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
Brahman is to be known as Pure Intelligence
The vital force, is Brahman, for it is vast, being the sum total of all the gods.
Brahman, which is bliss, being knowledge as well, knows Itself.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.