CASTE AND VARNA – PART 4 – EDUCATION AND GENESIS OF CONFUSION

Education

165. Were the Lower Castes deprived from education?

166. Raghuvamshi notes, on the authority of Martin, Adams and Buchanan, that even lower castes like Baidyas, Kayasthas and and a number of artisan classes labelled as shudra studied Sanskrit, if it was relevant to their profession, and there was no bar on Sanskrit education imposed on to them because of their caste.

167. The bar actually resulted from financial uselessness of studying higher Sanskrit, as Sanskrit educated graduates could not be absorbed as staff in the state machinery which functioned in Persian language, nor as teachers in state-funded educational institutions (muderssas) teaching in Arabic and Persian languages only.

168. Dharampal notes from the survey data recorded by British officials for Hindu educational institutions in the south India that soodra (by their meaning to indicate lower caste) students constituted overwhelming majority of students, and out of about 700 students studying in schools in Madras state, only 4 were Brahmins. However, out of 517 students studying at homes, 98 were Brahmins. These data clearly expose the bogusness of claims that the lower castes/shudras were not imparted education by the Brahmins.

169. Anti-Caste approach of Orthodox Hindu Religion during Muslim Period

Hindu religion is essentially egalitarian based on the concept of divine in all beings. Hindus criptures unequivocally declare that all the beings have to be seen as god:

170. ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदꣳ सर्वं यत्किं च जगत्यां जगत् । (Ishavasya Upanishad, 1) (Whatever exists in this world is permeated by God).

171. यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मन्येवानुपश्यति । सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ॥ ६॥ (Ishavasya Upanishad,6)

172. (One who sees all living beings as equal to himself, and sees himself in all the living beings is the person who has the clear vision).

173. यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद्विजानतः । तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ ७॥ (Ishavasya Upanishad , 7)

174. (One who knows all beings to be same as himself, and sees unity in all of them, he never suffers from any sufferings.)

175. Bhagvad-Gita clearly states that Brahmana, cow, elephant, dog and chandala should be seen equally by the people who are knowledgeable.

176. विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि । शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः ॥ १८ ॥ (Bhagavad-Gita, 5.18)

177. Hence it is intriguing if anyone claims that Hindu religion supports caste system and untouchability. It should be noted that even after the caste system and untouchability became established in India during the Muslim period, all the orthodox Hindu religious movements militated against the caste system and untouchability.

178. Chaitanya a Vaishnavite saint born in a brahmana family, rejected the caste system and led a movement for Dalit uplift. He said, “if anyone takes food from the same plate with a sweeper, he becomes entitled to obtain the favour of God.”

179. Chaitanya is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu Himself in Bengal, and modern ISCON is an offshoot of his sect Gauriya Vaishnavism.

180. Chaitanya reemphasized the old Hindu doctrine that leaving the Varnashrama-Dharma was essential for attaining salvation.

181. Chaitanya was no communist or secularist. He was a thorough orthodox Hindu.

182. One of the Brahmana disciples of Chaitanya named Kali Das made it a mission of his life to partake of refuse food left on the plates of untouchables (Chandals).

183. Not only in Bengal, but at other places also, orthodox Hinduism movements erupted as anti-caste Vaishnavite movements during the Muslim rule in India.

184. It was appreciated by these great Hindu saint-leaders that caste system was something alien to Hindu religion which had lately grabbed the Hindus.

185. Thus great orthodox religious leaders like Basava, Ramananda, Tukaram, Namdev and Ramanuja tried to abolish caste, and opposed untouchability.

186. The originator of the Vaishnavism, Ramanuja used the word “Thirukkural” for the shudras which means ‘one belonging to the highest lineage’.

187. Still later, many orthodox Hindu religious leaders like Dayananda, Vivekananda etc. worked hard to remove the caste barriers and untouchability.

188. Many Hindu saints came from untouchable castes, and they were highly revered by one and all Hindus from all castes.
189. Ravidas (Raidas) was a shoe-maker.

190. Yet he was guru of a very large section of Hindus, including the famous Vaishnavite poetess and princess Mirabai.
191. Dayananda, an orthodox Hindu sannyasi, extensively referred from the Vedic texts to prove that caste system was alien to Hinduism.

192. His sect Arya Samaj shuns caste and untouchability.The list is endless. Hence it is clearly inferred that the Hindu religion is against caste differences.

The Genesis of the Confusion

193. We have seen that there was no caste system until the Muslim rule got established in India.

194. Muslim rule destroyed ancient Hindu traditions and centres of Vedic studies.

195. This led to withering away of the four varnas.

196. Populations regrouped on the basis of clan, tribe, occupational guilds or religious sects, and thousands of castes were now formed, none of which we find mentioned in any earlier Indian text.

197. However, these new grouping known as castes or zat (in Persian) soon started claiming status of Vedic Brahmana,Kshatriya, Vaishaya or Shudra.

198. Hence Thapar writes, “It was not that an existing varna was invariably subdivided into jatis, but that jatis were often allotted varna statuses.” (pp. 66-7).

199. This was the main reason for genesis of confusion.

200. Srinivas has also noted this phenomenon taking place in modern India when a caste acquired a varna status like the Vishvakarma brahmana.

201. Srinivas writes:

“It is interesting to note that the mobility of a caste is frequently stated in varna terms rather than in terms of local caste situation. This is partly because each caste has a name and a body of customs and traditions which are peculiar to itself in any local area, and no other caste would be able to take up its name. A few individuals or families may claim to belong to a locally higher caste, but not a whole caste. Even the former event would be difficult as the connections of these individuals or families would be known to all in that area. On the other hand, a local caste would not find it difficult to call itself Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya by suitable prefixes. Thus the Bedas of Mysore would find it difficult to call themselves Okkalingas (Peasants) or Kurubas (Shepherds), but would not have difficulty in calling themselves Valmiki Brahmins. The Smiths of South India long ago, in pre-British times, changed their names to Vishvakarma Brahmins. In British India this tendency received special encouragement during the periodical census enumerations when the low castes changed their names in order to move up in the hierarchy.”

202. Processes of change of status from shudra to kshatriya and brahmana continued until1931 census.

203. Such caste changes and class mobility which has taken place in India until recent times were not possible in the caste systems of Europe, Japan, Korea or Yemen and Iranian populations.

204. Thus after ancient period, it was not the individual which moved in the hierarchy of varnas, but his clan, tribe or caste as a group adopted the suffix brahmana, kshatriya etc. after the caste name. This created an impression that these groups are the same as the ancient brahmanas etc.

205. For example, very many in today’s society who say they are Brahmins are not really VarNa Brahmanas but caste brahmanas whose way of life is not in accord with the Varna Brahmana of the Vedas.

206. In VarNa terms these caste brahmins are not Brahmanas at all!

207. In the last two centuries, scholars tried to find out the Indian Caste phenomenon in ancient Indian texts, although it was a new phenomenon for India.

208. These Indologists found varna from Hindu scriptures, and thought that this must have been the forerunner of caste.

209. In a bid to fuse the two, they confused the two.

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