View Full Version : QuickRef: The Institution of Caste in India: Positive Aspects
20 April 2010, 09:47 AM
This thread is a collection of points on how caste was never a system of oppression or backwardness in India, until the time of the British rule, and how the system has secured and sustained the Hindu religious, traditional and cultural roots.
Members may add their points that subscribe to the positive aspects of the institution of caste.
Dharampal in his 'Rediscovering India'
• Yet, according to their traditions, especially traditions which particular castes or tribes subscribe to, each such caste had a uniquely divine origin. According to anthropological theory, castes have largely grown out of earlier tribal groups and in course of time though not fully integrated in the larger body politic have yet accepted its norms and belief structure.
• In recent centuries to these castes and tribes have been added yet other newly formed groups by the religious conversion of some of the Indian people to the religions of Islam and Christianity.
• Besides there has been a sprinkling of people from other areas who at one time or another have migrated into India, and while keeping to their own customs have made India their home.
• But while castes and tribes have always existed in India and continue to exist today, never before in history do they seem to have posed a major problem. Historically they have existed side by side, they have interacted amongst themselves, groups of them have even had ritual or real fights with each other as the Right-hand and Left-hand caste groupings had in southern India till the beginning of the nineteenth century.
• Contrary to accepted assumptions, and perhaps to Manusmritic law, at least when the British began to conquer India, the majority of the rajas in different parts of India had also been from amongst such castes which have been placed in the sudra varna.
• Incidentally, it may be worth noting that those included amongst the Brahmin, kshtriya, and vaisya varnas, at least in recent times, have together constituted only a small minority (12 per cent to 15 per cent) of the Hindus.
• It is possible that the existence of separate castes and tribes have historically been responsible for the relative weakness of Indian polity. Yet it can, perhaps also be argued that the existence of caste has added to the tenacity of Indian society, to its capacity to survive and after lying low to be able to stand up again.
• Under what circumstances and what arrangements castes (and for that matter tribes) are divisive of Indian society or a factor leading to its cohesion are questions which still have no conclusive answer.
• In fact, the questions perhaps have not even been posed. For the British, as perhaps for some others before them, caste has been a great obstacle, in fact, an unmitigated evil not because the British believed in castelessness or subscribed to non-hierarchical system but because it stood in the way of their breaking Indian society, hindered the process of atomization, and made the task of conquest and governance more difficult.
• The present fury and the theoretical formulations against the organization of Indian society into castes, whatever the justification or otherwise of caste today, thus begins with British rule.
• Simultaneous to the stigmatizing of caste as an evil, the requirements of conquest, and perhaps also a similarity in classification, attracted the British to the Manusmriti and gave scholarly and legal support to some of its provisions, including those relating to the varnas.
• A major result of it was to provide validity and traditional sanction to the virtual dispossession of an overwhelming proportion of the Indian people from property or occupancy rights in hand and taking away their rights in the management of innumerable cultural and religious institutions which they had hitherto managed.
• Further, it also led to the erosion of the flexibility of customs which existed amongst most of the castes, and made them feel degraded to the extent they deviated from brahamanical practice.
• The listing of the castes in a rigid hierarchical order was another result of this latter approach. The earlier relationship and balance amongst the castes was thus wholly disrupted.
• Backwardness like the term "barbarians" is an imagery which one applies to others, to aliens who prove weaker and who do not subscribe to one’s own cultural norms. To morally justify the conquest, or subjection, or annihilation of others, recourse is then taken to terms like "backwardness", and when the people so termed, themselves begin mentally to subscribe to such imagery it implies that the process of subjugation of such people has been completed and that they have lost dignity in their own eyes.
• While there can be some controversy about the prosperity or poverty of the Indian people, or any segments of them during the sixteen, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the term backwardness does not in any sense apply to them then.
• Rather, it was the newly arrived Europeans in India who felt that the Indians applied such an appellation to them (the Europeans) for their manners and greed which were considered barbaric and uncouth, about the color of their skin which was thought to be diseased, or even the system of dowry which is said to have originated in eighteenth century England, but to have been looked askance in eighteenth century India.
• By the end of the eighteenth century when large parts of India had effectively been conquered and subdued the tide obviously changed and instead the term "backwardness" or images of similar nature began to be deliberately and extensively applied to Indian society.
• A detailed survey was carried out in 1822-25 in the Madras Presidency (i.e. the present Tamil Nadu, the major part of the present Andhra Pradesh, and some districts of the present Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa). The survey indicated that 11,575 schools and 1,094 colleges were still then in existence in the Presidency and that the number of students in them were 1,57,195 and 5,431 respectively. The more surprising information, which this survey provided, is with regard to the broader caste composition of the students in the schools.
• According to it, those belonging to the sudras and castes below formed 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the total students in the Tamil speaking areas, 62 per cent in the Oriya areas, 54 per cent in the Malayalam speaking areas, and 35 per cent to 40 per cent in the Telugu speaking areas.
• If one looks deep enough, corresponding images of other aspects of Indian life and society emerge from similar British records of the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. Those indicate not only a complex structure of science and technology (according to tests carried out by the British, the best steel in the world during this period was produced by relatively portable steel furnaces in India, and inoculation against small-pox was a widely-extended Indian practice) but also the sophisticated organizational structure of Indian society.
• According to Mr. Alexander Read, later the originator of the Madras land revenue system, the only thing which seemed to distinguish the nobility from their servants in Hyderabad around 1780 was that the clothes of the former were more clean.
Aurobindo in his 'India's Rebirth':
• There is no doubt that the institution of caste degenerated. It ceased to be determined by spiritual qualifications, which, once essential, have now come to be subordinate and even immaterial and is determined by the purely material tests of occupation and birth.
• By this change it has set itself against the fundamental tendency of Hinduism which is to insist on the spiritual and subordinate the material and thus lost most of its meaning. The spirit of caste arrogance, exclusiveness and superiority came to dominate it instead of the spirit of duty, and the change weakened the nation and helped to reduce us to our present conditions.
From 'Life And Thoughts Of Swami Vivekananda':
• Solution to caste problems:
The other caste must remember that if they remain backward, it is only because they sat down lazily and let the Brahmanas win the race. Instead of wasting their energies in quarrels, let them absorb the culture of the Brahmanas by taking to Sanskrit education because Sanskrit and prestige go together in India.
• Benefits of caste system
It is owing to caste that 300 million people can find a peace of bread to eat. It is an imperfect institution no doubt. But if it had not been for caste, you would have had no Sanskrit books to study. This caste made walls, around which all sorts of invasions rolled and surged but found it impossible to breakthrough.
When Caste Was Not A Bad Word
Were caste equations always as bad as they are today? Not quite. There were always castes but they were not backward.
• The interest in caste peaked around 1891 when the census came out with what were termed as Index of Castes. The word ‘caste’ is of Spanish origin and fails to capture the meaning of the Indian term, "jati," which more properly translated as "community."
• Jati in traditional India promoted and preserved diversity and multiculturalism by allotting every jati a particular space and role in society so that no jati would be appropriated or dominated by another.
• America, which has long glorified the ideal of a "melting pot" of one assimilated culture, is now coming to see the value of the "salad bowl" model, in which different cultures co-exist in harmony. The epitome of this model was the Indian jati system, revealing that our ancient practices are relevant to the modern world.
• Moreover, the jati system was integral to the survival of the Indian nation: in Swami Vivekananda’s words: "Caste is an imperfect institution no doubt. But if it had not been for caste, you would have had no Sanskrit books to study. This caste made walls, around which all sorts of invasions rolled and surged but found it impossible to breakthrough."
21 April 2010, 12:18 PM
Some facts about the origin of the caste system in India
The British rulers propagated the myth of Arya and DrAviDa to divide and rule the Hindus, and large numbers of the Hindu commons, notables and intellectuals fell for it. Although now the myth of Aryan invasion on the supposed, pre-existing, Dravidian culture that was destroyed by the invasion of the Aryans stands completely refuted today, it still exists in the school textbooks prescribed by the pseudo-secular central and state governments in India. The vested interests prefer to keep both the educated children and the illiterate rustic ignorant of the reality of the history, for their own vile ends.
Arya and DrAviDa: Who is an Arya?
• In the Hindu ShAstras, the term Arya indicates nobility, and is not confined to the brAhmaNa varNa alone. Anyone who is an eminent follower of Hindu Dharma was an Arya.
Rig Veda 7.033.07 says:
trayaH kR^iNvanti bhuvaneShu retaH (1) tisraH prajA AryA jyotiragrAH(2) |
trayo gharmAsa uShasaM sachante (3) sarvA.N ittA.N anu vidurvasiShThAH (4) ||7.033.07||
7.33.7: It is the three that make the creative energy in the work (1). Three are the nations that are Aryan in whose front is the light (2). Three shining ones cling to the dawn (3). The VasiShthas know them all (4).
[Three nations: the three planes of anna, prANa, manas. Three in line 1: Energies of three planes.-
--Translation by Dr.R.L.Kashyap
‣ It is clear that the message of this Rig Vedic verse is that Aryans are people led by (the light of) divine grace.
‣ The word 'prajA' in Vedic parlance primarily means 'birth, procreation, propagation'(compare prajApati), although the word has the meanings 'citizen, children, family, race'.
‣ Perhaps by a deliberate mistranslation of 'prajA AryA--a citizen who is an AryA' as 'Arya prajA'--people ruled by Aryans, the British sought a basis for their invented AIT.
Some other Hindu scriptural references to AryA include:
• VAlmIki RAmAyaNa describes King RAma as
Arya sarva samashchaiva sadaiva priyadarshaNaH
An Aryan who worked for the equality of all, was dear to everyone.
‣ In the RAmAyaNa, the term Arya can also apply to RakShasas or to RAvaNa. In several instances, the VAnaras and RakShasas called themselves Arya.
‣ The monkey king SugrIva is called an Arya (Ram: 505102712) and he also speaks of his brother VAli as an Arya (Ram: 402402434).
‣ In another instance in the RAmAyaNa, RAvaNa regards himself and his ministers as Aryas (Ram: 600600512).
• In the MahAbhArata, the terms Arya or AnArya are often applied to people according to their behaviour.
‣ DushAsana, who tried to disrobe DraupadI in the Kaurava court, is called an "AnArya" (Mbh:0020600253).
‣ Vidura, the son of a dAsI born from VyAsa, was the only person in the assembly whose behaviour is called "Arya", because he was the only one who openly protested when Draupadi was being disrobed by DushAsana.
‣ The PANDavas called themselves "AnArya" (Mbh:0071670471) when they killed Drona through deception.
‣ According to the Mahabharata, a person's behaviour (not wealth or learning) determines if he can be called an Arya. Also the whole Kuru clan was called as Arya .
• In the Bhagavad GItA, BhagavAn KRShNa asks Arjuna:
kutastvA kashmalamidaM viShame samupasthitam |
"Whence has come this faintheartedness upon you in this crisis? It does not befit a noble person, it will not lead to heaven, but will bring infamy, O Arjuna."
• According to Amarakosha "An arya comes from a noble family, is civilzed, of good character and soft natured. (mahakula kulinarya sabhya sajjana sadhavah.)".
• The words ariya, ayya, ajja and aje are the distorted versions of the word Arya found in languages such as Pali and Prakriti. It has taken the form of "ji" in Hindi and "ayya" in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. (also 'ayyan, ayyanAr, aiyar' in Tamil--sd)
• Aryaputra was a proud epithet used in ancient India to denote a person's noble origin. Those who did not belong to the group of Aryans were called anaryas. The word was also used to denote uncivilized or objectionable behavior. Aryavarta was the land where where the Aryans were supposed to have lived.
• The word 'Iranian' is also a distorted form of the word Aryan and was used to denote all the people who spoke Iranian languages during the period when the Zoroastrian Yashts texts were composed.
• Aurobindo writes in 'Arya', September 1914:
‣ Indians know the word ('Arya'), but it has lost for them the significance which it bore to their forefathers. Western Philology has converted it into a racial term, an unknown ethnological quantity on which different speculations fix different values.
‣ Now, even among the philologists, some are beginning to recognise that the word in its original use expressed not a difference of race, but a difference of culture.
‣ For in the Veda the Aryan peoples are those who had accepted a particular type of self-culture, of inward and outward practice, of ideality, of aspiration. The Aryan gods were the supraphysical powers who assisted the mortal in his struggle towards the nature of the godhead. All the highest aspirations of the early human race, its noblest religious temper, its most idealistic varieties of thought are summed up in this single vocable.
‣ In later times, the word Arya expressed a particular ethical and social ideal, an ideal of well-governed life, candour, courtesy, nobility, straight dealing, courage, gentleness, purity, humanity, compassion, protection of the weak, liberality, observance of social duty, eagerness of knowledge, respect for the wise and learned, the social accomplishments. It was the combined ideal of the BrAhmaNa and the KShatriya.
Everything that departed from this ideal, everything that tended towards the ignoble, mean, obscure, rude, cruel or false, was termed un-Aryan or anArya (colloq. anAri). There is no word in human speech that has a nobler history.
‣ Intrinsically, in its most fundamental sense, Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to the human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature.
Self-perfection is the aim of his self-conquest. Therefore, what he conquers he does not destroy, but ennobles and fulfils. ... The Aryan perfected is the Arhat.
Arya and DrAviDa: What is DrAviDa?
• The term drAviDa in any of its forms is not found in the four Vedas. It is also not found in the ancient Hindu or Tamil texts as denoting a specific group of people; where it is found, it only denotes a specific region of BhAratam and people living therein.
• Most PurANas and the MahAbhArata mention DrAviDa, as one of the kingdoms in bhArata-varSha.
MahAbhArata states that SahAdeva, one of the PANDavas, sent a note for collecting taxes from the people of DrAviDa (sabhA parva, Chapter 31, Stanza 71). "There are other countries also in the southern BhArata such as DrAviDa, Kerala, Pracya, Muslka, Vanavasika Karnataka, Mahisaka, Vikalpa and Musaka." This statement (MBh. bhIShma parva, Chapter 9) throws light on the various countries which existed in South India at the time of Mahabharata.
• In Brihad SaMhihitA there comes a chapter (14) on all the nations around BhArat, explained as KUrma charka. It lists the countries direction-wise. In that, countries/places such as Kanchi, Simhala, Velluru, dandaka forest, river TamraparaNi, Kaveri, Mahendra mountain etc are clubbed together as found in the Southern direction along with "countries of Tamingilasana" (countries of Tamils, Cholas, Cherans and Pandyans?)
DrAviDa gets a mention separately among the countries in South west not south. DrAviDa comes after 'Hemagiri, Sindhukalaka, RAivataka, Suraashtra and BAdara.
• After the deluge that submerged KRShNa's city of DvAraka, people migrated towards the South and North. Those in the North called the people who migrated to South as the 'pancha DrAviDa' (comprising the present states Tamil, Kerala, Andhra, KarnATaka and MahArAShtra). RAjataraNginI, a KAshmIri literary work is among the earliest works to mention DrAviDa.
• Interestingly, some etymologists trace the derivation of the word 'DrAviDa' from 'Tamil' as below:
In ancient days the whole of South India was known by the name Tamilaka, as Tamil was the language used throughout South India. Strictly speaking, all the languages used in South India were given the name Tamil. The word 'Tamil' underwent changes in the language of North India and took the form 'DrAviDa'. Etymologists are of opinion that the changes that took place in the word Tamil were are follows: Tamil--Damil--Damid--Dramid--Dravid--Dravid. There are others who trace the origin of the word 'Tamil' from 'DrAviDa' in the reverse derivation.
• Nevertheless, there is no mention of the terms Dravid, Dravida, Dravidi, Dravidam, Damila, Dramila, Dravida, dravida and their derivatives in the Sangham Tamil Literature. TolkAppiyam calls the country between the 'vaDa vEngaDam'--VenkaTa hills in the North and 'then kumari'--KanyAkumari in the South, as 'Tamil kURum nallulagam'.
• While DevAram uses only 'Tamizhan', TAyumAnavar in the 18th century uses the word 'DrAviDam' to denote the Tamil language. 'NamaThipa Nikandu', a Tamil lexicon by Sivasubramanya Kavirayar, also uses 'DrAviDam' for the Tamil language. 'Senthan Divakaram', another Tamil lexicon of 9th century mentions that 'DrAviDam' as one of the eighteen languages spoken. A later work 'Kanthanthu Upadesa Kandam' mentions that God Shiva revealed to Agastya the grammar of proud language 'DrAviDam'.
• One of the earliest usage of the term drAviDa is in the 'drAviDa-shishu' by Adi Shankara in his 'saundaryalaharI', shloka 75. This is interpreted as a reference to himself and as a reference to Saint Sambandhar. The term 'drAviDa' here obviously refers to dakShiNa bhAratam--South India.
• It was Robert Caldwell, a scheming Evangelist Missionary and Orientalist under the British rule in India who created the term Dravidan to indicate the natives of the southern India, seeking to propagate his racist theories using a teleological approach.
D.P Sivaram (in his work 'On Tamil Militarism') proposes that the aims of Caldwell's study was to show that the fundamental tenets of the nascent phase of the Dravidian ideology were essentially linked to the political and cultural legacies of the British attempt to 1) demilitarise Tamil martial communities 2) Destabilise the spiritual challenge put forward by the Brahmins which was obstructive to his missionary work. (http://www.sangam.org/articles/view2/?uid=1033)
• Wikipedia aptly sums up Caldwell's work as follows:
Thus Caldwell’s teleology assumed that Tamil revivalism would help consolidate the Protestant ethic and the allegiance to English rule among the non-military castes in Tamil society, by giving expression to the moral and religious ideas which he assumed were immanent in their ancient Dravidian culture and language.
01. 'purANic Encyclopaedia' by vettam maNi
02. 'The Dravidian Problem' by K.V.RAmakRShNa Rao
03. Who were the Dravidans?
21 April 2010, 08:37 PM
In the Hindu ShAstras, the term Arya indicates nobility, and is not confined to the brAhmaNa varNa alone. Anyone who is an eminent follower of Hindu Dharma was an Arya.
As I look into this word I see arya is rooted in ṛ which is kind, favorable; arya is defined as true, devoted, dear, excellent.
If we look to aryā it is defined as master,lord.
I can see how this word overall can = nobility in its truest sense.
22 April 2010, 09:52 PM
Why thank you Saidevo, I think this a most helpful resource. The next time some Christian or atheist comes complaining about the evils of the Hindu caste system (because let's face it, that's the worst complaint they can lodge), we can simply direct them here.
23 April 2010, 12:18 AM
Discrimination in Western Societies
Here are some examples of glaring discrimination of minorities in Egalitarian Western societies:
• If Manu deplored the shUdras, what did Jefferson, the Ambedkar of the USA do?
"I advance it, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind."
--Thomas Jefferson, author of the famous statement, "All men are created equal." (source: Dialog on Whiteness Studies - By Rajiv Malhotra - sulekha.com).
• "Where there is Man, there are social divisions.. That's why you have the Boston Brahmins in the US, the Zaibutsu in Japan, Parisian aristocracy, the Communist Party of China, and what have you."
--writes Varsha Bhosle, columnist in rediff.com.
From the article 'People & Events: Boston Brahmins'
‣ The term "Boston Brahmins" refers to a class of wealthy, educated, elite members of Boston society in the nineteenth century. Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the term in a novel in 1861, calling Boston's elite families "the Brahmin Caste of New England."
‣ Several factors, besides wealth, made Boston's Brahmins stand out as an aristocracy even from the wealthy of other cities. With waves of immigration to America's cities in the middle of the nineteenth century, the position of the wealthy and elite in every city was threatened. ... In Boston, the Brahmins fought fiercely to close immigrants out. While they may have prided themselves on being the champions of abolitionism, they did not actually want black Americans, or any other non-Brahmin group, encroaching on their power or society.
• In India, the government lending institutions such as the public sector banks, give loans to the weeker societies at very low interest rates for every conceivable purpose. The central government monitors their performance regularly in lending to the 'priority sector'.
In America, Mortgage lending institutions routinely discriminate Blacks from owing properties in affluent suburbs of America.
‣ Black and Hispanic mortgage loan applicants in the United States continued to face higher rejection rates on than whites and Asians last year, according to data released by the Federal Reserve last week. (http://www.mortgageloan.com/blacks-hispanics-see-increased-mortage-rejection-rates-3503)
• In India, the central government census lists thousands of castes, most of which relate to the BC and the SC/ST. More and more castes seek to be defined lower in the social order, in order to secure the educational and monetary benefits.
As against this, what the USA can give its citizens is the Racial profiling. A report from the Amnesty International USA says:
‣ Racial profiling is a serious human rights problem affecting millions of people in the United States in even the most routine aspects of their daily lives. A year-long study conducted by the Domestic Human Rights Program of Amnesty International USA found that the unlawful use of race in police, immigration, and airport security procedures has expanded since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
‣ The study further found that state laws provide insufficient and inconsistent protection against profiling. Despite promises by President George W. Bush shortly after his taking office to end racial profiling, the number of American ethnic, racial, and religious groups whose members are at high risk of being subjected to this scourge has increased substantially.
‣ To address this growing national problem, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) urges the White House and Congress to prioritize and enact the End Racial Profiling Act of 2004 and allocate sufficient funds for its vigorous enforcement.
• In banking and other government jobs, the staffers belonging to the SC/ST community routinely harass their superiors, who are not even allowed to point out or advise them about their low-key performances.
American Bar Association: "The charges were breathtaking: That in the heart of the most predominantly black city in the country, the Christianity-based activist organization was forcing its African-American employees to use the back entrance, and providing them separate and unequal facilities for taking breaks and eating lunch."
(source: Christian Coalition’s racism). There are influential Christian racist groups like KKK, Christian Identity and the National Organization For European-American Rights (NOFEAR).
• As against the caste discriminations highlighted in India, the Social discrimination aginst the settled immigrant races, specially the Blacks, seems to occur more often than not in 'white race riots':
‣ Between 1824 and 1951 there were over 300 events classified as “White Race Riots” in which entire white communities turned on and destroyed entire Black communities and murdered Blacks in mass. There were 26 such major events and hundreds of smaller ones in major cities and towns across the US during the summer of 1919 alone. This period has been tagged by historians as “The Red Summer of 1919”, because many of the events happened from May to October of that year and the blood of their victims literally painted the streets of America. (http://www.blackwallstreet.freeservers.com/)
• Discrimination of humans of the same faith in temples is certainly totally wrong and even criminal. No Hindu should be denied access to a place of public worship in the name of caste. Of course, this does happen in India, but usually ends up the government interfering and securing the rights of the harassed people. What is the situation in the USA?
Conversion to Christianity does not seem to eradicate caste prejudice in India any more than it eliminates racial discrimination in the US. Despite Jesus' call for brotherly love, isn't Sunday the most segregated day in America? If not, how does one explain the need for English-speaking African-Americans and Hispanics of Christian faith to maintain separate places of worship? Many fundamentalist Christian groups in the US still maintain racial separation and frown upon inter-racial dating. (http://www.christianaggression.com/item_display.php?type=ARTICLES&id=1094613352)
• In the name of secularism, our governments drove Hinduism out of the public schools in India, subscribing to the Macaulay's English educational system. In the name of Dalits upliftment, the governments give them the majority of seats, especially in higher educational institutions, charging them a lower fees, paying no heed to the brain drain that occurs due to the 'quota system' that our Constitution wanted to end in the near future.
Summerton, South Carolina - Take a trip to Scott's Branch Public High School, and you'll be greeted by a student body that is more than 99 percent Black. Fifty years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, residents say schools in this school district are as segregated as ever. For proof, they point to a nearby private school, Clarendon Hall, which is 90 percent white and admitted its first black student only four years ago.
(source: Segregation persists in town behind Brown - msnbc.msn.com). Refer to Take a look at Slavery - godisimaginary.com
• Hurricane Katrina, 2005, in New Orleans
At times of natural calamities in India, it is a common sight that Hindu institutions like the RSS, and the popular Hindu ashrams like that of MAtA AmritAnanda MayI, Ramakrishna Mission, etc. rush to the affected areas and serve the people without any distinctions of caste or religion. It is also a common sight that the Christian missionary vultures flock to these areas and try to secure conversions in the name of monetary help and that the governmental machinary often turns a blind eye to their aggression.
When the Katrina hurricane struck the New Orleans, USA in 2005, the Hindu institutions rushed to the spot and their service was much appreciated. In September 2005, Mata Amritanandamayi donated $1,000,000 to the Bush-Clinton Hurricane Katrina fund. She also sent a top aide to the devastated areas soon after the storm struck in the United States to assess the kind of help needed by victims.
As against this scenario, this is what a US Senate member spoke about the calamity:
"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
--Rep. Richard H. Baker
• Although Dalits in India are regularly harassed, specially the BC, there are no 'Hate groups' in India. In the USA, it is different.
‣ The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 932 active hate groups in the United States in 2009. This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites.
‣ New software tools widely available on the Internet are helping hate groups jump on the video game bandwagon with offerings such as Ethnic Cleansing — where players become cyber-Klansmen and stalk minorities through a virtual urban landscape. And a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League says there is a rise in hate games on the Web.
(source: Hate Groups Use Freely Available Software to Make Racist Games - abcnews.com).
Let us sum up this brief fact-finding with the following quote:
• Kahled Ahmed, columnist from Pakistan, has made an interesting point about the American way of life:
"The American way of life can be quite isolating because of the concept of equal-but-separate rights, allowing individuals and whole communities to live in their separate identity bubbles."
Human society, in the East or West, is bound to have social distinctions in one form other. They can never be eliminated. The only solution is peaceful co-existence with mutual respect, which was the purport of our Hindu institution of varNa and caste.
26 April 2010, 11:14 AM
Some facts about the origin of the caste system in India-02
The influence and role of varNa in ancient Hindu educational system
(From the book Education in Ancient India by Dr.A.S.Altekar)
It is usually held that the varNa-vibhAgam--system of class distinctions had rigidly determined the occupations and made the teaching line a monopoly of the BrAhmaNas.
• We shall however find that KShatriya teachers of Vedic and philosophical subjects existed down the 6th century BCE; and that
• the keen intellect of the Brahmana community was for a long time utilised to further the bounds of human knowledge in several branches of non-Vedic studies.
It was only in later times that religious and literary education came to be confined to the BrAhmaNas and professional and industrial training to non-BrAhmaNas.
• Interdining with lower castes, which used to be an anathema among the orthodox upper castes in the earlier centuries, was not so in ancient India.
DharmashAstra writers like Manu (4.253) and Apastamba (2.1.3-4) permit a BrAhmaNa to dine in the house of a barber, a milkman and a tenant and employ a ShUdra cook even for preparing the sacrificial food.
• Inter-caste marriages were allowed by the majority of the SmRties, provided the bridegroom belonged to a higher caste.
Non-BrAhmaNas as Vedic teachers
• Although SmRties have laid down that BrAhmaNas alone should impart Vedic education, it was not so in the earlier period. There is evidence to show that non-BrAhmaNas also sometimes used to become Vedic teachers, with appropriate rituals. (kAThaka samhitA 9.16).
• Some KShatriyas composed Vedic hymns: eg, VishvAmitra in the Rig Veda. In the UpaniShadic period KShatriyas took an important part in the development of philosophy and were the exclusive custodians of many esoteric doctrines, which BrAhmaNas could learn only from them and not without some difficulty. (Ch.Up.5.3.7, Br.Up.2.1.15)
• There are several cases of BrAhmaNas approaching renowned KShatriya teachers like Ashvapati, Janaka and PravAhana Jaivali as humble students of philosophy and religion. (Br.Up.2.1.14, 4.1.1, Ch.Up.4.4.1, etc.)
We should therefore note that the varNa system succeeded in making Vedic and religious education a monopoly of the BrAhmaNas only at about 300 BCE. Nor was it a lucrative monopoly in practice; it was a monopoly to beg. The income of even the most famous Vedic teachers was a precarious one and compared very poorly with the gains of a successful Vysya or a senApati--army captain.
BrAhmaNas as teachers of non-Vedic subjects
• SmRties lay down that except in times of difficulties, BrAhmaNas shoud not take up the occupations of Vysas or kShatriyas. For a long time, however, BrAhmaNas were following a number of non-Vedic pursuits and professions and also figuring as their teachers.
• The PANDava and Kaurava heroes were not trained by a KShatriya but by a BrAhmaNa teacher--DroNAchArya.
• BrAhmaNas were also trainers of horses and elephants (Manu 3.162).
• JAtakas also show that at Taxila, BrAhmaNas used to impart education in several practical professions like the military art, medicine and snake charming, etc., both to BrAhmaNas and KShatriyas (Asadisa J.181, see also Thusa J.338).
• Dhanur Veda lays down that BrAhmaNas are as eligible to be teachers of the military science as KShatriyas (1.4).
It was only in later times, from 500 CE onwards, that BrAhmaNas ceased to be teachers of useful arts and professions owing to the growing rigour of the varNa system.
VarNa system in the curriculum, domination of Vedic studies
• SmRties lay down emphatically that all BrAhmaNas should devote twelve years after their Upanayanam, to Vedic studies. In practice, however, only about a fifth of the BrAhmaNa community, used to devote itself to Vedic studies, when new branches like grammar, philosophy, law and classical Sanskrit literature came to be developed.
This was alright because, for preservation of the oral tradition of the Vedas, the services of only a small section of the community who could take up the rigours were necessary. The rest were required only to study the Vedas and other scriptures only for their prayogam--practice, in Vedic rituals.
Vedic studies of the KShatriyas and Vysyas
• The term dvija included the KShatriyas and Vysyas along with BrAhmaNas. So the SmRtiti requires even the KShatriyas and Vysyas to pursue Vedic studies after their Upanayanam, although such studies were never deep or prolonged.
• Some JAtaka stories however mention that some princes used to study all the three Vedas as well as eighteen practical sciences (Dummedha J.50).
• MahAbhArata mentions that the Kaurava princes were experts in Veda, VedAnta and various branches of military science (1.118, 133).
Although in the early times Vedic and philosophical studies were included in the curriculam of the prince, they were left out in course of time. From about the beginning of the Christian era, KShatriyas and Vysyas gradually gave up undergoing the Upanayanam, so became ineligible for Vedic studies. (Hence the observation of DalhaNa, a medical writer, in Sushruta, sharIra 10.52). By about 1000 CE they were reduced to the position of the ShUdras and were debarred from Vedic education.
Vedic education and the ShUdras
• Sacred texts have laid down in very emphatic terms that the ShUdra should be rigourously excluded the Vedic education and rituals. This injunction has been always carried out in practice.
• Some early texts allow the carpenter to be eligible for Upanayanam and Vedic study; however in those times, he was a member of the Aryan and not the ShUdra community.
• The exclusion of the ShUdras from the Vedic studies undoubtedly appears as unjustifiable to us at present, but there were peculiar circumstances that necessitated this step in early times.
• In the preservation of the Vedas by oral tradition, the AchAryas believed that if there was the slightest mistake in the pronunciation of the Vedic mantras, a disaster would inevitably issue (PANINIya shikShA 5.52).
• As the Vedic Sanskrit was not the mother tongue of the ShUdras, it was feared that Vedic hymns would be transformed out of recognition, if they were transmitted orally in ShUdra families from generation to generation, which in the eyes of AchAryas, would be a great disaster.
• Later on, when female education began to lag behind, and women as class ceased to be educated in Sanskrit, in is interesting to note that the BrAhmaNa AchAryas did not flinch from placing their own mothers, wives, and daughters in the category of the ShUdras and declaring unhesitatingly that they also were unfit for Vedic studies.
Theological animus or pride was thus not at the root of the exclusion of the ShUdras and women from the Vedic education. Nor did it amount to a total denial of religious education; for women and ShUdras were permitted to get religious enlightenment from the study of SmRties, ItihAsas and PurANas.
With the exception of the ShUdras from the Vedic education, the varNa system for a long time did not result in restricting occupations to specific varNas.
• Gautama Dharma Shastra 1.6.16 mentions, "rAjanyavaishyakarmA vidyAhInaH", prescribing the occupations of the KShatriya and Vysya for dull BrAhmaNa children.
• Ambitious BrAhmaNas were also not prevented from the military profession, where glittering prizes awaited the successful adventurer.
• A BrAhmaNa priest of holy Benaras is to be seen sending his son to Taxila to learn archery, because it was predicted that he was to be a king (SArabhanga J.no.522).
• It was ambition alone that was responsible for sovereignity being vested in BrAhmaNa families like those of Shungas, KaNvas, Kadambas.
• Army recruitment was not confined to the KShatriyas; inscriptions make it clear that it was largely recruited from the agriculturists and the ShUdras. Dhanurveda also contemplates military education for all four varNas.
It is interesting to note that when Yuan Chwang was in India in the second quarter of the 7th century CE, the kings of Ujjain, Maheshvar and Assam were BrAhmaNas; those of PariyAtra and Kanauj, Vyshyas; and those of Matipura, and Sindh, ShUdras.
The commericial and industry lines were also very often followed by BrAhmaNas and KShatriyas. The varNa system therefore made education rigid only to a limited degree and that too from c.800 CE.
varNa and the Buddhist education
• Since Buddhism was against the Vedas, education was provided to members of all varNas. Persons were admitted to the Order irrespective of the varNas, although servants, slaves, and debtors were refused admission to the Order. UpAli, a favourite disciple of Buddha, was a barber before he joined the Order.
• However, it is interesting to note that among famous Buddhist teachers and scholars, the vast majority consisted of people who earlier were BrAhmaNas. Thus MoggalAna, SAriputta, NAgasena, Vasubandhu and NAgArjuna were all BrAhmaNas before their conversion.
04 May 2010, 09:09 AM
What varNa-vibhAgam, and jAti-lakShaNam did for ancient BhArat
In the history of any country--ancient and modern--there have always been five classes of people in the society, who were broadly classified under two heads: people belonging to the traditional divisions and those who were outsiders--varNa and avarNa in the Hindu parlance.
• The social structure of people who belonged to the four varNas facilitated them to earn their living by getting trained and being occupied in one or more of the hundreds of different occupations that uniquely highlighted the ancient Indian culture and tradition.
• People of the avarNa classification generally comprised of prisoners of war, aboriginals and tribes, and enemies. These people worked in the palaces and homes of the varNa-people as servants, attendants, washermen, fishermen, currier, mimic, mountaineers, and other such menial chores.
‣ They worked under their yajamAnas--patrons, whose tight control practically made them slaves with no rights to choose their own occupations, although they were not denied the basic rights of food, clothing and shelter, and the yajamAnas and the dAsas were guided by laws of one or more SmRties that applied to their times. More on this later.
‣ And certainly, while there were gradations and distinctions among the people of the four varNas, the avarNa people who were outsiders and outcasts were naturally considered antyaja--of lower caste.
While many--if not most--of us denounce caste and varNa in the modern society, we cannot deny the existence of these five classes of people in today's society, although the varNa-vibhAgam is not as marked now as it was in the olden days.
It is true that today, most people transcend their caste and varNa barriers in their occupations and daily living, and keep their caste labels only for the identity of family and tradition.
It is equally true that there are slaves in the modern society: prisoners of wars, aboriginals and tribes, and the people working under a yajamAna, engaged in one of the many tasks mentioned above. Today, bonded labour is a socially decried but secretly accepted norm, practised in their mildest to the most cruel forms in homes, factories and offices.
What progress has modern India made by intellectually, politically and lawfully encouraging transgression of varNa dharma, while actively conniving to foster the divisions and distinctions of caste for vested interests?
• A latest news item says that the Supreme Court has passed orders for more seats to be created in professional colleges for admission of candidates belonging to the Forward Caste--FC, who are denied, year after year, by the quota system of 69% in Tamilnadu and 50% or more in other states for the candidates of BC/SC/ST.
• People belonging to the FC usually migrate to Western countries for higher studies and work, and the governments cannot care less for the brain drain that ensues.
• The brain drain that has ensued due to the migration of merit has created sub-standard quality of work in the government sectors, with increasing demands for bribery at all levels to get things done.
• People who obtain jobs in the private sectors, specially in the corporate sector practically work as glorified slaves although they are paid very well, with no sufficient time to devote for their personal, religious or spiritual progress or even for the family.
• The less said about people who the country, the better. They are the people directly responsible for India still remaining as a developing country, with an abysmal gap between the haves and the have-nots. They are the people among whom, human and dharmic values are the lowest in the country.
As against this scenario, here is a compilation about what the varNa-vibhAgam--class distinctions, and jAti-lakShaNam--caste distinctions did for ancient BhArat, whose achievements are forever recorded in the annals of history.
From the book Labour in ancient India by K.M.Saran
• The contributions of the ancient Indians to philosophy, ethics, economics, politics, jurisprudence, astronomy, astrology, medicine, arts and literature and other branches of knowledge are still out-ranking and offer a solution to many problems which are regarded as insoluble today.
• The description given by Hiuen Tsang of a wide of in India is no doubt a reliable variety crops grown very proof of the extent to which agricultural industry was developed in those days. More evidences are available in Kautilya's Arthashastra and in quite a good number of ancient Indian scriptures.
• History also bears evidence that Indian traders carried on maritime traffic and overseas trade with China, Indo-China, Greece and Rome.
‣ Asoka's inscriptions show that India had connections (presumably trade and political connections) with Asia-minor and near-west countries.
‣ According to V.A.Smith, Pliny in the first and Ptolemy in the second centuries A.D. testified to the trade of India with the Roman empire.
‣ In his study of Vatsayayana's Kamasutra, Chakladar came to the conclusion that India's foreign trade was developed enough at the time of Fahien's visit.
‣ There is evidence of trading voyages to Burma, Malaya and Ceylon in early Magadhan epoch and some evidence of India's trade with foreign countries in the Rig Vedic days is also available.
‣ A recent book Hindu-America throws enough light on the trading operations carried on by the ancient Hindus in the places around the present Panama Canal. Further evidence is available in some of the authoritative works on ancient Indian history.
• The remains of the ancient Indian civilisation unearthed at Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kaushambi and the various inscriptions found all over the country show that the development of goldsmithy, blacksmithy, carpentry, ivory-carving, ceramics industries and spinning and weaving of yarn and cloth was phenomenal in ancient India.
‣ The fact that these industries were fully established and well developed as early as 320 B.C.is proved by Kautilya's Arthashastra.
‣ Hiuen Tsang's accounts go a long way to testify to the development of Muslin, Calico, Linen and Wool spinning and weaving industries in the 7th century A.D..
‣ Banabhatta gives a list of such articles as Kshauma, Jatipattika and Chitrapat, Amsuka, Lalatantu, Netra, Dukula, Pushpapatta, Pulakharda and some other varieties of silk and cotton cloth.
‣ Amarkosa gives a wide variety of clothes used for different as well as of the materials purposes used for the manufacture of cloth.
‣ The sculpture and architecture of the Gupta age and the famous iron pillar at Delhi testify to the high degree of skill the stone cutters and the blacksmiths had achieved. A large number of guilds, to which we shall make a reference in a subsequent chapter, show the arts and crafts which were developed in ancient India.
‣ The evidences available of the Satavahana age prove that even hydraulic engines were used in those days. Greek authors have also given vivid accounts of the manufacture of arms, weaving of cloth embroidered with gold and ship-building industry in Mauryan times.
It is believed that so much development was to a great extent the benediction of the system of Varna and castes which, by virtue of its occupational bias, made specialisation in particular arts and crafts possible, and helped in the passage of such knowledge from one generation to the other. It necessitates a study of the system of Varna and Castes and the purpose such a system was supposed to serve.
More on the 'study of the system of Varna and Castes' to follow...
07 May 2010, 10:51 PM
Here is a thought-provoking article on the strengths of our caste system:
A Pluralist’s encounter with a Missionary
by Kalavai Venkat
08 May 2010, 08:30 AM
Hindu social structure in the times of the Vedas: a glimpse
It is anyone's guess that the hiearchical system of caste was derived from the equitable system of chatur-varNa. Although the different castes as we know them today were not there in the times of the Vedas and ItihAsa-PurANas, the BhAratIya social structure of those times certainly comprised of different groups of people, who were broadly identified as Aryas--those who respected and followed the Veda Dharma, and anAryas--those who disrespected and opposed it.
In addition, there were different groups among the Aryans themselves, identified by their varNa. Similarly, there were groups among the anAryans, some of which figure in the Vedas: DAsas/Dasyus, PaNis, and Asuras. This compilation is about the social groups of people who lived in the times of the Vedas.
Astronomical chronology of the Vedas
Although the Vedas are eternal, and were/are preserved by an impeccable oral tradition, they were compiled by VyAsa Maharshi for the Kali Yuga, which started on 18 Feb 3102 BCE. A discussion of the date of Kali Yuga is given at: http://www.encyclopediaofauthentichinduism.org/articles/51_the_bhartiya_chronology.htm
• Hindu tradition makes mention of the conjunction of the 'seven planets' (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, sun and moon) and Ketu (southern lunar node, the northern node/RAhu being by definition in the opposite location) near the fixed star Revati (Zeta Piscium) on 18 February 3102 BCE. This date, at which KRShNa is supposed to have breathed his last, is conventionally the start of the so-called Kali-Yuga.
• If we can read the Vedic and post-Vedic indications properly, they mention constellations on the equinox points which were there
‣ from 4000 BCE for the Rg-Veda (Orion, as already pointed out by B.G.Tilak)
‣ through around 3100 BCE for the Atharva-Veda and the core MahAbhArata
‣ down to 2300 BCE for the SUtras and the shatapatha brAhmaNa.
‣ Thus, the kauShItaki brAhmaNa puts the winter solstice at the new moon of the sidereal month of MAgha (i.e. the MahAshivarAtri festival), which now falls 70 days later: this points to a date in the first half of the 3rd millennium BCE.
‣ The same processional movement of the twelve months of the Hindu calendar (which are tied to the constellations) vis-a-vis the meterological seasons, is what allowed Hermann Jacobi to fix the date of the Rg-Veda to the 5th-4th millennium BCE.
• A lesser-known Hindu system of time-reckoning is the Saptarishi cycle of 3600 years (possibly based on the 60-year cycle).
‣ The medieval Kashmiri historian Kalhana claimed that the previous cycle had started in 3076 BCE, and the present one in 525 CE.
‣ J.E.Mitchiner has suggested that the beginning of the Saptarishi reckoning was one more cycle earlier, in 6676 BCE. He says in his work 'Tradition of the Seven Rishis':
"We may conclude that the older and original version of the Era of the Seven Rishis commenced with the Seven Rishis in KrittikA in 6676 BCE, used a total of 28 NakShatras, and placed the start of the Kali-Yuga in 3102 BCE. This version was in use in northern India from at least the 4th century BCE, as witnessed by the statements of Greek and Roman writers; it was also the version used by Vrddha Garga, at around the start of the Christian era."
This would roughly coincide with the start of the PurANic dynastic list reported by Greco-Roman authors as starting in 6776 BCE.
‣ This would, according to the implicit chronology of PurANic tradition, be the time of Manu’s enthronement, Manu being the Aryan patriarch who established his kingdom in North India after having survived the Flood. One of Manu’s heirs was IlA, ancestress of YayAti, whose five sons became the patriarchs of the "five peoples" who form the ethnic horizon of the Vedas, one of them being Puru; in Puru’s tribe, then, one Bharata started the Bharata clan to which most of the Vedic seers belonged.
‣ The PurANas describe Manu as the leader of mankind after the Flood, and if we apply a realistic average length to the rulerships of the kings mentioned in the PurANic dynastic lists, Manu may have lived in the 7th millennium BCE, the time of the rising waters, warranting the suspicion that the Flood story is related to historical events at the end of the Ice Age.
‣ The influence of Indian astronomy on both China and Babylonia confirms the Vedic-
Harappan civilization’s status as the world metropolis in the 4th-3rd millennium BCE.
• This corpus of astronomical indications suggests
‣ that the Rg-Veda was completed in the 4th millennium BCE,
‣ that the core text of the MahAbhArata was composed at the end of that millennium,
‣ and that the BrAhmaNas and SUtras are products of the high Harappan period towards the end of the 3rd millennium BCE.
• Baudhayana shrauta sUtra 18.44:397.9 speaks of migration of the Aryan Princes Ayus and AmAvasu, sons of Pururavas:
"AyuH went east, his is the YamunA-GangA region", while "AmAvasu went west, his is Afghanistan, Parshu and West Panjab".
Though the then location of 'Parshu' (Persia?) is hard to decide, it is definitely a western country, along with the two others named, western from the viewpoint of a people settled near the SarasvatI river in what is now Haryana.
• The ethnonyms of the enemies of the Vedic Aryans, the DAsas (Iranian Daha, known to Greco-Roman authors as Daai, Dahae), Dasyus (Iranian dahyu, 'tribe', esp. hostile nomadic tribe) and Panis (Greek Parnoi), as unmistakably the names of Iranian tribes.
‣ The Iranian identity of DAsas and Dasyus is now wellestablished, a development which should at least put an end to the talk of the DAsas being "the dark-skinned aboriginals enslaved by the Aryan invaders".
‣ the explicit evidence of the geographical data given in the same Vedic texts, (which) locate(s) the interaction with the DAsas and Dasyus in Panjab. From the identification of the DAsas and Dasyus as Iranians, it could be deduced that these Iranian tribes have lived in India for a while.
• Shrikant Talageri's survey (in his book 'The Rg-Veda, a Historical Analysis') of the relative chronology of all Rg-Vedic kings and poets has been based exclusively on the internal textual evidence, and yields a completely consistent chronology.
‣ Its main finding is that the geographical gradient of Vedic Aryan culture in its Rg-Vedic stage is from east to west, with the eastern river GangA appearing a few times in the older passages (written by the oldest poets mentioning the oldest kings),
‣ and the western river Indus appearing in later parts of the book (written by descendents of the oldest poets mentioning descendents of the oldest kings).
Semantics of the group names in the Vedas
In refutation of the AIT, Dr.Ambedkar took the trouble of verifying the meaning and context, in every single instance, of the Vedic terms which Western scholars often mentioned as proof of a conflict between white Aryan invaders and dark non-Aryan aboriginals. His line of argument has been elaborated further by V.S.Pathak and Shrikant Talageri.
Among the Vedic terms figuring prominently in the AIT reading of the Vedas, the most important one is probably dAsa.
• DAsa, known to mean 'slave, servant' in classical Sanskrit, but in the Rg-Veda the name of an enemy tribe, along with the apparently related word dasyu, is interpreted in AIT parlance as 'aboriginal'.
• More probably these words designate the Vedic people’s white-skinned cousins, who at one point became their enemies, for both terms exist in Iranian, 'dahae' being one of the Iranian tribes, and 'dahyu' meaning 'tribe, nation'.
• The original meaning of dAsa, long preserved in the Khotanese dialect of Iranian, is 'man'; it is used in this sense in the Vedic names DivodAs, 'divine man' and SudAs, 'good man'.
• In Iranian, it always preserved its neutral or positive meaning, it is only in late-Vedic that it acquired a hostile and ultimately a degrading connotation. Strangely a similar evolution has taken place in Greek, where 'doulos--slave', is an evolute of 'doselos', from 'dos-', the IE root of dAsa.
• The post-Vedic evolution in meaning from an ethnic name to 'servant' does not necessarily point to enslavement of enemies; no military event of such nature and relating to the word, dAsa is mentioned in the Vedic literature.
• Instead of seeing the Vedic people as warriors, we may see them as a prosperous merchant population which at some stage, in a perfectly normal economic development, attracted the inflow of neighbouring populations as guestworkers willing to do the menial work, the way the Biblical twelve sons of Jacob went to Egypt of their own free will, where their children became a class of menial workers.
• But it is admittedly just as likely that the evolution was from 'enemy' through 'captive' to 'slave'. Whatever the scenario of their social degradation may have been, nothing in the Vedic text shows that the DAsas were dark, nor that they were aboriginals as opposed to invaders.
Asura is the original Indo-Iranian and Vedic term for 'Lord', a form of address both for the gods and for people of rank.
• The late- and post-Vedic concept of DevAsurasaMgrAma, usually translated as 'war between Devas/gods and Asuras/demons', has led to the notion that this represents a war between two categories of gods, comparable to the Germanic Aesir and Wanir, or to the warring Gods and Titans of Greek mythology.
• However, there never existed a separate category of celestial beings called Asuras; the Devas themselves were originally addressed as Asura.
• At this point, we have to give credit to the invasionists for identifying the DevAsurasaMgrAma as essentially a political struggle between two nations using their respective religious terminology as a banner. However, the Asura-worshippers, or Asuras for short, are not the non-Aryan aboriginals of whom we merely assume that they must have worshipped Asura; they are the nation known to worship Asura, or in their own dialect Ahura (epithet Mazda, so 'wise Lord'), the usual Iranian term for the Vedic god VaruNa, god of the cosmic order and the truth (rta/arta).
• The religious difference between Iranians and Vedic 'fire-worshippers' was a minor difference in emphasis, and had nothing to do with the causes of their conflict.
• It was only after a war over the control of prize territory in the Panjab erupted, that the term Asura got identified with the aggression of the Kashmir-based Anava/Iranian people against the Paurava/Vedic heartland in Sapta-Saindhavah, and acquired a negative, anti-Vedic or anti-Deva meaning. Conversely, it must have been on that same occasion that the Iranians turned Deva/Daeva into a term for 'demon'.
• mRudhravAk--of harsh speech, could refer to hecklers mocking the Vedic rituals, more or less 'blasphemers'. Usually it is interpreted as 'speaking a foreign language', though that is not its literal meaning; and even if correct, this could still refer to another IE language or dialect.
‣ Scornful references to other people's languages are more often about closely related ones, cfr. the many English expressions pejoratively using the word 'Dutch', the language of England’s enemies in the 17th century, but nonetheless also the language which is (except for Frisian) the most closely akin to English.
• anAsa is interpreted as a-nAsa, 'noseless', stretched to mean 'snub-nosed'; but classical commentators analysed it, just as credibly, as an-Asa, 'speechless' (Asa being the regular cognate of Latin os--mouth).
‣ This type of anthropomorphic imagery is often used in the Vedas for characterizing natural elements, e.g. fire as 'footless'. If referring to people, it is to be remarked that few Indians even among the tribals are snub-nosed. If taken to mean 'speechless', hence perhaps 'unintellegible', the same remark is valid as in the case of mRudhravAk: unintellegibility is most striking when hearing someone speaking a dialect of your own language, i.e. when he was expected to be intellegible in the first place.
• Nevertheless, it stands to reason that the Vedic people have encountered enemies on some occasions, that some of these enemies did speak a completely di?erent language, that Vedic hymns were composed in preparation or commemoration of the battle, and that the enemies were mentioned in the hymns along with their strange language as their most distinctive trait. So, let us assume that the above terms do refer to people speaking a non-IE language. That would not at all be proof of an Aryan invasion, because both parties may be native, or the non-IE-speaking party may be the invading one.
‣ When the Germans invaded France in 1870, 1914 and 1940, the French duly noted that the German language was full of 'harsh' sounds; even so, it was the mRudhravAk Germans who were the invaders.
• kRShNayoni--from a black womb, kRShNa-tvach==black-skinned, tvacham-asiknIm, asiknivishaH--black tribe and other composites involving 'black', read in their contexts, usually refer to darkness, to nightly stratagems in war, or metaphorically to evil.
‣ Most languages have expressions like 'black deeds', 'dark portends', 'the dark age', associating darkness with evil, ignorance or danger.
‣ Vedic Sanskrit is extremely rich in metaphors, in techno-scientific contexts (for lack of a separate technical jargon) as well as in cultural and religious contexts, e.g. the word go-cow, can refer to Mother Earth, the sunshine, material wealth, language, the Aum sound, etc. It is not far-fetched to perceive a metaphorical intention behind the use of words like 'black', similar to that in other languages.
• It also has to be inspected case by case whether the reference is at all to human beings (whether skin-colour or figurative characterization), because many Vedic expressions are about gods and heavenly phenomena.
‣ When it is said that Agni, the fire, 'puts the dark demons to flight', one should keep in mind that the darkness was thought to be filled with ghosts or ghouls, so that making light frees the atmosphere of their presence.
‣ And when UShA, the dawn, is said to chase the 'dark skin' or 'the black monster' away, it obviously refers to the cover of nightly darkness over the surface of the earth.
The term varNa is understood in classical Sanskrit as 'colour'.
• This is then explained as referring to the symbolic colours attributed to the three cosmological 'qualities' (guNa): white corresponds to sattva--clarity, red to rajas--energy and black to tamas--darkness, following the pattern of daylight, twilight and nightly darkness.
• Likewise, the different functions in the social spectrum are allotted a member of the colour spectrum: the menial (tAmasika) ShUdras are symbolically 'black', the heroic (rAjasika) KShatriyas are 'red', and the truth-loving (sAttvika) Brahmins are 'white'; in addition, the entrepreneurial Vaishyas are considered to have a mixture of qualities, and are allotted the colour yellow.
‣ This sense of 'colour' has nothing to do with skin colour, as should also be evident from the ancient use of the same colour code among the all-white Germanic peoples.
• Moreover, 'colour' might even not be the original, Vedic meaning of varNa. Reformist Hindus eager to disentangle the institution of varNa from any doctrines of genetic determinism, derive it from the root var--choose (as in svayamvara--a girl’s own choice of a husband, with the implication
that one’s varna is not a matter of birth but of personal choice. This seems to tally with Stanley Insler’s rendering, in his classic translation of The GAthAs of Zarathushtra, of the corresponding Avestan term varna as 'preference' (which other translators sometimes stretch to mean 'conviction', 'religious affiliation'). But we believe that the root meaning is even simpler.
• In the Rg-Veda, the word varNa usually (17 out of 22 times) refers to the 'lustre' (i.e. "one’s own typical light", a meaning obviously related to 'colour') of specified gods: UShA, Agni, Soma, etc. As for the remaining cases,
‣ in 3:34:5 and 9:71:2 it indicates the lustrous colour of the sky at dawn.
‣ In 1:104:2 and 2:12:4, reference is only to quelling the varNa of the DAsas, meaning "the DAsas’ luster" (in the first case, Ralph Griffith translates it as 'the fury of the DAsa').
‣ Finally, in the erotic Rg-Vedic hymn 1:179, verse 6, where Agastya, in doing the needful with his wife Lopamudra to obtain progeny, is said to satisfy 'both varNas', this is understood by some as referring quite plainly to the two families of husband and wife, who rejoice in the arrival of a grandchild. Since the hymn mentions the conflict between sexuality and asceticism, others interpret it as meaning "both paths (of worldliness and world-renunciation)". At any rate, there is simply no question of reading a racist meaning into it.
1. 'Update on the AIT' by Koenraad Elst
12 May 2010, 08:04 AM
Here is one version of what the dream of a 'casteless', progressive and equitable Utopian society under a World State can come to.
• This World State would be based on the anticipated scientific developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning.
• The vast majority of the population is unified under The World State, an eternally peaceful, stable global society in which goods and resources are plentiful (because the population is permanently limited to no more than two billion people) and everyone is happy.
• This would mean that in The World State, people would typically die at age 60, after having maintained good health and youthfulness their whole life.
‣ The State-administered death is not feared, since it would be free of physical suffering.
‣ Anyone reflecting upon death is reassured by the knowledge that everyone is happy, and that society goes on.
‣ There would be no mourning either, since no one has family.
• The maxim "everyone belongs to everyone else" is repeated often, and the idea of a "family" is considered pornographic; sexual competition and emotional, romantic relationships are rendered obsolete because they are no longer needed.
• Marriage, natural birth, parenthood, and pregnancy are considered too obscene to be mentioned in casual conversation. Thus, society has developed a new idea of reproductive comprehension.
• Recreational sex is an integral part of society. According to The World State, sex is a social activity, rather than a means of reproduction, and sexual activity is encouraged from early childhood.
• What about the procreation of mankind then? The few women who can reproduce are conditioned to use birth control (a "Malthusian belt", resembling a cartridge belt holding "the regulation supply of contraceptives", is a popular fashion accessory).
• Natural reproduction has been done away with and children are decanted and raised in Hatcheries and Conditioning Centres. Children are hatched in slow-moving, lab-conditioned assembly lines. After they are hatched and begin to grow, they will be conditioned and trained to define their personalities.
• All members of society are conditioned in childhood to hold the values that the World State idealizes, which improves societal stability and quality of life.
‣ Constant consumption is the bedrock of stability for the World State. Children are conditioned from birth to value consumption with such platitudes as "ending is better than mending," i.e., buy a new one instead of fixing the old one.
‣ Everyone is encouraged to consume the ubiquitous drug named soma. Soma is a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free "holidays", and it was developed expressly for this purpose. It is also stated that it replicates religious experiences, eliminating the need for religion.
• Spending time alone is considered an outrageous waste of time and money. Admitting to wanting to be an individual is shocking, horrifying, and embarrassing.
Such will be the 'Brave, New World', which will be under the control of a World State, whose objective in turn is to make people happy and feel equal with everyone else.
There is a catch, however...
In order that the Administration of The World State is done flawlessly, with no manual ruler-ruled constraints, there needs must be some distinction between the different orders of the citizens. There needs to be, typically, FIVE CASTES: Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons, with each caste further split into Plus and Minus members.
• The caste of the child will be decided at birth, that is when it is hatched, in the Hatchery. And conditioning will make the citizen feel equal within the caste and think his/her caste is the highest in the order.
• The highest caste--alpha--is allowed to develop naturally while it matures in its "decanting bottle".
• The lower castes are treated to chemical interference to cause arrested development in intelligence or physical growth.
• Each Alpha or Beta is the product of one fertilized egg developing into one fetus.
• Members of other castes are not unique but are instead created using the Bokanovsky process which enables a single egg to spawn up to 96 children and one ovary to produce thousands of children.
• This rapid production of specialized children bolsters the efficiency of society. The hypnopaedic process is the process in which they teach the embryos all of the lessons they want them to know.
• The conditioning system eliminates the need for professional competitiveness; people are literally bred to do their jobs and cannot desire another.
• There is no competition within castes; each caste member receives the same food, housing, and soma rationing as every other member of that caste.
• There is no desire to change one's caste, largely because a person's sleep-conditioning teaches that his or her caste is superior to the other four.
• To grow closer with members of the same class, citizens participate in mock religious services called Solidarity Services, in which twelve people consume large quantities of soma and sing hymns. The ritual progresses through group hypnosis and climaxes in an orgy. In geographic areas nonconducive to easy living and consumption, securely contained groups of "savages" are left to their own devices.
This version of the Utopia, or rather Dystopia if you prefer, is from the brilliant and chilling novel by Aldous Huxley titled 'Brave New World' published in 1932. It can be downloaded at: http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in/resources/english/etext-project/huxley/bravenewworld.pdf
This novel is a strong rejoinder that mankind cannot remain without distinctions akin to the varNa and caste system, in the multi-religious world of today, monopolistically-agressive religious domination dreamed for tomorrow, or a religionless utopian/dystopian soceity monitored by Science and Technology in the distant or nor-so-distant future.
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