Mleccha (from Vedic Sanskrit म्लेच्छ mleccha, meaning "non-Vedic, barbarian"), also spelt as Mlechchha, people of foreign extraction (non-aryans) in ancient India. Mleccha was used by the Aryans much as the ancient Greeks used barbaros, originally to indicate the uncouth and incomprehensible speech of foreigners and then extended to their unfamiliar behaviour. Mlecchas were found in northwestern India.[1][2] In the Mahabharata the root Sanskrit word barbar meant stammering, wretch, foreigner, sinful people, low and barbarous.[3] The Vayu, Matsya and Brahmanda Puranas state that the seven Himalayan rivers pass through the Mleccha countries.[4][5] Brahmanas lay mlecchas outside the varna system.[6][7]Southworth suggests that the name comes from mizi meaning 'speak', or 'one's speech' derived from Dravidian for language.[8] (see Southworth's etymological derivation of Tamil)



In ancient India, this term was also applied by the Aryan kingdoms to foreigners. The word Mleccha was commonly used for 'another class of untouchable' or 'outer barbarians of whatever race or colour'.[9][10] The Indians referred to all alien cultures that were less civilized in ancient times as 'Mlechcha'[11] or Barbarians. The Mlechchas were people who were barbaric[clarification needed] and who had given up the Vedic beliefs.[12] Among the tribes termed Mlechcha were Sakas, Hunas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas, Bahlikas and Rishikas.[13] The Amara-kosa described the Kiratas, Sabaras and Pulindas as the Mleccha-jatis.Rajput, Abhira, Gujars, Indo-Greeks, Scythians,[14] Kushanas,[15]Kalinga and Pandya were also mlecchas.[16][17]

Fierce Warriors

In the epic Mahabharata, some Mleccha warriors are described as having "heads completely shaved or half-shaved or covered with matted locks, [as being] impure in habits, and of crooked faces[18] They are "dwellers of hills" and "denizens of mountain-caves. Mlecchas were born of the cow (belonging to Vasishtha), of fierce eyes, accomplished in smiting looking like messengers of Death, and all conversant with the deceptive powers of the Asuras"[19] Chanakya refers to mleccha forces once attacked Chandragupta. An old sanskrit verse found in the ancient work on astrology identifies Mlecchas with Yavanas or Greeks. It says Mleccha hi yavanstesthu samyak shastramidam sthitam. By this verse means that mleccha, that is Yavana, were expert in the science of astronomy.

Chanakya also comes to know that five kings-Chitravarma, King of Kulu, Simhanad, King of Malayadesha, Pushkarakhsa, King of Kashmir, Sindhushena, king of Sindh, Megha king of Persia are five main pillars of the army of Mleccha king.[20][21]

Against Pandavas

According to Swami Parmeshwaranand Mleccha tribe was born from the tail of the celestial cow Nandini, kept by Sasista for sacrificial purposes when there was a fight between Vishvamitra and Vasistha. Mahabharata gives the following information regarding them:-

  • Mleccha who sprang up from the tail of the celestial cow Nandini sent the army of Viswamitra flying in terror.
  • Bhagadatta was the king of mlecchas.
  • Pandavas, like Bhimsean, Nakul and Sahadeva once defeated them.
  • Karna during his world campaign conquered many mlaccha countries.
  • The wealth that remained in the Yagasala of Yudhisthira after the distribution as gifts to Brahmins was taken away by the mlecchas.
  • The melecchas drove angered elephants on the army of the Pandavas.

"This shows mlecchas were against Pandavas and Brahmins".[22][23]

Areas of Melecchas

Together with the shift eastwards of the 'pure land' the northern Punjab and trans-Indus region came to be regarded as mleccha-desa'. Later Vedic literature speaks of the western Anava tribes as mlecchas and occupying northern Punjab, Sindh and eastern Rajasthan, as also the eastern Anava tribes occupying parts of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. The tribes of the north were mlecchas either because they were located on the frontiers such as Gandhara and Kambojas and therefore both their speech and culture had become contaminated and differed from that of aryavart, or else, as in the case of Dravidians, they were once aryas but having forsaken the rituals were regarded to mleccha status.[24]


Prof. Vasudeava Sharana Agrawala admits that the Indians were familiar with the mleccha language right from the time of Satapatha Brahmans. In support of the contention he quotes the Mbh.(Adi Parva,2/103), which refers to the talks between Vidur and Yudhisthira in mleccha language. The latter explained the mleccha language to Kunti in sanskrit, because it was indistinct for her. During the epic age some people having acquaintance with the Asuras used to speak their mleccha language. The Jaimini Dharmasastra (1.3.10) mentions certain mleccha words i.e pika, nema, sata and tamaras meaning respectively a bird, a half, a vessel, a red lotus which are sanskritized versions of words used in the dravidian languages.It means that the mleccha words were in use among the non Aryans.[25][26]


The term is not attested in the Vedas, but occurs for the first time in the late Vedic text Shatapatha Brahmana. The law giver Baudhâyana defines a Mleccha as someone "who eats meat or indulges in self-contradictory statements or is devoid of righteousness and purity of conduct". Mleccha in Hinduism could refer to any being who has different teachings than Hinduism and does not follow the Vedas. In the Indian history some indigenous rulers in Assam were called Mlechhas (Mlechchha dynasty). In the Bhagavata Purana the term is used in the context of meat eaters, outcastes.

Mlecchas eating habits

The sanskritizing of names was a common feature among both indigenous and foreign mlecchas who slowly tried to move away from their status of mleccha. Very often, in the case of ruling families, it took one to two generations to make a transition. One of the most direct forms of the expression of the brahmanical ritual purity was the form and type of food which a brahman could eat. He was forbidden to accept cooked food from any nonbrahman. Thus when the Punjab became a mleccha area the staple food was given a lower place in the food-ranking. Whereas Rigvedic Aryans had a staple diet of wheat and barley, by the twelfth century AD wheat was described in one lexicon as 'food of the mlecchas' and rice became the 'pure' cereal. Onions and garlic were also regarded as the food of the mlecchas and therefore prohibited to the brahman. Mlecchas drank alcohol and ate flesh of the cow, and this in later periods was strictly forbidden to the Aryan twice-born.[27][28]

Medieval India

Medieval Hindu literature, such as that of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, also uses the term to refer to those of larger groups of other religions, especially Muslims.[29] In medieval India, a foreign visitor Al Biruni (died 1048) noted that foreigners were regarded as 'unclean' or 'Mleccha' and Hindus were forbidden any social or matrimonial contact with them.[30]


Republic of Venice was called Mletačka Republika in Croatian language and Venetians were called Mletci or Mleci. The term designates stranger or alien.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Students' Britannica India, Volumes 1-5 By Encyclopaedia Britannica (India)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Suryakanta (1975), Sanskrit Hindi English Dictionary, page 417, reprinted 1986, Orient Longman(ISBN 086125 248 9).
  4. ^ Personal and Geographical Names in the Gupta
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Indian historical review, Volume 29--page-59
  7. ^
  8. ^ Southworth, Franklin C. (1998), "On the Origin of the word tamiz", International Journal of Dravidial Linguistics 27 (1): 129–132 
  9. ^ Basham, A. L. (1954) The wonder that was India, pages 45-46, Sidgwick and Jackson, London.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Mudrarakshasha by Kashinath Trimbak Telang introduction p12 [1]
  12. ^ Manusamriti, X/43-44; A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages, 1875, p 5,Robert Caldwell; Early Chauhān dynasties:, 1959, p 243, Dasharatha Sharma - History; The Aryans, a Modern Myth, 1993, p 211,Parameśa Caudhurī - History.
  13. ^ National geographer, 1977, p 60, Allahabad Geographical Society - History.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Language multiplicity and ancient races in India
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ ."Mlecchas in early India: a study in attitudes towards outsiders up to AD 600
  19. ^ Mahabharata, Drona Parva, Section 92.
  20. ^ History of Indian theatre, Volume 3 By Manohar Laxman Varadpande
  21. ^
  22. ^ Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas: (A-C) ; 2.(D-H) ; 3.(I-L) ; 4.(M-R) ; 5 ... By Swami Parmeshwaranand
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Researches into the history and civilization of the Kirātas By G. P. Singh
  27. ^
  28. ^ Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations By Romila Thapar
  29. ^ Vedabase.
  30. ^ Rizvi, S.A.A. (1986), The wonder that was India, volume II, pages 252-253, Sidgwick and Jackson, London

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mleccha — est un mot sanscrit par lequel les hindouistes désignent ceux qui ne suivent pas les préceptes de l hindouisme. De la part des plus radicaux, ce terme a une connotation péjorative et désigne les étrangers en général. Portail des religions et… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mleccha — /mlech euh, meuh lech euh/, n. Hinduism. 1. a non Indian barbarian of whatever race or color. 2. a class of untouchables comprising such persons. [ < Skt] * * * …   Universalium

  • mlecchá — म्लेच्छ …   Indonesian dictionary

  • mlecchá-tā — म्लेच्छता …   Indonesian dictionary

  • mlecchâ̱ṡa — म्लेच्छाश …   Indonesian dictionary

  • Mleccha — /mlech euh, meuh lech euh/, n. Hinduism. 1. a non Indian barbarian of whatever race or color. 2. a class of untouchables comprising such persons. [ < Skt] …   Useful english dictionary

  • mlecchá-bhāshā — म्लेच्छभाषा …   Indonesian dictionary

  • mlecchá-bhojana — म्लेच्छभोजन …   Indonesian dictionary

  • mlecchá-deṡa — म्लेच्छदेश …   Indonesian dictionary

  • mlecchá-dvishṭa — म्लेच्छद्विष्ट …   Indonesian dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”