Archive for March, 2010

|| krinvanto vishwam aryam ||

|| Make the world a noble place for the entire human race ||

The recent news from the state of Bihar threw up many agitations nation-wide. The primary school children of Bihar were asked to print their Caste in the examination papers for an “honest assessment”. A circular issued in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur District demands that all students in state-run schools indicate their caste on the answer sheets for their annual exams.The circular says, “All those appearing for annual examination, please don’t forget to mention whether you belong to a Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, Extreme Backward Caste or Other Backward Castes, for an honest assessment.”The circular has been withdrawn after the Media began reporting it.

This has sprung many debates in Indian Television questioning the Caste system that still exists in India. Caste system has been followed in India for many decades.(refer to Vedas and Caste post) No tradition is valid until it is present in the Vedas. The Vedas, excluding the Rigveda, speak of the creation of the caste system and the development in detail.What started as a social order turned out to pose a threat to the social harmony. There has been so many anti-caste movies, so many events and Caste is still deep rooted in the soils of the nation. While India may boast of Hinduism as a world religion, loop holes such as caste break its sanctity. While Vedas were written to create an open system, to practice equality and brotherhood, to maintain justice in the society, Caste system proves to be a contradiction.

As always any system has a boon and a bane ..

Boon-

1. Following the traditions has helped Hinduism to prevail for a long time amidst foreign intruders , Keeping the system intact.

2. Division of labour

3. Unity in Diversity – It has the underlying idea that all the classes from the supreme being (Purusha). It is therefore the products of the universal divine nature.

4. Bound of Brotherhood – Members from the same community try and help each other financially or emotionally during bad times.

To many people’s suprise Caste system has been rationalized in the ancient times –

1. Its presence in the Vedas encourages people to validate its purpose.
2. The theory of Karma- People with a good karma are re-born into an upper class family, and those with a bad karma are meant to be in a lower cast. How you sow, so you reap !
3. Classification based on the three Gunas- Sattva (nobel, peaceful, knowledgeable) ,Rajas (need for power , wealth, lust ) and Tamas(unclean and dirty)- Typically the Brahmins , the Kshatriyas and vaishyas , and the Sudras respectively.
4. Religious Laws- Laws were written in the Manuscript that have harsh punishments for anyone trying to violate the caste system. These are also not present in the earlier Vedas which makes us believe that they were written to justify the practice of the Caste system.

Bane-

1. Exploitation of the weak- Though the system was created to have order in the society , regulate the affairs of the people and maintain order, it has proved to be such a contradiction. The ‘lower’ classes have been exploited. Taboos like the Untouchables / Harijans are products of higher classes looking down upon the lower ones.It is used as an instrument of oppression in the hands of the socially elite.

2. Foreign domination – United we stand , Divided we rule. It does not hold true only for Hindus and Muslims in a greater sense. Even within the society if people don’t stand up for each other sooner or later the culture which we have been trying to preserve so meticulously, is lost anyway. One of the main reasons why so many hindus converted to other religions is because the lower classes were devoid of self-esteem. The same person with another name was looked as an equal, while he was ill-treated otherwise. I don’t mean to encourage the Hindutva ethnocentrism. But the implications can be on any other scale.

3. Preferential Treatment- The are going to need a larger database to document all the reservation policies in our country. The lower class claims for reservations to have the equal opportunities. The upper class feels that his birth rights have been snatched. Now we are in a state where we can’t understand who has gained more preference over the other. It would not waste anyone’s time or sentiments if merit was given first preference over your caste.

4. It produces caste prejudices among the society. there has been enough blood shed in the name of Jaat / Madham (class / Religion).

There is a reason why I chose to elaborate on the banes rather than the boons. I want to take sides. There is no benefit in being biased towards the caste system. It may well have worked centuries back, but it is such a mis-fit in today’s world. I am sure that an appreciable percentage of the new generation does not even care about the castes because of their exposure to its implications. But it is not the case with children from backward states. Instilling such ideas into a young mind will keep caste system still intact. I do appreciate all those film directors for taking the efforts to fight caste systems in their movies. But it is not enough. It is the responsibility of ever citizen to believe in an equal nation. Stop getting used to having privileges because you are born a ‘brahmin’. It doesn’t matter. The tag of a ‘brahmin’ is not going to make you get A+ in organic chemistry over night. No seriously. You are not smarter because you are a Brahmin. Some instances are rather funny. Loyola college in Chennai is a Catholic institute and is among the best that the country has produced. Since it was built on a religious foundation, it is only natural that they want to admit more Christians in their institute. Then why do Hindus want to go whine about getting only 2 % seats for a Visual communication seat. Why do they feel at that point that merit has to be given preference. By no means am I trying to justify a Christian college’s open declaration of religious preference. But rules and opinions apply for all. If it is wrong for that college to give preference to only Christians , it has been wrong all these years to give preference based on a caste system.It is also interesting how so many people are forced into the caste system, yet no one actually cares or tries to learn what it was originally meant for. blindly following a system is not called loyalty. It is called ‘Ignorance’.

Politics is another medium which uses caste as a tool to gain blind , loyal followers. BJP ,the main opposition party, thrives on its votes by propagating Hindutva. Congress and its allies try to demean them by saying everyone is equal. Caste is yet again being used a political trump card to gain power. In almost all states even within Hindus, caste is a major deciding factor. And it is only natural. When people are born and brought up with caste deep rooted into their minds, nothing else matters. It is difficult to throw away something that has been there for so many years, but we got to clean the house some day!

Change is simply inevitable. At this stage of metamorphosis, the only thing you can try and preserve is your self opinions and principles. It does not matter from which religion you learned it from. In my opinion, we can use religion or the gods to console us during our tough times- not an excuse to slaughter people or gain illegitimate power. Consider god as your personal psychiatrist and mend yourself. Consider God within you and you will heal by yourself. And slowly you will see a God in you, in your neighbor and in your friend. And probably you will then see that being “god” was after all being “just” and truthful to oneself. I don’t want to discuss if ‘God’ is real or surreal. But I do know that everything has been created for a purpose and once we realize it doesn’t serve any purpose , we can show its way to the garbage. The way we are beginning to lose our appendix as it serves no purpose we can begin dissolving caste from our society. And no it is not just a matter of time. Time will only heal if there are people ready to take the actions.

I don’t try to blog so that I can vent out my opinions and feelings. I wish to make a change. Even if one person begins to feel the need to change I am content. Take this small responsibility. You could change your friends and relatives. It is just a small step for you, but a milestone for the country.

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Vedas and Castes

Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam,

Shrunvantu vishnve amrutsya putraha” – Rigveda 10-13-1

” Make the world a noble place for the entire human race,
for everyone is a divine child ”

Would you imagine that these are the same words that came from a script that propagandized the caste system? I had the same question in mind. So I read through quite a few books and articles of the Vedic transition into India.

As we know by now, Vedas were not prevalent in India until the entry of the Aryans from central Asia. The Rigvedic people came to the Indian subcontinent not as warriors but as priests.They won over the country not through the power of swords (which some historians want us to believe) but through their superior skills in debate and magical ritualism. This got them loyal patronage from the local kings. With the support of the kings, the Aryans made their way through the continent – they intertwined themselves with the local traditions and customs to gain trust in the eyes of the locals. Soon they gained political and regional power in the country.

The Aryans did not bring the caste system with them. They believed in a flexible and an open system in which members could change their vocations by their wish. But as they encountered hostile tribes and competitive traditions, they adopted a caste system to preserve their identity as a group , to preserve racial purity and family lineage. Thus, raising the possibility of a non-vedic character to the caste system.

It is also understood that caste system was not addressed in the Rig Veda – the oldest piece of literature ever written in the human race.Purusha saktha (later added to the Rigveda), and the following vedas mentions the prevalence of the caste system in the society.

The Purusha Sakta explains the creation of the caste system , from the different parts of the ‘Purusha’ – the Cosmic Soul.
1. Brahmins- the Mouth
2. Kshatriya- the Arms
3. Vaisyas- the Thighs
4. Sudras- the Feet

Metophorically, it would mean that the Brahmins would learn the knowledge of the Vedas; they had to serve by performing the rituals and learning the divine knowledge. The Kshatriyas were to protect the country against the enemies. The Vaishyas would tend to the cattle or cultivate the lands. The Sudras would help the above classes to get work done. All the classes apart from the Sudras were expected to learn from the Vedas. Since the Sudras didn’t have a need to implement the Vedas directly , they were exempted from learning the Vedas.

It seems that the two greatest epics favored the higher motto of hinduism – Equality ,brotherhood and prosperity.

1. All of the 10 Avatars of Vishnu were not brahmins. In fact only Vamana was a true representation of a Brahmin.
2. Parashurama was a Brahmin by birth and warrior by profession
3. Vishwamitra was a warrior by birth and bend towards priesthood.
4. Parashar , the law giver was a Chandala (lower grade within the Sudra caste)
5. Vashishtar was born to a prostitue.
6. Valmiki, the great author was born to a mere fishwerwoman.
7. The Nanadas , Chandragupta Mauryas’ did not practice Vedism.

and the examples of an open system and its acceptance can keep going on…

While on the one hand the epics reflected the motto of brotherhood and equality so much , on the other hand it tried to preserve the incompetent and less talented individuals within the elite club from the talented low-caste people in the name of Dharma. Ekalavya, as you may recall is a perfect such example.

Many believe that the closeness of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas to the Kings helped them gain respect and indirect power on the society. Thus, encouraging them to look down upon the other classes and shun them. Subsequently, through the influences of different kings and foreigners, the classes became more prominent and hierarchical.

In one way this would seem like a remarkable classification to have social order. In another way, a perfect loop hole to break apart the society.

My conclusion to this is that even Vedas – a pure system that gave equality the highest regard, was forced to be mend due to the influences from the society. While it is natural to follow traditions to preserve the character of the tribe, it is important to throw away things that pose a threat. Caste system may have well worked many billion years back, but it certainly is a misfit in the present generation. It is time for us to uncover the absolute law of the world from our Vedas (if at all you persist on following the Vedas) and bring back equality and justice right in place!