Castes – will these continue forever

Deep rooted implications

Indians have continued with the traditional caste system. They live and breathe with it in their daily lives. But the question is whether castes will continue or somebody will find arguments against them. Ask the politicians and you will get your answers.

 Politicians can’t survive without caste based vote banks. It makes election process and its predictions so very easy for them. On the social front, caste remains a primary consideration during marriage alliances. And who can deny its direct consequence since an individual’s surname is caste driven. To some it may be surprising that cooking styles, being family oriented, have dependence on castes. For example, Marwari, Gupta or Mittal communities use pure Indian Ghee as their cooking medium.

Evolution of Caste System

Castes (Jaatis) have been formally laid down by the Indian Brahmins as follows

  • Brahmins – are scholars, teachers, fire priests
  • Kshatriyas – are kings, warriors, law enforcement people and administrators
  • Vaishyas – are agriculturist, cattle raisers, traders and bankers
  • Shudras – are artisans, craftsmen, service providers
  • Untouchables – like forest tribes, Chandaals (Who deal with disposal of dead bodies). Manual scavengers included. [1]

In ancient India, political power was kept with the Kshatriyas, economic with the Vaishyas and Shudras, while the Brahmins, as custodians and interpreters of dharma, enjoyed a status of consultants in the society. According to Fa Xian, a Buddhist pilgrim from China, all castes enjoyed their belongingness to an unquestionable extent  and the system was not oppressive; only Chandaals were outcast due to the nature of their work.

British administrators, conversant with the class distinction in England and driven by the need to regulate the many social groups they encountered in everyday administration in India, took advantage of the age-old Hindu caste system. They formalized it by creating schedules of caste-based groups. They exploited the tradition of marrying within caste and encased the society in small factions, enabling the doctrine of divide and rule – a view that established the imperialistic model in India. One would have expected the caste system discarded after independence but sadly, it re-appeared as a monster to support three significant systems namely election, education and professions, the last two by way of reservations.

Social Impact

The social impact of castes has been fluctuating. In the beginning, people were enamored by the newly introduced privilege of reservations. It entitled them to a lead over the others in spite that some were afraid of the taboos associated with poverty and lower class. A few of the lower castes even raised their caste category fictitiously, to overcome this taboo. But as the reservation benefits became tangible, the trend was reversed. Citizens maneuvered around for inclusion in the reserved category to become eligible for the linked benefits. This resulted in some clever ones amassing enviable wealth and position in this process. Having tasted the blood, they surprisingly moved to restrict entry of others in these categories by introducing stricter laws and verification processes. The reserved classes of the 19th century actually became the privileged classes of the 20th century.

Modernization and urbanization have led to a decline in the outward display of caste discrimination. The se days the status of caste may never be seen directly on public forums or in the workplace. The status of an individual is now judged by the level of wealth that he displays and not by his caste or surname. Even, the stigma of marrying in the lower castes has been obliterated to some extent. In many villages, however, the segregation of castes through daily behavior still exists. In Himachal Pradesh, ‘dham’ a traditional feast during social events requires people from the lower caste ie untouchables (Harijans) or the tribal, to sit separately while the others squat together. This is a serious ill of the society, which will only be eliminated by the education of the coming generations.

Impact on Professions

While caste is now seen as anachronistic, in its original form it served as an instrument of professionalism in the society. It channelized direct knowledge and skills transfer from one generation to another. The exclusive manner in which this was done circumvented the risks of competition. A good example of caste based specialization was that while many weavers produced muslin cloth, none could match the softness and fineness delivered by the weavers of Dhaka (Bangla Desh now). In addition, the caste system played an influential role in shaping economic activities, ensuring a natural division of labor, development and protection of intellectual property, and sometimes, allowing manufacturers to achieve specialization and global monopoly.

The present day use of sophisticated machinery has reduced the need for the manual skills of the type that were necessary in ancient times. The relevance of caste-based expertise consequently has been lost. Newer skills do not require dependence on hereditary transfer of knowledge, skills and tips.

Electoral Abrasions

But now the politicians are bending over their backs, to retain caste distinction. They realize but they ignore the fact that distinction brings in discrimination. It is evident from the fact that population data by caste distinction, which was first collected during British Raj in 1931, for making the schedules of depressed classes, was revived during the 2011 census. The leaders are aware that the electorate favor a useless representative of own caste over a worthy representatives of another. This is a good handle for a win in the elections.

Comments

Whatever we may say to support or oppose caste discrimination, its existence in the society does present hurdles in achieving inclusiveness and equality, the two important factors for unleashing the country’s potential. Here is something that the society and the government would have to deal with jointly.

 

[1] Bharat Ratna Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of independent India, pioneered elimination of manual scavengers yet even today, at least half a millions of these unfortunate individuals still exist in the society. This is one of the topics covered in the ongoing television serial ‘Truth Alone Prevails’ (Satyameva Jayate) conceived, produced and presented by the famous cine Indian star Aamir Khan.  The serial is dubbed in many national languages.

2 Comments

  1. SuchindranathAiyerS

    Caste, tribe and religions are enshrined in India’s British and British stooges made “Divide to Rule” and “Shake the Pagoda Tree” Constitution and laws.

    “Caste” comes from the Portuguese word “Casta” . There is no equivalent in any Indian language other than Hinglish or Hindi, the latter being the Bazaar and Brothel language Urdu written in Devanagari to appease the Moslems and their illegitimate “Hindoo” offspring in an extended paroxysm of Gandhism.

    Caste was used by the British to “divide to rule” and has been enshrined, together with communalism, in the Indian Constitution that was plagiarized from the Government of India Act (a 1935 House of Lords confection) duly modified by Sir Maurice Gwyer, the then Chief Justice of Delhi, for the Cambridge, Columbia, Elphinstone, Oxford, Presidency, St Stephens and Madras Christian “educated” PANGOLIN*s for what remained of India after 1947 and the unfortunate Princely States several of which had been previously prosperous and well governed and now fell to the loot, rapine and plunder of the Indian Republic..

    “Hindoo” is a legal fiction created by the British in 1921, when they coined the word “Dalit” for those who did not adhere to Aryan Brahmin law and so created a lumpen to swamp the congregational temple welfare system and confiscated the temples, lands, water bodies, educational institutions, treasure and religious freedoms of the Savarna Arya People of Dharma. The object was to crush the law and education giving Brahmins so as to destroy all resistance to alien religions and ideologies. This was a pogrom that originated in the 1857 rebellion and was motivated by Islamic “Taqiya” that the Brahmins were behind the uprising and the violence, which the British believed and made a pillar of state policy as a political convenience analogous to Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the Jews.. In 1959, The PANGOLIN*s followed through and repeated this British style persecution in residual India and the former princely states that had fallen, unwittingly, into their maws.

    The word “Hindoo” is an appellation that was used by the Persians, during their “Vedai” period, which preceded their “Avesthan” (Zoroastrian) period to describe their co coreligionists of the Indus valley. It was used by the barbaric, uncultured and disinformed Moslem invaders to describe all who lived beyond the Indus and deprived of the protection of law and humanity as “Kuffars” by Islam. The British, as heirs, successors and assigns of the Nawab of Arcot and the Mughals resurrected the label to their political convenience.

    Both Varna and Gyati refer to Professions. The Former is India Aryan and the Latter is Druhyu (Dravid/Dasyu/Druid)

    In the Rik Vedic (Evolution of fire technology and metal working) Period following Brahma giving the Prathamo Upanishad to the Saptha Rishis (from which the notions of Karma and Dharma were born) and the formulation of the Aryan Constitution represented by the Swastika, when the pastoral, Brahmin, multi racial Aryas roamed the grass lands from East Europe to Mongolia, there was no Varna. During the Shukla Yajur Veda (Archery, chariot war fare and the harrying of the Druid Civilizations of Mesopotamia and Persia) Period there were two Varnas. Arya and Dasyu (Serf or Slave). The tall, fair, semitic, encycephalic, idolatrous, agricultural and archtiectural Shiva, Vishnu and Lalitha worshiping Druhyus (Druids) scattered from the Ur civilization to escape the constant harrying by the Aryas as well as their own apostates who had embraced Yahweh who said unto Abraham, “Put no other Gods before me for I am a jealous God”. Some of them headed East and formed the Indus Valley civilization displacing the indigenous tribals.

    Some Aryas followed and settled in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and were bound by the treaty of Bharatha (a codicil to the main Constitution of Arya Varsha). They over laid the Druhyus and exacted tribute in the form of agricultural, architectural and other produce and services from the Dasyus. Here was born the joyous tones of the Krishna Yajur Veda from plenty and luxury. Here too were born the Varnas. The Brahmana, the Kshatriya and the Vaishya. The Varnas were decided by the Brihaspathi in the Pathashala. Then came the decadence of the Sama Veda. The Great Civil War (referred to in the masterly literary work “Mahabharatha” by Vyasa) decimated the Aryas and broke their hegemony. This began the Atharva Veda Period. Thereafter the Dravids and the Aryas began to inter marry. The Druid dieites were Sanskritized and the compendium of the Thaithreya Upanishad was created including the Druid deities for the use of all previous Vedas.

    The temple worship, architectural and agricultural technologies entered the Atharva Veda through the Aagama (that which came from outside) Shastras. The Dasyus entered the Guru Kula system as Shudras with full Varna mobility thereafter. The Druhyus already had a complex system of professional specializations as behooves an advanced civilization and this was verniered and integrated into the Varna system. The Vedic Period was brought to an end by Ashoka who destroyed the temples, dismantled the Guru Kulas and drove Brahmanism and Sanskrit under ground. He replaced the Swastika of Arya Varsha with his Chakra. With this, the Varna system ossified and education passed from father to son as Varna mobility was not possible without Guru Kulas. Many of the indigenous people as also the Dasyus never accepted Aryan Law and remained out side the Varna system. Many others who had been put into “Bahishkara” (open prison or exile) could not be reintegrated as the Ashwamedha Yajna when the laws were recodified and this took place were no longer conducted as Ashoka had ended Bharatha Varsha when he performed the Raja Suya Yajna (sacrificing the heads of the defeated Kings of the Sukla Yajur Veda period) instead of the Ashwamedha Yajna (consensus under Bharatha Varsha Krishna Yajur Veda). These were called Dalits by the British in 1921. The British wrongly gave the term “Dravid” to the indigenous people of India rather than the semitic Druhyus from the place of the three rivers (now known as the Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan) who brought agriculture and temple building to India.

    Shudras are savarna. They were, originally, Druhyus who entered the Guru Kulas afer most Aryan males were killed in the Civil War of Kurukshetra during the Atharva Veda period with varna mobility thereafter. Ashoka put an end to the Aryan and Vedic system. Those who adopted and followed Aryan Brahmin Law thereafter were considered Shudra as they could not go to Guru Kulas, there being none, and the Varna system had become hereditary.

    However those outside the Aryan fold had their own gyati (profession classification) system and inter se arrangements which was respected by the Savarna Aryas and became a vernier within the broad category of “Shudra” when they accepted and adhered to Arya Dharma. Those who did not, co-existed outside the agriculture, temple congregation, tribute, chivalric and welfare system and came to be labeled Dalits by the British in 1921

    N.B. An excellent presentation. However, two tips on the content. Krishna was born into a Princely family and was adopted into a family of cow herds to escape the murderous intentions of his maternal uncle. Ravana was not a Brahmin. According to Valmiki, he was born to a Kama Rupi Rakshasi from Pulasthya Rishi and the younger brother of an Asura, Kubera, the lord of Wealth and the North. True Pulasthya Rishi was a Grand son of Brahma (according to Valmiki) but as the entire Universe was created by Brahma out of Brahma, then, by this logic, snakes cockroaches and earth worms could also be called “Brahmins”. Which is not the reason why India’s politicians, judiciary, police, journalists and bureaucrats call Brahmins as snakes, dogs, pigs and so on.

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      How nice such a long comment. I have experienced that people want to shrug away from replying the comments in such depth. A simpler description would be more than welcome Mr Iyer, though I welcome your comments. Readers please read it a few times to be in line with what the commentator has written.

      Puneet Mehra, and Naresh Khatter what are your takes on this topic.

      Reply

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