Foreign Travel Banned for Brahmins!

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Post No. 723 dated 26th November 2013

By London swaminathan

Hindu Dharma Sastras (ancient law books) ban foreign travel. Crossing the sea was a taboo in those days. There were reasons for it. But great Brahmins like Agastya and Kaundinya travelled to South East Asia and established a Hindu empire which lasted 1300 years in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I have written a lot about it my earlier posts.

His Holiness Sachidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Svaminah of Sringeri Mutt (33rd Head of Sringeri Shankara Mutt) answered a devotee’s question on the ban on orthodox Hindus travelling abroad:-

“ Some gentlemen pleaded with His Holiness for relaxation of the rules prohibiting foreign travel and urged the great need and the advantages of such travel in the interests of the welfare and advancement of our country. His Holiness said:-

“Brahmanyam is the highest asset of a Brahmana and for preserving it he is asked not to mix with all and sundry people even in this land whose contact or company is likely to affect the Brahmanyam. How can a Brahmana then be permitted to go to foreign lands and stay there with people of quite different tastes, tendencies and habits? No kind of expiatory rite can completely eradicate the effect of such contact. So the Sastras do not permit free intercourse as before with one who has returned from foreign lands though he may have performed some expiation ceremony. It is in no sense cruel to have such segregation.
Though we equally love all the portions of our body, do we not allow some portions to be operated upon and even removed if we find that they are likely to affect the general health of the whole body? It may be a painful process but is a necessary one. Similarly a person who has seriously impaired or lost his Brahmanyam is sure to affect the purity of others and nothing wrong in segregating him from the main society.

It will be well to bear in mind that the prohibition as regards foreign travel applies only to the small communities of Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya collectively called Dvijas and not to Sudras and other castes which form the overwhelming majority in our society. Let the latter take to foreign travel and the former encourage and help them. If they do so, this will incidentally reduce the heart burning and hatred caused by the Brahmanas competing with others in all fields of worldly enterprise.

If it is said that the Brahmanas particularly are required for foreign travel by reason of their superior intelligence, quick grasp of new ideas, power of adjustment to circumstances etc., we must recollect that this superior capacity is not the result of physical labour but only of their habits of self restraint, strict adherence to the Sastras, frequent exercise of their intellect in the pursuit of subtle problems of life and more so of their inborn state of contentment.

If the Brahmana is allowed to give up all these and join in the race for worldly prosperity and imbibe the spirit of discontent, the superiority will vanish in no time and he will be just like others and sometimes even inferior to them. It is therefore dangerous to try to dilute and ultimately eradicate Brahmanyam from our land and make the Brahmanas remain so only in name to be treated with contempt.”

From the book ‘Golden Sayings’,1969 publication by Sri Jnanantha Grantha Prakasana Samiti, Thenkarai, Madurai District.

My (London Swaminathan) comments: What Swamiji said several decades ago is very true. It is a bitter truth that we are not ready to admit. No one will follow Swamiji’s advice. We have hundreds of excuses to put forth before him. Bu the religious heads cant dilute the Satras. I myself have noticed the following changes during my 27 year stay in London:

1. We can’t follow all the rituals in foreign countries which we followed in India.
2. Our sons and daughters are not following or believing what we believed when we were young.
3. Every family got marital connection with a Non Hindu. The minute it happened, their entire tone changed and began to talk about “universal brotherhood!”
4. Names of Sri Lankan and Mauritian Tamil children have been distorted beyond recognition. By the third generation they didn’t even understand their names. Neither do their parents! When they followed false numerology their names got wrong and negative connotations.

commissioning of INS Tarkash on 09 Nov 2012

5. The Non residents did not see anything wrong in religious conversions.
6. They did not attend their parents’ funerals for the fear of losing their asylum status.

7. Most of the youths lost their roots and forgot their mother tongue. Most of their religious hymns are in their mother tongue. When they read them through Roman letters they sounded awkward.

8. Few old people have become mental patients because of cultural and religious conflicts in their families.

9. Children who are born to couples belonging to two different religions feel like rudderless ships!
10. First generation forget their mother tongue. By second generation, they forget their culture. By third generation they forget their religion. By fourth generation they are rootless and feel like rudderless ships. Since their parents also forgot most of their language and culture they are unable to help their children

11. The writer can give hundreds of incidents to substantiate the above statement. Very few Brahmins do Sandhya Vandhana three times a day and monthly rituals like Tharpanam. Going to temples is rarer.

12. We must see His Holiness in the right context. He advised Brahmins to be content and be the torch bearers of religion and culture like in the olden days. You and I look at present day and care for our family and our friends, but Shankaracharyas and saints like him look at future and care about generations to come.


Leave a comment


  1. The Swamiji’s reasoning is great and beyondme. But the necessities of life and the hard socio political conditions necessitate foreign travels.

  2. Reblogged this on Amaruvi's Aphorisms and commented:
    Not sure how many would agree with the reasoning. This post from another Blogger is bound to raise some questions. So I have decided to re-blog this.

  3. Ramachandran Guruswamy Iyer

     /  November 27, 2013

    The issue needs deeper introspection. The question of Brahminism varies from State to State. The Hindi belt and Gujarat have different conceptions while in Bengal and Kerala orthodoxy is sheer opportunism. Only in Tamilnadu people lament about status of Vaidik Brahminism. The Normal mentality is not strict orthodoxy but desire to continue wherever we go. I fully support the adherence to scriptures even in foreign countries for the following reasons: i) As per major Grihya Sutras Dravida is not a fit place for Brahmins. ii)The Tamil Brahmins are not emotionally attached to Tamil while previously orthodox Brahmins did not have high opinion about Tamil.iii) When issue of residing in Tamilnadu as a fit place for Brahmins itself is not fully settled whether conjoined by Grihya Sutras why should one blame overseas travel.iv) One has to accept that in India more so in Tamilnadu services of Brahmins are not at all required by other community except for astrology and officiating in big holy places including temples for Pan Indianism and transnationalism. Ninety percent of Indian population is AVARNAS without Varna for e.g., Jats, Gujjars, Kapus etc., can never be fit into any varna. Orthodoxy can have relevance only where goods are available without production mechanism where brain and creative power are not required. Today Karmas are required to purify the Atman without getting attached to the deficiency of production. Even for strict orthodoxy security and absence from intimidation are must. Dravida itself means running away and if we are proud that we were able to carry the legacy because of safety now overseas travel becomes Dravida where legacy is being carried. If it is the will of God that we have to be intellectual wanderers as Dravidas only Almighty can change our fate through prayer and adherence to rituals treating the place of residence as fit place.

  4. Can anyone tell me which Dharmashastra has this rule inscribed? Manusmriti, Yajnavalkya smriti, Naradasmriti, Vishnusmriti, Brhaspathi smriti or Katyayana smriti?

  5. Manu briefly refers to overseas travel in Chapter 3 sloka 158. Those who travel overseas will be excluded (from the Brahmin community). Other Smritis may have more details.

  6. . The Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra recommends this for those who have crossed the boundaries of Āryāvarta and ventured into far away places. But Tamil Nadu and Dravida lands are already beyond the aryavarta ranges, or the GANGETIC PLAIN. That means that Dravidian Brahamans are already out of this range and need expiatory acts according to this specific Shastra. What about balinese/indonesian brahmanas, this brahmin community stems from middle ages till today! Totally out of Bharata Varsha! Dharma changes accoring to time, space and ciscumstances. Also many scripture contradict themselves. In the end we have only our good sense and our Guru’s advice regarding those questions.

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