Hindi Language Blog

Caste System Continued Posted by on Nov 29, 2009 in Hindi Language

Even today, the caste system continues to be a controvercial topic in India. What makes it even more complicated is that the caste system is divided into clans like the अग्रवाल, which shows that it’s superficial to explain Indians in terms of just castes. The question that most people have is, for what purpose did the caste system come about? Some people think that the caste system was assigned by invaders (such as Alexander the Great and the British) to better control the Indian populace. There’s an interesting argument made by some people that the caste system was intensified by British rule.

Evidence of this is shown by the caste systems recorded by the British census data. Others say that the British have actually broken the caste system in an attempt to undermine traditional Indian values and control the population through British values. Evidence for this points to British court decisions that try to reduce caste divisions. Either way, it’s uncertain as to how exactly the cast system came about, and how or why they continued to persist. The most focus has been on why and how a group called “the untouchables” came about and especially why society has come to abhor such a group.

So is caste designation a religious construct? Many Dalits are Hindus and one of the reasons used to explain the origin of their plight is through Vedic theology. However, the body of the gods are divided into the head (priest caste), the arms (warrior caste), the belly (farming/merchant caste), and the legs (laboring/artisan caste). There is no explicit mention of the “untouchables” in this organization of castes, so where did the idea come from? To be fair, even the Jainists, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists uphold the caste system to some extent, so it’s not simply the Hindu religion that is guilty of maintaining the caste system.

Today, it is against the law to discriminate against the Dalits. However, the law is powerless against the perception held by people who still believe that the Dalits are unclean. Perhaps once we truely understand the stem of our prejudices, we can move forward to better the lives of those who have been oppressed for decades.

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