the need arose to define Mlecchas, in order to differentiate between people who respect and protect the pursuit of the Supreme Brahman and those who are derisive of, and destructive to, it. Thus whenever, different Mlecchas were encountered, they were defined for that instance and context. So we find numerous quotes from numerous contexts in the various scriptures.

This post is a humble effort, with the help of knowledgeable members of this forum, at bringing together those numerous quotes that arose due to different encounters with Mlecchas in different contexts, mentioned in different scriptures, in one place.

So the question boils down to;

Please help in enlisting the numerous and various quotes in the scriptures of the Vedic times, which define the term Mlecchas as distinct from Brahmins.

Hope I have removed the ambiguities. Please kindly help improve the post with suggestions.

Thank you.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – The Destroyer Mar 4 at 8:50
  • @srimannarayanakv It was neither my personal 'anguish on the plight of brahmans' nor my personal 'anger on demonic attitude of Mlecchas'. I was just quoting the historical context that necessitated the birth of the concept of Mleccha. – Anil Kagi Mar 4 at 8:52
  • I had expressed my opinion. It is upto you decide now @AnilKagi – Srimannarayana K V Mar 4 at 8:59
  • You should still add the 'history' tag. Also, better use Brahmin or Brahmana consistently, the title use Brahman which is confusing better change it to Brahmin. – sv. Mar 5 at 3:11
  • Sorry, @sv. Though I had added the history tag, later I felt it would be helpful, if I add tags that are more relevant than history tag. So I added others and omitted history tag. The tags are limited. I would have added history, if it were possible to add more. – Anil Kagi Mar 6 at 11:52
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What makes a Brahman comparatively distinct from the Mlecchas, according to the Vedas?

Brahmanas are considered "bhu-suras" or "earthy gods", the highest of man, whereas Mlecchas are "bhu-asuras" or "bhu-rakshasas" or "earthly demons", the lowest of man.

Manusmriti:

Elephants, horses, despised Śūdras, Mlecchas, lions, tigers and boars—represent the middling state due to the quality of ‘Tamas.’

Ascetics and hermits, Brāhmaṇas, celestial beings, lunar asterisms, and Daityas represent the first state partaking of ‘Sattva.’


Mlecchas speak the demonic language of demons.

According to the Shatapatha Brahmana, the Mlecchas speak the language of the Asuras of Patala:

The gods then cut her off from the Asuras; and having gained possession of her and enveloped her completely in fire, they offered her up as a holocaust, it being an offering of the gods. And in that they offered her with an anuṣṭubh verse, thereby they made her their own; and the Asuras, being deprived of speech, were undone, crying, 'He ’lavaḥ! he ’lavaḥ!'

Such was the unintelligible speech which they then uttered,--and he (who speaks thus) is a Mleccha (barbarian). Hence let no Brahman speak barbarous language [Mleccha languages], since such is the speech of the Asuras. Thus alone he deprives his spiteful enemies of speech; and whosoever knows this, his enemies, being deprived of speech, are undone.


Mleccha lands are historically outside of India.

Manusmriti:

But the region where the spotted deer roams by nature is to be known as the ‘land fit for sacrificial acts’; beyond that is the ‘land of the Mlecchas.’

The twice-born people should seek to resort to these countries; the Śūdra may however, when distressed for a living, reside in any land.


Mleccha religions are Asuric.

Chhandogya Upanishad:

  1. Therefore they call even now a man who does not give alms here, who has no faith, and offers no sacrifices, an Âsura, for this is the doctrine (upanishad) of the Asuras. They deck out the body of the dead with perfumes, flowers, and fine raiment by way of ornament, and think they will thus conquer that world. [Christianity, Islam, Egyptian mummies, etc].

The religions of the Mlecchas enjoin mass-rape, genocide and massacre, as similarly done by Asuras and Rakshasas.

Abrahamic Old Testament:

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.

This is against the rules of battle in Hinduism:

Āpastamba (2.10, 11).—‘The Āryas forbid the killing of those who have laid down their arms, of those who beg for mercy with flying hair or joined palms, and of fugitives.’

Baudhāyana (1.18.11).—‘He shall not fight those in fear, intoxicated, insane or out of their minds; nor those who have lost their armour; nor with women, infants, aged men and Brāhmaṇas.’


Lord Indra destroys the civilizations and armies of the Mlecchas and Asuras in order to protect the Vedic civilization:

Rig Veda:

He, Indra, gained possession of the Sun and Horses, Indra obtained the Cow who feedeth many. Treasure of gold he won; he smote the Dasyus [mlecchas], and gave protection to the Āryan colour.

Armed with his bolt and trusting in his prowess he wandered shattering the forts of Dāsas [mlecchas]. Cast thy dart, knowing, Thunderer, at the Dasyu; increase the Ārya's might and glory, Indra.

10.22.8 - Around us is the Dasyu, riteless, void of sense, inhuman, keeping alien laws. Baffle, thou Slayer of the foe [Indra], the weapon which this Dasa wields.

The word "Dasyu" or "Dasa" is another word for "Mleccha", agreed upon by even Western Indologists:

Manu 10.44 - The Puṇḍrakas, the Coḍas, the Draviḍas, the Kāmbojas, the Yavanas, the Śākas, the Pāradas, the Pahlavas, the Cīnas, the Kirātas, the Daradas and the Khaśas.

Manu 10.45 - All those races of the world which are outside the pale of the people ‘born of the mouth, the arms, the thighs and the feet,’—speaking the ‘barbaric’ or the ‘refined’ language—are called ‘Dasyu.’


Brahmanas who fall away from the Vedas, will be reborn as Mlecchas, Asuras, Rakshasas, and Pisachas.

Mahabharata:

Losing the light of knowledge, and betaking themselves to an unrestrained course of conduct, they [Brahmins] take birth as Pisachas and Rakshasas and Pretas and as individuals of diverse Mleccha species.

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  • 2
    Fantastic @Ikshvaku. I was looking for such references. Great many thanks. The 1st reference connecting with Tamas and Satva was great. The 2nd is related to the factor of language. I knew the 3rd but it's not much helpful because the distribution & habitat of antelope can't be established precisely. The 4th CU reference is again great, related to the factor of costume. The last MB quote is just fantastic, related to 'unrestrained course of conduct'. A compilation of, more such references from various sources would certainly help in narrowing down the distinction between Brahmana & Mleccha. – Anil Kagi Mar 3 at 6:15
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    English language in which we are all communicating with one another, was a Mlecchaa language, as it was harsh and unknown to the then Hindus of that time when they first met the British. It does not mean that it remained so for ever. Now we all learnt it and communicating in that language. So can we call ourselves as Mlecchaa, according to manu smriti or Satapata Brahmana.? Every quotation of that era will be having its own importance and not relevant to other periods. Only some TRUTHs have relevance cutting across time barriers. @Ikshvaku – Srimannarayana K V Mar 3 at 9:27
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    @srimannarayana k v - Yudhisthira and Vidura have also communicated in mleccha language. It didn't make them mlecchas. I don't think knowledge of mleccha language makes you mleccha – Carmen sandiego Mar 3 at 13:50
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    @Ikshvaku: That is where the problem lies. We cannot and should not pick and choose the statements from scriptures according to our own convenience. That is what I had been saying in this site. All statements made in smrities, relevant at that point of time, may be or may not be relevant to present times. – Srimannarayana K V Mar 3 at 14:28
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    @Ikshvaku: Asuric is different, but Mlecchha is different. Even among Hindus there might be Asuric tendencies and those persons can be called Asuras or demons. No problem. Further, even in the people speaking non-Sanskrit languages there are people with high values and SPIRITUALLY oriented people like David Frawley, Sister Nivedita, Dr.Paul Brunton. So we should broaden our way of thinking. I will stop here. – Srimannarayana K V Mar 3 at 14:36
1

Birth and creation

Brahmins born from mouth of Purusha

  • Rigveda 10:90:12

The Brahman was born from his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced.

Mlechhas born from the feircing cow of Vsishta.

And many terrible Yavanas and Paradas and Sakas and Valhikas, and Mlecchas born of the cow (belonging to Vasishtha), of fierce eyes

Right of sacrifice

Sacrifice is prohibited in mleccha region

  1. That land where the black antelope naturally roams, one must know to be fit for the performance of sacrifices; (the tract) different from that (is) the country of the Mlekkhas (barbarians).

Brahmins are the doer of sacrifice

  1. With holy rites, prescribed by the Veda, must the ceremony on conception and other sacraments be performed for twice-born men (Brahimn, Kshatriya, vaishya), which sanctify the body and purify (from sin) in this (life) and after death.

Nature of speech

Brahmins speak good language while mlechhas use harsh language as per the Shatpath Brahman

Such was the unintelligible speech which they then uttered,--and he (who speaks thus) is a Mleccha (barbarian). Hence let no Brahman speak barbarous language [Mleccha languages], since such is the speech of the Asuras. Thus alone he deprives his spiteful enemies of speech; and whosoever knows this, his enemies, being deprived of speech, are undone.

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  • 1
    English language in which we are all communicating with one another, was a Mlecchaa language, as it was harsh and unknown to the then Hindus of that time when they first met the British. It does not mean that it remained so for ever. Now we all learnt it and communicating in that language. So can we call ourselves as Mlecchaa, according to manu smriti or Satapata Brahmana.? Every quotation of that era will be having its own importance and not relevant to other periods. Only some TRUTHs have relevance cutting across time barriers. – Srimannarayana K V Mar 3 at 9:26
  • @srimannarayanakv in bhagwatam it is written that people of kaliyug will become mlechhas. And language not mean to English language it means that they use harsh words. – Sanatan Darshan Mar 3 at 14:07
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    @srimannarayana k v without "Mlecchic" English HSE would shut down. Scholarship on Hinduism is overwhelmingly carried out in English. the mind-boggling ambiguity of Sanskrit has to brought into Engslish before we can have any real comprehensoin of ancient works. – S K Mar 3 at 14:23
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    @SanatanDarshan: You are twisting the statements of scriptures according to your convenience. English is the language of the British and thus it is Mlecchha language. We should broaden our way of thinking. It does not mean that we should neglect our values. We should do a balancing act. – Srimannarayana K V Mar 3 at 14:30
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    @SK- scholarship of Hinduism was forcibly hijacked by British, German, Portuguese and French colonizers for the goal of evangelizing Hindus since as early as16 th century. Of course, since Swami Vivekananda the baton went to Americans. However all this while there are many many scholars in hinterlands of India, who have worked unsung for generations for upholding Sanatana in a completely indic way without any ulterior agenda like West. They are uncompromising in maintaining purity of spirit and intent of Shruti, Upanishats andAgamas.. – 9bilvapatra Apr 14 at 1:53
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The usage of the term "brAhman" in Rig Veda was to indicate the formless Almighty.

Rig Veda 2.1.2 says

tavāghne hotraṃ tava potraṃ ṛtviyaṃ tava neṣṭraṃ tvamaghnid ṛtāyataḥ | tava praśāstraṃ tvamadhvarīyasi brahmā cāsi ghṛhapatiśca no dame ||

Thine is the Herald's task and Cleanser's duly timed; Leader art thou, and Kindler for the pious man. Thou art Director, thou the ministering Priest: thou art the Brahman, Lord and Master in our home.


Dwija was the term used to indicate a person with ENLIGHTENMENT.

Rig Veda I.60.1, dedicated to Agni, mentions dwija - dvijanmānaṃ

vahniṃ yaśasaṃ vidathasya ketuṃ suprāvyaṃ dūtaṃ sadyoartham | dvijanmānaṃ rayimiva praśastaṃ rātiṃ bharad bhṛghavemātariśvā ||

As ’twere Some goodly treasure Mātariśvan brought, as a gift, the glorious Priest to Bhṛgu, Banner of sacrifice, the good Protector, child of two births, the swiftly moving envoy.


The caste connotation can not be found in earlier mandalas of Rig Veda. However, in Rig Veda X.90.12, brahmana, kshatriya, etc, were mentioned, which must be later day development.

The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rājanya made. His thighs became the Vaiśya, from his feet the Śūdra was produced.

The usage of the word dwija had been changed over a period of time.


The OP mentioned that usage of the term Mleccha was found first in Satapata Brahmana, which was composed in Classical Sanskrit, compared to Rig Veda, which was in Vedic Sanskrit.

So with the change of times, as the usage of brahmana had changed, coining of new words like mlechha might have necessitated due to the prevalent conditions of the society.

Thus, the we cannot compare the word brAhmana with mlecchha, as the usage of these terms changed over time.


One of the definitions of Mlecchhas that the OP had quoted in the question is Those who ate Onions, Garlic, cow meat and drank alcohol.

As far as I understood, Sukracharya, Balarama,Sugriva, etc , consumed alcohol. Then shall we treat them as Mlecchhas?

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  • We need to take note of the fact that the change was additive & not subtractive. Initially, necessity felt was to denote foreign language speakers. Vayu, Matsya and Brahmanda Puranas state that the seven Himalayan rivers pass through mleccha countries, which shows that the necessity was to denote the people of the nations on the north-west frontier. Later other areas were added to it but the initial areas were not taken out. Now when the question as to 'Why the people of those areas were called Mlecchas?' is raised; we will have to set out to define the word 'Mleccha'. 1/2 – Anil Kagi Mar 4 at 4:05
  • Was it because of alien lands? Certainly mountains, rivers & other geographical relief couldn’t have been the main criteria. Surely there are more innate, philosophical, spiritual criteria, which I would like to narrow down to. Indeed as time passed & necessity arose, the criterias for designating someone as Mleccha had to be made exhaustive, to encompass various kinds of people. However, the fundamental factors due to which some people were called 'Mlecchas' could not have changed. These fundamental factors must be such that they make a Mleccha distinct from the Brahmanas. What are they? 2/2 – Anil Kagi Mar 4 at 4:05
  • The core difference between Aryans (not to be misunderstood with widespread wrong meaning of "Outsiders", spread by people with vested interests) and Dasyus (which was again misquoted as Mlecchas by some people with vested interests and members like Ikshvaku), was the former were the followers of Vedic way of life and the latter were the followers of Non-vedic way of life. In Ramayana, Sri Hanuman was mentioned as person following Vedic way of life - dakshinAchari. Ravana represents vAmAchAri, non-vedic way of life. Everything lies in this issue only. @AnilKagi – Srimannarayana K V Mar 4 at 9:07

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