Why are they Tamils? Why are they all Brahmins?

A sample size of three spanning 79 years may be too small to even attempt a hypothesis.

But, thanks to Venkatraman Ramakrishnan walking away with the 2009 Nobel (after C.V. Raman in 1930 and Subramanyam Chandrasekhar in 1983), several commentators are asking why three of India’s Nobel Prize winners in science hail from Tamil Nadu—and why they are all Brahmins.

P. Radhakrishnan of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, in an interview with Shobha Warrier of rediff.com, says that there is no relation between community and scientific work, and suggests that what looks like a co-relation may be sheer coincidence; like many Nobel winners coming from a Jewish background.

Some of the salient points made by Radhakrishnan are:

# Brahmins have the benefit of cultural capital: “In a hierarchical society, cultural capital is concentrated at the top. Brahmins are at the summit of the social hierarchy. Cultural capital gets transmitted from generation to generation. Brahmins have cultural capital. The poverty of a poor Brahmin is only economic, but the poverty of an untouchable is both economic and cultural. That is the reason why where talent has to be used persistently and assiduously, Brahmins have been shining.”

# Social background of Brahmins is rich and aristocratic: “Except in Kerala, Brahmins lived an aristocratic life. Brahmins were the first to take to English education and gradually managed to monopolise it. Brahmins had a monopoly over indigenous education too. By taking to English education, they abandoned indigenous education and allowed it to have a natural death… [Except Kerala] serving society has never been part of the Brahminical mindset.”

# Brahmins picked and choose what they wanted to do: “Initially Brahmins refused to have anything to do with medical education as it involved physical contact with other castes. They took to English education and they were the first to take to literature and engineering which was not science education then. Brahmins were the “lotus eaters” and the leisure class. They had ample time to read, write and engage in cultural activities.”


The Nobel Prize scorecard of The Telegraph, Calcutta, reads 3-3: three Bengali Nobel Prize winners (Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, Amartya Sen) versus three Tamil Nobel Prize winners. (Ronald Ross, who discovered the malaria parasite, worked in Calcutta besides Hyderabad.)

Calcutta’s spin-meisters however give the debate a more parochial edge. They take pride in the fact that their City, the capital of British India, was the cradle for science than Tamil Nadu.

Much of the research that C.V. Raman did to get the Nobel was done in Calcutta, where he spent 17 years of his life; that the genius of Srinivasa Ramanujam was discovered by a British mathematician, and that both S. Chandrashekhar and Venky Ramakrishnanan, although hailing from Tamil Nadu, did their research outside the State (and country).

But they acknowledge the balance has swung from East to South thanks to the quality of students, the quality of labs, conducive atmosphere for research, resource allocation, and the “Bose Effect”.

For years, Bengal’s gripe has been the stepmotherly treatment of the four Boses—Jagadish Bose, Satyen Bose, Subhas Bose and the cricketer Gopal Bose. The problem, scientists ay, continues  over the allocation of reseources, or refusal of it, for space technology.

“The [space technology] area has become a south Indian hegemony,” said Sandip Chakrabarti, a senior professor at the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences. “All the institutes are located in the south, giving proximity to Sriharikota as an excuse. NASA, in contrast, has spread wings across the US. Whenever we go to seek grants for space research in eastern India, we are told there would be a clash of interests with Isro.

If tomorrow India is divided into north and south, it would take the south barely two-and-a-half days to conquer north India as it owns all our space and missile technology.

Also read: Just 4% of population but 7 Brahmins in Indian team?

Meet India’s newest toilet cleaners: the Brahmins

Brahmins, never quite top of the heap, now even lower

‘Hinduism cannot be saved without Brahminism’

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63 Responses to “Why are they Tamils? Why are they all Brahmins?”

  1. Janasamanya Says:

    It is a highly debatable topic. The attributions are drawn hurriedly rather than based on any fact. What about genetics? And why the talk of north-south now? It is out of place and irrelevant.

  2. Andy Says:

    Guess what ? I read this story on Rediff few hours back and was sure it will find its way to my fav blog !

  3. Curious Says:

    I’m curious. Has this author or his interviewee ever laid their hands on a book called The Beautiful Tree?

  4. Indian Homemaker Says:

    I have wondered about this too. There was a reservation of sorts for centuries… and the brahmins couldn’t help but benefit from it.

  5. Mohan Says:

    Sir.. please give me a break. “India’s Nobel Prize winners”? Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has been in US since 1971 and moved to England in 1999. Never been in India since his graduation. Are you sure he is still an Indian and not an American citizen?

    Please see this link for more info from Nobel committee itself – http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2009/index.html

  6. Raaja Says:

    This article is like Sushmita and Namitha performing lesbo act meant to just provoke and be sensational.

    People from Vanga (Bangladesh refugees) were slaves of East India company.
    Konga (Sri Lankan refugees )people were/are most obedient.

    Why is he mixing eminent scientists from Bengloor and Mother Teresa with these useless cases.

    1. “Much of the research that C.V. Raman did to get the Nobel was done in Calcutta,”
    -Does he mean if he had not done research in the dirtiest city of the country he would have been much more successful. I agree.

    2. “If tomorrow India is divided into north and south….”
    -He is still ignorant . He still thinks India is One which sings Tagore’s anthem written to praise English and SC Bose is still missing.

    My personal interaction with Bengali is quite funny. They try to act like Tamils but fail miserably. Like Tamil affliction like Koveri for Kaveri , they have same habit chakrabarti for chakravarti, the tongues just don’t help!! ultimately b for bengali, t for tamil. NI have given them tag of thinkers. With that they dare the same with Kannadiga and call them South(Dravida and Tamil)!!!

    On the contrary NI don’t allow them tobe called as Aryans, and SI don’t own them , neither they have a battalion or a warfront, still try some influence on Assamese provoking them to hit Bihari. In between they take a left turn, hiding from china, start some newspapers and news channels and write Mungaru Male Ganesh is a Goorkha as heading(Telegraph news) as if there is nothing to write about the film. I really find no words for them.

    No wonder Bangladesh is the most corrupt nation in world with such useless pseudo leftist intellectuals.

  7. oommen Joseph Says:

    Dr P K Iyengar, R chidambaram, M R Srinivasan, K Santhanam.. all nuclear specialists !!

    Just coincidence?

  8. tsubba Says:

    the list at the top is only meant for the galleries. in anycase, how good can a list be that does not mention hardwork and focus?

  9. Balaji Says:

    We shud ofcourse add Srinivasa Ramanujan to the above list of three. Forget Ramanujan getting one, getting a ‘Ramanujan’ is the challenge for young mathematicians now.

    Even more remarkable than they being Tamils and Brahmins, is that they trace their roots to the Chola kingdom. Tanjore brahmins are indeed one of the most successful communities in the world.

    Part of their success can be attributed to atleast 1000 years of royal patronage. Cholas, Vijayanagar Empire, Marathas and the British who ruled the Tanjore district in the last 1000 years were all favorable to the Tanjore Brahmins.

    But that only partly explains it. The key to any communities’ survival and success is the ability to adapt to the changing world. During the last century, Tanjore Brahmins moved almost en masse to Chennai, thence to Bombay (Chembur, Matunga), to Delhi (R K Puram) to fill the govt positions and to California/Bellueve for the silicon rush.

    There is lot of sacrifice involved in moving to far-away lands in search of knowledge and living. Imagine vegetarian Tam-brahms willing to go places! Ramanujan pretty much killed himself with his food habits. And even C V Raman might have struggled in pre-dominantly non-vegetarian Bengal.

    But when a community learns to be nimble, success invariably follows. Jews outshine Tam-brahms and we know how much they have traveled the world, Among Indians, Parsis, Jains, Gujaratis, Malayalees have all achieved considerable success becos of their ability to travel and adapt.

    As the saying goes, ships are safest in the harbor but thats not what they are made for. Communities and people who are willing to get out of their shells invariably find success. I hope one day, we’ll be talking of the Bihari/UP peoples of Mumbai in the same vein.

    ps: a better question for Churumuri to ask will be, why aren’t IITians not grabbing any Nobel or Fields? I mean, IITs have also taught core sciences for some 50 years now. Or atleast many of them have gotten into core sciences and economics in the US. The so called brain-drain should yield at least one or two Nobels, no? Or is the IIT Alumni still younger than the average age of Nobel recipients? Will we see them grabbing some in the next decade or so?

  10. Bundekyaata Says:

    This is the silliest piece of crap I’ve read in ages. First, stop shagging on the Nobel prize as an infallible metric of scientific progress. Even in the sciences, it is highly biased, political and idiosyncratic.

    Second, the kind of reasoning in this article is gold-standard cargo cult science. Prof. Chakrabarti is also likely to claim that Frederick Reines, who won the Nobel prize for detecting neutrinos, actually did so because by being in the US, he was closer to the sun.

  11. Serenity Says:

    India does not take pride in the brilliance of her children. She takes pride in their caste.

    Venky Ramakrishnan’s acheivement belongs to the US, not to India. India’s contribution in his life is the primary education that he got here which fortunately is not covered by Reservation.

    There are a whole lot of poor brahmins, who will never have a voice in India. The few who move ahead do so because like the Jews they are academically hard working. The three reasons given by Radhakrishnan almost seem like it is a breeze for brahmins to win a Nobel. It sure is not. Radhakrishnan’s arguments lie in the past, not in the present. Despite the lack of any reservation quota or monetary benefits that the SC’s and ST’s get from the government or any other government partronage, they forge ahead simply because of their brilliance.

    It is so petty to bring caste into this matter. We have to learn to appreciate true brilliance.

  12. Hiker Says:

    Think about why Obama got the Nobel and not others who have done some real work. That should partly answer your question about IITians not grabbing Nobels.

  13. Alok Says:

    A Nobel prize is not awarded to Jews, TamBrams or Bongs or any community.

    It is an individual award, for individual achievement.

    Trying to slot winners into their respective castes, regions, languages, skin colours, hair colours, and favourite boy band is silly and a stupid waste of time.

    What is more relevant is that there hasn’t been a scientist since CV Raman who has won his Nobel for having done his award winning research in an Indian institution. In contrast, persons born in various countries continue to end up in Cambridge and Oxford and Harvard and Yale from where they undertake path breaking research and win their Nobel prizes. I think we have known the answer for a couple of decades now and the sooner Indian academics get over their denial the better.

  14. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Harvard prof. Steven Pinker (who btw is a Jew) analyzes the issues and gives possible answers:


    BTW the statistics for the Ashkenazi Jews esp. at the very highest levels of getting awards for intellectual activity cannot be waved away easily as just co-incidence etc. (just as those of the Tam-Brams of India):

  15. curdriceaurora Says:

    As an aside, I propose using thumbs up – down rating system for comments as well.

  16. Pai Says:

    I can send a few more question to Author!

    1. Why most of the Indian IT guys in US are from Andhra Pradesh?
    2. Why most of the Taxi drivers in USA are from Punjab?
    3. Why most of the gas stations in USA are owned by Punjabi people?
    4. Why most of the grocerry stores in USA are owned by Gujarathi people?
    5. Why is I don’t find any Kannada CD/DVDs in the local video stores here in US when I can find hundreds and hundreds of Hindi/Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam ones?

  17. dharma Says:

    So the next aspirent will be PD Dinakaran. Let the percentage be maintained, we should tell the concerned committee, otherwise……….!

  18. chic Says:

    why is Churmuris standards declining day by day?

    I dont understand why all the blogs and news channels are losing their minds over tamil-bengali-kerala and brahmin-non brahmin crap?!!


    and oh my God……

    “If tomorrow India is divided into north and south, it would take the south barely two-and-a-half days to conquer north India as it owns all our space and missile technology.”

    Could this Radhakrishnan guy be anymore Pathetic? What attitude!

  19. chenchu Says:

    One of the stupidest articles…. Scientists of the highest class have emerged from all parts of the country. Our west-obsessed media tends to project “achievements” like the N-prize to the exclusion of every other meaningful consideration like scientific excellence, output etc. No one talks about george sudarshan, harish chandra etc whose work is highly respected.

    Sadly, churumuri has also stooped to this level.

  20. Aloknath Says:


    I gather from the above link that he’s not an Indian citizen. So lets all forget him and not tarnish the achievements of CV Raman and S. Chandrasekhar who actually got the prize to India.

    I repeat again, HE”S NOT AN INDIAN AND DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME CONGRATULATING HIM. There is nothing to gain out of it for India, Tamil Nadu, Tamil Brahmins, Non-Tamil Brahmins, Tamil Non-Brahmins, Non-Tamil Non-Brahmins.

  21. Janasamanya Says:

    Curious, tell me about The Beautiful Tree.

  22. Simple Says:

    he answer to the title of this article lies in a flurry of questions:

    1. Why are all long distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia?

    2. Why are all world’s top table tennis sportsmen from far east?

    3. Why are most of the top 100 mts sprint runners black?

    4. Why do only Indians keep winning laidback sports like billiards and snooker?

    5. Why do Gujaratis have this naturally entrepreneurial talent?


  23. Anshuman Patel Says:

    Keeping aside our prejudices, one shouldn’t have much problem in admitting the fact that Tam Brams have excelled in many fields – especially in academics and research areas. What’s the harm in saying that? I don’t think there is anything parochial about it. Don’t we generally say Malayalees are quite enterprising and hard working as a bunch? Yeah, that would be stereotyping but a positive one!

    The reasons for Tam Brams’ excellence may again lie in the science. They probably just prove the Lamarckian theory of ‘Use and Disuse’. As some other readers have pointed out, they do have a 2000+ years of head-start in the quest and accumulation of knowledge and it certainly shows.

    I don’t hold any grudge about it but nurse only a grouse that instead of knowledge being hoarded and accessible to only a small section of people in ancient India, I wish it could be universally available to all sections. May be we would have had more such examples of excellence across the caste spectrum.

    I also agree with Bundekyata when he says a Nobel prize may not be ultimate certificate of achievement. Like Oscars or any other global recognitions, several factors play a role apart from pure excellence or brilliance. We may have many other unsung heroes amidst us working in Indian institutions whose work goes unnoticed by the science fraternity at the global level. It would be naive to think that in the hallowed precincts of Science politics doesn’t play any role at all. Somehow one gets the impression that a Harvard or an MIT stands a better chance of getting notices and Indian institutions just fall off the radar.

  24. RK Says:

    Surely it is an accident that churumuri hasn’t noticed the fact that all three “Tam-Brahms” who have won the Nobel are also Iyers?

  25. Curious Says:

    janasamanya, here’s the link. http://www.samanvaya.com/dharampal/frames/downloads/3beautiful-tree.zip

    pls read the tables on student population in indegeneous schools.
    its amazing to still hear propaganda that brahmins monopolised education.

    aloknath, I read about the great man being miffed. his is a slap across our faces.forget about him.ur right.

  26. Dakshin Says:

    Please stop Please stop recognizing talents and achievements by caste or creed or all that whatever you call. Success and achivements are the results of dedication, commitment, honesty and determination. That’s nothing to do with any caste or community and the reasons for real Indians (Those who are born, brought up, educated and do their work, research here), not getting any Nobel award are well known.

    Mr Venkataraman is an Indian-born scientist. He is now a resident of England. He has been there for years and did all achievements there, not here.

  27. Dr. Sree Reddy Says:

    ahaha eenu article. eenu tale.
    this article and writer should get next year Nobel prize (in what ever category vacancy is available)

  28. tsubba Says:

    anshuman patel.
    I don’t hold any grudge about it but nurse only a grouse that instead of knowledge being hoarded and accessible to only a small section of people in ancient India, I wish it could be universally available to all sections. May be we would have had more such examples of excellence across the caste spectrum.

    please to kindly explain how knowledge was hoarded? i also have some knowledge and am looking for ways to hoard it.

    materials and metallurgy, agricultural and animal husbandry, geology and geography, botany and zoology, construction, technology, let me see, business and finance, markets , urban planning, design and architecture and so on … how was knowledge hoarded in these areas? well even in language, music, filosofy, spirituality, etc how was knowledge hoarded?

    also kindly educate us, about how the said knowledge came into being. was it stolen from somewhere, was it extracted from a hidden rock, was it discovered or developed so on… how did and from where did it come into the possession of hoarders. i have been doing a lot of tapas under a propitious tree and still have not found the formula 66 that can make wootz steel nor have i found the algorithm game the market so that i can buy onions for cheap and sell them high.

    my only grouse is knowledge i am looking for i cant get, and what i have i dont know how to hoard thanks.

  29. RS Says:

    Yenthaha sanna budhi,
    Successfull vignanigalu bharathada yella bhagagalalli sigthare, Nobel barada mathrakke avarenu mele helirathakkantha vyakthigaligintha kadimeyenalla. (mele mention madiro yellarannu gauravisthene)
    Sathatha parishrama, thamma kelasada bagge iro Shradhe idarinda aleyabeku, intha article galanna dayavittu prakashisabedi.
    This is a very good example of a bad article.

  30. Veggie Says:

    Be Vegetarian and your brain will change to Brahmin brain by itself!
    By the way reservation is root cause of all evils in India. Brainy people are outside India now already!

  31. sathya Says:

    No politics. Hard work. Why bring caste into academic achievements.

  32. Anshuman Patel Says:



    You said ‘educate us’. Without any sense of false modesty, I say I am not an authority on this subject nor a seer who can educate:). I am just a regular bloke with inquisitiveness and sense of enquiry ’cause that’s what my brand of Hinduism teaches me and that’s what makes me proud being a Hindu.

    Also was just curious about this usage of ‘Us’. Who are ‘they’?

    With my limited knowledge I would say that in our known history most of the excellence (now this term is

    debatable as one would dispute the very notion of excellence itself) in various fileds has been associated with

    Brahmins – be it be science, philosophy, mathematics, geography, astronomy, grammar and even fine arts such as

    literature, music and dance. Now there are certainly exceptions and one could quote stray examples of people from

    other communities too who have excelled in different fields but again with my limited knowledge I would stick my

    neck out and say a significant majority belongs to Brahmins. Ofcourse one could talk about Kayasthas too. But if you read the rest of my rant( about the field of work etc), it would hopefully be resolved.

    Now,if u have read my full post you would notice that I mentioned Lamarckian theory as a possibility for the

    excellence of Tam Brams or for that matter any class/community with a long history of education, knowledge

    acquisition, grooming and a sense of enquiry.

    I could have taken recourse to a different explanation and could say that it has nothing to do with environmental

    factors and it’s simply the genetic or racial superiority of Brahmins that manifests in such excellence in higher

    pursuits. I don’t know if you subscribe to that view. It may or may not be true. If we say it’s true then what

    about 90%+ of the Indians who are not Brahmins? Are they genetically inferior? Incapable of decoding the secrets

    of the world, deductive reasoning, logic or research? What it says about india as a nation?

    Instead as I have said, I would like to believe many of Indians or for that matter great majority of mankind

    started off on even keel and then environmental, societal, economic factors caught up with them and different

    people charted their course of life depending on their immediate priorities for survival in the community they


    Coming back to Indian context, some blossomed in the pursuit of knoweldge and some just couldn’t do that either

    due to economical reasons or the societal norms.

    Now we can either say that caste structure never existed or Manu Smriti was dead even before it was born or go by

    anecdotal or empirical evidence that education in ancient India was mainly limited to upper castes. Because it

    was mandated such as a division of duties. While upepr castes held forth on liturgy, astrology, astronomy, mathematics,

    logic and such, there had to be some body who could till the land and feed the learned/learning folks. There also had to be some one who could secure the borders while the learning went on uninterrupted.

    If the caste system were not to be rigid comapartments then even the lower castes probably would have given it a

    shot to education, Gurukulas and taken up that to move up the ladder – very similar to our current day scenario

    of accumulating degrees and expereince to break through Corporate cloud.

    Now is the confession time. I haven’t read Manu Smriti in full nor I have any conclusive proof that such was

    indeed the case in India before 19th century. My observations are based on my limited knowledge and empirical

    data. If you could enlighten me about the contrarian views

    – that education indeed was universal and open to all the castes and communities

    – that there was added incentive for the education or pusuit of knoweldge that could break the glass ceiling of

    caste structure

    – that the concept of ‘Dwija’ was indeed practiced in its full faith and spirit

    I promise you I will mend my views. It’s not just rhetoric. I abhor the notion of certainties and if they can be shattered with much better evidence to the contrary so be it.

    After all neither I nor you were flys on the wall when this whole drama
    unfolded in our land over the last few millenia and we just have to go by whatever knowledge that we hold or
    accumulate about that era.

  33. Curious Says:

    patelre, why did you kill him? your a killer..very bad.

    tsubba says, patel. tell me how i killed him?

    patere says, dont mind but can you pls prove to me that you did not kill someone yesterday? i saw a body along your route and looked like someone had been killed. i guess im ignorant of the facts of this murder..dont know the victim, the murder weapon and if you actually used the weapon, whatever it may be…but pls dont mind me asking. if u prove to me your innocent, then i will take back my charge.

    curious says….sooo nice of patelru. choo chweet

  34. tsubba Says:

    AP saar. you have not answered the question i raised. some questions i didnot ask you have answered. since i dont know that question, your answer makes no sense to me.

    i asked, what about knowledge and science in the fields listed above? is knowledge/science limited only to “liturgy, astrology, astronomy, mathematics, logic and such,”?

    i think there is knowledge and science in all fields of human experience including the fields which are expeditiously left out by “social scientists”. meta “learning behaviours” of persistence, “knowledge
    acquisition, grooming and a sense of enquiry” are ‘operant’ in all fields of learning. that is the meta rules that govern learning in one field apply to all fields. and thus, even if caste was ossified as claimed, i dont see how it precluded learning and knowledge by any community. unless ofcourse you assert that knowledge in materials and finance and mensuration etc is somehow inferior to knowledge in filosofy and mathematics. more abstract? yes. but inferior, less demanding, less formal, less rigorous, less empirical, less scientific? i dont know. they were certainly more rewarding though.

    so please to explain your earlier statement.


  35. Anonymous Guy Says:


    You know, TS makes a good point.

    There may be n-reasons why this is so – some lamarck based theory, genes based on natural selection and inbreeding, just cultural advantage which allows a few from tam-brams to get through what is necessary to win a nobel etc.

    The fact is tam-brams won the nobel prizes, while others didnt.

    So… what you call hoarding – maybe that is also a part of the success? Without it there probably would be no side effects – you wouldnt see people breaking the law in the name of caste and a general inability to work together efficiently, on the other hand you probably wouldnt see any person of Indian descent winning a nobel prize?

  36. Anonymous Guy Says:


    Dont you think a farmer or factory worker probably works as hard as a Nobel prize winner, but the former’s contribution is limited to his and a few other people’s sustenance.

    True breakthroughs to progress happen by the efforts of people like Ramakrishnan (whatever be their motivation – money etc.).

    It cannot just be hard work, there should be innate talent with the field the person is working on, making the choices, circumstances and luck. Otherwise why at all narrow down the choices to a few people and give them these awards?

    The caste angle is interesting because the statistics involved point to something more than mere coincidence.

  37. Manava Says:

    Brahmins and Jews have a lot in common. Both value education and endeavour to educate their children. Both consider merit as the sure way to progress. Both are persecuted in various ways and are prepared to migrate to lands of opportunities. The best surgeons and physicians I have come across in the West are all Jews. Denying and decrying this is nonsensical.

    Now about the Indian science Nobel Prize winners. CV Raman’s work was partly theoritical and partly experimental and the work which secured him the Nobel Prize-the application of Stokes and anti-Stokes lines required mostly brain work and needed no fancy labs. He and His cousin Subramhanyan Chadrasekhar were taught at the Presidency College Madras which had a galaxy of British and British -trained professors. Their undergraduate ediucation was excellent. S. Chandrasekhar had already written his PhD proposal before leaving the shores of India to Cambridge. He was supervised at Cambridge among others, Dirac ( a Nobel Prize winner later, of Fermi-Dirac distribution fame) who was known to produce excellent PhDs. Dirac’s student in later years was Homi Bhabha. S. Chandrasekhar became a naturalised American citizen after working at Chicago University for a few years. When he got his Nobel Prize years after his PhD student got his in Astro physics, he was an American Citizen. Now the current Nobel Prize winne, Venky is American by nationality and is workking at Cambridge University which by appointing him a relatvely junior professor in 1999 to position which the great Sanger a Nobel Prize winner twice occupied in this prestigious molecular biology lab, gave him the required prestige. Without Cambridge U support for 10 years, it is very doubful he would have got the prize as there are other groups producing similar
    kind of work. Cambridge U built him up by which he was able to produce seminal papers in ” Nature”, the foremost science journal.

    The 3 science Nobel Prize winners- Chandrasekhar, Khorana and Venky
    had/ have British connections. The former two studied in Britain at Cambridge U and Liverpool U respectively, Venky is in Cambridge. Even Sen’s work in developmental economics was done at Cambridge U.

  38. Madhu Rao Says:

    There we go with Indianizing something that’s not even Indian ! Venky Ramakrishnan is an American ! Stop trying to bask in the reflected limelight.

    Just when I thought why someone had not gone deeper than the caste to the sub and sub-sub castes, someone mentions they are all Iyers !

    This is the most discussed topic in the past few days ? It proves cutting across all caste, color, language barriers that idiots come in all stripes ! Add one more as I commented on this and am one too! Let’s move on..

  39. Dr. Sree Reddy Says:

    permutations and combinations of some things. ashte.

  40. Curious Says:

    wht is so special about the nobel prize? can there not be other prizes that are equally worthy and noble? is there a hierarchy in the manner we value prizes for achievements?

    why are not achievements of brawn celebrated with a nobel? why only brain? btw, how many brahmins in the olympics? or in any sporting event except cricket, a pseudo-sport with a lunch break?

  41. Anshuman Patel Says:



    I thought I answered your Q about hoarding no?

    To my mind, it’s not the question of a specific body of knowledge ie Metallurgy, Astrophysics etc. It’s more of the social milieu in which how democratic was the access to education and how easily knowledge was distributed.

    What I meant by hoarding was education and knowledge being available to only a select few. Again, as I said, I might be completely wrong and education indeed was universal. That’s what I too am curious about and want you to educate us err..sorry me about it.

    I genuinely hope you understand the moot point I am trying to make. Did we have a conducive social atmosphere, economical prosperity and liberal ethos that fostered even a low-born guy to be admitted to Gurukulas and encourage him/her to excel in a field that is not his/her caste’s stated vocation? If so, I would be pleasantly surprised.

    Again the alternative argument would be, though the education and knowledge was freely available across caste lines, it’s just that some excelled in it for sheer love of it while others simply fell by the way side because of their own sloth, indifference or may be genetic inferiority. Is that so? I hope not.

    Take the example of this debate itself between me, you and fellow bloggers. I would like to think that we are all learning in this process and expanding our limited knowledge in a mutual way. Were such debates in various fields of studies across caste lines prevalent in our old India?

    I think such debates increase the ‘sense of inquiry’ and I honestly believe the sense of inquiry is the prime mover (coupled with discipline, hard work etc) in unravelling the mysteries of any filed be it be astronomy, quantum physics, metallurgy or whatever.


    Annavre, taavu bare ‘Kutoohala’ alla ‘Kadana Kutoohala’ ru:)

  42. Manava Says:

    Venky for all practical purposes is British, even with his American citizenship. His Ohio U Phd credential and U of Utah professorship if he had stayed in America would have seen him as a senior professor at best, not a Nobel Prize winner. Nobel prize Committee needs to be convinced of the candidate’s excellence and Cambridge U and its famed molecular biology lab provided this credential.

    “it proves cutting across all caste, color, language barriers that idiots come in all stripes ! “. Yes, indeed Raos are not an exception it appears!

  43. Rajeev Says:

    “Just when I thought why someone had not gone deeper than the caste to the sub and sub-sub castes, someone mentions they are all Iyers !”

    Nothing wrong in pointing this out. Blogs promote freedom of thoughts within respectable limits. What is your point Madhu Rao? Venky was born an Indian and was an Indian Citizen until at least in his 20s/30s. People who know him in Cambridge U appreciates his ” Indianness” . For that matter I was born an Indian and is a naturalised citizen of another country. My “Indianness” has not disappeared, simply because I brandish a non-Indian passport , have undergone security checks for my work and can travel to many countries without visas. My son feels it slightly differently, being a citizen of the country we live today by birth. But despite his accent and mannerism he feels “an Indian within himself” and enjoys Indian food and friends. Indians leave the shores of India for opportunities. It is a pity that like Israel India has no automatic “law of return”. Finally Chandrasekhar, the Nobel Prize winner, an American Citizen remained an “Indian within” until his death.
    Rejoice this instead of sniping at people.

  44. Well, well Says:

    @ Madhu Rao. Strange using the surname “Rao” you complain about caste and subcaste! What is encouraged in this blog is discussion and if one does not like it, best not to read it. It is as simple as that.

  45. Ramnath Says:

    Venky is really Indian-American.. When a Kennedy proclaims that he/she is proud to be Irish, Clinton says he is proud to be Scotch-Irish and even His wife Hillary said at one time she is proud to be Welsh, every one accepts them. When Kennedy became the American president, I remember Ireland celebrating with joy and similarly when Regan whose ancestors came from Tipperary in Ireland became the American president Ireland held special congratulatory events and every Irishman rejoiced. These were “Irish” many generations removed. But Venky carries American passport by choice and looking at him and speaking with him, people will see him as an Indian and not mistake him as an American! His upbringing as a brahmin with the education ethos and sense of achieving by hardwork that o with it made him what he is today.

  46. Curious Says:

    patelre – “Annavre, taavu bare ‘Kutoohala’ alla ‘Kadana Kutoohala’ ru:)”

    illa swamy, tell me something wokay? u say you are not sure of many things and u want to learn. at the same time u say you will be “pleasently surprised” if someone “proved u wrong on education”. how is this paradox possible sar?

    i thinks ur big problem is that you wud like all the previous centuries to be like ur this 21st century. here in ur time u seem to be very happy that all are seemingly getting what they want and are free. sar, there are many ppl who are not happy with 21st century at all.

    i hope u will not call anybody a murderer again, blindly and without enough knowledge sar. please ah?

  47. Abhi Says:

    To repeat what Alok already posted –
    “But I, personally, am not important. The fact that I am of Indian origin is even less important. We are all human beings, and our nationality is simply an accident of birth,” he said.
    “Nobody has approached me about an offer to work in India. However, I can categorically state that if they did so, I would refuse immediately,” he said.

    Clearly he is cut above Anonymous Guys from CA or elsewhere who support police brutalities just because his home happens to be there.

  48. Madhu Rao Says:

    One of the saner responses. I understand your view-point. But consider this..

    Venki Ramakrishnan miffed at emails from India..

    Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has expressed disenchantment with people from India “bothering” him “clogging” up his email box and dubbed as “strange” their sudden urge to reach out to him.

    “Do these people have no consideration? It is OK to take pride in the event, but why bother me?” the 57-year-old Indian-American scientist wondered in an email interview.


    If he deems the outpouring as bothersome and opportunistic (it is to some extent) why continue with our overt obsession of him, his caste et al ? That’s my point. I’m not a citizen but have been in the US for a while and know what you mean.

    It is not about someone(like you) who feels that Indian-ness. It is about someone who has moved away from it. He doesn’t want any of it and we are rummaging thru the records to find something of an interest to us. We seem desperate ..

    I already conceded that by participating in this moot discussion(per the above excerpt) I am an idiot ; like others here (thee included) . But you take the cake ! Practically British ? Try that with the immigration officer at an airport. For all practical purposes he is a US Citizen. The joke’s on you :-) .

    Read the above excerpt, it states “.. 57-year-old Indian-American scientist ..” .

    @Well well,
    What about my surname and why does it preclude me from saying someone delving down the caste ladder for something coincidental is moot ? I am NOT using my surname. It is what it is. It is not meant to either add or deduct anything from my view-point.

    I’m still confused as to why I can/cannot do something because of my surname. Care explaining that than doling out cliches about blogs being discussion oriented ? How about you starting with expressing your view point succinctly ?

  49. Babu Says:

    It doesn’t matter if Brahmins won the Nobel prize as it does not reflect on the fact that Indian society is still an extremely poor especially in the rural areas in spite of the enormous production of food and products that goes on in our industries. The caste system is a leftover product from our feudal past. As we move forward, we should not look for Dalit Nobel Prize winners (though that would be refreshing), but to ensure that everyone benefits from science, research and technology. Right now, these recent Nobel Prize winners’ research was carried out in foregin lands and India has not benefited for sure from it. It speaks volumes of the state of science in our country that we have to move out of the country to do any research! In the mad drive towards profits and greed, our politicians and businesspeople now stand against any kind of progress. This has to be rectified if we are to see any kind of scientific developments in our country.

  50. Anshuman Patel Says:

    @ Curious,

    Saar, where is the paradox? As per my current knowledge and inferences there of, my understanding of this issue is that in Gupta+Medieval period of India, education was indeed limited mainly to the upper castes. If soemone (including you) can point me towards the contrarian material which rubbishes this theory, so be it. And I would indeed be pleasantly surprised. Surprised because till today all the material I am exposed to points towards my current belief (you may blame it on Pinko or Romila Thapar variety of history;)). Pleasantly ’cause that’s an image of India I would like to cherish that my land was indeed practising equal opportunities and an open-door policy. Anything amiss in this?

    Now if only you can help me in getting ‘pleasantly surprised’ by leading me to the light and out of this darkness:).

    In any case, nimage Deepavali Habbada haardika shubhashayagalu.

  51. Curious Says:

    ha ha “equal opportunities and open door policy” :)) where was this evident in any country during the time you mention? is it evident even today? is this a virtue that’s a virtue or is it something you wud like to push to sound equal?

    u keep asking for material. i gave janasamanya a link to the beautiful tree.pls to read it.
    wish you and ur folks n all at churumuri happy deepavali!

  52. Manava Says:

    M Rao. Venky is practically British from the residency point of view . As for trying with an immigration officer at an airport, most European countries do not need visas from Americans and British, the latter by virtue of the European Union and the former as a key ally. One can simply wave either American/British passport as one passes through, unlike the Indian one where one is subjected to searching questions.
    Americans do not need visa to visit Britain and British do need visa to visit US.

    Try not to believe what the media says. Those who talked with him ( including me) know he feels Indian although he lives in Cambridge but as a researcher does not want people to bother him. Similar case with S Chandrasekhar.

  53. Anshuman Patel Says:


    Anna..couple of quick points.

    1. When I meant equal opportunities I didn’t mean socialism, equal distribution of wealth, economic equality, Leniinsm da da da..I mainly meant social equality ie all castes +non-castes being equally welcome to partake in the quest for knowledge and education. Or were they hobbled by various caste based injunctions of ‘X’ can study and ‘Y’ can’t study?

    2. Thanks for the link to ‘A Beautiful Tree’. I found many references to this on Google search. Is the one you are referring to written by Dharam Pal? Pl. confirm.

    3. If it’s the one written by Dharam Pal, based on a couple of reviews I have read, I would like you to consider

    – It mainly deals with the last 200-250 years of education. If you actually read my posts, you would have noticed that I mentioned mostly Gupta+Mediaval / Old India. It’s not a minor quibble..please note. It’s matter of 1000+ years.

    – Inspite of such madrasa, temple connected learning and later formal edu via British, I wonder what was our basic %ge of literacy when we got freedom? I don’t have the stats but it’s possibly below 35-40%. So was this system really successful?

    – Lastly I need not tell you that major inventions or in-depth study in any area typically would need Higher-education and research. Would you agree? A beautiful Tree primarily seems to deal with rudimentary/primary education which would probably make you literate but not a scholar.

    Again, I am yet to read this book and these are very early thoughts based on couple of reviews on this book. I would like to definitely read this book. In the meantime,please let me know if these assumptions about the book are terribly wrong.

  54. Madhu Rao Says:

    What I said was “Try that with the immigration officer at an airport”. Did I mention Europe anywhere ? So why the treatise on Euro-American passport requirements ? Also my statement was a generic one on how it is immaterial what people think they ‘practically’ are — like say a greencard holder in the US for 10 years and ‘practically American’ per quite a few but NOT YET..

    Let me re-word so you do not parse and pivot on a tangent ; in any matter where his bona fide citizenship is a requirement he is deemed a US citizen ? Immaterial of what he feels, for the record, he is a US Citizen. He might feel he is a citizen of mother earth and not any nation. But he cannot put that on any official paperwork ?

    On your “Try not to believe what the media says..”. Ok, let me examine my alternatives :

    — On one hand we have every major news outlet hailing him as an American.

    — Then I have you an anonymous commenter on a blog telling me he feels Indianess but considers himself more of a Brit due to his Cambridge connections. His interviews per above suggest neither.

    Which one would you go with if you were me ?

  55. Curious Says:

    patelre, pls read the book by dharampal and then we can discuss.

  56. Manava Says:

    Green card holder with Indian passport is different from some one like Venky who has stayed in Britain holding American passport. I gave example of how Brits and Americans have close relationship when it comes to residency ( I should have said Brits do not need vis to visit US) When you say Immigration officer, Venky’s imediate immigration point of entry is Britain or Europe and hence I explained that too. In the case of Venky, he was born in India and lived there for 20+ years, and I have said about how he feels. The original argument was ,why should Indians feel proud. I gave reasons and your argument about official paperwork is not the issue when it comes to emotional attachment. Chandrasekhar, a natural American was vegetarian, teetotal and had Indianness in him. When I saw him He had already spent more than 40 years in America, still had strong links with his relatives in Chennai.
    I too did not have Indian passport and I could understand him.
    Americans hailed Navrotilova as an American eventhough she was naturalised just a week ago when she won a title. That is understable. She said then and even now she feels that she is czech at heart. Former US Secretary of State Albright said that too. She was also Czech born. As for your question, I am not you and the question is irrelevant.

  57. The smart(est) people of Indian origin | Brown Pundits Says:

    […] ZackNote Edit: Please see castes of the below. Also see The New Outcastes & Why are they Tamils? Why are they all Brahmins? […]

  58. Venkat R Says:

    The statement “except in Kerala, Brahmin lived in Aristrocracy”. On the contrary, Kerala Nambhudries were very powerful and the Tamil Iyers who affilliated to the Thiruvanandhapuram (Kerala) court were rich. Rest of the status they were not rich as you suggest. In fact in TN, Mudaliyars, Chettiyars and Kar Katha Vellala are the rich and powerful as late as early 20th Century. Please read the auto biography of U. V. Swaminatha Iyer, the one who is single handedly responsible for bringing to print many of the old Tamil literature. By the way, it is not a matter of just publishing, when you collect ancient manuscripts, you collect many versions compare, research and publish meaning for these poetic works. His family’s poor lived off support from rich, who supported them for their knowledge, his for his music and him for his undying enthusism to learn. He narrates life of Brahmins in mid to late 19th century, it not always rosy. But, one thing consistent was their dedication for learning. Through ages, even after getting English education and working for British, their love for traditional knowledge (rotary or not) never left them, you can still see them. Some of them spend an hour of every morning, praying in practicing the Vedas they kept them mentally in good shape. Good times did not destroy their appetite for knowledge and similarly, bad times did not stop them from learning.

  59. BM Karuppan Says:

    Money lies these days, for those posing as writers/ analysts, in writing diversionary nonsense, since that attracts millions for the sensation it stirs. Money, to be sure, does not lie in writing and analyzing facts (undistorted and not fictitious) in order to bring out the essence in a wholesome way, with the idea help the disillusioned millions to uplift their lot. Specifically, the Tamil Brahmins have continued to cherish conservative values (““necessary not to change when necessary not to change””) as essential religion for their own individual, family and society’s good. This is nothing like a superhuman feat. All other communities could also increase the conservative spirit and enjoy the same benefits (assuming they consider the results of discerning conservatism as beneficial).

  60. Nastika Says:

    ‘Mentoring’ is the sole reason why Brahmin community does well. Advise from experience folks, who have been there & done that helps and hence they have an edge over other communities.


  61. M Balakrishnan Says:

    Warrier in an article on this same subject has said the same thing as she says along with MR Radhakrishnan, that Tamil Brahmins had “monopolised” education, wealth, etc., and built a “cultural capital” that led to their coming into limelight in intellectual accomplishments. This reason for Tamil Brahmin excellence is of course a generalistion with a substantial exception since Brahmins are, and have been largely carrying on, as required by faith to remain materially poor, living off only society’s succour in grateful acknowledgment of their humble, spiritual role for several millennia (much contradicting the absurd political and social vehemence depicting them as exploiters, suppresers, if not blood suckers. Ignore these three Brahmins who got the Nobel in science, There are hundreds of instances of Tamil Brahmins (remarkably, poor Tanjoreans including many who left Tamilnadu for jobs in the then Travancore-Cochin samsthanam in Kerala), who have migrated to better environments abroad, to bring out their best in intellectual accomplishment, while sticking to their cultural root practices (in eating, dressing and spiritual practices, while adapting at the surface level only, to a different social cultural milieu of the US/ West. They are believed to be a disproportionately large lot in terms of their numerical size in the environments that respect great intellectual output or service in key positions, in science, education, R&D, professions, etc.

    So, members of the other communities, if aspiring to reach up to and or excell the Tamil Brahmins’ grade in these spheres should stop getting misguided by mediocre pseudo intellectual analyses based on fallacious logic and distractive and tangential arguments. They should stop using brute force that is valued in pseudo democracy for demanding reservations, special treatments, for materialistic gains without deserving them. They should develop the courage,will power, determination and will power to strengthen their spiritual power (or just, their spirit) and aim at personal development with extreme perseverance, through spiritual and cultural refinement, and not per se at artificial crutches to make them look great in society. They should stop being misguided by cheap and mediocre fare of tv debates, low grade commercial cinema, and even much of what they are taught by way of “secular” education in our mostly third rate education system.

    By the way the original definition of Brahmin itself has been too horribly perverted over centuries, linking it with heredity. On the other hand, every one who looks within into the spiritual cosmos as well as without into the material cosmos, by pursuing his innermost, inborn aptitude and goes on a relentless pursuit to understand the mystery of reality THROUGH SAMSKARA, or constant and continuous personal discipline and refinement, is defined as Brahmin. A society is fortunate when the people have a few super souls as leaders who elevate a maximum of the people in spiritually un-elevated status, to the best possible level exploiting their aptitudes.

  62. the colonel Says:

    “If tomorrow India is divided into north and south, it would take the south barely two-and-a-half days to conquer north India as it owns all our space and missile technology.”


    then why was it divided in the first place????????????????

  63. paciFier Says:

    Nastika, perfectly captured. Hence the underprivileged lookup to the state as ‘mentor’. Unfortunately, state is a dinosaur and not a mentor. Hence they are caught in vicious cycle, while the privileged get even more privileges.


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