Monday, August 1, 2016

A Deep Peep into the caste curse in the Hindu religion and its origin..08-01

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Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

 A spate of unfortunate incidents have happened where the dalits have been victims of physical, psychological, and  mental torment and torture by various sections of  the  society including the politicians. With all important elections in U.P. being a few months away, the political parties and the politicians suddenly proclaim themselves as crusaders of social justice and saviors of the the Dalits and the downtrodden. They provide enough fodder for the prime time debates on the electronic media.  The real crusaders and bare foot workers who know the ground realities never get a chance to appear on the electronic media. The simple reason being they are too honest to sound interesting for the media. They simply lack the emotion and dramatics of  the politicians, and do not posses the knack of twisting the facts and figures to sound interesting.

Amidst all this, the question that has been troubling me is that,



The 'curious me' did a small research on to this subject. I studied some of the writings and commentaries on this subject. The research was neither extensive nor comprehensive. Similarly my arguments can be at the most indicative, they are not conclusive either. The purpose of this article is to involve people in this all important debate and get as many diverse views as possible. There is no political or religious angle to this article. It is just an effort to understand the intriguing and intricate aspects of this great religion. 

What I have  found broadly is the fact the Vedas and the Upanishads neither talk nor profess untouchability. There is also no mention of caste system in the ancient literature. There is also a likelihood of, there being a misconception about Manusmriti. 

For example, contrary to the general belief, Manu gives exalted position to woman and womanhood. Manusmriti preaches respect  and honour for women and goes on to add that wherever the women are respected god is pleased and stays inthat household. The sloka below says the same thing.

yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta [3/56]

This is contrary to  the general understanding among people of Manusmriti treating women as dasi or charan dasi of the men they marry. People over the ages seem to have interpreted the treatise as per their convenience. 

I am sharing my views with you, please feel free to correct me wherever I have gone wrong....

People like to exhibit their religious fervour and it happens with people of all religions and faiths. People belonging to Hindu religion are no exception.

It feels good when people follow the customs and sincerely follow the rituals prescribed in a religion, whatever religion or faith it may be. Hindus worship the cow as Gomata (mother). When a hindu introduces himself (pravara), it begins with  

चतुस्सागरः पर्यन्त गो ब्राह्मणेभ्य शुभं भवतु (ChatussAgara paryantam gobrAhmaNebhyaH shubhaM bhavatu)

Meaning : Prelogue: May all the cows and Brahmanas across the four seas be blessed.
Here the word Brahman here means  people with higher level of thinking and  good deeds.It does not specify a sect, a community or people of a particular religion.

According to Buddha a 6th century monk and founder of Buddhism,

Not by matted hair, by lineage, nor by birth (caste) does one become a Brahman. But the one in whom there abide truth and righteousness, he is pure; he is a Brahman.

When Vedas were written sometime around 1500 BCE, the word religion or faith did not exist. Human Beings were just a specie of the animal kingdom. A highly evolved one, a socially conscious one. But  not evolved enough to discriminate against their fellow human beings on the basis of what they do, what they eat, or what they think.

 Cow was equated with mother for her attribute of forbearance. Hindu dharma did not have a caste system. All human beings were considered equal. Addressing cow as mother denotes the symbiosis between the different species of Animal Kingdom.  While the existence of human beings can be traced to a period 150,000 years BCE somewhere in Africa, the beginning of hindu religion can be traced to around 5,000 BCE.

Division of human beings on the basis of Varna was done around third century BCE by Manu and Bhrigu Rishi.That is how manusmriti came into existence, and so also probably the caste system. The exact objective and purpose of Manusmriti is not known. There are contrasting opinions in the commentaries written by various experts from the 3rd century BCE onwards on Manusmriti. It is not clear whether he classified the varna by Karma (deeds) or by Janma (birth).  In the absence of clear understanding, it is not correct to either praise or deride Manu. 

How and when the process of creating a caste by virtue of birth started, is not very clear.  Because even in the eight century Adi Sankara debunked the myths about untouchability  caste distinction and discrimination  by accepting a boy of lower lineage named Giri and invoking in him the essentials of higher learning, he exhibited his sense of equality for all human beings, Giri wrote Totaka Ashtakam and was known as Totakacharya. He was later on made the head of  the Jyothir Math at Badri as the first Shankaracharya by Adi Sankara. Totakacharya in his work  Srutisarasamuddharanam has beautifully  explained the identity between the Jiva and Brahmin in propounding the Adviata Vedanta. Here he clearly describes  how a jiva can transform itself into a Brahman  by acquiring certain virtues and attributes. According to him, Brahmanism is not something that comes by inheritance or birth, it has to be acquired by a process of intellectual and spiritual evolution.  He is also believed have written this sloka in Bhaja Govindam, which was added after the siddi of Adi Sankara.

The sloka reads likethis...

जटिलो मुण्डी लुञ्छितकेशः, काषायाम्बरबहुकृतवेषः।
पश्यन्नपि च न पश्यति मूढः,
उदरनिमित्तं बहुकृतवेषः 

What this Shloka means :


बड़ी जटाएं, केश रहित सिर, बिखरे बाल , काषाय (भगवा) वस्त्र और भांति भांति के वेश ये सब अपना पेट भरने के लिए ही धारण किये जाते हैं, अरे मोहित मनुष्य तुम इसको देख कर भी क्यों नहीं देख पाते हो ॥१४॥


Matted and untidy hair, shaven heads, orange or variously colored cloths are all a way to earn livelihood . O deluded man why don't you understand it even after seeing.॥14॥  

Another theory that has found some acceptance is that the Varnas or castes were formed out of various parts of Lord Brahma with Brahmins coming from the head Kshatriyas from the Hands, Vaishya's from the thighs and the Shudras  from the feet. With the feet of the lord being holy for everyone, there is no way a shudra can be treated as an outcaste.

However, it is evident that the Brahmins used their intellect to instill fear of god in the minds of people belonging to other Varnas and offered ways to get relief  from these, by way of offering Daan and Dakshina to Brahmins, by way of gold and food grains. They also made them to perform elaborate religious rituals to invoke the blessings of the gods, for victories in war, and for better harvests. Apart from this, they also collected huge wealth from these people, promising to perform religious rituals for their upliftment to higher castes in their next birth, just as the Christian clergy sold tickets to heaven to the gullible people before the renaissance.  

The caste system seems to have drawn its inspiritation from  the pre renaissance Christianity, where three estates were formed which included the Clergy, the Royals and the Nobles consisting of rich and the business community.  The rest were treated as slaves and exploited. Similarly the Hindus also created imaginary three estates consisting of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas and connived to treat others as untouchables. While renaissance changed the way people were treated in Christianity. it has still not happened in the Hindu religion. There is  very little hope of this happening with the current political system. The dalits are the cash cows for all the political parties without exception. Abolition of caste system will not be in any way facilitated by the political parties and politicians, because it does not help them or  their cause.

We need a selfless reformer A Baba Saheb Ambedkar or a Jyothirba Phuley to be reborn to create a society of equality and respect for all human beings without discrimination.

Let us hope and pray that this happens soon.  

Best wishes,


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