Asked by : Devi Kaladeen, Audit Manager, Health Sector Development Unit
Functional Area : India
Activity: Question posted: 10 15 2009 17:34:51 +0000, 38 answers, 5149 views, last activity 07 06 2010 20:18:08 +0000
The question of the caste system in India has always been a burning question in my mind eversince I became aware of it. To date I have never been able to get a reasonable answer. I just a few minutes ago read an article and hence the question is up again. ......
Fury over south India temple ban http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8309323.stm
My questions are:
(1) Why is there a caste system in the first place ? and
(2) Who decides who is eligible to be placed in a certain caste ?
Expect a lot of feedback. Thanks
The word caste is derived from the term 'casba'. It depicts a ranking system of human groups based on hereditary and occupation. The traditional Caste system in India is a rigid mode to compartmentalize society. The Indian caste system is highly complex. Its functionality in Indian society is highly surprising because it has many drawbacks. The rigid structure of the caste system in India has abided through centuries.
In India, caste system comprises closed groups, whose members are severely obliged to restrain themselves to certain hereditary occupations. Particular castes are allowed to marry and socialize only within their own groups. In India an Individuals social status is gauged by his birth. This also serves to determine his caste. Nowhere in the world is caste exalted to such a degree as in India.
The Indian word for caste is ‘jati’. Thousands of ‘jatis’ are strewn all over India. Each jati has its own governance, customs, traditions, religion, rules and style of living. The ancients divided Indian society in four groups-namely
Brahmans who came from the priestly group of learning,
Shatriyas who were the warrior and ruling section of society,
Vaishyas who were businessmen, traders and farmers; and
Shudras who comprised of laborers and humble peasants.
The untouchable or Panchamas were placed below the category of Shudras.
The rigid hierarchy of the Indian caste system has been severely criticized by individuals with a humanitarian vision from India and outside India. Gautam Buddha, Mahavir, Ramananda Maharshi, Kabir, Eknath, Dnyneshwar, Ramanuja, Tukaram, and Sathya Sai Baba all led criticisms of caste system in India in olden times. Many Christian missionaries and Indian reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayananad, Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Vivekanand, Mannathu Padmanabhan, Narayan Guru and Mahatma Gandhi led many crusades against discriminations based on caste in Indian society.
The caste system is still very much prevalent in India and the effects of caste system in modern India can be seen in the form of quota systems, reservations, marriages etc.
There are multiple effects of caste system in modern India. Metropolitan India has started walking away from the rigidity of the Indian caste system. This is the result of co mingling with other communities, higher education, globalization and economic growth. The government of India has decided to issue job quotas to the less privileged castes and the so called backward classes. Caste based reservations in India have ignited the communal fire in a different way. Caste based positive reservations were designed to reverse the discriminations based on caste. Inter caste marriages have served to abate the rigidity of caste culture in Indian society. Caste based violence and caste politics has opened the eyes of many people to the dangers of caste practices in modern India. Criticisms of caste system have been brought out by many liberal thinkers around the globe. It is in benefit of the people of India that they gradually remove the caste barrier from their mind to live in harmony and peace..
For More Details Please Refer Tohttp://www.factsaboutindia.org/caste-system-india.htm
Four fold Caste system has been in existence since the days of pre-Ramayana period, the earliest written period of India.
Sri Krishna says in Bhagavatgita,
"Chaaturvarnaam mayaa srustyam, Guna Karma vibhagasha",
Meaning, I (God) have created all the four varnas, but they are applicable to individuals, based on their Character and deeds; which also means that these caste are not inherited by birth but acquired due our Character and deeds.
However, this system has lost its meaning and significance in the modern day society, where there are not just Four, Broad Professions, but may be several Hundres or Thousands of Professions for the people to choose.
Still the Caste system is rooted into our society and the psyche that those who benefit by their inherited Caste would profess that it is very essential for the balance of the Society and those who are at a disadvantageous position on account of their inherited caste would think that this sytem is the scourge of our Society.
The former argument, however, is specious as there are Hudnres of Casteless Societies outside of South Asia, which have been flourishing.
Shariq John's theory is that Aryans invaded and occupied the whole of India and the current day caste equations were formed by Aryans occupying the upper castes and the rest fitting in the lower castes.
However, this is far from truth as bulk of South India has never been captured by the Aryans and the fact that in South India too we has the the four castes including the three so-called upper castes. No histrical evedence is available to justify this fact.
The caste system is there in India , since it was been actually brought forward by the ancient rulers in the India. And the concept is being actually trusted and accepted and also followed by indians and which cannot be moved or rubbed off from the Indians minds.
And it has been even followed, motivated and encouraged by the government also. Even while issuing any applications for jobs, a seperate column is given to indicate the caste. This is always making us understand and even believe that we are this caste or the other person the other caste etc.
Some measures have to be followed by the governement itself to stop this caste systems.
There are different theories about the establishment of the caste system. There are religious-mystical theories. There are biological theories. And there are socio-historical theories.
The religious theories explain how the four Varnas were founded, but they do not explain how the Jats in each Varna or the untouchables were founded. According the Rig Veda, the ancient Hindu book, the primal man - Purush - destroyed himself to create a human society. The different Varnas were created from different parts of his body. The Brahmans were created from his head; the Kshatrias from his hands; the Vaishias from his thighs and the Sudras from his feet. The Varna hierarchy is determined by the descending order of the different organs from which the Varnas were created. Other religious theory claims that the Varnas were created from the body organs of Brahma, who is the creator of the world.
The biological theory claims that all existing things, animated and inanimated, inherent three qualities in different apportionment. Sattva qualities include wisdom, intelligence, honesty, goodness and other positive qualities. Rajas include qualities like passion, pride, valour and other passionate qualities. Tamas qualities include dullness, stupidity, lack of creativity and other negative qualities. People with different doses of these inherent qualities adopted different types of occupation.
According to this theory the Brahmans inherent Sattva qualities. Kshatrias and Vaisias inherent Rajas qualities. And the Sudras inherent Tamas qualities.
Like human beings, food also inherents different dosage of these qualities and it affects its eater's intelligence. The Brahmans and the Vaisias have Sattvic diet which includes fruits, milk, honey, roots and vegetables. Most of the meats are considered to have Tamasic qualities. Many Sudra communities eat different kinds of meat (but not beef) and other Tamasic food. But the Kshatrias who had Rajasic diet eat some kinds of meat like deer meat which is considered to have Rajasic qualities. Many Marathas who claim to be Kshatrias eat mutton. The drawback of this theory is that in different parts of India the same food was sometimes qualified to have different dosage of inherent qualities. For example there were Brahmans who eat meat which is considered Tamasic food.
The social historical theory explains the creation of the Varnas, Jats and of the untouchables. According to this theory, the caste system began with the arrival of the Aryans in India. The Aryans arrived in India around 1500 BC. The fair skinned Aryans arrived in India from south Europe and north Asia. Before the Aryans there were other communities in India of other origins. Among them Negrito, Mongoloid, Austroloid and Dravidian. The Negrito have physical features similar to people of Africa. The Mongoloid have Chinese features. The Austroloids have features similar the aboriginals of Australia. The Dravidians originate from the Mediterranean and they were the largest community in India. When the Aryans arrived in India their main contact was with the Dravidians and the Austroloids. The Aryans disregarded the local cultures. They began conquering and taking control over regions in north India and at the same time pushed the local people southwards or towards the jungles and mountains in north India.
The Aryans organized among themselves in three groups. The first group was of the warriors and they were called Rajayana, later they changed their name Rajayana to Kshatria. The second group was of the priests and they were called Brahmans. These two groups struggled politically for leadership among the Aryans. In this struggle the Brahmans got to be the leaders of the Aryan society. The third group was of the farmers and craftsmen and they were called Vaisia. The Aryans who conquered and took control over parts of north India subdued the locals and made them their servants. In this process the Vaisias who were the farmers and the craftsmen became the landlords and the businessmen of the society and the locals became the peasants and the craftsmen of the society.
In order to secure their status the Aryans resolved some social and religious rules which, allowed only them to be the priests, warriors and the businesmen of the society. For example take Maharashtra. Maharashtra is in west India. This region is known by this name for hundreds of years. Many think that the meaning of the name Maharashtra is in its name, Great Land. But there are some who claim that the name, Maharashtra, is derived from the Jat called Mahar who are considered to be the original people of this region. In the caste hierarchy the dark skinned Mahars were outcasts. The skin color was an important factor in the caste system. The meaning of the word "Varna" is not class or status but skin color.
Between the outcasts and the three Aryan Varnas there is the Sudra Varna who are the simple workers of the society. The Sudras consisted of two communities. One community was of the locals who were subdued by the Aryans and the other were the descendants of Aryans with locals. In Hindu religious stories there are many wars between the good Aryans and the dark skinned demons and devils. The different Gods also have dark skinned slaves. There are stories of demon women trying to seduce good Aryan men in deceptive ways. There were also marriages between Aryan heroes and demon women. Many believe that these incidences really occurred in which, the gods and the positive heroes were people of Aryan origin. And the demons, the devils and the dark skinned slaves were in fact the original residence of India whom the Aryans coined as monsters, devil, demons and slaves.
As in most of the societies of the world, so in India, the son inherited his father's profession. And so in India there developed families, who professed the same family profession for generation in which, the son continued his father's profession. Later on as these families became larger, they were seen as communities or as they are called in Indian languages, Jat. Different families who professed the same profession developed social relations between them and organized as a common community, meaning Jat.
Later on the Aryans who created the caste system, added to their system non-Aryans. Different Jats who professed different professions were integrated in different Varnas according to their profession. Other foreign invaders of ancient India - Greeks, Huns, Scythains and others - who conquered parts of India and created kingdoms were integrated in the Kshatria Varna (warrior castes). But probably the Aryan policy was not to integrate original Indian communities within them and therefore many aristocratic and warrior communities that were in India before the Aryans did not get the Kshatria status.
Most of the communities that were in India before the arrival of the Aryans were integrated in the Sudra Varna or were made outcast depending on the professions of these communities. Communities who professed non-polluting jobs were integrated in Sudra Varna. And communities who professed polluting professions were made outcasts. The Brahmans are very strict about cleanliness. In the past people believed that diseases can also spread also through air and not only through physical touch. Perhaps because of this reason the untouchables were not only disallowed to touch the high caste communities but they also had to stand at a certain distance from the high castes.
I havent read history much about why and how caste system came to existance in India but here are my thoughts.
What I feel is from the very earlier days that life started with a Man and a Woman on this earth, hardly there might have been any communication except via expressions and signals. Later on as they started multiplying in numbers, population might have started to grow and the mystries and the secrets of earth started to unleash. People started to develop a sense of ownership and gained more knowledge. Languages developed, eating habits developed, strategies to approach problems developed. Eventually what happened was different types of Life styes and faiths developed among different people in different geographic locations.
Like birds of a feather folk together, eventually people with similar lifestyles, language and faith started to mingle together. Thus people were being identified by a group of thoughts they believe in. This Group of thoughts was given a name say "Christian", "Brahman", "Muslim" etc. These prime categories where called as "CASTES".
So in earlier days , people may have thought of using CASTE as a way of categorizing people w.r.t way of living, acceptable level of practiced hygene and cleanliness, eating habits, taste, style of clothing, beliefs and faiths, way of worshiping, type of physic, type of memory, areas of interest, level of anger. geographic location, ways of earning money viz. gambling, hardworking, robbing etc. and many more.
Rather than taking CASTE in a negative attitude, I would suggest to take CASTE in a positive spirit and look at it as a group of thoughts composed of eating habits, money earning ways, taste, dressing habits and worshiping ways etc. Thats all. Please dont use it to convey that my caste is better than yours.
Our culture has intruced many things which are accepted as true by many of the scholars. If we use the system in a correct ways with out considering the loops it gives us good results.As Ramakrishna Perumal, Sr. Engineer, Technicas Reunidas told that caste system is from the starting may be but it has been introduced with out thinking too far even every system will have both marits and demerits in the same way this system also had demerits
The main draw back is communal crisis. This is dominating humanity,Love
At a macro level, all are equal. But to carry out day to day activities we need some kind of hierarchy, its there in a family its therein workplaces etc. , and that is not discriminatory at all, .
understanding is that caste system was not meant to be discriminatory at all. Each one get gets a place in the society, as per one’s vocational aptitude. And most importantly, how evolved one is in his thinking and action.
A Brahmin is some one is one with Brahman (god). Many rishis are said to have risen from low and became a Brahmin.
Sadly theses very Brahmins and other upper caste, wanted to hold on to their status. Thus, began the downfall.
What we need is a reinterpretation keeping in view today’s times. for all practical purposes some kind of hierarchy will remain in the society. What one needs to ensure is there is no discrimination.
There is a very big misconception about caste system in our society. Our Vedic society was not the greatest without any reason. The problem is that, we don't know actually what our culture is. For a civilised society, Varnashrama system should be there but everyone should know and understand them properly. No society in the world can exist without these 4 class- Intellectual clas, Administrative class, Merchantile class and labor class. This 4 divisions can be found in every society, in sanskrit, they were names as, Brahmana, Khatriya, Vaishya, Shudra. But there was no compelsation that a Brahmana's son must be a born brahmana. Something like a Doctor's son is not a born doctor, similarly a brahmana's son is not a born brahmana. Bhagwadgita tells caste is not decided by birth but by qualities. It also says every body is a born shudra but by practice everyone can become brahmana. And there is nobody superior or inferior to any other person rather if we analyse, everyone is interdependent. So, rather the eradicating caste system, everyone should be taught properly about our vedic system for benifit of the society.Whatever problem happening today is due to ignorance and misconceptions.....
original stuff by awasthi casba ....
in shivas times ther were no casbas ..
hills on the top of which there were rishis ( we all have what we call gotras .....)gotra ..hill..
it was free for all .. the ring leader captures the girl of the mukhiya and the the casba...
no marriages ..dance of the wolves only ..
shiva tried putting order to the chaos of the system..
thus evolved the concept of marriage ...
aryans invaded later and used fire god .. here we have saat phere around agni ...
it's all a war between chaos and order ..
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Very nice article....the youths of today should read this. It so sad that children of today hardly take time to stop and think of how hard their parents work so they can have a good life. Thanks for posting.