Caste System in India - History & Annihilation

Oct 2015
1,106
India
Today, Professor Keonraad Elst was the chief guest in Valedictory session of a National Conference on Mahabharata, organised by CPR Institute, Chennai. [1]

He spoke about caste system in India among several other things. His views, as I understood, are:

1. Caste System has a history, it is not an integral part of Hindu religion.

2. Caste system is not mentioned in the "family books" of Rig Ved Samhita.

3. It is mentioned in one hymn in Book-X in the Purusha Sukta. If we read it carefully, the hymn does not refer to caste system as was practiced in later Indian society. The hymn refers four types of function that are performed in a society. It was corporatization of the functions in a human society. Some scholars even regard it to ve a later interpolation in Rig Ved Samhita. [2]

4. Caste system was not rigid during Mahabharata time.

[At philosophical level, Mahabharata rejects Varna / Caste system. However, in the incidents narrated in Mahabharata, some practice of Varna / Caste system is observed. - RBB]

5. It became rigid around 1800 years ago (which is supported by studies in genetics as well).

6. Missionaries say that Hinduism is caste system, caste system is Hinduism, therefore you have to do away with Hinduism to do away with Caste system.

7. As can be seen above, caste system is not integral to Hinduism, it has a history. In the history its practice increased gradually, and in future it can go away as well.

References:

[1] It was a three-day National Conference on 'Mahabharata in Indian Art and Culture. 14-16 Mar 2019. Sixty papers were presented, including one by me. Got over today (16th March 2019)

[2] Purusha Sukta - Wikipedia
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,724
USA
Rajeev sir, I respect you and admire your posts but you can't seriously be taking this man seriously? Koenraad Elst is a joke of a "historian" and has been noted for letting his political leanings influence his work.
True! This Keonraad Elst is a joke and a fake. Hindu extremists worship him because he is a European white man who has abandoned his academic faculties and adopted their fantasy history of Hinduism.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,574
New Delhi, India
I do not think 'caste' is mentioned in Mahabharata. The 'varnas', sure are mentioned or the tribes, Aryan or indigenous, Kuru or Nishada, etc. Why so? Because the story mainly concerned with the elite, the brahmins and the kshatriyas. Your views are welcome.
 
Oct 2015
1,106
India
Rajeev sir, I respect you and admire your posts but you can't seriously be taking this man seriously? Koenraad Elst is a joke of a "historian" and has been noted for letting his political leanings influence his work.
Dear @Dewal and @kandal;

If you have a different or better take on caste system, then please do spell out your views and/or evidence to demolish his statement.

Simply stereotyping or labeling someone as 'marxist' or 'hindutva' or 'leftist' or 'left-liberal' or 'liptard'; and then summarily dismissing his statement may not advance our view point.

I heard about the way of arguing adopted in Sanskrit literature. It says first state the "prati-paksha," that is view of your opponent. Then present your "paksha" that is your own case. In other words, we need to understand our opponents views as well as he does.

@kandal: Being European white man certainly gets him extra attention in India but this happens not only in religious / historical studies but in many others as well - like science & technology; management education, business administration. It happens in Middle Eastern countries as well where where rich Sheikhs prefer European consultants over Asian.

Regards

Rajeev
 
Oct 2015
1,106
India
I do not think 'caste' is mentioned in Mahabharata. The 'varnas', sure are mentioned or the tribes, Aryan or indigenous, Kuru or Nishada, etc. Why so? Because the story mainly concerned with the elite, the brahmins and the kshatriyas. Your views are welcome.
Dear Aupmanyav,

Sorry, I am posting something which you may not like. And it may give ammunition to some other friends here. But then...

1. It is true that the word "Jati" (=Caste) is not mentioned in Mahabharata. Only "Varna" (Fourfold classification) is mentioned but it too occurs only 2 times.

2. All the same, "Varna" system (Fourfold classification) undoubtedly existed during Mahabharat times and society revolved mostly around Brahmins and Kshatriyas who constituted the ruling elite. Every society revolves around elite-class(es).

Look at the mentions in Mahabharat of related words: Brahmin (5840 times), Kshatriya (1482 times), Vaishya (285 times), Shudra (12 times).

3. "Jati" system had not yet evolved or yet frozen. Because, jatis are not mentioned in any significant way.

4. At the philosophical level, the authors of Mahabharat rejected hereditary "Varna" system. There are two major incidents where there is clear rejection of hereditary "varna" system. These are the

Dialogue between Yudhisthir and the Great Snake
Dialogue between Yudhisthir and Yaksha

In both the dialogues, Yudhisthir, who is 'Dharmaraj' says "varna" is based on skills or karma; not on birth in a particular family.

5. Even though philosophically rejected, discrimination based on Varna was in practice in society to some degree; especially by Brahmins and Kshatriyas. This can be concluded from stories narrated:

For example Draupadi prevents Karna from participating in her 'Swayambar' as he was not a kshatriya. Dronacharya refuses to teach archery to Eklavya. Bhishma disallows Karna from fighting in the army led by Bhishma as latter was not a Kshatriya.

There is one very long story in which someone does lots of penance ('tapas') to become a Brahmin but God Indra is called into the story and made to say that Brahmin status can be achieved by birth alone, not by karma.

6. I have great regards for Brahmins because they have preserved Hindu literature thru oral tradition for over 3500 years which is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. Most of them also lived a morally upright life.

7. Going forward, I believe, hereditary "Varna" system does not contribute anything to society.

Regards

Rajeev
 
Likes: Aupmanyav
Oct 2015
1,106
India
Frequency analysis of some words in Mahabharata (mentioned in previous post).

....

Brahma (the God): 1137 times
Brahma's : 18 times

1155 times: Total
....

Jati: nil
Varna: 2 times
....

Brahamana : 7 times
Brahamanas : 12 times
Brahman : 699 times
Brahmana : 2398 times
Brahmanas : 2649
Brahmana's : 75 times

5840 times Total:

....

Kshatriya (the Varna): 768 times
Kshatriya (the Varna): 695 times
Kshatriya's (the Varna): 19 times

1482 times Total

....

Vaisya (the Varna): 144 times
Vaishya (the Varna): 10 times
Vaishyas (the Varna): 119 times
Vaishyas (the Varna): 7 times
Vaisayas (the Varna): 1 time
Vaisya's (the Varna): 4 times

285 times Total

....

Shudra: 4 times
Shudras: 8 times

12 times Total

....

You can also do similar analysis at ancientvoice.wikidot.com
 
Likes: Aupmanyav

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,574
New Delhi, India
Actually I like what you have written and it only supports my view. And the information that you give has come only after some searching. Many people would not do anything like that but just make a post.
You get two likes for your efforts. :)
As I said, common people were not involved in war. It were the rulers, warrior and their brahmin gurus and advisers. Maharshi VedaVyasa did not mention 'jati' because it was not relevant to the story.
Most people, of all 'varnas' and all 'jatis' lived a morally correct life, they valued traditions. Corruption has come only lately (mostly during the British rule). The company and itss officers came here only to loot.
I agree with you. The world has changed, yuga-dharma has changed. 'Varna' (unless taken in the philosophical terms) or 'jati' are not suitable for this age.
 
Likes: Rajeev
May 2013
1,721
The abode of the lord of the north
The other examples is economic stratification which we even have right now in UK. The rich live at another level compared to the poor in some council estate in inner city. However there is no legal or religious sanction 'locking' in people into those economic strata. You can rise or drop.

However the caste in India is entirely differant. It is indeed locking you or your "blood" into a strata from which you can't escape. Hindu religious law in the form of Manu Smriti codifies and effectively legislates your entrapment. The is below sums it up nicely I thought.

"The Hindu social order was based on the Four Verna system i.e. Chaturvarna Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. These varnas are designed as the different floors of the building without a stair case. This is the ladder of inequality. There is no parallel in world of such a discriminatory and cruel system of human subjugation as the Indian caste system. The caste system has the sanction of all Hindu scriptures."



While the Indian state has passed laws but something that is driven from Hindu scripture and has been practiced for millenias will take lot of time and effort to erase although to credit India she has made efforts to change what is wholly reprehensible culture. Progress has been made but vast numbers of humanity numbering in 100s of millions are still trapped in this evil system of what in fact is like Chacha Ji said Indian version of Apartheid.
Actually, a person could change caste, if he has enough power to exert on the society. Many ancient ruling clans, such as the Mauryas and Guptas, even though originally from lower castes, later rose to high-caste statuses through sheer power and patronizing Brahminism respectively.

In medieval era, we have ruling families in Kerala such as that of the Zamorin, and of the Maharajas of Travancore. They were technically sudras, but went on to patronize brahminism and ended up obtaining the rituals and the titles of Kshatriyas.
 

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