There is a popular word – “Islamic terrorism”. Does it mean terrorism is an exclusive business of Islam? No. There are terrorists among Muslims. That doesn’t make all Islamic followers terrorists. Similar misconception can be seen in Hinduism when it comes to caste system.
In Christianity, there are approximately 38,000 denominations (Like for example, Catholics, Eastern, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Protestant, Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Methodist, Baptist, Assyrian et el). In Kerala, Syrians will not even marry Latins.
Take any religion, any community or any political party – there are people who are “more equal”. There are “big brothers” in every community. It is there for appeasing, nepotism, exploitation and corruption. It was there since human beings (Homo sapiens) started living in a society.
The principle of caste system is not confined to any one country. It applies to all human beings of all races, in all countries. Caste was there in one form or another. Take for example feudal system in Europe.
Similarly, there are misconceptions regarding birth-based caste system and discrimination of people born in certain castes in the society. That doesn’t mean Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma originally had a caste system.
There is absolutely no element of discrimination in Vedas regarding any person’s caste. Just like in Astrology, the concept of caste is relatively new. Vedas contain no word that can be considered a synonym for ‘caste’. There two words commonly pointed out to mean ‘caste’ is Jaati and Varna. These words have completely different meaning.
According to Vedic period literature, Jaati means a classification. Nyaya Sutra states “Samaanaprasavaatmika Jaatih” or those having similar birth source form a Jaati.
Jaati is is creation of God, says Sastras.
All beings in the earth have classifieds into four:
- Udbhija = sprouted from ground (earth) like plants, grass, vegetables etc.
- Andaja = born out of eggs fish, birds, reptiles etc
- Jarayuja or Pindaja = mammals or animals, human beings etc. born out of physical bodies
- Ushmaj or Swedaja = reproducing due to temperature and ambient conditions like flies, virus, bacteria etc.
And there is the word Varna. ‘Varna’ means one that is adopted by choice. While Jaati is provided by God, ‘Varna’ is our own choice. There are four major Varnas: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.
During Vedic period, everyone is considered to be born as Shudra. Then based on his or her education, one becomes a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya. This completion of education is considered to be a second birth. Hence these three Varnas are called “Dwija” or twice-born.
However, those who remain uneducated for whatever reasons continue as Shudra and perform support-activities for the society and they were not outcaste.
– Remember that vedas have said ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ which means ‘whole earth is a family’ and ‘Sarve jana sukhino bhavantu’ which means ‘May all humans live happily’.
In the Mahabharata (12. 188), it is said that all creation is God’s creation, and that no one is high or low by birth. It is only by samskara (purification, training) that one becomes a Brahmin:
“janmana jayate sudrah, samskarad bhaved dvijah veda-pathad bhaved vipro, brahma janatiti brahmanah”
“By birth one is a sudra (lowest caste), by the purificatory process one becomes a dvija (higher caste), by study of the Vedas one becomes a vipra, and one who knows Brahman is a brahmana.”
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, Shloka 13 says:
“Chaturvarnam maya shristim gunakarma vibhagashah Tasya kartarmapi mam viddya akartaram avayayam”
– The four-fold order was created by Me according to the divisions of quality and work. Though I am its creator, know Me to be incapable of action or change.
The emphasis is on guna (aptitude) and karma (function) and not on jaati (birth). The varna or the order to which we belong is independent of sex, birth or breeding. A varna is determined by temperament and vocation – not by birth or heredity.
– In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter18, verse 40 again emphasis this point:
“There is no being on earth, or again in heaven among the gods, that is liberated from the three qualities born of Nature.”
And the next verse (Gita Chapter18, verse 41): “Of Brahmanas, Kshtriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras, O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature.”
These four divisions of men exist in every society. A class of thinkers and philosophers, a group of men who are martially spirited and who are very anxious to engage in politics and fighting, a class of men who like to engage in agricultural cultivation and selling the produce or in business activities, and a class of men who do physical jobs.
According to the Mahabharata, the whole world was originally of one class but later it became divided into four divisions on account of the specific duties. In the famous dialogue between Yudhishthira and the Yaksha:
– “A man does not become a Brahman by the mere fact of his birth, not even by the acquisition of Vedic scholarship; it is good character alone that can make one a Brahman. He will be worse than a Shudra if his conduct is not in conformity with the rules of good behavior.”
Bhagavata clearly says in 7.11.35 that “Just because one is born to a Brahmin doesn’t automatically make him a Brahmin. But he has more chances of becoming a Brahmin (since his parents can transfer the knowledge and duties to him). But he MUST get all those qualifications of Brahmin to become a Brahmin.
On the other hand if a person born to a nonBrahmin possesses all the qualities of a Brahmin, he/she should be immediately accepted as a Brahmin.”
– Manusmriti says: “The Brahman acquires his status by his knowledge, the Kshatriya by his martial vigor; the Vaishya by wealth; and the Shudra by birth alone.”
A most popular sloka in Yajurved (Purush Sukta is in 31st Chapter of Yajurved) which was misinterpreted as “Brahmins were created by God’s mouth, Kshtriyas by Chest, Vaishyas by thigh, and Shudras by legs” which is how Vedas divide people into caste.
To see what it actually means, let us look at the previous shloka 31.10.
It asks a question – Who is mouth? Who is hand? Who is thigh and who is leg?
The next sloka gives the answer – Brahmin is mouth. Kshatriya is hand. Vaishya is thigh and Shudra becomes the legs. Please note that the sloka does not say that Brahmin “takes birth” from mouth…It says Brahmin “is” mouth.
In Vedas, Shudra means a hard-working person. (Tapase Shudram – Yajurved 30.5). And that is why Purush Sukta calls them as foundation (leg) of entire human society. Nowhere has it been used in a derogatory manner. Nowhere has it mentioned that Shudras are untouchable, birth-based, disallowed from study of Vedas, lesser in status than other Varnas, disallowed in Yajnas.
– There are hundreds of mentioning in Hindu scriptures that caste is based on the Karma he/she does.
The Chandogya Upanishad says Satyakaam Jaabaal was son of a prostitute but became a Brahmin. As per Bhagvat, Agniveshya became Brahmin though born to a king.
Aitareya Rishi was son of a Daasa (Shudra) and criminal but became a Brahmin of highest order and wrote Aitareya Brahman and Aitareyopanishad.
Raavan was born from Pulatsya Rishi (Brahmin) but became a Rakshas. Vidur was son of a servant but became a Brahmin and minister of Hastinapur Empire.
Veda Vyasa was son of a fisher-woman, not a Brahmin.
Is there anybody in Greece who believes in ancient Greek religion today? Do Romans believe in ancient religious scriptures?
Similarly, Hindus lost their belief in Vedas and Upanishads. And they live a superficial life. Added to that the misleading theories of communists, British and non-Hindu – biased Indologists have caused a great damage to our society and have sown seeds of differences.
They created the word Dalits to exploit them. If you go to North Indian villages, there are Brahmins who live in hell-like conditions. The vote-bank, caste-politics add fuel to Indian caste system.
Caste system is created in Medieval India by external invaders. That’s another theory, but no proof. But we can safely say that caste system is created by people who want to live on caste. Just a a film star pushing his son or daughter or a politician wants his son/daughter to become politician, a caste-believer enforce his/her kids to be in the same caste.
I recall an incident. Once I was travelling from Cochin to Bangalore in a train. My fellow traveler was from Kottayam. He is retired professor from Mysore, born in a Christian family. He looked very sad. He said he was an atheist and never went to Church. Now that his youngest daughter has to marry to a Christian boy, he was asked to take permission from the Church where his family was originally hailing from. He has to provide this document to the Bridegroom’s Church – failing which marriage won’t happen. The bridegroom and his parents want to marry their son in religious way only.
Since he never went to Church, he had a very tough time. He had to pay a huge amount – some penalties or kick-back may be. I don’t know. I cannot cross-check the story.
Muslims will have similar stories to tell. Various castes in Hinduism will also have similar (in different ways) to tell. But the moral is that, Religion and Caste have become like a Mafia gang and they can pressurize any government. The castes in India is getting organized and becoming more and more influential. It is becoming deep-rooted.
Government is not for the individual, it is with vote bank groups. So people are scared to come out of caste or religion, fearing that they will be alienated.
And the caste spirit is increasing day-by-day. You have seen it during Mandal commission implementation. The government and political parties promote caste system in India.
In today’s world, you can change your religion. But can you change your caste? NO WAY.
~ Udaylal Pai, Freelance Journalist, Writer and Researcher