Becoming a Brahmin Poem by Meena Kandasamy Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


Becoming a Brahmin is a poet written by the Indian poet Meena Kandasamy. The poem was first published in the magazine The Little Magazine, however the date of publishing is unclear. Meena Kandasamy is also known to be a fiction writer and a translator and her works have poetry included in various journals like Kavya Bharati, Indian Horizons, Muse India, etc. In this poem, Kandasamy aims to satirically criticise the caste-based society that exists in India. The poet provides a critical commentary on the hegemonic structure of caste which places Brahmins at the top and Shudras at the bottom, thereby making the Shudras a marginalised community. 

About the Author 

Illavenil Kandasamy, also known by her pen name Meena Kandasamy, was born on the 12th of October 1984, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. She is an Indian author, poet, translator and social activist and is known for her powerful and thought-provoking works that engage with various social and political issues prevalent in contemporary India. Kandasamy’s writings often delve into themes such as caste discrimination, gender inequality, and social justice. Her debut novel, The Gypsy Goddess (2014), is a fictionalized account based on the Kilvenmani massacre, addressing issues of caste oppression and exploitation of labourers. The novel received critical acclaim for its bold narrative and social commentary. Meena Kandasamy is also a poet, and her poetry reflects a deep engagement with the socio-political landscape of India. “Touch” (2006) is one of her collections of poetry, known for its candid exploration of identity, love, and societal norms. In addition to her literary contributions, Meena Kandasamy is an outspoken activist, advocating for social justice and equality. 


The poem is written in the form of an algorithm with several steps one has to take to convert their caste. The poem consists of 14 lines and they are written in the form of a computer code. 

Lines 1- 8

Algorithm for converting a Shudra into a Brahmin


Step 1: Take a beautiful Shudra girl.
Step 2: Make her marry a Brahmin.
Step 3: Let her give birth to his female child.
Step 4: Let this child marry a Brahmin.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 six times.
Step 6: Display the end product. It is a Brahmin.


The poem starts with the speaker or the algorithm establishing its general motive, which is to convert a person belonging to the Shudra community into a Brahmin. The steps begin with the algorithm saying that one should take a “beautiful” Shudra girl and make her marry a Brahmin man. The married Shudra girl should give birth to a female child, who should also, in turn, marry a Brahmin man. According to the algorithm, once this procedure is repeated several times and for several generations, the “end product” would be a pure-bred Brahmin progeny. 


In the first place, the use of an algorithm to describe the process of becoming a Brahmin appears to be a commentary on the absurdity and arbitrariness of the caste hierarchy. Thus, this is nothing but a critique of social mobility aimed to erase the identity of a particular caste group just because of their “low” and “impure” status in society. 

Lines 9-14


Algorithm advocated by Father of the Nation at Tirupur.
Documented by Periyar on 20.09.1947.

Algorithm for converting a Pariah into a Brahmin

Awaiting another Father of the Nation
to produce this algorithm.


As the algorithm ends, the poem gives some information about the creator of this code. This algorithm of caste conversion was created by the Father of the Nation at Tirupur. The poem further tells us that this information, as given by the Father of the Nation was documented by Periyar on a particular date. The poem goes on to shift the subject and talks about the algorithm required to convert a Pariah into a Brahmin. For this, the poem comments, we shall have to wait for another Father of the Nation to produce the required algorithm. 


This “algorithm” is in fact a historically accurate reference to a speech made by the Father of the nation, Gandhi in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. In his speech, Gandhi said that a way to liberate a Shudra female child is for her to marry a Brahmin man. Their daughter must marry a Brahmin likewise, if the same procedure is carried out for seven generations then in the seventh generation he/she becomes a person of the Brahmin community. The poem satirically comments that soon another Father of the Nation will give us an algorithm to convert the Pariahs or another community of people belonging to the “low caste” of ceremonial drummers into Brahmins.