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The Controversial Caste System of Hinduism

Imagine concepts like feudal system, slavery, capitalistic exploitation and anti-Semitism being used to define the core of Christianity! Christians will be outraged at this inappropriate mixing of the core universal values of Christians and societal & historical aspects which merely existed in a Christian world.

Now this raises the question – why is caste system defined as the core of Hinduism? Especially as “caste” itself is a western construct. Sounds irrelevant?

Okay. Now imagine concepts like slave-trade, war on infidels, brutal subjugation of masses, temple destruction, and forceful conversions marking the core of Islam.

It is considered sensible to first understand what the core scriptures speak about the religion and its universal values. The ills of the community & its societal aspects are differentiated from its core philosophy.

Now, this brings us to the most interesting question – why is Caste System (caste based on birth) propagated to be the defining feature of Hinduism? Do the primary sources instruct thus? What is defined as varna is classification of society and not rigid watertight compartments as advertised later.

The core Hinduism is sophisticated and deserves mention in terms of its schools of philosophy, complex societal structure, refined art (literature, dances), huge architectural constructions (temples) and much more. Instead, the ills accumulated by the Hindu society of 17th and 18th centuries are used to define its backwardness as against the advancement of Western civilization accrued in 20th century!

What about Hindu-revival movement that fought for reforms? Why are they not mentioned? And how did these reformers combat this situation – by insisting that the true & original Vedic Dharma never sanctioned caste based on birth and this prevalent concept is “un-Vedic”. How far is that true?

One only needs to look at the scriptures to gain insight. A hunter by birth becomes a rishi and authors Ramayana (Valmiki), a fisherwoman gives birth to the a scholar who authors 18 Puranas including the epic Mahabharata which also contains Bhagwat Geeta(Veda Vyasa), a kshatriya-born warrior becomes a Brahmarshi (Vishwamitra), a suta-putra goes on to become one of the greatest warrior of his times (Karna). Such examples abound.

The present-day rigidity was in part a creation of British. When Britishers first gain absolute control of India, they decided to rule in line with existing systems and laws. The idea was to delude Indians into believing that they were being ruled by their own rules. What surprised them was total non-parallel nature of Hinduism with respect to Christianity or even Islam.

What Hindu-equivalent can be found for these Abrahamic concepts?

·         Who is our ONLY saviour who received the “final message” from “one-and-ONLY God”?
·         What is our CORE & DEFINING book?

The Britishers failed to grasp the diversity of Indian customs and laws which though varied were surprisingly effective. They searched for a “Universal” set of Hindu laws and customs (similar to the Ten Commandments) and found that Manusmriti fitted into their idea of universal law.

They circulated this document and projected it to be the fountainhead of Hindu jurisprudence. Thus, what was a British interpretation of Hindu law was projected backward and a conclusion was arrived at which had no historic basis.

It should be noted that various travelers from abroad who wrote extensive notes while journeying the length and breadth of this country never mentioned such a discriminating system. Even Islamic chroniclers who wrote about native customs never spoke about ill-treatment of specific section of people.

So we are not digressing if we conclude that caste-based-on-birth had no sanction of Vedic scriptures and wasn’t in practice in today’s form even during Islamic invasions starting from 7th century.

The backwardness of India is not because of Hinduism but because of one-thousand years of slavery. The inhuman subjugation of masses & the plundering of its wealth for about a millennium created terror among the Brahmins, kings and merchants and they transferred a fair share of the crushing weight on these sections of society. 

To blame the victims – the Hindus – for the inhuman discrimination of dalits is macabre twist to the tale.                               


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