Saturday, February 25, 2012

Caste is not a curse.

A very thought- provoking letter in reply to an article published in The Hindu on caste consciousness is dying down in India is given below. If it is true that caste consciousness is dying down, we would not be having numerous matrimonial sites catering to specific castes. And no one feels bad about it either.


If you want to know the names of castes, there are 2 areas where you can get them, one is the prospectus for Professional courses of Tamilnadu and another is the online matrimonial sites. While the former would surprise you to see wealthy castes tagged into backward or most backward castes, the latter would help you come to know of the never known castes. I found out a caste with "Dravida" name when by instinct I decided to search the matrimonial site to know if there was any caste with that name. There does exist a caste by name, 'Kona seema Dravida', but this Dravida is not what the likes of Karunanidhi think. They are a group of Brahmins who migrated from Kumbakona to Godhavari region some 1000 years ago. Infact Dravida is a name that Brahimins took up after the Dravideswara, who was none other than Vaivasvatha Manu according to Srimad Bhagavatham.


The name of this caste is a good example of how the castes came into existence. Any group with closely knit people and families having common interest and economic inter dependence grows up to become a caste. The identity as a caste gives them a sense of safety and mutual help in times of troubles. The caste identity had come from the same job done by different people. So it is natural that they would have lot of scope for interaction and inter relation within themselves. Their family members also would be better tuned to adjusting to similar environment if they get married to the same caste - homes. In the letter given below the author has quoted Mahatma Gandhi who supported same caste marriages. Gandhi had given a philosophical reason to justify it from the point of view of what Hinduism says. One of the reasons why Hinduism supported such a notion is because of the easy adaptability.


Some time ago I read a narration by two sculptors belonging to a family of sculptors of a known lineage of nearly 2000 years. One point they made, showed the importance of maintaining caste identity and purity of caste. They said that while the menfolk were trained in sculpting, the womenfolk were educated at home in maintaining the manuscripts on the techniques of sculpting images of various Gods. These women used to make copies of the old manuscripts very quickly and helped a lot in preserving them for posterity. Certainly a sculptor's daughter would understand the sculptor's vocabulary better and also be helpful in his job.  


In yet another instance, a copper plate inscription found in Chidambaram tells about the Vannaar caste! The Vannars are dhobis (washermen) who called themselves as caste. When the Vijayanagar King visited Chidambaram, his dhobi also accompanied him. Upon coming to Chidambaram, this dhobi was naturally interested in meeting the dhobis of Chidambaram. He did meet them and found out their condition. The Dhobis had maintained a mutt for themselves in Chidambaram. Since it was in need of funds and renovation, the King's dhobi had brought the issue to the King's notice and got them solved. This shows that an understanding and kinship could exist between the people of same caste (formed as a natural union) –irrespective of the place they came from.


It is also possible that matrimonial connections were made between the dhobis of different regions of India. The Chidambaram copper plates also mention about the marriages conducted in that mutt and the payment to be made to the mutt by the two sides of marriage parties. This again shows that each caste had their own customs – arising from their lifestyle, need and other factors – and had their own religious heads to sanctify them. 


The caste differences came up only due to differences in economic status. This difference did not arise between two different castes but within the same caste. The information gathered from the inscriptions on Oil millers called as 'chekkaar' in Tamil give us the insight. Production of oil for lighting lamps was an important economic activity until electric lamps replaced them. Wherever new habitats were made, establishing 'Chekku" – the huge mill for crushing the seeds for extracting oil, was one of the early works done. Most of the donations by common people were for buying oil to light the temple lamps. From the available information gathered from the inscriptions, it comes to be known that there were people who owned the oil mill, those who worked in them and those who were engaged in selling and exporting oil. Of these three, the worker would have had a low income while the other two would have had better economic condition. In this scenario, you can not expect the owner of the mill to give his daughter in marriage to the worker of the mill. A wall of segregation cropped up between the two making them two different castes who would not accept each other. If the girl from owner caste eloped with the boy from worker caste, it would not have received acceptance.


An important issue about Chekkars is that it was considered as a bad omen if one happens to see a man with oil on his body, when stepping out of the house.  In view of this the workers in the oil mill did not walk on the road straight from their work places oil marks on their body, where people moved about, They used to take a separate route. This could have become a stigma in course of time. But then even a lone Brahmin coming in front of one who was stepping out of his home was considered as a bad omen. This is followed even today. In chekkar's case, it had nothing to do with his caste, but not so in the case of a lone Brahmin.


Caste differences could have come up in Aayar – yadava groups also. People think that in sangam texts we do not come across castes. But going through the life style expressed in Kalith thogai on cow-herds, we can sense that there had existed differences in status among them. Some of them were owners of cattle and some are cattle tenders. Yet another class of people called Podhuvar is mentioned  as those joining them in music and dance features. The practice was to accept the one as the groom, who overpowers the bull grown by the girl. The boy could be the owner of cattle or just a cowherd. But he must possess the prowess to control the cattle. That was tested in the jalli-kkattu (bull fight). If he succeedes he was accepted as the man for the girl.


In one instance, the sangam song tells about the Podhuvan, who was not directly connected with cattle-rearing. But the girl was in love with that Podhuvan. The family did not accept the affair, but made a condition that he must take part in the bull-fight. This shows that Podhuvan could have become a separate caste in course of time and marriage of an Aayar (yadava) with the Podhuvan could have become unthinkable in course of time. In this way caste differences had come up over a period of time.


The conflicts between different castes came up when the economic chances of one caste was threatened or usurped by the other. When one caste people thought  that their interests were under threat due to another caste, the conflicts had started. The fear of encroachment and loss of opportunities were the real causes for the conflicts and not the castes themselves.


There are inscriptions showing the king's decree to make peace between 'Naattaar" and others in the Kongu regions. The region from Sholapur to Tirunelveli had seen movement of people for trading purposes in the last 1000 years. 98 groups of people (castes based on their religious habits) have come to the Kongu region. There was another group of 98 divisions – each called as a caste also pre-existed  there. There were places called "Naana desi pattanam" where merchants from different countries of India had gathered and did their business. The region upto Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari had seen the frequent movement of different people coming and settling for business purposes. It is only too natural that conflicts had risen among them.


The caste had never been a bane but the differences in economic status within the same caste and conflict of interests between groups vying for the same opportunity are the causes. The British assigned an economic value to all castes and thereby created division among them in status. The politicians are perpetuating the division by selective appeasement. Denial of caste or inter caste marriages are not the remedies in this situation.


Before concluding let me quote a passage from the book "From the voyages to the East Indies" by John  Philip Wesdin on what he saw in India, particularly South India,  during his travel between 1776 to 1789. He says that every person he met in India was deeply religious and accustomed their children to consider Gods as their protectors and benefactors. The education and the climate are the strongest causes for their total submission to Will of God.

"Education, and the nature of the climate, are the strongest incitements to the natives to worship the deity, and to submit themselves to his will.

The boys, in the ninth year of their age, are initiated with great ceremony into the calling or occupation of the caste to which their father belongs, and which they can never abandon. This law, mention of which occurs in Diodorous Siculus, Strabo, Arrian, and other Greek writers, is indeed exceedingly hard; but, at the same time, it is of great benefit to civil order, the arts and sciences, and even to religion. According to a like regula­tion, no one is allowed to marry from one caste into another. Hence it happens that the Indians do not follow that general and superficial method of education by which children are treated as if they were all intended for the same condition and for dis­charging the same duties; but those of each caste are from their infancy formed for what they are to be during their whole lives.

 

A future Brahman, for example, is obliged, from his earliest years, to employ himself in reading and writing, and to be pres­ent at the presentation of offerings, to calculate eclipses of the sun and moon; to study the laws and religious practices; to cast nativities; in short to learn every thing, which, according to the injunction of the Veda, or sacred books of the Indians, it is necessary he should know. The Vayshya on the other hand, instruct youth in agriculture; the Kshetria, in the science of government and the military arts, the Shudra, in mechanics, the Mucaver, in fishing; the Ciana, in gardening and the Banyen, in commerce.

 

By this establishment the knowledge of a great many things neces­sary for the public good is not only widely diffused, but trans­mitted to posterity; who are thereby enabled still farther to improve them, and bring them nearer to perfection. In the time of Alexander the Great, the Indians had acquired such skill in the mechanical arts, that Nearchus, the commander of his fleet, was much amazed at the dexterity with which they imitated the ac­coutrements of the Grecian soldiers.

 

I once found myself in a similar situation. Having entrusted to an Indian artist a lamp made in Portugal, the workmanship of which was exceedingly pret­ty, some days after he brought me another so like my own that I could scarcely distinguish any difference. It, however, cannot be denied, that the arts and sciences in India have greatly declined since foreign conquerors expelled the native kings; by which several provinces have been laid entirely waste, and the castes confounded with each other. Before that period, the different kingdoms were in a flourishing condition; the laws were respect­ed, and justice and civil order prevailed; but, unfortunately, at present everything in many of the provinces must give way to absolute authority and despotic sway."

 

*************************

 

Caste is good - MS Radhakrishnan

 

To The Editor, The Hindu Newspaper

In response to the  editorial article (dtd Feb. 21, 2012)  "India's destiny not caste in stone" by Prof. Andre Beteille , Prof Emeritus of sociology, Delhi University.

 

Dear Sir,

 

I have only the faintest hope that you will publish this letter. In this age of 'paid news", who will dare to  provide real knowledge, insights and truth at the cost of  career (including academic) & business profits ? But if you are serious about the issues you highlight, then you could NOT possibly ignore this letter.  If in case you do not publish my response in your newspaper, please at least forward this mail to Prof.Beteille. (My protest is against the unfair castigation of caste. !!!)

 

If the Prof. had taken into consideration the current world scenario, I think his output  would have been different and he certainly would have eulogized CASTE.  The peak of prosperity achieved by Europe and US in the past 200 to 300 years is behind them. Now both are plagued by chronic economic problems and unemployment. Their current pattern of thinking and action is miring  themselves as well as the rest of the world in deeper and messy unsolvable problems. An eg :-Greenhouse gases, global warming and consequent climate change. Taking the cue from the experience  of the West, we  Indians  will be acting stupidly  by entertaining doubts about    our age old sound and proven institutions. It will become suicidal for us if we abandon them and ape Western social patterns, which academicians & some politicians paint as Universal and inevitable. Eg. Prof. Francis Fukuyama's 'The End of History and the last Man'.

 

The advantages of caste, how it had sustained peaceful and harmonious life  of our ancestors and thereby sustained Indian civilization without break,  could be garnered from the life (in the last century) and ideas, of The Father of our Nation. This is illustrated in detail in the subsequent paragraphs. Prior to that, ie  in the 17thcentury, (the beginning of the 1800's) the French Missionary , Abbe J.A.Dubois  had emphatically written " I consider the institution of castes amongst the Hindu  nations as the happiest effort of their legislation; and I am well convinced that if the people of India never sunk into a state of barbarism, and if, when almost all Europe was plunged in that dreary gulf, India kept  up her head, preserved and extended the sciences, the arts and civilization; it is wholly to the distinction of castes that she is indebted for that high celebrity" (p.10, Chapter 2, 'Advantages Resulting  from The Division of Castes' from the book 'Character, Manners & Customs of the People of India and of their Institutions Religious and Civil", published by Asian Educational Services). I think Europe  still is caught in the 'dreary gulf' which the Abbe mentions in the above sentence, (the two World Wars) inspite of its apparent material prosperity which is  enjoyed  only by a select few. (1%). In fact Europeans and Americans are the 'barbarians' of the modern world due to their insatiable hunger for resources and the conflicts they engender all over the world, both directly as well as indirectly. I fervently hope that to civilize themselves they will adopt the CASTE system. I further hope that we Indians would be counted upon to act  as guides, in their efforts in adapting to a European version of the Caste System.

 

Talking about the Swadeshi spirit in political matters, Gandhiji during the course of a speech addressed to the missionaries (Christian Missionary Conference  at Madras on Feb 14, 1916)  said  "…….The vast organization of Caste answered not only the religious wants of the community, but also its political ends. The villagers managed their internal affairs through the Caste system, and through it also dealt with any oppression from the ruling power. It is not possible to deny, with regard to a nation producing the Caste system, its wonderful powers of organization, one has but to attend the great Kumba Festival at Hardwar to know how skilful that organization must have been which without any seeming effort was able effectively to cater for more than a million pilgrims. Yet it is the fashion to say that we lack organizing ability. This is true, I fear, to a certain extent of those who have been nurtured in the new traditions. We have labored under a terrible handicap owing to an almost  fatal departure from the Swadeshi spirit"………(p.79-80, Chapter 6, 'The Religious Meaning of Swadeshi', from the book "Mahatma Gandhi-His Life & Ideas" written by Charles F. Andrews, published by Jaico Publishing House)

 

Further quote from the same chapter "The careful study of this address on Swadeshi throws light on certain important details in Mahatma Gandhi's own religious position. It is not of the type that ever looks forward (if I judge him rightly) to a single World Religion and a single World State,  but rather to separate units working out their individual destiny  in cordial, harmonized, friendly relations. There will always be impassable barriers between them which appear to him divinely ordained. Herein he differs , as far as I can gather, from Tagore, to whom this limited aspect of patriotism and religion is unthinkable. To Tagore the overpassing of these boundaries is all-important; to Gandhi their due observance appears essential in this present stage of human existence. Holding strongly a belief in reincarnation , he seems to have no anxiety about  reaching any further stage of unification in this present cycle of existence.

 

I remember a deeply interesting conversation which I had with him concerning the relationship of Marriage. This brought out his own theory of Swadeshi in an interesting form. During a sustained argument  I put to him the purely hypothetical case of a marriage between our families which should hcross te boundaries of Caste and institutional religion.(For the sake of clearness let me add that I am still unmarried and therefore have no children; Mahatma Gandhi has a family of four sons but no daughters)

 

"Suppose,' I said to him, "simply for the sake of argument, that I myself had a daughter, who in every way was a suitable bride for your son, and that the two loved one another with devotion of the purest character. You have often told me that I am more than a blood-brother to you and the friend of your heart.  Would you, then, stand in the way of such a marriage on the ground of difference of Caste or creed?"

 

Mahatma Gandhi answered in some such words as these: "Yes, I would never give my consent to such a marriage, because it would be contrary to my ideas of religion thus to transgress the boundaries wherein we were born. I would not personally agree to a marriage out of Caste; at the same time I do not believe in the artificial multiplication  of Castes which has occurred in India. That evil and the evil of untouchability are both seperable from the true ideal of Varna."

 

"What, then," I asked him, "is your own conception of the true Caste system, which you call Varnashrama Dharma?"

"It is not easy," he answered, "to explain it to you, because you have never come under its discipline. To one like myself, who believes in the four Varnas, human life, during this present birth on the planet, is only one of a series. There are other experiences which have to be gone through when this life is over. Our present existence  is a discipline  which has to be lived within certain rules suited to this special stage.  We cannot choose at this stage, for instance, our own parents, or our own birthplace, or our own ancestry. Why, then , should we claim  as individuals the right during this present brief life-period to break through all the conventions wherein we were placed at birth by God Himself? The Gita  has very wisely said that the performance of one's own religious duty is preferable to the carrying  out of the religious duty of others. This religious duty, which we call by the untranslatable word 'Dharma', appears to me to include the environment  wherein  we were placed at birth by God. It connotes our seeking to live in harmony with those birth conditions and not rebelling against them, or seeking to overpass their limitations, either for individualistic or selfish reasons."

 

I (Charles F. Andrews) have tried to put down, through the medium of my own interpretation, the ideas that Mahatma Gandhi had sought to express to me on that memorable morning. It was easy to see that his own thought about Swadeshi was very  intimately related to his Hindu religious training in Varanashrama Dharma or Caste religion; for while Tagore has abandoned the Caste system once for all, Gandhi still declares that he believes in the original four Castes, or Varnas, as natural divisions of society.

 

What I am trying to make clear is this, that "Swadeshi" with Mahatma Gandhi is not to be confused with the current belief in sovereign  "nationalism" in the West, though it runs at certain points perilously along the edge of it  and has actually been mistaken for it by some of his own more impulsive followers.  Rather it is something much more elemental; it goes back to the Varnashrama Dharma itself, the Religion of Caste. Indeed, this Hindu Caste Religion still retains among the orthodox people in India the name of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Religion."

 

Caste System could cater to the Religious needs, Political needs & Economic needs of the vast population of India. Also the sciences and arts had been  nourished by the caste system .

If so what interests are served by painting a dark picture of caste by modern academicians.?

 

 

Radhakrishnan.M.S

14/21, School Street,

Sathya Nagar, Padi

Chennai-600 050

Ph 944752904

 

http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.in/2012/02/caste-is-good-ms-radhakrishnan.html

 

 

The Hindu

Opinion » Lead


Published: February 21, 2012 

India's destiny not caste in stone


André Béteille

[Outside politics, there are other areas of life in which caste consciousness has been dying down.]

 

 

Those who try to keep up with discussions on current affairs in the newspapers and on television may be forgiven if they conclude that caste is India's destiny. If there is one thing the experts in the media who comment on political matters have in common, it is their preoccupation with caste and the part it plays in electoral politics.

 

Many are now coming to believe that, despite the undeniable demographic, technological and economic changes taking place in the country, the division into castes and communities remains the ineluctable and ineradicable feature of Indian society. They also believe that to ignore those divisions or to draw attention to other divisions such as those of income, education and occupation is to turn our backs on the ground reality. The more radical among them add that ignoring those realities amounts to an evasion of the political responsibility of redistributing the benefits and burdens of society in a more just and equitable manner.

 

Does nothing change in India? A great many things have in fact changed in the last 60 years both in our political perceptions and in the social reality. The leaders of the nationalist movement who successfully fought for India's freedom from colonial rule believed that India may have been a society of castes and communities in the past but would become a nation of citizens with the adoption of a new republican constitution. They were too optimistic. The Constitution did create rights for the citizen, but it did not eradicate caste from the hearts and minds of the citizens it created. For many Indians, and perhaps the majority, the habits of the heart are still the habits of a hierarchical society.

 

Inter-dining rules

 

Universal adult franchise opened up new possibilities for mobilising electoral support on the basis of caste and thus prevented the consciousness of caste from dying down. Democracy was expected to efface the distinctions of caste, but its consequences have been very different from what was expected. Politics is no doubt an important part of a nation's life in a democracy, but it is not the only part of it.There are other areas of life in which the consciousness of caste has been dying down, though not very rapidly or dramatically. The trends of change which I will now examine do not catch the attention of the media because they happen over long stretches of time, in slow motion as it were. They are not noticeable from month to month or even year to year but across two or more generations.

 

Let us start with the ritual opposition of purity and pollution which was a cornerstone of the hierarchical structure of caste. The rules of purity and pollution served to mark the distinctions and gradations amongcastes and sub-castes. Characteristic among them were those relating to commensality or inter-dining. They determined who could sit together at a meal with whom, and who could accept food and water from whom. Only castes of equivalent rank could inter-dine with each other. In general people accepted cooked food and water from the hands of their superiors, but not their inferiors.

 

The ritual rules governing food transactions were rigid and elaborate until a hundred years ago. Nobody can deny that there has been a steady erosion of those rules. Modern conditions of life and work have rendered many of them obsolete. The excesses of the rules of purity and pollution have now come to be treated with ridicule and mockery among educated people in metropolitan cities like Kolkata and Delhi. It is impossible to maintain such rules in a college canteen or an office lunch room. To insist on seating people according to their caste on a public occasion would cause a scandal today.

 

In the past, restrictions on inter-dining were closely related to restrictions on marriage according to the rules of caste. The restrictions on marriage have not disappeared, but they have eased to some extent. Among Hindus, the law imposed restrictions on inter-caste marriage. The law has changed, but the custom of marrying within the caste is still widely observed. However, what is happening is that other considerations such as those of education and income are also kept in mind in arranging a match. At any rate, it will be difficult to argue thatcaste consciousness in matrimonial matters has been on the rise in recent decades.

 

In politics, the media

 

There continues to be a general association between caste and occupation to the extent that the lowest castes are largely concentrated in the menial and low-paying jobs whereas the higher castes tend to be in the best-paid and most esteemed ones. But the association betweencaste and occupation is now more flexible than it was in the traditional economy of land and grain. Rapid economic growth and the expansion of the middle class are accompanied by new opportunities for individual mobility which further loosens the association between casteand occupation.

 

If, in spite of all this, caste is maintaining or even strengthening its hold over the public consciousness, there has to be a reason for it. That reason is to be found in the domain of organised politics. Caste had entered the political arena even before independence, particularly in peninsular India. But the adoption of universal adult franchise after independence altered the character and scope of the involvement ofcaste in the political process.

 

The consciousness of caste is brought to the fore at the time of elections. Elections to the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabhas are now held all the year round. For logistical and other reasons, elections to even the Vidhan Sabhas may be stretched out over several weeks. There are by-elections in addition to the general elections. Election campaigns have become increasingly spectacular and increasingly costly, and they often create the atmosphere of a carnival. The mobilisation of electoral support on the basis of caste is a complex phenomenon whose outcome gives scope for endless speculation.

 

Even though for the country as a whole the election season never really comes to an end, the individual voter participates in the electoral process only occasionally and sporadically. The average villager devotes far more thought and time to home, work and worship than to electoral matters. It is well known that the voter turnout among urban professional Indians is low. But even when they do not participate in the elections to the extent of visiting their local polling booths, they participate in them vicariously by following on television what happens in the outside world. Television provides a large dose of entertainment along with a modicum of political education.

 

Private television channels have created a whole world in which their anchors and the experts who are regularly at their disposal vie with each other to bring out the significance of the "caste factor," meaning the rivalries and alliances among castes, sub-castes and groups of castesby commentators who, for the most part, have little understanding of, or interest in, long-term trends of change in the country. These discussions create the illusion that caste is an unalterable feature ofIndian society. It will be a pity if we allow what goes on in the media to reinforce the consciousness of caste and to persuade us that caste isIndia's destiny.

 

(The writer is Professor Emeritus of sociology, Delhi University, and National Research Professor)

 

24 comments:

Krithika said...

I am shocked to read the blog which justifies caste system and nullifies inter caste marriages.Inter caste marriages need not be the only solution but its definitely a way towards demolishing this evil called the caste, the way in which it is understood today, contrary to why it was created originally.

jayasree said...

Entire India is like an Heritage country. Every caste with its distinct cultural habits and practices is a heritage symbol going back to more than 2000 years ago. Those who are steeped in western mind can not know the how this system of caste and marriage within caste offers an adaptable and safe life to women in particular. Otherwise lakhs of people seeking alliance will not be doing so within the same caste as seen in the matrimonial sites.

Sheela said...

Dear Krithika,

Even in my college days my thoughts differed on caste system. but as days go by understand conscious attempt by our ancestors to have homogenous groups allying for better disciplined & peaceful society in general.

Other advantages:

System gave protection to womenfolks which is interpreted as oppression by West. Joint family system/ self employment/ labour skills with more creativity than depending on Government or anybody for livelihood.

Still in this century, we consider marriage as union of families than individuals, which is also a proof in matrimonial sites.

westernised education system is is responsible for younger generation to think negative about our ancient systems. gen next should make an attempt to study practically different societies and read a lot objectively with open mind I am sure they can
understand myths created.

Sheela

Krithika said...

Dear Jayashree,

I am as Indian as you and anyone here.I believe in varna system but not in Jati.Let me ask u one thing ,how do u ensure that people of a particular caste still follow the principles attached to the caste.For eg do u still think that all brahmin boys today do not take non veg .On the other hand I find people who are not born in brahmin family are god fearing.Jati system may hav worked years before but not today.As far as matrimonial sites are concerned,I am saying it again ,this evil system need to b abolished.As far as marriages are concerned good deeds and compassion shld be the criteria,but to say all born in a particular community behave in a particular way,follow a particular custom,such things do not hold good today.

jayasree said...

Dear Ms Krithika,

Being Indian as opposed to Western means respecting and sticking the values that come with the families in which we are born. One of the catchy phrases I found in the matrimonial site is “best of both worlds (Hindu and western)”. Even those groomed in the west say that they are Indian as they follow their family customs but are western in material pursuits. I don’t know how many people living in India have such clear perception of the need for demarcation of Hindu life and western manners.

The need for write-ups like this has risen because people do not understand their value systems and do as they like, as the westerners. Even in the West a debate was reported a couple of days ago that taking up the surname of the husband after marriage is considered as a symbol of commitment to marriage. Until recently, this talk about commitment to marriage was an unheard thing in Hindu marriages. It was taken for granted that marriage is a commitment and whatever differences may crop up, they will be handled in ways in which separation was certainly not one. In our system marriage is the ultimate tool to cross the ocean of rebirths through a committed and combined practice of Dharma, artha and kama. Marriage is not merely a union of body or mind. A spiritual angle is attached to marriage and that is quite worthy too which one can understand only with age, maturity and spiritual awareness. In this situation, a cross marriage – by caste or religion or nationality would mar the progress of goal of marriage and life.

In inter caste marriages, family backed practices differ and are given up altogether. Each caste developed its own belief systems and refined them with the help of some spiritual guru. (First we must know that the castes were not deliberate or overnight creations. They were not a by-product of Hinduism either.) There was not a single person or a king in India who did not have allegiance to a spiritual guru. As a result most of the family and religious practices of all the castes have some rationale and had the sanction of a competent person. The important part of it is that almost all castes have nurtured some Kula devatha or pledged submission to a deity in the last known 2000 years of history. They range from Pithru ceremony at one end and a range of worships on the other. These are passed on from generation after generation. When they are stopped or forgotten, a range of troubles appear. This is not a superstition. If you look at the inscriptions in temples you will see how the people had made the promises that include their future generations also. When the promises are not kept – with the destruction of caste systems and inter caste marriages – a range of sufferings start appearing. The common people call it wrath of the God. I call it the imbalance in energy forces that springs up when a promise is not kept.

(cont'd)

jayasree said...

This kind of situation is applicable to India and particularly Tamilnadu where people have intensely struck a balance with themselves and Nature for ages by way of worships and service to God. In the last 3 generations due to British policies, Western influence and atheistic political parties, all these have been forgotten. If a Brahmin eats non-veg, he must be brought back to his system of values. Infact almost all the people of Tamilnadu abstained from non-veg until 150 years ago. There is proof for this. All the people were god-fearing and abided by truth.

In this background caste conflicts were almost nil. Wherever they were seen, the cause was not the caste but some other reasons. You will not believe it but like yourself, I was also under the media spell, propaganda machines and vested interests. When I learnt to study epigraphy and started reading inscriptions myself, I understood the true picture. I suggest you also read the inscriptions found in caste sensitive belts and know for yourself.

What has happened was that people of different castes had coexisted in peace. But when new comers (traders and workers) came to a region, though they were accommodated, they were not given all rights. For example, they could not reside in the localities of native people, could not use the public utilities that were set up and used by the natives. This included temples, tanks etc. The new comers were accommodated in separate places, were even levied different taxes and extra taxes. But in course of time some of them had got approval from the kings and set up their own temples and utilities. The natives would not have access to them as the migrants would not have access to the temples of natives. They had no issue about it either as they were happy about the amenities to follow their customs. Inscriptions to this effect are found in Kongu regions, Nagarkoil and Kanyakumari. This was a highly commuted area where trading was busy. People had come from long distances and stayed for years. In certain cases ‘Anjinaan pukalidam” similar to refugee camps were set up where they stayed and in some others, they were given permission to live for ever but not always along with natives.

When these groups seemed to eat through the chances of one another, friction has developed. In this way caste conflicts developed. Each group was called as a Jathi and the migrated ones have had troubles in getting acceptance from local Jathis.
To understand this, let us see the situation at the moment. Many North Indians are coming to Chennai for construction work. Some of them leave after the work and there are others who manage to cling on. They don’t have ration cards or other facilities that a local resident has. But after the bank robbery in Chennai done by some North Indians, the police is taking count of all the North Indians in the city and the State. The people are also suspicious when they see a north Indian. After the bank robberies, all of them are seen with suspicion. Image the same condition in old days when many groups of migrants came to Tamilnadu either due to famine in their places or for trading. In both these cases they were unwanted visitors only, if they continue to stay on. Most of skilled worker castes of Tamilnadu are migrants only. Today they have merged with the local population and most of them have got MBC status also. But know that the cause of the problem is not caste but age old suspicion and fear of encroachment.

(cont'd)

jayasree said...

Inter caste marriage is not a solution to this. Infact such a marriage if done without parental consent would increase the tension. Moreover there is a case of 98 groups of people (Idangai or Vamachara) with distinct religious habits who came to Kongu region about 1000 years ago. All of them are today some castes. They had their own temples and worship practices. It is not right to ask them to forget their practices or accept inter caste marriage which is an affront on their faith system. What is needed is to give them economic security. Today the Hindus who go abroad are like these people only. They live there with their Hindu mind and western life. They live within their limits and not cross with locals. Allow the castes to live with their belief systems and don’t cross roads with each other. As I told in my previous comment, every caste is a heritage symbol.

jayasree said...

In addition, Dharampal's "Indian science and technology in the eighteenth century" shows that most of the down trodden castes of today were affluent until the British came. Since they were artisan class, their livelihood suffered as a result of British policies. When the British classified the Indians on their economic worth, these people came to the bottom most part.

The caste and class difference is a British creation and it was exploited by the Dravidin parties.
If you can read Tamil, read the comment section of this link in my Tamil blog.

http://thamizhan-thiravidana.blogspot.in/2011/12/blog-post.html?showComment=1329916626380#c2064414931771320151

I have shown how the Parayas lived with dignity and considerable affluence until the British came. The self respect, dignity and livelihood of these castes were all destroyed by these forces and now they are used as a tool for making political capital and destroying the concept of caste.

krsna said...

During the early East Chalukyan period, it is said that many Brahmins were brought to Godavari region. And the kings were also said to be Tamilians by origin. These dravida brahmin groups are one of the vaidik divisional groups. Depending on the location they were settled or the agraharas they were given, were later on, called as

1. Aaraama Dravidas
2. Divili Dravidas
3. Dravidas or Suddha Dravidas
4. Peruru Dravidas
5. Puduru Dravidas
6. Ryali Dravidas
7. Tummagunta Brahmins

Though these dravida brahmins settled coastal regions and possess tamil as their mother tongue, they restrict the usage to their homes and mingled with locals as generations passed on. Today, we can also see many Puduru Dravida brahmins in Nellore region. I heard that Ms. Jayalalita (CM, TN)is also PD brahmin from Nellore.

Though most of these brahmins were brought and some migrated, from TamilNadu, we also find records few groups migrated from Maharashtra and Gujarat regions, and thats why they are called Dravida Brahmins. Over all, we can say that, the migration of these groups happened from western part of present India (Gujarat, Maharastra) to TN and AP and inturn from TN to AP.

jayasree said...

The list of Dravida Brahmins a is valuable information Mr Krishna. If you can get me more information on them, I can take it up further. Is there any online article on them? Thanks.

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Krishna,
I request you to post your comment on Dravida Brahmins of Godhavari region under the next article "Who is a Dravida, Mr Karunanidhi?" as it will be more apt to be read along with that article.

Kayn said...

Dear Jayasree,

I appreciate your effort to support the caste system - and that it is good because it has been there for 2000 years. However, questioning traditions is healthy - and wrong ones must be abolished.

Could you answer this:
1. You say that knowledge passing from generation to generation is easier in this scenario. I say this is true to some extent only
- However, by that logic, Rohan Gavaskar (please don't ask who is he - if you do, your logic of caste importance is already failing, since a son should be better than his father, no?) should have been equally able as a cricketer. The Mangeshkar family should be able to produce the best singers. BUT - they are Brahmins! They should not have been allowed to do this entertainment of the masses business at all in the first place!

Human ability is NOT only a factor of genes, but also of effort, discipline, ability, hard work and passion to pursue the task. Talent can take you only a limited way.

You are saying that the 'adjustments' required are lesser/easier when one marries into the same caste. To some extent this is true. But by this, you are ensuring that the mentality of "least resistance to change" is made strong. By this, by not allowing a person to experience various facets of life, the caste system encourages weakness of mind.

I agree that the caste system - which was originally a method of division labour - is necessary for proper functioning of society. I DO NOT DENY THIS!

My point is, why a person is limited to doing what his father did EVEN IF HE IS NOT GOOD AT IT? Why can't a person decide what he wants to after evaluating his own abilities, his areas of interest? The caste system only ensures EVASION OF RESPONSIBILITY. The attitude of "This is not my work, I will not do this..."

How many times do we see people cleaning up after themselves in gardens and public places? The thinking goes - "Why to do it? There is a person to do that menial, dirty job!! We are superior to such work."

Now, what if the person to whom the responsibility has been given (due to say, the caste system) is not really interested in that work? What do you do to motivate him? You instill fear - Dude, your all future generations will suffer because you failed to do this duty!!

Is this not the height of stupidity.. How are you ensuring a healthy individual and social development this way? Is fear your only tool? Is 'by force' of fear and 'next birth repercussions' your only method? Come on, grow up.

Try a simpler method. BE HONEST WITH PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR MOTIVES. See how they are MORE THAN willing to help you do whatever work you set before them.

Kayn said...

Dear Jayasree - I am reposting, corrected spelling errors,

I appreciate your effort to support the caste system - and that it is good because it has been there for 2000 years. However, questioning traditions is healthy - and wrong ones must be abolished.

Could you answer this:
You say that knowledge passing from generation to generation is easier in this scenario. I say this is true to some extent only. However, by that logic, Rohan Gavaskar (please don't ask who is he - if you do, your logic of caste importance is already failing, since a son should be better than his father, no?) should have been equally able as a cricketer. The Mangeshkar family should be able to produce the best singers. BUT - they are Brahmins! They should not have been allowed to do this entertainment of the masses business at all in the first place!

Human ability is NOT only a factor of genes, but also of effort, discipline, ability, hard work and passion to pursue the task. Talent can take you only a limited way.

You are saying that the 'adjustments' required are lesser/easier when one marries into the same caste. To some extent this is true. But by this, you are ensuring that the mentality of "resistance to change" is made strong. By this, by not allowing a person to experience various facets of life, the caste system encourages weakness of mind.

I agree that the caste system - which was originally a method of division labour - is necessary for proper functioning of society. I DO NOT DENY THIS!

My point is, why a person is limited to doing what his father did EVEN IF HE IS NOT GOOD AT IT? Why can't a person decide what he wants to after evaluating his own abilities, his areas of interest? The caste system only ensures EVASION OF RESPONSIBILITY. The attitude of "This is not my work, I will not do this..."

How many times do we see people cleaning up after themselves in gardens and public places? The thinking goes - "Why to do it? There is a person to do that menial, dirty job!! We are superior to such work."

Now, what if the person to whom the responsibility has been given (due to say, the caste system) is not really interested in that work? What do you do to motivate him? You instill fear - Dude, your all future generations will suffer because you failed to do this duty!!

Is this not the height of stupidity.. How are you ensuring a healthy individual and social development this way? Is fear your only tool? Is 'by force' of fear and 'next birth repercussions' your only method? Come on, grow up.

Try a simpler method. BE HONEST WITH PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR MOTIVES. See how they are MORE THAN willing to help you do whatever work you set before them.

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Kayn,

Thanks for your detailed comment.

I have only one request to make to you - to read the article and my comments again - to know whether I have written anything that addresses the opinions you have aired. If it is difficult to understand the gist of my article, here it is.

> Caste is not an evil but was evolved as a secure system for groups.

> The roots of caste conflicts are traced to fear of encroachment of one's opportunities by the other and therefore the non-acceptance of one by the other. The caste- conflict belt of Tamil nadu has this history which I will elaborating in my next article. The politicians are whipping up the differences for their personal goals.

> The remedy lies in giving economic opportunities for them and not in inter caste marriage.

> Inter caste marriage when done without parental approval had heightened the tension.

>Inter caste marriage also destroys age old practices of religious habits which would further hasten the destruction of Hindu ethos.

Nowhere I have talked about sticking to caste based jobs and nowhere I have talked about supremacy of a caste over another caste. Each caste has its own pride of place and honour. That was the situation until recently. I can say this with certainty for Tamilnadu as I have lot of proof to substantiate this.

The jobs done by different castes have changed over time. One example is that barbers were doing surgery in Tamilnadu until the British entered. There is inscriptional evidence for this. But today it is unthinkable. At the same time, people from other castes - both male and female - ave taken up the hair dressing job of the barber! Many instances can be quoted like this. But whatever job they may be doing now, their familial practices on religious side had not and must not fade away. And it is not fading away with a majority of "average" Indians I think. Only the western educated people have left them off and fail to understand the nuances of caste and conflicts among castes.

mosurh said...

I don't think Mangeshkar's are Brahmins, They are actually devadasis affiliated to Mangueshnath temple in Goa. So they are entertainers by birth. Thats the reason none of the Mangeshkar ladies married except Asha Bhosle with much ostracism.
Rohan Gavaskar again bad example, Sunil Gavaskar is the first cricketer in the family, so cricket is not a family profession(G Vishwanath is not a direct relation).Sunil Gavaskar was an exceptionally gifted cricketer almost equivalent to a Tendulkar in his time. What Sachin did in Pakistan on his first series is almost a repeat of what Gavaskar did in WI.
Exceptional talent or gift can never be passed on to the next generation, its God's gift.
Still Rohan has had a first class stint till he called it a day and was one of the early T20 players.

Kayn said...

Okay, but Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid are Brahmins - they had no business sporting. Usha Uthup, similarly, has no business singing. Similarly, Dr. Ambedkar had no business writing the Constitution of India.

As you said, talent and natural gifts cannot be passed on to the next generation, and they are God's gifts.. what right does man have to prevent himself and his fellow-men from exploring his abilities (Dr. Ambedkar should have remained into sweeping streets - it was God ordained due to his birth, is it not?). Case in point is Ekalavya in Mahabharata - who was prevented from practicing to his abilities for achieve political gains - in a prince's favour. In such a case, Duryodhana can be commended for his "elevation" of Karna as King of Anga based on his abilities, not birth.

In the article, Gandhi is commented as saying he would oppose inter-caste marriage on the grounds that "We cannot choose at this stage, for instance, our own parents, or our own birthplace, or our own ancestry. Why, then, should we claim as individuals the right during this present brief life-period to break through all the conventions wherein we were placed at birth by God Himself?"

Very Interesting. So if God is indeed so intelligent, why did He ordain the birth of two VERY COMPATIBLE individuals in separate castes? He should know better, no?

If God has indeed has given us the ability to reason (I hope you all agree here thta it is God given), is it to achieve the most mediocre state of finding the "most adaptable", "least strife", when it is quite apparent that it is in such situations that the best of human 'evolution' is observed? Mr Gandhi, Mr. Ambedkar are great examples of this. Would they have become what they did, were it not for the conflict present then?

Is not, then, Mr. Gandhi saying in his interview quoted in the article above - "Hey people, I achieved the state of *have no anxiety about reaching any further stage of unification in this present cycle of existence* due to facing conflict head-on, but you.. no.. please stay in comfortable, least troubling situations all this life and go on reincarnating and decaying in this swamp of endless rebirths. I, for my part, accepted the challenge and am free of this Maya."

Well, if I extend this logic, we all have a great chance at a similar evolution if we fight oppression, injustice, face the coflict ahead of us - instead of finding the 'most comfortable' places to rest our behinds upon. I for one, see this caste system n other things as obstacles in my way of reaching the same. They are there just to be overcome. Thanks.

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Kayn,

I understand from your write up how you are under the media propaganda. Your quote on Ekalavya is enough to show that you are not aware of how facts are twisted. Ekalavya was indeed a relative of Krishna according to Mahabharatha and the King of Nishada. I request you to browse the following link in my blog on the lies of Kapil Sibal and Katju and the truth behind the Ekalavya episode.

I also suggest you to type 'Castes' in the search box of this blogspot. You will get the list of many articles on caste issue in India. I request you to read them all to know the truth behind the caste issues.

jayasree said...

All of us are for preventing caste conflicts. But what I am saying is understand the causes for caste conflicts which are not what many people are thinking. Unless you know how the castes have come up and why the conflicts appeared, you would be only playing to the games of politicians who do not want the caste conflicts to die out. What needs to be removed is caste conflicts, and not castes - this is what I am saying.

By castes, I dont stick to the jobs which was originally connected with most castes (and not all) but the age old customs of Hinduism that every caste has formulated. In the formation of castes in the past, same job was done by many castes but they differed in ideologies. For instance, the same Vellaala caste had many variations which are known as different castes. They primarily differed from each other on the basis of some customs and ideologies.

In my experience in dealing with people of different castes coming to me for counseling on various problems, I find the forgotten religious customs giving rise to imbalance / sufferings of sorts. "Western" thinking people may rubbish it. But this is true in Indian conditions and I think I have explained it enough in this blog and as comments.

jayasree said...

The link to the article on kapil, Katju and Ekalavya is

http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2011/12/for-kapil-and-katju-hinduism-is-not.html

Kayn said...

Very interesting information. Whenever I get such information I have two thoughts in mind...

1. Either we read a very miniaturized version of Mahabharata...

OR

2. The moment someone takes objection to one particular character (or the injustice accorded to that character in the epic), we immediately someone come up with a version of Mahabharata in which that character is made to look good. Case in point - Duryodhana being called as Suyodhana, or Drona's case in our discussion, etc. There are many such examples in the Mahabharata, where failings in human character have been accorded other 'reasons' so that that character's 'moral integrity' is not harmed.

Why do we need to do this? Can't we deal with our idols/heroes having flaws? Are we so childish? Why are we so touchy about everything?

Like Mr. Narayana Murthy of Infosys says, "We Indians are the most thin-skinned people in the world. We take offense at the slightest notice." :-)

Digressing a bit and on a lighter note, Dronacharya's act certainly makes a supporting case for match-fixing. We really should not have a big hue n cry about it when it happens in Cricket.

Thanks for the info anyway. You haven't really dealt with my other points about 'human evolution' and the fact that the best character conditioning happens in face of adversity.

Best Regards,
Kalpak

jayasree said...

//Why do we need to do this? Can't we deal with our idols/heroes having flaws? Are we so childish? Why are we so touchy about everything?//

Yes. Why can't we deal with the reality instead of raking up characters of the past? In the article and comments, I was speaking on the ground reality that caused the castes and caste conflicts. Who started to talk about DRona, Ekalvya and Karna?

Kayn said...

They were examples. And Gandhi and Ambedkar were examples of a completely different kind - didn't you like those and what I said about them?

Anyway, I agree that there is no point raking up the past. Okay, here is the present for you (actually, its 2 weeks into the past, but please be lenient with me).

http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/man-kills-daughter-for-wanting-to-marry-outside-community-178224

Now, I have yet to read all your articles on caste - but I have indeed been reading your articles, and also your recent Guest Blogger article "Frontiers of Anthropology".

Our (present-day) matrimonials are a good example of where society is. You mentioned tension in family, and difference in rituals in your article as one reason for maintaining the caste system.

Any 'tension' comes up when there is a "power struggle" in the relationship. When the person whose status quo, that of being in authority, is changed because the other decides to express his/her individuality.

You have mentioned in your articles that people who discontinue tradition, have problems. What I found very interesting was one piece where you say "promises made by an earlier generation were not kept by the subsequent generation..."

It is such attitudes that I see a problem with. Not your conclusion - but the very fact that the tradition of heirarchy in society and tradition of rituals that leads to this. From my previous reference of Gandhi saying that we cannot control who our parents are, and the circumstances we are born in, can I not argue that what arrogance in my current generation causes expectations of some school of thought be followed to the T by my descendants? If you did not control where you were born, why expect the same from your children - even you did not have a choice in who was born to you. They are not born to you out of their choice - so why force your opinions on them? Do they not have the right to make sense of the world as they see it?

Rituals are symbolic. The nuances of tradition in our society are mostly very belief based. From my limited observations of rituals, what I have seen is that we only differ in the way we express the faith. Rituals such as what offerings are made to a God, in what order are the individual tasks in a particular pooja done, etc. We have many schools of thought that govern these rituals.

Now, if there is tension in family because these rituals are not followed as they "should" by other group of people, and hence we should not have inter-caste marriages. I think this is a symptom of a very weak society - which can, and has been exploited.

Hinduism is consered a Way of Life rather than a religion - in the sense it was not 'founded' by any Prophet. Way of Life is a beautiful method of expressing. So in this case, the true strength of Hinduism is that we follow so many belief systems. Atheism, Agnostism, Theism are all accepted facets in this Way of Life.

If such variation is seen in society, is it not natural that such differences in thought will also occur in a single family, in the same and different generations?

And the very strength of the family, society depends on this difference. It is only with such difference of opinion, and ACCEPTANCE of it that any society can evolve. Staying in comfortable belief systems is not the way.

Best,
Kalpak

jayasree said...

"promises made by an earlier generation were not kept by the subsequent generation..."

Even promises made in the previous birth are continuing through births – every thought, word and action leaves its imprint that continues through generations and birth. When you think at that level, you will understand that births and situations of good and bad that you face in life are about how well you have evolved in consciousness and are able to face them without making any new imprints that need to be faced again in a future date. This is the core of spiritual growth –which is the ultimate ‘human evolution’ that Hinduism speaks about. Gandhiji wrote from that level of evolution. Anyone coming to that level can understand the traditions of Hinduism and what I conveyed in this article and comments.

I request you to read ‘Caste” articles in this blog first, before anything else to understand my point of view.

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