Posted on: 8 May 2016

Essay:
Why is the world so obsessed with India’s caste system?
By Sahana Singh
Indiafacts - 5 May 2016

There is an obsessive tendency to project the caste system as a form of social exclusivism found only in India. Clearly, not enough attention is being directed to the history of social hierarchies and exclusions in the western world, nor is the peculiar development of India’s social stratification under British colonialism being fully appreciated.

India’s caste system and ‘untouchability’ have been a matter of profound interest to a large number of social science researchers, historians, and even the general public in modern times. Perceptions of Indian caste have taken such deep roots in the minds of non-Indians that I am often asked whether I belong to an upper caste during casual conversations with westerners.

This is not surprising, because even today, high school textbooks in the US such as ‘World Civilizations: Global Experience’ (AP Edition) carry sentences such as: “The Indian caste system is perhaps the most extreme expression of a type of social organization that violates the most revered principles on which modern Western societies are based.”

Strangely, Indians themselves have internalized all these stories of exploitation of lower castes and untouchables and never asked questions about their validity or about similar practices in the western world. Was there really no caste system anywhere else except in India? How were the people who emptied human faeces from the privies of the rich citizens of Europe treated? How were the men who handled human corpses and animal carcasses treated? Did such people get the chance to sit at the same table as rich men or marry their daughters?

The Indian ‘caste system’ was a label imposed by the British colonialists and this label did not correctly represent the stratification of the society. In the Vedas, there was no concept of purity of blood, which was a characteristic of Europe’s caste system. On the other hand, there was a concept of actions and personal qualities determining one’s ‘varna’. The Indian term “jaati” that refers to occupational division of society into barbers, cobblers, cattle-herders, blacksmiths, metal-workers and other trades is not a concept exclusive to India (even though the concept of artisans’ guilds has most likely originated in India). In every settled society in the world, traditionally, sons followed the same occupation as their fathers. The sons of carpenters became carpenters. The sons of weavers became weavers. It made sense because the children were well acquainted with the trades of their father, and could keep their trade secrets with themselves.

In India, the lines dividing jaatis were initially loose and there were many instances of people moving across the hierarchy. There have been saints from lower castes such as Ravidas, Chokhamela and Kanakadasa who earned the respect of people and were not regarded as lesser than Brahmin saints. The Maratha Peshwas were Brahmins who became Kshatriyas. The Maratha king Shivaji was regarded as a low-caste in the beginning who, after his victory over many kingdoms, proclaimed himself as a Kshatriya with support from liberal Brahmins.

Read more:

http://bit.ly/1TNUfRc

Image:
Casta system of Mexico as depicted by Spanish colonial art.


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Very good information ..

Here's a definition I learnt in my Sociology class - C.H. Cooley: “When a class is somewhat strictly hereditary, we may call it a caste.” Therefore, it's like class, but you can change your class just by getting a good education, buying a new car or clothes. You can't do that with caste And the wily British put this ‘For a Sûdra is (like) a cemetery, therefore (the Veda) is not to be read in the vicinity of a Sûdra.’ into the Manusmriti to create caste divisions?

Much better. I liked "the caste was a label imposed by the British imperialists" ...because those who have actually studied this part of history know it very well.

Absolute trash written in this article. Disappointing to read

This is a bunch of excuses. Sure, there was an element of Orientalism in the British writing about the caste system. But these excuses, my god. Have some people no shame?

Such a interesting explanation!!thank ?you!I always have my questions about it

Caste System 'Hindu Wisdom' "..these distinctions exist and have existed from time immemorial, and are based upon natural divisions. Caste is present in the East and class is present in the West." (source: India: Essays and Lectures Vol. IV - By Annie Besant London. The Theosophical Publishing Co. p.43-50.1895).

Well brought out. Its a fabrication of the British to divide society and justify conversions!

Wow this is completely news to me! "Throughout history, the task of handling wastes and faeces has never been a dignified one. Until as late as the 20th century, human excrement had to be removed physically from cesspits and privies in Europe. The European lower-caste people who did the dirty job were called gongfermours (French) or gong farmers in English. Do you think they were treated with respect and allowed to mingle freely with the upper echelons of society? The gong farmers of England were only allowed to work at night, so they were also called nightmen. They came into respectable neighbourhoods in the dead of the night, emptied cesspits and carted away the wastes to the boundaries of the cities. They were required to live in certain areas at the fringes of the city and could not enter the city during day-time. There were severe penalties for breaking this rule. Even after water closets arrived on the scene, their contents flowed into cesspits for a long time and needed to be cleaned out by nightmen." This article does indeed provide rare perspectives.

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Well, here is a list of things you could do: (a) address her facts and references and try to discredit them; (b) address the issues with your own alternate references which can subsequently be discussed; (c) Acknowledge that a body of work exist that are opposed to the author's views, and express inability to accept her views due to lack of expertise; (d) followup on her references and use that as a learning opportunity; (e) Ignore the work due to time/priorities - none of which you have done. Unless you can demonstrate an ability to engage with facts, we should conclude that you are over-opinionated and under-informed. It is a free country - and you are entitled to your opinions. Just remember that in a free country we can also challenge those opinions, especially those made on a public forum.

Imperialists and evangelists magnified evils of Indian society manifold to the extent that the many a myth became Reality. They were able to demonise and demoralize Indian society.On the other hand utter alienation was accentuated not only amongst large sections of the socalled "Untouchables" but was also created anew amongst the educated socalled upper castes(leave aside the WOGs like de Rozio and his followers etc.),the rich peasantry and the tribals who were earlier fighting against the Imperialists valiantly till as late as1870s.The result was a delayed and prolonged and isolated freedom struggle.Only the Social Reform movements and now much denied renaissance (denied by Mcauley's great-grandsons in the garb of progressive historians-the PN Oaks of Western imperialism) could trigger the freedom struggle in its earnest which was later on joined by all the sections of society barring the partitionists and splitters. Sanjay Chaturvedi,

Very very old information and to cover up ground realities. Untouchability peculiar to Indian society.

Peculiar to India on the other hand it is still in practice in worst possible manner throughout India.

The tone of the article is a very lame "justification" of caste system. It talks about Peshwas who became Brahmin rulers, but read about how horrifically they treated the Mahars. Also, how Shivaji's coronation was strongly opposed by local Brahmins , as him being called a "Shudra". He did not get support of "liberal brahmins" , he had to literally import a brahmin gagabhatt from Varanasi. IN Rajasthan, a non Rajput could not even ride a horse on his wedding. Non shares of water. Even a shadow of shudra was considered polluting!!!... what does that have to do with Trade secrets? There was horrific Slavery in USA and Serfdom in Russia, but don't use that as a justification for caste system. It was thanks to Lord Maculay's educational policies that dalits were able to rise in society.

Raj Vedam - I'm sorry to have been so cutting towards the post. But casteism was always at the crux of society. It's a telling fact about us that we have not accepted it as one of our biggest drawbacks and blame the Brits for it!

It is very simplistic orientalist argument. Caste has not existed in Hindu society since "time immemorial" . Early Vedic society was very progressive and egalitarian. These divisions crept into Hinduism much later. Caste system is not inherent to Hinduism, but let us atleast accept our mistakes and not blame British or Muslims for it.

Those who can't differentiate between class and caste shame to them.

The article explains that social hierarchies were not unique to India and should not be projected as such. It does not "justify" the caste system (which was frozen by the British via their 19th century survey). It reminds people that the earlier varna and jaati system in pre-British times based on attributes and professions was more mobile. The very fact that Shivaji overcame the local Brahmins and and crowned himself king is a sign that varnas were not frozen. Social reformers existed in every century to remind people to broaden their outlooks, to not judge people when they were themselves imperfect. But of course, a perfect society could never be achieved. Yet, it was not as bad as in many other places in the world - for example, kings like Shivaji insisted that no religious books should be disrespected during invasions. Anyone who justifies Macaulay's educational policies has to be either ignorant or a self-loathing Indian. It was the introduction of English in schools that created the massive inequality between vernacular and English-medium schools. It was the wiping away of regional languages that led to loss of valuable knowledge in every subject. It created illiteracy in a land which was far more literate than England had ever been. Please read the works of Dharampal linked in the article.

Caste system as seen in practice matters. It was heinous. It is heinous. It should go. Period.

Rise in what? When India became independent, less than 5% of the population was educated. Most of these educated people were from the Princely states. In the British Raj, less than 1% of the population was educated. All socio-economic parameters had been in freefall for two centuries since the time of the Peshwas. Please go on justifying genocide some more. The Indian Hindu is the most servile of apologists on his Earth.

R V Chandramouli Prasad Any proof for whatever you've said or for what Raj has pointed out? Besides the article hasn't even denied that the Caste system exists.

Here's something very interesting I've learnt as well. I come from East India. There's absolutely NO record of anything called the Manu Smriti where I live. We used to follow our Kings' laws throughout. Where did this Manu Smriti come from? Interestingly- all Indian States with bureaucracies that weren't gutted by the British used to have secular law. They had to keep secular law or they could've never ruled over their kingdoms. So it's really interesting that throughout India, only those states destroyed root and branch by the invaders kept the Manu Smriti while their direct neighbours didn't. And if you'd really read the Manu Smriti (or what is called the Manu Smriti) instead of posting copy-paste Quotes, you'll find that the text is nothing more than a confusing mish-mash which contradicts itself on almost every single page. Hardly a book of Law. And no. Read up on the Guild systems. Until the Industrial Revolution, you couldn't change hereditary professions in Europe as well.

https://youtu.be/QEQ6jtrtUpk Beautifully explained

Very nice..................

Some very good opinions and feedback. I am of the opinion that caste system was there for a reason. May be the intent was to have some kind of structure in the society with work shared among the citizens. Like any system, there are drawbacks as every section tends to assert itself and claim that they are better than others. Every system that I know of, West or East, or Education and Professional Gradings boil down to one/some claiming to better than others. But I agree that we do not have to compare with the west. If our system does not make sense, the wise thing is to change it. But there will be resistance because no one wants to lose the power they have with the existing setup. This is applicable to America as well. But the starting point for a change is to acknowledge that there is an issue. Also, one other issue I see with caste system and families carrying out Trade or occupations within families is the `Aptitude', which is very important to excel in any profession. A Brahmin's son or daughter may not be interested or have an aptitude in carrying out Priestly duties. So the caste system fails there. Need to do away with caste based approach if we want to be competitive any field.

Aristotle the western philosopher has also advocated the Indian classification of human race

good work Sahana Singh, My ancester Maharaj Agrasen was Khatriya and later convert to Vaniki/Vaishya Varna.. From him started major 18 tribes/subcastes like Agrawal,mittal,singhal etc. who excel in business class or Vaishya varna..

Thanks for this out of the box write-up.

Indrajit Gupta Harbir Singh Nain here. This is a new perspective. ...

We just live in a point of time in history and can't expect anything drastic changes to happen in once life time. All well could do is to initiate a process. Every system has evolved itself and has good and bad. For me there is great balance in all. If you take individuals there are two types Exploiter and Exploited and they coexist in a caste like the exploited caste and exploiter caste coexist in a society. This is an imperfect balanced world.

Sahana Singh The varna and jaati system in pre-British times were far from mobile. In writing after writing, in homily after homily, we were reminded that the four varnas were to be treated differently, and saying that these varnas never existed except as a conceptual framework which was hugely modified in practice doesn't cut it. The facts that existed on the ground, the treatment of Dalit and achhut that existed on the ground was not possible in just 90 years of British rule and 190 years of British intrusion. Second, the diversion into the good and bad aspects of Macaulayite education is not useful. Third, it is useful, on the other hand, to remind ourselves that other societies had these sordid practices, and that other societies overcame them, and it is even more useful to remind ourselves exactly how these societies did the overcoming.

Rohit Patnaik What record of the Manu Smriti did you want to see? These were not official law-books, these were references consulted by the learned (learning itself was restricted to a select few). Secondly, what secular law are you referring to? You have inferred that there was secular law. As far as I know, Hindus followed one of their two schools of law, and I know of nothing that says that these were superseded by any other schools, whether by Hindu kings or Muslim. Muslims, in turn, followed one of four schools, if they were Sunni, and one of two schools if they were Shia. I agree that the Manu Smriti is a ridiculous mish-mash, but that itself points to the multiple interpolations and the multiple authors who put in their own bits.

Whether Rare Book Society of India has published any article or an essay about the book Beautiful Tree written by historian Sri Dharmapal. If yes kindly share a link.

There is a difference between 'educated' and 'literate'. I don't see any justification that at the begining of independent India only 5% later it grown. Any person who is able to lead a life with a profession to earn and maintain his family is an educated person. The literacy is 'one of the tool' in education but not education itself. I have many people around me who are not educated as the British model explainis but, are very successful in their professions.

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i stand correct ; its not 18 subcaste but gotra.. term subcaste used by westerners to divide we indians into caste system.. whereas gotra idealogy is used for getting to know one family tree and to avoid 1st cousin marriage.

That learning was confined to a few privileged castes is one of the biggest hoaxes played on Indians. Why does no one take the trouble to read the works of Dharampal which are based on studies conducted by the British themselves?! The links are provided in the article itself. India had thousands of schools or paathshaalas which were far more than England had. What's more many of these schools had more Shudras than Brahmins. Even more interesting, children in paathshaalas were learning not just sacred subjects but arithmetic. Dig some more about what the British themselves wrote before they formalised their Divide and Rule policy.

:D I am seeing 1st person who is justifying Macaulay education .. LMAO .... if one need to know how the society adopted the custom of untouchable ..they had to look in the books of arab invaders, who boast about treating polytheist as worst of creature and had laid many rules regarding them. Source- The Nobel Quran and Hadiths, along with biography of rulers.. Among Indian scriptures only Manusmriti tells about how a society should act and discriminate on the basis of Varna/caste. But very few people know that there are 21 versions of Manusmriti known till date.. Who knows which one is true and which one is being used to propagate hatred and lies. Thanks to Macaulay and Divide and Rule. :)

The article explains that social hierarchies were not unique to India and should not be projected as such. It does not "justify" the caste system (which was frozen by the British via their 19th century survey). It reminds people that the earlier varna and jaati system in pre-British times based on attributes and professions was more mobile. The very fact that Shivaji overcame the local Brahmins and and crowned himself king is a sign that varnas were not frozen. Social reformers existed in every century to remind people to broaden their outlooks, to not judge people when they were themselves imperfect. But of course, a perfect society could never be achieved. Yet, it was not as bad as in many other places in the world - for example, kings like Shivaji insisted that no religious books should be disrespected during invasions. Anyone who justifies Macaulay's educational policies has to be either ignorant or a self-loathing Indian. It was the introduction of English in schools that created the massive inequality between vernacular and English-medium schools. It was the wiping away of regional languages that led to loss of valuable knowledge in every subject. It created illiteracy in a land which was far more literate than England had ever been. Please read the works of Dharampal linked in the article.

???? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?? ?? ???? (merit) ?? ?????? ??. ???? ?? ???? ???? ??. ????? ??? ???????? (natural) ?? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ??????? ????? ??. ????? ?? ???? ????????? ???? ?? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ????? ???.

I wrote below about British caste and class.

As an English middle-middle class son of a civil servant boffin now living in the USA I know both the western caste system and class system, both are still in effect. The caste system is the one of money, a poor person seldom weds a rich one, jobs go to the richly educated, but the barriers can be broken; but the class system is still also in effect but more invisible, few ever cross that barrier.

I don't understand this obsession with Maculay. Most of the people who treated dalits badly, called them "achoots", raped the women, denied them entry to temples and water bodies were not English educated Maculayputras. So why is Maculay being blamed for horrific oppression of Dalits?

What a horrible moment to bring something like this up. I don't disagree with this sentiment. But caste must be abolished. This year has seen the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the murder of Delta and the rape and murder of Jisha. Dalit activists around the world have been pointing to caste oppression in the diaspora. People in India are organizing to protest the deaths of young Dalit students who have died this year. This argument unfortunately gives a lot of upper caste people good feelings and that's really silly. I don't blame the post but just read the comments and it becomes clear.

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Akshay Chavan, I think you need to acquaint yourself with India's indigenous education system before the British arrived. Kindly get out of the Macaulay mania and examine history dispassionately. There was a great deal of egalitarianism in education in the vernacular system even if it was not perfect. Many schools had more Shudras than Brahmins, and the British were surprised that many schools had an all-day programme. As for ill-treatment of dalits, this was rooted in the professions they engaged in such as dealing with dirt or bodies which was the same all over the world. A lack of hygiene was also associated with such people at the time. {Unlike Europe which managed to mechanize the dirty jobs and provide access to water for hygiene to everyone, India lagged behind). Plenty of Indian social reformers were engaged in educating people to stop discrimination - the British policies did not help in any way. Their caste census ensured that there would never be an end to the 'caste' system.

Which authorities and sources are you citing, Sahana Singh? Where were these egalitarian institutions that had as many Shudras as Brahmins? Which source are you quoting to say that they were surprised that many schools had all-day programmes? I am not aware of any other than the schools and the general educational programme in the Punjab before the British conquered it which came near to the nirvana that you seem to have read about. I would be glad to learn more about it.

Indrajit Gupta, just because there are gaps in your knowledge, or you have never heard of facts that are mentioned in books you have never heard of, it does not mean those facts are untrue. Please read Dharampal's works.

The fact that you used P. N. Oak as a pejorative speaks for itself, Dinesh Kumar Shukla, and allows us to say that you applied your own pin to your own over-inflated balloon.

Is it your case that castes came because of the caste census?

It was a common practice to take accreditation over any new decisions regarding religion from scholars from varanasi. Many such examples existed. The bringing of brahmin from varanasi for coronation of sivaji is one among them. It used to work like highcourt supremecourt.

Sachidanand Singh no that is not my case and I think my article makes that amply clear.

So simple, Sahana .Alas, your attention could have taken note of social reform movements of medieval saints.Chokhamela whom you cite was denied entry into shrine of Vitthal of Pandharpur( If you have time pl read some of his famous Abhangs).Dr Ghuraye may also be referred to.

Masses of oppressed were illiterate and their was negligible opportunity available to them to speak up against the prevalence of evil practices for social, economic and political exploitation.Well read people were either caste Hindus or scholars of other than Hindu religions.Criticism could have come forth from educated people and biases vis a vis vested interests could have effected opinions.Incidentally modern Indian authorities in the discipline of history,political science and sociology constitute largely from top of caste pyramid.

I trust you dont believe that the British created our caste system

Yes, Chokhamela was not allowed inside the Pandharpur temple by the priests just like Kanakadasa was not allowed inside the Udupi temple. In the former case, there was much sorrow at his death, and Guru Namdev himself constructed a samadhi in front of the temple. People began to visit both the samadhi of such a great bhakta and the temple. After that, everyone whether from low or high caste began to sing Chokhamela's abhangs. Sant Tukaram paid homage to him in his abhang. In Kanakadasa's case, the story goes that when priests denied him entry into the Udupi temple, he stood behind the temple and wept. The idol is said to have turned in the opposite direction and through a crack in the wall, Kanaka got a darshan of his lord. Again, Kanaka's kirtans began to be sung by everyone irrespective of caste. No one is denying that there was discrimination, but there were so many reformers who spoke against it and stories were told to illustrate that God loved everyone irrespective of their social standing.

Access to temples to lower castes could have started because of the profession that people undertook and became a tradition later. Varna system existed in India and it is not synonymous with caste system as it is understood today. Varna system exists in every society whether you acknowledge it or not. Two children in the same family have different skills. Likewise it was practical matter to divide the society based on the skills so the work gets done seamlessly. The present day class system is a euphemism for caste system. You watch the movie divergent, that is exactly how varna system worked. You evaluate the persons skillset and relegate him/her to a particular varna. It may be possible adverse living conditions changed that in a civilization which is arguably the oldest suviving in the world. I am from Udupi and I vouch for the above story of Kanakadasa and Krishna's idol turning both to give his beloved devotee his darsana and also in disgust of the other lot. Strangely I dont believe the self-proclaimed champions of lower caste could even come to believe that the idol of god could turn by itself even though they peddle the same story for guilt tourism and shaming ourself, neither do I believe the same set of people have done anything to eradicate any social evil by setting an example like Eswara Chandra Vidyasagar and many others. I have many examples about how the varna system and the civilization has evolved over the many centuries in this oldest overly populated civilization. Vyasa who is widely considered by the brahmins as their Guru who passed the knowledge of Vedas was born to a fisherwoman alow caste by today's definition of caste system. His birthday is celebrated as Guru Pournima. Valmiki by whose name there is a low caste existing even today is revered by brahmins. In short the two greatest Hindu epics were written by low caste people. I can go on- Vidur the son of Vyasa served as an chief advisor to the king, Parashurama the son of sage Jamadagni became a Kshatriya because of his warrior skills. In fact a persons varna was subject to evaluation and was mobile. All this was manageable perhaps when the population was small. Why, the above mentioned example of peshwas and coronation of Shivaji further proves it. If the rules were rigid and stringent like we have written constitution today Shivaji couldnt have become the king. It is the Constituion which has become casteist today, it breaks the hindu society into a big documented list of caste and the various benefits entitled to each one. So stop self shaming ourself.

R V Chandramouli Prasad When one's mind is deeply and pervasively colonized, it takes great effort to deconstruct one's mind and hence decolonize one's thinking. Question yourself on *everything* that you wrote, and perhaps then you might find answers. Here is something written by a native-American woman, but very applicable to Indians also, and perhaps might provide a learning moment. http://lastrealindians.com/the-unravelling-of-a-colonized-mind-by-jana-rae-yerxa/

History is no black nor white. I dont think the issue is that caste system existed in India. How can you judge generations prior to us with information we have today? In this case, caste system exists to date creating a humanitarian crisis and a barrier to social progress. That is the big issue that the caste apostologists would never acknowledge or never want to fix.

Hemanshu Ahire sapanala dakhava changla article ahe as a starter

British discriminated by famously saying "Dogs and Indians are not allowed" and allowed Parsis to mingle with them. Parsis thus became privy to all round benefits. Parsis thus got early entry into education, Infrastructure projects, civil administration, imports etc. If natives had not been treated like near untouchables ,untrustworthy they would have benefitted too.

Any idea why Parsis were given more privileges?

Origin of caste system is based on interest, capability and compplacense of a group of people. This has happened all across world. Over a period of time these groups were labeled as caste. And due to economic position and intelectual position the group maintained they were exploited by more intellectual people. Contribution of these people for posterity also is evident. Now with more edication, understanding of exploitation and branding....different nation's have adressed it differently. And India come up with reservations and attempted toprovide level playing field to all. Unfortunately it is getting misused blatantly at the cost of national progress. Time to limit reservations up to education and no more. We are in a time every one wants government job but no one wants to go to government school or hospital....and lost hope on administration capabilities .... do you guys thing reservations got any influence on performance..... be honest

Primarily because they were not natives in true sense and few in numbers to control, influence, mould and trust.

Reservations have nothing to do with performance. They are intended, and serve the purpose, of trying to ameliorate nearly a millennium and a half of relentless oppression. Let me explain that count a little. Genealogists have found that the genetic types that are typical of caste differentiation really started congealing around the period of the Gupta Empire, around the 6th century BC. What was still flexible earlier, in the sense that it is possible to detect a greater degree of intermarriage among different sections of society, froze during this period. From here on, there is greater and greater endogamy - the practice of marrying within a defined group and not outside - which serves as a useful index of the hardening of social strata. If anyone thinks that after being told for 50 generations that they are inferior and that they are incompetent to hold certain jobs, supposedly requiring greater intellect, character, responsibility and the vision to see what is good for society rather than an individual, his family or his kinship segment, the ill effects can be cured with a simple two generations of reservations in education, that is simply fatuous, and it is as silly an evaluation as we can find, even if we look hard for something similar. We are told nobody wants to go to a government school or hospital. First, let's take hospitals. If we assume that all the better doctors are in private hospitals, are we to assume that those are epitomes of efficiency and good administration? Has anyone the nerve to make that statement after going through the parliamentary report on the Medical Council of India and the scandalous situation prevailing there, in a council packed with the representatives of corporate healthcare, to the exclusion of doctors in government hospitals? It is not due to the quality of the practitioner that we avoid government hospitals; they are probably better than those in private hospitals, as far as ethics and morality goes. We must look elsewhere, at the ill-effects of an administrative machinery that is still run by default by the representatives of certain layers of Indian society. We need not less reservation, and not restriction of reservations to the sphere of education, but broadening of it, and deepening it.

Lot of people below the poverty line or those living on subsistence income in India are actually from the so-called upper caste i.e Brahmins. Not surprising to see Brahmin beggars, or Brahmin domestic helps. At the same time, the so-called lower caste (so called Sudras) are economically strong and also possess real estates / assets since generations.

Brahmins were not supposed to make money while other varnas had no such restrictions. Perhaps this is what left the so-called upper caste the most impoverished.

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The fact, I believe, is that the higher castes who have only book knowledge of spirituality were feeling unsecured since they did not have any practical skills and they suppressed the actual skilled workers telling that they are lower castes and made use of the skills of the so called lower castes. For this purpose they made classification in society as castes and never allowed them the status which these higher castes enjoyed.

Point if taken from your argument- even religion seems invalid-- today's class divination and distinction. We honestly should take care of all the vectors and variables, not considered to our accommodation towards an egalitarian society.

Better we concentrate on genetics and less on hypothesis of ignorant medieval

Exactly, caste system was not the part of an ancient India. Was brought by invaders.

Caste and class system are part of society but not based on birth but on jobs and economic status unlike in India where it became a permanent feature based on birth and therfore undeirable and does not stand to logic.

First do away with class ridden society prevalent amongst so called elites or modernist people, then talk about caste system...history is the testimony to the fact that who/when/why the caste system was imposed the way it is n further for what reason it was propagated?

The god has never meant to create humanity of equal attributes, why chase to make all equal

It's the only level difference that makes water flow and keep it clean, stagnant water is never healthy

It's evident from our epics that ??????????(???? ?????????) is worshiped as our God. (???? ???????????) ???? ??? ????? ...is incarnation ....Brahmins worship and composed many keerthanas. Sudhama (kuchella) sri Krishna's beloved friend eversince childhood days (poor Brahmin) ...never any Brahmin been worshipped but respected deserved respects from all walks of life for their scholarliness.

Have you read the article? Did you note the examples of hereditary castes outside India? Please do not parrot lines written in our history books written by leftists.

It is such a joy to read all these heartfelt comments by people who feel so strongly, yet all seem to be polite and respectful of others opinions. Us humans can be downright civilized at times.

When Karna was forbidden to show his mastery over Archery by Drona, bcos he was shudra putra, did u forget your Mahabharat?

Sahana Singh, Fyi shudras were not the untouchables, infact the fourth varna consisted of farmers, barbers, dhobi etc who were very much welcome in the house holds. The untouchables are the people living outside the villages, who used to clean the toilets and take away the carcasses etc and our caste system did not recognise them as fit to be in the four varnas. These people were called Chandals and were treated as sub human, when u say shudras are the lowest caste it is true but they were not untouchables. The chandalas ' The Untouchables' were never discussed, now also u r discussing shudras instead of talking about untouchables. Little knowledge is dangerous. For a correct perception please read the novel bg Mulk Raj Anand, ' The Untouchable'

Looks like you have not even read Mahabharata properly, leave alone forget. When Karna was forbidden, Duryodhana sprang up to make him the king of Anga and thereby make him eligible. But most importantly, this conversation between Yudhishtra and the Naga who questioned him makes it very clear that the Indian varna was dependent on character. Naga: "O Yudhishthira, say, Who is a Brahmana?" Yudhishthira: "O foremost of Nagas, he, it is asserted by the wise, in whom are seen truth, charity, forgiveness, good conduct, benevolence, observance of the rites of his order and mercy is a Brahmana." Naga: "O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the Veda which worketh the benefit of the four orders, which is the authority in matters of religion and which is true, are seen even in the Sudra." Yudhishthira: "Those characteristics that are present in a Sudra, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a Brahmana exist in a Sudra. And a Sudra is not a Sudra by birth alone, nor a Brahmana is Brahmana by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a Brahmana. And people term him a Sudra in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a Brahmana by birth."

Yes, shudras were among the 4 varnas while the chandalas were outside it. They were certainly ill-treated but as I mentioned in the article, all over the world, people who handled carcasses and corpses were shunned in society. This was perhaps due to the unclean nature of the job. Until modern technological practices made it possible to work under hygienic conditions, even Europe followed untouchablity. In India too, modern technology has helped to free many dalits from demeaning professions and I hope the process will be expedited.

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Are you trying to jusitify the caste system which has ruined our society by comparing with the other countries. Go ahead and take sadistic pleasure if it makes you happy.

Who is justifying? Where is the sadism? Tracing the history of inequalities and hierarchies does not mean justifying. We must understand the development of a phenomenon and the various factors that played in growing it.

The caste system in India has done more harm than good . Tracing the history and comparing with other society does not lessen the evil and serves no purpose .The systemic efforts one sees are towards perpetuating it through dirty caste politics and policies.

The British form of frozen caste system has certainly done more harm than good. In the earlier forms of the jaati system (which was mirrored in other countries), the jaatis helped in preserving skills and expertise. In fact they led to the concept of professional guilds and associations which are still in vogue today. The varna system based on gunas or qualities was also not harmful. Tracing history is important because the caste system is somehow only associated with India, which is erroneous.

So long as black and white; Literate and illiterate and such discrimination is in vogue untouchability will be there

What a load of apologist crap . Either the author is ignorant or has superb doublethink . Sigh

There in no use in singing the glory of the past when the present has been defiled and a major section of society suffers . The dignity of labour which we see in the west in the present is what should be the aim and caste system in the present form needs to be rooted out rather than confusing with the past and comparing with west who have more or less got ridden of it .

No amount of arguments from devotees of "Great Indian Culture" negate the fact that it is Caste, before and after British, that contue to oppress, exploit, rape and kill. No? Don't agree. Give us back our Rohith and Delta!!!!

In the old testment God himself kills destroys and commands destruction of scores of tribes for not being chosen people . God declares some tribes chosen people . That tradition and injunction continued with declaring Africans Children of Ham and or the papal bull of the Doctrine of Discovery . Tribalism and discrimination enjoined in the Old testement full on . That is not caste ?

Seems like the writer skipped the part where certain individuals were denied access to drinking water sources, beaten mercilessly for passing across a street from a brahmin, were made to tie a broom behind their waists so they would sweep the dirt they leave behind as they walked... Brahmins went for bath if dalit's shadow fell upon them. Dalits who tried to read or write Vedas were beaten, killed, or their tongues cut off. If Eklavya turned out a better archer than Arjuna, he would have to pay for it with fingers. To this day, dalit women are abused humiliated raped, dalit families harrassed and murdered. Inter caste marriage can cost a Dalit his life.. And Delta and Jisha's stories never find their way to mainstream media.. Please. Are you seriously blaming the British for the social inequities of India! The freedom struggle also remained weak for a long time, because the colonial treatment of the British to Indians was NO DIFFERENT from the treatment of Brahmins to Shudras. Hardly three generations down that dalits are struggling to making their way up the social ladder and you want to deny their history by deliberate misrepresentation and passing the blame. SHAME!

There are two kinds of thought running now - 1) one holds that Indian caste system was fluid and dyanamic .Varna existed but what operated on ground was Caste .Caste kept moving from one Varna to the other and caste in itself was giving birth to other castes .( 2) second stream of thought considers first as an ideological construct to save Brahminisn .It believes in 'design theory' i.e. caste system protected by single caste .But pointwise arguments are absent . Is it true that Dalits were priests in Kali temples ? Is it true that caste such as ????? ???????? and ???? ??? existed .Is the statistics provided by Dharampal -that 60-70% of students in south india two hundred years ago were Shudras , true ? I think that there is overwhelming evidence in favor of caste oppresion .no denying from those facts..But how does that discourse view these facts .

When Slavoj Zizek came India ..There was a mention of this debate ..Subaltern thinkers versus Dalit thinkers over this question of 'distorted past' ..I think that a section of people views colonial-knowledge-system as culprit while other says in a rather crude fashion - "they came late and went early " .a difference is bound to be there

Sahana Singh , there was long list of untouchables ( either you refer Chankya's Arthashashtra or any of the Dharmashastras like Manusmriti) and it was not confined to Chandals.At the time of Independence there were more than 450 such castes recognised as untouchables.

Compare England and India geographically and see how immense is India. Having a few more schools than England is not a sign that India had a good education system. I come from South India, a village and from the farming class. I can vouch that there were only one or two from the farming class who could read, not even write during my great grand father's time and that to due to a school 10 k.m from our village started by the British. But the Brahmins and Vayshas cud read and write well bcos they were supposed to be learned, while farmers (shudras) were not required to be literate. Thats how these Brahmins (with their Panchangs and shlokas) and Vayshyas with their interests on loans given for farming(compounding monthly) prospered. Just have a dekho of the famous picture "Mother India"