Medieval India should be appropriately connoted as the darkest era of Indian subcontinent. An unproductive, destructive and tumultuous journey of time which was presided over by the kith and clan of an arsonist who set The Nalanda University on fire. Violent Social schism, desecration of Temple, destruction of library and education institution, political treachery, fratricidal war among the ruling Mughal, fanaticism and destruction of civilizational value were the other stinging truth. It was a fall out of an absolutely alien culture that had invaded India.
The social cost and damage to social fabric were irreparable. A large segment of Sanatani Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain were subjected to religious persecution. Those who pinned their trust among the leader like Bappa Rawal, Nagbhatta, Lalitaditya Muktipada, Rana Sanga, Prithivi Raj Chouhan, Vikramaditya Hemchandra, Maha Rana Pratap, Raja Suheldeo Singh, Raja Krishna Deo Roy, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Veer Sambhaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Banda Singh Bairagi, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa etc defended themselves and continued with their pristine faith.
Yet many among famous Hindu Shahi in Afghanistan, Housaini Brahmin, Khokhar, Sherwani Rajput of western Punjab, Khanzada Rajput of Mewat, Menon of Gujrat and Bengali weaker Bhadralok of eastern Bengal had to change their faith to survive and continue living. Endless reams of paper authenticating suffering of these sufferers are available in record to study.
Amidst this continued confrontation, there emerged a Bhakti cult among the Sanatani followers to protect and promote the Sanatani narrative in those tumulus days. Tulsidas, Surdas, Mirabai, Swami Ramnanada, Swami Ram das Samrath, Tukaram, Ridaas, Dadu, Sada, Sen, Nabhadas were prominent among many. Important to recall the last five of these social leaders belong to the extremely weaker section of Sanatan Society. They reinvented the perseverance of Sanatani faith and promoted unity to morally defeat the invaders’ thrust. Regular delivery of sermons among the native countryside masses continued to reassure them about purity and sanctity of their traditional belief to wade through the medieval persecution.
Kafir was an abusive notation for Hindu employed by those Muslim invaders. Among many innovations, one of the words that was researched by the medieval Bhakti cult social thinkers and put into use to handle the menace of demeaning social connotation Kafir was Mleccha.
Both the words were equal in their contemptuous undertone and disgraceful repulse. The root of the two words Kafir and Mleccha had religious sanction arising from Islamic and Hindu religious reference. While Kafir was used for Hindu, Sikh Idol worshipping masses, Mleccha was used for Muslim by the Sanatan believers. Thus the two competing social religious groups had in them competing abusive slangs for each other.
The origin of Mleccha is traced to ancient India literature and religious scripture. It is a Sanskrit term referring to foreign or barbarous (even cannibals) peoples. The word Mleccha was referred to in a series of Post Vedic references. In a different time zone, while the symbolic meaning differed yet the undertone was denigrating and despicable.
No pre Vedic or Vedic reference of this term is found mentioned anywhere in Ved. Rather the first occurrence of this word happened for the first time in the late Vedic text called Shatapatha Brahmana. The Baudhayana sutras define a mleccha as someone “who eats meat or indulges in self-contradictory statements or is devoid of righteousness and purity of conduct”
Among the other oldest reference, the Vayu, Matsya and Brahmanda Purana state that the seven Himalayan Rivers pass through Mleccha countries. And that was meant about geopraphical area west of River Sarswati. The Brahmanas which is interpretation of Ved in post Vedic time places Mleccha outside the Varna System. It referred to those who are yet to convert into the Sanatan Varna system. Thus even among the oldest of religious scripture the Mleccha word has been explained with reference to uncouth and outsider character.
Parasher, a noted Jurist and Sage had narrated the geographical connotation of Word Mleccha. According to him, Mleccha desh are those areas which are inhabited by ‘primitive’ and yet to be brought under the sway of the Brahmanical, Buddhist or Jaina influence.
The term mleccha had been widely used in other language practiced in contemporary ancient India as well. In Pali which is the older version of Prakrit and mostly used by the then Theravada Buddhism, it was used as the term Milakkha. Another word called as Milakkhu evolved from another version of Prakrit for similar narrative.
The great Marathi Sant Samrath Ramdas jee who taught and nurtured Chatrapati Shivaji used the term Mencha as a tadbhava form of Sanskrit Mleccha in medieval times.
One of the widely practiced cults in eastern part of medieval days was initiated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He also used the term Mleccha to refer to those of larger groups of other religions and especially Muslims.
Despite a long era, diverse language and expanded geography, the essence of Social repudiation was still attached with the word Mleccha.
The social awareness brought about by the social leaders about this word led to the wide practice of the same in society. The traditional value system which explained the word Mleccha were like half-civilized, those who drank alcohol, ate cow flesh and believed in false God. And these practices were abhorrently forbidden to a follower of Sanatan Samaj.
In medieval India, a famous foreign visitor Al-Biruni Who had documented the historical narrative of the early medieval period and travelled to India with Mahmud of Gaznavi also referred to the use of the word Mleccha. He noted that the foreigners were regarded as ‘unclean’ or ‘Mleccha’ and Hindus were strictly forbidden to have any social or matrimonial contact with them.
Medieval Indian society was tumultuous and violent. The Social and religious conflict was routine and repressive. The violence, destruction and death was the established order for survival. There were only symbolic or no religious freedom.
Kafir and Mleccha emerged as the two competing connotations to symbolize these dark days. The History had been so abusive and unkind to some generations.
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