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Caste An European Phenomenon

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Caste An European Phenomenon
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<span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>The word caste is not a word that is indigenous to India. It originates in the Portuguese word casta which means race,breed, race or lineage. However, during the 19th century, the term caste increasingly took on the connotations of the word race</span>. Thus, from the very beginning of western contact with the subcontinent European constructions have been imposed on Indian systems and institutions.

To fully appreciate the caste system one must step away from the definitions imposed by Europeans and look at the system as a whole, including the religious beliefs that are an integral part of it. To the British, viewing the caste system from the outside and on a very superficial level, it appeared to be a static system of social ordering that allowed the ruling class or Brahmins, to maintain their power over the other classes.

<span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>What the British failed to realize was that Hindus existed in a different cosmological frame than did the British. The concern of the true Hindu was not his ranking economically within society but rather his ability to regenerate on a higher plane of existence during each successive life.</span>

Perhaps the plainest verbalization of this attitude was stated by a 20th century Hindu of one of the lower castes who stated: "Everything lies in the hands of God. We hope to go to the top, but our Karma (Action) binds us to this level." If not for the concept of reincarnation, this would be a totally fatalistic attitude but if one takes into account the notion that one's present life is simply one of many, then this fatalistic component is limited if not eliminated. Therefore, for the Hindu, acceptance of present status and the taking of ritual actions to improve status in the next life is not terribly different in theory to the attitudes of the poor in western society.

The aim of the poor in the west is to improve their lot in the space of a single life time. The aim of the lower castes in India is to improve their position over the space of many lifetimes. It should also be borne in mind that an entire caste could rise through the use of conquest or through service to rulers.Thus, it may be seen that within traditional Indian society the caste system was not static either within the material or metaphysical plane of existence.

With the introduction of European and particulary British systems to India, the caste system began to modify. This was a natural reaction of Indians attempting to adjust to the new regime and to make the most of whatever opportunities may have been presented to them. Moreover, with the apparent dominance exhibited by British science and medicine there were movements that attempted to adapt traditional social systems to fit with the new technology.

Men such as Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayananda, and Ramkrishna started movements that, to one degree or another, attempted to explore new paths that would allow them and their people to live more equitably within British India. Roy in particular sits this description with his notion that the recognition of human rights was consistent with Hindu thought and the Hinduism could welcome external influences so long as they were not contrary to reason. While it is granted that the present paper is not the appropriate venue to explore such movements, they must be noted so that an impression of Indian submissiveness in the face of British intrusion may be avoided. There was a dynamic interplay between the British and Indians that had a profound effect on both societies.
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Caste An European Phenomenon - by Guest - 09-12-2006, 04:07 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by Guest - 09-12-2006, 06:48 PM
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Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 10-03-2006, 07:12 PM
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Caste An European Phenomenon - by Husky - 02-04-2009, 06:28 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-16-2009, 10:25 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by Husky - 07-02-2009, 04:28 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by Bharatvarsh - 10-24-2009, 11:45 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 10-25-2009, 06:18 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by ravinder - 12-12-2009, 06:03 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 12-25-2009, 09:28 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by ravinder - 12-28-2009, 05:21 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-14-2010, 07:10 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by shamu - 03-15-2010, 09:45 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-15-2010, 12:39 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by shamu - 03-16-2010, 09:16 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-17-2010, 07:04 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by shamu - 03-17-2010, 08:23 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-17-2010, 09:40 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by shamu - 03-18-2010, 03:21 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 03-18-2010, 07:49 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by shamu - 03-18-2010, 08:39 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-04-2010, 04:28 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-04-2010, 04:34 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 04-04-2010, 07:02 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-04-2010, 01:26 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-04-2010, 03:09 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-04-2010, 03:11 PM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by HareKrishna - 04-07-2010, 02:04 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 04-15-2010, 09:16 AM
Caste An European Phenomenon - by agnivayu - 04-15-2010, 09:20 AM
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