The Hindu Caste System
The Hindu Caste System has not been successfully eradicated in India
India’s caste system: splits Hindus into different social groups taking into account their work and birth. It was believed, through research this system originated 1500 BC. With Hinduism people were categorized by their occupation, work, color, what rituals/customs they practiced and at what level they were in society. The caste system came from “Varna” a system that was set up to control the population with the arrival of Aryans into India around 1500 BC. (Wikipedia) It was initially an aspect of Hindu religion, but as time went by it was a was hereditary – like the queen’s hereditary right to the throne and wealth stays in the family.
Varna refers to four main social classes.
- The Brahmins – the priests, they were on top of the caste system, know as the priestly class. This class was in charge of rituals, services, festivals, marriage and funerals.
- The Kshatriya these were next influential class, they ruled the communities, did all the administration and were protectors and warriors.
- The Vaishyas class next in line, this class were people who were blessed with special crafts – be able to advise on how to improve ways of working or designing better equipment, tradesman, farmers and merchants
- The Shudras were the manual workers and servants, and in some parts of India this class was not allowed to offer sacrifices to the gods.
- Dalits, Anyone who did not belong to a class were called the untouchables, they were not allowed into temples, they would have to lay face down within a distance of a Brahmin. They were not allowed to drink from the public wells as it was said they would pollute the water and none of the castes were to accept food from them. They were total outcasts in the society.
The system aided the upper classes to benefit over the lower classes. For many years and even up until this day inter-caste marriages were forbidden and in villages castes live separately and the different classes do not share the use of wells or other public places.
Even today it is very difficult to break traditions and beliefs, as a person’s caste can be found out by their surname. It was reported by the BBC in 2016, a man was hacked to death by his wife’s relatives because he was from a different caste. The United Nations say hundreds of so-called “honor killings” take place in India each year. An another startling piece of information from the Mandal Commission Report in 1979, the upper caste still holds the economic and social power. They control the media and many political parties and all the manual jobs such as cleaning and sweeping are mainly of the lower caste. Even today it is reported in a village called Madhya Pradesh a girl who decides to dedicate her life to God are forced into prostitution and any man for the upper caste can choose to use her. Another article for The Guardian and Ritesh Sharma’s Documentary, if an upper caste has a maid they would not dine from the same table or drink from the same glass.
Despite this, the Indian people elected a Dalit to be president K.R. Narayanan 1997 to 2002, so there is a indication that caste system can be overcome.
Religion and Varna were taken out of context as a way to explain and more importantly justify the seemly, extremely wicked and cruel actions associated with the caste systems. A trap that the caste enforces people into is the idea of Karma. This states that what you have done in your past life is a result of your position in your life today and your actions in this life will affect your life when you’re reborn. It said, people of Shundras and Dalits, inflicted their misfortunes on themselves. But the message the holy books read, “do good on earth and you will rewarded in your next life. Karma and reincarnation go hand in hand, when a person dies, they will come back in a new body, either human or animal. This explains why so many Indians are vegetarians. All animals sacret.
The Indian holy book Vedas, these are the most ancient religious texts which define the truth for Hindus. The book was introduced by the Aryans a tribe that migrated into India in 1500 BCE (before the common era) They came from central Asia, they were nomadic cattle herders and settled in the Indus Valley. It is said this were the Hindus got their name (Indus). Hindus believe that the texts were sent by scholars straight from God and then they holy words were passed by the next generations by word of mouth. It has been reported this book outlined a system called the “Varna” and later it is said that with English rule, they refined the system and was renamed as the Caste System. Hinduism is a very complex religion and the Western World find it hard to understand.
This is from Sutta Nipataa Buddist Scripure Not by birth does one become an outcaste, not by birth does one become a Brahman. By one’s action one becomes an outcast, by one’s action one becomes a Brahman.
The Law of Varna by Mahatma Gandhi: Indian lawyer, politician, social activist, and writer who became the leader of the nationalist movement against rule of India.
Varna means pre-determination of the choice of man’s profession. The law of Varna is that a man shall follow the profession of his ancestors for earning his livelihood. Varna therefore is in a way the law of heredity. Varna is not a thing that is superimposed on Hindus, but men who were trustees for their welfare discovered the law for them. It is not a human invention
Varna has nothing to do with caste. Down with the monster of caste, It is this travesty of Varna that has degraded Hinduism and India. Our failure to follow the law of Varna is largely responsible both for our economic and spiritual ruin. It is one cause of unemployment and impoverishment, and it is responsible for untouchability and defections from our faith.
When Britian ruled India between seventeenth century and 1947 they teamed up with the Brahmins so as to benefit from its privileges, but many of the lower caste customs were outlawed by Britian as they were seen as discriminatory to people. The low-caste Indians enjoyed an improvement of their social standings. It was wealth and education that determines a person’s social status, not caste. Britain brought many of their ideas into India, as Britian had a system in England called the feudal system which was similar to the caste system. The caste system was so strict that some Indian people change their religion because they were exposed to outside ideas, which came from the rule of and previously Islam.
It is wrong to judge the Caste system by Western Standards, we had our own classified system dating back to the Feudal System in Medieval times. It was a way of structuring society, there was four classes with the King on top and the peasants at the bottom. We still have class system Royals, white collar workers, blue collar workers and manual labor. We also rate people against what the own. We are seemly more tolerant of one another and we have progressed as we are not a third world country.
But despite the laws in India to help with equality, the caste system seems to continue to have a strong impact. At the moment India is a Third World country but is now developing.
Sources: DW (Deutsche Welle – Global English Language newspaper from Germany)