DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION :
- Lord Krishna explains the concept of CHATURVARNA ASHRAMA, the Three Modes of Material Nature and the Four Divisions of the Social Order: The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV, Transcendental Knowledge, verse 13,”Chaturvarnyam Maya srishtam guna karma-vibhagshah”
THE ORIGIN OF CASTE/VARNA SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF INDIA :
I would be totally surprised if I meet a person of Indian origin who has no personal experience of the Caste/Varna system of India. I am glad to share some of the views presented by Dr. Premendra Priyadarshi in his attempt to explore the origin of Caste in India and the comments from Sri. Ram Gopal, Sri. M K Dhar, and Sri. Bala N. Aiyer on this subject. A mantra or hymn that is found in Rig Veda, Purusha Sukta ( also found in Yajur Veda, Chapter 31 ) is often quoted; “Brahmano-asya mukhamasid, bahurajanyah Kritah; Urutadasya yad- Vaishyah, paadbhyam Shudro- ajayat.” Lord Brahma is the Creator and humanity is described as taking birth from four different parts of the body of the Creator; the Class known as Brahmanas( the priests, religious thinkers, ascetics, and others ) take birth from the Face of the Lord, the Class known as Kshatriyas ( the warrior classes and clans ) take birth from the arms of the Lord, the Class known as Vaisya ( the traders, farmers, and others ) take birth from the thighs of the Lord, and the Fourth Class known as Sudras ( a variety of people with varied social occupations mostly intended to serve the rest of the Society by rendering manual labor ) take birth from the feet of the Lord. This Mantra may create four different Classes of people who have designated social occupations and support the social structures and institutions by their contributions.
THE THREE MATERIAL MODES OF NATURE AND THE FOUR DIVISIONS OF THE SOCIAL ORDER :
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV ( TRANSCENDENTAL KNOWLEDGE ), verse 13, speaks about Varna or Color of people to describe the Four Classes and says: “Chatur varnyam maya srishtam gun karma – vibhagshah.” Lord Krishna states that the Four Classes of people describe His Creative potency called “MAYA” which is a POWER/FORCE/ENERGY that can cause an ILLUSION and mask the true nature of Man. The Creation of Four distinct Varnas or Classes has been attributed to the three modes of material Nature; man acts under the influence of “GUNAS” or modes of material Nature known as Sattva( the mode of Goodness ), Rajas( the mode of Passion ), and Tamas( the mode of Ignorance ). These Four primary distinctions between people are related to occupation and more importantly to the modes of behavior and conduct which could vary from time to time. The Chaturvarnas or the Four Divisions or Classes of the Social Order have been described as under:
1. The intelligent class of men called Brahmins are situated in the mode of Goodness.
2. The administrative class of men called the Kshatriyas are situated in the mode of Passion.
3. The mercantile class of men called Vaisyas are situated in the mixed modes of Passion and Ignorance.
4. The laborer class of men called the Sudras are situated in the mode of Ignorance.
Lord Krishna, the Creator does not belong to any of these divisions who form the human society as He is transcendental to this system of the Four Varnas or Colors caused by the influence of the modes of material Nature. In Indian tradition, these Classes existed in a flexible manner and people were treated with great respect according to the merits of their actions. The word ‘VARNA’ does not refer to the skin color or ethnicity of the individual and it describes the qualities and certain behavioral characteristics of the individual.
THE ROLE OF CHATURVARNA SYSTEM IN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY AND EPIC POETRY :
IDENTITY AND SOCIAL CONFLICT:The Maha Bhagavata Purana narrates the legend about Lord Vishnu’s sixth Avatara or reincarnation known as Lord Parashurama, Rama with Axe. This story may depict the strife or conflict between the two Classes of society in pre-Buddhist India. Caste Identity could become a source of Social Conflict. People of the Land of India or BHARAT need National Identity and National Individuality.
The Bhagavata Purana narrates the story of Lord Parasurama( in Sanskrit the meaning is Rama with the Axe, the Weapon of His choice ), the sixth Avatar or reincarnation of Hindu God Lord Vishnu. His legend reflects the strife between the two Classes of Society, the clashes between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, in pre-Buddhist India. In the epic poem of Ramayana composed by Maharishi Valmiki there is no description of strife between different Classes of people. The story of Ramayana very dramatically describes the internal contradictions, the conflict of interests among members of the same royal family and the consequence of this domestic strife and disorder caused the hero of the story, Lord Rama to live in exile for fourteen years. To begin with, there was no rift or conflict between the Kingdom of Ayodhya and the Kingdom of Lanka that was ruled by Ravana. The climax of the story was that of killing Ravana in an epic battle for he had abducted Princess Sita from her forest dwelling. Ravana, a powerful ruler had not attempted to attack the Kingdom of Ayodhya or Kingdom of Mithila, the House to which Princess Sita belonged prior to her marriage to Lord Rama. Rama’s problems were imposed upon Him by the members of His royal family, the people who belonged to His Caste and clan. Similarly, in the epic poem of Mahabharata ( The Great epic of the Bharata Dynasty ), the struggle and the strife involves the members of the families of Kauravas, and Pandavas. These were children of King Dhritarashtra and King Pandu sired by Sage Veda Vyasa, the author who had composed the epic poem of Mahabharata. This story describes a family feud and sibling rivalry. There is no evidence to suggest that the Chaturvarna System had caused conflicts or strife between the Four Classes of the Indian Society. However, in India, during its long course of history, the Society developed a Caste based social structure where people simply inherited the Caste by birth and had lived with no further control on their birth Identity. Foreign occupation, and foreign conquests, and foreign rulers had exploited these divisions in the Social Structure to their advantage and they continue to do so to promote their vested interests in India such as the religious conversion of the people to access political power and to destabilize the country by attacking its Social fabric.
THE COLORS OF INDIA : NATIONAL IDENTITY vs CASTE IDENTITY :
The national flag of India is popularly known as ‘TIRANGA’ or ‘TRICOLOR’. The Saffron or subdued Orange represents Courage, Sacrifice, and the Spirit of Renunciation. The White represents Purity, Peace, and Truth. The Green stands for Fertility, Prosperity, and Faith. The Blue Chakra, the 24-spoked Wheel symbolizes the Wheel of Life in Movement and Death in stagnation. It is the same as the DHARMA CHAKRA or the Wheel of Law found in the Saranath Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka the Great.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : The Flag of Indian Army Medical Corps: Dull Cherry is the Color of the Royal Army Medical Corps and is associated with Positive Health, Succor, and Freedom from Disease. Black is the Color of Indian Hospital Corps and it is associated with formless state of creating birth and death. Old Gold is the Color that represents Indian Medical Services which existed in India prior to 1943. The Color symbolizes Sun God or AESCULAPIUS, the God of Medicine.
I would not rank myself as a great patriot, but like several other young students, during my life spent as a student, I was inspired by the colors of India’s National Flag popularly known as Tricolor or TIRANGA. The deep Saffron or subdued Orange Color represents Courage, and Sacrifice. The White Color represents Purity, Truth, and Peace. The dark Green Color stands for Fertility of the Land, Prosperity of the People, and the Faith. The Blue Chakra, the 24-spoked Wheel symbolizes the Wheel of Life in Movement and of death in stagnation. This is also the Wheel of Law or the DHARMA CHAKRA found in the Saranath Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka of Mauryan Dynasty. Communist China’s brutal attack on India’s Himalayan frontier during 1962 had initiated a desire to defend India from foreign conquests.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY-THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : Vishwa Yuvak Kendra – International Youth Centre, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi sponsored a four-week long National Student Seminar on National Integration during June 1967. I was selected to represent the State of Andhra Pradesh in this National Seminar while I was a student at Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool City, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh. The National Seminar gave me the opportunity to define a National Identity and National Individuality that is not derived from any Identity that is related to one’s Region, Religion, Language, or Caste.The idea of Nationalism involves the creed that fidelity to one’s Nation-State is more important than fidelity to individual/personal interests. The Spirit of Nationalism involves an emotion or state of mind in which the individual feels that his Supreme Secular Loyalty is owed to the Nation-State.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : The interviews for the grant of Short Service Regular Commission in Indian Army Medical Corps were held in the Office of Dr. D. Bhasker Reddy, M.D., the Principal, Kurnool Medical College during the year 1969.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : My desire to project a National Identity at the cost of my birth Caste Identity was opposed by Dr. Sripada. Pinakapani, M.D., who had served as the Professor of Medicine & the Superintendent of Kurnool Government General Hospital until August 1968. My desire to formulate a marital social relationship ignoring my Hindu Identity was also opposed by Dr. A. V. Narayana Rao, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : Dr. Sripada Pinakapani, M.D., Professor of Medicine & the Superintendent of Government General Hospital, Kurnool is born Hindu – Brahmin, Telugu-Speaking, and belongs to Srikakulam District of Coastal Andhra Pradesh. He had obtained his M.B.B.S. degree(1938) and M.D. degree(1945) from Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam from where Dr. R. Anjaneyulu, my paternal uncle had also obtained his M.B.B.S., and M.D., degrees. Dr. Sripada Pinakapani had served at Madras Medical College from 1944 to 1949 where my maternal grandfather, Dr. Kasturi. Narayana Murthy, M.D., had served as the Professor of Medicine. Dr. R. Anjaneyulu, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, B. J. Medical College and Sassoon Hospitals, Pune, Maharashtra State had come to Kurnool Medical College during June 1970 to officiate as an external examiner in the Post-Graduate degree examination. During that visit, Dr. Sripada Pinakapani had influenced and inspired my paternal uncle to prevent me from serving in Indian Army Medical Corps as it involved a desire to project a National identity while compromising my Brahman Caste Identity. My decision to serve in Indian Army is combined with a decision to have a marital social relationship with a Kurnool Medical College student who carried the Christian religious Identity.
To serve, and to defend the Tricolor Flag of the Republic of India, I had joined the Indian Army Medical Corps while I was a Final M.B.B.S.( Part-I) student at Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh State in India. The Dull Cherry Color of the Army Medical Corps( AMC ) Flag represents the Color of the Royal Army Medical Corps and is associated with positive health, succor, and Freedom from Disease or “SARVE SANTU NIRAMAYA”, the Motto of AMC. The Freedom from Disease Motto of AMC could not give me Freedom from Social Conflict because of the clash between loyalty to the National Identity and my birth Brahman Caste Identity.
I had attended ‘The Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course at Armed Forces Medical College, Pune from December 1975 to April 1976. I was disqualified and was posted out during May 1976. I have no hesitation to describe this sordid episode as “BETRAYAL OF NATION.” This disqualification was the result of an Unholy Brahmin Alliance in Pune that joined hands to undermine my fervent desire to serve the Nation.
SPIRITUALISM AND IDENTITY – THE CONFLICT AT ARMED FORCES MEDICAL COLLEGE PUNE : This is the photo image of the letter that was sent to Pune University communicating the fact of my disqualification(Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course) in a Screening Examination that was held at AFMC Pune during April, 1976. I am not blaming Lieutenant Colonel S P Kalra, the Chief of the Department of Paediatrics for this disqualification. He had disqualified me in one component of the Screening Examination, the Oral test he had given. He had no control or jurisdictional power over the results of the other two components( Written Examination and Practical Examination) of the Screening Examination. He had simply reacted to the rudeness displayed by the Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Pune University to a simple request that I had communicated to the Dean on behalf of Naval Army Medical Corps Officer Captain Sachdeva, the Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, AFMC Pune.
Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical College Pune – The Unholy Brahmin Alliance at Pune : The Disgraceful, Dishonest, and Infamous Phone Conversation between two Brahmins of Pune recorded during April, 1976; 1. The Commandant of AFMC Pune, and 2. The Dean Faculty of Medicine, Pune University, the Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, B. J. Medical College and Sassoon Hospitals Pune. I heard to this Phone Conversation at my paternal Uncle’s Office in the Sassoon Hospitals. Both parties of this phone conversation had agreed to share lies about the results of the Screening Examination that was held at AFMC Pune during April 1976 and both had agreed not to further investigate the matter and ascertain the real facts and assessment of my performance in the Written and Practical Components of this Screening Examination. Both the parties knew the reason for Lieutenant Colonel S P Kalra’s displeasure and had decided not to intervene and provide him with a reasonable response to a simple, verbal request that he had asked me to communicate to my Uncle, the Dean.
WHO AM I ? WHY AM I LIKE THIS ? :
In the epic poem of Ramayana, in Book Six, Yuddha Kanda, Chapter(Sarga) 117, verse 11, Rama who spent 14 years in forest exile and had to kill King Ravana to rescue Princess Sita had inquired : “I think of myself to be a human being, by name of Rama, the son of Dasaratha. You, as a gracious Divinity tell me, Who am I? and Why I am like this?”
I would not equate myself with Lord Rama. As a human being, if I have to explain as to Who am I and Why am I like this, I have to look at my Brahman Caste Connection. Lord Rama’s life journey was influenced by the actions of the members of his royal family. The experience of my life journey is shaped by my Brahman Caste Connection.
THE PAST IS NEVER PAST :
William Faulkner (1897-1962), was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during 1949. His novel titled ‘Requiem for a Nun’(1951) has his famous quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” I define Who I am and Why I am like this from my experience, the past flowing into the present. The divisions in the Social Order, the Social Rankings, the social distinctions and hierarchical social structures exist among all animal groups and among human communities all over the world. Each individual would experience his identity that is defined by the nature of the social group in which he exists. If I am described as a person of Brahman Caste, it is neither unique, nor special. If there is uniqueness, or distinctiveness about this Brahman Caste Identity, it should be revealed by sharing the experience of this Identity.
“JISH DESH MAIN GANGA BAHATI HAI” – THE LAND WHERE GANGES FLOWS :
This River GANGA or GANGES is adored by people across the Land of India or Bharat. Mother Ganga defines my National Identity and National Individuality. The Brahman Caste identity which I received at my birth has undermined my ability to express my National Identity and National Individuality.
If I had cherished the idea of serving the Tricolor Flag of India, it is not a product of my Chaturvarna Caste experience. This idea is inspired by a variety of factors such as the geography of this Land known as India, the history of its people, and the history of its subjugation by foreign military conquests. I was selected for the grant of Short Service Regular Commission in the Indian Army Medical Corps during 1969 and the selection was not influenced by my Brahman Caste Identity or Connections. I was granted Direct Permanent Commission in the Indian Army Medical Corps during March 1973 and that selection is not a product of my Brahman Caste Identity. However, I had resigned and relinquished my Direct Permanent Commission during 1983. This act of Resignation from Service in the Indian Army is the product of my Brahman Caste experience. My departure from India during 1984 with a desire to stay away from India is also a product of my Brahman Caste experience. My ability to serve in Uniform with Dignity and Honor, and my Spirit to defend my Country got extinguished by my Brahman Caste Experience.
HUMAN CONTRADICTIONS – THE SOURCE OF SOCIAL CONFLICTS :
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : I belong to the Brahman Caste by virtue of my birth and my social relationship with this group of REBBAPRAGADA Family & its members. There is Social Conflict on account of the Social Contradiction between my Caste Identity and my desire to project a National Identity and National Individuality in my Social Relationships. To confirm my desire to acquire a National Identity and National Individuality, I had pledged my allegiance to the Republic of India and had further demonstrated this shift in my loyalty by deliberately choosing a marital social relationship with a person belonging to Christian community. This choice made during 1969 had provoked a reaction in the form of a direct verbal warning and a written threat to undermine or compromise my ability to serve in Indian Army Medical Corps. I was asked to change my mind or accept the risk of losing my job. I had delayed the implementation of my decision until I was selected for the grant of Direct Permanent Commission in the AMC Examination that was held in September, 1972. The problem of my Indian Identity had followed me after I left India during 1984. When my father died during October 2009, I had no valid Indian passport to make a trip to India. His younger brother was unwilling to provide his name and address to be used as a reference to enable me to file an application for a new Indian passport.
Indian Identity and Brahman Caste Connection: The Ladies of Rebbapragada Family are witnesses of my Brahman birth Identity. However, this Caste-Connection could not help me to file my application for a new Indian Passport while I moved out of India and started living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. My aunt who lives in the United States stated that I could pose a risk to her safety if she were to provide her name and address on my application for Indian Passport. When my mother died during September, 1998, I had no valid Indian passport to make a trip to India.
A STORY OF BETRAYAL AT AFMC PUNE AND MINISTRY OF DEFENCE NEW DELHI :
I had attended ‘The Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course at Armed Forces Medical College, Pune from December 1975 to April 1976. I was disqualified and was posted out during May 1976. I have no hesitation to describe this sordid episode as “BETRAYAL OF NATION.”
Lieutenant General Biruduvolu Durga Prasada Rao( B.D.P. Rao ) served as the Commandant( in the rank of Major General ), Armed Forces Medical College(AFMC), Pune during 1975 – 1976 while I had attended the Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course at AFMC. The term ‘betrayal’ describes an act that helps the enemy of one’s country. I have no hesitation to state that the deliberate decision to disqualify me and post me out of AFMC Pune was not made to serve the cause of our Nation. The Brahman Caste Connection undermined my ability to complete this Training in Paediatrics.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : Ministry of Defence, Government of India, South Block, New Delhi: Lieutenant General V V S Pratap Rao, the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, during 1982-1983 had successfully completed the job of “BETRAYAL” that was initiated by Major General B D P Rao, the Commandant of AFMC, PUNE during April-May 1976. They had finished a Job that the enemy that I had faced during the India-Pakistan War of 1971 could not accomplish. I had participated in a difficult military operation(OPERATION EAGLE) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and had faced the enemy without carrying my personal weapon. Fortunately, at that time, I was in the company of the men of my Unit with whom I had shared a Spiritual relationship and accepted the challenge to fight on behalf of my Nation as a proud member of a Team, the Unit that was my Family.
Lieutenant General V V S Pratap Rao was the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services during 1982 – 1983 when I submitted my letter of Resignation from Service to the Government of India, Ministry of Defence. General B D P Rao, and General V V S Pratap Rao were the two very high-ranking Officers of Indian Army Medical Corps that share my Brahman Caste Identity. I had never spoken to these two individuals and never had a direct, personal contact or interaction with these two very Senior Officers of the Indian Army. My experience of Service in Indian Army got transformed because of interactions between my Brahman relatives and these Army Generals, the top brass of the Indian Army Medical Corps. None of them have shared my passion and my spirit to serve in Indian Army with Dignity and Honor. Clearly, their actions and interactions because of their Brahman Caste affiliation had no element of the Spirit of Nationalism which had drawn me to embrace a career in Indian Army. The course of my life’s journey got changed. It is not within my ability to change my Identity. If I am free to choose, the freedom is about the destination of my life’s journey. I hope to arrive at that destination by simply surrendering my Brahman Caste Identity. I believe that I am a created being. Indian Tradition has instructed me that I am born out of the face of the Lord. The experience of that Brahman Caste has transformed the purpose of my life. If life is viewed as a voyage across unknown Sea, to reach the Shore, to arrive at my destination, I have chosen to surrender to the Feet of the Lord.
DEFINING INDIAN IDENTITY – THE TRADITION OF FEET WORSHIP :
BRITNEY SPEARS AND BRAHMAN CASTE CONNECTION : Britney Spears visited the Hindu Temple in MALIBU, California to receive the blessings for her four-month old baby. She was graciously received by Mr. Nadadur Vardhan, the President of Southern California Hindu Temple Association. Mr. Nadadur Vardhan is a South-Indian Tamil Brahman and my maternal uncle, Kasturi. Jagannadha Rao who lived in Lafayette, LA had introduced me and had established a Brahman Caste Connection between two of us. I was not lucky like Britney Spears. My maternal uncle and Mr. Nadadur had worked together to seal my fate. I am still waiting for LORD’s Mercy, Grace, and Compassion.
I have narrated the story about my experience of the Tradition of Feet Worship while on a train journey from Rajahmundry to Lucknow Cantonment during July 1970 while I was on my way to report for duty and join the BMOC 20/70 Course(Basic Medical Officers Command Course) at the Officers Training School, AMC CENTRE AND SCHOOL, Lucknow. Paada Vandanam, Paada Sevanam, Paada Archanam, Paada Namaskaram, or the literal worship of FEET is the Indian Tradition and it inculcates a sense of humility. The very essence of Indian Culture is about teaching humbleness and the practice of humility. We humble ourselves in front of God, various images or idols, and in the same manner, we humble ourselves in front of parents, teachers, elders, people in authority, masters, and the variety of objects that we worship including stones, cows, trees, plants, rivers, Sun, Moon, and others. We often touch the feet of the person to whom we want to show respect. If Shudras have born from the Feet of the Lord, those Feet are my ultimate Destination. Those are the Feet I seek for myself as my final refuge. If my understanding of Indian Culture is correct, man is saved by seeking the protection of Feet and not of any other part of God’s body. We have stories, and hymns that exclusively praise the value of adoring Lord’s feet. Is there a greater honor other than the opportunity to touch the Feet or seek the dust that the Feet have touched?
While interviewing army recruits at Army Ordnance Corps Centre, Secunderabad, I met a young recruit whose caste was shown as “BALMIKI” and it specifically refers to the person we know as Poet Valmiki, the author of epic poem of Ramayana who belonged to that Bhil-Kirat Caste Community. The thought that passed in my mind was that of seeking the same Identity for myself. I had asked myself as to how I could get the same caste designation and call myself “BALMIKI”. Being born of Feet is a great Blessing and having taken birth from the face of the Lord, I learned a lesson. Now, I understand that the Feet of the LORD GOD represent my Salvation.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.
Biographical Information :
1. Place of Birth: MYLAPORE, Madras City, Chenna Patnam, Chennai, Madras State, Tamil Nadu, India. Born HINDU( Brahmin – Niyogi – Smartha ), Telugu-Speaking.
2. Date and Place of Marriage: 29 January, 1973. Congregational Town Church, Cuddapah, Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh, India.
COMMENT FROM SRI. RAM GOPAL :
It is regretful that many of our Hindu activists are blaming Hindu scriptures without having gone through them. The present birth based Varna (Caste) system is against the letter and spirit of our Vedic teachings. Kindly see my following article which will remove most of the prevailing misgivings on the subject.
Evils wrought by birth-based Caste system and remedy :
Protagonists of the birth-based caste system, quote the following Mantra of Rigveda’s Purush Sukta, (also found in the Yajurveda, Chapter 31), “Brahmano-asya mukhamasid bahurajanyah kritah/ Uru-tadasya yad-vaishyah paadbhyam shudro-ajayat”. They interpret it to mean that the Brahmins are born out of Brahma’s mouth, the Kshatriyas of Brahma’s hands, the Vaishyas (traders and farmers) of Brahma’s thighs, the Shudras of Brahma’s feet and, therefore, the Brahmins are the most respectable because of their birth as such. And, similarly, Shudras born of feet are lowly and despicable or untouchables. A close examination of the quoted text will reveal how fallacious are the claims attributed to the Vedas in support of birth-based caste system and for giving a lower status to the Shudras.
Purpose of Varna-Ashram Dharma
The purpose of the Varna (Caste) Dharma and the Ashram Dharma, [set of dutiesassigned to or accompanying each caste and those assigned to or accompanying various stages of life, namely, Brahmcharya (Learning stage), Grihastha (Family life), Vanaprastha (Life preparatory to retirement from family life) and Sanyas (Life ofcomplete retirement, devoted to public good)], is to enable a person to have good health, prosperity and peace in the present life and Moksha after death. Seeing the deplorable condition of Hindus as a nation or society in the global context, it is necessary that we take another look at our caste system and our scriptures to find out where we have failed.
Defects of birth-based caste system
History shows that one of the major causes of Hindu defeats was the degenerate birth based caste system. Under this system, fighting was confined only to a small section of the Hindu society called, “Kshatriya”. In numerous successive wars, continuing since the fall of the great Gupta empire in the 7th century, most of the Kshatriyas got killed. There was no fresh recruitment. By the 15th century, the depleted fighting forces of Kshatriyas or Rajputs, as they were called at the time, lost all hopes of defeating the ever increasing Mohammedan forces. So, as soon as the Mughal emperor Akbar offered the hand of friendship, they made compromise. Many of them offered their sisters or daughters in marriage to the Mughal dynasty. Maharana Pratap of Mewar was the only patriotic Rajput, who refused to submit to Akbar and continued his fight. He had to enlist Bhils and other Backward class people to raise his army. One businessman, the famous Bhama Shah, provided him the money. When Shivaji in Maharasthra and Guru Gobind Singh in Punjab stood up in revolt against the oppressive Islamic rule, they had to face the difficulty of raising their armies. Both of them had to make recruitment from the low castes Hindus (now called Dalits or OBCs). Both gave them the status of Kshatriyas. The same problem, in a greater degree, faces the Hindu society today. There is a great need of finding ways and means to augment the ranks of true Kshatriyas and true Brahmins.
What do Hindu scriptures says?
Thanks to the printing press of the modern age, the holy Vedas are now easily available to common man. First point to note is that the Purush Sukta of the Rigveda consists of 16 Mantras. The opening Mantra perceives the human society as one huge organism, having a thousand heads, thousand eyes, thousand feet which existed in the past, exists today and will exist in the future. Unlike the mortal human body, the human society is permanent. In Mantra 11, a question is raised, “Which is the face, which are the arms, the thighs and the feet of this great Person?” Mantra 12, quoted above, answers, “Brahmins form his face, the Kshastriyas form his arms, and the same way the Vaishyas (farmers and traders) form his thighs and Shudras form his feet”.
It is very clear that, in Vedic view, the Arya or the present Hindu society, composed of Brahmins (learned ones), Kshatriyas ( Kings and warriors), Vaishyas (farmers & tradesmen) and Shudras (service classes), was a compact whole. All were interlinked and functioned in close cooperation. This meaning is also in consonance with thousands of Vedic Mantras which pray to Almighty and invoke various gods (devatas) to let all live together, eat together, enjoy together, pray together, progress together, fight the evil forces together, and work for global peace together. The message is clear that weakening or malfunctioning of any one organ of the society will cripple the whole body. However, if the head (Brahmin class) stops working or goes berserk, the whole body is dead. That may be the reason for the Brahmin getting the first place among equals. It does not mean or signify a master and slave relationship. In tune with this very Vedic pronouncement, Lord Krishna says in the Geeta, (chap.4/13), “Chaturvarnyam maya srishtam gunkarma-vibhagshah”, (I am the creator of the fourfold human society according to aptitude and profession). There is no reference to birth, either in the Rigveda or the Geeta.
In his great treatise, Arthashastra, Kautilya, the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, (4th century BC), says that (Hindu or Vedic) polity rests on four branches of Vidya (Knowledge & practice), namely, ‘Anvikshiki’ (philosophy of Sankhya, Yoga and Lokayat – Public relations); Trayee (the three Vedas); Varta (agriculture, trade, cattle breeding): and Dandaniti (system of crime and punishment). Through all these, a State or nation makes acquisitions, keeps them secure, makes improvements and distributes the fruits among the deserving ones. To sustain such a complex organisation of humanity, the earlier mentioned chaturvarni (four fold) social order has been prescribed. This social order must necessarily be profession based, not birth-based. So, in one of his Sutras, Chanakya says, Acharvan vineeto-akulinopi-aaryah, a person of proper code of conduct and gifted with modesty should be considered a man of noble birth, even if he comes from a low family, (KPA Menon’s “Kautilaya’s Arthashastra”, p.259, published by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi).
The instances of Rishi Jabala of unknown father, (Chhandyoga Upanishad), Rishi Matang born of lowly parents, Mahrishi Ved Vyas, (author of the Mahabharata), born of a boats man’s daughter, and many such others, show that the birth based caste system crept into the Hindu society much later. The Manusmriti (200 BC-200AD), chap. 10/65, says: “Shudro Brahmanatameti, Brahmanashchetu shudrataam/ Kashtriyajaatamevam tu vidfyadvaishyatatathaiva ch, (through education and training, a Shudra can become a Brahmin, and, devoid of these, a Brahmin can also become a Shudra, a Kshatriya or Vaishya, as he may be fit for). It is a matter of research at which point of time, the element of birth was introduced in the above quoted Vedic mantra and Varnas became birth-based. This birth-based caste or Varna system has done great harm to the Hindu society during the past 2,000 years.
Number of Varnas (Castes)
The Vedas talk of only four Varnas. The Manusmriti also speaks of four Varnas, no fifth (Panchama, chap.10/4). With the passage of time each Varna multiplied into various off-shoots. In addition, some new Varnas, like Kayastha, Bhumihars (Bihar), Bhatia, et al, and their sub-divisions also cropped up. The total number of all these castes and sub-castes is surely in hundreds and may be over a thousand. Incidentally, in his comprehensive history of Vaishya community, (Vaishya Samudaya ka Itihas) in Hindi, Dr. Rameshwar Dayal Gupta has listed 354 sub-castes of Vaishya community alone. Even this does not appear complete because I find many south Indian sub-castes missing.
Gotra is a unique feature of Hindu society and has been, for long, an important factor in matrimonial matters. It is believed that every Hindu is a descendant of one or the other Rishi (sage). Descendents of the same sage have a common Gotra, for example, Kashyapa, Gautam, Garg, etc., etc. Thus, marriage within the same Gotra is prohibited in accordance with the following shloka of the Manusmriti, (chap.3/5): “Asapinda ch ya matu-r-asagotra ch ya pituh/ Sa prashasta dwijatinam daarkarmani maithune”, (Among the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas, that girl is best to be taken as a wife or for sex who is not a Sapinda (blood relation) on mother’s side and does not belong to the same Gotra on father’s side). Up to the Mahabharata age, inter-Varna (inter-caste) marriages were common, but marriage within the same Gotra was prohibited. At some stage in the post Mahabharata period, marriage out of one’s Varna(Caste) became anathema, although the above shloka does not bar inter-Varna or inter-Caste marriage.
The Mahabharata, (Shanti Parva,/chap. 296), says that originally there were only four Gotras, namely, Angira, Kashyap, Vashisth and Bhrigu. Matsya Purana names 8 Gotras – Bhrigu, Angira, Marichi, Atri, Pulah, Pulastya, Ritu, and Vashisth. Shatpath Brahmin, (older than Mahabharata), names seven Gotras – Gautam, Bhardwaj, Vishwamitra, Jamdagni, Vashistha, Kashyap and Atri. Based on these and other ancient texts, scholars have deduced that, up to the Mahabharata period, there were 8 Gotras. They also found that Boudhayan, a ninth century commentator, gave the number of Gotras 500 while a later book, “Pravar Manjari” of the medieval period talks of 5,000 Gotras.
In his well researched work “The People of India”, (about 1910), Herbert Risley, (an ICS officer) has given names of main castes, sub-castes under each head of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and others as in the 19th century. Similarly, he has explained Gotras under the following 5 heads, (1) Totemistic (based on names of animals, flowers, plants, rivers, etc), (2) Great personalities (based on sages or kings), (3) Territorial (based on names of areas or places), (4) Titular or nicknames (like Hazari, Deshmukh), and (5) Local or Tribal (limited to few small areas).
Need to go back to Vedas
The earliest religion on earth, the Vedic Dharma, (the original name of Hindu religion) and Vedic culture took birth in the Indus valley, in the foot-hills of the Himalayas and spread throughout the Indian sub-continent and beyond in Western, Central and South-East Asian countries. It was a period when Varna (Caste) system had not become birth based. Since, it became birth-based and rigid, defence of the country, India, that is Bharatvarsha, became a responsibility of the Kshatriya caste alone. As a result, weakening of India’s defence set in. Along with it, Vedic, that is Hindu Dharma, also started receding. So much so that even the birth place of Vedic Dharma, the Indus Valley, together with its adjoining areas up to West Punjab and East Bengal turned into an Islamic country, before our own eyes in 1947.
It may be recalled that, after repeated attacks from 7th century AD, the Islamic forces from West Asia first occupied Hindu kingdoms lying across Indus (Sindh) river, that is, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, subjugated Punjab and established a firm Islamic rule in northern India at Delhi in 1192 AD. The victor, Mohammed Ghori of Ghor, did not stay here. He appointed his trusted slave General, Qutb-ud-din Aibak as his Viceroy to rule over his conquered territory in India. Qutub-ud-din founded the slave dynasty which extended the Islamic rule up to Gujarat in the West. This dynasty was ousted by Khiljis of Turkish origin in 1290 AD. The Khilji dynasty was subdued by the Tughlaqs. The Tughlaqs were replaced by Sayyids and the latter by Lodi kings of Afghan origin. They too got vanquished at the hands of Babar, who was half Turk and half Mongol. He founded the Mughal dynasty, which ruled up to 1857 AD, when the British, a European power, established its supremacy on Hindus and Muslims both. It would be observed that since 1192, India’s political power passed from one Muslim dynasty to another Muslim dynasty up to 1857, when the British took over. During this entire 800 year period, Hindus – the original nationals and rulers of Hindusthan – made no fruitful effort to replace the oppressive Islamic rule by Hindu Rajya, meaning governance according to Vedic ideals. They were content with their localized dynastic principalities, paying tributes to the Mughal kings or the British Crown.
Consequent to world war II, all European colonial powers, including the British, withdrew from their respective colonies. In that process, India also got Independence in 1947, but only after ceding one third of Hindusthan to Muslim fanatics to make Pakistan. Not only that. Their collective stupidity and cowardice, born out of birth based caste prejudices and detachment from Vedic teachings, led them to adopt a Constitution which made their share of the country, India, a Composite State, (instead of a Hindu State), letting Muslims and Christians have an upper hand in the State policy on the pretext of safeguarding minority interests.
From 1881 AD, the British had started ten-yearly census. Each successive census up to 1941 showed Hindu population declining and Muslim population multiplying. It was then attributed to the anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim British rulers. In 1947, the British left India in Hindu hands. What did the Hindus do? The declination of Hindu population and multiplication of Muslim population has continued with a vengeance. Analyzing the 1991 and 2001 census figures, political pundits have forecast that the Muslims will gain a majority in Hindu India by the close of this century. The fact, however, is that the political influence of the Muslims even now, when they form just 14 per cent of the total population, outweighs that of Hindus, who make 82 per cent. It seems that as and when the Muslims reach the number 25 per cent, they will force at least 50 per cent of Hindu India to be made Islamic, resulting in mass killing and persecution of Hindus as in the years before and after Partition.
The only way of Hindu survival is Hindu unity, but that is impossible without following the true Vedic teaching, de-linking castes from birth and allowing fresh entries in Hindu religion and Hindu society. History shows that, in pre-Islamic period, foreign invaders, like the Greeks, the Shakas, the Huns, and others, who settled in India, adopted Hindu religion and became important part of the Hindu society. In fact, they added to the dwindling force of Kshatriyas, called Rajputs, who made the front line defenders of Hinduism against subsequent Islamic invasions. The Tait-riya Aaranyaka, 8-1, (a branch of Yajurveda), says: “Om sahnavavatu, sah nau bhunaktu, sah veeryam karvavahe/Tejaswinavadhitamatu/Ma vidvishawahe”, (O, Lord (Parmeshwara)! May we together protect ourselves with love and affection among us: May we together make use of this material world: May we together enhance the power and efficiency of one another so that our efforts bring meritorious success: With your blessing, let us bear no jealousy against one another). This prayer would be meaningless if the Vedas had envisaged the existing type of birth-based caste distinctions.
The day Hindu Dharmacharyas decide to delink Caste distinction from birth, the doors will re-open for fresh entry in Hindu Dharma and Hindu society in terms of the Vedic edict “Krinvanto vishvam-aaryam”, (Let us convert the whole world into Arya). Some skeptics have opined that it does not mean conversion. In this context, it will be useful to refer to the full text of the Mantra which reads: Indram vardhanto apturah krinvanto vishwama-aryam apaghnanto aravnah”, Rigveda, 9-63-5, (Increase your energies, extend them far and wide, make the world Arya and destroy the evil doers). Here, Arya means one who follows Vedic dharma and is a member of Vedic society. It cannot mean anything else. Vedic texts refer to three categories of people: (1) Arya (Vedic people), (2) Anarya (Non-Vedic people, for example, various Tribals) and (3) Dasyus or Rakshasas (the rogues and enemies). Thus, this Mantra, in its entirety, means convert as many non-Aryas as possible to Arya-fold and destroy the enemies. With this very interpretation, Vedic (Hindu) religious preachers and teachers (Rishis and Munis) could convert large numbers of people to Hindu religion in India and abroad. Traces of Hindu religion are found in abundance in South East Asia, (Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, etc.), and to a lesser extent in Western and Central Asia.
Now, it is up to Hindus themselves, their religious and political leaders, to follow the faulty interpretation of the Vedic texts and get gradually extinguished or change according to their correct meanings. Relying on the true meaning of the holy Vedas, the six Shastras and authentic Upanishadas, Swami Dayanand Saraswati of the 19th century had vehemently opposed birth-based caste system, supported conversion of non-Hindus to Hindu fold, and lent support to India’s freedom struggle. Following his teachings, the Arya Samaj converted thousands of non-Hindu religionists to Hindu (Vedic) religion. Of them, many became staunch preachers of Hinduism. The work of Arya Samaj was hampered after Independence, firstly, because of opposition from the “traditionalists” and “secularists” and, secondly, because of internal dissensions in the Arya Samaj itself on personal grounds, which divided it into a number of antagonistic camps.
Comment from Sri. M K Dhar :
Varna and caste system have been created by Brahmin and Kshatriya and certain intermediate caste Hindus. There is an interpolation the Gita: Chaturvarnang Maya Sristhang Gunayi Karmah Vivhagasha= I have created four varnas according to guna and karma. How can God do that dividing his creation into varnas. He did not create varna system for the flora and fauna creations.
Manu is said to be a rishi who gave preponderance to Purusha Sukta that indicate from which part of the body of Brahma which class of people were originated. That is sheer madness of the powerful people in the society for perpetuating slavery of the lowly placed and less privileged people. Manuvad is the real enemy of unity of the Hindu people. Hindu society should be One- but we have weakened ourselves by creating SC, OBC etc castes and Shrenis. Fathers of our Constitution should have abolished this demonic system while framing the laws. But they followed the old social practices and British policy of segmenting the Indians. Now we are threatened by Muslims because they know that damn Hindus would never unite and stand as a solid united vs
challenge to Islamist advancement to India.
If our and next generations do not reform the damned caste and class system we would be doomed as a nation. Let us burn the sasthras that divide the Hindu society.
Comment from Sri. Bala N. Aiyer :
Origin of Caste by Dr. Premendra Priyadarshi :
This is a wonderfull explanation and study of Caste problems.
My own few words on this is as follows.
Varna is often mistaken for Kula and Jaathi and even people who know about this refuse to undertand or accept this
mainly for political purpose and get all the benefits of society in the name of Jaathi and Varna.
60 years of trying to eliminate the Jaathi name has not solved their problem and just got worse.
All us know and understand that Varna as in Purushasooktha and in Dharmasastra is different from Jaathi, now called Caste.
Varna is by Guna and in-born desires and ability to do the kind of work in a division of labor. Caste is purely by birth.
Before all discussions, we must first understand the Hindu [Indian] Society from ancient times and how they were organized and divided through traditions.
We must read the new genetic theories of the Indian Society which shows that ALL Indians are genetically same, all men carry similar Y Chromosome,
as different from all communities outside India and have two types of female [Mitochondrial DNA distributed all over the sub-continent.
Now, the division of society is by: VARNA, JAATHI, KULA, GOTHRA, REGION OF RESIDENCE, SAMPRADHAYA, LANGUAGE [AS MOTHER TONGUE] AND FAMILY TREE.
Here varna and Jaathi are different. What we are talking about is Brahmana Kula with the few Jaathis in it and NOT Brahmana Varna. [I know I am confusing you].
We have tall people and short people, light colored and dark colored, brilliant and intelligent and dull ones, rich and poor in every group and every state and in every Kula & Jaathi.
While 70% may be poor in SC&ST, about 60% are poor among Brahmins and other “upper Classes” – or even equal. There are more poor ones among Brahmins in this subgroup.
The four Varnas are interchangeable by Guna, education and in-born qualities – and not by birth alone. All Varnas are of equal status, not one superior to other.
there was never a fifth [untouchable] but the kings punished some Brahmana and Kshatriya for disobedience. But Kulas go by sampradhaya, traditions and culture.
Among Jaathis, which is only birth based, we must feel all are of equal status, but within that Jaathi some may be higher than some in status by their education and achievement [individually -not as a family]
If you consider all these and feel that you are just equal to all other Indians, there will be no problem. Now, among the various segments of the Brahmana Kula [and jaathis]
if we all get together for common cause and support, there is nothing wrong with that. 60 years of independence and 100 years of reform movements have not eliminated the Jaathi problems in India
because people did not see this differences and unity at the same time. The problem is some felt superior to others and some felt insulted by that.
If you eliminate that all Jaathis and Kulas can survive well. This is an organization of a society that evolves over centuries and can not be erased.
ORIGIN OF CASTE BY DR. PREMENDRA PRIYADARSHI :
I have recently uploaded my new article on origin of caste. It is basically a collection of quotes from authorities like Basham 1967 and Srinivas 1967, and also Romila Thapar 2002 (who had a change of mind at the end of her life).
The resoned view of these scholars is that caste and Varna are absolutely unrelated, and no attempt to fuse or confuse the two should be made.
I hope this will broaden our information about hisroy of caste.
After reading this article one of my friends asked “Can we ignore the Purusha Sukta?”
Some friends asked about Chandal in pre-Muslim periods.
Reply is :
We cannot and should not ignore the Purusha Sukta. That is about Varna. And we are talking about caste here, not varna. Caste is caste. And varna is varna.
Chandal was there at the time of Buddha, and Buddha died after eating uncooked pork at the hand of a Chandal. But authorities opine that Chandal cannot be equated with modern “untouchable” castes. Chandals were often those people who had been excommunicated from society because of some heinous crime, like rape or murder etc. Other chandals were those who were excommunicated because they ate dog’s meat etc., or were violent people (Chand =cruel; in Persian Jallad is a cognate of Sanskrit Chandal).
But the untouchable castes of the modern times were untouchable by the reason of birth or heridity. This type of untouchability definitely started after 1000 AD. Basham clearly writes that Huen Tsang had not noted the type of caste system we see today. Megasthanese also has not mentioned such things.
Al-Biruni mentions caste system in Iran during Khusarow’s reign, who made it mandatory for everyone to follow the profession of the caste which one inherited from parents as a result of birth. Old Testament mentions divine orders, if one marries outside caste, one may be killed. Such caste system we never had in India. (Jat Panchayats have although done something like that recently).
We need to delink caste with varna in our minds, that is what the quoted scholars want to say. What Purusha Sukta says is about Varna, not caste.
Varna in not compasorily ”endogamous” and “heriditary”, whereas “caste” by definition is an “endogamous heriditary” unit of society. Any class is not caste. Otherwise we can say that when we classify towns, we are talking about castes of town. Classes will always be there in all societies at all times. Varna was a term used for class in ancient India.
Manu also does not mention “jati”. To confirm this I went through all the verses of Manusmriti in original. The translations ahve however used the word “cast” for “varna” in English, something which has been considered wrong by Srinivas and Basham, and many more authorities.
It is interesting to note that while we get definite caste system only after Muslim arrival in India, such systems had been there in other nations long back. In Iran it had been there for at least since sixth century BC. When did it start in Japan, we do not know, but caste and untouchability persist even today in Japan, Sri Lanka and many other nations.
I do not wish to raise any finger on any other country or religion, because if I point one finger to others, the three fingers turn to me. Yet it is important that we should be aware of the fact that caste (especially untouchability ) has existed outside India much before it was noticed in India.
See Korean untouchability in this link:
And the famous Burakumin untouchable group in Japan. Caste system was banned in Japan by Meiji in 1871. Yet it exists.
And in Sri Lanka:
In Thailand Buddhism, there is a different type of caste system. In that system, they have created a special paid class “Thai Brahmana Priest” who is responsible to perform ‘sanskaras’ in each individual’s life. These Brahmanas perform Vaidic rituals to the Buddhist householdersa, like death rituals etc.
And see how Thai Royal Family patronizes Hindu rituals and Brahmanas