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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Caste as a “System”

Traditional living had been an anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbour, Now that the anchor had gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

“If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. C. Rajgopalachari

“In modern understanding of ‘caste-system’, element of ‘caste’ has been highlighted and mis-interpreted;  and element of ‘system’ has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.” And It “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” Don Martindale

Introduction

Caste Very sensitive issue – Caste system has travelled a very long distance experiencing many ups and downs. It has been both defended and opposed over the course of Indian history up till the present day. Caste-system has always drawn the attention of politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been interpreted, praised, distorted or criticized many times in the manner, whatever suited to the purpose of that particular era.

Practices and values of caste system are regarded as problematic and complicated. Indian society is being portrayed as a ‘caste-ridden society’. Caste is being held responsible for all the miseries of submerged sections of society. It could vary from illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards disintegration, discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society to forcing destitution on vast number of people.

Stratification of a society, a natural phenomenon – Individuals differ from each other in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups and systems. It is quite natural that in every society, anywhere in the world emerge different groups out of functional necessity. Each society devises its own principles for stratification, for coordinated functioning of all parts together, for keeping its whole system fit and functional as well as for taking care of the interests of its people as a whole.

Usually variables like occupation, education, qualities, income, wealth, ownership of land, property etc. form different social groups within the society What determines their hierarchy/status or degree of influence varies from one society to another, or from place to place. It may be on basis of class, caste, religion, region, language, race or occupation.

Class the basis in Western Societies – In Western world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’, as universal basis of stratification of society. Usually, stratification on the basis of Class begins with individuals. Division of society along ‘Class’ lines  forms different groups on the basis their economic and cultural level.

In materialistic Western societies, possession of wealth determines hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups within the society. Individuals of same economic and cultural level form one social group/class. More the wealth, more powerful and respected a person is. Social status of a person depends on material success and control over power/authority. Wealth is associated with power, authority and social status. Society is divided into two groups, powerful and powerless, which depends on wealth, one possesses. Wealthy class is always powerful and rules over poor classes. Other factors, which are considered important besides one’s wealth in determining class status, at least at higher levels, are costume and grooming, manners and cultural refinement, tastes and sensitivities etc. Social class with more power usually subordinate classes with less power.

Along with wealth, other factors like occupation, education and qualifications, income, bank-balance, ownership of land, property, grooming, manners and cultural refinement (tastes and sensitivities of different groups) decide the inter-personal relationship and ranking of different social groups.Political standing vis-à-vis church/temples/ mosques, government, and/or social clubs, as well as use of honorary titles, reputation of honor or disgrace, language, race determines degrees of influence on class standing.

Broadly, a society is usually divided into –

  • Upper class includes those persons with great influence, wealth and prestige.
  • Lower class/Working class includes poor, alienated and marginalized members of society. This class constitutes majority of people in any nation.
  • Middle Class – In between comes Middle Class.

Mystified Western World – Western world is mystified to a great extent by the amazing pluralities and unique social structure of India based on caste. It is difficult for it to understand the role of caste, both in the past or at present, in Indian society. Complete localization and unfamiliarity makes it difficult to understand and appreciate fully, caste as a system in its totality and to know the nuances, the nature, role and value of caste as a system. The confusion is because in the term ‘caste’, two indigenous systems of Varna and Jaati has been mixed up into one.

Caste-based Indian society – Stratification of Indian society is based on Principle of Varna, followed by Caste-system. Principle of Varna system has been conceptualized, originated and practiced exclusively in India. It has given a distinguished identity to Indian society. Principle of Varna separates wealth from status, power from authority, and knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.

All individuals within a caste group – irrespective of one’s financial position – are equal having similar rank, rights and duties. Its constituent members are supposed to be independent, yet their roles complementary. Castes have its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati (extended family), and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. ‘Caste’. “Jaati”/caste is decided by “birth” and “Varna” by Karma/deeds.

Within society, status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power. Similarly, the greatness of a state is judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice, with which its governance being done, not on the basis of the size of a state or its treasury.

Difference between Caste-system and CasteismThere is a difference between ‘caste’ as a ‘system’ and ‘caste-ism’. In the modern understanding of caste system, the element of caste is predominant and the element of system is less. First of all, everybody needs to understand that there is a big difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

  • Caste as system – Caste is a well-organized social institution. This term is specifically used to refer the social structure of Hindu India. .
  • Caste-ism – Rigid attitude in observance of caste practices without having regard for reason or rhyme or using it for vested interests by powerful lobbies leads to casteism. It has generated many abnormalities and distortions in the system. Caste is a social institution.  Bringing caste into politics had led to Casteism. Using it for political gains is the biggest disservice one can do to the nation.

Has caste system become obsolete? Now the question comes, has caste-system become obsolete? No. All over 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.

Caste system, on which Indian social structure is based, has proved to be an exception. After each assault, it re-emerged with greater force. Even today, caste-system has not become obsolete despite all the weaknesses developed into the system during aliens rule in India and all the attacks on it from time to time. It has survived the vicissitudes of time and saved itself so far by erosion from within or assault from outside. Otherwise, it would have given place to other systems. It still presents one of the oldest social institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the whole world.

Caste-system (mixture of Varna and jaati pratha) is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. The roots of Varna system and Jaati-Pratha are so deep,  that it is virtually impossible to think of India without it. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. It has both religious and social sanction behind it.

Common men in India are reluctant to abandon caste-system – an institution of proven value on trial and error basis. They are not sure about the effectiveness of any other system to be created by the critics of caste system. Therefore, elimination of caste still remains a distant dream. People understandably wish to make improvements in the tried and tested old system by removing deformities developed into it with time. A change is good for the growth of a society. But changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions, present requirements and existing ground realities of the place and future prospects.

Meaning of the terms Caste, Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – The term “caste” was unknown in ancient and medieval India. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British and other European countries came to India. Anyway, so-called caste system of modern times is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. The Sanskrit name for caste is varna + Jati, color, the different castes having been at first marked by differences of complexion and according to occupation.. At some point, with the growth in population, Varna became the basis of Jati-pratha, which gave birth to the system of belonging to “one of the hereditary social groups of India,”

  • Term Caste unfamiliar to India – Caste not an Indigenous term. The root of the word “caste” is the Latin “castus”, which means “cut off” or ” separated.” The word arrived in English through the Portuguese “casta”, which means “race” or “lineage,” or “breed”. Portuguese employed Casta in the modern sense when they applied it to hereditary Indian social groups called as Jati. Caste can be defined as hereditary endagamous group, having a common name, common traditional occupation, common culture, relatively rigid in matter of mobility, distinctiveness of status and forming a single homogeneous community. The term caste was first used in the 1613/1700s in reference to Hinduism’s system of rigid social stratification. The use of the word was based on the perception of the Europeans, including the British, of the society in India as they saw it at the time, and perhaps on what the locals told them.
  • Varna – In Indian Vernacular, uptill medieval period, the words used for caste are Varna + Jati. to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The entire system of Varna and Jati is now called as caste system. Every social group has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. The term “Varna” is a Sanskrit word. which in Rigveda means type, order, colour, complexion or outward experience. Membership of ‘Varna’ is based on the attitude aptitude, occupation and deeds of a person. Four basic Varnas are defined under it, Brahmins (priests, teachers, researchers and intellectuals), Kshatriyas (warriors, kings, administrators), Vaishyas (agriculturists, traders,, farmers etc) and Shudra (workers, labours, artisans). Varna system did not classify people as high or low or superior or inferior. It was just classification in the order of society based on skills of people. According to Bhagwat Gita, Varna is not hereditary or by birth, but based on quality, skills and deeds (Karma)
  • Jaati – ‘Jati’ is also a Sanskrit word  Jata’ meaning born or brought into existence.. whereas by birth, everyone belongs to a Jaati. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis, 1980, Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67). The root word for jati is ‘Jana’. It is concerned by birth. Jati of an individual deals with his/her identity, beliefs, traditions, geographical location etc. The term Jaati appears in almost all Indian languages and is related to the idea of lineage or kinship group. A jaati is usually organized into a biradari (a brotherhood), Elders of Biradari whch carries out the business and oversees the its working. There are thousands of castes, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. There are regional variation mostly based on linguistic and life-style differences. Each jaati has some unique job, but not everyone in jaati performs it. There may be variations in the placement of different castes due to economic, political and educational status of various social groups.
  • Difference between Varna and Jati or caste
    • Varna is concerned with occupation.
    • Varna has always been four.
    • It is an All-India phenomenon
    • In Varna system concept of purity and pollution is the basis of division of society.
    • Varnas are relatively more flexible as compared with jaati/caste. With the acquisition of of talents and virtues one can improve his status.
    • Varna system is free from socio economic and political disabilities or restrictions.

How the term caste came into existence? The term caste has originated from Portuguese ‘casta’, meaning race, breed, ancestry. Portuguese first used the terms ‘casta’ meaning “breed, race, caste and ‘casta-raça’ meaning ‘unmixed race’. Portuguese observers described that Hindu society in western and south-western India has divided itself through caste system into different socially ranked occupational groups. In an effort to maintain vertical social distance, these social groups practiced mutual exclusion in matters relating to eating and, presumably, marrying.

In Latin word castus means “chaste” or purity of breed. Application to Hindu social groups ‘Varna’ and ‘Jaati’ was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta. British have merged both the terms ‘Varna’ and ‘caste’ into one word ‘cast’ or ‘caste’. Subsequently ‘caste’ has become the established word for the combination of ‘Varna’ and’’jaati’.

Later on, major European languages (notably Dutch and French) adopted the term ‘caste’ in the same specific sense. It has become established term and was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they Since then, the whole scenario about caste was messed up. The meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically. 

‘Caste’ as a system in India –  Varna/Jaati or‘Caste’ system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. It has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of direction.

Principles of ‘Varna’, ‘Dharma and ‘Karma, Foundation pillars of caste system – 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.

Principle of Varna has guided the division of the society. It 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 multi-centricity of present society has given it a synergetic character, a pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

The principle of Varna was based on the assumption, that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, it gave rise to the fourfold division of society and assigned duties according to natural instincts and qualities of its people –

  • BrahmanMeaning of the word Brahman is all-pervading and consciousness. Persons, who could keep themselves away from ignorance, illusions and lust, and have a flair for learning were put in this category of Brahmans. They possessed intellectual and spiritual qualities. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world. They were assigned the duties like learning, pursuit of knowledge and setting norms for common man, so that whole society could benefit from their knowledge.
  • Kshatriya – People having warrior skills and men of action were put in this group. Their duty was to protect the people from internal disorders and external aggressions.
  • Vaishyas People having business acumen were included in this category. They were engaged in production, business, trade and commerce.
  • Shudras – People advised to do menial jobs and work under the guidance of any of the above three Varnas. They were either the people unable to do the above three tasks or the conquered ones. Mostly people belonging to this category were supposed to be incapable of maintaining self-discipline and contributing to the society directly without any guidance.

Greek philosophers’ Dream of an Ideal society comes true in India – Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle of ancient times were greatly influenced by the idea of what was actually realized in real life through Varna system of India. They dreamt of an ‘Ideal Society’ dreamt, which was divided into  following four groups according to aptitude, assigned jobs accordingly and did ranking in following order –

  •  “Philosopher Kings” – (Intellectuals).
  • “Army men” – (Warriors).
  • “Business Community”.
  • “Slaves” – People unable to do the above mentioned jobs or conquered people to do menial works.

In their ideal state, all people were supposed to belong to one group or the other, not on basis of birth, but on basis of their capabilities and aptitudes.

Most scientific social system – Many intellectuals and social reformers regard Varna system, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. Don Martindale says, Hinduism was the ideological and emotional buttress of caste. Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …… Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished. Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated itself to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time bring considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace. It succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…”(Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39).

Salient features of Varna/Jati, now known as caste systemAll the strength of caste system comes from its foundation pillars, i.e. the principle of Varna followed by Caste system. Its principles have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It has survived for such a long period and is still alive because –  

  • Given a distinguished identity to Indian society – Varna/jati-pratha has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a stable, sustainable solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. It is one of the dominant features running through its entire social fabric.
  • Survived the vicissitudes of Time – Varna-Jaati system has survived the vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability. 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.
  • Principles of a good organization – Almost all the essentials of good organization are found in caste system. Division of different functions required in a society is the first requisite of any good institution. For an efficient and smooth functioning, Varna system has wisely organized all activities of a society. Vedic principles have divided wisely all the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the Hindu society. Each basic Varna has been assigned a distinct function to perform – Brahmins Varna includes in itself priests, teachers, intellectuals and researchers etc.; Kshatriyas warriors, rulers, and administrators etc ; Vaishyas, agriculturists, traders, and farmers etc and; Shudras, workers, labours, artsans etc.
  • No confusion – There is no confusion or frustration in matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.  Each caste serves the community and feels that it, too, is contributing something to the society. Git boosts their confidence and it lives with dignity and honour. All functions and activities have been grouped as to avoid confusion. In its pure form, It has wisely organized all activities of society. Activities of similar nature or having same objectives have assigned to specific social group.
  • Strong structure – Caste system has provided a strong structure with well-defined functions. The structure is simple and easy to understand. It ensures continuous growth and, therefore, should not be rigid.
  • Balance of activities – Varna system has given proper weightage to different activities, in proportion to their contribution to organization as a whole, is necessary. No activity should either be over-valued or under-valued. Functions are assigned to different social groups on the basis qualifications, skills, attitude and aptitude of its employees.
  • Team spirit – Relationship between various groups within an organization should be based on the principle of “mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust”. It facilitates better coordination of diverse activities performed by different sections. Smooth relations amongst its constituent’s leads to optimal utilization of resources and to satisfaction of all its constituent members.
  • Specialization – Cate system has prepared an atmosphere for high level of intelligence and specialization. Concentration of a social group on the performance of a single task, leads to greater efficiency and more specialization.
  • Creative thinking – The system has encouraged initiative and creative thinking. It firmly believes in lofty principles like “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (the whole world is one family), “Live and let others live” and “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc.
  • Satisfaction – It keeps its members comfortable and satisfied by fulfilling the biological as well as psychological needs of all the people, individually as well as at group-level.
  • Adaptability of new technologies and development – An organization helps adopts new improved means of doing things, permits prompt adoption and optimum use of technological advancements. It must avoid nepotism, favoritism and must give an upper hand to merit and talent.
  • Automatic System of checks and balances – Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations. People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed. In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. The monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. The Brahmin strongholds were the centres of learning. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society. Thus, from time to time, and place to place, different castes rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed. Clearly defined rights and duties of each role – The system assigns clearly duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities. The system clearly specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and managed relationship with others. It encourages self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. Sprees on one’s responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provides its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority and leads to automatic decentralization of authority.
  • Based on the vision of an organic society – Caste-system is based on the “vision” of an organic society. Society as an organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. Each part has been assigned a particular function. All the parts are equally important and indispensable, need equal attention for its growth and care for balanced growth of the whole system. Coordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.
  • Inter-dependence – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes were assigned important social duties.
  • Segmental-ranking – Varna system was so conceived by the genius sages that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. No caste took an all India character. There was no nationwide hierarchy of castes. However, in a local area, the relative standing of castes was more or less fixed. Ranking of different caste groups within a local area, was done according to nature and social relevance of their work, contribution of their work for social subsistence, and efforts required to perform their duties, and amount of self-restraint/self-discipline, they exercise, their relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, while ranking different castes.
  • Set-rules – Considerations of self-discipline, self-restraint, hygiene and cleanliness (concept of purity and impurity) on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, standard of morality, knowledge and spirituality were given importance, while ranking different castes. Every caste was advised to lead a self-restraint and self-disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was considered, and greater was the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. The system of each caste having a specific position in the society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.
  • Team-work – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.
  • Inter-dependence – All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area. People living, whether in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.  They had very little links with the outside world because of slower means of transport. Only merchants visited different distant places. The local societies used to be self-sufficient. Different local castes, whether high or low, were interdependent in taking care of basic needs of the society. They were inter-dependent and cared and supported each other in taking care of different kinds of basic needs of their society.  Rituals required the participation of all castes. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth. Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on important occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings. The key, to understand the caste system, was not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. All the castes were independent, yet their roles complementary.
  • Flexibility and adaptability – Caste system has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorptive nature has pronged its life. The system evolved its structures and systems leisurely and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different in context of village, locality, region or religion.
  • Assimilation without conversion- Caste system is a natural response of mixing up of numerous social multi-ethnic groups with indigenous groups of the land into a single cultural system. Beauty of caste system lies in the way; it assimilated numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves.– immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others – into its mainstream. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought them under one umbrella without any conversion.
  • Caste used as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups – Caste system assigned each incoming new group a separate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.
  • Employment, dignity and honor for all – The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • Not much disparity – There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. The concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different sections of society and exploitation of the weak were almost non-existent earlier. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. The system has placed all the individuals, within a caste grou, rich or poor, on the same footing. All members of a caste had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. Elders took care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped the members, who were weak and helpless. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.
  • Acted as a shield – During medieval India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Though many evil practices developed in the system during this period, but it acted as a shield for Hindus to retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of Mughals, Portuguese or British.

Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the world was passing through Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land.

Varna-system giving way to Caste-SystemAs the population increased and more and more indigenous and foreign groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave rise to caste system. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. ‘Varnas’ were never more or less than four and always remained the same.

  • The first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing of traders and professions in later Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which some authorities have seen the origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but not of castes. Later on, instead of Varna, caste became a dominant factor, a natural unit of Hindu society, running through the entire fabric of its social structure.
  • Each caste found its place under a Varna on the basis of their nature of work, its being ritually clean or unclean and amount of self-discipline, they exercised. Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. For over 2000 years, their order in precedence remained the same. As far as castes were concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.
  • People, who fell outside caste-system were anti-social elements, Adivasis and foreigners, because they did not subscribe to rules and values of the Varna system. Groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.
  • Fair skinned Aryans, being the conquerors, kept themselves on the top. People, who were conquered and admitted into the fold of Aryan society, were looked upon as the lowest of the four classes. Conquered Kols and Dravid tribes formed the fourth class of Dasas or Shudras. However Aryan princes did not regard Dasa princes as inferior, for they made alliances with them.

Special features of Varna/Caste-system –  Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. Caste-system gives Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, way of life, and sense of direction.

  • The origin of Caste-system can-not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.
  • Natural response – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. It provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.
  • Development of thousands of years – Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial and other groups in a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Varna-system of Vedic culture. 
  • Different shades and meaning of caste system with changing times – Caste system i.e. Jaati-pratha has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature, which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. 
  • Gave coherence, stability, continuity to Indian society – The system of Varna/caste has given Indian society coherence, stability, continuity and led to its all-round growth. It has prepared an atmosphere of co-existence for co-existence of for numerous castes and communities having diverse languages and practices. Generation after generations, they could survive despite numerous foreign invasions, centuries of foreign rule, migrations and assimilation of various social groups into it. Credit of it goes to culture of India, which binds together all people of Indian peninsula from one end to the other, thus making unity in diversity a reality.
  • Covers entire social fabric of India – It covers almost the entire social fabric of India. Not only in the past, but at present also, caste system commands respect and attention of all Indians. common man in India as a natural, valid and inevitable unit of society. It is popular not only amongst Hindus, but amongst other sects as well living in India, whether foreign or indigenous.  Muslims or Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist could not remain immune from its caste system for long. They also have been influenced and absorbed many of the systems and practices of caste-system.
  • A natural social institution – 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). Caste is second only to the family and is a natural, valid, useful and inevitable unit of Indian society. Family, extended family, Kula, and Caste are fundamental social institutions. Caste is nothing but a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and occupation. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence, specialization and hierarchical order of social units were its important traits.
  • Wonderful process of assimilation – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole. Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.
  • Closer relations – A person’s relations with members of his caste are closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. Internalized caste norms define an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.
  • Indian culture and caste inseparable – Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs. It is virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what ‘caste system’ is and what caste means to a common man. 
  • Indian culture and caste inseparable – Indian culture and caste are inseparably related each other by traditional customs. It is virtually impossible to think of one without another. Being a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India, it is difficult for Westerners and non-Indians to understand what ‘caste system’ is and what caste means to a common man. 

Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken place in the system especially during centuries of foreign rule in the country. In order to save their identity, many deformities have developed into the practices of caste system under centuries of alien rule.

System of Caste under British rule

British rulers vehemently criticized caste system. British rulers drew the attention of Indians towards its weaknesses and carefully avoided telling its strong points. They developed a complex in Indian minds about efficacy of caste system. According to them –

  • Caste system being highly stratified – According to rulers caste system had divided the population into vast number of groups having distinct and diverse thinking and life styles. However, the British thinkers could not appreciate the role of caste system in integrating different tribes, groups and communities together under one system for centuries. Instead of adopting the policy to convert the new groups in Hindu religion and thrusting on them its own values, thoughts, processes, superstructures and practices Hindu religion, through caste system, presented an unique example in the world history. All the incoming groups were welcomed and accommodated in Hinduism on their own terms. It legitimized their beliefs, behaviour patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm.
  • It is discriminatory system It is an anomaly that British, who themselves played discriminatory practices by keeping their railway compartments, waiting rooms, parks, clubs, hotels, places of other entertainment and residences segregated, criticized caste system as being discriminatory. It was not very difficult for the British to present the examples showing the prejudice, high handedness or rude behaviour of some of bigoted caste Hindus towards the lower strata of society.
  • Disregard for menial work – According to British rulers, giving lower status to menial workers, i.e. Shudra shows that caste system disregards menial work. They suppressed the reality. In fact,  It was not the caste system, but the industrial revolution, which taught humanity to hate or escape from menial work. The creation of new white collared jobs by British developed the attitude to discredit manual work. The more a person withdrew from physical labour, the more civilized and qualified he was regarded by modern society. Such an attitude lured all the sections of society to leave their traditional occupations and join white collared jobs in organized sectors, irrespective of their background, aptitude, skill and knowledge.
  • Employment, dignity and honour for all – The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honour and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.

Nature of Caste After IndependenceIndependent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

Caste now more liberal in social sphere – With the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas.

Entry of caste into politics of the nation – The nature of caste system has been changed after the process of modernization, industrialization, urbanization, globalization. technological advancement began. It has lessened the rigidities of caste system in social arena. But entry of caste into politics of independent India has done a great damage. The seeds of ‘divide and rule’ sown by British imperial rulers have blossomed in full. Casteism, corruption, criminalization, favouritism, in-discipline, violence, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition etc. are some of the direct consequences of political expediency and opportunism. They have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. Present-day politics encourages sectional forces, which are vocal and demand enough space for themselves in job-market and higher education aggressively. There is no respite from casteism.

Weakening of caste system in social arena and its growing politicization has made life difficult for all sections of society. Aversion of people from traditional and moral values has created confusion in the atmosphere. Their total concentration is on pursuit of money and materialistic pleasures by hook or crook. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, he does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him. There are alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different sections of society.

Centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals or groups – There is complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals and groups with political, money or muscle power, who control destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life. Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions. The work culture has been degenerated. Under-currents of caste politics have made the task of governance difficult, making the governance of the nation difficult and ineffective. The administration has become incompetent to solve the burning national issues. It has turned the vision of national development into an empty dream.

Conclusion

Empowerment of masses depends on inculcation of knowledge and awareness through ‘education for all’. Usually Power rests with those having either knowledge or physical strength or wealth. Knowledge brings in both force and wealth. Instead of putting blame on caste-system, it would be more desirable to make arrangements for sound system of education for empowering the submerged sections of society.

Despite all the undesirable developments taken place in the system, caste system is still quite popular amongst Indian masses. Not only Hindus, but other sects living in India, with all their egalitarian faith, whether foreign or indigenous, like Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, have not remained immune from its caste system. They have also absorbed many of its practices and systems.

Change one must. Past should not be idolized. Any system, which in light of modern times appears to be ineffective or inefficient should be replaced by a better one. But it will be suicidal to sacrifice something to an increasing passion for change. Changes must be based on constant interpretation of past experiences and opinions.

Vivekanand said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.” … “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other notes, comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it dies.”… “The main reason of our economic and spiritual degeneration is that we have not correctly followed the “Varna System”. This is the main reason of poverty and unemployment and one of the main reasons that there is un-touchability”. He suggested that for the growth of a self-contained and self-regulated society, it was necessary to encourage education amongst the masses, all the occupations be given equal importance, people no be forced to adopt their hereditary occupations and difference of income derived from various occupations be narrowed down to the minimum.

June 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Origin of Caste System

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.” …. And it “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

“In present understanding of caste system, element of caste is dominant and element of system has been considerably suppressed.” Lata Sinha

Introduction – It will be interesting to know as to when and how caste system originated. caste system is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Since then, has travelled a very long distance experiencing many ups and downs. Many changes have taken place in the system as time passed on.

The origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system.

Caste is social institution. Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. It has both religious and social sanction behind it.

Foreign origin of the term ‘caste’,  – The term “caste” was unknown in ancient India. The terms ‘Varna and jaati’ were used in ancient and medieval India to identify different social groups and sub-groups. The term ‘Caste’ has been in use ever since British came to rule India.

The term caste has originated from Portuguese ‘casta’, meaning race, breed, ancestry. Portuguese first used the terms ‘casta’ meaning “breed, race, caste and ‘casta-raça’ meaning ‘unmixed race’. The Latin word for it is castus, meaning “chaste” or purity of breed.

Application to Hindu social groups ‘Varna’ and ‘Jaati’ was picked up by English in India 1610s from Portuguese casta. Subsequently, British have merged both the terms ‘Varna’ and ‘caste’ into one word ‘cast’ or ‘caste’. Subsequently ‘caste’ has become the established word for the combination of ‘Varna’ and’’jaati’. Later on, major European languages (notably Dutch and French) also, ‘caste’ in the same specific sense.  has become established term

The term Caste was recorded officially in 1840 for the first time by European colonizers, to mean persons belonging to the same hereditary social group. Instead of using ‘Varna or Jati’ separately, they Since then, the whole scenario about caste was messed up. The meaning and understanding about caste system has been changed drastically. 

Caste-system is inseparably related to Hinduism by traditional customs, values and systems. The roots of Varna system and Jaati-Pratha are so deep,  that it is virtually impossible to think of India without it. It has been one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India. Caste has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect.

Meaning of the indigenous terms Varṇa (वर्णः) and Jaati – ‘Caste’ has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. The term “Varna” is a Sanskrit word, which means type, order, colour or class. ‘Jati’ is also a Sanskrit word  meaning ‘Jana’. Membership of ‘Varna’ is based on the attitude aptitude and deeds of a person, whereas by birth, everyone belongs to a Jaati. ‘Jaāti’ refers to thousands of endogamous social groups, sub-groups and sub-sub- groups coming under each Varna, living across the subcontinent. A jati may be divided into exogamous groups based on the same gotras. (Dumont, Louis, 1980, Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications, University of Chicago Press, pp. 66–67)

Origin of Varna and Jaati Pratha (Caste system) in India – The origin of ‘Varna or Jaati’ can-not be found in one single authoritative text like Christian’s “Bible” or Islam’s “Kuran”, nor can it be attributed to one single founder, like Jesus Christ for Christianity or Mohammad Sahib for Islam. It is the development of thousands of years. to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world.

Different shades and meaning of caste system with changing times – Caste system i.e. Jaati-pratha has survived the vicissitudes of time, and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside. Credit of its prolonged life goes to its adaptability, flexibility and absorptive nature, which has internalized even the alien influences. It has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. 

Wonderful process of assimilation – Wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different social groups has been a continuous process of the Hindu civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of Bharat.  All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Hindu thinking, caste system, its practices and systems.

Different stages of making and evolution of Varna/caste – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. Caste system provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.  Following are the different stages of the evolution of Varna/caste – 

  • Caste during Ancient period 
  • Tribal Society of Pre-Vedic period – The making of caste system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society. Roughly ten millennia ago, people lived  in small migratory groups, living the life-style of wandering “nomadic herdsmen”. These small groups mostly lived in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.
  • Settled agricultural society – Then came the period of making of the agricultural societies. People started  cultivating land and settled down Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. As reflected in ‘Rigveda’, during early stages of Vedic Age people ceased to be a wandering people, started a settled life.
  • Entry of Aryans – Aryans entered into India in waves from land-side at different points of time. Aryans, after entering into India first conquered its original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms, then Deccan and then south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes.
  • Development of structures and systems – Socio-political structures and systems were evolved leisurely over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. In the beginning people hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.
  • Nobility and ordinary tribes-men – Initially a simple division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. Slowly, possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised.
  • Varnas and Jaatis (Caste) during Vedic Period – Vedic society is considered as the most advanced civilization in every respect be its social structure or its culture. This was the time when the social structure was taking shape under “Varna System”.
  • Historical time of the the start of Vedic Period – Historical time of the origin and slow but steady evolution of Varna system is estimated around 3300–1300 BCE; mature period 2600–1900 BCE. It was the period of beginning of Indus Valley Civilization. 
  • Varna system originated and flourished in northern parts of India (on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent) and later on spread throughout India during 1500 BC and 500 BC. Society was relatively egalitarian one. There was no distinct hierarchy of socio-economic classes or castes.
  • Emergence of “Jaatis” after assimilation of migrating social groups – Numerous racial, tribal, occupational and other groups entered in waves into India via land routes from different parts of the world. The assimilation of all migrating social groups from different parts into the  main-stream of Hinduism was done through jaati pratha.
  • New Jati/caste name for each migrating group – Each incoming new group was assigned a separate Jaati (caste) name.
  • Numerous Jaatis emerged within each Varna – This way, numerous Jaatis emerged within each Varna. Jaati pratha had not only accommodated and bound migrating social groups into a single cultural system, but gave them full freedom to continue their own culture and way of living and flourish.
  • Categorization based on deeds – Initially assignment of Varna was based on the deeds of a person, like learned persons were given Brahmin name, warriors were called Kshatriyas, business men Vaishyas and manual workers Shudras.
  • Not much disparity – There was not much disparity between different Varnas. There was not much disparity between different forward or lower castes.  There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group.  Not a single group was identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. 
  • Defined Rights and Duties for all- To discipline the society, society had clearly defined rights and duties.
  • Neither repulsed, nor allowed others to sweep its indigenous culture – Along with the freedom to flourish within its own soil, the Hindu society had imposed some restrictions as well like rules of endogamy, ritual purity, inter-dependence and hierarchical order of its social units. This way, Hinduism has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its established culture off the roots.
  • Castes during Medieval Period – Many changes took place, during medieval period in the caste system.
  • Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India. Invasion of Ghazni (998-1030 AD), and others, the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757) continuously pressurized Hindu Social system.
  • Earlier they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands.  But afterwards, they conquered and made India their homeland.
  • Downfall of Hindu Raj along with decline of traditional Hindu values, imposition of Zaziya on Hindus and intolerance of alien rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their identity and indigenous culture.
  • Hindu society turned inwards to save their identity. Excesses by rulers resulted in conscious efforts by Hindus to save their identity, values and honour by making caste rules and rituals stricter and more rigidly applied than before[i].
  • It gave birth to many social evils like Sati Pratha; Dowry, Purdah system or superstitions. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority had increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.
  • Despite of all these socio-economic and political changes, the institution of caste was independent of the government’s intervention till medieval period.   It made the Hindu society stable but not static.
  • Traditional decentralized self-regulated systems were the mode for keeping checks and balances in the social life of the country. The influence of caste system was immense on public minds.
  • The cultural endowments formed the basis of social status of different Varnas.
  • The ranking of different Varna was not based on wealth or material gains, but on intellectual and spiritual attainments and on self-discipline.
  • Position of Caste system before the Colonial rule – As late as the eighteenth century, no all-India hierarchical order of different Varna has taken an all-India character. Generally the position of Brahmins was considered at the top and that of Shudras at the bottom.
  • The Brahmin strongholds were the centres of learning. But in between the two, there was an ambiguity about the status of all the castes, which was acceptable to all concerned in any local area. 
  • This, itself, has given a large element of fluidity to caste system.
  • Upward mobility was possible for different groups by improving their attitude and mannerism.
  • There was a close association of caste with occupation. As leading sociologists pointed out, in addition to their hereditary occupation, agriculture and army were open and had accommodated all social groups of society – indigenous or alien. The basic qualification for doing any work was mainly having the qualifications needed for that specific job.
    • There was no dearth of employment for aspiring workers.  A substantial labour market existed in agricultural sector. Immense influence  of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed.  In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands. They were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. 
    • Military service was also accessible to anybody, from any strata of society including the lowest in the ritual terms.  There was no discrimination in recruitment and treatment of soldiers of any kind on the basis of caste.  Rajput status was given to soldiers. [Jain Girilal – The Hindu Phenomenon p9, 1994.]
  • Members of any caste group did not exercise monopoly over a profession. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.  In order to increase their strength, there were times, when inter caste marriages took place in the past. ]
  • Alternative ideologies and styles of life were available in India. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society.
  • People of different social-groups enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their internal customs, rituals and life styles. All activities were confined within a small local area, having very little links with the outside world due slower means of transport.  Only merchants visited different distant places.
  • The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Upward mobility was possible for different groups. Sometimes inter-caste marriages were also permitted. [ii]
  • The local character of societies – Local character of society made close interaction and cooperation between different castes, a reality. used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. They were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Traditions and rituals required the participation of all social groups (castes). Even untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at the time of child birth, sweepers beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession at the time of an important ceremony, village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations.  Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations.  People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long. [Sriniwas MN,  Times of India, Dated September 9, 1990, p 6.]
  • Teachings of Bhakti and Sufi saints like Sur, Tulsidas, Chaitnya Mahaprabhu, Nanak, Kabir etc. gave some breathing space to the rigidity of caste system, which suffocated the society during medieval India.

Pr. Rajni Kothari also accepts that till medieval times: –

  • There was a hierarchical social order, through which infinite ambiguities had been accepted, tolerated and regulated.
  • A multi-cultural framework of governance existed, which had restrained hegemonical and majority’s dominating tendencies.
  • A highly flexible ethics code was there, through which constant and continuing distortions, clash of personalities, major paradoxes in elite behaviours and instances of humiliation, acrimony and hypocritical behaviours in the conduct of public affairs were managed.[Times of India, dated July 28, 1997,  p13.]
  • Caste system during Modern Period – Caste system has always been a centre of attention for Westerners, politicians, intellectuals, activists or reformers from other faiths. It has been both defended and opposed vehemently in the political circles of modern India.

During Seventeenth century, many Dutch, Portuguese, French, British and Spanish companies came to India in search of market. Weakening of Islamic power, internal fights among various group leaders and communal unrest gave East India Company success not only in ousting other European companies from India, but also in establishing its rule in India and monopolizing its trade. Once firmly established, the authority was transferred from the Company to the Crown, through the Act of 1858.

Caste during British rule -Through Modern education system, British succeeded in disassociating many individuals from their traditional way of living, classical roots and knowledge. With it faded Indian values, philosophies, systems and traditions.

After establishing their rule in India, British rulers adopted the policy of “divide and rule”. To keep their power intact, they played off one part against other, Prince  against Princes, Hindus against Muslims, province against provinces and caste against caste.

They launched an ideological attack on Hindu practices and caste-system. To them, caste system was “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. It was responsible for all evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. It made many Indians to lose their faith in social values and systems.

Many leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh instilled in the minds of millions of unlettered Hindus, venom against caste-system and the Brahmin community. They also held Caste system responsible for treating lower strata of society as lesser human beings; engaging them in forced labour, unsavoury jobs imposing many restrictions on them; preventing them from joining the mainstream of the society; and the subjugation of lower castes with the help of religion. They regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of caste system.

There was another group of national leaders and reformers, who got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture, divisible policies of the rulers, economic loot, political subjugation, racial discrimination, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of  haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behaviour towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. It gave birth to National movement.

Reformers also organized meetings to make ignorant masses aware of the social evils/real issues like superstitions or irrationality in observing rituals blindly. They advised people to stop treating low caste Hindus inhumanly. They advised to give underprivileged sections of society their rightful place in society. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

In 1928, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded Brahma Samaj in Bengal. He inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally. Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India Society took up the job to awaken the masses. They talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture. Some reform institutes like Vivekanand’s or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture. All of them advised people not to be swayed away by Western culture. First they should know their own heritage and try to revive what is good in it.

Swami Vivekanand gave a call to “Return to Vedas”. He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its centre, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality the direction which has become its own through the transmission of centuries the nation dies.”

Caste system after the Independence – Seventy four years after the Independence, Indians have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. Since 15th August 1947, Independent India is committed to democratic, secular and egalitarian principles as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Preamble of the Indian Constitution promises to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation. Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of caste, race, religion, gender or place of birth; Article 16 gives equality of opportunity in matter of public employment, Article 338 creates National commission for Scheduled Castes to safeguard their interests etc.

In the eyes of common-man, Caste a social Institution – General public in India still considers as one of the fundamental social institution – a natural, inevitable unit of society. Family, which is a natural unit of an extended family; Extended family of Kula; Kula of a tribe (Vish); and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). In a way, all are fundamental social institutions. To them, Caste is a large extended family bonded by same language, customs, thinking and way of living and occupation. It is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

A person’s relation with members of his caste is closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. It still provides an individual with social security. To foreigners, Varna/caste system represent the ancient culture in its eternity.

Amendments and legislations to protect people from the rigidities of Caste System – Since Independence, the government has passed a number of amendments in the Constitution and legislations to remove the unreasonable practices developed into the system. Like untouchability is declared a crime. Bonded labour is abolished by law. Civil Rights Act, 1955, aims to eliminate injustice against weaker sections. Amendment to Prevention of Atrocities Act (SCT) 1989 provides for stern punishments for offenses committed against SCT by Upper Castes. Special Courts, under SCT Act, have been established for punishing officials, who are found guilty.

Caste now more liberal in social sphere – With the spread of literacy and growing awareness among masses, Castes system has become less restrictive in social arena. Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes now means little. Earlier it meant complete social ostracism. Old style of authority and power exercised by caste-elders has already diminished except for a few castes in, rural areas especially in Haryana and Rajasthan. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life even from rural areas.

Winding up – At present, the whole atmosphere in India is in a state of turmoil. Economy of the nation is in a critical condition. Technology has advanced to such an extent, that phones are wireless; cooking is fire-less; cars are key-less; food is fat-less; tyres are tubeless; and tools are cordless. But along with it, main organs of the Government  political institutions are clueless. They have almost paralyzed because of corruption. Political leaders are shameless. Masses are helpless; youth are jobless; relations are meaningless; feelings are heartless; education is valueless; attitude is careless, and children are manner-less.

Modernity has ignited the desire for position, name and possession. People are gradually losing faith in traditional values and systems. Even institution like family has lost its sheen. It is quite a tough job for India to cope with the new challenges. Traditional living has been like an anchor, keeping the boat in safe harbour. Now that the anchor has gone and the boat is at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean.

People like C. Rajagopalachari think that If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity…. any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture.

Today, when people are getting away from their roots, Hinduism can make their feet firmly grounded on earth and  instill right values in them. Its values and traditions give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Only after raising oneself from ignorance, a person could be able to understand the greatness of the Indian value system. Like a jeweler, one should spot out gems from among worthless pebbles.  A knowledgeable person could pick up knowledge and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed in it with passage of time. 

Modern India is desperate to pick up the lost threads of its true culture, and beliefs. It has to create an atmosphere, where different identities can once again live together in harmony and people can say proudly “we belong to a nation known as India.”.

June 25, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

India’s Dream for Inclusive Growth

“Vasudeva Kodambakkam”      (The world is one family)

“National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other. Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation”.                                           (First Backward class Commission’s Report, Chairman Kaka Kalelkar)

One of the primary objective of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to work sincerely to make India an inclusive society, where people of all sections of Indian society get full opportunities to grow and prosper according to their capacity and without any bias.

Equal opportunities to all – An inclusive society does not mean  uniform growth of all, but to create a society, which provides and enables all its members,  equality of opportunity. It means a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and facilitates inclusion of all sections of society under one umbrella. Inclusive growth demands to control social interaction in such a way, that basic needs and aspirations of all the people are handled for the nation as a whole, not only of one or few specific sections of the society.

India as a developing nation – India is a developing country, aiming at “Inclusive growth” of the whole of nation.  India’s dream for “Inclusive growth” of the nation as a whole still remains a distant dream even now after 74 years of its Independence. India has been ranked 130 in the year 2018 by UNDP’s index on development.

India is a large country. It accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq. km. and sustain about 6.7% of the world population. There is a large number of religious and ethnic groups having  diversity in faith, way of living, customs and traditions.

Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilo metres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

Diversity makes divide easy – There have been periods of discord because of these diversities. They have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

A tough job to keep India united – Working for inclusive growth of all and still maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.  Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, “At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems”.[i]

Unity in diversity – Despite everything,  India has been able to maintain unity in diversity. A large number of  diverse identities have lived together for centuries and presented a mosaic culture. Indian culture binds all the diverse groups in India together under one umbrella from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Bengal to Gujrat.

Diversity makes divide easy –However sometimes, there have been periods of discord as well. Diversities in India are based on ethnic, regional, occupational, religious, caste, linguistic and cultural factors. A great diversity can be seen in each one’s faith, way of living, customs and traditions. There are many linguistic identities as well. India has more than 350 languages, more than 1600 dialects, nearly 650 different tribes. One can see a different dialect and food habit every few kilometres. There is irksome diversity between the worlds of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, a continuous struggle between those having plenty and masses below poverty line living in the world of scarcity.

These diversities have generated regional and sectional imbalances, which have been a source of great social and psychological tensions. Fruits of  development cannot be shared equally among different  sections of society, living in different regions.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced population growth section-wise or region-wise creates a gulf between different sections of society. It gives rise to many sectional forces (caste, communal, occupational and  regional) and pressures groups. Rising expectations, political ambitions and economic interests have aroused the militancy among the discontented sections of society all over the nation, which has divided the Indians into innumerable unbridgeable groups.

Each group pursues its own sectional interests. Some of them are quite vocal and aggressive/militant in attitude. They demand their rights, but ignore their duties. Casteism, corruption, criminalization etc. are some of the direct consequences.

Unbalanced growth gives rise to new equations in power echelons. The wider the gulf, larger the problem for the Government. The welfare and developmental schemes for such a large population puts an extra burden on government. To maintain proper balance and harmony between different sections of society with so many diversities/identities is a delicate and a difficult task.

Reasons for unbalanced growth – Following are the reasons:
  • Population explosion – At present, India is the second most populous nation in the world. China being on the top. Superstitions, illiteracy, lack of awareness, desire of male child and high mortality rate among children have led to unchecked population growth. Agrarian community and poor people refuse to regard children as burden. For them they were an asset and insurance for old age. Unchecked population explosion has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc. It has neutralized all the efforts made, so far, for all-round economic and social development of the whole of nation. Population explosion and its unbalanced growth is one of the major causes of iniquitous growth and rise of regional and sectional imbalances. It puts a severe strain on the already over loaded system. Population growth in absolute numbers has aggravated many problems such as poverty, low per capita income, food availability, pressure on land, burden on education, medical care, housing, unemployment, underemployment, rapid depletion of natural resources, etc.
  • Limited resources – Inclusive growth of all sections of society depends,  to a large extent, on demand and supply factor. When demand is more and supply is limited, because of the lack of resources, how one can dream of ‘inclusive growth’, equity or equal development of all the sections of the society?
  • Poverty in India – Massive poverty and under-development of different sections has been a basic feature of Indian economy since long.  As early as Dec.10, 1919, Gandhiji wrote in Young India,  “The immediate problem before us is not how to run the government of the country, but how to feed and clothe ourselves.”  In 1964, Late Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, while taking charge as PM, in 1964, has said, “Of all the problems facing us, none is more distressing than that of the dire poverty, in which tens of millions of our countrymen continue to live.” Though poverty has decreased in percentage terms, it has increased enormously in absolute terms. India has not counted its poor since 2011. But the  United Nations estimated the number of poor in the country to be 364 million in 2019, or 28 per cent of the population.(07-Apr-2021, Mass poverty is back in India by Richard Mahapatra,https://www.downtoearth.org.in).
  • Materialistic attitude – Materialistic attitude of people has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion.  The result is rise in sub-cultures like favouritism, lure for easy money, nepotism, parochialism, communalism, regionalism, bigoted sentiments and irresponsible comments, spreading in-discipline in the society. The work culture has been degenerated.
  • Richer becoming richer and poor poorer – There is virtually no control over political corruption. A few persons and Political Parties, while in office, are becoming richer, and common-man poorer. Such a trend poses a danger to the integrity and stability of the whole society as well as unity of the nation.
  • Fractured mandate –  Voters have become smarter and more aware with the spread of education.. It has created an atmosphere of fractured mandate, because gradually it is becoming more difficult for politicians to  purchase their votes by making false promises and offering freebies. In turn, fractured mandate has led to political instability.
  • Anti-incumbency cult – Fractured mandate has led to the trend of anti-incumbency cult both in North and south. In order to grab political power, before elections, leaders of different political parties make alliances with minor parties just enlarge their vote-banks and win elections. And Since mid-1980’s, at the centre and from 1960’s onwards at provincial level after elections horse-trading starts. Political defections have become frequent. MLAs and MPs are approached to join rival parties to help them to form governments. People see it as political corruption.
  • Entry of ‘caste’ into politics – Entry of ‘caste’ into politics has given rise to casteism. At present, caste is the single most important factor in Indian politics. Reservation policy and electoral politics, based on caste, has given boost to casteism. Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to solve the burning national issues. It has made the efforts done made so far ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Irresponsible Media ignite regional differences –  Quite often, the picture on some critical issues are presented by national and international media is based on half-truths. Misinformation or half information given to the public by national and international media on critical issues polarise the public opinion. To a great extent, recently media has escalated regional divide further.
  • Regional disparities – All these factors are responsible for delaying the process of uniform growth of all the regions. There is a wide gap between region to region/province to province. In matter of growth and prosperity, There is a wide gap between the prosperous and backward states. There are pockets of poverty amidst plenty within each region,  province/state. Dry and hilly areas as well as those with tribal populations are still far below the national average.

All these factors poses danger to unity, integrity and stability of the Indian society and the nation. as a whole. It is becoming more and more difficult to reconcile sectional or regional interests with national interests, Most glaring example of disparity can be seen recently between Northern states and Southern states.

Disparities in North and South and their unbalanced growth , Southern states have progressed and prospered more after Independence, especially due to economic reforms of post-liberalization era. Progress in misgoverned Northern states, especially in BIMARU states  (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand), has been very slow.

A group of some intellectuals,  politicians, political parties and national and international media make these disparities more glaring by passing on comments like –     

  • Superior genes of people in south have led them to prosperity. They are more intelligent, aware, and enterprising and forward looking than North Indians.
  • “The crucial factor behind the prosperity of South  is” … “the collapse of caste system over last half century.” A new business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system, whereas North still gives importance to caste-consciousness and caste-feelings. Caste is still a crucial factor in social, political and economic arena.  (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” Dt. 11th Sept, 2010).
  • In South, the breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession and released enormous entrepreneurial energies” (Ashutosh Varshney, a Professor at Brown University). In North, it has led to unemployment.
  • Lower castes in South are more prosperous and well-educated than North. New business class rises in ashes of South India’s caste system. (Lydia Polgreen, “The New York Times” dated 11th September, 2010.
  • South is more concerned about economic development.
  • South considers education as a route to prosperity. Whereas in North, the chief aim of political parties is to grab political power by enflaming the caste and communal feelings and enjoy the spoils.
  • South is more concerned about economic development than North.

One must not pass-on comments on national issues without rationally analyzing the whole scenario. Such irresponsible comments are based on half-truths or misinformation. They widen the North-South divide and give rise to new tensions, social, economic and political. They create confusion, misunderstandings and a feeling of alienation in the masses of Southern and Northern provinces. Realities are much deeper than what is seen on the surface. They intentionally or unintentionally forget to inform the people, that –

Caste “is no longer a barrier” Almost all-over India, Caste is no longer a barrier. Caste system is now more liberal and less restrictive in social arena. It allows its members a greater degree of freedom in all walks of life throughout India, whether it is South or North, East or West.Traditional caste barriers are breaking – Traditional caste barriers and evil practices developed into the system started breaking slowly but steadily after the Independence It does not affect much the social or economic life of people. With the efforts of reformers of nineteenth and twentieth centuries and constitution-framers, spread of education, process of modernization, industrialization and growth of awareness among people.

Unbalanced population growth – Unbalanced growth of different sections of society has resulted in the increase of caste and communal conflicts.

Lower castes more tenacious about caste-identity – ‘Caste’ has become single most important factor in Indian electoral politics The politics of vote-banks and advantages of reservation policy have made lower castes more tenacious on the subject of their caste than the higher/upper castes.

Caste-Hindus more  consciousness about their Caste – It is not wholly correct to say that in North, caste feelings are strong amongst upper castes or they are more caste-conscious than the lower castes. On the contrary, lower castes  (SC/ST/OBC) cling to their caste identity more, because of the preferential treatment and advantages, Reservation Policy gives to them. The reality of modern India is at present is that lower castes  have become more vocal and assertive. Even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.

More Freedom in the choice of occupation – Connections between caste and profession have been broken long ago with the industrialization and released enormous entrepreneurial energies and opportunities not only in south, but everywhere in India.

Entry of Caste into politics giving new lease of life to caste – With the entry of caste in politics, caste found a new lease of life and led to the growth of caste-ism. There is a difference between ‘caste-system’ and ‘caste-ism’.

Centralization of control systems –Centralization of control systems in the hands of a few Individuals, families and groups having money and muscle power has escalated caste-tension. Under the garb of caste, or escalating caste tensions, many politicians try to create their vote-bank and grab political power, to control destiny of millions. Some of them even seek support of the criminals and in return provide them protection.

Some political parties both from North and South desired inclusion of caste in India’s census for 2011. The demand for caste-based census had been raised systematically by political parties from all parts of country including Dravidian Munnetra Kazhakam [DMK] and Pattali Makkal Katchi [PMK].

Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.

Education  in South and North – To say that people in south are more aware than north about the advantages of education is a myth. As far as education is concerned, all over India whether east or west, south or north, people have always given importance to education and training. They know the value of education and knowledge and its role in leading to prosperity and to accomplish dignity and self-reliance.

Many travellers, among whom most famous are Magasthenes (a Greek ambassador arrived at Patliputra in 302 BC), Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsang threw much light on education system of ancient India. Holy places like ‘Taxila’, ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Banaras’, ‘Amaravati’, ‘Mathura’, ’Nasik’ in Maharashtra or ‘Kanchi’ in South, ‘Valabhi’ in Gujarat, ‘Vikramshila’ in Bihar and capitals of kingdoms like ‘Patilputra’, ‘Valabhi’, ‘Ujjayani’ and ‘Padmavati’ were famous centres of education. In South India centres of learning were known as ‘Ghatikas’. Many centres of learning were the monastic colleges mostly founded by ‘Budhists’.

One of the earliest observations about the importance, Hindus gave to education and training, was made by Megasthenese, (an ancient Greek historian, diplomat and Indian ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period.  350 BCE) wrote about the method of teaching and writing of India. He commented, whatever was left he still found it in practice. “No people, perhaps, on earth have adhered as much to their ancient usage and customs as the Indians”. While teaching people three r’s, indigenous education also familiarized the people with the nation’s epics, religion, literature and other religious books which were available in their own language. (An Austrian European traveller Fra Paolino Da Bartolomeo, who spent fourteen years in India (1776-1789), recalls)

Universities in ancient India – Few of most important universities of ancient India were ‘Taxila’ (being the first university of world established in Seventh century B.C.) Taxila University as a center of knowledge continued under the Maurya Empire and Greek rule (Indo-Greeks) in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. The destruction of Toramana in the 5th century CE seem to have put an end to the activities of the University.

’Vikramshila’ University and ‘Nalanda’ University (built in 4 A.D). Huan Tsang in his records mentioned the university of ‘Taxila’ to be at par with ‘Nalanda’ and ‘Vikramshila’ Universities. In the North, Nalanda University continued its glorious existence for a thousand years till it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji, who invaded Bihar in 1197 AD.

Education during Medieval Period – Many European travellers and administrators bear testimony about the importance, India gave to education and training. But it did not suit the British rulers and missionaries.

Brigadier-General Alexander Walker, who served in India between 1780 and 1810, had said that “no people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction than the Hindus”. According to him, “they sacrifice all the feelings of wealth, family pride and caste that their children may have the advantage of good education”. He also found that this love of learning was no exclusive characteristic of the Brahmins but “this desire is strongly impressed on the minds of all the Hindus.” But these observations did not suit the British rulers, administrators and missionaries.

Even data of Adam’s Report (1835) did not suit the rulers. It says that It was during the British rule, that illiteracy increased and indigenous education was decayed. Before the introduction of modern education system, there was widespread private coaching besides the system of public education.

According to Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras Presidency, the number of pupils taught privately at home was considered to be “above five times greater than that taught in the schools”. Adam’s Report also reveals a different story and destroys completely the popular notion that education in India was monopolized by the Brahmins. The idea was purposely floated by the rulers and missionaries, which was picked up by colonized intelligentsia later on.

Education during British rule – Education, being an important Institution, had attracted the vigilant attention of British rulers, after they consolidated their power. The Raj conducted many Surveys in the Bombay Presidency (1820-1830), Madras Presidency (1823-1826) and later on in Bengal and Punjab before introducing its own Modern education in 1834.

Advantageous position of South –   While talking about the prosperity of South, many self-proclaimed intellectuals avoid to tell that as compared to Northern states, Southern states have always been in a better position historically, geographically, economically and administratively. South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North, like:

Advantage of Geographical position –South has always remained in an advantageous position because of its geographical position.  Its geographical position spared South from many violent disturbances and gave an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress. From seventh century onwards, after the downfall of Hindu Raj, Northern-Western parts of India had continuously remained  under the pressure of repeated attacks, invasions and continued onslaughts from across the north-west frontier. These parts of India had continuously seen bloodshed and destruction of its places of worship and learning.

Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India, Ghajini and others (998-1030 AD), the establishment of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tughluk Dynasty (1320-1412 AD) Sayyed Dynasty (1414-51) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757). Earlier, they drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands. But later on, they conquered and made India their homeland.

Perpetrators of violence could never cross Vindhya’s ranges and reach up-to the South. That is how, South was spared, remained untouched/ protected and enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere throughout to prosper. It got enough time and tension free atmosphere to plan, concentrate on developmental activities, and manage more stable governments and better infrastructure, education-system, health-care services and economic prosperity.

Even after Independence in 1947, the people from North faced the blood-shed during the partition of the country, faced communal tensions from time to time, confronted three wars (1962, 1965 and 1971) on its land, tolerated disturbances due to the swelling streams of refugees from Tibet, Bangladesh and other places and suffered due to periodical famines and floods. At present also, people of North are suffering due the violent activities of terrorists, which has slowed down developmental its activities.

Spared of economic loot, communal tensions etc. before Independence – Again south was spared of economic loot, communal tensions and the ministrations of Cornwallis. Right from the outset, Southern states had more equitable land tenure system. During national movement for Independence, South did not suffer much. Mostly, it remained either or more in favour of continuance of the Imperial rule in India.

Advantage of English as medium of instruction/education – Madras Presidency was one of the first British settlements in India. Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North.

In 1844, through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment.. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.

Missionaries opened many English medium schools in Madras. Missionary schools  attracted poor people by giving them free English-medium education, jobs in government and to improve their social status. Their primary aim was to convert them in Christianity.

There were some government schools as well, where the means of school education were vernacular languages. British government gave funds to indigenous schools in need of help and dictated its own terms. Slowly more and more schools got government’s aid there. Higher education was granted in English only.

In 1855, Education departments were created in the provinces of Madras, Bombay and Bengal. In 1857 Universities were established in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta. All these developments gave leverage to all people in South India. English became just like their mother tongue for educated people in Madras long ago, whether belonging to Brahmin community or non-Brahmin communities.

In the North, in the name of the principles of “secularism” and ‘religious neutrality’, British Government introduced Urdu as the medium of instruction over a large territory of North India. Urdu which was foreign to the masses did not help them in getting formal education for a long time. Urdu medium has “practically excluded from primary instruction” the whole Hindu priestly class, the artisans and the agricultural classes in the North, according to the testimony of the Brahmo Samaj. It was meant only to prepare the educated people for ‘Munshi’s’ jobs. It pushed north a step behind South in competing with them in opportunities of advancement, which demanded knowledge of English.

Caste demography of South and North – The caste demography of the South is quite different from the North. North India exhibits with far more clarity, the dynamics of caste-system. All four groups are socially active and occupy an important position in society.

Benefit of modern opportunities was availed by diverse groups, like Kayasthas, Banias, elite section of Muslims etc. and educated Bengalis occupied many jobs and other opportunities in Northern India. Brahmins constitute a heterogeneous pack, ranging from dominant elite to middle class peasantry and poor living below poverty line. Influence of Hindu ideology has been mingled with elements of everyday life.

South Indian Brahmins are stricter and more rigid in observance of rituals than their counterparts in the North. Also South Indian untouchables are more debased than their counterparts in North. In South and West, Shudras are divided into two groups, touchable and Untouchables. Untouchables form “Pancham Varna”, and are not the part of Varna order. In North, Shudras and untouchables have never been considered outside by Hindu’s Varna system. They are very much the integral part of Hindu social order. The cultural impact of Brahminical superiority and rituals has been accepted by lower castes in North without much protest.

Political formations in North cannot afford to ignore upper castes in the North, which form over 20% of the population. It was almost after a century, that backward castes and Dalits in the North have raised their voice not against only Brahmins, but against whole of upper castes. The success in south in the recent past has encouraged backward and Dalit groups in North to follow the South. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization have resulted in brain drain and has pushed the youth of upper castes to Western countries.

South is also well-known for its “Authoritarian leadership, big corruption and endless freebies for the masses.” (Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, TOI, 11 Dec. 2016, p24).

Up till the end of 20thcentury, lower castes in the North were poor, divided and less aware of their political rights, but economically less dependent on caste Hindus. In South, Non Brahmins are more conscious of their legitimate rights.

South Better prepared to take advantage of Globalization – It would be an exaggeration to say that South is more concerned about economic development. When India’s economy liberalized in the 1990s, South was “better prepared to take advantage of globalization” (Samual Paul, public Affairs centre) or it has established closer connections with the global economy. It is also a fact that In fact, one of major reasons behind prosperity of South during the last few decades, has been a steep increase in remittances from gulf migrants and non-resident Indians living in other parts of the world.

Liberalizations of economy in India (1990), reverse discriminatory Reservation policy (49.5% quota fixing for  SCs, STs and OBCs) and trend of globalization gave opportunity to a large number of talented youth from North to migrate to Advanced Western countries.

The above mentioned comments based on half-truths have developed an anathema in some people against Hindi language, Northern value systems, festivals and way of living.

  • Anathema against North – Some South Indian political leaders and people feel that North  overshadows them in political arena. North remains in prominence in the politics of the nation. They feel neglected for not getting enough attention of the in Government at Centre.
  • Anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit – The reaction to this fear is anathema to Aryan-Sanskrit, their culture, their language, and their social structure based on Varna (caste) system. Though Varna came comparatively late in South, the succeeding centuries saw the gradual hardening of caste-rules.

The aggressive attitude of non-Brahmins had succeeded in driving out many Tamil Brahmin families, basically non-militants by nature, to other parts of the country during the whole of twentieth century.

Resentment against Brahmins/upper castes Hindus –  Resentment among ‘Non-Brahmins’ against Brahmins started in South, because only 3% Brahmins occupied most of places in educational institutions and the modern callings. The resentment of 97% non-Brahmin caste gave rise to Non Brahman Movement/Dravidian movement.  Initially it was started by those non- Brahman castes that had acquired access to education, wealth and influence. The movement was directed against the authority of the Brahmins during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Dravidian movement and its ideology – Dravidian ideology and Dravidian movement has offered an a Alternative model of hegemony. The Dravidian movement in British India started with the formation of the Justice Party. Dravidian movement was  based on three ideologies:

  • Dismantling of Brahmin hegemony –
  • Revitalization of the Dravidian Languages (that include Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil) and
  • Social reform by abolition of existing caste systems, religious practices and recasting women’s equal position in society.

Dravidian ideology claims that the Brahmins were originally Aryan migrants from the north.  They imposed their language, Sanskrit, religion and heritage on the people of South.

It regards non-Brahmins as descendants of original natives of India, who believed in egalitarian pattern of society. Aryans conquered them and through caste system, Brahmins established their superiority over them. Therefore, they regarded Brahmins as their worst enemies. The opportunities and recognition came to Dravidians with formation of Justice Party and start of Non-Brahmins movement.

Anti-Brahmins politics travelled from South to Western part of India – Anti-Brahmin currents moved first to western part of India and afterward almost a century later to the North. In Maharashtra, Phule and Ambedkar challenged the influence of Brahmins and Marathas. They united numerous endogamous jatis into region wise alliances, increased in size and emerged as powerful pressure groups in different regions.

Roots of disparities in North and South The roots of North-South divide do not lie not in distant past. Socio-political and economic turmoil in North and South happened only about 200-300 years back. That was the time when just to perpetuate their rule in India, British rulers had started the policy of ‘divide and rule’.

Initially, from 1858 to 1905, after consolidating its power, British Government tried its best to prevent all Indians to have a common feeling. Existent diversities of Indian society gave it an opportunity to play one against another, Princes against Princes, Princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

Ideological attack on social structure of India by British – During the domination of aliens rule for centuries, many deformities had been developed into the social practices in India. It gave an opportunity  to British rulers, missionaries, philosophers and writers, jointly to launch an ideological attack on Indian social structure and its value system. They held Indian social structure responsible for feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions. It is based on Varna/caste system, practices of which are “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. British held Indian social structure They held caste-system and its social practices responsible for large-scale of illiteracy, communal problems, escalating violence, crimes and corruption, disparities of power, wealth and culture.

Ideological attack on Indian social structure developed a doubt about efficacy of its social values and systems, in the minds of educated Indians, and intellectuals. Along with it, British propagated theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe.

The instrument British Imperial rule used to divide Indian people – While laying down the foundations of democratic institutions in India, British rulers enflamed the caste-ist and communal feelings through –

  1. ‘Quota system based on castes and community’
  2. Electoral Politics’. and
  3. Census operations’ at the dawn of twentieth century

British rulers did the divide in 3 stages:

  1. First they appeased the Hindus,
  2. Then was the turn of Muslims,
  3. Lastly, they devoted their attention to backward castes.
  • Appeasement of Hindus – Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. For the British, It was too costly and not even possible, to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of in administration.  They were compelled to think about educating Indians in such a way, that they, “… get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments.

In 1835, Lord Macaulay introduced modern education with the intention, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect.[i] In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended on Government jobs entirely.  This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. The British took advantage of this situation and created rift in the Indian society.

Appalling poverty of Indians after the decline in the financial status of their patrons, Princes and Zamindars, compelled them to opt for modern education, and make use of new type of employment opportunities. They devoted their scarce resources and energies to get Western Education, which was very costly. Modern education provided them opportunities to earn their living respectfully. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to secure an important place in the modern society.

Amongst all sections of Hindu society, Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge moved ahead of other communities. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, activities of National Congress and reformist alarmed the rulers. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement. Growing influence of Brahmins in other areas, too, including their hold over the Hindu Community made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

  • Appeasement of Muslims – British authorities considered it necessary to stop the dominance of Brahmins or few groups by raising a strong force against them. For keeping a balance of power, they prepared and encouraged other sections of society.

They turned their attention to Muslims, who had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position in the past. They developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent. Muslims found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, in modern callings and opportunities.

In a very shrewd and planned manner, British drifted Muslims from Hindus. During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. Its English principles like Archibald, Theodore Beck or Morrison played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation.  It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous. [ii]

A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party, Muslim League, was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests. Their demands were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909.  This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power.  It introduced separate electorates on the basis of religion. Lord Minto came to be known as Father of Communal Electorate in India. The Act came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

  • Appeasement of Non-Brahmin communities – After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, British rulers felt the need to divide Hindu population and secure their confidence also. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government”.[iii]

Educated and prosperous non-Brahmins castes like Chettyars, Reddys or Nairs in South India resented the domination of 3% Brahmins in educational institutions and the modern callings. They found themselves unable to compete in modern callings with  Brahmins on equal terms. The movement against the authority of the Brahmins started during the second- half of the nineteenth century.

Initially, British rulers opened special schools for backward people also. They were provided free education in missionary English medium schools. Along with it, other benefits were bestowed like special scholarships, loans, hostel facilities, concessions in school fees and quota in government jobs. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. Both Non-Brahmins and Muslims  welcomed all the Preferential treatment  given to them by the colonial rulers. They were grateful to British rulers for all the opportunities and other privileges, they bestowed upon them. They wished for the continuance of British rule in India.

The spread of education led them to organize their own fellows and to form associations. British Government allowed them to set up organizations on caste and community basis and to pursue their sectarian interests. It resulted in emergence of many pressure groups, a new divisive force in the political arena. These pressure groups based themselves on cultural, casteist and other variations existent in the country.

Communal division between Brahmins and non-Brahmins began in the presidency during the. late-19th and early-20th century, mainly due to caste prejudices and disproportionate Brahminical representation in government. 

Anti-Brahminism became organized and got recognition after the formation of the Justice Party in late 1916 in Tamil Nadu on 20 November 1916 in Victoria Memorial Hall in Madras. Initially Justice party was composed of non-Brahmins persons like C. Natesa Mudaliar along with T. M. Nair and P. Theagaraya Chetty, who were typically feudal castes, land-owning agricultural castes and merchant castes. It was committed to enhancing the opportunities for non-Brahmins. They held a series of non-Brahmin conferences and meetings in the presidency. Anti -Brahmin movement started with the formation of Justice Party. It gained momentum under the leadership of Periyar E V Ramaswamy in Tamil Nadu. It turned people against Aryan Brahminical order easily.

Backward castes and untouchables emerged as a powerful political force by early 20th century especially after the introducing  the elective principle to membership in the imperial and local legislative councils in India by Indian Councils Act of 1909, also called MorleyMinto Reforms, enacted by the British Parliament. The granting of an electorate for Muslims…. Brought the idea of communal electorates…. to the forefront in the minds of all communities, which feared their submersion in the Government run by the dominant caste of Hindu community.[iv]In 1919, he Government of India Act accorded special representation by granting a few nominated seats, in the Legislative Assembly for depressed classes.

So far, untouchable activities were combined with the non-Brahmin movement. By 1928, untouchables separated themselves from the intermediate caste. They established their independent identity at national level, with the Communal Award of 1932. Reservations for untouchables were so far combined with backward castes and was confined to Provincial and local levels. Communal representation ignited the aspirations of other groups as well.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morley Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms”…. “The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now (1932 by Simon Commission) it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community.  Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made.  The British introduced every possible cross-division.[v]

All over India, numerous caste organizations emerged into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels. They demanded with insistence, government’s intervention for giving preferential treatment to non-Brahmins and other weaker sections of Indian society in electoral politics and government jobs.

Almost after a century, some castes including untouchables raised their voice violently in North. They were not against Brahmins only, but against the whole of upper castes. The success in south in the past has encouraged backward and other backward castes in the North to follow the example of South. Acceptance of Mandal Commission Report in 90’s have led to Brain-drain. Mandal Commission Report, has made caste a single most important factor in Indian politics. Quota system and electoral politics has given boost to caste-ism.

Brain-drain – Acceptance of Mandal Commission’s recommendations has blocked 49.5% of employment opportunities for meritorious students. Liberalizations of economy in India (1990) and trend of globalization has given opportunity to a large number of hard-working talented youth from upper castes to migrate to advanced Western countries.

Ultimately, it is the nation, which has to suffer due to less tax revenue from losing income tax, decline in competitiveness. It loses potential entrepreneurs. Brain-drain can lead to a shortage of key skilled workers. Lower growth reduces confidence in the economy of the nation. Brilliant people aspire to leave rather than stay.

Brain drain has caused India to lose the ability to progress. Talented people are born, raised, and educated in their country, and when it comes time to work and give back what they were provided, they leave and seek employment elsewhere.

Winding up

Recently, North has lagged behind the South in matter of education, population control and Prosperity. There was a time, when North was a great cradle of statecraft, knowledge and culture. There is no reason why it should not move forward. It is still blessed with natural resources and hard-working people in abundance.

South has enjoyed certain advantages as compared to North such as

  • Its geographical position spared, which has saved South from many violent  disturbances and given to it an undisturbed peaceful atmosphere to plan and progress.
  • Modern education with English medium started much earlier in South, during the second-half of nineteenth century giving it leverage over North. Knowledge of English for government jobs had made missionary schools very popular both amongst Brahmins and non-Brahmins during second half of the 19th century.
  • Missionaries along with British government both paid more attention to non-brahmin castes during the second half of the nineteenth century. Missionaries did so with an aim to convert them into Christianity and government to raise a force against Brahmins.
  • Spread of education amongst masses inspired them to contain their population growth.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste. They have become so vocal and assertive, that even politicians in power fear to annoy them and concede to all their demands openly or discreetly.
  • The colonial rulers succeeded in creating two unbridgeable compartments of Brahmins and Non-Brahmins in the South. Spread of education amongst Non-Brahmins/ lower and intermediate castes encouraged them to raise their voice against Caste-Hindus and get enough space in power echelons. Ultimately with the backing of the government they succeeded to secure 49.5% quotas for themselves after Independence.

What is needs to be done to create an inclusive society ?

  • Under-currents of caste politics have made the government incapable to create an inclusive society. It makes all the efforts of government ineffective. ‘Caste-politics’ needs to be arrested at its earliest.
  • Concentrate on building up its infra structure.
  • Pay more attention to ‘educate all’.
  • Population explosion needs to be controlled in the North on priority basis. It has put severe strain on already over loaded system.
  • South India needs to overcome its anathema against Hindi language, North Indian people, their festivals and its culture. There has always been and still is resentment in the heart of south Indian people and politicians against North for its always remaining in prominence in national politics.
  • It is not the upper castes but the backward castes which need not be so tenacious on the subject of their caste.
  • All the Indians – whether living in South or North – must give-up caste-politics at its earliest and learn the lessons of self-reliance.
  • People must learn to prosper without the crutches of ‘Quota-system’.

[i]  Vipin Chandra,  Modern Indian, p 121.

[ii]   Tara Chand, ibid. p 515.

[iii] Tara Chand, ibid. p 516.

[iv] Zelhot Eleanor, Dr. Ambedkar and the Mahar Movement, p 141.

[v]  Prasad Rajendra, India Divided, p 136, and Mehta and Patwardhan,

    The Communal Triangle, p 72.

June 23, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Education in India – ‘Ancient’ and ‘Modern’

‘Neti’ ’Neti’ …. “learning is a never-ending process and the sources of knowledge are countless.”

“A little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. … Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.” Khalil Gibran

 In India, illiteracy of a large number of people has turned the visions of ‘Education for All’ into empty dreams. Especially, population explosion has put a heavy pressure on its available infra-structure. According to 2011 census, literacy-rate has gone only up to 74% from 65%. For males it has risen to 82% from 75%, for females to 65% from 54%. About 20% of its population is still illiterate. In absolute number, the figure of illiterates is alarming. No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled.

Education and the masses – In ancient India, education was confined within a very small section of Indian society. It was not so much because of discrimination that a large number of common people were debarred or denied access to education, as it was due to the following reasons –

• Method to educate – In the past, because of the method of education, education remained confined within a very small section of the society. In absence of any written material, priestly schools in India had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in form of hymns. They restricted it only to those, who possessed brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep its extreme sanctity.

•Use of Symbolic language – Symbolic language was in use to express thoughts, customs and institutions. The purpose was perhaps to make it easier for human mind to remember. It gave everything in the society a sacrament, religious and sacrosanct, but not in a narrow sense. Shiva–Shakti stood for Divine masculine-feminine union, four elements of nature –”Om” stood for the sound of creation, “Trishul” for trinity, “Lotus” for balance, “Venus star” for creativity, “Sacrifice” for an offering to gods, “Purush and prakriti” for ideal man-woman relationship, “Som ras” as a symbol of divine bliss etc. In ‘Upnishads’, Hindu epics and ‘Geeta’, there are many examples of the use of symbolic language.

Modern Indian society has lost the mindset to understand the true meaning of this symbolic language. Some educated persons gave in their self interest gave its lessons an imaginative, mysterious, mystic or divine shape. Such as it is being criticized vehemently by some sections of society saying of ‘Purush-Sukta’ of ‘Veda’ that four parts of ‘Chaturvrna’ have been born from the body of Creative Deity, from his head, arms, thighs and feet. These are symbolic expressions. It expresses a divine reality. Its sense is that ‘Brahmans’ were men of knowledge, ‘Kshatriyas’ the men of power, ‘Vaishyas’ the producer and ‘Shudras’ the service persons supporting the other three.

•Neti-Neti – There was infinite scope of development. Nothing was supposed to be final. Neti-Neti was the principle foe quest of knowledge.

Why masses remained away from formal education – Reason of poverty of large number of people was not discrimination. Primarily, because ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’, ’Sutras’, and ‘Upnishads’, are in Sanskrit. Secondly masses were busy in their hereditary/traditional occupations. Skills were learnt more on job under the training and guidance of people already on the job/occupation. For attaining more skills or furthering their future prospects masses did not depend on formal education, certificates/degrees/diplomas or on formal centres of education and training i.e. schools/colleges.

•The manner, in which hereditary occupational knowledge and skills were transferred, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills originality and verve of people.

The system led society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terra-cotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc.

•Still, illiterate masses got the benefit of the knowledge of learned Sages and ‘Munies’. On the basis of their scholarly researches and experiences, the sages prescribed certain guidelines in the form of rituals to be followed by common men.

Education in Ancient India Education a private concern – Education in ancient India was a private concern. Occasional grants was given from state, private charitable institutions and pupils. The tutor supplemented his income by performing professional duties of the priest. 

Educational institutions of repute – Many travellers, among whom most famous are Magasthenes (a Greek ambassador arrived at Patliputra in 302 BC), Fa-hien, Hiuen Tsang and I-Tsang threw much light on Indian values and systems. Holy places like ‘Taxila’, ‘Ayodhya’, ‘Banaras’, ‘Amaravati’, ‘Mathura’,’Nasik’ or ‘Kanchi’ and capitals of kingdoms like ‘Patilputra’, ‘Valabhi’, ‘Ujjayani’ and ‘Padmavati’ were famous centers of education. ‘Valabhi’ in Gujarat and ‘Vikramshila’ in Bihar were famous centers of learning. In south India centers of learning were known as ‘Ghatikas’. Most famous centers of learning were the monastic colleges mostly founded by ‘Budhists’. Students flocked from far off places. 

Universities in ancient India – Few of most important universities of ancient India were ‘Taxila’ (being the first university of world established in Seventh century B.C.),’Vikramshila’ University and ‘Nalanda’ University (built in 4 A.D). Huan Tsang in his records mentioned the university of ‘Taxila’ to be at par with ‘Nalanda’ and ‘Vikramshila’ Universities. These institutions were considered to be the best Universities of its times in the subcontinent and an honor to ancient Indian educational system. 

Takshila’ University – ‘Takshila’ University was famous for medical studies. ‘Varanasi’ was famous for religious teachings. In the South, ‘Kanchi’ was famous for its studies while the ‘Vallabhi’ University was no less. There was a galaxy of eminent teachers like ‘Panini’ – a well known Guru of grammer, ‘Kautilya’ – the minister of Chandragupta Maurya and ‘Charaka’ – a medical teacher of repute. 

Nalanda university – Nalanda was the epitome of such centers. It attracted students not just from India, but also from the entire South Asia. It was an international University. Scholars of different castes, creeds, and races hailing from India, China, Japan, Korea, Java, Sumatra, Tibet, Mongolia and Bokhara came here for higher/advanced studies. The teachers often attracted students from far and wide. It had eight colleges, one of it having four storied building and around 10,000 students and teachers on its roll cards. It was one of the earliest examples of residential cum learning complex. It is a matter of pride for India that Nalanda University reopens nearly 800 years after this premier ancient education institution was destroyed. It has started its first academic session now in September 2014. 

Technical education – Technical education was usually imparted in the family itself, as most of the professions were hereditary. Sometimes artisans took students as apprentices. 

Steps to pass on knowledge – Knowledge was passed on orally from one generation to another in ancient India. Education involved three basic processes, one, which included ‘Sravana’ (stage of acquiring knowledge of ‘Shrutis’ by listening). Two, ‘Manana’ (meaning pupils to think, analyze themselves about what they heard, assimilate the lessons taught by their teacher and make their own inferences,) and three ‘Nidhyasana (meaning comprehension of truth and and apply/use it into real life).

Method – Students were taught particular texts at home of teacher. It was learnt by rote, enunciation and pronunciation were particularly taken care of. Students were supposed to lead a strictly regulated life. Aims of learning were faith, retention of knowledge, progeny, wealth, longevity and immortality.

Besides gurukuls (domestic schools) there were specialized agencies, discussions or conferences arranged by the kings. Women freely participated in these conferences. There were ‘Parishads’ for advanced studies. There were wandering scholars, Charrakas, who spread education in the country.

Education and women – Women enjoyed freedom, respect and honour. According to Manu “where women are honoured, the gods rejoice, where they are not respected, all actions become futile.” In ancient India women were given equal right to education and teaching. Women seers like ‘Gayetri’ or ‘Maitreyi’ were prominent participants in educational debates and proceedings of ‘Parishads’ (Assemblies).

It was mostly the Brahmins followed by Kshatriyas that received education at the gurukuls, while boys from the lower castes learnt their family trade from their fathers.

No bar on Individuals from humblest origin – There was no bar on any one to get education. Individuals from humblest origin were highly educated and were respected in Indian society as great achievers. Vashishtha, the principal of conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the quintessence of Vedic Brahmanism and maker of Gayatri Mantra, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman. Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards and the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India.

“An ocean of knowledge in a jar” – Ancient Indian philosophy and Vedic literature contained “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.” It was supposed to be a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy. It spoke of everything- on staying healthy, social evils, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant even today.

‘Rituals’ – The substance of the knowledge, learning and research work of Rishis-Munies (sages and saints) was put in the form of rituals for the benefit of common-men. Certain practices/guidelines were shaped in the form of rituals by intellectuals and prescribed for the benefit of commom- men. These rituals and guidelines inspired people to lead a harmonious and healthy life.

Spot out Gems – With a rational mind, raising it from ignorance, one can understand the greatness of Vedic literature. A knowledgeable person can spot gems from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave like worthless pebbles the undesired, obsolete elements developed into the system with passage of time.

Revival of ancient knowledge – During second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, Swami Vivekanand, Rama Krishna Mission and Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of the ancient gold mine of knowledge, which had inspired not only Indians, but foreigners as well. Intellectuals from various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind.

Education during medieval times – As India progressed from ancient to medieval, its education system deteriorated. Medieval age began with Rajput culture and ended with Indo-Muslim contacts. Society was marked as conventional society. The grip of conventionalism weakened the society and led to darkness, corruption, anarchy and failure. Various factors were responsible for the degradation of such an efficient and most ancient education system of the world.

Modern education system before Independence – Modern education system was implanted by British rulers. Before the advent of British in India, education system was private one. In 1835, Lord Macauley introduced modern education in India. It was the introduction of Wood’s dispatch of 1854, known as Magna Carta of Indian education that laid the foundation of present system of education and changed the scenario. The main purpose of it was to prepare Indian Clerks for running local administration. Under it the means of school educations were vernacular languages, while the higher education was granted in English only.

British government started giving funds to indigenous schools in need of help and slowly some of the schools became government aided.

Reasons for introducing modern education – Finding it too costly and perhaps practically impossible to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration, British rulers planned of educating Indians in such a way that they “should through western education get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments”. Lord Macauley clearly said that, “we must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

Welcoming modern education – The atmosphere was completely ready for Lord Macauley to lay the foundation of modern education in India by 1835. Missionaries and their supporters as well as National leaders, intellectuals and Reformers not only welcomed but exerted pressure on the company to encourage and promote western education in India. Missionaries believed that modern education would lead the people to adopt Christianity. Humanitarians, intellectuals and nationalist leaders considered modern education “the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the modern West” and the best remedy for social, political and economic ills of the country.

Outcome of modern education – In 1844 through an Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment. The traditional Indian system of education gradually withered away for the lack of official support. The government made English medium schools very popular. English as Official language alienated the masses from the educated Indians.

Modern education created new employment opportunities. Many traditional occupations became obsolete. In near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, people in India were forced to depend on modern education and Government jobs for their respectful earning.

Modernization of occupations and industrialization processes increased role of formal education and training for furthering future prospects of people.

The universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1837 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. For scientific and technical education, only three Medical Colleges one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was established by 1857. There was only one good engineering college at Roorkee.

Modern education produced National leaders, intellectuals and reformers – Modern education not only produced persons to fill the lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers, but also produced national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society. In short , they believed that –

•Western literature and philosophy would give Indians the understanding of liberal, scientific, democratic and humanitarian ideas thought of Western World.

•It would make Indians aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society.

•Modern education would improve the life of common men and conquer ignorance, hunger, poverty and disease.

•It would open the key to the treasures of Scientific and Democratic thought of Western World.

•Principles of Democracy would spread rapidly across the nation and finish imperialism and tyranny.

•It would remedy many social, political and economic ills of the nation.

Brahmins ahead of others – Initially, it was an impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, who desired to live with dignity and honor opted for modern education. The reason of poverty of Brahmin community was gradual displacement from their source of income after decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to opt for modern education.

Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, “We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.”

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Brahmins being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge utilized new type of employment opportunities created with introduction of modern education in 1835. They were quick and far ahead of other communities to grasp almost all the opportunities in these spheres. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them even after independence to secure important places in the modern society.

Why masses deprived of modern education – Except for a few, masses could not avail the advantage of formal modern education. Relentless effort of missionaries and reformers could educate a very small number of people. Reasons being:

•Modern education was very costly and, therefore, unaffordable by the masses.

•Masses did not see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day.

•The emphasis was on English medium education system.

Introduction of modern education, served double purpose for British rulers – Introduction of modern education had served double purpose for the British rulers. They got the credit for the amelioration of the Indian society. And at the same time, through it, they devised a unique method of distribution of power. They kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.

Impact of modern education – The second half of the nineteenth century saw the impact of modern education on the minds of Indians as under: –

1.Christian missionaries brainwashed many people especially the poor by preaching and educating them and developed in their minds a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society, influenced them towards the alien culture and then converted them into Christianity. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant, they succeeded in converting many persons into Christianity.

2.National leaders, social reformers, educated people and intellectuals welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English education. They also got alarmed at divisive policies of the rulers. It led them to lead the national movement. They understood the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society.

3. Emergence of organizations aiming at social reforms – Organizations aiming at social reforms had purely an economic and social thrust. They fought against social evils caused by ignorance, superstitions or irrationality like untouchability and inhuman treatment to women, Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, and many others prevalent at that time. Emphasis was laid on education and science. They criticized the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses.

4.Reformers got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture. Organizations (like Brahma Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1828) in Bengal, Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj (1875) founded by Swami Dayanand in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India society) interpreted religion rationally and advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture and not get swayed away by the glamor and materialism of alien culture.

5.‘Back to Vedas’-Therefore, they organized people, held conferences, published articles and undertook internal reform efforts through Sanskritization. They gave a call for “Back to Vedas” and advised people to set free Hinduism from all degenerate features.

It was not the Hindu principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Swami Vivekanand, who founded the Rama Krishna Mission, had said ,’It is we, who are responsible for our degeneration.’ …. “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, nation dies.”

Divisible policies of the rulers – The destructive character of repressive policies of British rulers lit the fire and gave birth to national movement. Many national leaders and intellectuals got alarmed at the divisible policies of the rulers. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination in the areas of education and jobs and their repressive policies elsewhere. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination. Economic loot, political subjugation, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of a haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule.

After Independence – After independence, even relentless effort of reformers, government and NGO’S only a small could educate a very small number of people especially from amongst backwards. Masses could not avail the benefit of modern/formal education. It is not so much because of resistance from caste Hindus, as for other reasons.

Reasons for not succeeding in ‘educating all’ – It is falsely accused and propagated by some intellectuals, leaders, reformers with vested interests and supporters of Reservation/Affirmative Action Policy that privileged upper castes have taken advantage of modern education to establish or reinforce its traditional dominance. They prevented lower castes from getting educated or promoting their status in modern society.

However, as modern history points out, on the contrary, it was mainly impoverished group amongst Brahmin and caste Hindus opting for modern education, who were in search of livelihood. They looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. Therefore, when modern education was introduced, they, opted for costly Western Education and devoted their scarce resources on it. Costly nature of modern education prevented general masses to avail the benefit of modern education.

Reasons for illiteracy of a large number of people are many.

  1. Costly nature of modern education – Quality education is still very costly for common men and, therefore, unaffordable for masses. Costly nature has tended to make it a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers.
  2. Population explosion – Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on available. There has been insufficient infrastructure.
  3. There is lack of quality education and training systems in government or government aided institutions.
  4. Masses do not see any immediate use of education. It still is more important for the poor people to work and arrange two square meals a day.
  5. Standard of education depending on medium of education

Importance of English language in modern world – The language of majority of people is Hindi. However, stress on English medium education and English language is more than it was before independence. After Hindi, English language is being spoken especially by educated Indians, mostly belonging to upper echelons of the society. Increasing importance of English has alienated further the masses from educated ones.

With the changed scenario due to globalization, liberalization and revolution in Information Technology, English has been accepted internationally as a means of communication. Therefore, learning English language has become necessary to get a space in international world. Education through foreign medium is a difficult task. Earlier English medium had already put undue strain upon the nerves of the Indian students.

Short-comings of present education system – There are some deficiencies in the present Education system, some of which have been inherited from the British. There are many internal as well as external many pressures on the system, because of which quality of education suffers. External pressures – Externally, recent social changes and larger political turmoil have affected adversely the whole atmosphere. Some changes took place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats.

Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different sections for power and pelf are increasing every day.

Powerful lobbies desire to have exclusive hold on scarce resources of the nation. Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands and who control almost every walk of national life are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well.

External pressures on system of education – Externally, recent social changes and larger political turmoil have affected adversely the whole atmosphere like –

  1. Some changes took place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats.
  2. Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like – favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different sections for power and pelf are increasing every day.
  3. Powerful lobbies desire to have exclusive hold on scarce resources of the nation. Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands and who control almost every walk of national life are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well. 

Internal pressures – Based on colonized British Grammar School type education has made Indian students crammer, imitators and unfit them for original work and thought. It has not taught them to have pride in their surroundings. The more they get modern education, the farther they are moved away from their surroundings and at the end of their educational career, they become estranged from their surroundings. They are loosing their natural character, because they are getting away from their traditional aspirations and values in preference to the western materialism. Alienation of modern generations from their roots and culture alarmed Gandhiji and he said, “My real education began after I had forgotten all that I had learned at School”.

Erosion of Indian culture – Modern education has disassociating Indian people from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it have faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions, which had taught Indians the spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutambkam’ – the whole world is one family. C. Rajgopalachari had said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity— any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. Tolerance, truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture.

What should be the limit of tolerance – The people in India endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right up to the wall. Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world. Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. People needs to be taught not to tolerate injustice and raise their voice against it peacefully.

Influence of West Present education system has given rise to a group of Indian intelligentsia, who follow in a big way social, political, economic norms of western world and their way of living. They vehemently denounce culture, character and social value system of India. They regards the culture of the land as indefensible, responsible for creating many discriminatory social values. The number of such people is increasing. The more its number of such persons grows, especially amongst Indian intelligentsia, the more intolerant, people would become.

Influence on modern youth – A drastic change is visible in the values, behavior and etiquette of a new educated neo- rich youth of elitist class, which has emerged especially in Metros. Their life style and value system are being gradually replaced by the Western ones. They want to enjoy pleasures of modern life at any cost without any restriction. They are more conscious of their rights and want to enjoy life fully in any possible way without any bondage. They do not like any restriction/comment on their behavior or way of life. Loosening grip of social bondage and observances have made many of them selfish, self-willed and arrogant.

Some of them have become so intolerant and aggressive, that they out-rightly discard all social norms and etiquette. Their thinking and value systems are quite different from the older ones. Most of them generally regard Indian value system as rubbish and its epics as irrelevant. They set their own rules. Their yardstick of smartness is interest in stock exchanges, glamor, pubs, parties, discos or late night culture, which gives rise to many kinds of social problems. With growing cult of materialism and consumerism, finer values of life are disappearing fast. Lust for material gains, comforts, craze for luxurious and glamorous life style has made them so insensitive that they hardly feel anything about the hardships and agonies of the ‘have-nots’. Friendship/relationship prospers only if these cost-effective. Otherwise people do not hesitate in showing their helplessness due to lack of time or energy.

The persons, who readily help people in need are considered fools in modern society. Objective of education? Gaining mere knowledge is not the purpose of learning. As Khalil Gibran has said, a little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. Also, one whose knowledge is confined to books can not use his knowledge wealth when the need for them arises.

Conclusion – Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge, all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action. Pursuit of material success is important and is super-most objective in the minds of young students. But it should not make them selfish and intolerant to others. They should not drift rudderless without sense of direction. Academic background, career and good earning is important in life for happiness and satisfaction. But they forget that more important is living a quality of life, humanity, compassion and self discipline for enjoying life fully.

Once more, India needs to be made a hub of knowledge creation. It will be a big blunder, if it fails to do it now. India’s massive human resource needs to be cultivated through sound system of education and training to get out of the rut of mediocrity. The system of education and learning should be such that it could the faculties of human beings ‘in proper manner towards proper objectives, channelize the desires and energies of Indian people towards proper objectives and right activities. Discipline and productivity are necessary for education.

Amalgamate Indian Culture with western Mechanism – Eastern part of the world surpasses the West by no small measure on issues of culture-starting from Egypt and moving eastward through Mesopotamia, Indian sub-continent, China and south east Asia. Indian culture has been kept, alive even after thousands of years, despite of being hit continuously by outsiders. When it comes to advancement in knowledge and science, it is the West that has led the world. Looking at the mechanism of expansionism and spreading out, the west has always had the upper hand. Otherwise how could a nation of a handful travel the world over and thrust its imperialism on it. A segment of this group, by sheer hard work and patience, threw the imperial mechanism overboard and built up a nation, living in which is a dream of every young person.

In short – The above discussion throws up following important issues –

In short, the above discussion throws up following important issues –

  1. Importance of knowledge in education can not be denied. Purpose of education has unfortunately been misunderstood to mean acquiring as much academic knowledge as possible, leading towards award of degrees. But equally important is inculcating skills in all the vocations according to aptitude of different individuals through practical training for overall development of nation. Training in different vocations should be given when minds of individuals are still in formative stage. Training, along with sound education system becomes necessary for applying knowledge in real life.
  2. There is no doubt that modern education has given to India the key to the treasures of scientific and modern democratic thought. It is the West that has led the world in advancement in technology and science. It opened up the doors for liberal and rational thinking. It widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia during nineteenth century. However, somewhere it got derailed and now the system of education at all the stages, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind just a store-house of knowledge and discourages creative thinking.
  3. India surpasses the west by no small measure in matter culture. It is one of the oldest living culture in the whole world, despite hit after hit on it in the past during alien rule.
  4. For building an ideal structure for education, an amalgamation of eastern culture and western methods, liberal thinking and advancement in science and technology of the West would be the best for future generations. would be the best.
  5. The world is now a global village. Thanks to revolution in areas of information, communications technology and travel apparatus. It will be good if the forces of both – culture and systems – could be combined and a charter of an ideal education blueprint could be evolved for future generations. Why not we combine the forces of both these, Culture and Mechanics, and evolve a charter of an ideal education blueprint for our future generations. Technology advances have brought us to a stage where every concept is an option! Why not cash upon it.

June 14, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wisdom, empowerment and Enlightenment

Wisdom, empowerment and Enlightenment

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating” Kofi Annan

“Knowing others, is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom”.
And
“Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” Lao Tzu

Introduction – Everybody desires to be empowered enough to lead a happy, peaceful and comfortable life-style. But very few understand, how to manage it? More than empowerment, enlightenment is more necessary, because it is quite difficult to move on towards the right path. Wisdom keeps human mind away from confusion and always guides what to do, when to do and how to do.

One should be empowered enough to enjoy material success and fulfil all worldly desires. If  desires are suppressed, one day it may erupt like a volcano and create troubles. But simultaneously, it is also necessary to keep a balance between desires and righteousness and then move forward to achieve the desired dreams in a positive way. It is wisdom, discipline and self-restraint, that keeps an individual away from  negative forces. Knowledge is necessary for giving deeds or actions its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance is considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying sense of direction.

Enlightenment – Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion with comfort and action; and `Tamas with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness. These qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and gave them direction for action. `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are responsible for negative behavior like becoming victims of evils, unhappiness and miseries.

Hinduism shows a high regard for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. According to Hindu philosophy, senses are superior to body, mind is superior to senses and knowledge/wisdom/intellect is superior to mind. Bhagwat Gita’ suggests that human action/deed needs to be combined with wisdom/intellect for enlightenment and empowerment.

Empowerment – Meaning of empowerment and approach to be empowered differ from person to person and place to place. As Toffler says, there are three main sources of power – ‘knowledge, wealth, and muscle’. In a way, ‘empowerment is an inter-play of all these variables. During ancient times in agricultural societies, power was mainly based on force. After Industrial Revolution, wealth has become the source of power and in present times, due to revolutionary developments in information technology, empowerment basically needs knowledge.

Power achieved through money or force is short-lived. It can never lead to sustainable development of the poor and needy people. In agricultural society, power was based on force, in industrial societies on wealth and now in present information -technology period, it is based on knowledge. long long ago, even Chanakya also believed that knowledge is wealth. Knowledge was his greatest weapon, strength, asset and power through which he created emperors like Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka.

It is difficult for a person of weak mind to resist temptations. Materialism influences weak minds easily and they become its victims. The desire to enjoy sensual pleasures and be happy in an easier way,  pushes people towards materialistic world. The desire to build  their comfort-zone without much efforts incites them to hold enough economic and political power in their hands, so that they can do what they want.

Positive and negative energies – There are choices before human beings to follow the path of positive thinking or opt for negative mindset. Developing positive attitude/thinking is not an easy task. For attaining it, one needs tremendous perseverance, hard work, and dedication and determination/will power.

Style of thinking and working of people with positive or negative attitude differs very much from each other. People having positive attitude are empowered in its true sense. Positive energies develops the mind, enlarges the vision, enlightens and guides a person to take wise actions with using one’s intellect.or wisdom. Wisdom/intellect needs to be developed to make mind and deeds rational. A mind governed by wisdom makes a person calm and content. 

Negative mindset – Negative mindset makes mind weak. Actions taken with weak mind is bridled with suspicion, lust and desires – mainly depending on emotions, impulses, hatred, greed and selfishness. It, quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontentment.

Role of wisdom in empowerment – It is a reality that it is wisdom that empowers a human being and enlightens his/her path. Wisdom can be achieved:

  1. Through reflection, which is the noblest;
  2. Through imitation, which is easiest and
  3. By experiencing, which is the bitterest.”

Role of empowerment – ‘Empowerment’ or sharing of power has become a keyword of the modern political world. In politics, everything revolves around the world ’empowerment’.

Problems created by over-emphasizing ‘empowerment – Following are some of the problems –

  • Split in society – Recently, focus on empowerment has created split in society. The attention of the people on empowerment has given rise to the pursuance of sectional interests.
  • Encouragement to sectional interests over national interests – In the name of ‘empowerment’, various pressure groups are encouraged by the authorities to pursue their own sectional interests. Almost all the political parties make different kinds of promises to ‘empower’ the upcoming or deprived groups. They do not even hesitate to adopt such populist/paternalistic policies, which are against the national interest in a long run.
  • Means to grab the political power – Present day politicians care for knowledge only up-to the extent, so far as it enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’ and control the levers of authority.
  • Rat race – Attitude to be ‘one up’ does not encourage healthy competition. Rather it pushes individuals/groups towards ‘rat-race’, pulls others down and care only for ‘I, my and me”.
  • Increasing corruption and manipulation – With this sole mission in their mind, most of the upcoming politicians concentrate on amassing more and more wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of common man. They concentrate their efforts/energies to acquire as much money as they can by hook or crook. There is no limit to their greed. The only mission is to hold so much economic and political power in their hands, so that they could lead a luxurious life-style on tax-payers money and whenever they or their supporters are caught doing something wrong, they can get away easily.
  • The word ‘empowerment’ exclusive not inclusive in nature – Empowerment, by nature is ‘exclusive’, which separates individuals/different sections of society starts a cut-throat competition amongst different individuals/sections of society/nations. The word ‘Empowerment’ generates excessive desire in individuals to establish their superiority/authority over others, so that they can control the destiny of others.

True Knowledge necessary for enlightenment – For enlightenment, acquisition of true knowledge is necessary. It is knowledge, which inculcates in a person, qualities like self-confidence, self-reliance, self-discipline, self-control and self-respect.

Sound education necessary for enlightenment as well as empowerment – True knowledge inculcates positive attitude, which ultimately leads towards happiness and prosperity. Wisdom depends on knowledge. Sound education is necessary to make people knowledgeable.

 Negative mindset – People with negative mind-set care about knowledge only up-to the extent, that enhances their chances of entering into the corridors of ‘power’, get control over levers of authority and over the destiny of masses. They concentrate on amassing wealth/empires to buy muscle-power and conscience of poor people.

Role of enlightenment in a democracy – It is said that democracy must be built through open  societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of right information, public remains ignorant and unresponsive. Then there is no accountability and abuse of power and corruption grows.

In many developing and underdeveloped democratic countries, politicians and political parties are generally not much interested in giving right information to the public or in maintaining law and order intact in the country. They are more interested in propaganda, creation of vote banks and grabbing power, to become PM (Prime Minister), CM (Chief Minister), DM  (District Magistrates) and GM (General Manager) by hook or crook and thus accessing more  space  in the corridor of power. It facilitates politicians to hold the reigns of state authority, to get control over the treasury of the nation, as well as over the destiny of masses/common men.

Many superficial measures have been taken by the government or other organizations (governmental or NGOs) to help and empower poor and underprivileged sections of society. So far, it has not yielded desired results. Why, because superficial measure or action can never empower a person or section of society.

The enforced measures of empowerment leads to conflicts. It is just like ‘Rob the Peter and give it to Paul’. The efforts for empowerment should be from within – be it an individual, a group within a society, a society or a nation. One’s own efforts and intellect can empower a person in its true sense and guide him how to apply his knowledge gainfully. Lack of intellect leads a person to vices like egoism, superiority/inferiority complex etc.. In addition, it creates many more problems. Only intellect can control human mind and lead it towards Enlightenment. When intellect becomes weak, negative thinking and irrationality take over..

How to become empowered – Lao Tzu says “Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” True empowerment can be achieved not through holding political power or access/entry/influence in the corridors of authority/power, but through ‘Enlightenment’/true wisdom’.

Emphasis only on empowerment leads to rat race – Present day’s scenario more emphasis is given to “Empowerment” without understanding what ‘empowerment’ really means and how to make people really empowered. Such an approach has led to a rat race between different sections of society for being one-up by hook or crook.

Too much emphasis on the word ‘empowerment’ incites/agitates the minds of people and generates negative energy in them. It has done irreparable loss to the society and given rise to different kinds of problems.

‘Empowerment’ of ‘Haves-nots – Almost all the societies are divided into two sections – ‘haves’ and ‘haves-not’. There is unrest in the minds of ‘Haves-not’. They also desire and naturally so, to lead a peaceful and comfortable life-style. Modern politicians allure poor by talking too much about ‘empowerment’. They are not concerned so much about the advancement of poor section of society, as about creating vote-banks necessary for holding the reigns of state authority/power.

False promises to allure poor masses – In the modern materialistic and consumerist world, everyday many new gadgets are coming in the market every-day, which makes the life more comfortable. But for majority of people, it is difficult to afford it. Many a times, it becomes difficult for the poor people or persons with weak minds to resist the temptations. False promises of present day politicians attract such persons easily.

Enlightenment ‘inclusive’ by nature – Enlightenment develops respect for positive attitude, right knowledge and respect for truth and ethical values. It teaches people ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. It inculcates in people an attitude to work for common good, to support each other and move forward together. It guides people to keep their ‘ego’ under control. The only way to control it lies within each human being.

Acceptance for others – Enlightenment tells people to be respectful to others knowledge. Access to knowledge through sound system of education is the basic right of every human being. As Jyotirao Phule has said “Lack of ‘Education’ leads to lack of ‘Wisdom’; which leads to lack of ‘Morals’; which leads to lack of ‘Progress’; which leads to lack of ‘Money’; ‘which leads to ‘Oppression’ of vulnerable classes.”

Conclusion – ‘Enlightenment, not empowerment, is the real source of power’. ‘Enlightenment’ through self-introspect can only lead to sustainable development and true ‘empowerment’, not through extraneous/artificially/superficially imposed measures. Focus on ‘empowerment’ by superficial means quite often leads to negative attitude. ‘Enlightenment’ through right kind of knowledge makes people intelligent, generates positive energies in them and leads to their sustainable development.

Resist temptations? – For making mind strong enough to resist temptations, one has to raise the level of consciousness. Human mind has three dimensions – conscious, sub-conscious and super-conscious mind. Once the conscious mind is regulated, sub-conscious and super-conscious state of mind automatically gets controlled.
Conscience is always guided by intellect. Intellect automatically develops the inherent potential of individuals and keeps them away from lust and greed. Only ‘intellect’, knowledge, education and positive attitude of enlightened persons can make them so powerful that they can contribute to make a difference for betterment and not to indulge themselves in sinful activities for their self-interest. It would ultimately bring in prosperity and transform the whole society.

June 9, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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