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History Of Caste

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History Of Caste
<!--QuoteBegin-G.Subramaniam+Mar 12 2009, 08:05 PM-->QUOTE(G.Subramaniam @ Mar 12 2009, 08:05 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-Pandyan+Mar 13 2009, 04:59 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Pandyan @ Mar 13 2009, 04:59 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->What varna do yadavs fall under?

Sri Krishna was a Kshatriya

The Gujjars who are milkmen formed many kingdoms
The hoysalas were also shepherds as was Holkar

However, in most places today, Yadavs are upper end OBC
In the late 19th century, until the Arya Samaj movement,

Yadavs did not have thread ( non-Dwija )
So only after aryasamaj they wore thread? They seem to have gotra. That is unlike non dwija castes who don't have gotra.
<!--QuoteBegin-Pandyan+Mar 13 2009, 05:44 AM-->QUOTE(Pandyan @ Mar 13 2009, 05:44 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->So only after aryasamaj they wore thread? They seem to have gotra. That is unlike non dwija castes who don't have gotra.
All castes of the first three varNa-s have a gotra. Some mixed forward castes who may not fall tightly under one single varNa, e.g. kAyastha, bhumihAra and khattrI, also have gotra. upper segment of the lower castes, as well as some vanavAsI tribes, with direct or indirect influence from Arya-samAja, also started using ya~jnopavIta in early 1900s, and in some cases started affiliation with gotra-s claiming upward movement into one or the other varNa of the forward caste, case in example being nAmasUdra-s of va~Nga and muNDa-s of jhArakhaNDa.
Posting in full,


1. Human individuals are born simultaneously into cultural and natural environments. Both these environments are incredible storehouses of differences. We can look at these environments as ‘spaces’: a natural and a cultural space. However, what the human child learns, also through the process of teaching, are not mere ‘differences’ in these two ‘spaces’, but salient diversities. That is to say, through a process of selection, some differences are bracketed away, some differences are clustered, some are emphasized, etc. This is what I mean by ‘salient diversities’: some structured sets of differences. Accordingly, the task of a configuration of learning is to help an individual cope with salient diversities. Even though this is but a partial explication of the notion of ‘configuration of learning’, it already helps us realise that there is a significant difference between ‘learning’ (‘the process of creating a habitat’; ‘that which makes the environment habitable’) and ‘a configuration of learning’. Since any group that has lived for any significant period of time survives only as a culture (i.e., as ‘a configuration of learning’), each one of us in the world encounters only salient diversities.

1.1. What differentiates mere ‘differences’ from ‘diversities’ and the latter from ‘salient diversities’? What I am trying to pick out from using these three words is a difference in ‘levels’: ‘differences’ pick out, abstractly as it were, the differences between objects, persons, events etc. Some are rooted in our human biology (e.g. skin-colour, differences in length, colour of the hair, etc.); some differences are linked to our biology and the natural environment (heat, cold; textures and colours; etc); some are how we perceive the natural environment (the appearance of trees, their leaves, mountains, etc.) and so forth. To describe the difference between, say, any two objects (at this level of generality), is to provide an exhaustive description of the details. In the realist epistemology (see Putnam’s formulation in his Three Chords…), the differences between objects are already given and the goal of an objective description is to provide a description of the differences that are already there (and objectively given).

1.2. The notion of ‘diversities’ picks out the fact that not all differences are relevant to all societies, but only some are. Such diversities already carry the mark of the cultural: they are not mere descriptions of ‘relevant’ differences, but are already ‘worked-upon’ descriptions. If you like, they indicate the fact that the different human cultures are all human cultures as such. They are, I presume, concepts of a general theory of human culture.

1.3. ‘Salient diversities’ refers to that level, where new properties or new diversities come into being. Our language that describes the world does remain partially responsible to the differences in the world, but also evolves new ways of describing the world. That is to say, the appropriate level of beginning to describe the cultural world is that of ‘salient diversities’ (at least for a comparative science of cultures). Further theory-building might, in the future, enable us to describe diversities and the ways in which they become ‘salient’. For now, this appears the most interesting level at which we pitch our descriptions.

1.4. Of course, these are stipulative definitions. More important than this, is to note that these definitions merely fix the reference of the words. Even more important is to realise the reasons why: it will be the task of a future theory to build a theory about these units. No definition can, or should, decide how the world is like. Our definitions should remain neutral with respect to the future results: let us see what the future theory has in store. At the moment, our basic units should merely clear up the ground where we are going to start working.

1.5. One small example to illustrate what I mean. Age-difference between people would belong to the level of ‘difference’; ‘elderly’ is a diversity; ‘elderly parent’, ‘people above 50’, ‘pensioned persons’, ‘the wise elder’, etc. are ‘salient diversities’. The structuring of the latter gives us the social structures.

1.6. In a way, I do not think that we need to worry much about these words. If, in the process of building a theory about any particular aspect of a culture, and thus about cultural difference, it transpires that ‘diversity’ would do a better job than the notion of ‘salient diversity’, let us just go ahead. It is impossible to determine, at the level of definition, the scope, the breadth and the nature of a partial theory: that is, whether it is a part of a theory of cultural difference, or a part of sociology or a contribution to a general theory of human culture. In other words, I think the development of a theory will itself also indicate the appropriate level of description.

2. I would like to define a social structure as a structured set of salient diversities, i.e., as a set of salient diversities together with a relation defined over these elements. The configuration of learning organises (or structures) the going-about of individuals with one another, and their goings-about the (salient diversities in the) natural environment. The organised going-about is what the word ‘social structure’ refers to. If looked at dynamically, the social structure is an ‘organised going-about’. Statically, it is some ‘structured set of salient diversities’. Why do we need both the static and dynamic descriptions? I will come to that in a moment.

A social organisation, by contrast, is bigger. Its elements are the plurality of social structures (at least two: the ‘natural’ and the ‘cultural’ salient diversities) and the relation between them. The social organisation can also be described dynamically and statically. As the latter, it is the set of social structures and their relation between them; as the former, it is that which structures (or regulates) the interaction between social structures.

3. To utilise some examples purely for illustrative purposes, we can put it this way. ‘Family’ ‘school’, ‘trade-union’, etc. group different sets of going-about in our daily life. These are the social structures. Who or what groups some sets of going-about as those that belong to ‘the school’, ‘the family’, and ‘the trade-union’, etc? The social organisation. Who or what specifies the relation (if any) between these entities? Again, the social organisation. If you look at these goings-about as interactions, then social structures are organised goings-about. If you look at it statically, they are simply structured sets of salient diversities. (The salient diversities among the family members, for example: the father earns a wage, the child goes to school, they stay in one house, etc.)

4. Summarising: human beings are born simultaneously into a natural and cultural environment, which incorporate at least one social organisation. This organisation contains social structures and organises (or regulates) their mutual interaction. The social structures are grouped (or organised) goings-about. These are enumerable as structured sets of salient diversities.

4.1 How does a social organisation come into being? Through the learning (actions) of individuals. How do these individuals learn? Through the configuration of learning. In this sense, a configuration of learning generates a social organisation through the mediation of individuals. This tells us that a social organisation is a creation of individuals acting and interacting with each other.

4.2 However, what organises these goings-about? The social structures. What ‘teaches’ these goings-about? The configuration of learning. In this sense, the social structures mediate the individuals to the configuration of learning.

4.3 Who or what groups the social structures and regulates their interaction? The social organisation. In this sense, the social organisation mediates the social structures to each other.

4.4 What does it mean to say that the social structures organise the goings-about of the individuals? It means they teach. What do they teach? The goings-about. (See 4.2 above about the social structures mediating the individuals to the configuration of learning.) In this sense, the social structures mediate individuals to each other. (In my note on Narahari’s response, I had called them the mechanisms of socialisation, which they are in some senses of the ‘social’.)

4.5 Speaking of my earlier article allows me to add the following idea as well, albeit in a compressed form: ‘culturality’ is what the individual ‘gets’ (through both the processes of learning and teaching) from the configuration of learning; ‘sociality’ is what he ‘gets’ from being the mediated entity, i.e., through the mediation of social organisation and the social structures; ‘personality’ is what he ‘gets’ as a mediating entity; ‘cultural difference’ is how he uses the mediating structures. So what makes some ‘difference’, any ‘difference’, into a ‘cultural difference’? It is the how of an individual’s use of social organisation and the social structures. (‘Stories’ are a social structure: this is the static description; ‘story-telling in a particular context and in a particular way’ – or my ‘learning units’– is its dynamic description.)

4.5.1. As I have indicated in my response to Narahari, we perceive cultural differences only at the level of individual interactions. (For instance, one can notice the difference between buildings and their styles of construction. Does this not indicate a ‘cultural difference’? They do not: the styles of construction of the Dutch, German and Belgian houses, say, vary. But the level at which my notion of ‘cultural difference’ operates tells us that these are not the structuring of ‘salient diversities’ that a configuration of learning can account for. In fact, it is difficult to say whether they are mere ‘diversities’ or ‘salient diversities’. Stands to reason: We need a theory about these different styles in order to assess their significance. As I have made clear at the beginning, our definition is not a ‘classification’ but one that merely fixes the reference of the words.) In the same article, I indicated that we could talk of ‘culturality’ of an individual in exactly the same way we can talk about the ‘sociality’ and the ‘personality’ of the said individual. I had not said much about what these three terms could refer to. In the above paragraph, I have given some content to these words.
4.5.2. One of the problems that we often come across is that of the relation between the individual and ‘higher-level’ social entities, viz., groups, classes, social organisations (as it is loosely used) etc. This problem knows of two polarised solutions. (1) A reduction of all macro-entities to the individual psychology: this is the classical story of reductionism, or of methodological individualism, which crowns individual psychology as the queen of human sciences. (Of course, such a scientific psychology would further get reduced to a future cognitive neuro-science.) (2) Either a stubborn defence of the ‘reality’ of macro-structures or a reduction of the individual to macro-entities, like, social structures (loosely used), or ‘ontically higher entities’, like, family, culture, or whatever else.
4.5.3. In my story, we see the true nature of this debate. If it is linguistically equally plausible for us to speak of an individual’s ‘personality’, his ‘sociality’ and his ‘culturality’, the debate about reduction or of the ontological superiority of some or another macro-entity becomes a pseudo-debate. This issue cannot be resolved by reflecting about the concepts used in different ‘theories’ but by building theories that tell us effectively how the problem should be posed and what its solution is. Reduction of the rest of ‘social sciences’ to a future ‘scientific psychology’ becomes hollow because ‘personality’ is but a dimension of the individual. There is nothing obvious about its primacy, it merely rests on a linguistic plausibility, and we can show that ‘sociality’ and ‘culturality’ are equally plausible linguistic usages. Regarding the ontological primacy of macro-entities, the following argument is telling: these are concepts-in-a-theory and, like all such concepts, we need to have a theory that does the work that scientific theories are supposed to do. (‘Electrons’, ‘gravitational force’, etc. are also such entities; but we presume their reality, do we not?) They are concepts-in-a-theory because the individual interactions are ‘seamless’ and cannot be, any more than any other natural process, carved out at its joints. There are no joints either in the cultural environment or in the natural environment.
4.5.4. Actually, I should have better said that ‘stories’ are linguistic structures (whether oral or textual). In a particular culture, they are made into a social structure. This is the passive description. The active dimension requires that it also teaches: In my story, it can teach only within the confines of a particular kind of learning process. Otherwise, stories would teach by virtue of their linguistic structure alone, which they do not. However, that stories become mere linguistic structures have to do with the culture-in-question, where they are seen only as linguistic structures.

4.6 We can now see why both a ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ description of social organisation and social structures were needed. Each is not only a mediated entity, but also a mediating entity. These are the general or abstract properties of both a social organisation and the social structures it comprises of. There is, however, the problem of delimiting them: when could we say that some specific set of structured salient diversities is a social structure? How could we identify something as a social organisation? These questions pertain to empirical enquiry: one has to conduct an empirical investigation into different cultures in order to identify the social structures there. Even though both social structures and social organisations could contain properties that are common across cultures, only empirical investigations can help us answer the question about the properties they might have in common. The reason for this is obvious: what we have are individual human beings acting and interacting with each other and the natural environment in particular ways. As indicated earlier, there are no ‘joints’ in this process of interaction. We slice these interactions in conceptually specific ways, which we call ‘social structures’ and such like, in order to study and understand human beings. However, our ‘slices’ are not arbitrary and subjective. But the only way of demonstrating their ‘objectivity’ is to build a theory that can be subjected to scientific evaluation.

5. As must be apparent from the forgoing, there is a loop (or feed-back) between the four elements, viz., the configuration of learning, the social organisation, the social structure, and the individual. This loop (or feed-back) is precisely the process of historical development. (Bracketing away, for the moment, the difference between ‘history’ and the ‘past’.) The dynamic of historical evolution is the process of feed-back (or the process of loop) between these four elements, however, ‘in circumstances men find themselves in and not as they please.’ (These ‘circumstances’ would be what I call ‘salient diversities’.)

6. The last sentence (in scare quotes) and the talk of mediation make me want to push this in the direction of Karl Marx. Analogous with the arguments above, one could say that the social organisation structures the way the individual copes with the salient diversities in the natural environment as well. If we follow the logic of the argument developed so far, it means that the individual is also mediated doubly to the salient natural diversities: through the social organisation and through the social structures. This would be the equivalent of the ‘social process of production’. The natural environment gets included in the feed-back process: it sustains, or hinders, or expands the possibilities of more intense loops. That is, the process can be either retarded or quickened. (Obviously, ‘quickening’, ‘retarding’, and ‘intensification’, etc. require a more careful elaboration.) This is the ‘process of social reproduction’. There is, however, no direct or immediate impact on the individual social structures due to the process of social production and reproduction. If there is an impact, it is gradual, slow and is visible only after a long period of time. (That is because of the chain of mediations involved in the process.) A social revolution, then, is the process of adaptation of the social organisation as a result of the feed-back process. I can show that this conceptualisation accommodates many of the properties of the ‘materialistic conception of history’, but that would require more digression. Let me summarise this in the form of an incomplete slogan: ‘culture enables the social’.

6.1. As is evident from the fore-going, the social structures come into being within the ambit of a configuration of learning. A ‘social change’ would then refer to the emergence of new social structures (some existing, or new ‘differences’ get grouped into ‘salient diversities’); or a transformation of the existing social structures (addition or deletion of a salient diversity or a transformation of the existing relations between them); or a destruction of some social structures (either because the salience of diversities disappear or because the relation between salient diversities break down). By contrast, a ‘social revolution’ would not merely imply the emergence of new social structures (and/or any of the above possibilities) but above all the emergence of new patterns of interaction between social structures. Both these changes – within the social organisation and in the social organisation – have the character of discontinuous processes. However, when looked at from the point of view of the individual and the configuration of learning, there is a continuity (of the culture).
6.2. Historians have often observed both continuity and discontinuity in historical processes. Some have characterised it as the difference between two historiographies: the synchronic and the diachronic. Yet others have divided this as: the ‘law-guided’ history (a kind of ‘theological history’ or as a ‘grand narrative’) and the ‘empirical history’, which tracks changes in the minutiae. I suggest that this debate (about these two different historiographies) arises due to a confusion of levels. Cultural continuity enables the social discontinuity, and one has not seen that ‘continuity’ and ‘discontinuity’ in historiography belong to the domain of culture and society respectively. One can track both kinds of changes.
6.3. To see the continuity of a culture (‘the west’, ‘Asian culture’), no grand or ‘meta-narrative’ is required. The theory of cultural difference will do this job nicely, without postulating either ‘the laws of history’, ‘or ‘God’s Plan’ or ‘telos’ of the culture. The requirement that a ‘historiography’ makes ‘the past’ intelligible is met by telling the empirical story about how some individuals continue to become a people (i.e. the story about a configuration of learning, social organisations, social structures, and individuals in their mediating-mediated roles).

7. Could one speak of cultural discontinuity? The immediate problem here is: cultural discontinuity of what? If one wants to pick out a geographical region, say, ‘Europe’, then one is mistaking cultural differences for cultural discontinuity. Of course, one could make sense of the question, ‘Is there a cultural discontinuity between the Pagan west and the Christian West?’ But only under the condition that both ‘Pagan west’ and the ‘Christian west’ refer to the same geographical region, viz., ‘Europe’. In my story, in contradistinction to the popular conception, there is a cultural difference (in the same region, viz., ‘Europe’) between the pagan west and the Christian west. Therefore, it is a question of why these two are culturally different. As I see the issue currently, the difference lies in the fact that neither the Greek nor the Roman culture could develop a configuration of learning. Different learning processes were struggling for dominance and they disintegrated in the face of a religion that was able to generate a configuration of learning. (As I see it now, a configuration of learning is stable.) From the above, it follows that a cultural discontinuity (within a region) implies the emergence of a (new) configuration of learning. If such an event occurs, this means that the social organisation and the social structures (in that region) must change. Where there is a cultural discontinuity, there is also a social discontinuity.

7.1. Now we are in a position to pick up the issue of the famous ‘transition problem’ in Marxist thinking. Two such merit interest: the transition from slavery to feudalism, and the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Both issues are said to be about ‘social formations’, and as such are considered to belong to the same level. Despite a great deal of research, nothing much has come out except a lot of historical details, which do not tell us any coherent story. In my reconstruction, these issues take the form of two questions that pick out different entities and do not allow of a common ‘theory of transition’, because they belong to different levels. There is firstly the question: How did ‘Europe’ (the geographical region) achieve transition from slavery to feudalism? Ever since I wrote ‘The Heathen..’, I have been convinced that this was not a ‘real’ question, but that it was a Marxist translation of another question: viz., how did Christianity win out against the Roman empire? One can provide historical ‘details’ about this transition, but there can never be a theory about the transition from slavery to feudalism in Europe: as yet, we do not know how to conceptualise social and cultural changes within a region as a result of the (geographical) properties of the said geographical region. In my story, if the issue is not about the ‘victory’ of Christianity about which many narratives exist (from the purely ecclesiastical to the more informed ones), then it is about two other questions: How do human cultures come into being? How do configurations of learning emerge? Both are parts of a general theory of human culture. Insofar as it is about the Christian west, the question is: what were the mechanisms and the processes involved in the emergence of the western culture? The changes in the social organisation and the social structures (namely, the change from slavery to feudalism) will turn out to be a necessary consequence of the cultural discontinuity in the region.

7.2. The second transition problem is this: how did the transition from feudalism to capitalism come about in the Christian west? Or, more generally, how did the cultural continuity of the Christian west enable a social revolution? One can see immediately why the two transition problems do not belong to the same level: one picks out a region, and the other picks out a culture; one speaks of cultural difference and the other presupposes a cultural continuity. That is why, there has not only been no ‘theory’ of transition (nor will there be), but also no satisfactory ‘explanation’ of the second transition either. There is no clarity regarding the object (or the event) that requires to be explained. This suggestion also restricts the scope of Marx’s heuristic, the ‘guiding thread of his study’ as he called it, as formulated in the famous preface to the ‘Introduction to a critique of political economy’. It is not that obvious any more to speak of primitive communism, slavery, feudalism and capitalism as ‘stages’ in the evolution of ‘societies’: it is not at all evident that these terms pick out the same entity, namely, ‘society’. With respect to European history (i.e., the history of a region), these ‘stages’ refer to different entities: one ‘stage’ picks out the events within a region, whereas the other picks out changes in a culture.

7.3. Even though I see a configuration of learning is a stable entity, I am not suggesting by any means that it controls its (external) conditions of production and reproduction. Any configuration of learning can break down, disintegrate or dissolve because of any number of reasons: from natural catastrophes to catastrophes induced by human cultures (from famines through genocides and wars, for example). One of these ‘external conditions’ is the social organisation itself. This is not either paradoxical or contradictory. The western configuration of learning is generated by religion. That is to say, by Christianity in its aspect as a religion. Christianity is also several other things besides being a religion: it is a power centre, a ‘social structure’ (in my definition), a landlord, etc. These are other than and different from the configuration of learning that the western culture is. Similar considerations hold regarding the mediating role of the social structures with respect to the natural environment. It is thus that the social organisation and the social structures are different from, and ‘external’ to the configuration of learning. They sustain the configuration of learning as the external conditions for its production and reproduction. Consequently, following Vivek’s suggestion, one could complete the incomplete slogan formulated above as: ‘Culture enables the social, whereas the social sustains the cultural.’

8. Considered this way, a social organisation should not be seen as a well-oiled machine with all its parts interacting with each other in a precise way. There are two reasons for this. One: it must never be forgotten that it is individual human beings who produce and reproduce a social organisation. This alone rules out any ‘well-oiled’ machine idea. Second: as in the case of any well and tightly knit system, any small (or big) problem could bring the social organisation to a grinding halt and collapse. Should that be the case, no social organisation can ever survive for any period of time. It is best to see social organisation as a fabric: a small tear or even a reasonably big one does not destroy the fabric.

9. If we take the Pagan west and the Christian West, we can see that both organised (some of) their salient diversities in a different way. The Pagan West structured (some of) the salient diversities in terms of (a) cities and (b) political classes. Cities consisted of the traditions of the members of the city, and that was structured further in terms of guilds and cults. Language and territory were also salient diversities, but ones that were subordinated to the salient diversity of the city. A Roman was one who was a citizen of Rome, apart from being the subject of the Roman Empire, who spoke Latin, and above all participated in the festivals honouring the gods of the city of Rome. One did not have to be born in Rome in order to become a Roman. In this sense, cities were social structures par excellence.

9.1. As we know them today, cities are the structuring of geographical spaces. In the pagan Rome, this function was subordinated to its role as a social structure: an institution that taught its residents to become citizens. That is why the state and the city were coextensive. To write a tract about ‘the state’ was to write about (a) its sustaining role and (b) its educative role in a culture. To write about a city was to write about (a) its sustaining role and (b) its educative function. To say that Rome was a great city was to praise the state of Rome. That is to say, the state was embodied as the city.

9.2. In the Middle Age, cities and the state start coming apart. On the one hand, there was the Church, which was seen as the heavenly city: De Civitate Dei, as St. Augustine put it. On the other hand, it was the state as well: it educated people as ‘citizens’ by transforming them into members of the ecclesia. At the same time, there were cities as well: Rome, Genoa, Athens, etc. The social space that a city is gets structured in terms of centres: centres of political power, administrative power, learning and theology. (Why should sustenance come from the centre, and not from the periphery? Why should the city have a centre? I believe that it has to do with the obsession of Catholic theology with centres: man at the centre of the universe, God at the centre of man, the world as a circle with a centre, etc. In other words, I think that it has to do with theo-‘centric’, logo-‘centric’, clerical-‘centric’, thinking in the Catholic West of the Middle Ages.) The Church, as a social structure, had taken over the role of mediating the individual to the other social structures. Of course, other social structures like the family, for example, mediated the individual to the Church, to other families, and so on. But what I want to get at is that the educating role of the City was taken over by the ‘state’ that the Church had become. As a result, the structuring of the space in a city was defined in terms of the Church; the structuring of the space that the Church itself is (among other things, the church too is a building after all), was itself defined by its mediating role. (The vaults, the burial ground, organising the festivals that were once the distinguishing properties of the cities, the gardens, etc.) Because the city is a geographical place, ‘territory’ begins to emerge as a salient diversity in the Middle Ages. Parochiality, being born in a territory, etc., become salient diversities.

10. The Christian West organises (some of) the salient diversities in terms of (a) political and economic classes; (b) ethnic groups; and © religions. Here language and territory are important salient diversities in their own right: someone must be born in a certain place, speak the local language, and learn the local practices in order to be a member of the ethnic group. Only slowly did religion emerge as a salient diversity: first was being a Jew, then a Muslim, then the different Protestant movements, and then the atheistic community. Today, religion has become a salient diversity. Political and economic classes organised the salient diversity ‘occupation’ or ‘profession’.

11. I spoke about ‘the Church’ in the singular above. A nuance is required now. Actually, there are two churches: the ‘visible’ Church and the ‘invisible’ Church. The visible Church drew its authority from the fact that it was a part of the ‘real’ Church, the true Christian Ecclesia, the invisible Church. I would like to suggest that the idea of the ‘invisible Church’ be seen as secularised ‘Church’. That is to say, the notion of ‘invisible Church’ is how the phenomenon of secularisation of the Catholic Church manifested itself in the Christian consciousness of that period. This doctrine about the invisible Church was to play a very important role in defining the ‘true’ Vicar of Christ later, and to settle the issue of the authority of the Church. Does it have a ‘secular power’ or merely a ‘religious’ power? If this is a plausible suggestion (let us see what future research will bring), here comes an intriguing question: Which of the two churches was ‘the state’ or ‘the city’?

11.1. While exploring the strictures against idolatry in the Jewish, Christian, and the Islamic religions, in ‘The Heathen …’, I had argued that their virulent attacks against idolatry were not merely scriptural or theological. I drew attention to the process of creating a secular-religious world and suggested that this process ‘reinforced’ their hatred of paganism. I am extending this line of thought in the above paragraph. As Christianity secularised itself as a dechristianised Christianity, the results of this process emerged as a problem within Christian theology. That was the problem of the relation between the secular and the religious powers: the Church did not merely have the religious power to attend to the religious and spiritual state of its ‘flock’; it also had the ‘secular power’ in so far as its ‘flock’ consisted of emperors, kings, the nobility, and the ‘subjects’ in a kingdom. The Christian ecclesia at any given moment of time was merely a part of the ‘total’ Christian ecclesia: the latter consisted of nothing short of all human beings hitherto and of the future (the cut-off point being the ‘day of the judgement’), who were Christians. The ‘real’ kingdom was the kingdom of God and until it was established on Earth, the Church represented the ‘ultimate’ authority on ‘religious’ matters and, as it historically turned out, on ‘secular’ matters as well for a considerable period of European history. The doctrine about the ‘invisible church’, a theological doctrine, is the presence (in theology) of the secularising moment of Catholic Christianity.

11.2. The Church is the body of Christ; and that body also happened to include the ‘body-politic’. In fact, the extension of the metaphor of ‘body’ to a ‘republic’ (used very loosely here) came about because of what the Church was: the bride as well as the body of Christ. Because the Church was the ‘State’ (the ‘state’ as an expression of the secularisation of the Church), both the Church and the ‘State’ (i.e. what the Church is, what the State is, and what the relation between the two is) emerge as problems within the Christian theology of the Middle Ages. To the extent this relation was problematised independently, we have the political philosophy of the Middle Ages that tries to pose a theological problem in a secular guise.

11.3. As the ‘State’ became independent of the Church, what we have is this: the secularising of the Church, which is the ‘State’; and the continued existence of the Church as a social structure. In a full-blooded dialectical formulation: The ‘Church’ separates itself as two opposing moments: the ‘church’ and the ‘state’, each as the ‘other’ of the ‘self’. There is, however, nothing fanciful about the formulation. It portrays the historical process: a conflict that took centuries, between the two dependent processes of ‘proselytisation’ and of ‘secularisation’, to arrive at this separation. But this was no true separation because what was ‘secularised’ was the ‘religious’ moment, of course.

12. In other words, what I am saying is this: the modern day ‘state’ is the secularisation of the Church, a secular ‘translation’ of the notion of the ‘invisible Church’. (The ‘church’ as Catholicism understands it – extra ecclesiam nulla salus, ‘there is no salvation outside the Church’.) The ‘Nation’, by contrast, is the secularisation of Ecclesia as Protestants understand it. Even though this is a conceptual division, this should not be taken to mean that such a neat division is also to be seen in political philosophy: Hegel and Hobbes, as two examples should suffice. (Needless to say, future research should explain how exactly it must be taken then.) Should this idea appear workable, we can then begin to come to grips with both the antagonism and the affinity between ‘statehood’ and ‘the nationhood’.

12.1. The Protestant Christianity is subject exactly to the same process: it exhibits the moments of ‘secularisation’ and ‘proselytisation’ as well. It secularises its notion of ‘ecclesia’, a Christian notion as well: but the ‘invisible church’ of Protestantism is the ‘modern’ idea of the Nation. This notion has as venerable a lineage as the earlier idea of the ‘State’: in already the Old Testament Bible, we read that the Jews are a ‘nation’. In Europe, where the Catholic and the Protestant religions fought for supremacy, both the problems (‘the problem of the state’, ‘the problem of the nation’ and the relationship between the two problems) retained (and continue to retain) their urgency and relevancy. In America, for instance, where the Protestant movement did not fight against the Catholics, the problem of ‘Nation’ retains its power. The conflict between the ‘nation’ and the ‘state’, in political thought, shadows the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism. The secular conflicts appear to track the religious conflict. Issues like tolerance, the role of the state, etc. are the issues that confront the secularised Protestant ‘ecclesia’, viz., the ‘nation’: its religious counterpart fights the mediating Church and its authority in religious matters. (We should not succumb to the classification of ‘libertarian’ versus ‘communitarian’ thinking in political thought. The Protestant idea of ‘ecclesia’ does not track this classification. While there is no mediation possible between the individual and God, the Protestant ecclesia is a ‘unity’ when confronting the heathens, the Muslims, and the Catholics.) In other words, we can start making sense of how the ‘virtue’ of tolerance could so easily get accepted as a ‘secular’ doctrine of immense importance to human kind, while it is merely a Protestant doctrine about the relation between the individual and God.

12.2. This idea does justice, I think, to the differing perceptions of the theme. There is the idea that ‘nation’ and ‘nation-building’ is a typical project of ‘modernity’. At the same time, there is the perception that ‘nationalism’ has to be distinguished from ‘nations’ and from ‘nation-states’. The hyphen between the ‘nation’ and the ‘state’ in ‘nation-state’ is not a mere linguistic practice; it suggests that different historical processes underlie this hyphenation. We can even anticipate the Marxist claim about the relation between capitalism and the ‘nation-state’: the creation of ‘nation-state’ was necessary in the earlier phase of capitalism; but it ends up becoming a fetter because ‘capital’ cannot be restricted by the boundaries of the ‘nation-state’. The capitalist market is the true ecclesia, the ‘real invisible church’, the most complete secular ‘translation’ of the Protestant ecclesia. Its ‘market’ is still subject to the constraints of the ‘nation’ in exactly the same way the Protestant ecclesia is surrounded both by the Catholics and the heathens and the pagans. No wonder Marx called ‘Protestantism’ as the religion best suited to the needs of Capital. (Again, quoting from memory.)

13. Let us contrast the Pagan city as a social structure and the modern city as a cluster or a congregation of people who merely live (or only work) there. When the state has neither its embodiment in the city, nor have its centre in there, where does it go? (After all, the government merely has its ‘seat’ in the city.) It becomes ‘disembodied’. It does not have any ‘place’. I think that the Marxist (and earlier) ideas about the detachment of the ‘state’ from the ‘civil society’ can be fruitfully tackled not only as problem in political philosophy, but also as a problem of the structuring of space in the Christian West. More important than that, a story about the structuring of space (or ‘modern cities’) will provide evidence in a debate about the nature of modern ‘state’.

14. How is it with respect to India? The answer is, we do not know. That is what we have to investigate. We need to find out what (some of the) salient diversities in India are, and how they are organised. With respect to ‘caste’ as a grouping of salient diversity, in a way analogous to my study of religion, we have to first show that there is no ‘caste system’, whether conceived as a social structure or as a social organisation. We have to show that the creation of caste-as-a-social structure has to do with the way the Christian Europe organised what they thought were the salient diversities. Once this is done, there arises the question: were they totally hallucinating or did they see something? They will have seen something, without doubt; but to say what it is requires becoming clear about what they constructed.

15. Here is where I have to propose the background hypothesis to the study of the caste system. Let us suppose that (some of) the salient diversities in India are organised around ‘tradition’ and ‘Jati’. That is to say, these two social structures are two different ways of organising the same set of diversities: one organised by one set of people and the other by another set of people. These salient diversities are: ‘birth’, ‘lineage’, ‘commensality’, and ‘marriage’. There will be and there are more, but I do not want to be detained by them at this juncture. The internal differentiation in one structure took the form of multiple traditions (divisions) within the tradition; in the other, it took the form of hierarchical organisation of Jati’s, the emergence of new and sub-Jati’s. However, what are Jati’s? This is not an issue of definition but one of the problems our theory has to solve. I am simply using the word ‘Jati’, because many people in India use this ‘native’ term to identify themselves or some others. In other words, again, I can give an ostensive definition of Jati (‘Badiga’ and ‘kumbara’ are Jati’s) and that is all we need do at this stage.

16. As societies evolve, and as they get invaded by other peoples, etc. new social or political movements emerge. They have to induct members from the existing pool of individuals. Depending on where the newly recruited members come from, the new movements take their ‘form’ accordingly, i.e., they take over the way (some of) the salient diversities are structured from the newly inducted members. If its recruits came from the ‘traditions’, the new movement itself becomes another tradition. If they come from the Jati’s, the new movement itself becomes a Jati, and any further internal differentiation takes the form of sub-Jati’s or the emergence of new but hierarchically subordinated Jati’s.

To give an empirical example, to show the bias of this hypothesis: Both the existence of ‘Sampradaya’ or ‘Parampare’ and the existence of Jati’s among the so-called scheduled castes seem to be empirical pointers in this direction. That is why the Lingayats, Muslims, and the Christians have so many Jati’s, whereas the Dvaita-Advaita divide (the ‘smarta’ and the ‘mudre’) takes the form of two different traditions that do not allow for a hierarchy. Not only that. These traditions themselves are further differentiated internally along the lines of ‘parampare’ or ‘sampradaya’.

17. Because of the interaction between these two structures, both begin to ‘speak’ (not follow) each other’s language without, however, surrendering their properties. One speaks of different ‘Brahmin Jati’s’ without, however, introducing a hierarchy amongst them. The other speaks of ‘tradition’, but by restricting strictly within the confines of a single Jati. That is, in the latter case, ‘tradition’ becomes an intra-Jati property that merely picks out the fact that the Jati in question has history (or ‘past’).

18. This begins to set up the problematic of the creation of the ‘caste system’ in India. One internal aspect: the western missionaries recruited primarily from the groups with ‘Jati’s’. Their virulent anti-Brahmanism (something that the Muslim and the Lingayat movements share) forced them to seek recruits from these Jati’s and, consequently, could see the salient diversities only in terms of Jati’s. Not only that. Their own society was vertically classified: the hierarchical classification of some of these Jati’s reinforced their idea of a hierarchically classified social structure (or, social organisation, as they saw the issue). All salient diversities were ‘seen’ as being organised around ‘the caste system’. That is, the presence of Jati’s in Indian Christianity partly led to their belief in the existence of ‘the caste system’ in India. The metaphor of Purusha Sukta illustrates the bias of such an interpretation. Why should human body be ‘seen’ as a vertical hierarchy with ‘top’ and bottom’ that are correlated to the ‘higher’ and the ‘lower’? (Expressing also the moral evaluation that the ‘higher’ is better than the ‘lower’.) Nowhere in Purusha Sukta does it say that the primeval man was standing straight-up when he was sacrificed. Not a trivial matter, because if the body is lying down (besides, a favourite position for sacrifice), there is no ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ any more than there is a vertical hierarchy. There is simply a horizontal division of different body parts. However, this non-obvious interpretation of the famous verse got added to the totally unrelated issue of ‘untouchability’. (Because, ‘untouchability’ is an inter-individual relation and not an ‘inter-caste’ relation.) Thus, we have three things, unrelated to each other that come together in the creation of the caste-system: the organisation of some salient diversities as Jati’s by some people In India; an anti-Brahmanism that basically confined Christianity (and Islam and the Lingayats) to a recruiting base comprised of those having Jati’s; a forced interpretation of the Purusha Sukta, that was driven by their own vertically organised society and the internal hierarchies among some of the Jati’s.

19. But these alone are not sufficient to create ‘the caste system’ with all its sub-castes as an overarching social organisation in India. More things were needed. First, it required that (some of) the salient diversities in the Christian West were organised along the lines of ‘profession’ or ‘occupation’. Thus, the first element that went into the creation of the caste system was the element of profession. However, this was projected into the dim past, and provided as an explanation for the emergence of the caste system. Not only in the sense that the ‘Brahmin’ was associated with the ‘priest’, the ‘Kshatriya’ with the ‘warrior-king’, etc. (the classic Varna story), but also in the sense that the origin of the ‘lower castes’ was explained in terms of their ‘earlier’ profession. The divergence between the ‘classes’, as they knew in the Christian west, and the ‘caste system’ that such an explanation yielded, was explained away as the degeneration of the caste system itself. This means to say that ‘occupation’ was not a salient diversity in India: it must be possible for us to historically show that most ‘professions’ could be exercised by anybody. Any group could set up its own temple and members from their own Jati could officiate as ‘priests’. The same applies to the ‘class’ of intellectuals and to the ‘class’ of merchants and kings. A ‘Brahmin’ did enter different ‘occupations’ (or ‘professions’) without losing his ‘tradition’. Quite obviously, not all the ‘Brahmins’ were ‘occupied’ as priests. Equally, there is no way all the ‘Kshatriya’s’ were either warriors or kings. They too could take to different ‘occupations’. That some kinds of ‘professions’ remained within the dynasties does not prove the existence of the caste system either: that crafts pass from father to son is one of the most universally observed phenomena in human societies.

20. Consider the phenomenon of commensality. This pertains to the domain of ritual purity and is as such significant only within its confines. This was a salient diversity in the Indian culture. Let us assume as true that one did not eat food with everyone (but did so only within the confines of a ritual) and in all families. To the Christian west, the salient diversity could only make sense within the confines of the ‘caste system’. In their own culture this was not a salient diversity, even though not everyone dined with everyone else. That it was not a salient diversity in the West (whereas in India it was) could only be morally understood by them as a prohibition against commensality between the caste-groups.

21. What we are seeing, in other words, is the emergence of a classificatory system. The Christian West was trying to understand the partial glimpses it had of different social structures by grouping them into one social structure. This attempt at organisation ultimately took the form of Census reports: the classification of Indian society in terms of castes and sub-castes. It is beyond discussion that any classification reflects the interests of the classifier: it is done for one purpose or another. What was the purpose of the Christian West? To go-about with the Indian people. The travellers’ and other reports indicated to those from the west (indirectly) how they should go-about with the Indian people. But because they believed that how one goes about depends upon the knowledge of what there is, their reports (the fruition of which is the Census report) took the form of what they thought there is. That is to say, that the caste-system is a classificatory system (this must be shown convincingly) proves that they are indirect instructions for action but that they are disguised as descriptions of the world. Caste system, in this sense, is an oblique instruction for action. ‘Priest’, ‘Warrior King’, ‘untouchables’ etc. are stereotypes (in my explanation of the term) and the caste system is a classification of such stereotypes. In fact, the formulation of the classic ‘varna’ story already betrays this: Brahmins are priests, Kshatriya’s are warrior-kings, Vaisya’s are merchants, Shudra’s are the tillers of the soil. Each of these exhibits the characteristic linguistic structure of stereotypes.

22. The third and the most crucial element is not yet specified. And that took place in Europe. The domain that brought these different phenomena together, and allowed them to cohere as a ‘system’ is the moral domain. The process that provided the required coherence (as a structure) was the very same process they had undergone and were undergoing: the monasticisation of daily life. That is why, from its inception, the discourse on ‘the caste system’ in India became hopelessly moralised. (As distinct from the earlier reports about ‘caste’ in India, which merely noted the distinctions their authors saw, without moralising them.)

22.1. The Protestant reformation comes closest to being a ‘cultural revolution’. (This concept requires to be very carefully worked out in order to distinguish it from ‘cultural discontinuity’.) In some senses, and only in some senses, its impact on the western culture has been every bit as profound as the impact the earlier revolution had on the Pagan culture. The Reformation absorbed the medieval religious world, the (Catholic) secular-religious world and created a Protestant religious and a Protestant secular-religious world. How did it do so?
Firstly, it appealed to the very same entity (namely, Christianity-as-a-religion) in order to carry out this massive destructive-cum-reconstructive process. It was Christianity (as a religion) that had generated the configuration of learning; consequently, an appeal to this entity by the Protestant reformation could not destroy but only strengthen this particular configuration of learning. Secondly, as Christianity, Protestantism embodied the same Christological dilemma, which had impelled Catholic Christianity forward. Finally, as a religion, Protestantism exhibited exactly the same dynamic of universalisation of religion (secularisation and proselytisation).

22.2. This revolution ‘abolished’ Catholic Christianity by merely generalising its structures. As Marx formulated it, with a great insight, so long ago “Protestantism abolished the priesthood only by making everyone into a priest” (I am quoting from memory, so it might be a bit inaccurate.) Even though Protestantism ‘won’ (due to empirical circumstances), Catholicism did not disappear. (The conditions which feed one, feed also the other.) In other words, if the Protestant Reformation was a non-Christian, or a non-religious movement, there would have been a ‘cultural discontinuity’ between the Christian West and the Post-Reformation world.

23. However, what kind of ‘generalisation of structures’ are we talking about? Here, let me focus only on ‘morality’. As I have said in discussions already, the process of conversio (or ‘conversion’) was the process through which Christians became Christians. Developed only in the monasteries, for the benefit of the monks and priests, this process was the answer to the oft-heard question ‘quid sit Christianum esse?’ (‘What is it to be a Christian?’) Noteworthy is the fact that this was not a question raised by a non-Christian, but one which was passionately thought about by the Christian religious figures, about themselves and their fellow-brethren. This was an asymptotic process (‘one really did not ever fully become a Christian’), focussed not just on the ‘ten commandments’ (or their Catholic equivalent) but on the spiritual, and religious state of the Priest.

24. The Protestant reformation targeted, among other things, this Priest-figure and the monastic life associated with it. Its attacks were vicious because it found that these ‘priests’ could not be the mediators between the lay believer and God. In so far as Protestantism is itself a Christian religion, what it did (the talk about ‘Protestantism’ in the singular is for convenience alone) was to ‘empower’ the laity: indeed, anyone could become a priest. ‘It abolished priests by enabling anyone to become a priest’. By the same token, it also remains true to its character: as a Christian religion, it does still revolve around the priests. It continues to be a religion of the priest, including the lay believers, who are all potential priests now.

But Protestantism also secularises itself. That is to say, it makes ‘everyone’ (not just the Protestant laity) into a priest. It is this process that I call ‘monasticisation of daily life’.

25. What we call ‘ethics’ today, i.e. the normative structure that governs almost all discourses today, is the secular equivalent of the monastic process of conversio. (It will take me too far away to work this out here: besides, my present book is about ‘ethics’.) Suffice to note that the moral process is structurally isomorphic with the process of ‘conversio’, and that the ‘moral agents’ are the secularised priests that Protestantism has generated. This is but one aspect.

26. The second aspect concerns both the potential priests and the secularised priests: how ought they to live? To the extent they are priests, one without a monastery and the other without the religion in question, to both the answer is the same: as priests. That is, they ‘ought’ to practice asceticism in daily life. It is here that we see the power of Weber’s insight in ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’. He appreciated, as no one before him nor many after him, that Protestantism had a crucial role to play in the development of capitalism. However, he did not grasp the overall picture: this ‘ethic’ of capitalism was part of a much bigger process; the daily life was being monasticised through the secularisation of the process of ‘conversio’. To some Protestant groups, a scriptural sanction was found for this asceticism: God’s commandment to earn bread by the sweat of the brow and the doctrine of predestination, and such like. To the ‘others’, an ‘ethics’ without a foundation was all that was left. However, we can appreciate attempts to develop a ‘sociology’ of morals: the attempt, that is, to capture the notion that ‘ethics’ is somehow related to social classes as well. The secularisation of Protestant commandment to both kinds of priests appear not only to be organically related to the ‘bourgeois’ morals, but also to the overriding drive of early capitalism to “accumulate! Accumulate! This is the Moses and the Prophets” (again from Marx, again from memory). It appears to me that they are all circling around the same idea: the emergence of morals in the modern society in a form that was not evident in the Middle Ages. Given that there is some kind of a relation between Capitalism and Protestantism, the attention focuses either on the Protestants or on the bourgeoisie. Neither is ‘wrong’: only they fail to see the larger picture that makes sense of both perceptions, while providing them with another foundation. Of late, the great insight of Weber has been reduced to the notion of ‘Protestant work-ethic’. It is, however, both broader and deeper: that the social revolution that capitalism was, was enabled by the ‘norming’ of the daily life, and that this was the contribution of the Protestant reformation.

26.1. This process too locates itself in the double dynamic of religion. The Protestant reformation, in the first movement, universalises itself: this movement is the generalisation of the structures of Catholic Christianity over the whole of society. Characteristic of Catholicism was that it was a religion organised around ‘priesthood’. Protestantism is Christian: the priests continue to be central; only every one is a potential, if not an actual priest. This movement consists of two separate processes: secularisation and proselytisation. The moment of proselytisation transforms each Protestant into a potential minister of the Church. As such, each member is and, therefore, must live like a priest, i.e., frugally and earn his bread with the sweat of his brow. The strictures against conspicuous consumption of wealth and the moral imperative to invest it (or the labour) productively, which were so crucial to the early process of capital accumulation, was scripturally founded. This is the Protestant ethic that Weber talks about.

26.2. The interesting point about Weber’s discourse is also the fact that it was an ethic. Not merely in the sense, this is my story now, that it was a particular set of moral rules that some religion accepted, but that they were moral rules at all. The process of secularisation of the Protestant religion lies in the fact that its ‘moral imperatives’ emerged as the moral imperatives of capitalist development. This is how Protestantism transformed ‘every one’ (and not just the Protestants) into a priest: thrift, productive investment, and a relentless thirst to accumulate became his ‘cardinal’ virtues.

26.3. How was this possible? Because these are the twin faces of the process of universalisation of religion, viz., the transforming of ‘conversio’ from a process that priests underwent to a process in society itself. This process transformed society into a monastery, people in it to priests, and subjected them to moral imperatives. So, we get two kinds of priests: priests without a monastery (these are the members of the Protestant churches, including the ‘potential’ priests, and the laity of the Catholic community,), and priests without religion (this refers to the rest of society, excluding the Christians). This process of universalisation enabled to bring all aspects of the social organisation under the scope of the activity of ‘norming’. Stands to reason: the process of ‘conversio’, a normative process, envelops the entire life of the monk and monastery.

26.4. In sum, what we see is the enriching of the notion of ‘universalisation of religion’. The more we talk about historical movements like the Catholics, the Protestants, etc., the double dynamic of religion becomes richer, more complex, and multi-dimensional. Each of these religions is subjected to the same movement: but the way they concretely exhibit this dynamic expresses the ‘commonality’ between them (they are all ‘Christian’ religions) as well as their ‘differences’ (each is ‘Christian’ in a different way).

27. The third aspect is already implicit in the fore-going. This secularisation of the process of ‘conversio’ meant three things: (a) emergence of new social structures, alterations to the existing ones and a changed social organisation; (b) bringing all these under the scope of the ‘norming’ activity; and © emergence of the ‘science of morals’. That means, earlier salient diversities either disappeared or effaced; if they were retained, they were subject to new relations; new salient diversities and their groupings came into being; new interactions between old and new social structures developed. I do not want to suggest that the process is over, but merely suggest a way of looking at it.

28. The creation of ‘the caste system’ in India was a result, partially, of these developments in Europe. In the final analysis, it will show that Europe went-about in India in that way and in this or some other way, and going-about in that way tells us something about the European culture. Thereafter, we can try to say what exists in India, and we should be able to understand it.

29. That we are still under the grips of our colonial experience is proved by the fact that we take this disguised instruction for action, this classification of stereotypes, as a description of our world. Being a post-colonial, here as elsewhere, requires that we understand our own experiences and move beyond the colonial experience. This is the task for the future.

Balu 23/4/02
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Knowledge Base / Caste System / Has there been empirical research on the caste system?

Today, all agree on the obvious all-embracing presence of the caste system--e.g. in acts of discrimination, in expressions of poverty, in the strives of power between different groups etc. Empirical research, therefore, is considered pointless.

Balagangadhara, however, in many of his writings (see The Heathen, Notes Towards the Study of the Caste System; …) contests this common sense view. In India, indeed, there are jati’s, traditions, commensality, etc. But, more insight into the structure of the Indian society is not given by clubbing all of these under the label ‘the caste system.’ Do we want to increase our understanding of Indian society, empirical research on the different kinds of groups in India, on the relationships between the groups, on the hierarchy between people, on certain practices and joint rituals etc. is very much wanted.

Under the impulse of Balagangadhara, this kind of research has been initiated a couple of years ago in Karnataka. Some of the preliminary findings of this research have been collected by the research groups at Kuvempu University (see under). In the course of the years to come, especially within the frame of the Vlir Own Initiative Project, more funds will be invested in this kind of empirical research and field work.
Preliminary Findings of the Kuvempu University Research Team on the issue of the Caste System

When Christian missionaries and travellers landed in the coastal cites of India and visited other cities and states inland each was able to see “the caste system” in India immediately. If it is that easily visible to them, it must also be visible to us, that is, to those who are alleged to live within the “caste system.” While it may not be so easily visible to us as it was to people looking at it from the outside, it does mean, however, that the “caste system” retains its visibility to us as well.

The proposed empirical research attempts an indirect answer to the following question: On the basis of which empirical, visible properties can one “see” (or conclude the existence of?) “the caste system”?

This question is extremely pertinent in India today. Almost all the discussions about the “caste system” refer to or narrate (a) horror stories about water wells; (b) physical beatings; © denial of entry into the temples; and (d) “untouchability.” (It is not clear what the latter is about though.) Interestingly enough, most early missionaries and travellers appear to have missed seeing these things. Nevertheless, they saw the “caste system.” This leads one to suspect that the travellers and missionaries saw “something else.” So, what did they see? Research on the European travel and missionary reports at the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap focuses on enumerating what they saw.

There is a second reason why this question is important. In discussions it is never clear whether (a) the above four aspects are the empirical properties of “the caste system”; or whether (b) they are the causal consequences of “the caste system.” If they are empirical properties, we need to ascertain whether they are the constitutive properties of the system or not. If they are constitutive properties, then the condemnation of “the caste system” based on these properties could be justified. If they are, by contrast, secondary (or not necessary) properties, then the discussion will have to take an entirely different route.

However, if they are the consequences of “the caste system,” then “the caste system” is something other than and different from these consequences, which are the themes of moral indignation. If they are the consequences, we need to know whether they are necessary consequences of “the caste system.” If it turns out that these are not the necessary consequences of “the caste system” or that other things generate these consequences severally, again, the discussion has to take a different route.

These analyses involve the present theoretical research into “the caste system,” and into its theories, pursued at the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap. The practical fieldwork provides data that will be invaluable in getting a handle on these questions. That is to say, some clarity will be achieved thanks to the field research.


What exactly is the focus of the field work? (a) It tries to examine the truth of one of the most fundamental assumptions about “the caste system.” (b) It tries to describe/narrate the empirical stories about “the caste system.” © It tries to see whether the conceptualisations that result from the empirical findings can be historically related to the so-called indigenous criticism of “the caste system.”

The wider the net, the more the number of villages we investigate, the more complex the picture is going to be: there will be a variety of names, a variety of stories, and a variety in the internal classifications of these castes as well as an absence of classifications (in terms of hierarchy) among the Brahmins.

These varieties will be the greatest among the so-called scheduled castes and those movements which have recruited primarily from the so-called scheduled castes.

One of the ways of reducing the diversity into a recognisable picture of “the caste system” is to make a series of assumptions. (That is to say, the empirical picture will not carry clear or uniform criteria for classification.)

From this it follows that “the caste system” is not a social structure but some ad hoc scheme of classification. If both “castes” and “sub-castes” turn out to be ad hoc categories of classification, what does it mean to ask the question, “How did the caste system come into being in India?” The Fieldwork

The ongoing field work focuses upon sets of villages in rural Karnataka. The fieldwork is conducted by local students from Kuvempu University. In addition, Kuvempu University organises a Certificate Course for elected members of the Gram Panchayats (the Rural Self Government Units) in Karnataka. In the nearby future, members of the Gram Panchayats will be actively involved in bringing the fieldwork to their respective villages. 

Almost all the scholars who worked on caste system in India agree on one thing that the term caste is ambiguous. Realising such difficulties, some of the scholars of late have tried to fix the reference point of the term to the jati units. In our investigation wan e also fixed our reference point to the jati units.  We interviewed the members of 21 Lingayat jatis, 13 Scheduled caste jatis, and 18 Brahmin jatis from selected areas of Karnataka state of India. Apart from this some 600 and odd village panchayat members were served questionnaires and information was collected.

<b>I. Is the Caste System an Experiential Reality of the people of Karnataka?</b>

<b>(a) The myth of unified system of Caste and sub-caste units.</b>

1. The caste system as delineated in the modern research is not an experiential reality of the respondents. The empirical reference points to the terms like ‘caste’, ‘caste system’, ‘caste hierarchy’, ‘caste restrictions’, ‘purity-impurity’, etc. as they are conceptualized by the scholars are either ambiguous or totally absent.   The respondents simply do not understand our questions if we talk in terms of caste system or hierarchy. Therefore their answers are either arbitrary or learnt from the text books in the modern educational system on this issue.

2. The units called jati can not be equivalent of caste if we go by the definitions provided by the scholars on caste system. These jati units do not betray any such clear-cut characteristic features or constituent properties assigned to castes. In fact, people use many other terms like jana, paiki, pangada, olapangada, kula, nammavru, etc. in the place of jati which renders much more complexity to this category.

3. No systematic arrangement could be discerned in the way these jatis are related mutually as well as with other units like mata, pangada,(group) etc.   Thus though there are different social units, they do not provide empirical reference to any kind of systematic arrangement that the caste system presupposes.

4. Scholars usually take the unit Lingayat, Brahmin, etc. as  castes and the jatis within these units as the sub-castes.  It was found during the field work that the members of different jatis belonging to these broader categories are largely ignorant about the broader categories excepting certain traditional practices associated with them.

<b>(b) The caste hierarchy:</b>

The caste hierarchy, according to the scholars, makes sense to its members within the framework of an ideology.  Castes are supposed to have been organized within a hierarchy, and this hierarchy is modeled after the Varna divisions or concept of purity or impurity. How could one verify whether or not the caste hierarchy makes sense to its supposed members? At the very least, one should get a minimally consistent set of answers from those who are supposed to have a background ideology which functions as a rationale for the hierarchical ordering of the caste system.

1. The responses to the questions regarding the hierarchical arrangement of the jatis were inconsistent: a) Some of the respondents could not make sense of the question and confessed that they can not arrange the jatis in clear cut hierarchical order. b) For some others jatis, can not be understood as a hierarchical system we can only understand them as varieties. c) Majority of the respondents have a vague notion of hierarchy, but when asked failed to provide a hierarchical arrangement of the castes in their locality. d) There was no unanimity among the respondents, excepting about the lowest status of the untouchables. e) Ordering of jatis in a hierarchy by some is contested by the others, and the usual tendency is that each jati claims itself to be superior to the other. f) The claims about the higher birth are usually contested among the jatis belonging to a broader cluster like Brahmins, Lingayats and untouchables. g) Many of those who answer the questions also confess that each jati thinks itself superior, thus indicating that it is a subjective preference.

2. When we ask for the reasons for ranking a jati higher or lower, large number of respondents does not know the reasons. Some of them said that they are merely following traditions in treating other jatis as higher or lower to them. Yet others ventured to give reasons, but without any logic or consistency. The usual explanations revolve around food habits, cleanliness, profession, education, etc. The problem with this data is that people seem to provide some arbitrary answer to the inquiry about caste hierarchy. It is as though this question is unintelligible to them.

3. The basic question we have to address, then, is whether the sense of higher or lower births is related to a fixed hierarchical system or to something else. It requires further research to understand the implications of the local terms which are supposed to indicate the status of these jatis. The terms like melu(superior), kilu(inferior), Melina(upper), kelagina(lower), dodda(big), sanna(small), etc. do not seem to imply all the presuppositions made about the social status hierarchy.

<b>© Purity and impurity as guiding principle of the hierarchy:</b>

1. There is a problem of reference point in the local vocabulary. There are practices like shuddha, asuddha,  madi, mailige, muttu chittu etc. .(all these terms are broadly taken to be indicators of purity-impurity, however these are neither  exact translations,  nor exact references of the words.) These practices are to be found among all the jatis in their internal transactions right from Brahmins to the Untouchables and they hold it to be a significant practice. Their connection with the hierarchy is not discernible and there seems to be no causal connection between the practices of exclusion, untouchability, etc. and  madi, mailige, muttu, chittu etc. No one told that some caste is lower because it is less madi, or it is afflicted by muttu-chittu.  Academic study of caste system has so far assumed certain items and practices cause impurity, like meat eating, corpse of cow, consuming liquor. Respondents also at times refer to these practices of the other castes to claim their superiority, for which the term they use is shuddha-ashuddha. Our field work suggests that such answers are provided by the respondents precisely because they feel compelled to answer our question. When pressed further  they confess that they do not know and they are simply following the ancestral practice.

2. Our field work also brings out certain practices by the same people which negate their notion of shuddha-ashuddha, which shows that these people are not guided by any ideological notion of impurity with a fixed reference.

<b>(d) Caste restrictions and the problem of constituent properties:</b>

The same inconsistency is to be found in other data also. In the case of inter-caste marriage, commensality, or any other so-called characteristics of caste hierarchy or caste observances, people are ready to accept aberrations for a variety of reasons.

1. Quite interestingly, out of the 600 Panchayat members, majority of them did not endorse strict endogamy, commensality, untouchability. Nonetheless these respondents, did express their willingness to continue their jati tradition. This makes sense only when they think that these are not constituent properties of the jati traditions. Otherwise how can they disagree with the so called constituent properties of the jati and yet are willing to continue with their affiliation to their jati.This either indicates that none of the so-called characteristic features of the caste system are valid for these jatis or that the jati structure can include or exclude anything and still survive.

2. Those who consider the jatis as the referential points of the term caste, hold endogamy to be the most fundamental to the caste difference. However the Swamis of some of these jatis  advocate for inter jati marriages for various reasons, like for survival of the jati against shortage of brides, or to unite different jatis belonging to the same cluster like Lingayat, Brahmana.. Though they have their own preferences of jatis to be accepted for inter marriage, this at least indicates that endogamy is not a constituent property of the jati units The Havyak Brahmins preferred  inter-jati marriage   as a means of saving their  jati  from the crisis of brides. In the case of Lingayat swamis, inter-jati marriage is viewed as a way to unite the Lingayats.

3. It appears, even birth is also not compulsory for a jati membership. This is evident from the presence of rituals to allow membership to others, especially in the case of inter caste marriages.

4. People accept that the food habits, dress and other social practices are influenced by climate and regions, so the practices may vary. What is prohibited in one place and context may be allowed in other places and contexts. There is no universally applicable dress code and food habit for many jatis. 

5. Recently a lot of educated and employed people from the Brahmin and Lingayat jatis are consuming meat and liquor, which is not accepted by the elderly members of the families. They say that the time itself has changed; therefore they can’t but accept it, unwillingly though.

6.  At present no jati is excommunicating her members for this violation of jati practices.

In the past also excepting a few of the Brahmin jatis, no other jatis appear to have such practices. We came across only two such excommunicated jatis among Brahmins, which are again being absorbed into the main jati.

<b>II. The question of textual sources or ideological guidelines for jati practices: </b>

Generally, the explanation almost all of the respondents provided for the practices related to jati was that they were following ancestral practices. Any explanation in terms of the varna system came from respondents who were educated in modern schools and who were informed about Indian society through textbooks.

1. To the question as to what dharma is, we get as many varieties of answers as there are respondents. No one referred to Dharmasastra texts or varnadharma, including the purohits and Sanskrit scholars. Broadly speaking, the answers refer to ‘good actions’, ‘helping others’, ‘generosity’, ‘respecting one’s elders’, ‘hospitality’, ‘doing puja’, ‘avoiding bad things’, etc. It is striking that the respondents never associate any texts or deities with dharma. It is exclusively conceived as human action, without reference to the deities. Though the modern scholars use this term to translate religion, the respondents are absolutely unaware of the English connotation of this term..

2. There is no connection between Varna concept and these jatis. Including the Brahmana jatis, people do not cite any authoritative Brahmanical texts as guide to their actions. Brahmana jatis do not even cite purushasukta as their origin story, instead they have different other accounts. Even those who have the knowledge of Dharmasastras do not think that their dail practices related to their jati are guided by them, tradition they say, is what guides their action.

3. Brahmins jatis consult the Dharmasastras in certain cases, when  they face a problem in relation to a particular ritual practice.  This again is done only to find out alternate ways of action. The interpretations of the sastras are made in such a way that they can go ahead with the intended act when the intended act apparently goes against the established tradition. Through a clever interpretation they can legitimise any deviation from the established practice.  There are instances where a jati itself creates a text and interpolates it in some Puranas and cites it for its claim to be Brahmin jati or sanction of certain practice.

4. The non-brahmin jatis have their own origin stories which have nothing to do with the varnas, There are several  stories about the origin of the lower jatis,. What is the function of these stories? Are they indicative of multiple ideologies, or of multiple notions of hierarchy? To conclude, we would like to state some basic problems: (1) the first is that not all of the non-brahmin jatis possess such stories. (2) Where such accounts are provided, they often do not make sense and cannot serve any purpose for guiding the actions of jati members.   (3) People tell different stories to account for the origin of the same jati. Or the same person repeats different versions himself.  Such instances are rules rather than exceptions in so far as the origin stories are concerned. (4) The majority of the members of a jati are not aware of such stories.   (5) These stories, even when looked as texts, make no sense as ideologies of hierarchy because they do not claim a superior status for the jati.  Thus, these stories are not truth claims.


Many anthropologists and sociologists also have come up with similar data after their field works, but they still see ‘caste system’ constituting the social structure.  Our study shows that a singular system, guided by an ideological structure does not exist. Nor does the “Caste System”. The field work also reveals that jati is not the same as caste. The so called constituent properties of are equally ambiguous.

Note: The report is only ad hoc. The field work is not over yet. The purpose of posting it on the website is to invite remarks/suggestions from others.

Further readings:

-The Heathen in His Blindness

-Notes Towards the Study of the Caste System<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Past does not guide the present

Logic behind perversion of caste

Ram Sawrup
(From the Indian Express, 13th September, 1996)

Today casteism is rampant. It is a new phenomenon. Old India had
castes but not casteism. In its present form, casteism is a
construct of colonial period, a product of imperial policies and
colonial scholarship. It was strengthened by the breast-beating of
our own "reformers". Today, it has acquired its own momentum and
vested interests.

In the old days, the Hindu caste system was integrating
principle. It provided economic security. One had a vocation as soon
as one was born.- a dream for those threatened with chronic
unemployment. The system combined security with freedom; it provided
social space as well as closer identity; here the individual was
not atomised and did not become rootless. There was also no dearth
of social mobility; whole groups of people rose and fell in the
social scale. Rigidity about the old Indian castes is a myth.
Ziegenbbalg writing on the eve of the British advent saw that at
least one-third of the people practised other than their traditional
calling and that "official and political functions, such as those of
teachers, councillors, governors, priests, poets and even kings were
not considered the prerogative of any particular group, but are open
to all".

Nor did India ever have such a plethora of castes as
became the order of the day under the British rule. Megasthenes
gives us seven fold division of the Hindu society; Hsuan Tsang, the
Chinese pilgrim (650 A. D.) mentions four castes. Alberuni too
mentions four main castes and some more groups which did not
strictly belong to the caste system.

Even the list of greatly maligned Manu contained no more
than 40 mixed castes, all related by blood. Even the Chandals were
Brahmins on their father's side. But under the British, Risley gave
us 2,378 main castes, and 43 races! There is no count of sub-castes.
Earlier, the 1891 census had already given us 1,156 sub-castes of
chamars alone. To Risley, every caste was also ideally a race and
had its own language.

Caste did not strike early European writers as something
specifically Indian. They knew it in their own countries and saw it
that way. J. S. Mill in his Political Economy said that occupational
groups in Europe were "almost equivalent to an hereditary
distinction of caste".

To these observers, the word caste did not have the
connotation it has today. Gita Dharampal Frick, an orientalist and
linguist tells us that the early European writers on the subject
used the older Greek word Meri which means a portion, share,
contribution. Sebastian Franck (1534) used the German word Rott
(rotte) meaning a "social group" or "cluster". These words suggest
that socially and economically speaking they found castes closer to
each other than ordo or estates in Europe.

The early writers also saw no Brahmin domination though
they found much respect for them. Those like Jurgen Andersen (1669)
who described castes in Gujarat found that Vaishyas and not the
Brahmins were the most important people there.

They also saw no sanskritisation. One caste was not
trying to be another; it was satisfied with being itself. Castes
were not trying to imitate the Brahmins to improve social status;
they were proud of being what they were. There is a Tamil poem by
Kamban in praise of the plough which says that "even being born a
Brahmin does by far endow one with the same excellence as when one
is born into a Vellala family".

There was sanskritisation though but of a very different
kind. People tried to become not Brahmins but Brahma-vadin.
Different castes produced great saints revered by all. Ravi Das, a
great saint, says that though of the family of chamars who still go
around Benares removing dead cattle, yet even the most revered
Brahmins now hold their offspring, namely himself, in great esteem.

With the advent of Islam the Hindu society came under
great pressure; it faced the problem of survival. When the political
power failed, castes took over; they became defence shields and
provided resistance passive and active. But in the process, the
system also acquired undesirable traits like untouchability.
Alberuni who came along with Mahmud Ghaznavi mentions the four
castes but no untouchability. He reports that "much, however, as
these classes differ from each other, they live together in the same
towns and villages, mixed together in the same houses and lodgings."

Another acquired another trait; they became rigid and
lost their mobility. H. A. Rose, Superintendent of Ethnography,
Punjab (1901-1906), author of A Glossary of Punjab Tribes and
Castes' says that during the Muslim period, many Rajputs were
degraded and they became scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Many
of them still retain the Rajput gotra of parihara and parimara.
Similarly, G. W. Briggs in his The Chamars tells us that many
chamars still carry the names and gotra of Rajput clans like
Banaudhiya, Ujjaini, Chandhariya, Sarwariya, Kanaujiya, Chauhan,
Chadel, Saksena, Sakarwar, Bhardarauiya, and Bundela, etc. Dr.K. S.
Lal cites many similar instances in his recent "Growth of Scheduled
Tribes and Castes in Medieval India".

The same is true of bhangis. William Crooke of Bengal
Civil Service tells us that the "rise of the present Bhangi caste
seems from the names applied to the castes and its subdivisions, to
date from the early period of Mohammedan rule". Old Hindu literature
mentions no bhangis of present function. In traditional Hindu rural
society, he was a corn-measurer, a village policeman, a custodian of
village boundaries. But scavenging came along with the Muslim and
British rule. Their numbers also multiplied. According to 1901
Census, the bhangis were most numerous in the Punjab and the United
Provinces which were the heartland of Muslim domination.

Then came the British who treated all Hindus equally –
all as an inferior race – and fuelled their internal differences.
They attacked Hinduism but cultivated the caste principle, two sides
of the same coin. Hinduism had to be attacked. It gave India the
principles of unity and continuity; it was also India's definition
at its deepest. It held together castes as well as the country. Take
away Hinduism and the country was easily subdued.

Caste in old India was a cooperative and cultural
principle.; but it is now being turned into a principle of social
conflict. In the old dispensation, castes followed dharma and its
restraints; they knew how far they could go. But now a caste is a
law unto itself; it knows no self-restraint except the restraint put
on it by another class engaged in similar self-aggrandisement. The
new self-styled social justice intellectuals and parties do not want
castes without dharma. This may be profitable to some in the short
run but it is suicidal for all in the long run.

In the old days, castes had leaders who represented the
culture of the land, who were natural leaders of their people and
were organic to them. But now a different leadership is coming to
the fore; rootless, demagogic and ambitious, which uses caste
slogans for self-aggrandisement.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
"kAyath ko pardhAna aho nisi rahai piyanto
bammana hoy pradhAna sadA rakhvai nishchinto"
-- chanda baradAI in the last samollAsa of prithivIrAja rAso.

{For if you appoint a kAyastha, he would remain drunk throughout the day and at night!! --
Better appoint a brAhmaNa as your prime minister, who would keep worries away from you}

Reflecting the traditional professional rivalry of the two castes, his own and that of kAyasthas, chanda is giving advice that kAyastha is never suited for the post of prime minister. (Of course kAyastha and brAhmaNa were the two most favourite jAti-s for the civil administrative posts)
.) How Were the Jatis Formed and Why Should It Interest Us?
October 29, 2008 by arvindsharma

The caste system, as we know it now, is an amalgam the concepts of varṇa and jāti.[1] The relation between these two concepts, according to most scholars, involves elements of complexity and ambiguity.[2] The question we want to ask and answer is: what is the traditional explanation of the relationship between varṇa and jāti?

The relationship between the two may be stated in the form of the following propositions, according to the Hindu texts often referred to as dharmaśāstra:

(1) That there are the four varṇas: brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, and the order of enumeration reflects a ‘descending scale of social status’;

(2) That marriage should ideally occur within the varṇas;

(3) That marriage is permissible when the husband’s status if higher than the wife’s (anuloma), but it is reprehensible if the wife’s status is higher (pratiloma);

(4) That products of anuloma marriages generally enjoy ‘a position intermediate in status between the two parents’;[3]

(5) That the products of pratiloma marriages generally acquire a status lower than that of either parent;

(6) That these intermarriages account for the various subcastes called jātis, as distinguished from the four main castes or varṇas;

(7) That further subcastes ‘arise from the unions of the anulomas and the pratilomas with the four varṇas and of the male of one anuloma which the female of another, from the unions of the pratilomas among themselves and from the union of a male or a female of the anuloma caste and the female or male of a pratiloma caste.’[4]

(8) That there exists great diversity of opinion among the authors of the dharmaśāstra about the derivation and status of the various subcastes;[5] and

(9) That the system of subcastes or subclasses is believed to have resulted from varṇa-saṅkara or this admixture of castes, beginning with four varṇas but extending to the jātis as well.

The next question to be asked now is: how valid is this traditional explanation of the emergence of the castes system as we know it?

The answer briefly is that it is invalid. It is fictive. This traditional explanation may have been accepted by early Indologists but is now rejected in modern Indology.[6]

A related question also arises: what about the four original varṇas? Is that original formulation at least valid? Even here, according to many scholars, we are dealing with the ‘fiction of four original castes;’ in fact one meets with the even stronger statement, that ‘nobody can understand the caste system until he has freed himself from the mistaken notion based on the current interpretation of the Institutes of Manu that there were ‘four original castes’. No four original castes existed at any time or place.’[7]

In other words, could it be the case that the concepts of varṇa and jāti, like the concept of race in the West, wither under scrutiny?

[1] David R. Kinsley, Hinduism: A Cultural Perspective (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1982), p. 126.

[2] Ibid.

[3] P.V. Kane, History of Dharmaśāstra (Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1974), Vol. II, part, I p. 57.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 58.

[6] A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New Delhi: Rupa & Co., 1999 [1967]), p. 147.

[7] Percival Spear, ed., Oxford History of India (fourth edition) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 62.

36.) Is the Caste System Only Bad News For Hinduism and India?
October 22, 2008 by arvindsharma

The caste system of India has been much denounced as not only institutionalizing inegalitarianism but also providing it with religious sanction. One dimension of it consists of the concept of varṇa, supposedly four in the number: the brāhmaṇa, the kṣatriya, the vaiśya and the śūdra. The system of cāturvarṇya however does not merely imply an occupational division of labour.

The caturvarṇa system also embodied a religious hierarchy; combined with the universally accepted dogma of karma it implied meritoriousness. Brahmins were born into the highest caste on account of karma accumulated over past lives. Lesser karma resulted in lesser births. The birth as a śūdra was designed to atone for sins past. The three upper castes were eligible for initiation and the other samskāras. They had a degree of purity not to be attained by the śūdras. Within the dvi-jātis, the twice-born, again a hierarchy obtained that was important in the regulation of intermarriage and commensality: on principle, the higher caste was the purer, and the lower caste member could accept food from a higher without incurring pollution.[1]

Another dimension of the system is represented by the concept of jāti. In this respect it is worth noting that

Most of the misunderstanding on the subject has arisen from the persistent mistranslation of Manu’s term varṇa as ‘caste’, whereas it should be rendered ‘class’ or ‘order’, or by some equivalent term.

The compiler of the Institutes of Manu was well aware of the distinction between varṇa and jāti. While he mentions about fifty different castes, he lays much stress on the fact that there were only four varṇas. The two terms are carelessly confused in one passage (x.31), but in that only. Separate castes existed from an early date. Their relations to one another remain unaffected whether they are grouped theoretically under four occupational headings or not.

Enormous number of existing castes. My statement that 3,000 distinct castes, more or less, exist at the present day is made on the authority of an estimate by Ketkar. Whether the number be taken as 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 is immaterial, because the figure certainly is of that order. Many reasons, which it would be tedious to specify, forbid the preparation of an exact list of castes. One of those reasons is that new castes have been and still are formed from time to time. But the intricacies of the caste system in its actual working must be studied in the numerous special treatises devoted to the subject, which it is impossible to discuss in this work.[2]

A third dimension is provided by the concept of untouchability. Klaus K. Klostermaier writes indignantly:

Theoretical and theological the caturvarṇāśrama scheme may have been. But it also translated into Indian reality so that socially, and quite often also economically and physically, nobody could survive outside his or her caste. Basically, the Brahmins did not develop ‘human rights’ but ‘caste rights,’ which had the side effect that in the course of time about one fifth of the total population, as ‘out-castes,’ had virtually no rights. They were treated worse than cattle, which even in legal theory ranked above them. People became casteless by violating the rules, or by committing other acts punished by expulsion from the caste. Some books give then the appellation fifth caste, but that may leave a wrong impression: they were cut off from all the rights and privileges that caste society extended to its members, ritually impure and ostensibly the product of bad karma coming to fruition.[3]

It is obvious from all this that caste is really bad news for Hinduism. It gets worse. It is bad news not just for Hinduism but for India as well. For in India the notion of jāti, sometimes including that of untouchablity, spread “even among Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and others, so ingrained is this concept.”[4]

The caste system then it seems, has been an unmitigated disaster for Hinduism, and for India specially when viewed in terms of modern ideals such as egalitarianism.

If the point, however, is probed further the complexion of the situation changes somewhat. It is true that caste system seems to be the polar opposite of such modern concepts as egalitarianism, and nationalism for instance. <span style='color:blue'>So let us then ask: what makes India a nation?

National identities typically hinge on shared language, religion, territory or race. In the case of present-day India, however, many of these criteria are difficult to apply. Take language – India is nothing if not multilingual. Take religion – India is nothing if not multi-religious. Take territory – India was partitioned in 1947. Take race – India is multiracial by perhaps any definition of race. Then what are we left with?</span>

Amazing though it sounds, we are left with caste as the common marker of Indian identity! Note that it is not just a marker of Hindu identity, for the typically Hindu construct is varṇa, not jāti. Thus Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists do not subscribe to the idea of varṇa, but have jātis among them. Many of these other religions do not accept untouchability – but still have jātis among them. Why even the varṇas and the untouchables have jātis among them!

[1] Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994) p. 335.

[2] Percival Spear, ed. The Oxford History of India (fourth edition) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994) p. 63-64.

[3] Klaus K. Klostermaier, op. cit., p. 343.

[4] Julius Lipner, Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (London and New York: Routledge, 1994) p. 112.
From Pioneer, 6 July 2009

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->AGENDA | Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Email | Print |

Shedding colonial baggage

<b>BB Kumar’s book is a rich collection of materials and painstaking analysis, writes Satya Mitra Dubey</b>

India: Caste, Culture and Traditions
Author: BB Kumar
Publisher: Yash Publications
Price: Rs 2,100

<b>Author BB Kumar, being a teacher, an academic administrator in the field of higher education, an active researcher with training in anthropology, with his natural inclination for a textual and empirical understanding of Indian society mixed with first hand familiarity with the linguistic, socio-cultural and political problems of the tribes of the Northeast, can easily depend on his experience and study to write a book on Indian castes, culture and traditions.</b>

According to him, <b>“The confusion of the average Indian about our social structure, culture and tradition is enormous. The root cause is our culture and tradition illiteracy that is quite high in society, especially among our university degree holders. One reason for this is the continuance of the old colonial education in our country even after Independence.” </b>

<b>Kumar is of the view that social science disciplines such as anthropology, history and Indology, apart from the mindset of a large section of educated Indians, are coloured by colonial misinterpretations.</b> This is primarily the motivating factor for writing this book. <b>“Efforts should be made to get our social sciences and education rid of the all pervasive colonial hangover without any delay. The book, written with this perspective in mind, tries to inform about Indian social structures — varna and caste — and the various other aspects of our culture and tradition in the succeeding chapters,” Kumar says.</b>

<b>Al Beruni mentions only four castes and eight outcastes in Hindu society and the fact that all the four castes, as observed by him, had no hesitation in eating together, Kumar says, indicates that the caste system in its present form is a post-Turk phenomenon. The constant invasions, wars, defeats and reprisals in the medieval period generated insularity among Hindus, leading to the hardening of commensality and extreme forms of the notions of purity and pollution.</b>

<b>The early administrators of East India Company were primarily interested in profit through loot, expansion and consolidation of the British Empire.</b> <b>The well-integrated Indian society and stable village communities were portrayed in their reports, monographs and surveys as consisting of isolated, mutually-exclusive castes, tribes, communities, linguistic groups, sects, religions and mass of people geographically scattered and racially distinct.</b>

<b>Some of the early Western translators of Sanskrit texts into English deliberately misinterpreted the philosophical and religious concepts. By this the main purpose was to strengthen colonial rule, propagate Christianity and convert Indians. To achieve these objectives, Indian customs and traditions were degraded.</b>

Going through these bold assertions, a natural question may arise: <b>Has Kumar offered sustainable evidence to prove his line of argument? Yes.</b>

The author recognises the valuable contributions made by William Jones and a host of other scholars and administrators. But at the same time, <b>he points to the negative, distorted and motivated pictures of Indian society as presented by Abbe JA Dubois, Max Mueller, James Mill, ET Dalton, HH Risley, among others. </b>

<b>James Mill’s History of British India was recommended as a basic text for candidates of the Indian Civil Service.</b> Even a pro-colonial scholar like <b>Max Mueller calls this book “most mischievous”. According to a well-known Sanskrit scholar, Prof Wilson: “Mill, in his estimate of Hindu character, is guided by Dubois … Orme and Buchanan, Tenant and Ward, all of them neither very competent nor very unprejudiced judges. Mill, however, picks out all that is most unfavourable from their works and omits the qualifications which these writers felt bound to give to their wholesale condemnation of the Hindus.”</b>

<b>Brahmins, being the intellectual class in India, were especially targeted. Dubois considered them the greatest hurdle in winning “India for Christ”. The Boden Professorship of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford was established to translate Sanskrit books into English so as to enable the British to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion. Macaulay, who had a design of “proselytisation through education”, proposed to pay £10,000 to Max Mueller for translating the Rig Veda in such a manner that it would destroy the belief of Hindus in the Vedic religion.</b>

In Kumar’s assessment, in the early phases, the process of differentiation and stratification based on the varna system was positive. The varna system played significant roles in division of labour in Indian society and helped in organising occupational structure. Its contributions were pivotal in the socio-cultural integration of Indian society. <b>The present degraded form of rigid and untouchabilty-based caste system is the product of the latter phases.</b> In the first decades of the 20th century, such views were strongly upheld by scholars like Bhagwan Das and Anand K Coomaswami. Even Mahatma Gandhi had highlighted the positive roles of varna and caste.

The author has tried to discuss different aspects of caste in different chapters with special emphasis on its relationship with varna, professions and mobility, clan and marriage, food taboos and commensality, caste clusters, socio-religious practices, panchayats and castes and the caste-tribe continuum. There are chapters on deities and priests, the jajmani relationship and Scheduled Castes.

In the evaluation of any work, there are bound to be different opinions. This book, too, is not an exception. For its rich collection of materials and painstaking analysis, this book deserves admiration. At the same time, in this era of ideological controversies and political motivations, some others may find it tradition-oriented.

Both these stands will make this book more readable and valuable.

The writer is a senior sociologist and political analyst

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Limey-land: the real ‘thugee’ at last!
I am always so amused to read the british administrators of the nineteenth century dream up all sorts of castes in india. They included many thousand backward castes of course. They also included ‘martial’ castes and – you guessed it – criminal castes and tribes

Limey-land: the real ‘thugee’ at last!<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Many of these tribes are present in both India and Pakistan.
Name ↓ Regions ↓
Badhak Rajasthan [29]
Baghir Rajasthan [29]
Baloch [30] Rajasthan
Banjaras [12] Rajasthan, Punjab
Baoris [31] Rajasthan, Punjab
Baurias [21] Rajasthan, Punjab
Bawarias [12] Rajasthan, Punjab
Chhara Chharanagar, Gujarat
Dhekaros Bhirbhum, West Bengal
Dhikaru West Bengal
<b>Gujjar North India</b>
Hurs [32] Pakistan
Kanjar Rajasthan
Korachas [33] Tamil Nadu
Kurava [12] Tamil Nadu, Kerala
Lambadis Andhra Pradesh
Lodha West Bengal
Mahtam [21] Rajasthan, Punjab, Multan
<b>Meenas [31] Rajasthan</b>
Nat Bihar
Sabar West Bengal
Sansi (nomadic) [21] Rajasthan, Punjab
Phase Pardhi Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh
Tagas [30] Punjab, Haryana
Vaghari Gujarat
Yerukala [33] Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka

The Colours of Mind
Subhash Kak

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The old and the unfamiliar is often incorrectly interpreted by writers. For example, European writers a hundred years ago, latching on to a children's story in the Puranas, declared that Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are Gods of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction, respectively. Indians who learn about Hinduism from secondary sources and school texts have internalized this “meaning”, no matter how stupid it is to believe that people in the past, any more than people now, would want to worship God of Destruction. It is somewhat like being taught in a serious book that Santa Claus visits Earth from the North Pole on Christmas day.

Another Indian idea that is badly misunderstood is that of varna. Newspapers and magazines discuss it endlessly, reporting on grievances related to the under-representation of one “caste” or the other at some job and demands of the politicians for quotas to correct the imbalance. Intellectuals claim that the root cause of all ills is the varna system.

Varna is commonly, and wrongly, translated as caste. The Purusha Sukta hymn of the Rigveda (10.90) speaks of the brahmin, rajanya (kshatriya), vaishya, and shudra as the four varnas that have sprung from the head, the arms, the thighs, and the feet of Purusha (God visualized as the Cosmic Man). For someone who has a superficial understanding of the Vedas, it is easy to interpret this hymn as sanctioning caste. But, the texts insist that varna is a state of the mind. Since each person is in the image of Purusha, he has all the four varnas in him.

The varna verses of the Purusha Sukta describe one of the central Vedic ideas, which is that reality has a recursive basis. Organizations and organisms have four broad functions, and so does the individual.

The varnas do not manifest in a person simultaneously; they sweep over a person as an emotion. Each person is sometimes a brahmin, a kshatriya, a vaishya, or a shudra. When considering questions of meaning, he is a brahmin; when fighting for personal or group justice, he is a kshatriya; when concerned with sustenance, he is a vaishya; when serving others, he is a shudra. The varnas are colours of the mind, and we have one or the other at different times of the day.

The varnas are different from the gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas) of the Samkhya-Yoga system, which are tendencies of transparence, energy, and inertia that constitute one's nature in accordance with biological inheritance, education, and culture. Our cycling through the varnas is irrespective of the mix of gunas.

It is common to conflate varna with jati (community). This confusion may be traced all the way to the first use of the term “caste” by the Portuguese, for whom casta was a word that was meant to describe the jatis, but slowly it came to have a much broader connotation. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India about 2,300 years ago, noted the existence of seven classes, namely that of philosophers, peasants, herdsmen, craftsmen and traders, soldiers, government officials and councilors. These classes were apparently jatis. Nowhere does Megasthenes speak of four varnas.

Medieval texts in India do sometimes speak of jatis dedicated to the values of one varna or another, but lineage is never taken to guarantee character. Of late it has become politically correct to claim that whereas varna is not by birth, it is determined by one's qualities. This view is wrong since it takes varnahood to be fixed.

Each jati, as a microcosm of the larger society, has within it specialized professions that correspond to warrior, priest, trader, and worker.

Caste and Empire

Scholars now believe that public preoccupation with caste goes back to the beginning of the British Empire in India. Charles Grant (1746-1823), East India Company chairman, highlighted caste as the cause of India's ills and obstacle in the spread of Christianity. Grant made an immense fortune in Bengal and returning home in 1790, he entered parliament in 1802, becoming member of the Court of Directors and eventually chairman in 1805.

Grant was an influential member of the Clapham sect, a reform and evangelical group, which included celebrities like Zachary Macaulay (the father of Thomas Macaulay), Henry Thornton, Henry and John Venn, James Stephen and William Wilberforce. In 1792, he wrote a pamphlet entitled Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain in which he portrayed Indian society as not only heathen, but also immoral, corrupt, licentious, depraved, lascivious and wicked. He argued that it was the moral responsibility of the East India Company government to reform Indian society and that this goal might be achieved with the assistance of Christian missionaries.

James Mill's History of British India, which appeared in 1826, promoted the ideas of Charles Grant. Carter's and Mill's views slowly became the official view of the Indian government, although they were repackaged in a manner which underplayed the matter of conversion. Once internalized, they were used by Indian politicians and scholars in a variety of ways to further their goals.

“Tribe” was another anthropological category used by the British to further their goals. Writing in Economic and Political Weekly in 2003, the distinguished Indian sociologist A.M. Shah had this to say about this usage:

Division of the people of Gujarat, as in the rest of India, into Hindus consisting of many castes on the one hand and aborigines or tribals on the other is a creation of the British colonial administration, influenced by the evolutionist and diffusionist theories of 18th and 19th centuries anthropology in Britain. The British thought the tribes in India were similar to primitive tribes they had known in Africa, Australia, the Pacific islands, and many other parts of the world. The colonial view was also articulated by certain anthropologists in India, the most well known among whom was Verrier Elvin. The British prepared lists of tribes in the territories under their jurisdiction and took special administrative measures to deal with their problems. The nomenclature 'tribe' was later built into the Constitution of independent India under the denomination of 'scheduled tribe', and the lists of tribes prepared by the British were more or less accepted by the new government. Some Indian intellectuals had reacted against this division of Indian people during the time of British rule itself. The foremost among them was the doyen of Indian sociology, G S Ghurye, who wrote a well known book with a telling title, The Aborigines - So-Called - And Their Future (1934). He argued at length with wealth of evidence to show that the so-called aborigines were backward Hindus and not a separate category of people in India. Most of them lived in hilly and forest areas and their technology and economy were poor, but they were basically Hindu in religion, he thought. The British view, however, prevailed throughout their regime.

The terms 'adivasi', 'adimjati' and 'janjati' now used in Indian languages are not originally Indian. They are translations of English terms introduced by the British and we may continue to use them since they have now been in use for nearly 200 years… [It] is noteworthy that neither at the elite nor at the popular level any generic social category was used in the earlier times to refer to the groups we now call tribal.

The simplistic view of Grant and Mill was challenged by Arthur Maurice Hocart (1884-1939) who argued that at the village level the cultivator is analogous to the king and that there exists an ordering of the castes where “priest, washerman and drummer are all treated alike, for they are all priests.” Hocart's work, based on careful research in Sri Lanka where he had served as headmaster for several years, was not well received by contemporaneous British anthropologists.

Bernard Cohn (1928-2003) provided a fresh perspective on the caste system by showing that the British approach to caste was a part of their enterprise to control knowledge. Although there was a complex social system in India before the British, the caste system took on new meaning when the British established laws to codify it. Imagining India to be a hierarchical society, the British used laws to make it more hierarchical. According to Cohn: “[The British] reduced vastly complex codes and their associated meanings to a few metonyms … India was redefined by the British to be a place of rules and orders; once the British had defined to their own satisfaction what they construed as Indian rules and customs, then Indians had to conform to these constructions.”

Louis Dumont's influential Homo Hierarchicus (1966) presented the caste system as a consequence of an opposition between pure and impure. Viewing the hierarchy as religious, he explained why the king's power was circumscribed by the priest, although this misrepresented Indian political theory. In my own essays in Mankind Quarterly (1993) and the Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (1996), I have argued that the reality is much more complex than a simplistic focus on purity and that Hocart was right to emphasize the primacy of the cultivator. The anthropologist Ronald Inden identified caste as one of four major essences constructed by westerners in order to control India by denying it a history of its own.

The clearest exposition of the history of caste is the highly regarded Castes of Mind of Nicholas Dirks (2001) who explains how the British construction of caste changed social equations in India and that it is not “traditional” social reality but rather a modern phenomenon that has emerged out of the colonial encounter.

Dirks shows how missionaries projected caste as an impediment to conversion and to rational politics, and colonial administrators defined caste as custom in order to promote state control over revenue and law and order, and how the Indian census constructed caste and religion as pre-eminent social identities. Since it was projected as an apolitical and an irrational social order, caste became for the colonizers the justification for their rule. Caste was also viewed as the consequence of early interaction between advanced and primitive human populations that could only be understood by seeing it through an anthropological lens.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->India’s Caste system a hindu religious weapon created centuries ago is a much dangerous and powerful weapon than the weapons of mass destruction. Caste and practices of it by the hindus and other Indians brought to this world much chaos, this caste system and it’s practice by the hindus and Indians is simply virulent and weakened half of the Indian society. There is no parallel dangers in the world to India’s caste system, it is far worst discriminatory behavior than Racism in this world. While the racism is almost having a slow death and countries around the world sharply encountered racistic behaviors, the caste is alive and kicking in India. Not a single government so far in the post independent India made any effort to destroy the caste system.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->


Let me clarify that I was born in a Vaishya caste, raised in the city, where caste is disappearing very fast. I have no intention of singing Brahmin glories here. My earlier post was in the humble intention of promoting peace and understanding. Man evolves from Shudra to Vaishya to Kshatriya to Brahmana. Every shudra will evolve into a Buddha - that is the great belief of Hinduism & I subscribe to that.

Caste is the greatest sociological system ever created. It is a complex idea and I sincerely hope that God (whether Allah/Brahman or however you want to call Him/Her/the idea) helps you to understand it. Caste is like 90% good, 10% bad. All the media & english educated modern generation is focused on the 10% bad & would passionately love to see the death of Caste. When Caste dies, India will die along with it. Indians will lose their identity, like Iranians, Afghanis, Native Americans & many countless races. (Luckily, I dont see that happening in the foreseeable future)

Workers (Shudras), Business class (Vaishyas), Political Class (Kshatriyas) and the academic class (Brahmins) exist in all the societies. Only in India, they exist harmoniously. Look at all the revolutions (French, American, Russian, Iranian, Chinese...). The main reason is not ideology, but the arrogance of the rich/political class and the outrage of the worker class. The best system the west has ever come up with is Capitalism. Even that is not stable in US: Big corporations have wiped out small businesses. They have grown so big that they effectively lobby with the govt. They have pushed the worker class more and more into debt. Stage is set for the next revolution (socialism) in US. Things will only go from bad to worse. Same thing in China. A small political class controls the wealth of a billion+ people. If anybody complains, they will roll out their tanks (Tiananmen square massacre).

The political class is ruthless by nature. Only in India, the strong warrior is bound to listen to the humble philosopher. I dont know any instance of the kings enslaving the common people in India. Its very common in European civilizations. "Ram Rajya" is a dictatorship, but people consider that as the Utopian governance in India, because the dictator is honour-bound and dharma-bound. Even Duryodhan, the baddest person in Mahabharatha, is portrayed as a great king, who works for the welfare of their people - he had the support of an army 1.5 times bigger than that of Pandavas.

In India, even before the West came up with democracies & individual liberties, the people recognized the need to protect the under privileged. The low castes have the most freedom. The shepherd may not be around always, but when the sheep are united, no wolf can ever take advantage of them. Overtime, unfortunately it degraded. The smartest thing to do is to refine rather than to destroy.

I will list some of the accomplishments of Caste.

* India withstood 1000 years of foreign rule. The native culture is still intact.
* Islam & Christianity have successfully wiped out all other native religions elsewhere, except in India
* Jews were never protected anywhere else, except in India
* Parsis have disappeared in Iran, but continue to live in India
* Largest, most diverse democracy in the world.
* India was the first nation to embrace democracy before it became rich.
* Everyone predicted that India will fall into pieces, due to the diversity. They all failed to understand that "unity in diversity" is as old as the caste system.
* Eventhough there is a huge poor population in India, no communist movement ever succeeded in overthrowing the democracy
* Crime rate is lowest in the world: 12000 police stations for 700,000 villages/towns.
* Richest nation in history: till 18th century. (briefly overtaken by China twice)

"Children of India, I am here to speak to you today about some practical things, and my object in reminding you about the glories of the past is simply this. Many times have I been told that looking into the past only degenerates and leads to nothing, and that we should look to the future. That is true. But out of the past is built the future. Look back, therefore, as far as you can, drink deep of the eternal fountains that are behind, and after that, look forward, march forward and make India brighter, greater, much higher than she ever was. Our ancestors were great. We must first recall that. We must learn the elements of our being, the blood that courses in our veins; we must have faith in that blood and what it did in the past; and out of that faith and consciousness of past greatness, we must build an India yet greater than what she has been. There have been periods of decay and degradation. I do not attach much importance to them; we all know that. Such periods have been necessary. A mighty tree produces a beautiful ripe fruit. That fruit falls on the ground, it decays and rots, and out of that decay springs the root and the future tree, perhaps mightier than the first one. This period of decay through which we have passed was all the more necessary. Out of this decay is coming the India of the future; it is sprouting, its first leaves are already out; and a mighty, gigantic tree, the Urdhvamula, is here, already beginning to appear" - Swami Vivekananda
<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Jul 26 2009, 01:39 AM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Jul 26 2009, 01:39 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->
<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->India’s Caste system a hindu religious weapon created centuries ago is a much dangerous and powerful weapon than the weapons of mass destruction. Caste and practices of it by the hindus and other Indians brought to this world much chaos, this caste system and it’s practice by the hindus and Indians is simply virulent and weakened half of the Indian society. There is no parallel dangers in the world to India’s caste system, it is far worst discriminatory behavior than Racism in this world. While the racism is almost having a slow death and countries around the world sharply encountered racistic behaviors, the caste is alive and kicking in India. Not a single government so far in the post independent India made any effort to destroy the caste system.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->[right][snapback]99962[/snapback][/right]<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Excerpt from end of Vanaparva 179 of the Mahabharatam (italics as at link) -

At this Yudhishthira said, 'O serpent, ask whatever thou listest! I shall, if I can, answer thy questions with the view of gratifying thee, O snake! Thou knowest fully what should be known by <i>Brahmanas</i>. Therefore, O king of snakes, hearing (thee) I shall answer thy queries!'

The serpent said, 'O Yudhishthira, say--Who is a <i>Brahmana</i> and what should be known? By thy speech I infer thee to be highly intelligent.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'O foremost of serpents, 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 <i>Brahmana</i>. And, O serpent, that which should be known is even the supreme <i>Brahma</i>, in which is neither happiness nor misery--and attaining which beings are not affected with misery; what is thy opinion?'

"The serpent said, 'O Yudhishthira, truth, charity, forgiveness, benevolence, benignity, kindness and the <i>Veda</i> 1 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 <i>Sudra</i>. As regards the object to be known and which thou allegest is without both happiness and misery, I do not see any such that is devoid of these.'

"Yudhishthira said, Those characteristics that are present in a <i>Sudra</i>, do not exist in a Brahmana; nor do those that are in a <i>Brahmana</i> exist in a <i>Sudra</i>. And a Sudra is not a <i>Sudra</i> by birth alone--nor a <i>Brahmana</i> is <i>Brahmana</i> by birth alone. He, it is said by the wise, in whom are seen those virtues is a <i>Brahmana</i>. And people term him a <i>Sudra</i> in whom those qualities do not exist, even though he be a <i>Brahmana</i> by birth. And again, as for thy assertion that the object to be known (as asserted by me) doth not exist, because nothing exists that is devoid of both (happiness and misery), such indeed is the opinion, O serpent, that nothing exists that is without (them) both. But as in cold, heat doth not exist, nor in heat, cold, so there cannot exist an object in which both (happiness and misery) cannot exist?"

"The serpent said, 'O king, if thou recognise him as a Brahmana by characteristics, then, O long-lived one, the distinction of caste becometh futile as long as conduct doth not come into play.'

"Yudhishthira said, 'In human society, O mighty and highly intelligent serpent, it is difficult to ascertain one's caste, because of promiscuous intercourse among the four orders. This is my opinion. Men belonging to all orders (promiscuously) beget offspring upon women of all the orders. And of men, speech, sexual intercourse, birth and death are common. And to this the Rishis have borne testimony by using as the beginning of a sacrifice such expressions as--<i>of what caste so ever we may be, we celebrate the sacrifice</i>. Therefore, those that are wise have asserted that character is the chief essential requisite. The natal ceremony of a person is performed before division of the umbilical cord. His mother then acts as its <i>Savitri</i> and his father officiates as priest. He is considered as a <i>Sudra</i> as long as he is not initiated in the <i>Vedas</i>. Doubts having arisen on this point, O prince; of serpents, Swayambhuba Manu has declared, that the mixed castes are to be regarded as better than the (other) classes, if having gone through the ceremonies of purification, the latter do not conform to the rules of good conduct, O excellent snake! Whosoever now conforms to the rules of pure and virtuous conduct, him have I, ere now, designated as a <i>Brahmana</i>.' The serpent replied, 'O Yudhishthira, thou art acquainted with all that is fit to be known and having listened to thy words, how can I (now) eat up thy brother Vrikodara!"

And over the page (at link) is Vanaparva 180.
kaliyuga at a traffic signal

<img src='' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

dasyu-prapIDitA rAjan kAkA iva dvijottamAH
kurAjabhishcha satataM karabhAra-prapIDitAH
dhairyaM tyaktvA mahIpAla dAruNe yugasaMkShaye
vikarmANi kariShyanti shUdrANAM parichArakAH
(bhArata, araNya parvan, 188.61-62)
"Mahatma Gandhi had little reservation over the continuation of caste in the Hindu society. In fact, he warmly welcomed it." V.G.Rao

Sur,This is passing remark, withot reference or quote, and maybe prejudice. Please provide prope reference.
<b>India's caste system 'is thousands of years old', DNA shows</b>
India's caste system stretches back thousands of years and was not largely a creation of colonial rule, as some historians claim, a genetic study has shown
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Researchers analysed the<b> DNA of 132 individuals with wide-ranging backgrounds from 25 diverse groups around India.</b>

<b>They found evidence of strong inbreeding leading to genetic groups that had been isolated from each other for thousands of years.</b>

<b>Most people had a mixture of genes from two ancient populations representing traditionally upper-caste individuals and everyone else.</b>
<b>The first was genetically close to people from the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe, while the second had an 'Ancestral South Indian' lineage confined to the subcontinent.</b>

The research challenges the notion that India's notorious rigid caste system, with its priestly Brahmans and low-status 'untouchables', was largely manufactured by the British.

Some historians claim that while a caste system of sorts had existed since ancient times, in its original form it was not hereditary or inflexible and allowed people to move up and down the social ladder.

It was the British who cemented the caste system into Indian society and culture by using it as a basis of a ''divide and rule'' policy, it is alleged. The caste system was a convenient means of keeping society under control.

<b>The new findings published in the journal Nature indicate that, genetically at least, Indians had been divided long before the British arrived.
The scientists analysed more than 500,000 genetic markers from people representing 13 states, all six language families in India, traditionally ''upper'' and ''lower'' castes, and tribal groups.
One group of Andaman islanders was, unusually, related exclusively to the Ancestral South Indian lineage.</b>

Co-author Dr Nick Patterson, from the Harvard University/MIT Broad Institute in Massachusetts, US, said: ''The Andamanese are unique. Understanding their origins provides a window onto the history of the Ancestral South Indians, and the period tens of thousands of years ago when they diverged from other Eurasians.''
The research has important health implications for Indians. Other genetically isolated groups such as Ashkenazi Jews are well known to suffer from an increased incidence of genetic diseases. The same may be true for many groups in India, the scientists believe.

"<b>The finding that a large proportion of modern Indians descend from founder events means that India is genetically not a single large population, but instead is best described as many smaller isolated populations,"</b> said Dr Lalji Singh, one of the study leaders from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Sample size is too small for this conclusion
The caste system was based on the type of work people did. The problems came by rigidity of system and it's perpetuation. It never got updated e.g. All our teachers are pandits irrespective of caste in which they are born and all our soldiers are kshatriyas irrespective of their birth caste.

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