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              Myth and legends about the Caste System

(the sociology and politics of the modern day Caste system in India)

 

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FAQ on Caste

  1. What is the situation regarding the Caste system in Hindu society ? Was such a system endorsed by the ancient

Vedics in any of the scriptures. Did the  Hindu scriptures endorse Untouchability  ?

 

The short answer is that such a system was not endorsed by the ancient scriptures and that the Hindu scriptures certainly never endorsed Untouchability. It is therefore a facile assumption which even significant proportions of Hindus make that the Hindu belief system sanctions all of the behavior patterns that occur under the rubric of the term 'Caste' . In reality it is safe to say that the resulting exploitation of economically disadvantaged sections of society by their fellow human beings has no sanction in any of the scriptures of the Sanatana Dharma. People sometimes behave contrary to the tenets of the faith they profess. This occurs in every society of the  world. The incidence of such behavior relative to the population  is below that of most other countries  which report incidences of sectarian and ethnic violence and is well within the 6 sigma limits of statistics(1), which would classify it as statistically insignificant behavior. We would like to see this number to be 0, but human nature being what it is, we are unlikely to see a zero number achieved in the near future.

 

In whatfollows, it is not our intention to defend the caste system. Merely to point out that it does not have a basis in our ancient traditions.

(1)The Term Six Sigma  , Sigma (the lower-case Greek letter "s") is used to represent standard deviation (a measure of variation) of the target population (whereas lower-case ess, 's', represents standard deviation of the sample). The term "six sigma" comes from the notion that if you have six standard deviations between the mean result of a process and the nearest specification limit, you will make practically no items that exceed the specifications. This is the basis for the process capability study, often used by quality professionals, and the term "Six Sigma" has its roots in this tool.

Why do we say that exploitation of fellow human beings is not sanctioned in the scripture? In order to answer this we will answer the next question which is   

 

  1. What is Varna ?   What is the Varna Ashrama System ?  What is the Guna Varna Vyavastha ?

 

Comprises of 2 basic concepts of Varna  and Ashrama.The Varna system, namely Guna Varna Vyavastha, that produced the Varnashrama Dharma was conscious of the fact that this was the world's early attempt at a meritocracy. That the sytem was eminently successful in its own way , I have no doubt because the resulting  civilization flourished for well over 5 millennia, until its very foundations were attacked by barbarians from both within and without by barbarians, whose notion of entertainment was to build a pyramid of skulls, in order to terrorize the local population to capitulate. The current system in place after the colonial power was done reinventing and reshaping it to its own specifications, and which goes by the name Caste, is so utterly different in all significant ways, that we can safely say it has little to do with the Hindu faith or Hindu traditions such as the Guna Varna Vyavastha. The vedic division of people into 4 Varnas (Brahmana, Rajanya, Vaisya and Shudra) is by Guna and Guna only and is known as the Guna Varna Vyavastha. The Asrama system refers to the four stages of one's life, namely Brahmacharya (life of an unmarried student), Grahasthya (life of a householder), Vanaprasthaya (life of a retired householder), sannyasa (life of a monk)

  1. What are the Gunas

There are 3 Gunas as we have explained elsewhere (see Glossary), Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas and these three Gunas occur in each and every individual in varying degrees. The relative proportion of each in the total determines the essential nature of the individual. It follows that at any given time  a individual, may exhibit different modes pf behavior as his personality matures and develops. The son of a Brahmana may choose not to follow the priestly vocation and may elect to go into law. As a general rule of thumb one elects to be in a profession which utilizes his Gunas fully. For example Brahmanas tend to cluster around intellectual pursuits (teaching, legal, corporate management, administration etc. In the past the choice of professions available to Brahmanas were limited to priestly duties and the services he could render as a Minister to the Maharaja including mundane tasks such as accounting and cooking. In recent years substantial numbers of Brahmanas faced with increasing discrimination  from their own government have elected to go into Business, so that his varna is that of a Vaisya, unless he maintains his competency and knowledge of the Vedic scripture and adheres to the injunctions of a Brahmana

  1.  Since there are three guNAs, why are there four varnAs?

The  Guna varNA Vyavastha came about from the GuNAs. If all individuals had only one guNa in them, then it would be logical to conclude that there can be only 3 varNas. But this is not so. The mapping between GuNAs  and Varna is not  one to one .These 3 guNas are found in 'varying degrees' in all individuals, be they Indian, American or British. So the ancient seers made a broader classification of the individuals based on the guNas present in them. See the exposition by Sri Krishna in Chapter 18,verses 18-40, on the Gunas that the various Varnas should exhibit in order to qualify as a member of  a particular Varna. Note that it is not the case that the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas are not subsets of the other two. Each Varna possesses a mix if Gunas which while not being mutually exclusive, and while having a degree of overlap, have distinctive characteristics as is to be expected if it was a division of labor which we emphatically believe to be the case

The guNas present in individuals fall under the various varNas in the order of predominance as follows:

BrAhmaNa: sattva-->rajas
kShatriya - rajas-->sattva-->tamas
vaishya - rajas-->tamas-->sattva
shUdra - tamas

  1. Can you give references to the occurrences off the Guna Varna Vyavastha in the Sruti

Let us look at a few examples to see what the scriptures say.

The  following verse in the Rg. Mandala X, hymn 90-11, is usually quoted, to bolster the assertion that  the caste system is sanctioned by the Vedas . This is what the verse actually says

?????????.???? ???????? ???? ??????? ????? |


??? ????? ?? ?????? ???????? ?????? ????? ||  X,90-11


brahmano.asya mukhamasid bahu rajanyaha kartaha |
urutadasya yad vaisyaha padbhyaha sudro ajayata ||

This verse is usually translated into English as follows

The Brahmana was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made.
His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced.

But, what is this meant to convey. It is actually an answer to the previous verse which asks the following question

?? ?????? ?????? ????? ???????? |


???? ?????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ???? ??????? || X,90-10

When they divided Purusa how many portions did they make?
What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet?

 

These verses are from the famous Purusa Suktam , the hymn in praise of the cosmic Purusa or the cosmic self and it is an analogy  between the limbs of  the cosmic self and the occupations in each of the varnas based on their mix of GuNAs. It is by no means an endorsement of a hereditary caste system based on race ,as the question of race rarely enters into the discourse anywhere in the Gita. The use  of analogy is termed UpamAna in Sanskrit epistemology. It is one of the six instruments of the mind used to gather pAra Vidya. Clearly the analogy has failed in its purpose which was to educate the public on the role of guNAs in the 'division of labor' paradigm as embodied in the Varna Ashrama system, and it is probably time to discard such an analogy which do not fit with the politically correct temper of the times. But merely because it is politically incorrect is hardly reason enough to misinterpret it as a system based on Race as the British did with the obvious motive  of driving a divisive wedge in the society and make their own job of ruling autocratically all the more easier. Equally obvious is the fact that they would not have succeeded if there was no exploitation of weaker sections of society by fellow human beings.

There are several points to note about the verse

1. The tenth Mandala of the Rg. was probably the last one written, even though it is generally accepted that the Mandalas are not in chronological order. Despite that the antiquity of the Rg. according to astronomical dating  is circa  5000 BCE. Vedantic ideas had not evolved as yet, as exemplified in the Brahma sutras. The concept of Purusha (as opposed to Prakriti the material universe) was the first glimpse of an ontological principle at work.

2. This is probably the first evidence of an organized division of Labor based on aptitudes. In other words it was a meritocracy. It was not intended to be  a hereditary system. The system unfortunately degraded into a hereditary system.

Sudra.This( in the purusha sukta)  is  probably the first occurrence o f the word Shudra in the Sruti

Shudra or Sudra is the fourth varna in the traditional four section division of labor in Indian society. Their assigned and expected role in Vedic India was that of artisans and laborers. The four varnas are Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Shudra. Whilst the origins of the other varnas can be traced to Indo-Iranian or even Proto Indo-European words, the root of the word Sudra is not clear at all. A threefold division of societies can be found in ancient Iran that matches the Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaisya varnas. Although linguistically related Nuristani people in neighboring Afghanistan have a class equivalent to the Shudras amongst them. It has been proposed ,mistakenly it turns out that the Shudras were same as Dasas and Dahyus, who are portrayed as enemies of the Aryans in the Vedas, and who it is said were enslaved by the Aryans. But the latter groups are also encountered in the Avestan texts and no subjugation is mentioned, though enmity is. The ancient texts of India betray no such subjugation by conquest resulting in servile group of people, but merely assume that the Shudras are part of society, even if not the most exalted. There is no etymology of the word Sudra as well, it just emerges suddenly in the purusha-sukta of Rig veda. The numerical strength of this varna is also not clear from the Vedic corpus as tasks attributed to Shudras later are done by Vaisyas in the era represented by these texts.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna takes responsibilitgy for the creation of the 4 Varnas according to  a  person's  relative mix of Gunas

catuvR{y   mya   s&<   gu[kmRiv-agz>   ,
tSy   ktaRrmip   ma<   iv(ktaRrmVyym!   ,,  IV, 13   ,,

 

Chaturvarnyam maya srshtam

Guna karma vibhagha saha  I

Tasya kartAramapimAm,

VdyakartAram avyayam  II
 
catuvR{yRm!   -   carae<   v[R   -   the   fourfold   caste
mya   -   mere   ara   -   by   me
s&m!   -   rce   gye   hE<   -   has   been   created
gu[kmRiv-agz>-   gu[   AaEr   kmaˆR<   ke   Anusar-   according   to   their   qualities   and   skills
tSy   -   %nke   -   thereof
ktaRrm!   -   ktaR   kae   -   the   author
Aip   -   -I   -   also
mam!   -   muH   -   me
ivi   -   jan   -   know
AktaRrm!   -   AktaR   -   passive
AVyym!   -   AivnazI     -   immutable

 
 gu[   AaEr   kmR   ke   iv-ag   se   carae<   v[R   (   a[,   ]iy, vEZy,   zU   )
mere   ara   rce   gye   hE<   ,   %nka   ktaR   haene   pr   -I   muH   AivnazI   prmer
kae   tum   AktaR   hI   jan   ,

The   four   orders   of   society   (viz.,   the Brahman,   the   Kshatriya,   the   Vaisya   and   the the   Sudra)   were   created   by   Me,   classifying them   according   to   the   qualities   and   skills, predominant   in   each   and   apportioning corresponding   duties   to   them;   though   I   am   the
author   of   this   creation,   know   Me,   the   immortal Lord,   to   be   passive   and   immutable.                                   (13)
 

 

 

 

 

 

The following is a verse from the Rg. also, exemplifying the fact that different members of the same family pursued different professions and that there was no one to one mapping between Varna and professions

??????? ??? ???????????????? ??? |


??????????????.??? ?? ?? ??????????????????? ??? ??? || Rg.IX,112,3

karuraham tato bhishaghu palaprakshiNi nana |
nanadhiyovasuyavo.anu gha iva tasthimendrayendo pari srava

I  am a poet, my father is a physician, my mother grinds corn on stone. Being engaged in different occupations, we seek wealth and happiness, as cows seek food in different pastures. May Thy bounties flow for our happiness, 0 God.”
We need not multiply quotations, as even European scholars now reluctantly admit that  hereditary Castes did not exist in the Vedic era



 

 

 

 Why is the Varna Ashrama System called a Caste System and is there a rational for calling it such

 Is the Guna Varna System a valid paradigm for the 21stcentury,and if so should we defend and retain it

What should be done about the Caste system   , the terminology and the practice
 

 

 

 

If there were not a multiplicity  of Varnas in the ancient times,how did we end up having so many castes in the last 100 years

 


"The word caste is not a word that is indigenous to India. It originates in the Portuguese word casta which means race,breed, race or lineage. However, during the 19th century, the term caste increasingly took on the connotations of the word race[12]. Thus, from the very beginning of western contact with the subcontinent European constructions have been imposed on Indian systems and institutions. To fully appreciate the caste system one must step away from the definitions imposed by Europeans and look at the system as a whole, including the religious beliefs that are an integral part of it. To the British, viewing the caste system from the outside and on a very superficial level, it appeared to be a static system of social ordering that allowed the ruling class or Brahmanas, to maintain their power over the other classes. What the British failed to realize was that Hindus existed in a different cosmological frame than did the British. .."



"Today, people think that the rigid caste system operated in India is the result of ancient requirements of religion. But just how much of this rigidity was due to their religion? Or how much was it due to a conscious direction by the British to create artificial divisions in order to make it easier to divide and rule the sub-continent and its people?"



"
Moreover, as will be seen later in this paper, it appears that the caste system extant in the late 19th and early 20th century has been altered as a result of British actions so that it increasingly took on the characteristics that were ascribed to by the British." The 1901 census of India contains a wealth of detail that reflects some of the preoccupations of its age. It contains exhaustive treatments of issues related to population change and religion and civil condition and the other matters normally recorded in the census reports. A major introduction in this census report, not seen in the previous census reports, was the study of the "anthropometric" readings of racial characteristics which is introduced into its discussion of "Caste, Tribe, and Race" in chapter eleven of the work. There is also a very extensive discussion of the origins of caste in the census report which has provoked much controversy. Sir Herbert Risley also wrote a major work on Indian Castes called The People of India which he published in 1908.

 

 

 

*      No indigenous equivalent to the word Caste in India. The English word Caste was derived from Portuguese word Casta which meant race, breed or lineage. Quite distinct from Varna

*      The Brits institutionalized the word Caste, using the decennial Census of India as a tool for ethnographic mapping and conjured up 100’s of new castes

*      the Census acted as a catalyst for an increased consciousness of caste as caste status became an increasingly significant factor in attaining material status.

*      See for instance Nicholas Dirks ‘Castes of Mind’

 

Caste and the Colonialist Enterprise

 

Caste (as we experience it today in India) is neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a single system that reflects a core cultural value. Rather than a  basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon – the product of a concrete historical encounter between India and British colonial rule

 

Nicholas Dirks Castes of Mind, Colonialism and the Making of Modern India

 

 

 

[13]

 

H. H. Risley, Commissioner of the 1901 census, also bared his underlying British prejudices in an 1886 publication which stated that race sentiment, far from being:

 
a figment of the intolerant pride of the Brahman, rests upon a foundation of fact which scientific methods confirm, that it has shaped the intricate grouping of the caste system, and has preserved the Aryan type in comparative purity throughout Northern India
[14]

In short, the Caste system was reshaped to   fit the pre-conceptions of the Brits and to serve their purposes of exaggerating the diversity of India

 

 

 Some random jottings on Caste

K.S.Lal 'the Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in medieval India', Aditya prakashan, 1995.

From the preface to K.S. Lal's book
"There is sufficient evidence to show that on the eve of the islamic  invasions, the Hindu social system did not suffer from the defects 'which it developed at a later stage. In the meantime , the upper 'castes (the words upper and lower had no meaning then, it is we who 'refer to them as such italics are mine) came to the rescue of the lower castes in 'distress and the lower castes fought under the banner of the upper 'caste Kshatriyas in the defense of freedom. So well coalesced was the 'social structure that it not only saved India from the fate of 'countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt when they confronted the 'Islamic onslaught, but did not rest content until it had supplanted 'the Muslim political power in the land even though it took a 'thousand years to do so. Hindus had suffered only a military defeat 'against Muslim invaders. It was not a collapse of the Hindu social 'system'."

One example of a 'lower' caste who revolted is described in the Military forum

'The revolt of the Barwaris of Gujarat (1320 CE)'

The book describes the process by which de-urbanization took place as urban dwellers fled into the jungles and as a consequence , there arose a multiplicity of 'jatis' as these groups of people tried to survive of the jungle in small self contained 'tribes' .

 

Before the advent of the Islamic invaders the levies and taxes on land produce was in the range of one sixth to one quarter.
The Islamic invaders  increased it to 80%! Yes 80%. The zamindars during the Islamic rule were noticed to be exploiting the poor more so than previously recorded.

Hence it was economically more sensible to live off in the jungle than to pay backbreaking taxes to the invaders.
The Indian landscape and jungles are such that large number of people can live and have nomadic survival. Marwaris are a community perfected this nomadic life to escape from the taxes of the urban Islamic rule.

I always like to compare what was happening in India under Islamic rule with what was happening in Europe under Ottoman Empire. Only Europeans could not escape to the country side form the oppression.

 

quote:

I shall now quote a few facts from some of the documents in forthcoming book. (BAT YE'OR *MYTHS AND POLITICS
THE TOLERANT PLURALISTIC ISLAMIC SOCIETY: ORIGIN OF A MYTH)

A systematic enquiry into the condition of the Christians was conducted in the 1860s by British consuls throughout the Ottoman
Empire. Britain was then Turkey's strongest ally; it was in its interest to see that oppression of the Christians was eliminated, in
order to prevent Russian or Austrian interference. On July 22, 1860, Consul James Zohrab sent a lengthy report from
Bosna-Serai (Sarajevo) to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Bulwer, in which he analyzed the administration of the provinces of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. He stated that from 1463 to 1850 the Bosniac Muslims enjoyed all the privileges of feudalism: "During a period of
nearly 300 years Christians were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them no other law but the caprice of their masters
existed."

Here we should remember the devshirme system, which is well known. Initiated by the Ottoman Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359), it existed for
about 300 years. It consisted of a regular levy of Christian children from the Christian population of the Balkans. These youngsters, aged
from fourteen to twenty, were Islamized and enslaved for military purposes. The periodic levies, which took place in contingents of a
thousand, subsequently became annual. To discourage runaways, children were transferred to remote provinces and entrusted to Muslim
masters, soldiers who treated them harshly, as slaves. Another parallel recruitment system operated: It provided for the levy of
Christian children aged six to ten (ichoghlani), reserved for the sultan's palace. Entrusted to eunuchs, they underwent a tyrannical
training for fourteen years. In Africa, a system of enslaving Black Christian and Animist children, similar to the devshirme existed, as
is shown from documents to be published in my book.

When reading the literature of the time, we see that the obstruction to Serbian, Greek and other Christians movements of liberation was
rooted in two main arguments:

1) Christian dhimmis (rayas) are congenitally unfitted for independance and self-government. They should therefore remain under
Islamic rule.

2) The Ottoman rule is a perfect model for a multi-religious and multi-ethnical society.

Indeed, these are theological, Islamic arguments that justify the jihad, since all non-Muslim peoples should not retain political
independance because their laws are evil and must eventually be replaced by Islamic rule.

 


 

The late M.N. Srinivas was one of India's foremost Sociologists. Here are a microcosm of his thoughts on the subject of caste, especially the freezing of the mobility between caste groups during the British era, when Britain discovered it had one more tool to tell us how different we all were.

Title: Divide and Rule
Author: M N Srinivas
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 7, 1998

The enumeration of castes and tribes in the decennial census is not a mere numerical exercise for it affects the nature and
functioning of the enumerated groups.

British administrators learnt this truth the hard way after conducting the first three or four censuses. They also learnt to
use the census, along with other measures, to keep Indians divided. For instance, the Scheduled Castes were listed
separately from the other Hindu castes, while the existence of caste distinctions among Muslims and Christians did not find mention. the fact that they are not separately enumerated does not stop them from asking for reservation status As the nationalist movement gained strength, its leaders opposed the census enumeration of castes on the ground that it
was divisive.

First Census

In the first census conducted in independent India, Sardar Patel took a policy decision to drop the enumeration of castes except
for the SCs and STs as data regarding their numbers was essential for ensuring their representation in legislatures and Parliament.

But caste had also been omitted in the wartime census of 1941 for reasons of economy, and because the British census commissioner was confronted with innumerable petitions requesting changes in caste name and rank.

As far back as 1867-1871, when the first census operations were conducted in India, two peasant castes of Madras Presidency wanted to be classified as high castes, one as Kshatriya and the other as Vaishya. The tendency to claim Kshatriya or Vaishya status by low status groups increased significantly in 1881 and 1891 censuses. Sir Herbert Risley, author of the well known book, The People of India and commissioner of the 1901 census, took a
decision to determine, through the census operations, the precise rank of each jati in the local hierarchy, and its correct varna affiliation. His idea was the result of a colossal misunderstanding of the nature of caste, of confusing varna with
jati, and ignorance of the dynamism inherent in the jati system.Jati ranking, unlike varna, is a fuzzy affair, especially in the
middle ranges where disputation regarding mutual rank is the rule and not the exception. Such ambiguity is the essence of the system, for it favours mobility. And historically speaking, the ranks of Kshatriyas Vaishyas, and more rarely, even Brahmins, have been occupied by upwardly mobile low status groups. It was British rule and the imposition of Pax Britannica that froze that kind of ability.

One gets an idea of the widespread discontent which Risley's efforts caused in the following extract from the report of LSS
O'Malley, census commissioner of Bengal and Orissa in 1911:... hundreds of petitions were received from different castes
requesting that they ought to be known by a new name, be placed higher up in the order of precedence, be registered as Kshatriya  and Vaishya, etc. Many castes were aggrieved at the positions assigned to them, and complained that it lowered them in public estimation." Risley's efforts also encouraged, over a period of time, the formation of caste sabhas which, in turn, became extremely active in petitioning census authorities for assigning their castes a higher status, than that conceived by local
opinion. Caste sabhas also became agencies for reform, of caste custom and ritual which occasionally led to clashes with higher
and dominant castes. The point which I wish to stress is that Risley's efforts to determine the rank of each jati had exactly
the opposite effect, and led to considerable unrest among the people.

Strident Demands

Since the reservation of seats in educational institutions and jobs in the government started in the 1920s in parts of South
India, cognate sub-castes found it advantageous to form alliances if not mergers, in order to increase their political clout, and
secure a greater share of such scarce resources as education and employment. The size and scope of "reservation" has risen
substantially since 1901. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, constituting 18 and five per cent respectively of the
population, are entitled to not only reservation in education and employment, but reservation in all legislatures, state assemblies and Parliament. Reservation for the backward classes is restricted to education and employment, though it is as high as 70 per cent in Karnataka and 69 per cent in Tamil Nadu.

Since August 1990, the OBCs are entitled to reservation of 27 per cent jobs in the central and state governments, following the implementation of the Mandal Commission's recommendations. The Commission listed 3,743 jatis as backward among Hindus, and referred to the existence of backward castes among Muslims. And
as everyone knows, in recent years, Dalits Christians have been demanding that they be treated on par with SCs among Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Once the census commission starts its activities in earnest, all demands for classification as OBC, SC and ST are going to become strident.

Other Complication

Groups which are today an integral part of a single backward caste may claim to be distinct in the hope that its claims might get better attention. For there is a widespread feeling among backward classes that the more influential and powerful sections and families are siphoning off the benefits at the cost of the poorer and weaker groups. Not many people are aware that there exists a division of castes into right-hand and left-hand - a
division that runs through the hierarchy - in large parts of South India and many groups belonging to the left-hand division
think that they are not getting their share of the benefits. reminds me of a star trek serial where there were 2 sets of inhabitants in a planet, one white on the left side and black on the right side and the other vice versa. Naturally,ohne zweifel, each thought they were superior to the other .A fresh census enumeration might result in their demanding a
separate listing which will have political repercussions.

Another complication is that there are many groups all over the country which think that they have been unjustly denied OBC, SC or ST status. They will seize the census as an opportunity for redressal and will exert tremendous pressure on political parties to push their demands through. Counting heads in each caste will also pose problems to the hapless enumerators. There are likely to be complaints that the census figures have underestimated the numerical strength of the caste or other groups, a situation which may lead to litigation. Last but not the least are the middle classes. Not only have their numbers increased
significantly during the last two decades, but they are also far more vocal and demanding. They will have visceral objections to
the enumeration of castes in the census.

Even more important, educated youth all over the country, hailing largely from the middle classes, will stage protests, burn
effigies and even immolate themselves. What happened in the months following August 1990, might seem utterly insignificant
compared to the scale of the disturbances which are likely to aterialise.

 

So, in India, affirmative action is only for Hindus. Is that an accurate statement or am I totally off the mark here?

Not true. There are Muslim castes in the affirmative action net.

But it must be understood that affirmative action in India is based primarily on caste and not on race or ethnicity as in the US ( and it must be remembered there is no quota system in the US. In India there is a legally mandated quota system). In effect the affirmative action system in India is one of the most aggressive in the known galaxy, bar none.

We would have thought, by converting to christianity , those who have converted have eschewed their caste affiliation.Well not so fast. In reality, they turn right around and say 'but sorry I still belong to the same caste as I did when I was a Hindu'. That basically contradicts the tenets of their new religion which says there is no such thing as caste. But that is what they do. So in reality the notion that caste does not exist in Islam and christianity is a myth. I knew a gentleman who was a Christian convert from a brahmin caste, and he spent a considerable amount of time looking for a Christian Brahmin spouse. I think he is still looking.

Caste is very much alive and well in Pakistan. There is a gradation there between Syeds, Moghals, Ashrafs, Ajlafs and just plain nobodies, the lumpen proletariat who carry the 'Islamic Bomb' on their shoulders crying death to the Hindu Kaffir.

Caste was very much alive among the British in India too. The job of Governor general was reserved for the most part for the nobility (members of the house of Lords)and many an aspiring officer of the EIC had to settle for less since he was not born into the peerage.

In reality the whole thing is a 'grab as grab can' using whatever excuse you can come up with. The Anglo Indians wangled 2 seats in parliament for the privilege of being descendants of eurasian unions (every EIC officer had a mistress or several mistresses ,must emulate the Nawabs dont you know) in addition to his regular family in britain in the early decades of the 19th century before the Crown took over india), notwithstanding the fact that they had a privileged place in British India. They used to occupy all railway jobs in great disproportion to their numbers in the population. Of course many have now immigrated to Australia, where they get no such preferential treatment and are treated with a wink and a nod as Indians, however hard they try to pass of as Brits.

Kaushal

 

It (exploitation by caste) doesn't exist in the non-Indian context.

This is of course a non-sequitor, and a thoughtless assertion, for which you have provided no data or discussion. Throughout the Islamic Arab world the distinction between Arab Muslims and non-Arab converts was marked and persistent even to the present day. Slavery was rampant.Much of the trade in African slaves was initiated by the Arabs. A substantial number of Central Asian turks were enslaved in the initial years after Islamization. Russian slaves were very common in Khiva and Bokhara. Of course Indian slaves were ubiquitous in the slave markets of Bokhara, Samarkhand, isfahan and Damascus.

Many slaves were castrated (eunuchized) so they could not have offspring. Such was the case for Mameluke sultans in Delhi and also in the case of Malik Kafur(the eunuch lover of Alla-ud-din) and Nasiruddin Khusrau , the eunuch lover of the son of Alla-ud din. The institution of the Janisserie and devishirme by the Osman (Othman or Ottoman) turkish sultans, a particularly vicious form of child abuse and brainwashing, has been described in another thread in the 'strategic' forum

In eastern europe serfdom was rampant and they were no more than bonded labor. Serfs were kept in servitude for generations.

In Dickensian England the exploitation of the people, especially of children is there for all to see .

In the French revolution,people were dying of hunger in the streets of Paris while Queen Marie Antoinette told them to have cake if they did not have bread. the bedraggled nature of the populace was very obvious and created the horrific and daily executions by the Guillotine in revenge during the tumultous years after the revolution. During the heydey , the Bastille , a huge and vast prison was filled to overflowing with prisoners most of whom were wretched folk from the lower classes.

The peasants in China were no better and lived in a persistent state of poverty.

The extermination of the North American Indian was a conscious and deliberate policy after having deprived them of their land .The result is that for all practical purposes, the native north american culture is extinct. The mistreatment of native americans and mestizos by the 'upper caste ' descendants of the Spaniards is continuing story in much of Latin America.

The exploitation of man by man using whatever excuse he can find is not peculiar to the indian continent. To blame it on the caste system is to forget that exploitation as long as it is not checked by the state will persist in every country and has.

It is nobody's claim that there were no abuses in the caste system. I have no problem with affirmative action programs as long as they are based on genuine economic need and are not based on the accident of birth. But this is not a thread about affirmative action . As I understand it, it is a thread on the proliferation and growth in numbers of jatis in India during the medieval era.

Kaushal

 

A question was raised earlier in this thread on the source for the claim that there was 80% taxation during the Islamic rule. BTW , i did not make the claim

The following brief remarks are intended to give some information on this topic. Needless to say one must study the texts (for example those cited below) to get a detailed picture.

Let us analyze the taxation system of the Delhi sultanate , initiated by Alla ud din. It must be remembered that a similar taxation system was continued right through the Moghal era and the structure of which was adopted in large part by the British, especially the land tax .

There were 4 major taxes in the Muslim state, divided broadly into secular and religious taxes. The principal religious tax was Zakat, which was collected from Muslims only. We will come back to this later. The secular taxes were Khams, Jaziyah, and Kharaj.

We will take Kharaj first. Kharaj was a land tax and comprised the major source of the revernue of the state. Alla raised the Kharaj to 50% of the value of the produce. To compare it to pre-Islamic times, the early Hindu period, the King charged 1/6 of the produce as land tax. Kautilya advocates even 1/4 if there were irrigation facilities.

Many other taxes were levied during the Islamic period, such as house tax, and grazing tax.

In the pre Islamic period the land tax was in fact a wage for the services of the King who in turn protected the subjects . That was not the case after the Muslim invasions. The Jaziyah was imposed as an extra tax to impose protection and safety and the Jaziyah was only for non-Muslims. There was also a tax on cattle which were entirely arbitrary.

The concept of Jaziyah was as follows. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Muslim state was a theocracy, in which non-Muslims were given the status of Dhimmis or Zimmis. They are not citizens of the Muslim state but were suffered to live under certain disabilities. One of the chief disabilities was that each adult , male free Zimmi must pay Jaziyah. Jaziyah was not just a tax. It was an instrument of humiliation of the non-Muslim. It kept the Non-Muslim reminded that he was an inferior citizen of the Muslim state. If he felt the burden too great he could convert to Islam. Jaziyah was therefore an instrument of conversion also and originated as an offshoot of Jihad. Mohammad bin Qasim collected Jaziyah in 3 grades – 48 dirhams, 24 dirhams, and 12 dirhams of silver. Jaziyah was abolished by Akbar in 1564 but was reintroduced by Aurangazeb in 1679. So Jaziyah was imposed for almost the entire duration of 600 years of Muslim rule except for a period of 115 years.

Khams was booty obtained in war with Kafirs. One fifth of the booty went to the Sultan and in many instances to the Khalif in Baghdad and the remaining to the warriors. This included silver, jewelry, property, women. Needless to say Khams was a 100% tax each time a new territory was added to the Sultanate and resulted in death or slavery for the captured.

Zakat was the only tax that was imposed on Muslims specifically. But compared to all of the above it was relatively mild and amounted typically only to 2 %.

The above gives a broad picture of the taxation of the Muslim state. In order to understand the grinding nature of the taxes imposed on the Hindu peasantry, one must study the subject in great detail and juxtapose it with the opulence of the Delhi court, even prior to the Moghals.

So in answer to the question ‘what was the total tax paid by a Hindu during Muslim rule’, it is difficult to give one percentage, since the denominator is not a specific variable. But the goal of the taxation was clear, namely to keep the peasantry in perpetual poverty while at the same time to keep him as a producer of the goose that lays the golden eggs. The sultan had directed that ‘ only so much should be left to his subjects (raiyyat) as would maintain them from year to year … without admitting of their storing up or having articles in excess’. It is from this point on that the Indian peasant was made to maintain himself and his family from one harvest to the next. Many gave up. During the time of Mohammad Bin Tughlak the people left their fields and fled, this enraged the sultan and he hunted them down like wild beasts. (see Barani). For a complete treatment, there is a book by Ishwari prasad ‘ History of the Quraunah Turks in india’. These runaway peasants formed small communities of 'jatis' in the forests where they were less likely to be found.

Sources;

1.Theory and practice of the Muslim state in India by KS Lal, Aditya Prakashan,1999.

2.Barani, Ziyauddin, has several chronicles, one of the most quoted is Tarikh-I-Firoz Shahi, Bib. Ind. Calcutta,1864

3. Elliot , H.M., and J. Dowson, “History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 vols, Aligarh reprint,1952.

4. There are translations of Farishtah's work which deals with this topic also.

Kaushal

 Subhash observes in his essay on caste

Texts proclaim that one's nature alone, and not birth, determines to which varna one belongs. In the famous dialogue between Yudhisthira and Yaks.a in the Mahabharata, Yudhisthira is asked whether a person is a brahmin based on \birth, learning, or conduct" and his answer is that only \conduct" makes a person a brahmanas and not birth. It is no wonder then that brahmanas is not a racial category emerging from a mythic fair race; some of the darkest Indians are Brahmanas. In the ancient Aryan society the varnas  were functional groupings and not closed endogamous birth-descent groups. It has been suggested that the jati system in its modern form developed very late perhaps not before 1000 A.D. The Chinese scholar Hsuan Tsang in the seventh century was not aware of it. As a response to historical events one might then credit the emergence of the modern jati system to the next fundamental change in the Indian polity that occurred with the invasions of the Turks.There is no synonym for caste in any Indian language. The Indian words that caste supposedly translates are jatis, which means a large kin-community or descent-group, and varna, which implies a classification based on function.The dynamics between the jatis has been influenced a great deal by historical and political factors. During the periods of economic growth, the jatis have been relatively open-ended; during periods of hardships the jatis have tended to draw in for the sake of survival. The word `caste' comes from the Portugese casta, a word that was meant to describe the jati system, but slowly it has come to have a much broader connotation. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India about 2,300 years ago, noted the existence of seven classes, namely that of philosophers, peasants, herdsmen,craftsmen and traders, soldiers, government officials and councillors. These classes were apparently jatis. Van Buitenen has argued that these classes were

 

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