Caste System in India - History & Annihilation

kandal

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Aug 2015
2,608
USA
Varna system is not paramount feature of Hinduism but of Indian society. Hinduism can easily survive without it. Neither four fold social system was ever strictly followed in every part of country. Local customs prevailed like where I lived only three classes existed who were totally interdependent. Endogamy existed but every class had nearly equal land, wealth and most importantly people had and still have warmth for each-other.

Secondly Hinduism is not a 'religion' but Hinduism is coalescence of various sects(often having conflicting views) who have been originated in the land of India and who practice mutual tolerance. They believe in existence of multiple ways for betterment of both self as well as society as well as in their limitations.

Geeta asks people to find their true calling and act accordingly without ever dettering from their path.
Though you are entitled to your opinion, it is quite inaccurate. For example, the only place Hinduism had existed outside South Asia since ancient times is in Bali. Hindus there do have the caste system. It didn't come from their society. Hinduism is a 'religion' for the Balinese.

In Gita, Lord Krishna clearly states that he created the fourfold caste system, and urges Hindus to do their born caste duties (dharma) selflessly.
 

kandal

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Aug 2015
2,608
USA
Hi Kandal,

Above is not the "the gist of Bhagavad Gita" as per AL Basham. Here are the things he writes in the same section which sum up his understanding of gist of Gita:

"The teaching of Bhagavad Gita can be summed up in the maxim "your business is with the deeds, and not with the results" (p344)
"It may be that the author of the Gita sought merely to convey this message, rather barren and uninspiring when thus condensed. But behind his teaching was the fervour of a great religious poet, which transcended the narrow framework of contemporary social and religious law." (p344)​
"Hence the inspiration of Bhagavad Gita has been widely felt in India from the time of Guptas to the present day, and it has been commended by Christians and Muslims, as well as by the HIndus, whose most influential scripture it is." (p344-345)
"No one so ungrudgingly admitted his debt to its doctrine of tireless and unselfish service as Mahatama Gandhi, who so strongly opposed the two features of ancient Indian society which the Gita itself was in part written to defend - militarism and the class system." (p-345)​
The quote from AL Basham selected does not convey the "the gist of Bhagavad Gita" as stated by you, but only one aspect of the then prevailing social system. Remember the 8th Commandment!

On a more serious note, any 2000 year old book will have a few issues and there is no holy book in the world which can not be faulted on some ground or the other. What is the compulsion to focus only on faults?

Regards

Rajeev
Those are some of Basham's explanations of Gita. What I quoted is the 'gist' of Gita's philosophy that he provided. If one subtracts caste from Gita, one may read it differently (since the word is not used in every verse), but that was not the purpose for which Gita was written. I get this feeling that you have not read Gita. I have two translations. It doesn't take much to understand (when one reads it) that Gita was written to justify the caste system, the selfless performance of the duties of one's born caste (dharma) to get the karma.

Regarding your question, "What is the compulsion to focus only on faults?", you may ask that yourself. Why focus of the caste system? If one doesn't focus on the faults, how does one improve anything?

Here is an objective, rational and critical reading on Gita, that I just found googling:
A Justification Of The Caste System Bhagavad Gita Religion Essay
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,298
New Delhi, India
Yes, the castes/tribes (Yadav/Jatav, Kori, Jat, Ahir, Gujar, Meena, etc. in North India and similar in South India) are there, and probably they will remain for a long long time, but their mere existence will not/does not put any of them to a disadvantage. Problem comes with discrimination and India has been quite successful in eradicating that. So, Bali has its castes, but does it have discrimination? I think not. Krishna says that he has created 'varnas' (and not castes, people always confuse between 'varna' and 'caste', some purposely) according to the innate capability/inclination of a person. So, a educated Shudra engaged in research or teaching is really a 'brahmin' by 'varna'. And a brahmin like me who worked for his monthly salary all his life, am a Shudra by 'varna' and not a 'brahmin'. I have become somewhat a 'brahmin' only in my retirement days because of my interest and study of scriptures. 'Varna' changes according to what one is doing at that stage in life.

The great 'dalit' sages of Hinduism like Eknath, Namdev, Kabir, Ravidas, Namallavar, Thirupana, Thirumangai, etc. were really the best of 'brahmins' by 'varna'. Nayanars too, were from various backgrounds, including Channars, Vanniyar, Vellalas, Idayars, Thevars, oilmongers, Brahmins, Harijan, and nobles. That these people and universally revered by Hindus cannot be denied.
 
Last edited:
Oct 2015
1,013
India
Those are some of Basham's explanations of Gita. What I quoted is the 'gist' of Gita's philosophy that he provided. If one subtracts caste from Gita, one may read it differently (since the word is not used in every verse), but that was not the purpose for which Gita was written. I get this feeling that you have not read Gita. I have two translations. It doesn't take much to understand (when one reads it) that Gita was written to justify the caste system, the selfless performance of the duties of one's born caste (dharma) to get the karma.

Regarding your question, "What is the compulsion to focus only on faults?", you may ask that yourself. Why focus of the caste system? If one doesn't focus on the faults, how does one improve anything?

Here is an objective, rational and critical reading on Gita, that I just found googling:
A Justification Of The Caste System Bhagavad Gita Religion Essay
I also have 5 translations of Gita. My study is more on the spiritual paths laid down it, not exclusively on the casteist interpretation as in the linked article. Latter is a sort of unipolar view on Gita and is new to me though I am well-read.

Western theology says do good deeds (not that people follow) then based on your deeds you either go to heaven or hell; and that is the end of it. Hindu theology goes beyond with its doctrine of rebirth.

As regards caste, all societies have had socio-economic classes. Till 1960s a white person marrying an Afro-American person was a criminal. Till 1800s or so slavery was a wide-spread practice by Christians. Being a slave was much worse than being a low caste. So while I understand that caste system is no more relevant, but do not feel compelled to be apologetic about it or deny it.


Focusing on faults to improve is fine, but in casteist interpretation, it seems that the baby is thrown out with the bath water. The main focus of Gita is on doing one's duty without expecting results - that is how all Hindus understand it.
 
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Jun 2017
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usa
I also have 5 translations of Gita. My study is more on the spiritual paths laid down it, not exclusively on the casteist interpretation as in the linked article. Latter is a sort of unipolar view on Gita and is new to me though I am well-read.

Western theology says do good deeds (not that people follow) then based on your deeds you either go to heaven or hell; and that is the end of it. Hindu theology goes beyond with its doctrine of rebirth.

As regards caste, all societies have had socio-economic classes. Till 1960s a white person marrying an Afro-American person was a criminal. Till 1800s or so slavery was a wide-spread practice by Christians. Being a slave was much worse than being a low caste. So while I understand that caste system is no more relevant, but do not feel compelled to be apologetic about it or deny it.


Focusing on faults to improve is fine, but in casteist interpretation, it seems that the baby is thrown out with the bath water. The main focus of Gita is on doing one's duty without expecting results - that is how all Hindus understand it.
Doing your duty without anticipation of what or when or how much the gain/reward is going to be is exactly how I have understood the gist of the Gita to be.
People need to read the Gita, understand it and then draw their own conclusions rather than regurgitate whatever other people say.
We do not need "experts" to help is understand the Gita. A good translation, of which there are quite a few, and an open mind will suffice.
 
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Aupmanyav

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Jun 2014
5,298
New Delhi, India
.. but do not feel compelled to be apologetic about it or deny it.
Rajeev, I am not at all apologetic about it. Caste puts a responsibility on a person, for example, for a brahmin to study, a kshatriya to serve his country as a soldier, a vaishya to earn money and use it for benefit of people. Caste is an identifier of tribe, region, language, traditions, etc. If we do not feel apologetic about mentioning a person as Italian or Irish, why should we feel apologetic about mentioning caste in India? What we need to remove is the residual discrimination.
 
Mar 2013
923
Breakdancing on the Moon.
I find it increasingly difficult to give caste prominence during my historical readings.

Romila Thapar mentions that 'caste' was mutable and changeable, often ex post facto e.g someone who becomes a king and sires a dynasty would often find themselves considered kshatriya. This makes sense. We know texts lke Manusmrti were aspirational and not based on actual society.

I think the level of fixity we see in caste nowadays is a product of early modern India more than anything.
 
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kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,608
USA
Yes, the castes/tribes (Yadav/Jatav, Kori, Jat, Ahir, Gujar, Meena, etc. in North India and similar in South India) are there, and probably they will remain for a long long time, but their mere existence will not/does not put any of them to a disadvantage. Problem comes with discrimination and India has been quite successful in eradicating that. So, Bali has its castes, but does it have discrimination? I think not. Krishna says that he has created 'varnas' (and not castes, people always confuse between 'varna' and 'caste', some purposely) according to the innate capability/inclination of a person. So, a educated Shudra engaged in research or teaching is really a 'brahmin' by 'varna'. And a brahmin like me who worked for his monthly salary all his life, am a Shudra by 'varna' and not a 'brahmin'. I have become somewhat a 'brahmin' only in my retirement days because of my interest and study of scriptures. 'Varna' changes according to what one is doing at that stage in life.

The great 'dalit' sages of Hinduism like Eknath, Namdev, Kabir, Ravidas, Namallavar, Thirupana, Thirumangai, etc. were really the best of 'brahmins' by 'varna'. Nayanars too, were from various backgrounds, including Channars, Vanniyar, Vellalas, Idayars, Thevars, oilmongers, Brahmins, Harijan, and nobles. That these people and universally revered by Hindus cannot be denied.
Hindus in Bali only marry within their born castes, though there are exceptions today. So there is social discrimination, but overall it is not as bad as in India from what I know. They don't have outcastes (dalits).

A Brahmin could take any profession and would still be a Brahmin in Hinduism. This is an exception. Not surprising since they wrote 'the book'. So your statement is incorrect.
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,608
USA
I also have 5 translations of Gita. My study is more on the spiritual paths laid down it, not exclusively on the casteist interpretation as in the linked article. Latter is a sort of unipolar view on Gita and is new to me though I am well-read.

Western theology says do good deeds (not that people follow) then based on your deeds you either go to heaven or hell; and that is the end of it. Hindu theology goes beyond with its doctrine of rebirth.

As regards caste, all societies have had socio-economic classes. Till 1960s a white person marrying an Afro-American person was a criminal. Till 1800s or so slavery was a wide-spread practice by Christians. Being a slave was much worse than being a low caste. So while I understand that caste system is no more relevant, but do not feel compelled to be apologetic about it or deny it.

Focusing on faults to improve is fine, but in casteist interpretation, it seems that the baby is thrown out with the bath water. The main focus of Gita is on doing one's duty without expecting results - that is how all Hindus understand it.
When people read religious texts for spiritual or religious satisfaction they only see what they like to see, and interpret the way it suite their spirituality and to have comfort. People's of all religions do that. But to get the correct understanding of the text one has to step back and look at it in a rational and objective manner.

For example, a Hindu today reading Gita the following verse (a famous one) may interpret it totally different from why it was written for. But when one realizes that the 'duty' Gita is talking about is the caste duty and responsibility that are stamped on him at birth, it takes a different meaning. Btw, that is the correct interpretation. At the same time the verse can be taken totally out of context today and apply to anyone's profession when one's duty is no longer bound by one's caste duty, but that was not the purpose of Gita.

"One's own duty though devoid of merit is preferable to the duty of another, well performed. Even death in the performance of one's own duty brings blessedness. Another's duty is fraught with fear." (BG 3:35)
 

Aatreya

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
3,464
USA
When people read religious texts for spiritual or religious satisfaction they only see what they like to see, and interpret the way it suite their spirituality and to have comfort. People's of all religions do that. But to get the correct understanding of the text one has to step back and look at it in a rational and objective manner.

For example, a Hindu today reading Gita the following verse (a famous one) may interpret it totally different from why it was written for. But when one realizes that the 'duty' Gita is talking about is the caste duty and responsibility that are stamped on him at birth, it takes a different meaning. Btw, that is the correct interpretation. At the same time the verse can be taken totally out of context today and apply to anyone's profession when one's duty is no longer bound by one's caste duty, but that was not the purpose of Gita.

"One's own duty though devoid of merit is preferable to the duty of another, well performed. Even death in the performance of one's own duty brings blessedness. Another's duty is fraught with fear." (BG 3:35)
It's a 100% good chance that the Hindus understand the Gita better than the missionaries (well, it should be a no-brainer). Focus on your bible first. Even if we were to explain the philosophy of Gita, you won't comprehend because you do not want to.
 

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