Since childhood, I am always tormented by the word CASTE and caste system. CASTE is a throbbing question in me. Why a culture so tolerant, so beautiful, so appealing, backing a very deplorable division of the society. With hundreds of thousands of DALITS [refer to INDIA WEST November 9,2001__page A22] converting to Buddhism in November and millions of Hindus in India converting to Islam and Christianity, we have to ask this proverbial question,
IS A CASTE A BLESSING OR CURSE??
Is Caste System helping us or destroying us as a society and culture????
SLAVERY IN THE HOLY BIBLE---
Jews and Christians gave up on slavery, even though SLAVERY IS AN ACCEPTED FACT [Col. 4:11, Exodus 21:21; 1: Lev. XXV:44_ 55; Thessalonians 3:22 ] in the Holy Bible.
"TREAT YOUR SLAVES JUSTLY AND FAIRLY, KNOWING THAT YOU ALSO HAVE A MASTER IN HEAVEN [Col. 4:11]. "THE SLAVE IS HIS MONEY" [Exodus 21:21]. St. Paul urged one slave ONESIMUS to return to his master. . Columbus a very devout Christian was indeed a missionary who did NOT feel any remorse in taking slaves from America. Spanish did have no problem in making American Indians and Mayans slaves since they were literally following the Holy Bible. Christians gave upon slavery, even though Biblical passages were used by over 200 preachers to justify slavery before the Civil War..
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America said: "[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts."
In 1999, Southern Baptist Convention apologize to African Americans for slavery. Like wise we have to give up on caste system.
Coming back to Caste System, once upon a time, it have helped smooth functioning of society, but today it has to be dropped from Hinduism for ever. True, some one can quote different verses from scriptures [Rig Veda & Manu smriti] and defend it, but as far as I am concerned, CASTE SYSTEM HAS CREATED MULTITUDES OF PROBLEMS IN HINDU SOCIETY.
Some state that , according to the Vedas themselves caste is not based on birth. But I have not seen those scriptural statements in the Vedas. I have also not seen any kind of ritual to transform a Shudra to a Brahmin either in any Hindu scriptures. Born as Shurda, die as Shudra..that is the name of the game.
It has destroyed the beautiful fabric of Hinduism. It created demonic things like "BRAHMINISM" and DEVADASI SYSTEM" . Amazing that , in the name of caste, our society STILL forbids [socially] Namboodiris [Kerala Brahmins] marrying any lower castes; Wariers marrying Nairs and Nairs marrying Theyas etc. In the name of age old caste system, society ill-treated and still ill-treating millions in North India. May be once upon a time, Caste system may be helpful for the proper function of the society, but today it should be abolished from the MIND OF THE MAN for ever.
Let me boldly state that, if I WAS BORN AS AN UNTOUCHABLE, I will have no LOVE AFFAIR with Hinduism and will put down Hinduism, when ever I get a chance and will become a Buddhist or a Christian. Why should I stay in a religion or a culture or in a society, WHERE I AM TREATED AS A SECOND CLASS DEVOTEE??????
Caste system is creating a very big barrier for RE-CONVERSION OF HINDUS WHO LEFT HINDUISM FOR GENERATIONS back into Hindu fold. Many Christians have openly expressed their desire to convert to Hinduism in their e-mails to me....
MY QUESTION IS----Why should a Christian or a Moslem want to convert into a culture or religion where he/she will be ill-treated as a lower caste???
We are at the dawn of the 21st century and we have to seriously think about these issues. I agree THERE IS NO SCRIPTURAL STATEMENT WHICH STATES THAT A PART OF THE POPULATION SHOULD BE HUMILIATED AND ILL-TREATED...Still CASTE SYSTEM INDEED BECAME A CURSE ON HINDUISM--- A DISGRACE TO HINDUISM.
UNTOUCHABILITY IS A CURSE ON HINDUISM.
One great untouchable who became a prominent leader of modern India, Mr. Ambedker wrote: TO THE UNTOUCHABLES, HINDUISM IS A VERITABLE CHAMBER OF HORRORS. Mahathma Gandhi said: UNTOUCHABILITY IS A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MEN. Mahatma Gandhi called UNTOUCHABLES by the name HARIJANS meaning CHILDREN OF GOD. He fought for their emancipation and in 1949, soon after independence from Britain, Govt. of India made it a criminal offense to practice UNTOUCHABILITY. Still in many parts of India, you can come across the ugly relics of caste system. I am so happy, today Govt. of India provides quota system for Untouchables, in all professional colleges, and in Government jobs.
There is nothing in Hinduism as complex as CASTE SYSTEM.
It emerged as a part of division of labor among people...THERE IS NO STATEMENT IN THE ENTIRE HINDU SCRIPTURES TO ILL-TREAT LOWER CASTES----THERE IS NO WORD UNTOUCHABLE IN THE ENTIRE HINDU SCRIPTURES. Still caste system degenerated in India. It is indeed the GREATEST CURSE on Hinduism.
Once upon a time, India had 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes.
Even there were 1,800 Brahmin castes in India. What a shame!! Even different Brahmin castes did not mingle themselves socially or otherwise, in ancient times. Last of all, ancient India, persecuted a large group of people called UNTOUCHABLES. Mahatma Gandhi said: UNTOUCHABILITY IS A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MEN. Ambedkar once wrote out of his own experience, TO THE UNTOUCHABLES, HINDUISM IS A VERITABLE CHAMBER OF HORRORS".
LET US STUDY HINDU CASTE SYSTEM in its entirety.
According to scriptures, Hindu caste system came as DIVISION OF LABOR, but later it degenerated to ugly COLOR SYSTEM based on the color of human skin. I feel so sorry that it happened in India, which is supposed to be toler-ant and humane. All ancient religions talk about slavery.
1 BRAHMANAS: PRIESTLY CLASS to work in temples and to study/propagate religion
2. KSHATRIYAS: ROYAL & FIGHTER CLASS to rule
3. VAISHYAS: businessmen
4. SHUDRAS: to help all three above classes of people
5 then UNTOUCHABLES -many believe it is SHUDRAS who became untouchables
The actual origin of caste system started in Rig Vedic period.
The Rig Vedic Hymn, known as PURUSHA_SUKTA (Mandala_x, 19th hymn, 12th verse) states: THE BRAHMIN WAS PURUSHA'S (cosmic man _ the first principle of SANKYA PHILOSOPHY in Hinduism) MOUTH, THE KSHATRIYA HIS ARMS, THE VAISYA HIS THIGHS, AND SHUDRA HIS FEET.
SAGE MANU-THE APOSTLE OF CASTE RULES AND REGULATIONS----
The greatest apostle of CASTE SYSTEM, Manu himself repeated Rig Vedic lines in Manu_Smriti. He laid down all provisions governing caste system. Many Brahmin scholars regard MANU SMRITI as important as Vedas.
NOBODY KNOWS WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR MANU TO STRESS SO MUCH ON CASTE SYSTEM.............
DID HE DO THAT FOR THE PROPER DIVISION OF LABOR AMONG THE NOMAD TRIBES JUST SETTLED DOWN ON THE BANKS OF INDUS AND GANGES ?........OR DID HE DO THAT TO CONTROL AND HUMILIATE THE DARK_COLORED DRAVIDIANS OF SOUTH INDIA????? NOBODY CAN SPECULATE???? May be the chief ingredient in the caste division is the notion of purity, with Brahmins the purest and Shudras the least pure. Surprisingly, the word CASTE came from a Portuguese word "CASTA" meaning "PURE RACE" and VARNA means COLOR.
Manu codified all the rules governing the conduct and inter_ relations between castes.
The caste_system Manu formulated is known as CHATHUR_VARNA. The first three castes BRAHMINS, KSHATRIYAS, and VAISYAS were known as DWIJA (TWICE_BORN). Of course, later BRAHMINS alone were called DWIJA in India. All members of upper classes were individually addressed ARYA and all members of Shudra class were individually addressed DASA (slave).
BRAHMINS undertook the work of taking care of priestly duties, KSHATRIYAS undertook the work of taking care of ruling the country and VAISYAS undertook the work of taking care of business.
SHUDRAS undertook the work of helping all the three upper castes in their day to day duties. According to Manu, only the first three upper castes were allowed to study Vedas and other holy scriptures. SHUDRAS were strictly forbidden from studying VEDAS and performing sacrifices. Intermarriages between castes were forbidden and under no circumstances SHUDRAS were allowed to even dream of marrying other castes. ONLY WAY A SHUDRA CAN BE ELEVATED TO A HIGHER CASTE IS TO DIE AND REINCARNATE AGAIN AMONG THE UPPER CLASSES.
Manu might have propagated it, but almost all Hindu saints supported caste system.
Even one of the greatest philosophers of Hinduism, ADI SANKARA of Kerala supported caste system. In fact, legends say that SANKARA angrily asked an untouchable to move out his way and that untouchable talked back. DEAR SIR! WHAT DO YOU WANT TO MOVE ? BODY OR SOUL? To which Sankara said: THE UNTOUCHABLE WHO SPEAKS LIKE THAT CAN BE NOBODY ELSE, BUT MY GURU, VEDA VYASA and prostrated in front of him.The legend might have written as an episode in Sankara's life, but we have to treat it as a revelation that even Sankara supported caste system. If he was against caste system, then he would not have asked the untouchable to move away from his path. Even Sage Pathanjali declared that blonde hair was one of the essential attributes of a Brahmin.
NOBODY KNOWS WHAT WAS THE REASON FOR MANU TO STRESS SO MUCH ON CASTE SYSTEM.............
DID HE DO THAT FOR THE PROPER DIVISION OF LABOR AMONG THE NOMAD TRIBES JUST SETTLED DOWN ON THE BANKS OF INDUS AND GANGES ?........OR DID HE DO THAT TO CONTROL AND HUMILIATE THE DARK_COLORED DRAVIDIANS OF SOUTH INDIA????? NOBODY CAN SPECULATE???? May be the chief ingredient in the caste division is the notion of purity, with Brahmins the purest and Shudras the least pure. Surprisingly, the word CASTE came from a portuguese word "CASTA" meaning "PURE RACE" and VARNA means COLOR
BHAGAVAD GITA AND CASTE SYSTEM
--In Chapter_4, verse_13, Lord Krishna said: ACCORDING TO THREE GUNAS (SATTWIC, RAJASTIC AND TAMASIC) AND PROPER DIVISION OF LABOR, THE `CHATHUR_VARNA' OR `FOUR_COLORED' OR `FOUR_DIVISION' SOCIETY WAS CREATED BY ME. ALTHOUGH I AM THE CREATOR OF THIS SYSTEM, YOU SHOULD KNOW ME AS THE `NON_CREATOR OF THE SYSTEM' AND I AM ENDLESS. The Bhagavad Gita also proclaims that WOMEN, VAISYAS and SHUDRAS ARE SINFUL BIRTHS in an indirect manner.(Gita Chapter 9_32)
It is true that RISHIS CAME FROM ALL CLASSES OF PEOPLE:
Of course, there are many great saints in India, who came from lower castes. VEDA VYASA is the son of SATHYAVATHI, who is a fisher_woman. Of course, his father is sage Parasara. VALMIKI was a robber, who was transformed by sage NARADA and as such we have no idea to which caste Valmiki belonged. South Indian saint THIRUVALLUVAR who wrote THIRUKURAL was only a weaver.
Anyway, after Manu formulated caste system, it grew by leaps and bounds all over India. Numerous castes have their own theories of their own origin. Caste System in India, even effected the converts to Christianity and Islam, for even they practiced some form of Caste System, after conversion among themselves.
CASTE BY THE COLOR OF THE SKIN:
Color of the skin was an important part of Hindu caste system. VARNA means color and color was associated with even determining the character of the person. It may sound paradoxical to state that at least in south India, BLACK was considered good, thus Lord Krishna is seen in blue_ black color. But I am not sure, whether people judged black people as better people in south India. May be the reverse was true.
Believe it or not, WHITE color was associated with BRAHMINS, RED with KSHATRIYAS, YELLOW with VAISYAS and BLACK with SHUDRAS. It is said this color system initially was introduced to identify the moral virtue associated with each caste!
CASTES DIVISION BY RACIAL & TRIBAL SURROUNDINGS:
The word JATI which denotes subclasses originated from word JATA or race. It is said that when ARYANS invaded India, they divided themselves into many clans as soon as they settled down on the river banks.
CASTES BY ASSOCIATION WITH MYTHOLOGICAL STORIES:
For example, KUMBI caste of Gujaret had its origins from the perspiration that formed at the waist of goddess Parvati. Another caste POKUNATIVARU originated from the menstrual cloth discarded by Parvati.
CASTES BY PROFESSION:
SONAR (goldsmith), SUTAR (carpenter), GOALA (milkman), TELI (oil merchant), LOHAR (iron smith), MALI (gardener), DHOBI (laundryman), MUCHI (cobbler) etc are popular tribes in north India. Even among Brahmins, there are subcastes as per professions. Like POOJARI (priests who conduct Poojas), OJHA (occultists), JOYTISHI (astrologers), GANGA_PATRA (who guides pilgrims), MAHA_PATRA (who presides over funeral rites). It may be surprising to note both POOJARI and MAHA_PATRA are inferior tribes among Brahmins.
CASTES BASED ON DIFFERENT PRACTICES, CULTS AND EVEN EATING HABITS: Hundreds of castes have originated in these manner also through out India.
CASTES OF VICTORS AND LOSERS:
The history shows caste system also originated from the distinction between victors and losers in the battles. Instead victors killing the losers, victors turned losers into lower castes and allowed them to live. Dr. S. Radha Krishnan said: "Caste enabled the Vedic Indian to preserve integrity and independence of the conquering as well as the conquered races and promote mutual confidence and harmony"
Many state that UNTOUCHABLES are the members of Shudra caste, who were treated as slaves by upper classes. Some say UNTOUCHABLES are the fifth class originated in the caste system.Any way GANDHI called them HARIJANS (children of God) and worked for the emancipation from the tyranny of the upper Classes of India. After independence GOVT. OF INDIA, ABOLISHED THE PRACTICE OF UNTOUCHABILITY IN INDIA.
Even though Manu has formulated one type of BRAHMIN caste, later India saw 1,800 subdivisions in the BRAHMIN CASTE alone. BRAHMIN subcastes do not intermingle and some of them hate each other.
BRAHMIN CASTES ACCORDING TO GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS:
In India, Brahmins are classified by the Geographical locations. In the major division they are divided into PANCHA_GOUDA and PANCHA_DRAVIDA.
PANCHA_GOUDA are Brahmins living in North India, or those live north of Vindhya Mountains. PANCHA_DRAVIDA are Brahmins of Dravidian civilization, usually dark_skinned. Each of these major division, is further divided as follows.
They are further divided to 1. KANYA_KUJA _ Brahmins from Kanauj; 2. SARAVATA _ Brahmins who reside near the river Saraswati 3. GOUDA _ Brahmins of Bengal and New Delhi 4. MITHILA _ Brahmins of North Bihar 5. UTKALA _ Brahmins of Orissa
They are further divided into: 1. MAHARASTRA _ Brahmins of Maratha county 2. TELINGA _ Brahmins of Telinga county 3. DRAVIDA _ Brahmins of Tamil Nadu 4. KARNATA _ Brahmins of Mysore and other Kanerese speaking areas. 5. MALABAR _ Brahmins of Malabar, Kerala.
DRAVIDA or Tamil Nadu Brahmins are further divided into AIYAR and AYYANGHAR.
MALABAR BRAHMINS are called NAMBOODIRIS. Some say that NAIRS are also Brahmins, but I feel NAIRS by their profession under kings of Kerala, are KSHATRIYAS or fighters and they are not vegetarians, whereas South Indian Brahmins are strict vegetarians.
BRAHMIN CASTES ACCORDING TO "GOTRAS":
GOTRA the word meaning is COWSHEAD, depicting the use of a cow by many people, under one house_hold, usually by the members of the family. It could also be, a GURU and several disciples coming from different families.
AllBrahmin families are descended of about 15 RISHIS, who established the GOTRA system among Brahmins. Normally, GOTRAS are named after the name of the RISHIS. The Rishis who started the GOTRAS are:
Most of these RISHIS were from South India and as such one will come across GOTRA SYSTEM more in South India than in North India. By the by, VISWAMITRA was born as KSHATRIYA and became a BRAHMIN after bitter fights with sage VASISHTA. It is also said that GOTRAS originated from PULAHA and PULATHYA are impure Brahmins. Later after a lot of sub divisions, Hinduism witnessed 42 GOTRAS among Brahmins. It is also said that both LUNAR & SOLAR dynasties of India originated from the GOTRA system. Even Kshatriyas finally started making their own GOTRA system. Anyway, in Hinduism,a thorough study of GOTRA system is impossible, due to inconsistent and contradictory literature available in the market.
There was a time in Hinduism, those who have crossed high_seas going to U.K. were excommunicated from the caste. Some castes were debased since they failed to observe the caste system. Some castes lost their prestige since they were very close to British and other foreigners. Some lower castes even elevated themselves to upper class like KSHATRIYAS slowly and methodically.
All these show that CASTE SYSTEM in Hinduism, is the most complex system in the world and it has absolutely, no spiritual value at all. CASTE SYSTEM IS A DISGRACE. If VEDA VYASA and VALMIKI can be adored through out India, then given proper education and proper healthy surroundings, any Hindu can reach the status of those great masters of Hinduism. A leech in the dirt, will always like to go back to dirt, unless it is shown and taught other ways to survive. The same ideology goes for human beings, wherever they are in the world. Whether they are the blacks in U.S.A. or untouchables in India or the native tribes of Australia.
Caste System is a disgrace and it should be eradicated for the good of India