CASTE AND VARNA – PART 7: CASTE OUTSIDE HINDU SOCIETY

273. There have been very few students of human civilizations who had thorough knowledge of ancient sociologies of a large number of civilizations.

274. And those who had such knowledge, found that endogamous, hereditary and often craft exclusive castes had existed universally during ancient times.

275. Comte (1858) wrote:

“Thus the great system of castes flourished first in Egypt, Chaldcea, and Persia; and it abides in our day in those parts of the East which are least exposed to the contact with the white nations, as in China, Japan, Tibet, Hindostan etc. and from analogous causes, it was found in Mexico and Peru at the time of their conquest. Traces of these causes can be recognized in all instances of indigenous civilization; as in Western Europe, among the Gauls, the Etruscans etc. The primitive influence may be perceived in their various ulterior institutions, and is not entirely effaced in the most advanced societies. In short, this system is the universal basis of ancient civilization.”

276. However, Comte interpreted the early loss of caste from the White races as their inherentracial superiority:

“…though the white races in their season were equally subject to it, with the difference that, from their inherent superiority, or through the influence of more favourable circumstances, they disengaged themselves more rapidly from it.” (Comte, August, Positive Philosophy, English translation asThe Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, freely translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau, Calvin Blanchard (Publishers), New York)

277. Not only loss of caste discrimination, but an earlier freeing of women and flourishing of science have been considered by the White chauvinists the results of inherent superiority of the White races.

278. However, Comte (and many other authors) failed to note that the caste system was lost from West not because of inherent superiority of the White race, but because of transfer of modernism, rationalism, mathematics and science from India through Arabic channels from eighth century to the sixteenth century, and that became complete only by the end of the sixteenth century. ( Duncan, David E., The Calendar , Fourth Estate, London, 1998; also see Priyadarshi, P., Zero is not the Only Story: Origin of modern science in ancient India, India First Foundation, New Delhi, 2007.)

279. It was this scientific knowledge of Indian origin which caused weakening and finally loss of many social evils which had existed in the European society during the Dark Age of Europe.(Priyadarshi, P., India’s Contributions to the West, Standard Publishers India, New Delhi, 2004.)

280. Moreover, the Indian caste system is different from Jewish, Zoroastrian, Mithra and Egyptian caste systems, because in India, priesthood has never been a monopoply of the pristine caste,whereas it has been so in the caste systems of other religions (mainly Jew, Parsee and Egyptian).

281. Sannyasi is the god-man priest in many cases, and he may have born in any caste, yet he does not belong to any caste.

282. Currently most of the recent Hindu god-men/women were born in the lower castes.

283. Often Hindus have a temple at home, and every householder is entitled to do rituals by his own, and thus he is his own priest.

284. The yajnas recommended to be done by every householders five times a day have never involved and can never involve any priest.

285. Then, there are family-gods, which have to be worshipped by the family members and not the priest.

286. Many worships (poojas) and vratas like karawa chauth, tij, jitiya (jivit-putrika vrata), chhath, etc. have to be done by the individual himself (mostly women) without involvement of a priest.

287. Even in the Satyanarayan Puja, the priest who comes, guides the house-husband how to do rituals, and pronounce the mantras, and himself stays back as a professional guide.

288. Hence karta of any puja, havana or yajna is the house-holder himself.

289. In temples too, mahanths and priest from all castes have been employed.

290. Often, many of the castes have their own local temples, and the lower castes often have a priest of their own caste in their temples.

291. Thus priest-caste is not essential in Hinduism.

292. Even during the Vedic times, all the famous brahmanas known to us were great scholars and teachers, but none was a temple-priest, say for example Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Parashurama, Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara,etc.

293. On the other hand, it has been proven by many authentic researchers that India had no caste system during the ancient period.

294. During this ancient period India was the world leader in mathematics, science and rationalism,–the Indian golden age.

295. And that the caste system erupted in India only after the Muslim invaders destroyed modern sciences and rationalism from India plunging this nation into a dark age, wherein soon illiteracy, poverty, caste, superstitions, subjugation of women, sati, female infanticide etc emerged as ignorance grew within the masses.

296. Let’s consider the Caste System in Europe

297. Caste is a word “which in most minds is most strongly connected with Hindu social order”, wrote A. L. Basham, while noting that this practice did not exist in the ancient India.(Basham, A. L., The wonder that was India, thirty-fifth impression (1999) of the Third Revised Ed.of 1967, Rupa and Co., Bombay, p. 148)

298. A study of writings by early twentieth century sociologists makes it obvious that the caste system was deeply rooted in European customs and laws until 200 years back.

299. But tactfully this fact was suppressed by most of the later authors, and the caste system was projected on exclusively to India.

300. John Oman Campbell’s Readings in European Caste System:

The unjustifiable treatment and bullying of Hinduism in name of “caste system‘ was criticized a hundred years back by John Campbell Oman, who was a professor of social sciences at Government College, Lahore at the end of the nineteenth century. ( Oman, John Campbell, “Caste in India”, in Brahmanas, Theists and Muslims of India, Republished Kessinger Publishing, 2003, pp. 63, 64. (First published by T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1907).

301. John Oman Campbell wrote, “No little amused wonder and supercilious criticism on the part of Europeans hasbeen aroused by the caste system of India, which has generally been regarded as an absurd, unhealthy, social phenomenon, without parallel elsewhere… but caste prejudices, and institutions based on such prejudices, are not wholly absent from social life outside India, even in the highly civilized states of the western World. And a little consideration of such indications of caste feelings will help us account in some measure for the more salient characteristic of the Indian system, or at any rate serve to clear our minds of certain unfounded prejudices and offensive cant…but it is nevertheless undeniable that, even in Europe, certain genuine hereditary caste distinctions have at various times been maintained by law, and are to be found there at the present day.”

302. “One much derided peculiarity of the Hindu caste system is the hereditary character of trade and occupations, and in this connection it is interesting to recall to mind that at certain epochs the law in Europe has compelled men to keep, generation after generation, to the calling of their fathers without the option of change.” (John Oman Campbell, pp. 63-64).

303. “..in England an ancient enactment required all men who at any time took up the calling of coal-mining or drysalting, to keep to those occupations for life, and enjoined that their children should also follow the same employment. This law was only repealed by statutes passed in the 15th and 39th years of the reign of George III; that is in the lifetime of the fathers of many men who are with us today. A more striking European example of a compulsory hereditary calling, common enough in the Middle Ages and down to the last century in Russia, is that of the serfs bound to the soil from generation to generation. Then again there existed through long periods of European history, the institution of hereditary slavery, with all its abominations.” (John Oman Campbell, p. 65)

304. A further study of European social history will reveal more of details how an extremely tyrannical and rigid caste system was operative in Europe with legal sanction, which of course functioned under the theocratic rule of Church.

305. Ross’es Readings in European Caste System

Edward Alsworth Ross (Principles of Sociology, 1920 Ed. and 1922 Ed.) gives a detailed account of rigid and strict caste system of Europe, which lasted till the beginning of the nineteenth century.

306. Ross noted that Europe had a strict caste system during the Roman Empire period, however, it had not been brought to Europe by the Roman conquests, but it was a product of forces within the European society (Ross, 1922, p. 322). Thus the Europeans of the “Middle Ages lived in their caste rather than in their people… Something of this spirit has lived on in Poland.” (Ross, 1922, p. 359).

307. “The tendency of the later empire was to stereotype society by compelling men to follow the occupation of their fathers, and preventing a free circulation among different callings and grades of life.

308. The man who brought the grain of Africa to the public stores of Ostia, the labour who made it into loaves for distribution, the butchers who brought pigs from Samnium, Lucania or Bruttium, the purveyors of wine and oil,the men who fed the furnaces of the public baths, were bound to their calling from one generation to another… Every avenue of escape was closed… Men were not allowed to marry out of their guild… Not even a dispensation obtained by some means from the imperial chancery, not even the power of the Church could avail to break the bond of servitude.” (Dill,Samuel, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, MacMillan and Co. Ltd., London 1905)

309. In Prussia, not only men, but land too belonged to castes, and land belonging to a higher caste could not be purchased by individual belonging to a caste lower than that. This provision was abolished by the Emancipation Edict of 1807 (Ross, 1922, p. 182).

310. Oman quoted from Ingram: “This organization established in the Roman world a personal and hereditary fixity of professions and situations, which was not very far removed from the caste system of the East…Members of the administrative service were, in general, absolutely bound to their employments; they could not choose their wives or marry their daughters outside of the collegia to which they respectively belonged, and they transmitted their obligations to their children… In municipalities the curiales, or the members of the local senates, were bound, with special strictness, to their places and their functions, which often involved large personal expenditure… Their families, too, were bound to remain; they were attached by the law to the collegia or other bodies to which they belonged. The soldier, procured for army by conscription, served as long as his age fitted him for his duties, and their sons were bound to similar service.” (Ingram, p. 75)

311. “In a constitution of Constantine (A.D. 332) the colonus is recognized as permanently attached to the land.

312. If he abandoned his holding, he was brought back and punished; and anyone who received him had not only to restore him but to pay a penalty.

313. He could not marry out of the domain; if he took for wife a colona of another proprietor, she was restored to her original locality, and the offspring of the union were divided between the estates. The children of a colonus were fixed in the same status, and could not quit the property to which they belonged.” (Ingram, p. 78, quoted in Oman, J. C., p. 64).

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