Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Caste system for an Indian

 

“In modern understanding of caste system, the element of caste is overestimated/predominant and the element of system is underestimated/suppressed considerably”

Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time, which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. But caste system, on which Indian social structure is based, has proved to be an exception. It has given Indian society a distinguished identity.

Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. In the formation of a caste, same language, residents of same place, same way of living, residents of same place same culture play an important role.

It has survived the vicissitudes of time and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside, only because of its flexibility and adaptability. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought different groups and communities, at different point of time, under one umbrella without any conversion. It has taken different shades and meaning with changing times and places. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase.

Caste system and its adaptability –  It took different shades and meaning with the changing times and places.  It is different in context of village, locality, region or religion.

Starting initially from tribal communities being nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian it transformed into Pastoral tribal society and then into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Agricultural society leisurely evolved its structures and systems over about 2000 years and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in.

Its nature changed under foreign rule in the country for centuries. Its shades have been different during the periods of industrialization and modernization and globalization. Once changed, the system never returned to its original form. Still it presents one of the oldest social institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the whole world. It has survived vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of its adaptability.

Covers almost the entire social fabric of India – Caste-system covers almost the entire social fabric of India. To almost all Indians – Hindus as well as social groups belonging to other communities, caste appears as a natural, dear and inevitable unit of society. Family, extended family, Kula, Caste and religion are the fundamental social institutions for them. An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula (clan), Kula of a tribe (Vish) and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste). This way, Caste is nothing else but a large extended family divided into various social groups. bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living.

Caste is second only to the family – where a child learns his first lessons in human values and relationships- in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life. Caste and Indian culture are inseparably related by traditional customs. It is virtually impossible to think of one without another.

In the past or at present, quite often Caste-system has been criticized vehemently by politicians, intellectuals or reformers from other faiths like Budhhism, Islam or Christianity. Sometimes, even attempts have been made to wipe it out completely from Indian scene, create a casteless society or make drastic changes in Indian social structure. After each assault, it re-emerged with greater force.

All the strength of caste system comes from its foundation pillars, which are based on principle of Varna (which later on gave birth to caste system), accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma. Principle of ‘Varna’ gave Indian Society a stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction.

These principles together have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups under one umbrella called Hinduism. Principle of Varna has engineered a system for social stratification placing people into different groups according to aptitudes, occupation, and location. Principle of Dharma taught Indians to place one’s duties above rights and principle of Karma imbibed in them tolerance and belief in concepts like ‘live and let others live’ as well as ‘Vasudhev-Kutumbkam’ (meaning whole world is a family). The multicentricity of present society has given it a syncritic character,  pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

Caste still appears to most of the Indians as a very dear and natural social institution . However, some people regard India a caste-ridden society, and caste system as problematic, complicated, discriminatory and exploitative. In such a situation, it is interesting to know what actually caste system is? Has it become obsolete and useless in modern context? How, when and why did it come into existence and develop in its present form? What have been the factors, which contributed to its development? What are the strengths and weaknesses of caste system? How much influence does it still exercise on modern Indian society? (The answers to these queries are in the posts “Origin of caste system of India” and “Caste-system and Discrimination”).

 

November 11, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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