Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Why I Am Not a Hindu

Rate this book
In this manifesto for the downtrodden, the author examines the socio-economic and cultural differences between the Dalitbahujans (the majority, the so-called low castes) and other Hindus in the contexts of childhood, family life, market relations, power relations, Gods and Goddesses, death and, not least, Hindutva (ideology of the Hindu Right).

164 pages, Paperback

First published April 23, 2001

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Kancha Ilaiah

14 books86 followers
Kancha Ilaiah (5 October 1952) is an Indian activist and writer. His books include Why I am not a Hindu, God As Political Philosopher: Budha's challenge to Brahminism, A Hollow Shell, The State and Repressive Culture, Manatatwam (in Telugu), and Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism. He is a member of the Dalit Freedom Network and a major figure in the movement against the Hindu Caste System.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
202 (34%)
4 stars
205 (34%)
3 stars
102 (17%)
2 stars
38 (6%)
1 star
42 (7%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews
Profile Image for Nikhil.
332 reviews31 followers
December 27, 2015
The following is indisputable: 1) Caste oppression is ubiquitous in South Asia and concentrated against SCs and STs; 2) The form of this oppression is both material and cultural, with the latter forms being found in virtually all intellectual and literary creations; 3) South Asia has remarkably local and heterogenous religious beliefs -- a heterogeneity that is found primarily in SCs and STs; 4) The persistant ability of upper caste Hindus to dominate economic in political power in India has been and will continue to be an unmitaged disaster

While articulating all of these points, this book, nonetheless, is a collossal failure.

The basic premise of this text is that there is a dichotomy between brahmanical culture ( encompassing Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Baniyas, and those Sudras the author doesnt like) and dalitbahujan culture (sudras the author likes, SCs, STs). The former is negative in every way imaginable. The latter embodies all the virtues society wants. I am fine with the use of dialectical analysis to understand society. However, usually when you posit the anti-thesis you do a better job than Ilaiah has done here.

The author continually brings up how gender relations are "better" in the dalitbahujan culture than in brahmanical culture. This is really quite irritating because it masks a great deal of heterogeneity concerning gender relations within the dalitbahujan community and because the atrocious nature of south asian gender relations cuts across religion and caste groups. Do Sudras have better sex ratios than upper caste members? (they are equally bad). STs have near equal sex ratios, but then the homogenous dalitbahujan community falls apart! The author views marital relations and women's economic activity within the dalitbahujan community as being excellent and much better than what is found within the brahmanicals. Yet, women in south asia have virtually no control over fertility decisions in all communities and women who work do not get to control the labor product they produce (even in the magical dalibahujan community). The author seems to believe that by simply looking at dalitbahujan culture, Indian society can move forward on issues of gender. This is deeply naive and trivializes the importance of gender as a lens with which to understand society.

The supposed homogeneity of his dalitbahujan culture is deeply irritating. I am completely fine with him constructing a monolothic evil Brahmanical culture that he ruthlessly critiques. While this may be slightly untrue, it can still be politically and intellectually useful. But his construction of dalitbahujan culture is flawed and does the greatest disservice to dalitbahujan peoples themsleves. There is a great deal of violence within the dalitbahujan community (e.g. Sudra land class using violence against SCs to discipline the SC workers) that the author ignores. It will be impossible to have a dalitbahujan political movement unless these issues are addressed head on. Even more importantly, by painting the dalitbahujan homogenously, Ilaiah is contributing to the silencing of dalitbahujan voices and stories within Indian society, the one thing he says we must not do.

The author extrapolates some of his observations concerning the life of the dalitbahujan in a specific location in Andhra Pradesh to all of South Asia. While the oppression of dalitbahujan is ubiquitous, there is such geographical variation across India (particularly wrt to the North South divide) in how caste and gender are understood that such generalizations are meaningless.

To sum up: We need more Dalit voices. We need more angry Dalit voices. We need more people trying to attack and destroy the hegemony upper-caste Hindus have had on India (and colonial South Asia) that has proven so disastrous. But this book is not the book to do it.
Profile Image for Arun.
12 reviews13 followers
July 23, 2015
Hindu ideologies has never been humane or egalitarian the book is a thought provoking critique of this ideology and worldview.
Profile Image for Izzy.
205 reviews
January 7, 2019
While writing this review I was wondering whether I should or should I not,nah I thought at the end that I should. Do read this book but before you do so, keep your minds open to both criticism and skeptism- how much of it is true, biased and how much is fabricated?

Edit: Because someone thought I dismissed this author’s life. I did not, I have worked and helped Dalits and those who are poor but are of any caste even Brahmins who are below poverty line. I only mention the roots of the caste system. And compare it to the olden days class in the western society which is also as bad as the caste system.

This is my comparison and I mean to only say that the author has been prejudiced towards Sanatana Dharma as a totality due to his experiences in a small focal point in India and that the experiences of Dalits in different areas of India is absolutely different and there is no comparison. The author also mentions about gender equality and its base with the caste system which I do not agree with either.

Lastly, before I start my review, I accept constructive criticism but I do not accept insults to my person and my knowledge and of what I have read and haven’t read.
This review is my opinion and I have every right to write it.

So now the review:

I usually don’t use this language but seriously, what bs?? How much is this guy backed by political propaganda and by the missions abroad who are funding him to distort reality? I read this only because someone told me to understand what a Dalit goes through. I lived in India for 5 years, enough to understand Indians and Hinduism and Dalits. Working closely with them in a Govt Hospital that provides free treatment to most of the poor population and I was more prone to meet with people of all religions, “castes”, and Dalits, yes I did meet Dalits- perfectly normal people with dreams and aspirations and Dalits who are not influenced or fooled by lies.

Let me make it clear, the so called caste system in India is there but, but a big but is that Caste is not a Sanskrit word, it’s a Portuguese word and nowhere in the Vedas/Upanishads/Geeta or any other Hindu literature is it mentioned. Only the system of class is mentioned- you know Brahmins, Kshatriyas, etc. This system is the same as class!

A class that still exists everywhere on Earth. Now to really understand the class system in Vedas- you’ll have to read genuine Hinduism books- Vedas, Upanishads- so many books to choose from. What they meant by class is completely different to what we mean by it. They don’t talk about superiority but in fact, equality. Its very interesting. But one must read themselves to find out more.

So class is the same everywhere. For example, just like in England where the aristrocacy were considered superior to everyone while the merchant class or any working class were considered below everyone else, the merchant or labor or servants were not allowed to come to Aristocratic balls/high tea and were not basically allowed to mingle with the ton of society and were not even allowed to marry into aristrocracy. You can read this in history books, not everything was rosy in Europe’s past as well. People who were from poor families or of the working class left Europe and went to America to create a world where that so called class system would not be present to such an extent—-to live the American dream. Now back to Aristocracy
Many merchants wanted to get rich by business and then marry their daughters to dukes/marquess -any aristocrat basically so that they can be considered “posh” as well and allowed to mingle in the ton.

So now about the caste system in India- caste was a term coined by us British people and it provides reservation to the “lower castes”. As in, if you give an entrance exam for medical school- the lower caste fellow if he gets say 70%, he gets in because his seat is reserved but if an upper caste fellow gets 100%, he/she doesn’t get into medical school because they probably have run out of vacancy- this is just an example of how I saw it in India. I found it very unfair. For something that happened 100s of years ago, kids of the new generation are suffering just like how the youth of England are being blamed for the terrible colonial rule/past. Unfortunately I read about colonialism myself which I didn’t get to study in school and I’m extremely ashamed about it.

Anyways, back to caste system. This system is NOT a part of Hinduism, in fact in the vedas it says, it doesn’t matter where you are born- whether as a princess or a pauper, it is your dharm and karm (your work) that decides where you want to be— so this means that if you were born in a Shudra family, if you work/study hard enough, you can become a Brahmin (teacher/someone who has the highest knowledge) and if you’re born in a Brahmin family but you’re lazy and decide not to work or study, you can become a servant/labor/low caste. So you are not born into a caste, your work (karm) decides where you want to be. So what this author has written is all misinformation and something that was created by politics centuries ago which was backed up by British colonialism and sadly by Indians as well.

Today this is used just to divide and spread hate and as a political agenda. A lot of lower caste people (SC/ST/Dalits) are given facilities that favor them a lot more than we in the west know about. These people are given reservation in all govt jobs/schools and universities to garner votes by political parties. If you must know, the Indian govt universities are considered the best in India especially Delhi University) for which reason many kids from Govt colleges go on to Yale/Harvard to pursue higher studies as Indian govt colleges are very well known for its good education. So the thing is the Dalits are not regarded very badly now a days, especially among the elite and middle class but YES there is the belief by a small percentage of those who are well off or by the upper caste in small villages that they are not worth it. So this MUST STOP! BUT NOT BY SULLYING a peacefull religion! This must stop by telling the truth! Telling them that everyone is equal that there is no such thing as caste system but in order to do that, Indians must spread awareness instead of bashing eachother. People should be given the freedom to choose their religion, just like the author chose but not by spreading lies about other religions.

You guys are famous for secularism, please stay that way, don’t spread hate about Hinduism or any other religion.

I am white, but I do have cousins who are half Indians and so I went to India to get an experience in Medicine. And I have seen a lot to make a decision.

And by the way, I’m sorry, this totally went out of context. Feel free to read this book, but I would say, be prepared to read about a lot of things that are false and absolutely not true. Caste was not discussed as much in this- mostly it was about how bad a peacefull religion((Hinduism),that says everyone’s path to God is different and accepts everyone and even athiests(advaita)), is.
This is not true, read this book with an open but critical mind and go on and do your own research like I did. Question what this author has written. How much of it is true and how much false.

Hinduism is not about superstition or caste, the Vedas explain a lot of things which has more to do with ahimsa(nonviolence), physics, medicine, and spirituality than anything else. Please do your own reaearch on religious studies with an unprejudiced point of view. If you’re biased, then you won’t learn much. That’s why I don’t know why I was recommended this book as it is biased and written by someone who has a political agenda and mostly does not know what he’s talking about.
Read Sri Aurobindo or Rajiv Malhotra if you want to really know the difference or the reality or you can go and try the Vedas if you have time which is the original and not influenced by anyone. Try to the find the original translated in English.

Lastly, this author is an individual with his own thoughts and experiences which made him choose to write about Hinduism in a bad light, take everything he has written with a grain of salt since most of it, actually 90% of the book is biased and through his point of view. So before writing off that Hindu’s are bad and the religion is bad, please gain knowledge about the religion. No one wants to convert into anything- let people believe in what they believe, otherwise there won’t be any world peace.
39 reviews14 followers
January 30, 2020
Now, I have understood after reading this book, why this book along with the other two books of Kancha Ilaiah has been removed from the syllabus of Delhi University under BJP government whereas this book has been part of syllabus of Columbia University since decade.

This book views Hinduism from a Dalit's perspective, which is completely different from what we had been knowing about Hinduism and Hindu Gods & Goddesses. Kancha Ilaiah has also compared Hindu culture with that of Dalitbahujan culture.
Profile Image for Rukmini.
204 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2018
Interesting but profoundly flawed. While the author’s anger towards upper caste Indians is probably quite justified (I can’t imagine the level of discrimination that he must have endured through his life), it has blinded him to the point where he regards all non Dalitbahujans (to use his term) as the evil Other. He presents extreme and unsubstantiated claims as fact and ends by calling for a non-violent cultural revolution, thereby undermining some of his more interesting and relevant points. It’s also worth noting that it is quite reductive to assume that all communities belonging to one caste or another all over India are homogenous. Not to mention the idiocy of assuming that all persons from one community are the fount of creativity, compassion and intelligence, while those from others are motivated by nothing but venal and unworthy ideals and have never produced anything of worth.
Profile Image for Raghu Pavan.
1 review
September 14, 2017
I have given one rating to this book because there is no zero rating option. This book portraits the personal views and opinions of author. The book in its content per se is so malicious and irrational. It shows the great level of ignorance with which the book was written ignoring the facts about the Hindu Dharma/religion. It takes a great deal of intellect and self control/self knowledge to understand the Hindu dharma. Those who are materialistic and over whelmed in passion can never understand the truth.
Without considering the science, rationality and spirituality behind the Life of Hindus and their scriptures, this book proves to be a ridiculous piece of junk. And this book fails utterly to bring any good to the society or to the humanity as a whole.
Profile Image for kranthi.
17 reviews2 followers
March 2, 2017
A radical take on caste, class, culture and religion from the viewpoint of oppressed classes. An essential read, no doubt. This book is very relevant for its take on contemporary political and class conflict. Also gives a brief historical critique of the role Brahmanical Hindu religion and its philosophy has played in class oppression. Particularly, this book shows the arrogance and the inherent fallacies of the steamrolling of culture under the grand Hindutva project. It speaks of deep apathy and disregard of the aspirations of Dalits. Illaiah's analysis of the "pseudo-kshatriya" class picking up the time-tested tools of Brahamanical hindu caste oppression is on point. The hypocrisy of "pseudo-kshatriya" class who have been a part of the socialist and communist movements in the early decades after independence, achieved upwards class mobility and now a part of the Hindutva project, as he writes about is disheartening. All of this supports his conclusion that nothing short of a revolution would change the systems of oppression.
Some of the things written here are not easy to digest. There is a lot of romanticization about the dalitbahujan way of life. I suppose this, along with a reinterpretation of Hindu mythology are necessary tools to build a counter narrative to help the class struggle.
Since this is about Telugu castes and culture, it hits closer to home. Awareness of my own cultural insensitivity and its role in class hegemony would be my biggest takeaway from this book. My supposedly progressive upbringing hasn't made me realize this so far. The critique about Telugu textbooks in my schooling is particularly enlightening.
I am looking for books similar to this that are more academically inclined.
Profile Image for Pavan Dharanipragada.
129 reviews11 followers
March 2, 2017
Okay. పుస్తకం తెలుగులో చదివా కాబట్టి review కూడా తెలుగులోనే ఉండబోతోంది. జగర్తగా చదువుకోండి.
కంచ ఐలయ్య ఉస్మానియా విశ్వవిద్యాలయంలో ప్రొఫెసర్, మరియు దళితబహుజన మేధావి. ఆయన 1996 లో రాసిన "Why I am not a Hindu" అనే పుస్తకానికి అనువాదం ఈ ప్రస్తుత పుస్తకం. ఇందులో ఆయన అగ్రకుల హిందువులకు దళితబహుజనులకు మధ్య పుట్టుక, జీవనవిధానం, మరణం, స్త్రీపురుష సంబంధాలు, ఆధ్యాత్మికత, ప్రాపంచిక దృక్పథం, తదితర విషయాలలో భేదాలను, వ్యత్యాసాలను ఒక శూద్ర దృష్టికోణం నుండి వివరించారు.
హిందూ మతం ఒక మతం కాదు, జీవనశైలి అని జరిగిన ప్రచారం వల్ల భారత దేశంలోని ముస్లిం, క్రైస్తవేతర ప్రజలందరు హిందువుల కింద వర్గీకరించబడుతున్నారు. కానీ నిజానికి ఈ పుస్తకంలో చర్చించినట్టు ఎవరు హిందువు ఎవరు కాదు అనేది బహుళ సమాధానాలు కలిగిన ఒక రాజకీయ ప్రశ్న. వారి మధ్య ఉన్న వ్యత్యాసాల మూలంగా అగ్రకులాలు, దళితబహుజనులు ఒక మతంవారుగా ఏనాడూ లేరు అని ఐలయ్య వాదించారు.
ఐలయ్య చేసిన కొన్ని ప్రతిపాదనలు ఆసక్తికరంగా ఉన్నా నిరాధరమైనవి. ఉదాహరణకు హిందూతత్వంలో అగ్రకుల ఆడవారికి కూడా అథమ స్థానం కల్పించడానికి కారణం చర్చిస్తూ, aryan ఆక్రమణ తర్వాత ద్రావిడ ఆడవారితో aryan మగవారు జతకట్టి ఆ మొదటి తరంవారు వేదాలు స్మృతులు రాయడం దీనికి కారణం కావచ్చని ప్రతిపాదించారు. ఇందులో ఏంతో కొంత నిజం ఉండడానికి ఆస్కారం ఉంది కానీ ప్రస్తుతం ఎటువంటి ఆధారం లేదు.
అలాగే కొన్ని చోట్ల పుస్తకం కొన్ని విషయాలను మళ్ళీ మళ్ళీ చర్చిండంతో కొంత నిరాసక్తి కలిగవచ్చు.
కులం అంటే నాకు ఇంతకు ముందే అసహ్యం ఉన్న కానీ మొత్తం మీద ఈ పుస్తకం నన్ను ఎంతోకొంత ప్రభావితం చేసింది. నాలో బ్రాహ్మణ కులం తాలూకు చెడ్డ లక్షణాలు, ఆలోచనలు కొన్ని ఉన్నాయని గుర్తించేలా చేసింది. ఉత్పత్తి ప్రవృత్తితో సంబంధం లేకుండా ఉండడం వల్ల ఒచ్చే మే���ో సోమరితనం నా సొంత అభివృద్ధి ఇంకా ఇన్ని శతాబ్దాలుగా మన దేశాభివృద్ధిని ఎలా కుంచివేసిందో పరీక్షించేలా చేసింది. శారీరక భౌతిక వృత్తులతో ఎంతమాత్రమూ సంబంధం లేని వ్యక్తుల, కులాల చెతిలో విద్య ఉండడం వల్లే మన దేశంలో సాంకేతిక ప్రగతి సాధ్యపడలేదని ఇప్పుడు నేను నమ్ముతున్నాను. దీనికి ప్రత్యక్ష పర్యవసానంగా యూరోపేయన్ల కింద మనం బానిసలుగా బాటకాల్సి వచ్చింది.
So, ప్రతి నాలుగో పదానికి google translate వడాల్సి వచ్చినా మొత్తానికైతే అనుకున్నట్టు review పూర్తి చేశాను. దీని వల్ల కొన్ని (చాలా?) చోట్ల awkward phrasing ఉండి ఉంటే క్షమించు. లేదంటే శిక్షించు. కానీ like కొట్టకుండా అలా మౌనంగా ఉండకు అత్తా!!!
Profile Image for Rishab Katoch.
37 reviews29 followers
December 9, 2020
A thought provoking and passionate critique of Hinduism and Hindu culture from a Dalit perspective. According to the author the Hindu brahminical culture and dalitbahujan culture are not only different but antithetical to each other, hence claiming that the dalitbahujans are not Hindus. He further goes on to argue that while the Hindu brahminical culture is fundamentally inegalitarian and inhumane the dalitbahujan culture is an egalitarian one. And that for a humane and egalitarian society we must dalitize our society and resist hinduization.

I must admit that I haven't bought all the arguments made by the author in support of his thesis. He often prefers to paint both the upper castes and the Dalits in broad strokes, reducing the tremendous diversity in each case. So if you're expecting a nuanced and unbiased study of Hindu caste system this might not be the best source. But despite its shortcomings this is an important read and should be read by all Hindus and non Hindus to expand their understanding of Indian society.
Profile Image for Megha.
85 reviews5 followers
November 19, 2020
Oh oh oh the emotional upheaval this book has caused
Extremely provocative, Ilaiah bars no words and lays it all out there in stone cold fury. Which is to say, this is a terrific and an absolutely essential read.
But while I acknowledge and appreciate the book for detailing valuable insights into one of the most oppressed sectors of society by Hinduism, I also found his assumption that all communities belonging to a lower caste being homogenous, quite reductive. Nevertheless, the most shocking part of the book for me was the emotional defensiveness it caused within me, which in itself made me realize quite a lot about the overarching ways Hinduism is not just a religion but a whole system that works to suppress large swathes of society (Constantly unlearning!)
Profile Image for Mridula.
31 reviews2 followers
December 21, 2020
This is a book that made me deeply uncomfortable about my position in the Indian society. It makes me question all that I have grown up with and known to be the Indian "Hindu" culture. It is a MUST READ if you were accidentally born into an upper-caste, especially brahmin-baniya family: a lot of unlearning awaits us. The unapologetic tone of the book is bound to put you on the defensive position now and then, but one must overcome such petty instincts and listen to what our lived experiences and knowledge systems miss out on.
Profile Image for Naveen Kumar.
7 reviews5 followers
September 10, 2019
Lack of research and solid facts in some parts of the book are backed by common sense. This book will definitely make you rethink of the brahminical society that we live in. Over all it was a powerful , anger filled dichotomy.
Profile Image for Kolagani.
43 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2015
It is always interesting to read history and society from an individual's point of view, more so when it shows things from an entirely new perspective. History is usually written by and for the people in power; this treatise is written from a point of view of people who are a majority, but not in power.

The parts in which author describes his childhood experiences are true to the word and was a great read as I personally saw these instances in childhood. Although one might criticize the author's extrapolations or interpretations of history, the central theme of the book still makes sense. The style is aggressive and one can see the author trying to provide causal explanations in a naive manner, yet one can see there's some (if not a lot of) truth to points he makes. And there's a huge left leaning rhetoric in the arguments or in the way of looking at daily lives, yet the reader need not be distracted.

Overall, it is a terrific read!
Profile Image for Kshitij Chaurel.
140 reviews10 followers
May 13, 2020
The writer shows the clear distinction between 'Upper Caste' (Hindu) and 'Dalitbahujans' in the context of South Indian society. His some ideas are thought provoking. He has initiated the new kind of discourse regarding caste system.

However, it lacks depth analysis of all the aspects that form a society. The harsh tone reflects the rage within oppressed people, born from hundreds of years of exploitation.
Profile Image for Vadassery Rakesh.
Author 6 books28 followers
September 29, 2013
Gets into the sad reality of our ancient culture, and how horrendous it is to know that the Aryan hegemony of caste still rules over the vanquished Dravidians even after 5000 years. Let there a hundred Ambedkars to rescue and put an end to the longest oppression in the human history. What to say author, I wish I could give you a hug, at least.
Profile Image for Navya.
239 reviews4 followers
October 26, 2020
An interesting and illuminating book about social/cultural/religious differences between the Hindu/brahminical way of life and Dalitbahujan way of life.

Ilaiah covers a surprising amount of ground in a fairly short read, and many parts of it were definitely eye-opening to me. He outlines and details (and valorizes) a part of Indian culture that has been historically oppressed to two outcomes - it has never been allowed to be recognized as a distinct and alternative way of life, and it has been denied its own history and space to prosper. This book takes key steps in correcting both these injustices.

I think different readers would take away different things from the book, depending on their own backgrounds. For savarna, Hindu, upper/middle class or urban readers, it is a good argument for a way of life we are more likely to be unfamiliar with than not. It is also an informed and important critique of what we may be familiar with, and of the gaps we may not have even realized existed. Even if you don't completely agree with Ilaiah, I am sure you will find some philosophies here that you can use to improve the life of your community.

The book does go into speculative territory at points and paints with a broad brush (though it is not a major issue, as this is more an ideological than historical text), and the call to action is somewhat abrupt. Yet, all the core points that the author raises ring true.
Profile Image for Nick.
689 reviews182 followers
July 13, 2016
Although I disagree with the major thesis of this book, I actually think its a great read, and that every Hindu should read it. The author gets a lot of things wrong about upper caste beliefs and practices, but it is a good insight into Sudra culture. Ilaiah denies that Sudra religion is a part of Hinduism, or that Sudra culture is a part of Hindu society, but that is almost self evidently false. As he observes, the Gods of the Sudras and Dalits are acknowledged by the rest of Hindu society, though they may dislike them or consider them inferior to the standard Hindu pantheon. Sudra religion emerged in India, exists only in India, an works within the same conceptual philosophical framework as the religion of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. On that basis alone it is a part of Hinduism, though a part which is neglected by the rest of Hindu society. I agree with one of Ilaiah's major claims though-- that much of what is good in Hindu religion exists because the tradition has shifted away from Brahminical norms and towards Sudra or Dalit norms (particularly in regards to the role of women in society for example.) I agree with this, and like Ilaiah, I hope that this trend continues. Too often Hindus see the Brahminical interpretation of the tradition as the only one, or the best one, and don't give the Sudras any attention. Its no wonder, given the degree of caste prejudice which exists. And it is therefore no wonder that Ilaiah feels as though he is not a Hindu, and has no desire to affiliate with the Hindu community.

Anyway I used this book as a source in 2 essays:


Profile Image for Spoo Rthi.
4 reviews7 followers
March 29, 2020
Brilliant book and so utterly important to have writers like him that come from dalitbahujan background to write from that perspective, that has long been ignored. It is definitely eye-opening even to people who are well-aware of the caste differences that exists in India, because the book details how in every aspect these differences exist and how these differences are used to humiliate and oppress dalitbahujan communities.

The personal narration makes it more realistic for the reader. The parts where he spoke about going to school and seeing even the version of Telugu that belonged to the dominant castes, moved me the most. We all have a strong belief in education being the one equalising democratic factor in our countries, but actually understanding the schooling experience from the point of few of the oppressed is eye-opening and so crucial in order to move ahead from such inequalities.
Profile Image for Sainath Sunil.
77 reviews14 followers
February 13, 2016
One of the most definitive works on presenting the dalit bahujan way of life. the author has gone to painful lengths to make the distinction between dalit bahujans and hindus clear, and most if not all, is backed by evidence. Kancha Ilaiah's book is a must read for anyone who has not understood the crippling role that caste and brahminism play in india, and how brahminism has increasingly co-opted more and more upper caste shudras who are helping to keep the rest of the dalit bahujans deprived of their true position in society. This book is a seminal piece since it shows why the dalit bahujan version or way of life is often either not spoken about or glossed over, this gives the impression as if dalit bahujans do not have their own version or history. Along with Annihilation of caste and Jyotiba Phule's Gulamgiri, this is a must read book.
Profile Image for Swaraj.
13 reviews26 followers
June 18, 2019
It is a must read book for all savarna's. Has some brilliant insights and critiques.
Profile Image for Soumya Mondal.
13 reviews1 follower
July 3, 2020
An excellent piece of writing unraveling the dichotomy of caste in India and a must read for understanding the roots and future of dalit movement.
Profile Image for Aditya Ajith.
21 reviews12 followers
February 28, 2021
Brilliant perspective. It'll take some time to internalize the elements presented in the book. It should be in the essential reading list across Indian colleges.
Profile Image for Sara Jothi.
Author 2 books10 followers
August 10, 2021
This book, I believe, need multiple reads before I could draft up a review. Akin to Ambedkar's Annihilation of caste, there are multiple takeaways from this text.
Why Am I not a Hindu is from a vantage point that is novel like no other. Like the author says, he's taken a stand from within the system opposed to Ambedkar and Periyar who came out of it to question it in defense. The author owns up to his land, his history, cultural practices and livelihood and posses logical questions as to why he should be included into something that's no way in resemblance to him or his people. He draws parallel from their gods, goddesses to food to marital relationships to family to their day to day work. In doing so, I think he succeeded in what he set out to do. The book gives a series of direct hits against the brahminical hegemony, the oppression it brings upon its own women and to Dalitbahujans. How their practices and beliefs are vested firmly within spiritual fascism rather a healthy democracy.
I'd say this is a good start for activists as well as people of upper caste/brahmins/baniyas/neo-shatriyas who are keen on unlearning their ways and have the niggling question "why?" "How?"

Though the author talks of the matriarchal nature of the dalitbahujan families and the marital/dominant role of women across the livelihood, occupation, life skills and family- I found it lacking in terms of liberation of Dalitbahujan women by and large.
I'd quote his words back for this. He talks of how neo-shatriyas were recruited by the brahmin/baniyas to be the muscle of the hegemony by consent. By talking of the matriarchal ways of Dalitbahujan time and again, I guess the author does the same to the women of the community. Presenting them with a sense of supremacy and therefore drawing consent to stay where they are without scope for them to break out of the familial work into education, and other potential spaces they might aspire to thrive well in.

That said, with the revised edition and on the reviews of the book I saw him write how he's not made any correction to the original texts and also, his admission on how Dalitbahujan liberation needs to go hand in hand with women liberation. One without the other would result in cracking brahminical hegemony to strengthening patriarchy. Neither of which is kind to the entire gender spectrum of women, LGBTQA+
Bar that, I found the ancient stories that spoke of how close Dalitbahujan had been to their men and women of past, how egalitarian the entire system had been and his theory on how Dalitization might bring about a refreshing change very interesting and thought provoking.

A must read if you are interested in going back to the roots and have a curiosity to know where and how it all started to go crooked.
Profile Image for Vivek Gothwal.
4 reviews
January 27, 2016
A must read for every hindu. it's an amazing critique of hinduism and hindu society. There are minor flaws in the book to which author has admitted in the afterword. it's high time we acknowledge the flaws in our society, it would be the first step to improving things.
29 reviews
March 21, 2020
"Our birth into a particular caste is accidental. We may have little control over our upbringing in caste-culture. After a certain age we continue to live in the culture of own caste through a conscious decision. Having been born into caste, very few - we can count them on our fingers - consciously move out of their caste culture" (Ilaiah 102).

This was an incredible read that must be on every person's, born and raised in upper-caste culture, shelf. As people who are born and brought up in privilege (and who will eventually reproduce it), it is beyond important to start the process as soon as possible of interrogating that privilege, past and present. For any upper-caste person seriously wanting to be anti-caste, this is an important book to start critiquing your privilege. As someone in the diaspora, it is obviously hard to come to terms with the reality that your religion (decontextualized, made to seem benevolent and part of your identity) is the root of others' intergenerational suffering and oppression. However, coming to terms with this is important to build an anti-caste society.

There are a number of people (presumably upper-caste) who start their reviews saying, "Caste is definitely bad but..." and are taking offense to Ilaiah's historical and realistic account of the way Hinduism is a weapon for oppression. This is the uncomfortable and necessary part of acknowledging privilege and involvement in oppression, and unfortunately many push back against this.
7 reviews
August 1, 2020
I had read a section of this book for a class assignment and was excited to read the rest of it. I thought it would provide a unique approach and critically examine the issue of caste inequalities. And while Ilaiah does bring in some interesting perspectives, I find his arguments could have been better presented. The dichotomy between the dalitbahujan-culture and the culture of the upper castes, which he puts forth, lacks the deep scrutiny I was expecting - instead it is presented in a very black-and-white manner. In his attempt to portray the former as the ideal world, his (often repetitive) arguments about patriarchy being milder (hence manageable, so ultimately better) in the dalitbahujan culture, or his presentation of the entire dalitbahujan culture as one homogenous form without inequality or any seriousflaw, are not very convincing. However, minus those disappointments, the book did make me ask a lot of questions and engage with myself, so I consider that a win.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 82 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.