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History Of Caste
<b>Mantras of Anti-Brahmanism</b>
Colonial Experience of Indian Intellectuals
Opposing factions in the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy in the 19th century shared a common understanding of Indian religion and society. Europeans from diverse ideological and religious backgrounds identified the brahmins as priests and brahmanism as a ‘religion of the priests’. This common understanding derived its consistency from a Christian understanding of religion. Even the writings of Rammohun Roy and Babasaheb Ambedkar, this article suggests, reveal an unconditional acceptance of Europe’s conceptualisation in a debate over religion that continued into the 20th century.

Indian Society in the Orientalist-Anglicist Debate

Contemporary research that addresses the important period of the early 19th century in India generally takes the controversy between Anglicists and Orientalists as a useful explanatory framework [Cohn 1988, Kejariwal 1988, Dirks 2001]. Convinced that the Indian society was saturated by heathendom, Anglicists considered India to be corrupt. They believed that its culture was degenerate and its population irrational, retarded, superstitious and morally depraved. The Orientalists, on the other hand, genuinely sought to understand the foreign culture. Surely, they wanted to bring reform. But they were certain that a transformation could only be successful if it resonated with the mores of the natives. Hence, they studied the Indian culture, learned its local languages, collected and preserved what belonged to its cultural inheritance, and discovered a grand past that presented an India excelling in the political, social, religious and intellectual domains.

The differences between the two factions are generally considered significant and important [cf Kopf 1969, 1991, Frykenberg 1979, Jones 1976]. However, we would like to highlight that they turn out to be superficial when it comes to the assessment of the fundamental structure of the Indian society. Unerringly, both identified brahmins as the ‘priests’. They both were convinced that these ‘priests’ had a negative influence on religion and society. Brahmins were held responsible for the creation and sanctification of the caste system, which brought social development to a halt. They accepted as true that this system consisted of a rigid social compartmentalisation and that it was created to preserve religious and social privileges of the brahmin caste. They were convinced that the brahmins used their religious authority to dominate those in civil power which explained why the system of hierarchical castes was not contested by those in power as well, etc.

If there were differences between Orientalists and Anglicists in this regard, they were very shallow. Anglicists found Indian culture and society intrinsically corrupt from the very beginning. Orientalists, however, saw India’s culture as being based on sound principles which steadily degenerated. But the cause of corruption, however, was in both cases the same, i e, ‘brahmanism’.

In this article, we propose that both the idea of religious degeneration and the role played by the priests in this process are derived from deep seated Christian conceptions of religion. On the one hand, the biblical story of a god-given religion that was subsequently corrupted through the course of time was the general framework that structured the history of Christianity and of all the other so-called religions. On the other hand, because Christianity assigned a primary role to the clergy, religion was an affair of the priests only. Consequently, the mechanism of degeneration had to be found in the priesthood: priests became the instruments of the devil and began to transform the original god-given religion. This understanding of religion, we would like to suggest, structured the European quest for the ‘religious’ elsewhere. Brahmins were identified as ‘priests’, who created ‘brahmanism’, which was imposed upon Indian society. One of the main elements of this sacerdotal religion that preserved their privileges was the caste system. This conception, we would further like to emphasise, became more poignant, more structured and more coherent against the background of the reformation and the Protestant critiques of the Roman-Catholic church.

If this suggestion is convincing, the prevalence of Europe’s conceptualisation in the modern Indian intellectual’s reflection on his own society is nothing but remarkable. Even though there existed a long tradition of criticism of brahmins and caste in India itself, Rammohun Roy, for example, while criticising contemporary brahmanism vigorously, merely echoed the assessment of the British. Similarly, Babasaheb Ambedkar did the same a century later when he took up its sacerdotal invention of caste along familiar lines. By doing so, both accepted exactly that which Orientalists and Anglicists shared: they ended up criticising ‘brahmins’ as ‘priests’ and ‘brahmanism’ as a deprived ‘religion of the priests’.

Orientalist Conceptualisation of ‘Sacerdotal Slavery’

John Zephania Holwell was one of the first to clearly formulate the principles that would guide the Orientalist approach to India. His Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan, first published in 1765-67, was highly influential both in England as well as across continental Europe. It had a significant impact on the French philosophes and would be praised by German romantics [Franklin 2000].

Holwell himself was very conscious of the significance of his own work and presented it as a break with the available literature on India from the ancients until the present time. Most important, he was especially critical of descriptions of idolatry inspired by the zeal of religious fanaticism. Knowledge of the native languages was essential for the success of any neutral representation. For were the traveller ‘skilled in the language of the people he describes, sufficiently to trace the etymology of their words and phrases, and capable of diving into the mysteries of their theology, he would probably be able to evince to us that such seemingly preposterous worship had the most sublime rational source and foundation’ (1765: 9-10). Despite Holwell’s promise to shed light upon contemporary India, his method to ‘dive into the mysteries of theology’ forced him to make a clear distinction between the present and the past. Confronted by an endless multitude of rituals and ceremonies, this is how he assessed the situation:

<i>… we should touch only on the original principal tenets of these ancient people the Gentoos; for were we to penetrate into, and discuss the whole of their modern ceremonials, and complicated modes of worship; our labour would be without end: these are as diffuse, as the ancient fundamental tenets of bramah are short, pure, simple and uniform…(Holwell, 1776: 1, all emphasis in the original).</i>

Again a so-called typical Orientalist stance was born. The Indians had been rational, in a period long gone. From then onwards the history of India reads like a history of growing corruption and decline. Holwell was very explicit about the cause of this corruption. The pristine, pure and simple religious tenets, promulgated by Bramah were originally conserved in a text called the Chatah Bhade. However, the brahmins, who were supposed to preserve this message, made it increasingly obscure and forced a nation into sacerdotal slavery. More remarkably, Holwell found this process described in the ‘Shastas’ of the brahmins themselves. After a period of 1000 years in which the original religious doctrines were faithfully preserved, the ‘Shastas’ continued thus:

<i>… about the close of this period, some Goseyns (Gentoo bishops) and Battezaaz bramins [expounders of the Shastah]; combining together, wrote a paraphrase on the Chatah Bhade, which they called the Chatah Bhade of bramah, or the six scriptures of the mighty spririt; in this work the original text of bramah’s Chatah Bhade was still preserved …it was now also that they first began to veil in mysteries, the simple doctrines of Bramah. That about five hundred years later … the Goseyns and Battezaaz bramins, published a second exposition, or commentary on the Chatah Bhade; which swelled the Gentoo scriptures to 18 books …the original text of the Chatah Bhade, was in a manner sunk and alluded to only; the histories of their Rajahs and country, were introduced under figures and symbols, and made a part of their religious worship, and a multitude of ceremonials, and exterior modes of worship, were instituted; which the commentators said were implied in Bramah’s Chatah Bhade, although not expressely directed therein, by him; and the whole enveloped in impenetrable obscurity by allegory and fable, beyond the comprehension even of the common tribe of bramins themselves; the laity being thus precluded from the knowledge of their original scriptures had a new system of faith broached unto them, which their ancestors were utterly strangers to [Holwell 1767: 13-14].</i>

The success of these developments was completely due to the brahmin priests. They clearly saw that the power of their class rested on making the laity dependent upon them and diverted the people from the original simple tenets of religion. Holwell continued that,
… the Goseyns and bramins by the first of these Bhades, determined to enlarge, and establish it, by the promulgation of the last; for in this the exterior modes of worship were so multiplied, and such a numerous train of new divinities created,…that those professors of divinity, became of new and great importance, for the daily obligations of religious duties, which were by these new institutes imposed on every Gentoo, from the highest to the lowest rank of the people, were of so intricate, and alarming a nature, as to require a brahmin to be at hand, to explain and officiate, in the performance of them: they had however the address to captivate the minds of the vulgar, by introducing show and parade into all their principal religious feasts, as well as fasts; and by a new single political institution, to wit, the preservation of their caste or tribe, the whole nation was reduced to sacerdotal slavery [Holwell 1767: 16-17].</i>

Although the citations speak for themselves, we would like to emphasise some important elements of the picture that is outlined here. The thrust of the argument is the replacement of the original pure religious tenets with something else: a corpus of complex and elaborated expositions and commentaries. What was not part of religion is made part of it and is falsely worshiped. Exterior modes of worship make religion hollow and bereave it from its content, i e, the essence of religion. What is not expressly directed in the original is made obligatory by sophisticated reasoning. Consequently, the religion is no longer accessible without the help of a specialist, i e, the priest. What keeps these developments going is the thirst for more power after the priests first tasted it. What begins as priestly power soon extends itself to a longing for worldly richness and civil authority. The result is caste: a political institution meant to keep a whole nation under the sway of sacerdotal slavery.

Heydays of Orientalism

Despite huge intellectual efforts, future generations of Orientalist scholars never fundamentally challenged the structure of Indian society outlined by Holwell: as far as its religion and its ‘priests’ were concerned, even sympathetic voices did not change the picture. In the fifth edition of James Mill’s The History of British India, Horace Hayman Wilson agreed that India was far behind the stage that Europe had reached. Interestingly, he explained the difference by ‘the advantages we possess in a purer system of religious belief’, as against the character of the Indian religion and institutions (1858: 164 ff. 1).

What an absence of pure religion could do, had already become clear in two lengthy essays on religious sects, published in subsequent volumes of the Asiatic Researches (1828, 1832). While the first discussed the so-called Vaishnavas, the second work provided a detailed account of Shaivas and miscellaneous sects. The discussion of the Vaishnava movement started with an outline of religious degradation. The second essay ended similarly. What distinguished these movements from the ‘purer system of belief’ was bhakti or devotion to the deity. Bhakti was an invention, Wilson said, ‘and apparently a modern one … intended like that of the mystical holiness of the Guru, to extend their own authority’ (1832: 312).

On the issue of caste Wilson tried to temper the condemnation Europeans had expressed. His lectures at Oxford demonstrated that even within the lowest classes caste was nothing but a subject of pride and privilege. As a matter of fact, those occupying the highest echelons didn’t seem to be attached to it: ‘in proportion as the scale of society descends, so are the people more tenacious of their caste’ (1840: 107). Nevertheless, ‘[t]he principle of the distinction’ was still ‘indefensible…’ (1840: 107). A similar ambiguous attitude characterised his description of brahmins. A brahmin of learning would never approve of the modern ritual and idolatry his less enlightened colleagues advocated. But still, Wilson stressed that a learned brahmin had temporal interests of his own: ‘he derives no small share of emolument and consideration from his connexion with religion, as the interpreter of the works in which it is taught’ (1840: 81). Therefore, he wouldn’t oppose any innovation whatsoever as long as new doctrines and views did not ‘meddle … with existing institutions… or trespass upon the privileges, of the brahmans.’ (1840: 86)

Degradation also characterised The History of India by Mountstuart Elphinstone. Elaborating on Wilson’s essays referred to above, Elphinstone argued that monastic orders started to supplant the original purity of religion: theism as advocated by the Vedas was ‘supplanted by a system of gross polytheism and idolatry…’ (1842: 86). The followers of the Vedas, i e, the brahmins, didn’t try to stop this: they permitted this worship of too many gods and never erected a temple for the One and Only – all for ‘the authority of custom and the interest of a priesthood.’ (1842: 86) The new orders could not but recognise the divinity of brahmin laws and hence, ‘could not withhold their acknowledgement of the high station to which the class had raised itself by the authority of these writings’ (1842: 61). Indeed, Elphinstone had already emphasised that at the time of Manu even the monarch was subjected to ‘the laws promulgated in the name of the divinity; and the influence of the brahmins … would afford a strong support to the injunctions of the code’ (1842: 19). After Manu’s codification of the social structure the movement of decline accelerated further: as far as caste was concerned, the lowest classes had started to display ‘a large division of castes within themselves’ (1842: 55).

Finally, in a series of lectures given at Cambridge in 1882, Max Müller presented ‘India such as it was a thousand, two thousand, it may be three thousand years ago’ and invited his students to look at its ‘religion … if only purified from the dust of 19 centuries…’ (1883: 7-12). What we could learn from this course would be the manner in which ‘the human mind arrives by a perfectly rational process at all its later irrationalities.’ (1883: 195) His preface to The Sacred Books of the East had already explained the manner in which the human mind arrived at that stage: ‘The priestly influence was at work, even before there were priests by profession, and when the priesthood had once become professional, its influence may account for much that would otherwise seem inexplicable in the sacred codes of the ancient world’ (1879: 15).

Priestly Despotism Taken for Granted

Orientalist scholars might have presented their case in the garbs of rationality and open-mindedness. However, when it came to the identification of the brahmin ‘priests’ as the cause for the degeneration of religion, the enslavement of the minds of the people, and the preservation of their own caste, their resemblanceto the story told by Protestant zealots is remarkable.

Charles Grant was one of the earliest and most influential representatives of the Evangelical movement. His greatest concern was the moral deprivation of the Indian population. To make this ‘wretched’ state of affairs intelligible so that the East India Company could be more efficient in its amelioration, he had to identify the causes that had led to the present situation. The results of his search can be read in his famous Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain, Particularly with Respect to Morals; and the Means of Improving It. Though originally written to support Wilberforce’s first attempt in 1793 to change the charter of the company in favour of missionary activities, it would only become widely acknowledged when it was published in the parliamentary papers of 1813.

In Grant’s view the brahmin tribe could be held responsible for almost everything he noticed in contemporary India. For their own benefit they had made the ignorant masses believe in a false religion. The rays of light that still shone through the Bhagavad-Gita had been ‘conceived from the vulgar’ to support, together with the ceremonies of the Vedas, ‘the consequence, and the very existence of the brahminical order’ (1792: 48). As Holwell wrote before, Grant argued that the brahmins ‘have made themselves indispensably necessary.’ They had ‘formed the religion, they are the sole exclusive depositaries of its ordinances … It is thus that abject slavery, and unparalleled depravity, have become distinguishing characteristics of the Hindoos’ (1792: 58).

Again, the running thread throughout Grant’s account was one of sacerdotal despotism. Where Holwell mentioned a ‘new political institution’, Grant claimed that the priests had deceived the ignorant masses and installed their superiority in a system of social gradation. This diverges from the genuine principles of equity, truth, and honesty that had truly influenced the spirit and the manners of the people. To demonstrate these principles Grant made more than generous use of William Jones’ translation of the Manu Dharma Shastra (1794). The law, Grant said, ‘stands upon the same authority as the Hindoo religion; both are parts of one system, which they believe to have been divinely revealed.’ (1792: 34). Nothing was clearer than that ‘this whole fabric is the work of a crafty and imperious priesthood, who feigned a divine revelation and appointment, to invest their own order, in perpetuity, with the most absolute empire over the civil state of the Hindoos, as well as over their
minds’ (1792: 35).

Continuity of Discourse

The late 18th and 19th century works discussed above suggest a constancy and internal coherence in European accounts of Indian society across religious and ideological boundaries. Evangelicals and secular Orientalists transcended the Orientalist- Anglicist debate: both agreed that brahmanism was a religion created by priests who had used their religious authority to invent a system of social stratification. This conceptualisation would become the stock-in-trade of European knowledge about India and would become standard in the more general writings consumed by the European public at large. One of the most influential works in this genre was James Mill’s The History of British India.

To provide the British with the necessary knowledge to establish local government, Mill wanted to identify the stage India had reached on a scale of civilisations. For this purpose, Grant’s evaluation and explanation of Indian society was not difficult for Mill to accept: priestly despotism was, once again, the main evil that held sway over the subcontinent. After all, secular thinkers had already adopted the religious idea that ‘[t]he priesthood is generally found to usurp the greatest authority, in the lowest state of society [and] artfully clothe themselves with the terrors of religion’ (1817: 48).

Mill argued that ‘just and rational views of God can be obtained from two sources alone: from revelation; or where that is wanting, from sound reflection upon the frame and government of the universe.’ (1817: 186). Because the One and Only hadn’t been so benevolent as to reveal Himself to India and thus, because the Hindus lacked both, they ‘produced that heterogeneous and monstrous compound which has formed the religious creed of so great a portion of the human race; but composes a more stupendous mass in Hindustan than in any other country…’ (1817: 191). Still, brahmins showed the tendency to corrupt things: with the insertion of flattery and the worship of heroes they had made it even worse than it ever was and anywhere had been, because ‘in Hindustan a greater and more powerful section of the people…have…been solely occupied in adding to its volume and augmenting its influence’ (1817: 191). Having remixed and annotated the work others had done before him, Mill arrived at the same conclusion as his informants: ‘Never among any other people did the ceremonial part of religion prevail over the moral to a greater, probably to an equal extent…’ (1817: 193). This religion was based on the prejudices of despotic brahmins. They alone were responsible for India’s decadence.

The original laws demonstrated that the Indian kings were merely instruments in the hands of brahmins; the classification of the people showed that ‘through a system of priestcraft, built upon the most tormenting superstition that ever harassed and degraded any portion of mankind, their minds were more enslaved than their bodies…’ (1817: 472). Like Charles Grant before him, Mill made copious use of Jones’ Institutes of Hindu Law (1794) to establish this claim: brahmins appeared as the sole guardians of the so-called sacred books, using their religion and sacerdotal caste-rules to exercise power over the civil sphere of kings and empires.

Mill’s account might have appeared as the secular counterpart of so-called evangelical interpretations. However, he was neither an ardent anglicist, nor was he an orientalist. He nevertheless accepted as self-evident the story which was shared by all of them about religious degeneration, the depraving influence of the brahmins and their creation of caste. When a story transcends all ideological and theoretical boundaries, there must be a more fundamental common framework from which its consistency is derived. We will suggest that this coherence could only be obtained from a christian conception of religion, and more precisely, from its Protestant variety.

Liberty of Protestantism vs the Tyranny of Priesthood

The notion of degeneration of religion, as well as the concepts of ‘priests’ and ‘priesthood’, were very familiar to the Europeans. Both had been essential to Christianity because they structured its understanding of religion. As the Old Testament told us, god had given mankind true religion upon creation. The same book continued that, ever since, this divine gift had been corrupted due to the efforts of the devil. When god revealed Himself and had chosen the people of Israel to make his first covenant, even the Jews, so the Christians told, were led astray by the multiple laws and the empty regulations which departed from the true religion. Thanks to the coming of Jesus, god restored His original bond with mankind by means of a ‘New Covenant’. However, even this was not safe from corruption. Fifteen hundred years after god uniquely revealed Himself in the figure of Christ, Protestants told us that Christianity had gone through a period of degeneration once again. Again a connection with the true religion had to be restored by means of direct access to the word of god, i e, the Bible.

During the first centuries this biblical theme not only structured the relationship of Christianity with Judaism, it also structured its relationship with the so-called pagan Roman traditions that were transformed into a corruption of the original ‘purer system of beliefs’. As Balagangadhara summarised this kind of history
There was once a religion, the true and universal one, which was the divine gift to all humankind. A sense or spark of divinity is installed in all races (and individuals) of humanity by the creator god himself. During the course of human history, this sense did not quite erode as it got corrupted. Idolatry, worship of the Devil (i e, of the false god and his minions) was to be the lot of humankind until god spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and led their tribe back onto the true path [Balagangadhara 1994: 59].</i>

The priests had been essential to Christianity in the sense that religion was an affair of the priests only: the flock of believers was merely supposed to do what the priests told it to do. The latter, therefore, was part of religion too. Thus, as the Christians saw it, religion was exactly that which the priests entertained. Protestantism would not alter this conception. On the contrary, Protestant critiques against the institutionalised church strengthened its hold, albeit in a rather peculiar manner. In defiance of the Catholic church, which preserved priesthood exclusively to the selected few, Protestants argued that all believers could be priests. They condemned the institutionalised church as the necessary mediator between man and god: the church had corrupted the true religion and hence, was nothing but an institute of the devil. As no shepherd could lead us to god, each one of us was ‘responsible’ for his own salvation.

Thanks to this Christian understanding of religion, the mechanisms of corruption were clearly brought to the fore as well. If religion was a priest-centred activity, it were also the priests that were responsible for its degeneration. However, with the Protestant Reformation and its assessment of the Catholic church, critique of the priesthood as an instrument of the devil was not only of paramount importance, it had also further gained theoretical depth and consistency.

To protect the Christian public from the machinations of the devil, it was said, the priests had to preserve the word of god. However, while interpreting the Bible, they had made into religion what formerly was not part of it. Therefore, religion not only meant preserving god’s word: what the priests imposed upon the laity was part of religion as well. The tools these priests had used were many. Instead of preserving the purity of Revelation as it was written in the Bible, new creeds were added. Instead of keeping to the pure faith of the Bible, new prescriptions were made and new modes of worship promulgated. The cults of the saints and martyrs made human into the divine and multiplied religious feasts and festivals. Therefore, the story that the Protestants told about the history of the western church was a history of corruption and decline as well: the priesthood of the Catholic church had given in to the Antichrist and had used the true word of god to turn Christianity into heathendom. From now on, ‘Catholic Christianity was merely ‘Christian paganism’’
[Balagangadhara 1994: 85].

Those who benefited from all this were the priests only. In order to conceal their fraud, they kept the Bible secret behind the dark curtain of the Latin language. Instead of directing their attention to spiritual matters, they were interested in earthly wealth and honour. As the issue of indulgences clearly proved, the priesthood was said to exploit the people’s wealth for their own well-being; and so on and so forth… The power of kings depended on the Pope’s consent. With the Pope as the vicar of Christ and his universal jurisdiction, spiritual authority was more important than any temporal power. The papacy was accused of usurping princely power by claiming to be the highest authority on earth and by installing social hierarchies both within and outside the church.

When Europe confronted the ‘pagan world’ a second time, the Judeo-Christian theme of an original true religion and its subsequent degeneration still structured Europe’s conception of the history of the religious. The non-Christian religions had, at the most, fragments of insights derived from the true pristine religion which was implanted by god in all of us. Lacking revelation, however, they became false religions. Over a period of time they were corrupted even more, because the devil freely reigned over these religions through the medium of the pagan priests. As must be clear, this is exactly what the western authors were arguing for. The brahmins who performed and directed the rituals, who maintained temple complexes, etc, could only have been the priests of the Indians, be it of a false religion. What they imposed upon society as part of their religion must have been the work of the devil as well. The moulding of multiple traditions into brahmanism as a grand religion created by heathen priests was now inevitable.

The search for the carefully hidden ‘religious texts’ became one of Europe’s obsessions. Differences between the ‘pure original’ as embodied in those texts and that which the priests imposed upon the laity confirmed that priesthood was a similar phenomenon all over the world. The Catholic church knew of pilgrimages and indulgences; brahmanism displayed ‘ceremonial and pecuniary atonements.’ As the Catholic clergy imposed a system of false prescriptions in its quest for worldly power, brahmins imposed a system of rules and prescription to preserve their own temporal interests. They had their own secret language too, i e, Sanskrit, and eagerly tried to conceal their fraud.

As Catholic priesthood was confined to the selected few, brahmins dominated Indian society through the institution of caste. As the priests of the church of Rome were the only rightful administers of the sacraments, Hinduism turned out to be a religion ‘of which the brahmins are the exclusive depositories of its ordinances’. The ‘brahmin church’ had imposed social hierarchies due to its priestly despotism. Therefore, the most salient feature of this religion became the caste system, imposed upon society to preserve brahmin privileges. ‘Absolute empire over the civil state of the Hindus as over their minds’ was exactly what priesthood and its craft had given birth to in Europe as well.

Indian Intellectuals and Mantras of Anti-Brahmanism

The Judeo-Christian theme of religious degeneration and the Christian theological interpretation of religion as a religion of the priest did not only structure Europe’s identification of the brahmin priests and brahmanism. More remarkably, it even structured the conceptualisation of religion provided by Indian intellectuals in modern times. When Rammohun Roy published the first of his English works he ‘appealed to the sacred books…as bearing witness against the idolatry of the priest-ridden masses’ (Müller cited in Mookerjee 1970: 32) Echoing European descriptions, Roy exclaimed that the brahmins had emphasised ‘to the utmost of their power, that part … which, treating of rites and festivals, is justly considered as the source of their worldly advantages and support of their alleged divinity’ (1817: 88). The Hindus didn’t know that the Vedanta prohibited that which brahmins entertained because the brahmins permitted ‘themselves alone to interpret, or even to touch any book of the kind.’ They had kept the ‘brahmin bible’ secret ‘within the dark curtain of the Sanskrit language.’ As a result ‘the practice of few Hindoos indeed bears the least accordance with its precepts.’ (1816: 59) About the source of his inspiration, Roy is very explicit. In a letter to Alexander Duff, he declared that he had read about
the rise and progress of Christianity in apostolic times, and its corruption in succeeding ages, and then of the Christian Reformation which shook off these corruptions... (and) that something similar might have taken place in India, and similar results might follow from a reformation of the popular idolatry (Cited in Collett 1913: 280).</i>

Therefore, in the preface to his translations of the Upanishads, he formulated his goal of demonstrating that the originals proved that the Indians were also familiar with the true conceptions of the One and Only. However, the brahmins had not only emphasised that which served their own interests; the texts were also written in an obscure language of allegory. His reading had to allow the Europeans to make their own judgement instead of deriving it from ‘the superstitious rites and habits daily encouraged and fostered by their self-interested leaders’ (1819: 23). As his public already knew by then, this was a system ‘which destroys, to the utmost degree, the natural texture of society’ – all by and for their self-interested leaders (1819: 23).

More than a century later Babasaheb Ambedkar whole-heartedly attacked those practices that Roy – according to his more critical readers – had overlooked, i e, caste practices. His views were well summarised in his exposé of the origin of the shudras. Referring to brahmin laws and a literary system of varnas, Ambedkar argued for the religious basis of caste. Its practices were laid down in books and explained that which the Europeans also saw: a corrupted society. Disregarding his opponents, he would continue ‘the exposure of the sacred books so that the Hindus may know that it is the doctrines contained in their sacred books which are responsible for the decline and fall of their country and their society…’ (1947: 15).

That all this was the fault of a religion of priests was again clear from the start. The books were ‘almost entirely the creation of the brahmins … to sustain the superiority and privileges of the brahmins as against the non-brahmins’ (1947: 16). Yet Ambedkar didn’t seem to wonder how brahmins managed to realise this supremacy when they kept the books devised for this purpose secret from the general public.

Be this as it may, the brahmins were the forces behind transforming the Vedic concept of class system into the contemporary system of castes (cf Ambedkar 1917). Why did the brahmins do this? As he answered in his Annihilation of Caste, the caste system, ‘is a social system which embodies the arrogance and selfishness of a perverse section of the Hindus who were superior enough in social status to set it in fashion and who had the authority to force it on their inferiors’ (1936: 50). Hence, the priestly brahmins had done this for the obvious reasons that they were arrogant, mercenary, and perverted. They were the ones who originated the exclusivity of class and the other classes merely imitated them.

That he merely accepted European authority and adopted polemical slogans might well be reflected in his belief in the remarkable explanatory power of this social system, based on that grand religion of priests. Caste explained the anti-social and selfish spirit of the Hindus and their unwillingness to forgive. It accounted for the timidity and cowardice that distinguished the Hindu from the Muslim and the Sikh – even though they are also said to be organised into a system of social hierarchy – and all this resulted in the Hindu’s low ways of treachery and cunning. Caste impeded public spirit, public charity, and public opinion (1936: 51-6). In other words: caste as deus ex machina explained the degradation prevalent in Indian society. Taking into account the many horror stories he provides us with, we might well conclude that caste is the embodiment of moral corruption, based on prejudices and sacred books, instilled by a perfidious section of the Indian population. The legislative measures he proposed to abolish this system should ‘help to kill brahminism and will help to kill caste which is nothing but brahminism incarnate.’ (1936: 77).

Both reformers are divided by a century of changing sociopolitical circumstances. Each had its own political and/or religious agenda as well. Yet it is clear that the difference between orientalists and anglicists or Evangelicals others find so important in the context of modern Indian intellectual movement is of no relevance when it comes to an understanding of Indian religion and society among Indian intellectuals.

Indian Intellectuals and the European Experience

If theological concepts structured the experience of the Europeans, how well could they capture the experience of the natives? Wilson suggested that a resistant attachment to caste corresponded with the lower classes. Elphinstone agreed and noticed that the lowest classes started to display a large division of castes among themselves. Indeed, from an empirical point of view, most will agree that a multitude of sub-castes can be identified in the so-called lowest social strata. To argue that priests imposed such an organisation upon society requires, minimally, the identification of an overarching organisation of priests. However, neither in the long haul of Indian history, nor in its present context has such a structure, necessary to impose upon society any social organisation whatsoever, been identified.

Secondly, regarding their secret books, Grant claimed that ‘[w]ith respect to the real tenets of the Hindus…they are to be taken from their ancient books…’ (cited in Mill 1817: 410 ff). However, when Rammohun Roy later translated the Upanishads a contemporary pundit charged him with having fabricated them himself (Hay 1963: 46 ff). Moreover, on the subject of Bengal, Fitzedward Hall wrote in 1868 that ‘[u]ntil very recently, the learned Bengali has long been satisfied, substantially, to do without the Veda’ (cited in Kejariwal 1988: 3). A strange state of affairs, suggesting that brahmins didn’t really know what Europeans were talking about when they enquired about their sacred books. Even more, those who did seem to know about the texts didn’t seem to understand them. Regarding their secret language, Abbé Dubois, for example, had the following observation to make:
It is true…that those who devote themselves to the study of these books (the Vedas) cannot hope to extract any instruction from them, for they are written in ancient Sanskrit, which has become almost wholly unintelligible; and such numberless mistakes have been introduced by copyists, either through carelessness or ignorance, that the most learned find themselves quite unable to interpret the original text. Out of 20,000 brahmins I do not believe that one could be found who even partially understood the real Vedas [Dubois 1816: 173-74].</i>

What Dubois saw was not the exception but the rule. When talking of the prayers in the Vedas, Horace Hayman Wilson discovered that they were hardly studied at all. Besides, ‘when they are studied it is merely for the sake of repeating the words; the sense is regarded as a matter of no importance, and is not understood even by the Brahman who recites or chants the expressions’ (1840: 49).

There were other elements as well that did not fit the picture of a class of priests that controlled the laity through the corruption of original beliefs. Wilson, for example, felt it necessary to nuance Jones’ views as based on Manu’s text, stating that brahmins were not ‘in great measure the ghostly advisers of the people…This office is now filled by various persons…Many of these are brahmans, but they are not necessarily so, and it is not as brahmans that they receive the veneration of their lay followers…’ (1832: 311). However, when Indian intellectuals began to write their own story, they did not start from those experiences. Neither did they try to make them intelligible: India, as they saw it, had its own religion of priests and the hierarchy of caste system was due to priestly despotism. The implication of this account is the unconditional acceptance of Christianity’s theological conception of religion by Indian intellectuals.

Conclusion and Coda

The Orientalist-Anglicist distinction is said to have had a decisive influence on the outset of Indian reform movements. Mainly in Bengal, Indian intellectuals began to discover what orientalists had shown them: a golden age in a history of decline. It is said that exclusively due to orientalists, Indians became aware of original scripts and pure religions, of morality and virtue in a long distant past. It is also said that orientalists and anglicists differed in their assessment of Indian society. However, we have tried to show that despite these differences, the opposite camps shared the same conceptions of brahmins in India tout court: the Christian-theological themes that structured christianity’s own understanding of the religious and nurtured the attacks against the priesthood in Europe during the reformation, re-emerged in the explanation of contemporary Indian society. Therefore, if what we have suggested in this article is true, it follows that whenever Roy, Ambedkar or the people who are inspired by them accept Europe’s conceptualisations, they are not criticising their cultural inheritance at all. They are just repeating christianity’s critique against the pagan ‘priests’.

It is also clear that the so-called differences between anglicist and orientalists are themselves dependent upon the same Judeo- Christian conception of religion and are, therefore, distinctions which make sense within a theological framework only. From this perspective the anglicist was correct in saying that corruption was there from the very beginning – after all, it was a pagan worship inspired by the devil. But the orientalists – working within the same theological background – were correct too when they stressed that compared to the original books, in which sound conceptions of the divine could still be found, these insights were lost due to a mounting corruption of the priests ever since.

When contemporary scholars take this divide as a valuable structuring framework for describing the history of modern India they end up being theologians in a secular guise (see Balagangadhara 1994 for an amplification of this theme). That this framework makes sense after all could be explained by dechristianised Christianity being part of the history of the west, and, hence, being constitutive of the west’s cultural and religious experience. However, when Indian intellectuals take the same story for granted, they end up repeating a protestant Christian theme without Christianity being fundamental to the construction of the Indian culture. What they say must, therefore, be vacuous to a double extent. That they keep repeating the west in endless mantras of anti-brahmanism is not only puzzling, it is tragic as well. They do not only stop thinking, they are bereft of their own experience. The world of the west will never be theirs while the world of their own is no longer accessible due to the western mantras which prevent them from seeing and reflecting upon their own experience. Therefore, if a novel and innovating step towards a different approach of Indian culture is desirable and sought after, it is high time that the Indian intellectuals start taking their colonial experience seriously.

Address for correspondence:

[We would like to thank Balu for his guidance and support. We would also like to thank Jakob De Roover, Marianne Keppens, Jochem van den Bogert, Sarah Claerhout and Tom De Keukelaere for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.]


Ambedkar, B (1917): ‘Castes in India. Their Mechanism, Genesis and
<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Jan 31 2008, 03:01 PM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Jan 31 2008, 03:01 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->http://www.ifood.tv/node/2666

Video Description
Untouchability and caste discrimination have been age old menace in the Indian society and weakening the spirit of tolerance and mutual co-existence. Under the able guidance of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar we are furthering toward a better world and people have identified the weakness of societies and trying to bridge the gap. Truth & Reconciliation Conference of Dalits and Hindus on 9th March, 2007 at Hamsadhwani Stadium, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India; is an important endeavour to ameliorate this peril.

A large number of Dalit and caste Hindu leaders assembled at the historic ‘Truth & Reconciliation Conference’ initiated by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, at New Delhi on 9 th March, 2007. Through the adoption of a 7- point action plan, the leaders pledged to end the social evils of untouchability and discrimination and spread the message of reconciliation to every corner of India.

To Read complete text and photo-album click here

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The race to transfer guilt
Ashok Malik  IF link
Has political correctness become a civilisational transfer of guilt?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Agenda laid clear in a christian tract:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->William Jones translated Manu Dharma, the document on the caste system from Sanskrit to English about 200 years ago.  This poison then spread throughout Europe and evolved into global Racism based on one's skin color or varna.  The caste system is about 1200 years old and is the taproot of racism (based on color) in the world society, which developed less than 200 years ago.  For instance why would Shakespeare write Othello (early 17th c AD) where a black North African man marries a white European woman if racism existed in his time.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<b>UK Hindus blame British for caste system</b>

Press Trust of India
Friday, February 15, 2008 (London)
A Hindu organisation in the UK on Friday blamed the British for the caste system in India, saying the ''current adulteration'' of the varnashram system is a result of ''generations of British colonial bureaucracy''.

''It was the British who single-handedly formulated the caste schedules that remain in place today,'' Raj Pandit Sharma, a member of the Hindu Council UK's (HCUK) Executive, said in a report on 'Caste Discrimination'.

The HCUK said it came out with the report to prevent the spread of ''misinformation about Hinduism'' by ''anti-caste propagandists''.

Sharma said the evils manifest in the current form of the caste system could not be ascribed to the Hindu faith.

''The current adulteration of the Hindu varnashram system is a direct result of generations of British colonial bureaucracy,'' he claimed.

The report included quotations from Hindu scripture in support of the concept of egalitarianism and cites many sacred texts - respected by people of all castes - that were written by ''Dalits,'' or ''outcastes'', in an attempt to prove that in Hinduism, caste was never intended to be hereditary.

The report also highlighted the ''hypocrisy'' of those who would criticise caste in India while ignoring Britain's own social divisions. ''There are now record levels of homeless people in the UK, who are analogous with the outcastes of Indian society,'' Sharma said.

He also questioned comparing caste system with apartheid.

<b>''This comparison is as ridiculous as it is untrue, especially given the fact these barbaric systems were born under the shadow of slavery or indentured labour, based on the colour of one's skin, and actually conceived and perpetrated by Europeans, not Hindus.'' </b>

''It is no joke to have to ward off concerted misinformation campaigns from UK parliamentarians who really ought to know better,'' Anil Bhanot, HCUK General Secretary, said in his Foreword to the document.

<b>He said he has gone through the difficult process in the hope that it would alert the wider British public to the prejudicial tactics carried out by ''anti-caste propagandists''.</b>

Banot said ''Today, we are putting the record straight. We are also naming and shaming those who spread misinformation about Hinduism and its relationship to caste in an ill-disguised attempt to vilify the Hindu people and cause division within our community.''

The result of several months research by Sharma, the report lifts the lid on rarely-heard Hindu perspectives on a subject assumed by most non-Hindus to be always a gross form of unjust discrimination, an alleged feature of Hinduism so maligned it justifies attempts by Christians to convert Hindus in the UK, in India and elsewhere, the report said.

The report acknowledged and condemned the fact that abuse of varnashram continues in India, despite an official ban on caste discrimination and the introduction of positive discrimination policies to emancipate lower castes, in particular Dalits, or 'untouchables'.

But it questions the existence of caste discrimination in the UK, saying no one should be ''fooled'' by groups making allegations of such discrimination who are seeking government legislation and funds to tackle this ''supposed problem''.

The detailed report challenges assumptions about caste and the claims made by organisations such as CasteWatch UK and the Dalit Solidarity Network UK, concluding that contrary to their assertions and popular belief, caste, as described in the Hindu scriptures, is not determined by birth.
^The report that Hindu Council released.

Excerpts from the pdf file about caste system.

As an example, consider one of the things that Europe ‘knows’ about India: the Indian caste system. Almost everyone I know has very firm moral opinions on the subject. Many see in it the origin of all kinds of evils in India: from the denial of human rights to oppression; some see in it obstacles to progress and modernization and so on.

I suppose we all agree that we need to understand a phenomenon before making moral judgments. With this in mind, if you try and find out what this famous caste system is, and why people either attack or defend it, you discover the following: no ancient book exists that tells us what the principles of the caste system are; no Indian can tell you about its structure or its organization; no scientific theory has been developed that explains how or why it continues to exist. Simply put, nobody understands what it is or how it functions. In that case, how can anyone be pro or contra the caste system? If we focus on how people normally describe this system and understand how easy it is to turn such a description upside down, the absurdity of the situation becomes obvious. While emphasizing that I do not attack and much less defend the caste system in what follows, let us look at the existing descriptions and their consequences.

(a) Caste is an antiquated social system that arose in the dim past of India. If this is true, it has survived many challenges: the onslaught of Buddhism and the Bhakti movements; the Islamic and British colonization, Indian independence, world capitalism, and might even survive ‘globalization’. It follows, then, that the caste system is a very stable social organization.

(b) There exists no centralized authority to enforce the caste system across the length and breadth of India. In that case, it is an autonomous and de-centralized organization.

c) All social and political regulations, whether by the British or by the Indians, have not been able to eradicate this system. If true, it means that the caste system is a self-reproducing social structure.

(d) Caste system exists among the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Jains, the Christians, the Muslims… It has also existed under different environments. This means that this system adapts itself to the environments it finds itself in.

(e) Because new castes have come and gone over the centuries, this system must also be dynamic.

(f) Because caste system is present in different political organizations and survives under different political regimes, it is also neutral with respect to political ideologies.

Even though more can be said, this is enough for us. A simple redescription of what we think we know about the caste system tells us that it is an autonomous, decentralized, stable, adaptive, dynamic, selfreproducing social organization. It is also neutral with respect to political, religious and economic doctrines and environments. If indeed such a system ever existed, would it also not have been the most ideal form of social organization one could ever think of? The question of the immorality of the caste system became immensely important after the British came to India. In that case, there are two interesting possibilities to choose from: one, Indians did not criticize the caste system (before the British came to India) because Indians are immoral; two, the Europeans ‘discovered’ something that simply does not exist in India, viz. the social organization that the caste system is supposed to be.

<b>Presentation by S.N. Balagangadhara, October 24th, 2006, Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Belgium</b>

What can India offer to the world of today and tomorrow? I will not tackle this problem directly but instead take up one of its sub-questions: to whom is this problem important and why? I believe it is important to both Indians and Europeans but for different reasons. In this talk, let me spell out and reflect upon some of these reasons.

For the first time in the last four to five hundred years, non-white and non-Christian cultures will have a significant impact on the affairs of the humankind. Here, India will be a global player of considerable political and economic impact. As a result, the need to explicate what it means to be an Indian (and what the ‘Indianness’ of the Indian culture consists of) will soon become the task of the entire intelligentsia in India. In this process, they will confront the challenge of responding to what Europe has so far thought and written about India. A response is required because the theoretical and textual study of the Indian culture has been undertaken mostly by Europe in the last three hundred years. What is more, it will also be a challenge because the study of India has largely occurred within the cultural framework of Europe.

In fulfilling this task, the Indian intelligentsia of tomorrow will have to solve a puzzle: what were the earlier generations of Indian thinkers busy with, in the course of the last two to three thousand years? Let me use a contrast with the European culture to exhibit the nature of this puzzle and its importance to the theme of this evening.

What were the European intellectuals busy with, during the last two thousand years? It is almost impossible to answer this question without describing the history of Europe; still, we can say they produced theologies, philosophies, fine arts, natural and social sciences … The list is so varied, so diverse and so huge that one does not know where to begin or how to end. Despite this, the fact remains: all interesting theories about human beings, their cultures and societies, which we use today, are products of the European intellectuals. So too are the institutions and practices that most of us find desirable: democratic institutions and courts of law, for instance. The sheer size, variety and the quality of the European contributions to humanity is overwhelming.

What were the Indian thinkers doing during the same period? The standard text-book story, which has schooled multiple generations including mine, goes as follows: caste system dominates India, women are discriminated against, the practice of widow-burning exists, corruption is rampant, most people believe in astrology, karma and reincarnation … If these properties characterize India of today and yesterday, the puzzle about what the earlier generation of Indian thinkers were doing turns into a very painful realization: the thinkers from yesteryears were busy either instituting or defending atrocious practices. Of course there is our Buddha and our Gandhi but that is apparently all we have: exactly one Buddha and exactly one Gandhi. When the intellectuals of one culture, the European culture, were busy challenging and changing the world, most thinkers from another culture, the Indian in our case, were apparently busy sustaining and defending undesirable and immoral practices. If this portrayal is true, the Indians have but one task, to modernize India, and the Indian culture but one goal: to become like the West as quickly as possible.

However, what if this portrayal is false? What if these basically European descriptions of India are wrong? In that case, the questions about what India has to offer the world and what the Indian thinkers were doing become important to the Europeans. For the first time, their knowledge of India will be subject to a kind of test that has never occurred before. Why ‘for the first time’? The answer is obvious: the knowledge of India was generated primarily when India was colonized. Subsequent to the Indian independence, India suffered from poverty and backwardness. In tomorrow’s world, the Indian intellectuals will be able to speak back with a newly found confidence and they will challenge the European descriptions of India. That is, for the first time, they will test the European knowledge of India and not just accept it as God’s own truth. This has not happened before; it will happen for the first time. Moreover, the results of this test are not of mere scientific interest; they will also have serious social, political and economic repercussions on the European societies. If true, the question now becomes: what kind of European ‘knowledge’ about India will be tested?

As an example, consider one of the things that Europe ‘knows’ about India: the Indian caste system. Almost everyone I know has very firm moral opinions on the subject. Many see in it the origin of all kinds of evils in India: from the denial of human rights to oppression; some see in it obstacles to progress and modernization and so on. I suppose we all agree that we need to understand a phenomenon before making moral judgments. With this in mind, if you try and find out what this famous caste system is, and why people either attack or defend it, you discover the following: no ancient book exists that tells us what the principles of the caste system are; no Indian can tell you about its structure or its organization; no scientific theory has been developed that explains how or why it continues to exist. Simply put, nobody understands what it is or how it functions. In that case, how can anyone be pro or contra the caste system? If we focus on how people normally describe this system and understand how easy it is to turn such a description upside down, the absurdity of the situation becomes obvious. While emphasizing that I do not attack and much less defend the caste system in what follows, let us look at the existing descriptions and their consequences.

(a) Caste is an antiquated social system that arose in the dim past of India. If this is true, it has survived many challenges: the onslaught of Buddhism and the Bhakti movements; the Islamic and British colonization, Indian independence, world capitalism, and might even survive‘globalization’. It follows, then, that the caste system is a very stable social organization.

(b) There exists no centralized authority to enforce the caste system across the length and breadth of India. In that case, it is an autonomous and de-centralized organization.

© All social and political regulations, whether by the British or by the Indians, have not been able to eradicate this system. If true, it means that the caste system is a self-reproducing social structure.

(d) Caste system exists among the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Jains, the Christians, the Muslims… It has also existed under different environments. This means that this system adapts itself to the environments it finds itself in.

(e) Because new castes have come and gone over the centuries, this system must also be dynamic.

(f) Because caste system is present in different political organizations and survives under different political regimes, it is also neutral with respect to political ideologies.

Even though more can be said, this is enough for us. A simple redescription of what we think we know about the caste system tells us that it is an autonomous, decentralized, stable, adaptive, dynamic, selfreproducing social organization. It is also neutral with respect to political, religious and economic doctrines and environments. If indeed such a system ever existed, would it also not have been the most ideal form of social organization one could ever think of?

The question of the immorality of the caste system became immensely important after the British came to India. In that case, there are two interesting possibilities to choose from: one, Indians did not criticize the caste system (before the British came to India) because Indians are immoral; two, the Europeans ‘discovered’ something that simply does not exist in India, viz. the social organization that the caste system is supposed to be.

There is a reason why I have spent time on this issue. And that is to signal in the direction of a problem, which has very far-reaching consequences. If what Europe knows about India resembles what it claims it knows about the caste system, what exactly does Europe know about India or her culture? Not very much, I am afraid. Precisely at a time when, to survive in a ‘globalizing’ world, knowledge of other cultures and peoples is a necessity, it appears as though Europe knows very little about either of the two.

Perhaps, the absence of knowledge is felt most acutely by the Europeans who invest in India. Today, they rediscover what people knew: they are not well-equipped to do business in India. They understand neither the culture nor the role of cultural differences in management structures and organizations. The books and articles on “culture and management” are full only of platitudes; on top of it, the newest trend in anthropology tells us that the notions of “culture” and “cultural differences” are almost of no use in understanding people.

In other words, I am suggesting the following. What the Europeans think they know of India tells us more about Europe than it does about India. This ‘knowledge’ will be tested during this century. In that case, quite obviously, the earlier generations of Indian thinkers were not merely busy instituting and defending immoral practices. What else were they doing then? Now, the puzzle becomes very intriguing: what were the Indian thinkers doing in the course of the last two to three thousand years? What did they think and write about? Did they make contributions to human knowledge? If yes, what are they? Answering these and allied questions will become one of the primary preoccupations of the Indian intelligentsia in the course of the twenty-first century. This puzzle is important to the Europeans too. Let me say why by setting the context first.

Let me sketch the context by raising a question: what has the world to learn from Europe? Here are the familiar answers: science and technology; democracy and the legal system; respect for human rights and ecological awareness; becoming modern and cosmopolitan… When such answers are given, one does not mean that the rest of the world has to learn this or that scientific theory, or a solution to this or that mathematical problem from Europe. One means something like this: Indians have to learn a particular way of going-about with the world from the European culture. That is, one believes that this way of going-about is the unique contribution of the European culture, something that is absent in other cultures.

Let us now reverse the question: what has Europe to learn from India? In all the thirty years I have spent in Europe and in all the thousands of books I have probably read, I have not come across a satisfactory answer. Most do not even raise the issue; those who do, mumble about ‘learning’ things that Europe once knew but has forgotten since. How to understand this situation?

The first possibility is that there is nothing to learn from India. Possible, but implausible. It is possible that, much like the ‘chosen people’ that the Jews believe they are, Europe is the ‘chosen’ culture from all the cultures that populate the planet. However, it is implausible because I have not come across any explanation for this ‘European miracle’. Nevertheless, if there is nothing to learn from India, we can all sleep peacefully: the world, as we know it, will not be disturbed. This is the first possibility.

Consider the second possibility now. Europe has ‘something’ to learn from India but many Europeans do not yet know what. Some give the following answers: meditation, yoga, notions of Karma, Vedic astrology… These will not do: not only are there native meditative and astrological traditions in Europe, but such answers are also inadequate. It is like saying that one has to learn partial differential equations from Europe. So, let me push the question: what is this ‘something’ Europe has to learn from India?

At this stage, I normally encounter silence because there does not appear to be any answer to give. Surely, this is strange: Europe has been studying India for centuries; it has colonized her territories and people; it tells Indians what is wrong with their society and culture… And yet, no answer is forthcoming. The Indians know what they have to learn from Europe and they have been learning it for centuries on end. Europe, by contrast, apparently has no proper answer to the question.

By virtue of this, the second possibility, viz. Europe has something to learn from India but does not know what, is very disturbing. One culture, the Indian, has been learning for generations and centuries; the other culture, the European, does not know what to learn or even whether there is anything to learn. And these two cultures, for the first time in so many hundred years, will meet each other on the world arena as equals and as competitors. What will the outcome be?

Whatever the outcome, the meeting between these two cultures sets the context for the puzzle I spoke of. Let me remind you what that puzzle is: what were the Indian thinkers doing in the course of the last two to three thousand years? What did they think and write about? Did they make contributions to human knowledge? If yes, what are they?

To these questions, we have one set of indirect answers. In course of the last three hundred years or so, the mainstream theories in social sciences and humanities carry on as though Indian thinkers have made no substantial contributions to human knowledge. However, almost without exception, this splendid corpus of writings about human beings embodies assumptions of the western culture. Not only have the western intellectuals created these theories in humanities and social sciences; they also express how this culture has looked at the world so far. Generations of Indian intellectuals have accepted these answers as more or less true as well. The future generations will not be so accommodating though: they will test these answers for their truth. I say this with confidence because I find that more and more people in India are gravitating towards this kind of research. These are not of mere academic interest to such people, whose numbers steadily increase. More than most, they realize that answers to these and allied questions have the potential to ignite an intellectual revolution on a world scale.

My own research, and that of many more in India and Asia, is focused on answering the puzzle. In the time that is left to me, I cannot even hope to tell you what the research results are. Therefore, I am forced to take a rain-check. Nevertheless, let me indicate the far-reaching nature of these results.

Even a limited acquaintance with the Indian or Asian culture tells us that their thinkers have also produced multiple ‘theories’ about human beings. These also express the way the Indian or even Asian culture looks at the world. Yet, these theories are contributions to human knowledge. This knowledge is about many things: the nature of human beings, the nature of ethics and morality, how human beings learn, what happiness is and how to reach it, what we could know about human beings… In short, this is knowledge about us; it is also about what we can know, what we might hope for and what we should be doing. As the Indian and the European cultures differ from each other, so do their views about human beings.

The European intellectuals have elaborated their stories so far. The Indians and the Asians will do the same in the course of this century. These two sets of theories will meet on the world arena too, as equals and as competitors. Today, we think that the European story about human beings constitutes knowledge; that is because there are no competitors to this story as yet. How about tomorrow, when there will be competition in the marketplace of ideas, and Indians and Asians come up with other and different theories?

So, by the end of this century, there will at least be two different sets of stories about human beings, their societies and cultures. One that the West has produced and the other that India and Asia will. Only one of these can be true or both will be false. However, these are issues for tomorrow. Today, let us merely appreciate why the theme of this evening is so important to all of us.

I thank you.
Impressive compilation:

The Hindu Caste System
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Scholars still trying to understand Indian religion</b>

Scholars participating in the conference on “Rethinking Religion in India” on Wednesday here were still trying to understand religion as is practiced in the sub-continent.

The feeling was that there was a negative picture of India religion elsewhere in the world.

According to Dunkin Jalki, a Ph.d student on Cultural Studies from Bangalore,“Only when Asians reflect upon themselves or each other, a positive picture on (social systems) emerges.”

<b>Prof. J.S.Sadananda of the Kuvempu University in Karnataka, who has been conducting research work on caste in Karnataka’s 40 villages, said: “The perception of India appears influenced by Christian theological framework of Europe. They haven’t been able to understand the phenomenon they are studying.”</b>

According to Professor Rajeev Ranjan Sinha, Head of the Department of Sanskrit Vidya and Dean Faculty of Shamana Vidya at Sampoornanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi, the speakers appear to have misunderstood the concept “Jaati” during their research.

<b>“The word Jaati is not caste. I am speaking from the studies of Sanskrit texts. ‘Jaati’ is a technical term in Indian Nyaya philosophy where it means the element which covers the whole race (i.e ness).But nowhere it means as a caste in the Sanskrit texts. You cannot term Jaati as a religion, sect or caste.” Prof.Sinha said.</b>

Prof. Purushottam Bilimale pointed out that Jati in the Indian context does not mean caste Dravidian. He said: “Entire 27 communities of the Dravidian world don’t have a single world equalling to “Jaati”. If you accept that as a fact, because it is a Sanskrit world, we have to see the entire Dravidian world in a different way with a question “what else is there?”

“When you look at the Dravidian rituals the basic functioning tools are kinship and family,” he added. (ANI)<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-dhu+Feb 17 2008, 04:08 PM-->QUOTE(dhu @ Feb 17 2008, 04:08 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Impressive compilation:

The Hindu Caste System

the hindu caste system
Jul 31 2005 | Views 2065 | Comments (1)
The Caste System or varna-ashrama has been one of the most misrepresented, misinformed, misunderstood, misused and the most maligned aspects of Hinduism. If one wants to understand the truth, the original purpose behind the caste system, one must go to antiquity to study the evolution of the caste system. Caste System, which is said to be the mainstay of the Hindu social order, has no sanction in the Vedas. The ancient culture of India was based upon a system of social diversification according to SPIRITUAL development, not by birth, but by his karma. This system became hereditary and over the course of many centuries degenerated as a result of exploitation by some priests, and other socio-economic elements of society.

However, as Alain Danielou, son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India, says: "Caste system has enabled Hindu civilization to survive all invasions and to develop without revolutions or important changes, throughout more than four millennia, with a continuity that is unique in history. Caste system may appear rigid to our eyes because for more than a thousand years Hindu society withdrew itself from successive domination by Muslims and Europeans. Yet, the greatest poets and the most venerated saints such as Sura Dasa, Kabir, Tukaram, Thiruvalluvar and Ram Dasa; came from the humblest class of society." In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, " In spite of the divisions, there is an inner cohesion among the Hindu society from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin."

Caste system has been exploited against the Hindus, for the last two centuries by the British, Christian Missionaries, Secular historians, Communists, Muslims, Pre and Post-Independence Indian politicians and Journalists for their own ends. One way to discredit any system is to highlight its excesses, and this only adds to the sense of inferiority that many Indians feel about their own culture. Caste system is often portrayed as the ultimate horror, in the media, yet social inequities continue to persist in theoretically Egalitarian Western Societies. The Caste system is judged offensive by the Western norms, yet racial groups have been isolated, crowded into reserves like the American Indians or Australian Aborigines, where they can only atrophy and disappear.

This chapter is not a justification of the abuse of caste system, rather it is a collection of interesting information. Caste system has enabled Hindu civilization to survive all invasions and made Indian society stronger. Caste system served a purpose, performed certain functions, and met the needs appropriate to the times in history. India's caste norms may once have had a rationale; but the norms are outlived today. Caste system is not stagnant and is undergoing changes under the impact of modernization. Caste system should undergo reforms in the social arena so that unjustified discrimination and abuse is eliminated.


A Comprehensive Look: Pro and Cons of The Caste System
Sociology of groups in Ancient India
Discrimination in Western societies
Mahatma Gandhi and Louis Dumont
No Religious Sanction in Hindu Scriptures
Degeneration of the Caste System
Manu Smrti: Not a Religious Book
Exploitation of Caste by Christian Missionaries
The Anglo-Indians, Pondycherians and Harijan/Dalit Converts
Abrahamic Super Caste System
Christian and Poor Countries
Gandhi and Brahmins

<b>Dominant Discourses of Power Relations and the Melanesian Other: Interpreting the Eroticized, Effeminizing Gaze in National Geographic</b>
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Impressive compilation:


Plight of Native Canadians. Rampant child abuse in church run schools results in thousands of lawsuits in Canada. For more than a century, Native Canadians were abused emotionally, physically and sexually in schools run by Christian Churches. The goal was to de-Indianize the children, a process which robbed them of their rich, cultural and linguistic heritage.


So this is the immediate reason behind Christian abuse of children, in addition to their guilt of original sin and inability to "reason".
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->If practical or performative learning dominates Asian cultures then the number of social stereotypes there will be significantly less when compared to the western culture. Where they do exist (‘Rajputs are brave’; ‘Sikhs are a martial race’, ‘Bengalis are effeminate’, etc ), there <b>historical research will show that most such social stereotypes have been introduced during colonization.</b> In other words, unlike the West, Asian cultures have less of a need to work with social stereotypes because they teach action-heuristics through stories and not through disguised descriptions of the world. There will be a significantly <i>greater stock of stories instead of social stereotypes </i>in the Asian culture, whereas the op-posite will be the case for the western culture.
More often then not, Asians ‘justify’ their actions not by deducing some specific action from a universal premise but through citing stories. Such stories do not ‘justify’ but, instead, provide a ‘model’ for the said action. These ‘models’ or stories lend intelligibility to the actions but do not justify them. The notion that only ideas (or claims about the world) can justify human actions is a typical cultural characteristic of the West; almost totally absent is the notion that some actions could justify some other actions. The Asian notion of ‘tradition’ preserves and extends the latter suggestion.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<b>Caste discrimination a British invention, bigger than steam engine</b>
Prof R Vaidyanathan
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 03:50 IST
A major debate on reservation in institutions of higher learning like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), etc is being conducted at the Supreme Court.

A five-member bench is looking into the issues pertaining to the validity of the recently passed Act and also related matters like creamy layer exclusion, etc.

It has recently come to light that the Aryan invasion theory is a concoction by British politicians and academicians to justify their invasion of the country.

Perhaps a similar situation is emerging in the context of caste discrimination since the British had a vested interest in inventing discrimination and viewed the heterogeneous and non-hierarchical Indian society using the European framework of a feudal-bourgeoisie divide.

The colonizers were part of the Abrahamic tradition, which believes in homogenization, and the heterogeneous and non-conflicting Indian society would not have suited their design. That might have led them to construct a class-based discriminating society out of the multiple sampradayas and castes co-existing peacefully. After all, history is constructed to suit the colonisers and victors.

A discussion about backward classes is very often a debate on the backward castes. The backwardness is defined to include social, educational and economic aspects.

In practice, it is identified more with social and educational backwardness and hence, many castes are classified (or, shall we say declared) as backward and provided reservation in institutes of higher learning in most states.

In Tamil Nadu, for example, a whopping 69% is reserved for these categories. One of the major arguments in favour of reservations is that the backward castes are educationally backward due to discrimination in the past and hence cannot compete with others.

<b>History does not support the thesis of discrimination</b>

A renowned Gandhian, Dharampal, visited British and Indian archives and reproduced reports based on surveys conducted by the British in Madras, Punjab and Bengal presidencies during 1800-1830.

According to a detailed survey undertaken during 1822-25 in the Madras Presidency (present day Tamil Nadu, a major part of present day Andhra Pradesh and some districts of Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa), 11,575 schools and 1,094 colleges were in existence in the Presidency and the number of students in them were 1,57,195 and 5,431, respectively.

More important in view of the current debates and assumption is the unexpected and important information provided with regard to the broad caste composition of the students (see table). We find that the position as early as the first part of nineteenth century was significantly in favour of the backward castes as far as secular education was concerned.

Hence, the British-inspired propaganda that education was not available to the so-called backward castes prior to their efforts is not valid. The "secular" education was always a major tool in social transformation prior to British rule.

It is also assumed that caste is a rigid hierarchical system, which is oppressive. However, as observed by renowned sociologist Dipankar Gupta, "In fact, it is more  realistic to say that there are probably as many hierarchies as there are castes in India.

To believe that there is a single caste order to which every caste from Brahmin to untouchable would acquiesce ideologically is a gross misreading of facts on the ground. The truth is that no caste, howsoever lowly placed it may be, accepts the  reason for its degradation." (Dipankar Gupta; Interrogating Caste; pp1; Penguin Books 2000).

The debate also does not take into account the fact that backwardness is not a static phenomenon, but a dynamic one.

The great sociologist, M N Srinivas said, "An important feature of social mobility in modern India is the manner in which the successful members of the backward castes work consistently for improving the economic and social condition of their caste fellows.

This is due to the sense of identification with one's own caste, and also a realisation that caste mobility is essential for individual or familial mobility."(Collected Essays; pp196-197, Oxford University Press 2005).

May be, the time has come for us to question many of the beliefs and myths perpetuated on educational backwardness. Politics does play a major role in shaping the perceptions of the common man, but it is the duty of academicians and other experts to look at issues more dispassionately so that the future of educational enhancement of our country is not impaired by mythical dogmas. <b>We need "enquiring minds" to investigate the inventions of British other than that of the steam engine.</b>

<i>The writer is Professor of Finance & Control, Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore, and can be reached at vaidya@iimb.ernet.in. Views are personal.</i>
Rajaram Hegde, Professor – Centre for the Study of Local Cultures, Kuvempu University
(Shimoga, India)
Fictitious Connections. Caste system and Hinduism
The caste system is generally considered to be an integral part of Hinduism, sustained through the
varna division, the Brahmanical priesthood, and an ideology provided by the Hindu texts. In this
presentation, we will attempt to examine to what extent the aspects of the classical account of the
caste system and its relation to Hinduism, correspond with the empirical reality. To do this we will
draw on the findings of an extensive fieldwork project into caste, community and tradition in
We chose to test the awareness of the members of different jati groups in several villages in
Karnataka about some of the central aspects of the general descriptions of the caste system: (1) are
the different groups aware of the doctrines which the caste system is supposedly based on? (2) Do
these jatis know the contents of the sacred texts in which these doctrines can be found? (4) Do the
jati groups classify all groups in Indian society in terms of a hierarchy and do they consistently refer
to the same hierarchy (of the caste system)? (5) Are the Brahmins generally recognised as an
influential and powerful priesthood and does this priesthood know the tenets of its own religion?
In answer to these and more questions, we received a set of surprising responses: Except a few
Brahmin pundits, the term varna was not understood by most of the informants. The so-called
Brahmin priests are also unable to relate jati practices to any specific text or varna system. Informants
told almost unanimously that they are following their ancestral practices and did not refer to a
religious belief system or prescriptive text. The origin stories of the different groups merely tell us a
story about this group in particular and not about society as a whole. Moreover, the respondents
failed to locate themselves systematically within a hierarchical arrangement of caste and sub-caste
groups. We also could not observe the Brahmanical priesthood acting as an authoritative group,
controlling the practices of the other jati groups.
In brief, in this paper we will analyse some of the central aspects of the classical account of the caste
system in view of the results of our fieldwork to see to what extent these descriptions help or do not
help us in understanding the structure of the Indian society.

A. Shanmukha, Lecturer – Centre for the Study of Local Cultures, Kuvempu University
The Practice of Untouchability and Hinduism
The classical text book stories, from the colonial writers to the modern 21st century writers, argue
that the practice of untouchability is generated by the caste system, which is based on Hinduism. <b>This
presentation attempts to show that these kinds of arguments neither identify the root of the problem,
nor give any sensible solutions for them.
The classical accounts of the caste system and the practice of untouchability assume that Hinduism is
a religion and that Manu Dharma Shastra, Purusha Sukta, etc. are its sacred texts. These texts, the
classical descriptions hold, have given birth to the Varna system which has later generated the caste
system. It is said that it is the belief system of the Indian religion that compels its people to practice
If one uses the above descriptions to understand and explain the problem of untouchability then one
has to show that people who practice untouchability believe that these textual doctrines are sacred
and that they follow them in their daily life. In our empirical investigation in the State of Karnataka,
we have found that some castes do experience some kinds of discrimination in hotels, public wells or
taps, in the work place, etc. However, our fieldwork has shown that both those who practice
untouchability (or certain kinds of inter-caste discriminations) and those who have been victims of
untouchability have not even heard of the so-called sacred texts. Even if they have heard of them,
they do not feel that these texts are sacred, nor are they following their doctrines.
Thus, our field experience shows that there is hardly any evidence to prove that the practice of
untouchability is generated by the Indian social structure, i.e. the caste system, which is based on a
religion, namely Hinduism.</b>


Paolo Aranha, PhD Student – Department of History and Civilization, European University
Institute (Florence, Italy)
Missionary constructions of Hinduism and caste in the controversy on the Malabaric Rites (XVII-XVIII centuries)
The adaptationist methods followed by the Jesuits in their Madurai mission after the arrival of
Roberto Nobili in 1606 produced both in India and in Europe the so called "Controversies on the
Malabaric Rites". The whole principle of "missionary adaptation" (accomodatio) was based on the belief
that in regions as India or China it was possible to draw a clear line between social and cultural
phenomena on one side and religious beliefs and practices on the other.
The Jesuits claimed that the caste system was purely social, so that neophytes could bring it with
them once they joined the Catholic Church. Caste distinctions were seen as compatible with
Christianity and even untouchability was supposed to be analogous to European forms of social
distinction and exclusion. If castes were merely social, it was necessary to trace the borders of the
"Indian heathenism" ("Hinduism" was not yet an available category) as a specific religion.
The paper analyses the implicit characters that the religion of the great majority of South Indians had
in the eyes of the Jesuit missionaries and tries to verify whether this meant an interiorisation and
privatisation of religion. It also considers the way the critics of the “Malabaric Rites” described the
Indian native religion. The dichotomy between “aristocratic analogies” and “demotic descriptions”,
proposed by Ines Županov in her book Disputed Mission (OUP India, 1999), will be applied in order
to see whether it allows us also to detect the line that connects different treatises against the
Malabaric Rites written between the XVII and the XVIII centuries.
Finally, using the sources of the Roman Archives of the Holy Office and of the Congregation for the
Propagation of the Faith, the paper analyses reports and theological debates, substantiated with
abundant ethnographic accounts, through which the central Catholic bureaucracy in Rome tried to
interpret the Indian castes and particularly the practices of untouchability.
The aim is to extend the debate on the colonial construction of Hinduism to a phase and to actors
which have not yet been sufficiently studied, i.e. the early modern Catholic missionaries in South
India and the pre-orientalistic interpretations they produced on the religion of the people they sought
to convert. The paper will discuss to which extent these missionary constructions could be also
interpreted as colonial productions, in a period and a region where France, Great Britain and other
minor European nations were still competing with each other and all depended to a great extent on
local South Indian powers.

Scaria Zacharia, Professor Emeritus of Malayalam – School of Letters, Mahatma Gandhi University
(Changanacherry, India)
Caste system and Indian Religion
The question “are there native religions in India” has to be asked in the larger context of the
everyday life of Indians. The colonial wisdom eschewed everyday life and drew from textual sources
provided by the upper class priestly groups of Indian society. Indology and orientalism reinforced
this process and developed it to the extent of influencing the self-perception of ordinary western
educated Indians. So, there is justification in searching for alternative methodologies to understand
the ‘religious’ heritage of India.
Let me draw your attention to Kerala, which had Jews, Christians and Muslims as distinct religious
communities even during the first millennium of CE. These Semitic religious groups existed in
Kerala society as distinct but totally integrated communities. (In this context, I’d love to describe
Kerala society as a hyphenated society where oneness is maintained along with distinctions. It works
like a hyphenated compound where hyphen maintains both distinctiveness of components and
oneness of the compound.) The working principles of this model can be learned from the study of
Tarisappally Copper Plate Grants to Thomas Christians (8th Century), Jewish Copper Plate Grants
10th Century. The identification of these religious communities during the pre-colonial period can
provide clues for understanding religious identification in India as a distinct process. The sixteenth
century document of the Synod of Diamper refers to the traditional Thomas Christians’ claim that
they are a distinct Jati ‘sect/community’. The colonial wisdom has no hesitation in translating Jati as
‘caste’. The terms kulam and Jati are used by Jews also to refer to their community. We find ample
reasons to contest the colonial practice of translating Jati as Caste from the living experience of
Indian Jews and Christians for the Jews and Christians Jati was and is their community identity. The
leader of the Christian community was described in the pre-colonial period as Jatikkukartavyan which
means ‘the head of the community’.<b>
The Portuguese and other colonialists translated Indian concepts and practices in terms of western
Christian concepts and practices causing total intellectual confusion, which is carried on to the
present. For example, colonialists translated Marthomayude margavum Vazhipadum as law of St.
Thomas. The arbitrary manner in which the marga is translated as law can be cited as the typical
example of Western intellectualisation of Indian Knowledge and experience. The critical concept in
the pre-colonial Indian Christian discourse is inangu ‘communion’. The religiosity was performed
during the pre-colonial India through Inangu ‘communion’ and it was not exclusivist or
monopolistic. We hope this dimension of the everyday Indian religious life is pertinent in
understanding the caste system of pre-colonial India.</b>

Sarah Claerhout, Doctoral Student – Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent
University (Ghent, Belgium)
Hinduism, Caste and the Steps of Christian Conversion
The question whether or not there is a link between Hinduism and the caste system is a constant in
the literature on the Indian culture and society. Still, it is unclear how it is to be settled. The fact that
Hindu beliefs and texts have been invoked to sanction (or to condemn) caste discrimination does not
establish a link (or its absence). Otherwise we would also have to say that there is an intrinsic
connection (or opposition) between Christianity and slavery. One could point out that the Hindu law
books, the Manu dharmashastra in particular, prescribe the caste hierarchy. But it is unclear today what
role, if any, these books have played in determining the social structures of India. Given such
difficulties, how did the question about the link between Hinduism and the caste system appear a
sensible one in the first place?
My paper will argue that the issue emerged in the European descriptions of India, because it was
essential to western Christendom to establish a deep link between the religion of India and the
immorality in its society. This was to show how ‘false religion’ did not only prevent one from
attaining salvation in the next life, but also condemned one to be either the victim or the perpetrator
of injustice in the present life.
To understand this, we need to look at the historical developments in the European culture. After
the Reformation, the concern of many Christians for following and spreading the ‘true religion of
God’ had taken a new form. The struggle against all human interference in religion became pivotal.
One attributed the degeneration and corruption of religion to this interference, especially in the form
of the priestly hierarchy. The remedy was to be the introduction of a new process of conversion.
Each individual believer had to live according to the will of God and turn to God when called. All
human additions—that is, all that is absent in the Scriptures—had to be eradicated.
By describing the Indian traditions as ‘false religion’ and by locating the unity of this ‘false religion’ in
the caste system and the Brahmin priests, western Christians had identified the enemy to be defeated
in India. Educating the Indians was seen as the first step in this process: one had to teach them how
the brahmanical Hinduism and the caste hierarchy were intertwined and how this corrupted the heart
of Indian society. This was a major concern in the British educational efforts of the 19th century. This
is where the question about the link between Hinduism and the caste system comes from.
Esther Bloch, Doctoral Student – Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent
University (Ghent, Belgium)<b>
A central idea of Indology is that Indian history has gone through a religious evolution during which
the Vedic religion degenerated into Brahmanism, which later found its popular translation in what is
now considered to be India’s main religion, Hinduism. Closely linked to this is another supposedly
central aspect of the Indian culture, namely the social structure of the caste system. Looking at the
juncture between the descriptions of a degenerated religion and the conceptualisation of the caste
system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, I will try to show that these descriptions are
descriptions of the Western cultural experience of India rather than of the Indian culture itself.
The consensus in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries took the following form: the
Indian religion went through a movement of degeneration from Vedism over Brahmanism into
Hinduism. The Brahmin priests are supposed to have corrupted the Vedic religion. Traditions such
as Buddhism, Jainism, the Bhakti movement, etc., are regarded as catalysts in this development,
because they are thought to have threatened the survival of Brahmanical religion. Furthermore, it is
presumed that, because of the degeneration, Hinduism is characterised by the absence of a church
authority and a common creed. Therefore, it also seems to lack any source of excommunication and
means of conversion. This leads to a fundamental puzzle about the existence of the Hindu religion:
Can a religion (any religion) exist and be transmitted, if these characteristics are lacking? The
literature notices the difficulty, but translates the puzzle into the following question: ‘if the absence of
these characteristics jeopardises the existence, survival and propagation of the Hindu religion, what
else made its stubborn persistence possible?’ The textbook answer to this question revolves around
the Brahman priests and their caste system: it is said that the Brahmans recognised this challenge to
their priestly hegemony and to the survival of their religion and cunningly developed the caste system
as a means to sustain their religious authority.
In order to understand why the puzzle is not taken seriously and dissolves into another question, we
need to understand the background of the culture that has produced these accounts. My paper will
briefly show how the central ideas in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century accounts about
idolatry and false religion, about different traditions as rival and competing religions, about the
corrupting influence of the priesthood and its oppression of the masses, had their roots in the
Christian theological debates of Europe. Finally, I will indicate how these theological views have
spread in a de-Christianised form.

These classifications are superficial and are not drawn in the constitution. Neither did in “any” period of Indian society. It was just classified as people of different professions that’s all.
Neither did these scriptures discriminate on “color” as the American’s do till today for Black’s.
Nor on “race” as Hitler did for Jews. Nor on “class” as Greek and Roman society were divided.

And there was no upward or downward moving of the people from one classification to another. A Black cannot become a White (one exception of Michael Jackson). A Jew cannot become any other unless converts to. A person needs to earn a lot of money in Greece or Roman but it was very tedious.

But the great flexibility that the Indian society had that a Brahmin born can become a Shudra just by taking up a job as carpenter or a cleaner. A Shudra can become a Kshatriya by acquiring a Kingdom. The best example is of Karna in Mahabharata.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Gopal Godse interview Rediff

<i>How can there be a mainstream in India when there are so many castes? A Maharashtrian has a different caste and culture from that of his counterpart in West Bengal. </i>

<b>Britishers created this caste system. </b>Even in Maharashtra they wanted to create a split between the brahmins and the others. Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav are from the same caste. But still they quarrel. Why? Because they are hungry for power. What has tied them and every Indian together is the common culture. That is what we call Hindutva. For example, a marriage between a Mahar in Maharashtra and a brahmin in West Bengal. They come from the same mantras. That is what we call culture and Hindutva.

The most essential thing is why we are together. Because of language? No. Because of our common culture. And that is why from north to south people are going to attend the Amarnath Yatra. Once you forget your culture, the mere existence of the geographical boundary which is termed India will be of no use.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

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