Reality of Hindu Caste Sysytem- II: Unpleasant Truth of Caste System
After the completion of first part, we all must have now understood the facts of Varna system, how it was supposed to be and how some corrupt people in society who had the authority of regulating laws had misinterpreted and misutilized the power they possessed to always hold a privileged position in the society.
The second part of this article reveals the ugly truth of caste system. This part covers four basic topics which will really clarify the misconception of those who still believe the falls concept of Upper Caste & Lower Caste. The four topics are under:
- Brief about Varna Concept.
- Conflict in Post Vedic Period.
- Manusmriti: India’s most controversial Religious Book.
- Ugliest truth of British Empire.
- Brief about Varna Concept: Hindu Caste system, which today we understand in modern day is derived from Vedic Varna System (Varna Vyavastha or Arrangement) and which has become a very ugly system. This is because we have started giving Varna tag to any person from its birth itself. Varna system is actually an arrangement which is universally applicable to any group of people who has a common goal or task for e.g- Society, Army, Company or Family.
Every group formation is done with some task in mind. To achieve that aim or task the human resources are divided into four categories in a mutual understanding i.e Thinkers, Protectors, Generators & Executors. And every person according to its Gunas (Skill or Quality) i.e (Tamas, Rajas & Satvic) one has to decide the roles & responsibility to achieve any common goal. The Gunas helps us to decide that any person is suitable for which position & it is for sure to get good result, if the responsibilities are divided properly. But, the real problem is that, that the person is pre-fixed with surnames & castes which violets the concept of Varna from the very beginning itself.
Theoretically, we cannot permanently ‘Tag’ anyone with a Varna such as Brahmin or Shudra from its very birth, surname or according to its Gunas. The question arise why? And the answer is, it is because Varna of an individual keeps changing constantly as per group or situation. Let’s take an example: Suraj in his company works as a mentor, he provides consultation, helps in decision making, team coordination & motivates team. So, technically he plays the role of Brahmin for a group of people he handles in his company. On the other hand, if we talk about Country like India, the role of “Thinkers” i.e Brahmins are played by Govt/Constitution, the role of “Protectors” i.e- Kshatriyas are played by the defence for e.g Army, navy etc., further the role of “Generators” or Vaishyas are played by Business Owners/Industrialists and the role of “Executors” or Shudras are played by service providers or employees. Therefore, Suraj who is an employee in a private sector plays the role of “Shudra” for the group called Country. Now, if we see the personal life of Suraj who is an unmarried person & has an elder brother who takes the vital decisions of the family and plays the role of Brahmin. In this case Suraj’s role is more of a “Protector” doing best for his family. His role is of a “Kshatriya” for the group called “Family”.
Suraj plays role of different Varna in different kinds of groups. Therefore, here we can understand that Varna is a concept and not a ‘Tag’ to be put on someone. Varna concept is a relative concept which in an individualistic level depends on the level of (Satva, Rajas & Tamas) and in the level of a group it depends on the type of work (based on group). In both these cases Varna can never remain constant. As stated by the famous history & human science professor of USA Prof. Hiltebcital “In theory, Varna is non-genealogical. The four Varnas are not lineages, but categories”. Today where even foreign experts have also accepted that Varna system in not caste based, then why we are still hanging the tag of Varna Caste System? Why do we still follow this ugly system?? The answer is, because there is a very dirty history behind its occurrence.
Let’s analyse & find out from the very root. Varna system can be first found on Vedas, whatever the limited Veda we have today among which “Rig Ved” is considered as the oldest one. Here the Varna is considered as “Color” inside any human being. Please keep in mind here the book is not considering about human skin, infact its speaking about the color inside any human being, which can be considered as Quality or Skills. Here, nowhere in ‘Rigved’ it speaks about favouring one caste & humiliating other. Joel Brereton, Prof. of Sanskrit & Religious studies clearly states: “There is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much subdivided & overarching caste system”. India’s famous Historian and Academician Prof. Ram Sharan Sharma has also quoted that “the Rig Vedic society was neither organised on the basis of social division of labour nor on that of differences in wealth”.
So, the question which arises is from when did the Varna concept was mis-utilized & gave the Varna tag from the birth itself. In reality there is no any exact full proof answer to this mystery. But we can roughly estimate the starting period of the arising conflict.
- Conflict in Post Vedic Period: We can assume that when Vedic age was ending & whatever the changes happened in the post Vedic period, in that era slowly the society started changing. The society which was knowledge & value oriented became materialistic in post Vedic period. It started focussing on accumulating wealth & property. Slowly Kingdoms grew bigger, Territories became more important & many types of occupation & roles increased & as an outcome the class distinction & status started gaining importance. This we can assume that must be in late 2500 to 1500 BC. Gradually, through hundreds of years, the change of Kingdoms one after another & Ruler after Ruler, they must have started focussing on people’s occupation for Administrative purpose & Economic development.
This must have been the age where to decide someone’s occupation the concept of Varna must have been regulated & as per the quality of Guna(based on skill) the work must had been given by the authorities of the Kings. As the time passed some specific occupations must have transferred from generation to generation & the Surnames must have been made, for e.g: any person who is engaged in the designing gold where called “Sunar”, Garden keeper or flower seller as “Mali” etc. In this way surnames started becoming hereditary & may be in that age on the basis of surnames the concept of Varna must have forcefully stuck to the then people of the societies. The biggest proof to this can be witnessed in the World’s biggest Epic “Mahabharata”.
Mahabharata is World’s biggest written poetry. Initially this poetry was learned by verbal teaching system of “Guru Sisya Parampara” and was written later almost 2500 years ago. In fact there were 24000 shlokas & was called “Bharata”, which later took the modern form in 1700 BC with the name “Mahabharata” with 1,00,000 shlokas. Mentioning of caste system in this Epic and the long period of completion of this book from 24,000 shlokas to 1,00,000 (2500 BC to 1700 BC) highlights that the conflicts between classes existed in the society when this book was compiled. And in “Mahabharata” the conflict of caste conflict is clearly shown.
Let’s dive into some case studies on caste conflicts: Karna was refused to be taken as student by Guru Dhronacharya, as because he was not a Kshatriya’s son. Similarly, even Draupadhi disqualifies his tender for ‘Swayabara’ for not being a higher rank. Everyone humiliated him by saying “Sutaputra”, the Charioteer’s Son or the outsider. Even after getting so much humiliation from the society Karna becomes the king of “Ang Desh” on the capability of his quality & skills. In the “Kurukshetra” he fought as a “Kshatriya” and in reality without him the “Kaurava” troops were nothing. His qualities & skill were so very great, that the opposition had to kill him by fraud. This case study clarifies that whatever maybe the status of person in the eyes of the society, our real status is evaluated by our skills & qualities.
The case study of “Eklavya” is also quite similar. Even Eklavya was denied by Guru Dhronacharya to be taken as his student because he was from a “Tribal Clan”. But, Eklavya always figured Guru Dhronacharya as his guru and made Guru Dhrone’s statue. Inspired by the statue he learnt and became first class “Archer” even better than “Arjun”. This fact was learnt by Guru Dhronacharya & to cut off the competition with Arjun, he asked Eklavya’s Thumb as in “Guru Dakshina”, so that he may never be able to demonstrate as an Archer. Eklavya without any hesitation cuts-off his thumb & gives it to guru Dhronacharya. Even today Eklavya is remembered & taken as an example for Discipleship (Guruprem).
We sometimes get into the story so much that we forget to analyse & understand what the consequences of caste discrimination that took place were. Guru Dhronachaya’s own disciples or students fought against each other, which proves that he was a failed teacher. Further, he was mercilessly killed by his own student by fraud. The example of ‘Karna’ & ‘Eklavya’ is purposefully shown in the epic, so that on the basis of Varna there should not be any discrimination in the society. That is why it is clearly mentioned in “Mahabharata” that “There is no distinction of Varnas in a person by Caste, the classification of Varna is done only by the acts (Karma)”- Shanti Parva, Mahabharata.
So, if our scriptures doesn’t discriminate us by Varna or caste than why are we still hanging the concept of caste in our neck. Well, this must be the work of those corrupt influential personnel of the society who must have conspired so that their upcoming generation may always get the privileged position in the society, or alongwith them it can also be the conspiracy of Britishers who captured & administered India.
“Colin Mackenzie” eighteenth century British social historian’s collection of text on Indian Religion & Culture have written very little on caste system.
“Prof. Susan Bayly” (Prof. of Sanskrit & Religions studies) has also stated that during the British colonial era the people of the subcontinent gave very limited importance to the formal distinctions of caste system.
So, according to their research, the caste system was not that much famous during the early British Era. So, again the question arises that when and how the extreme caste system started. The facts are quite ugly & shocking but before getting into the facts, we first need to understand the book “Manusmriti” which is considered to be the most controversial scripture.
- Manusmriti: Ancient India comprises of many sacred books which are called “Dharmashastras” and it gives the rules & regulations of day to day living methods. Among many Dharmashastras “Manusmriti” is also one book which was found by the Britishers in the year 1794 and was the first Sanskrit book to be translated by the Britishers. The content of the book write not only about corrupt Varna system but also showcases many things which are very horrific and disturbing, for e.g -
- A 100 year old Kshatriya must treat a 10 year old Brahmin boy as his father –(Manu- 11-135)
- The Brahmin should never invite person of other Varnas for food- (Manu-112)
- A Shudra is unfit of receiving education (Manu-78 to 81)
- If any Shudra mentions the name of the higher class with contumely, an iron nail, ten finger long, shall be thrusted red hot into his mouth (Manu VIII-271)
How can a “Dharmashastra” write such an ugly and unacceptable things and be called as “Dharmashastra”. Reading all these things anyone can come to a conclusion that surely there must have been some kind of manipulation done by some ill-natured and cruel person to satisfy one’s own self-motived hidden agenda. This was also said by Nelson in 1887 in a legal brief before the Madras High Court of British India and had stated: “there are various contradictions & inconsistencies in the Manu Smriti itself”.
Even the famous author Jai Sinha states: “Only 1214 of the 2685 verses in Manusmriti may be authentic. Further, the verses are internally inconsistent”. That means “Manusmriti is only 50% authentic and 50% non-authentic. The book in itself is inconsistent & therefore is proved by few example like:
- In the verse 4.204- it is written one should follow ethical percept’s under Yamas, such as AHIMSHA (Non-violence)
- The other verse 8.27 says- A shudra who insults a higher class man shall have his tongue cut out.
On one side it speaks about “AHIMSHA” (Non-Violence) & on the other side it speaks about “Cutting Tongue out” i.e violence.
- Similarly, Verse 3.55-3.56 declares that “ Women must be honoured & adorned & where women are revered there the Gods Rejoice”
- But on the other verse 5.147-5.148 declares, “A women must never seek to have freely & independently”.
The Manusmriti which was translated by Britishers was actually the editions of the Manusmriti which reproduces the text as found in the manuscript containing the commentary of “Kulluka”. It is Kulluka’s version that has been translated repeatedly – said by- Patrick Olivelle, Manu’s code of Law (2005). Infact it was a re-written interpretation written by Kulluka. The Britishers had referred the translation from the book written by Kulluka named “Manvarthamuktavali” (14th century AD), which was actually copied by Kulluka from the book “Manutika” written by Govindaraja, in the 11th century AD.
Now, the question arises that who manipulated Manusmriti & included all those cruel ideas in the text. We may not exactly trace who did it but we can surely perceive that Manusmriti was never a part of our Indian culture before the invasion of Britishers. As David Buxbaum states: “Manusmriti does not as a whole represent a set of rules ever actually administered on Indian sub-continent”.
- Ugliest truth of British Empire: The surprising fact says that Britishers had found around 36 other Dharmashatras (As per John Bowker) but still Britishers chose to translate “MANUSMRITI” and made it popular worldwide as “The Hindu Law of Conduct”. It was the biggest stupidity from the Britishers side to declare one particular Dharmashastra as single “Hindu law of Conduct” for entire Country. Knowingly Britishers did this stupidity because for Britishers it was not a mere stupidity but a full proof “Strategy”. Even after knowing that none of the past Rulers in India had the evidence of regulating Manusmriti as a law of conduct, still then Britishers translated the Manusmriti leaving all other good Dharmashartras. They declared Manusmriti as Hindu Laws of Conduct and made Worldwide popular as core Hindu Scripture & announced that four Varnas as permanent class division in the Indian society.
Britishers elevated the ancient conflicting issue of Varna by giving the base of Manusmriti & permanently divided the Indian society into permanent caste division by birth officially. Further, British Govt. started adding caste in every census after 1881 & by 19th century they defined more than 3000 castes & more than 25,000 sub-castes. Famous anthropologist Susan Bayly states: “Britishers ranked & standardised jati listings for Indians on principles similar to Zoology (animals) & Botanical (Plants) classification, aiming to establish who was superior to whom”. She further wrote “Caste was not and never had been a fixed fact of Indian life. It was their strategy to divide a population of 200 million people”. The division of caste was so extreme that the Britishers even declared some caste as “Criminal Caste” & used to jail the entire upcoming generation without any reason. Further, British Govt. played the master stroke of giving Govt. jobs to only higher caste people. From 1860 to 1920 British Govt. gave higher administrative jobs only to higher caste people & gave special status to them in the society. Britishers even stopped the inter-caste land dealing. They even passed some law which gave ownership of some land only to the higher caste people (Land Alienation Act 1900 Punjab Pre-Emption Act 1913). Britishers further declared that the right to education is only for higher caste people and not for lower caste.
A prof. from Netherland Frank De Zwart states: “the system was constructed by the Britishers in such way that people rallied and adopted this caste system”. All this conspiracy was done by British Govt. to apply their famous policy “Divide & Rule”. The saddest part is that, we are still following the system given by British Govt. which divides us in beetles and injects the poison of division & hatred. Infact, whatever the Britishers had done in the past is written in many history books but still it is not taught in our Schools & Colleges. It is never included in any of our history syllabus. This is the reason why we are unaware about relevant facts.
This was the only one side of the fact which occurred from past history till date but in reality we Indians & people from Indian sub-continents have discriminated among ourselves so much that we never got united and respected each other. Why do we still find similar caste & gotras in many of Surnames of Bahun, Chettri, Damai, Kami & Sarki. For e.g Ghimirey, Katuwal, Rizal etc. It is because we are somewhere linked with each other but some unfortunate situations separated us but we will never accept the fact in any cost. This was the reason why an outsider got an opportunity and ruled us for more than 200 years. On the basis of scriptures people promoted most undesirable things like untouchability, denial to food, water, denial to stay together in one village & totally forgotten what humanity is all about. And what we are doing in today’s present era is no different from what went in the past, we still discriminate, not on the basis of something which is written in the scriptures but our Mindset itself has become such that we have become used to roam about with this fake caste tag and drag ourselves into the pit of cruelty like that of Guru Dhronacharya who did caste discrimination & later had to face the negative effects. Infact, it won’t be wrong if I say that we have even forgotten the real essence of humanity in the rat race of caste system.
We still object inter-caste marriage and even do some honour killing. Even today in cities we purchase flat or land in those areas were one’s own community is in majority. People are still called for interviews in private companies seeing the surnames in the CVs. The Country which once had Universities like Nalanda & Takshashila, where people from around the World used to come to learn about Arts & Music, Language & Literature, Medicine & Surgery, Architecture, Mathematics, Mettalurgy and many more and a country which once was so developed that it was called “Golden Bird”. And, it is for sure no Country can gain the name of Golden Bird with thousands of discrimination within. It was a collective effort of each & everyone one of us which made our Country great in some past days. The Country which always promoted “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam” (which says World is one family) around the World is today divided in the name of caste & religion.
Friends, until & unless we don’t bring changes in our mindset & promote equality, we in real terms can never progress ourselves, our locality, our State & our Country.
By: Diwas Hingmang