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Caste An European Phenomenon

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Caste An European Phenomenon
#21
India is the only country with caste ? What a bunch of nonsense. Caste = Tribe/Clan/ethnicity. Is India the only country with ethnicity. Ever hear of the Balkans and ethnic wars there in the 1990's ?

Middle east is filled with tribes and ethnicities. Read up also on Japan's caste system and untouchables (called Burakamin in Japanese):


http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=477694

Here is information on Latin America:

http://www.zonalatina.com/Zldata55.htm


THe error most people make is they don't have a sense of scale. India is 1100 million people. If you look at Europe for example with 700 million people and the ethnic divisions there, you can better understand it. The Europeans can't even unite all their countries under one flag. They have also been killing each other for years.

Look at the tribes and national divisions in Africa (a continent with 800 million people, i.e. less than India)







<!--QuoteBegin-maruti+Oct 3 2006, 06:47 PM-->QUOTE(maruti @ Oct 3 2006, 06:47 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Hi all,

This is my first post. I find this thread very interesting. I also believe there are two sides to this, one positive and other negative.

The good thing:

Caste is European invention, comes from the word casta, I suppose. So it has nothing to do with class system prevalent in Europe and elsewhere, but rather a social structure based on varnashrama Dharma. VD is all about division of labor.

The bad thing:

That said, nobody practices VD anymore. It has degraded to casteism. Most Indians are obssessed with skin color, which reflects in numerous matrimonial ads (like wanted fair, good-looking woman), or in social situations (such as, "your baby has a good color" etc.).

Conclusion:

It doesn't matter whether caste is a European invention. Bottom line, Indians are practicing casteism, not varnashrama Dharma. So we should educate people on VD to elimiate casteism, rather than wonder whether caste is European. Knowing it's European doesn't solve our problem, because India is teh only country where people (officially) have castes. We ought to worry about that.

Hope nobody's offended.
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#22
Bodhi,

Thanks for the warm welcome.

AgniVayu,

Perhaps, you misunderstood me. There are obviously different races, ethnicities etc. etc. all over the world. But only in India, you find people advertising their castes in newspapers! Don't you at all find that weird? That was my point, that Indians have degraded and that's why Varnashrama Dharma has been maligned by ignorant people. It's because Indians give them a chance by NOT practicing it properly. If Indians complain of racism, how can anyone take them seriously when they're practicing it themselves under the pretext of caste? The only solution is to follow Varnashrama Dharma as taught by Bhagavan Krishna.

And India can NEVER become a truly developed nation without following VD.

  Reply
#23
<!--emo&<_<--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/dry.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='dry.gif' /><!--endemo--> Maruti,
Welcome aboard!
With scheduled caste and other reservations as enshrined in Constitution and furthered by the politicians, casteism has come to stay.
Now, please tell me in this set up; how will u apply vd to change it?
  Reply
#24
Varnashram is not practical for todays date and time anymore. Forget varna, even 'Ashram' part of it.

Sanatan dharma did not stop at Bhagvan Shree Krishna. Sri Vishnu in Bhagvan Buddha's avatar has delivered this message very clearly. 'Esso Dhammo Sanantano'.

Varnashram was only an institute, or a system. Let us move forward from varnaashram, to what is practical and relevant for living life in todays age, as per the principles and values of Sanatan Dharma.

About your assertion that "...But only in India, you find people advertising their castes in newspapers...". This is also not true. At least in Pakistan too, you can find this. People do advertise their clan 'yusufjai pathan' and 'asifjai pathan' and so on. Just browse some news paper sites or pakistan discussion forums. So is the case in Latin America too.
  Reply
#25
Maruti,
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->It doesn't matter whether caste is a European invention. Bottom line, Indians are practicing casteism, not varnashrama Dharma.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Why it matters is that castism is a bogey that the entire West likes to beat up India upon. We acknowledge our fault lines and have mechanisms in place to correct it and the general trend in this century is positive.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Most Indians are obssessed with skin color, which reflects in numerous matrimonial ads (like wanted fair, good-looking woman), or in social situations (such as, "your baby has a good color" etc.).
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Ever checked matrimonal advertisment or Personals in other nations (not that I've ever had a need to <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> )? This behaviour is global and not limited to Indians or Pakistanis.

A relevant thread that has some interesting posts touching this issue.
  Reply
#26
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->And India can NEVER become a truly developed nation without following VD.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Here we go again. What is 'truly developed' ? Is this different from developed ? Just 200 years ago Indias GDP was 25% of the world. Is that 'truly developed' or just developed ?

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->But only in India, you find people advertising their castes in newspapers! Don't you at all find that weird?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

No I dont. Why should that be weird ?
  Reply
#27
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->But only in India, you find people advertising their castes in newspapers! Don't you at all find that weird?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
In the US, people advertise their racial characteristics and preferences in dating advertisements. You can see these by googling the following "SWM SBM SAF" without the quotes.

As for "only in India", most Hindus are really not "mere" Hindus, but also belong to certain Hindu communities. Traditionally, Hindus find their spouses within their own communities. This is called endogamy. But endogamy by itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. it is one way to preserve the store of knowledge and tradition, over multiple generations of people, who have a stake in that tradition.
  Reply
#28
Link to a Pakistani matrimonial site : http://www.pakrishta.com/List/Registration...ocedure2005.htm

Asks for the following details, apart from identity details:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--> 
 
  15. Sex of Candidate (Male/Female):
  16. Marital Status (Never married, Married, Widow, Widower,  Divorced) :
  17. Nationality : 
  18. Present Location (City and Country) :
  19. Mother Tongue (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto, Baluchi, Saraiki, Hindko, Urdu etc) :
  20. Religion :
<span style='color:red'>
  21. Maslak (Sunni, Shia etc) : 
  22. Cast (Syed, Shaikh, Arain etc) :  </span>
  23. Star (Zodiacs Sign) :   
  24. Age :
  25. Complexion (Fair, Wheatish etc) :
  26. Height :
  27. Weight :
  28. Qualification :
  29. Profession :
  30. Monthly Income :
  31. Father's belongs from (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP, UP, Bihar, Delhi,  etc) :  
  32. Mother Belongs from (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP, UP, Bihar, Delhi,  etc) :
  33. No of Brothers :
  34. Married Brothers :
  35. No of Sisters :
  36. Married Sisters :
  37. Position of Candidate among siblings (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc):   
  38. Parent's Residence (Own or on Rent) :
  39. Any other necessary information in detail :
  40. Details about your expected brides/grooms : 
  41. If Candidate have children then give their number age and other necessary information :
  42. Does your candidate (Female Candidate) ready to marry with a married person (wife present)?
  43. Have you written permission from your First wife (if present) for your Second Marriage?
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

42, 43 are interesting, but notice # 21 and 22.
  Reply
#29
<!--QuoteBegin-maruti+Oct 3 2006, 09:05 PM-->QUOTE(maruti @ Oct 3 2006, 09:05 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->That was my point, that Indians have degraded and that's why Varnashrama Dharma has been maligned by ignorant people. It's because Indians give them a chance by NOT practicing it properly. If Indians complain of racism, how can anyone take them seriously when they're practicing it themselves under the pretext of caste? The only solution is to follow Varnashrama Dharma as taught by Bhagavan Krishna.

And India can NEVER become a truly developed nation without following VD.
[right][snapback]58432[/snapback][/right]
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Dear Maruti, Varnashrama Dharma was even an ideal in the time of the Arthashastra, and perhaps earlier. The current system then was rather a mixture of clan-based tribal and professional classifications, tried to being put in a fourfold or fivefold system by Shastrakaras, but not with much success. That is exactly the same time when the Manava Dharma tradition was being revised by a school of Shastrakaras (to be done a few times more in succeeding centuries).

People in India and the rest of the world believe in and follow the rules of their communities. Till recently in almost all western countries people of one community would marry within their community. The less urban the more regularly this was done. No protestant, within his own section would marry even a protestant of another church community, let alone with a catholic. An atheist was almost an impossible match. So India is no different in this, but they don't hide it there.

Indians may indeed complain about racism, because their social system may be not ideal, but it is not racist. That others, out of ignorance or deliberately, brand it as racist from different religious-political backgrounds, has to be corrected. The job is made difficult by opponents and the pseudo-Hindu watch dogs.
One wonders why most groups themselves maintain their Jati names. Is it because every Jati or community (based upon Kula, Jana and Gana), with its own Varna-like intersocial classifications, give them their social identity? The intersocial classification of one community was not the same as another (neither the status), as some had three Varnalike classes, others two, etc.

In short, India is too often depicted and dominated from a preconceived shortsighted static 'alien' religious, political or anthropological view point, and never appreciated with its merits and faults as it really is, with all its dynamics and changes. This anti-India propaganda machine used deliberately and by some unconsciously in a hypnotised or indoctrinated state is doing much harm.
Any social study of india should then be given in a timeline with the parallel periodical social developments in the rest of the world. This will perhaps give a counterbalance to the opinion of many Indians that the social grass is greener elsewhere in other systems.
  Reply
#30
Maruti,

Thanks for bringing some new controversy and energy into the forum.

I understood you perfectly well. I think you are simply not aware of how things work in the rest of the world. Indians on the racism scale would rank pretty darn low.

The highest amount of skin color specific discrimination is higher in East Asia (The Chinese even have a saying that fair skin equals three blemishes), Middle East (Very skin color conscious people), and Eastern Europe/Russia (Where people call even slightly darker skinned Caucasian people as Black, and where foreign students from Africa/India/Asia are regularly subject to racist attacks).


BTW, Jati (Caste) is not your skin color or your race, but is your clan or tribal identity. It is no different than a German being proud of their catholic saxon identity or someone in Spain identifying themself with their basque identity. The population of Indian Jati's range from 1 million to 30 million, about the size of many provinces/ countries in Europe and elsewhere. It's important to keep size and scale in perspective. BTW, Roma or Gypsies are the untouchables of Europe. We as Hindus need to publicize their mistreatment by the Euro's.


Just because some 19th century Euro thug called it caste, doesn't make it a weird unique thing that old racist Euro propaganda will have you believe.








<!--QuoteBegin-maruti+Oct 3 2006, 09:05 PM-->QUOTE(maruti @ Oct 3 2006, 09:05 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Bodhi,

Thanks for the warm welcome.

AgniVayu,

Perhaps, you misunderstood me. There are obviously different races, ethnicities etc. etc. all over the world. But only in India, you find people advertising their castes in newspapers! Don't you at all find that weird? That was my point, that Indians have degraded and that's why Varnashrama Dharma has been maligned by ignorant people. It's because Indians give them a chance by NOT practicing it properly. If Indians complain of racism, how can anyone take them seriously when they're practicing it themselves under the pretext of caste? The only solution is to follow Varnashrama Dharma as taught by Bhagavan Krishna.

And India can NEVER become a truly developed nation without following VD.
[right][snapback]58432[/snapback][/right]
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#31
<!--QuoteBegin-Capt Manmohan Kumar+Oct 3 2006, 09:26 PM-->QUOTE(Capt Manmohan Kumar @ Oct 3 2006, 09:26 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--emo&<_<--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/dry.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='dry.gif' /><!--endemo--> Maruti,
Welcome aboard!
With scheduled caste and other reservations as enshrined in Constitution and furthered by the politicians, casteism has come to stay.
Now, please tell me in this set up; how will u apply vd to change it?
[right][snapback]58433[/snapback][/right]
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Hi Captain,

Good question. Let's see.

Casteism is propagated by politicians and the rest to divide the nation. Why do they want to do that? Different castes serve as different vote banks. Which means, for casteism to go, we need proper governance, efficient politicians to rule the nation, politicians who treat people as people and NOT as vote banks. Evidently, a nation following VD will have established a strong, proud Kshatriya class that protects the nation, and that doesn't divide the nation along caste, as our politicians do.

As you can see, VD solves this problem, because only the very best can follow Kshatriya Dharma, and if the very best comes to power, casteism will vanish of its own accord. Put simply, we'll have a "meritocratic" system of governance, if we implement VD. Certain things can be modified, of course. In an ideal VD society, we can have certain qualifications for people to become politicians, such as:

1) They should be Indians <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->
2) Publicly declare assets
3) Education relevant to position
4) No criminal record. <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo-->
5) Must've served at least 2 years in the army

...and so on. These rules will eliminate the likes of lalu, sonia etc.. Bottom line, casteism is not just a social problem, but must be tackled at the political level, and only VD can 'weed out' the worst of politicians and bring the best into view. Raj Dharma is possible only with VD, and once we do that, not only casteism but p-sec politics and the rest will also vanish, because in an ideal VD society, politics is all about good governance, as opposed to 'loot and scoot' prevalent today, thanks to a dysfunctional democracy. Enter Vedic Governance, exit British Parliamentary System. <!--emo&:clapping--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/clap.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='clap.gif' /><!--endemo-->

So VD is still relevant and not outdated, as someone in this MB alleged.

Out of curiosity, are you a real capt? <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
  Reply
#32
<!--QuoteBegin-rajesh_g+Oct 3 2006, 10:19 PM-->QUOTE(rajesh_g @ Oct 3 2006, 10:19 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->And India can NEVER become a truly developed nation without following VD.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Here we go again. What is 'truly developed' ? Is this different from developed ? Just 200 years ago Indias GDP was 25% of the world. Is that 'truly developed' or just developed ?
<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Do you want India to be a carbon copy of the west? Is that development, a development which comes with a heavy price such as environmental damage, terrorism, bigotry and the rest? I certainly don't. I want India to be a Hindu Nation, a Hindu Superpower, not just a pale imitation of the west.
  Reply
#33
Hindu's are already under Islamic terrorist attacks. Hindus must Industrialize to achieve parity in economic strength. Where would Xtian missionaries be with an equal amount of Hindu power and money to challenge them (ex. Japan).



<!--QuoteBegin-maruti+Oct 4 2006, 12:29 AM-->QUOTE(maruti @ Oct 4 2006, 12:29 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->

Do you want India to be a carbon copy of the west? Is that development, a development which comes with a heavy price such as environmental damage, terrorism, bigotry and the rest? I certainly don't. I want India to be a Hindu Nation, a Hindu Superpower, not just a pale imitation of the west.
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#34
<!--QuoteBegin-maruti+Oct 4 2006, 12:25 AM-->QUOTE(maruti @ Oct 4 2006, 12:25 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->As you can see, VD solves this problem, because only the very best can follow Kshatriya Dharma, and if the very best comes to power, casteism will vanish of its own accord. Put simply, we'll have a "meritocratic" system of governance, if we implement VD.
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Dear Maruti, not bad! You are describing the original Vaidika system.
But now the practical side: One of the modern practical problems will be the huge oppositions from many political and religious wings who do want to maintain pseudo-secularism. Casteism is in their interest.

Do you have some profound, pragmatical, longterm ideas and suggestions, besides the ones already provided, how to transform the casteist p-sec society and state administration into an ideal VD system, with taking into account the many opposing political, legal and religious forces and their critque?


P.S. Yes, i do acknowledge that casteist thinking has entered and polluted modern indian society after a period of balance of the Bhakti inspiration. This is done from the top to bottom traffic way by politicians and pseudo- and anti-Hindu media, and is kept alive for political reasons, disrupting the interdependant Jati sense.
  Reply
#35
British and rise of casteism amongst Sikhs.

http://www.india-forum.com/forums/index.ph...indpost&p=58549
  Reply
#36
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2865

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Re: semantically speaking

Every now and then, discussions on this board puzzle me. This entire
thread `semantically speaking' is one such instance. While it is
evident that people obviously disagree with each other, what is not
evident is (a) what they are disagreeing about (b) why and © what
the next step should be. In the recent exchanges about caste, religion
and culture, it is very unclear (to me) just what issues are being
contested and why. Therefore, for the sake of clarity, I would like to
make some statements and formulate some questions.

1. Are there Jati's in India? Yes, there are. What kind of units or
entities are they? I do not know; neither does anybody for that
matter. It is a matter of fact that (a) they are not occupational
groups; (b) they are not social classes (that is, there is no
correlation between Jati's and the `means of production'); © appear
hereditary (though one could obtain certificates that `change' one's
Jati legally). Some Jati's are organized as some kind of legal or
semi-legal associations, some Jati's are not.

2. Are there conflicts between groups of people in India? Yes, there
are. But they do not follow any strict lines: sometimes members of
some Jati's fight members from other Jati's; sometimes, there are
fights between Muslims and `non-Muslims'; sometimes it is the trades
unions that struggle and so on.

3. Are the Jati's immutable? No, they are not. Over the last two
thousand years, some Jati's have disappeared, some new ones have come
into existence.

4. Is it possible to classify all the Jati's that exist in India
hierarchically using some or another set of criteria? This question
does not allow an unambiguous answer: may be it is possible, may be it
is not. The British tried to develop such a classificatory system,
which they called `the caste system', and gave up on this attempt
after about 30 years.

5. Is the English word `caste' used to translate the Indian word
`Jati'? Yes, many use it as a synonym. Increasingly, however, some
find this translation inadequate because the word `caste' cannot
distinguish between `Varna' and `Jati'. Besides, using the word
`sub-caste' suggests the existence of a super-ordinate and a
subordinate `caste', whereas `Jati' does not suggest this.

6. What is a `Varna' and what is its relationship to `Jati'? No one
knows. Some claim that `Jati' is a sub-division within the `Varnas',
some claim that there is no relationship between the two, yet others
suggest that Jati's exist only in some Varna's and so on.

7. Is Varna a hierarchical social system in India with `Brahmins'
occupying the top of this hierarchy with Sudra's at the bottom and a
social group that finds itself outside this `hierarchy'? There is no
correlation between the `Varnas' and occupation; there is no
correlation between `Varna' and political power. Therefore, it is not
possible to suggest that `Varna' is a social system, hierarchical or
otherwise. Furthermore, it is not clear what `Varnas' are or what
criteria have to be used to classify people into Varnas. If one uses
`birth' as a criterion (that is, one says that one's parents have to
belong to one of the Varnas in order to `qualify' as a member of that
Varna), then the vast majority of Indians fall outside this
classificatory framework. (This group would include Jains, Buddhists,
Christians, Muslims, Lingayats, many Saivites, some Viashnavites, and
so on.) From this it follows that whatever `Varnas' are, such a
classificatory system cannot be a social system because it fails to
classify the majority of the people in a society. Therefore, no one
specific social group falls outside this `system' but many, many groups.

If any on this board disagree with the answers to the above questions,
I would like to know what their answers are. I presuppose their truth
for the time being. None of the above claims is the result of my
research; this is something that everyone on this board (who has more
than merely a passing acquaintance with India) knows. (I presume the
truth of the last statement as well.)

Let me now spell out the results of my research. People can (and have)
disagreed with my research or its results. For the sake of carrying
the discussion forward, it would be good if people tell me (a) what
their disagreements are; (b) specify the alternatives, which they
think is true; © why these alternatives are better than my hypotheses.

1. There are no `native' religions in India. That is, words like
`Hinduism', `Buddhism', `Jainism' etc. do not have any reference to
any such phenomena, where the claim is that such words name some or
another `native' religion. (I am using the word `native' and the scare
quotes because I want to say that Islam and Christianity exist in
India and that groups that profess these religions are part of the
Indian society and culture.)

2. There are cultures in the world that are constituted by the dynamic
of religions. When people from such cultures describe India in terms
of religions of India, they do so because of a conceptual compulsion.
This compulsion forces them to construct entities, which lend
stability and structure to their experiences of India. That is to say,
they take elements present in India, weave them into a pattern and
this, in its turn, lends intelligibility to their experience of India.
While each of the elements that go to weaving the pattern (normally
speaking) does exist in India, taken together, this pattern does not
describe the structure of the Indian society or culture.

3. The choice of elements that go into the weaving of pattern is not
random: only some elements are selected and some others discarded.
This suggests that their descriptions of India are guided by a
`theory' (whether it is implicit or explicit is not an issue now)
because of the elements they choose. This `theory' is their
`theology'. (I am using the word `theology' very broadly in this context.)

4. Indians have come to accept these descriptions as descriptions of
Indian culture and society. They are not. They are reports of the
structure of the experience of the people who come from cultures
constituted by the dynamic of their religions. For now, I call such
entities as `experiential entities' for such people.

5. Why have Indians accepted reports of experiences as descriptions of
the Indian society and culture? I answer this question by trying to
develop a hypothesis about the nature and structure of `colonial
consciousness'. Currently in the process of elaboration, this
hypothesis suggests that both the Islamic and the British rule of
India were variants of colonialism. I am trying to say what
`colonialism' is by talking about the kind of consciousness it creates
among its subjects.

6. One of the central elements in this hypothesis is the claim that
typical of colonial consciousness is its inability to access its own
experience. While this claim has to be elaborated upon and refined
further, it suggests that we have to look elsewhere than the Indian
society or her culture if we have to understand the current
controversies in India about `religion' or `caste'. This is the only
hypothesis I know which does not transform the Indian intellectuals
into imbeciles and cretins, when they take moral positions regarding
issues no one knows much about. (No one knows what `Hinduism' is or
why it is a `religion', but people want to fight `Hindu
Fundamentalism' and advocate `secularism' as a solution. No one knows
what the `caste system' is, but everyone has firm moral opinions on
the subject. When I say `knows', I mean there are no theories about
these `phenomena'.)

7. When I say, therefore, that the West created Hinduism etc. as
religions, or that it created the caste system in India, I say the
following: they are experiential entities for the West and their
construction made their experience of India intelligible to them.
Neither before such construction nor after their construction do they
constitute structures of the Indian society or culture. Because they
are imaginary entities (in the above sense), no amount of research has
provided us any answer to the question about either the nature of
`Hinduism' or the nature of `the Indian caste system'. Nor will there
be any answers forthcoming.

8. Arraigned against me are the absolute majority of social
scientists, to speak only of them. They continue to prattle on
endlessly about the `amorphous nature of Hinduism', `the evil that the
caste system' is, and so on. They have been doing the same for more
than 300 years, and they will continue to do it for some more time to
come. I consider such discussions an absolute waste of time.

My request to all of you is this: let us please not waste time on this
board as well chasing after the unicorns that only the virgins can
see. If Avinash believes that his experience assures him of the
existence of Hinduism and caste system, fine; he is not alone. He has
the majority behind him. Let us be glad that science is not
democratic: the scientificity of a theory, thankfully, does not depend
upon counting the number of votes.

Friendly greetings

Balu<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
  Reply
#37
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2869

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Re: semantically speaking


It would be interesting to know what things are wrong and what things are right
in the following account.

This is from "A Matter of Honour - An account of the Indian Army,
its officers & men, by Philip Mason.

(replacing italics by all caps)

"Here, for those who have not lived in India, something must be said
about caste, that peculiar institution. Westerners are inclined to think
of it as class, but it is very different, and the reality is obscured by a good
deal of myth and many local complications.

But, simplifying enormously, one may say that the Hindus were divided in
the nineteenth century into more than three thousand groups who must not
marry OUTSIDE the group. The group was divided into subdivisions and
usually it was not permitted to marry WITHIN the subdivision.

The in-marrying group - in Hindi JATI - may be compared with a battalion;
the subdivision - in Hindi GOTRA - with a company. It is as though a man
had to marry a girl whose father came from the same battalion as himself,
but from a different company.

But it is not only marriage. The group to which a man belongs affects the
whole of his outward life; there are elaborate rules about eating, drinking,
smoking and washing. Men from the higher groups must eat and smoke
only with those of their own group and must not accept food or water from
the lower - though there are almost always exceptions and some kinds of food
are less subject to pollution than others.

If these rules are broken, a man is polluted and may not eat, smoke or drink
with his own group, still less of course with any other. He will be shunned
by everyone; he is an outcast, excommunicated. He can only be cleansed,
after long penance, by elaborate and expensive ceremonies.

These in-marrying groups cannot be ranked exactly; to arrange them in
an order - A is better than B, B than C, and so on - would certainly lead to
controversy. There are regional variations and some groups rise or fall in
general esteem; sometimes they split or coalesce.

But there is some general agreement. Throughout India, the many different
in-marrying groups who count as Brahman do come at the top of the tree in
the dimension of caste. But they may come quite low in the SOCIAL dimension,
often being employed as cooks or office messengers.

Ritual esteem does not coincide with social. This is what is so difficult for a
Westerner, who is used to thinking in the one dimension of social esteem,
to understand.

Western observers were also often misled by a myth, in the literal sense of the
word. They would be told that at the creation of mankind, there were four
ORDERS of men: Brahmans who sprang from the head of the Creator, Rajputs
[see endnote below]
who sprang from his arms, Banias from his belly and Sudras from his feet.
Brahmans were priests and scholars, Rajputs were kings, barons, landowners,
solders; Banias were traders, bankers, money-lenders. These three orders were
'twice-born', wearing the sacred thread, observing far more restrictions than
the
others.

Broadly speaking, the more abstentions and prohibitions were observed, the
higher
in the caste system a group was reckoned.

Sudras were cultivators, messengers, clerks, artisans, certain domestic servants
whose tasks did not pollute, such as those who carried a palanquin, but not
scavengers, skinners, sweepers. These, with others, made up a whole range of
groups who were outside the caste system and who were generally called
'untouchables'. They too had in-marrying groups and out-marrying subdivisions,
precedence among themselves and rules about who might accept water from
whom. They were later called 'the scheduled castes' and to treat them as
'untouchable' is today, in independent India, illegal, though it is not the kind
of
law that can be easily administered.

Endnote: I have used the terms generally used by soldiers in the nineteenth
century. It would really be more exact to call the second order, of kings and
soldiers, Kshatriyas. But apart from having an odd look to Western eyes, this
word was not used by the army. 'Rajput', on the other hand, is confusing,
because
it sometimes means a man belonging to one of the groups ranked as Kshatriya,
but sometimes it means a Kshatriya from the region of Rajputana. There were
caste-groups loosely called Rajputs througout the plain of the Ganges, in the
eastern Punjab and in the Himalayas.

'Bania' is really an occupation, and the order should more properly be called
Vaish. But nothing in the Indian social and religious system is simple. The
Sanskritic word for what I call an 'order' is VARNA; to continue the military
metaphor, the order is a higher formation, a grouping of battalions into an army
corps.

One of the reasons for Western confusion is that we use the one word 'caste'
in four different senses:
for the whole institution,
for the in-marrying group,
for the sub-division, and
for the order.

[IMO, this last sentence fits perfectly with the title of this thread.]
I would be extremely interested in knowing what is wrong with the description
above.



<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
  Reply
#38
Balus reponse to the above quotation.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2873

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Re: semantically speaking

Dear Arun,

Here are my first responses to the citation you posted on the board.

1. Hedging: the description, even while not pretending to be a
scientific study, hedges on important points. This reduces its value.
Even its status is unclear: is the claim about the `majority' of
Indians, is it about a minority in some particular area, or is it
simply a generalized statement of impressions? As examples, here are a
few hedges with my comments on their import.

1.1. "the reality is obscured by a good deal of myth and many local
complications".

(a) Given that the author says later that the `myth' about the origin
must be understood literally as a `myth', and thus not as a fact, he
suggests that the `myth' about caste, "that peculiar institution", is
not a part of "the reality" of the caste system. That is to say, he
suggests that Indian stories about caste are not a part of the
institution that caste is. It is, of course, unclear whether he wants
to say that these stories are not true (i.e., no sacrifice of the
primal man occurred and that the Brahmins were not born from the head
of this person, for instance) or whether he wants to say that stories
about `caste' (whatever they are) are not a part of the `reality' that
castes are.

(b) `local complications' are complications in "the reality". The
reality of caste must include "the many local complications":
otherwise, one says that "the reality" creates complications for
describing "the reality". A charitable interpretation of this sentence
is difficult because of how he speaks: the reality is "obscured" by
local complications and myths. If we read him literally, it is
nonsense: "the reality obscures the reality". So, the only possible
way to read him and preserve some sense is to interpret him as
follows: it is difficult, if not impossible, to build a `neat theory'
about caste because, in all probability, the reality will contradict
all such theories.

1.2. "But, simplifying enormously, one may say…"

(a) How "enormous" is this simplification? Why simplify enormously at
all? Would one not produce a caricature (i.e., produce another myth to
replace the Indian myth) as a result? If all `neat theories' are
contradicted by reality, surely, this "enormously simplified" account
cannot even hope to describe "the reality" that the institution of
caste is supposed to be. What is being described then? Is it a
description of the reality or just some myth?

(b) "One may say…": of course, one may say anything one feels like
saying. By the same token, one may also not say what one intends to
say, or one may even say the opposite. The hedge `one may say' has
some use if one shows what cognitive advantage is gained by saying it.
Otherwise, it is a license to say whatever one feels like saying: the
earlier hedge, namely, that it is an "enormous simplification", meets
any challenge.

2. Conceptual confusions: He (a) begins with an undefined word,
(b)illustrates a practice by making a comparison, © uses the
illustration later as a metaphor and (d) the metaphor ends up becoming
a semi-theory about another institution. Having done all that, (e) he
tries to stand above his own confusion by attributing the problem to
the different references of yet another word.

(a) "They would be told that at the creation of mankind, there were
four ORDERS of men…" Here, the word `order' is undefined. The context
does not suggest that four groups of men were "ordered"
hierarchically; instead, it says that each of these four groups was
"ordered" because there were "four orders". That is, there is no way
of finding out what the relationship is between these four "ordered"
groups; nor is there any way of finding out how each of these four
groups were "ordered" internally. All we can assume is that, within
each of these groups, there is an ordered relationship between its
members.

(b) "The in-marrying group - in Hindi JATI - may be compared with a
battalion; the subdivision - in Hindi GOTRA - with a company." Notice
the hedge first: one may compare jati and gotra to the subdivisions
within an army; then again, one may not. This comparison, thus,
carries no premium: it is merely a handy way of illustrating a
practice, namely, marriage, which prevailed in the "nineteenth
century" India. Here, the hedge plays a useful role as long as it
helps one (the westerner) to understand a practice. Once the practice
is understood, the illustration plays no further role in the story.

© "to continue the military metaphor, the order is a higher
formation, a grouping of battalions into an army corps." Suddenly, an
illustration of a practice has become a metaphor for an institution.
Metaphors map two domains onto each other; it is an aid to understand
one (ill-understood) domain by using the mapping relationship it has
with the other (better-understood) domain. Here, battalions, companies
and army corps are units within an institution that are defined by the
relationships between them. This domain (the army) is now mapped onto
the domain of Indian social and religious structures (cf: "…nothing in
the Indian social and religious system is simple"). Because the
relationships between units in one domain (the army) are mapped onto
the relationships in another domain (varna, jati and gotra), what we
have on our hands is a semi-theory about this, new domain ("the Indian
social and religious system"?)

(d) The "order" now becomes a "higher" formation: the "higher" refers
to the unit that is "hierarchically above". That is to say, Varna is a
hierarchical order: below it are the Jatis, and below the Jati's are
the gotras. This notion of a `higher order' is simultaneously two
things: on the one hand, it is a higher classificatory scheme that
incorporates other sets like jati and gotra. On the other hand, this
hierarchical relationship must also imply a superiority of one order
with respect to the other: it must, because he is using the
organizational structure of the army as the metaphor. (He could have
also used a human body as the metaphor – which is what the Indian
`myth' does – that would have allowed him to speak of `higher' order
without implying hierarchical superiority: molecules, cells and
organs. There is no way for us to speak of the superiority of any of
these components even though we can speak of `higher' orders in this
context.) He must also be implying that because he finds it necessary
to emphasize that "social esteem" does not coincide with "ritual
esteem". In short, without saying so explicitly (which is why it is a
semi-theory), he is saying that there is a hierarchical social and
religious system in India.

(e) In the end, he appears to bemoan the fact that, among other
things, `caste' refers both to "the order" and to "the whole
institution". Which is "the whole institution"? The army (i.e., the
"Indian society"?) or the army corps? If `order' is the `varna' and it
is an army corps, which is "the whole institution", if it is not
`varna'? Whether he wants to or not, using the metaphor he does use,
he has to say that the Indian society is ordered "hierarchically' with
some groups occupying the summit of the hierarchy (which groups?), and
some others absolutely at the bottom. In so far as this discussion
occurs in the context of talking about caste, he is suggesting that
this situation is something generated by the caste system.
(Presumably, because of the absence of this peculiar institution in
the West, the suggestion is that this `kind' of hierarchy is absent
there.) Again, he says explicitly that jati's are neither static nor
immutable; yet, he implies the opposite when he suggests that `some
groups' are at the top and some others at the bottom of the social
hierarchy because of their membership in such groups. In this sense,
even in his haste to correct the `wrong' impressions of people from
the West, he merely reproduces (in a vaguer and less transparent way)
what the West has been saying about us during the last few centuries.

3. Selective portrayal: without any kind of apparent justification,
some facts are highlighted, while some others are neglected. This
suggests the operation of a background theory that distributes weights
to these respective facts.

On the one hand, he says: "Men from the higher groups must eat and
smoke only with those of their own group and must not accept food or
water from the lower - though there are almost always exceptions and
some kinds of food are less subject to pollution than others." Here,
note that `higher order' clearly means a socially (politically,
culturally, economically, ritually?) privileged position when compared
to those from `the lower order'. (It is obvious because the suggestion
is not that someone belonging to some gotra – a `lower order' entity
within the Jati – should not eat or smoke with someone from another
gotra.) Secondly, note too that there are "almost always exceptions".
That is, there are people from the `higher order' who do eat and smoke
with those from the `lower order'.

On the other hand, speaking of those who do this, he also says
(amongst other things): "He will be shunned by everyone; he is an
outcast, excommunicated."

We have two facts then: some smoke and eat with those from the `lower
order' with impunity; yet others are punished for the same act. Why
emphasize one fact and not the other? I know of no surveys and/or
nation-wide (or even state-wide) facts about either of the two
incidents. Consequently, we cannot speak of the relative frequency of
one set of facts as against the other. As a result, we do not have an
explanation of any sort (except for the story we are told about `the
Indian caste system') for either of these two facts. Why take one kind
of fact and amplify on it (which is what the author does), and mention
the other merely in passing, unless one considers one fact as some
kind of a necessary consequence of `the caste system' and the other as
a mere `exception'? The only possible reason is that the author too
assumes the western story about the caste system (and its moral
consequences) as true.

4. False assumptions: "The group to which a man belongs affects the
whole of his outward life; there are elaborate rules about eating,
drinking, smoking and washing." And, he warns of dire consequences
"(i)f these rules are broken". Really! In all my life, I have yet to
come across these "elaborate rules about eating, drinking, smoking and
washing". No anthropologist, or sociologist, or Sanskritist, or
Indologist has ever discovered what these rules are, who enunciated
them, the source of their authority, and the nature of the entity that
enforces these rules and punishes their transgression. The author is
not speaking about conventions and etiquettes that come and go: he is
speaking about `elaborate rules', violations of which involve
excommunication for some. He could not be talking about the
Dharmashastra literatures because (a) most Indians have neither read
nor follow any of the treatises in this genre; (b) most of the extant
manuscripts are untranslated and preserved in a few institutions (many
of them outside India). I cannot imagine how these treatises could
have `elaborate rules' for "smoking"! Or even "washing". (Actually, it
would be nice to know what "elaborate rules" exist for washing or
drinking, where they exist, who follows them, who transmits them, and
who enforces them.) Then, of course, there is the imprecision: "the
group to which a man belongs". Which `group' is this? Varna, Jati, or
Gotra, or all three? Consequently, from what is he excommunicated? Is
a man excommunicated from his Jati, or from his varna or from his
gotra or from all the three? And then, there is the problem about
excommunication. Assuming that one is born into a varna and a jati and
thus inherits a gotra, how is excommunication possible from any of the
three? One can be excommunicated from a community or a group if and
only if there is a proviso, which allows voluntary membership into
that community or group. No matter what I do, I cannot be
excommunicated from the species (homo sapiens sapiens) or from the
class of biological organisms because I am born into this group. But I
can be excommunicated from my group of friends, or from having social
contacts with my group of relatives. In the latter case, I still
remain their relative. In short, I suggest that this author is making
false assumptions about rules and excommunication.

What is `right' in his story? Something we all know. There are jatis
and gotras in India. [Though there are indefinitely many gotras in
India, they arise due to a permutation of seven gotra founders: one
has either one, or three, or five (as far as I know, none with two and
four) of these founders at their origin. Indeed, there was (and, to
some extent, there still is) a `rule' about marriages: one should not
marry into the same gotra (at least two in the case of those with
three founders, three in the case of those with five founders).] There
is some kind of `untouchability', even though it is not clear whether
it is inter-personal or only social (i.e., applicable only to
inter-jati relationships). In some areas, some jatis do not eat in the
house of other jatis. The jatis do not have the same names in the
length and breadth of India. In other words, what is true about his
account are these kinds of trivial facts.

Perhaps, one could say more than I have said. If so, I leave it to the
interested others to do that.

Friendly greetings

Balu
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
  Reply
#39
Further clarification on the above post.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2878

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Re: semantically speaking

Dear Arun,

Thank you for providing some context for the citation you posted on
the board. I knew that the author was not writing a treatise on caste
and I had guessed it had something to do with the British army and the
eighteenth-century India. Jayant has already raised some relevant
questions; I will confine myself to making a few points.

(a) Firstly, I was responding to your requests at the beginning and at
the end of the citation. The beginning: "It would be interesting to
know what things are wrong and what things are right in the following
account"; the end: "I would be extremely interested in knowing what is
wrong with the description above". Secondly, I attempted to show that,
between the eighteenth-century British and those from the
twentieth-century, an explanatory gulf is almost non-existent.

(b) The non-existence of the explanatory gulf has partly to do with
the nature of the selected facts. When one speaks of the presence of
`sub-sub-castes' among the Sikhs (say), this fact is not
theory-neutral which all subsequent theories has to explain. The data
is gathered by using a theory that suggests that `the Indian caste
system' is hierarchically ordered.

© Perhaps, one can understand why the British saw the operation of
such a hierarchy in India. Where they could not see such a hierarchy
so clearly, they wrote such problems off as the consequence of "local
complications". When they said that nothing about "the Indian
religious and social system is simple", they were not noticing the
poverty of their explanations or the complexity of the culture they
tried to understand. Actually, it carried a value judgment about the
Indian mind: it was neither logical nor consistent because it even
violated its own `principles' and `rules'.

(d) More important than their value judgment is the fact that most
Indian intellectuals (and many, many `Dalit' movements) repeat and
reproduce the hypothesis that the British entertained as though it is
their daily experience. That is to say, such people say that the
British descriptions are true of the Indian society and culture and
suggest that this truth is borne out by their own experience of the
`reality of the caste system'. This is the majority view. I believe
that this view hints at a problem about the nature of `our experience'
instead of being a true description of the Indian society and culture.
How can the experience of the Indian society and culture of the
eighteenth-century British be continuous with our experience of our
own culture and society today? What does this tell us about the nature
of our contemporary experience? Consequently, my reply was also partly
an indirect answer to the question Avinash raised.

(e) Were I to formulate the above paragraph In terms of alternatives,
this is how I would do it: It could be the case that the descriptions
that the British (merchants, military officers, bureaucrats, etc) gave
of India were scientific, which is why they remain true of our
contemporary experience. Or, there is something very, very problematic
about our experience. The majority picks the first alternative. My
research is about the second.


Friendly greetings

Balu<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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#40
Aruns rejoinder.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2881

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Re: semantically speaking

Balu,

Your comments on what is wrong and what is right with Philip Mason's
account are very helpful to me, and I'm merely trying to bring additional
info. to your attention.

Mason, I see, finds the varna/jati/gotra construct to be social rather than
scripturally sanctioned - that its connection with the Vedic story is a myth.
And elsewhere he finds similar jati arrangements among Muslims and
Sikhs, and among the Gurkhas and so on. Correlated with the jati
arrangements are various ritualistic commitments on part of the members
of the jati, that make them less or more suitable for army duty.
Any hierarchical ordering among jatis is weak, and there are many
dimensions to consider - ritual, social, economic and political, at least.
Finally, the prejudices about such groups come to be shared by the
Europeans.

Now, here is some further info, that may be at the start of an account of
how British feedback affected this culture. During the latter half of the 19th
century, British army recruiters became obssessed with "caste", as part of
their theory of martial races.

"Captain Bingley, writing of the Rajputs...Like his colleagues, he goes into
immense detail over sub-castes and sub-sub-castes; this is necessary because
'Fighting capacity depends not only on race but also on hereditary instinct
and social status, therefore it is essential that every effort should be made
to obtain the very best men of that class which a regiment may enlist...
Men of good class will not enlist unless their own class be represented in
the regiment." So if you have a good tradition all will be well - but on the
contrary, if you have 'native officers who as regards race and breeding are
not altogether desirable, they will naturallly bring into the regiment men
of their own kind' and a ring will be formed that will be a power deterrent
to the good class.

"The 'country Rajput is a straightforward, guileless, honest gentlemanly fellow
and his manners betray him.' But outsiders try to pass themselves off as
what they are not and it is important to make quite sure of a man's every
particular. Against some 'clans' or sub-castes, Bingley puts a note to warn
the unsuspecting:

'Undesirable; of spurious descent and practice widow remarriage'
'Rajputs of fallen grade who permit widow remarriage'
'Undesirable; cunning and treacherous clan'
'Turbulent and troublesome race of spurious descent'

A jealous, sometimes an anxious enthusiasm for the good name of one
particular class; a minute concern with the details of social precedence
and an almost obsequious readiness to recognize the men's social
prejudices - these are the marks of a recruiting office. He admires his
men, just as they are; he does not want them to be different.

"Dogras" was the term generally used of the Rajputs from the foothills
of the Himalayas north of the Punjab. They have none of the Mongolian
look of the hilmenn from further east and their caste system is much
the same as for Rajputs from the plains. The handbook for Dogras lists
420 subdivisions usually recruited and ranks them in four grades
according to their own estimation. All four grades are mixed in Dogra
companies - in spite of the damning fact that the lower grades allow
their widows to remarry. But recruiting should not go beyond these
limits. There are Jats living in these same hils, who were 'formerly more
or less freely enlisted...but now castes are so clearly defined and well-known
they find it increasingly difficult....They are sturdy and of better physique
than Dogra Rajputs and officers...speak highly of their discipline, courage
and soldierly fitness; but when mixed in the same company as Dogra
Rajputs, they suffer somewhat as the Dogra Rajput does not consider
them on the same social plane.'

------
Seems to me that this could not be a one-way street, i.e., British
absorbing Indian prejudices. E.g., else, how could Jats freely enlist before?
How did castes become so clearly defined? Maybe the men learned that
if they exhibited disdain for other jatis, more positions would be offered
to their own jati. Probably impossible to know at this time what feedback
loops got set up.

-Arun<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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