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Vedic literature has the same word for both man and God—purusha. The Vedic seers ritually sacrifice Purusha, the God, thereby also killing purusha, the spiritual–cultural man. This births the ‘caste-man’, who is not man at all. The caste-man is either higher or lower. A handful are superhuman: gods, priests, Brahmans. And the masses are subhuman: the Shudra. In The Shudra, Jalalul Haq conducts a philosophical autopsy of ancient Indian texts, meticulously reading between the lines to uncover the early history of caste. He shows how inequality pervaded Buddhism, Jainism and other heterodox sects, even as they tried to counter the hegemony of Brahmanism. In this clash of gods and demons, Haq attempts to extract the human.
‘This provocative classic is a bearer of audacious hope. The Shudra is a moral paleontology for our times’—Aishwary Kumar, Stanford University
‘Original and inspired, The Shudra is a brave book that should be widely read’— Uma Chakravarti, historian
‘Haq speculates a philosophical trajectory that provokes us to think the annihilation of caste’— Vaibhav Abnave, Prabuddha Collective