Conflation of social practice and religious theology The caste system, as the western world knows it today, is a social categorization of people which is known to be predominant in India. When we in the west think of caste, derived from the Portuguese description casta in the 15th century, we think of a hierarchical, birth-based classification which discriminates unfairly against the perceived lower groups of people in society. This western stereotype of caste conflates two concepts — jati— based discrimination and varna. Jati is a Sanskrit term which denotes the concept of a birth-based, occupational clan or community.
Caste is today the core symbol of community in India.
First up, any study about India in which the West is involved should be prima facie suspect. But while untouchability is — albeit slowly — making its disappearing act in India, in Colonial perspective of caste in india West racism is growing.
If you look at the glass half full, then 80 per cent of Indians do not practice untouchability whereas in the US, nine in 10 people are explicitly racist, as per an Associated Press poll. In some places like Kerala, untouchability was created by Brahmins at a much, much later age, but in most parts of the country, foreign invasions played a catalytic role in altering society.
What used to be a constantly changing and evolving system of social interaction became fixed in its hierarchy. We can thank the British for this. Of all the foreign elements that entered India, the British were the most malignant virus to infect it.
It kicked off the process of caste inflexibility.
The Islamic invasions can be compared with the entry of a virus in the human body — growth and repair functions stop and all the energies are directed towards fighting and expelling the foreign cells. As Hindus fought for over years to save their country from Islam, the caste cauldron stopped churning.
But by and large, Islamic rulers — who found it difficult to parse the caste system — did not attempt to meddle in Indian society. The primary reason was the furious Hindu resistance against Islamic rule.
While every ancient country capitulated before the forces of Mohammed, India alone resisted. For instance, it was after more than years of resounding defeats that the Arabs were able to finally get a foothold in India, in Sindh in CE.
This pattern persisted during much of Islamic rule. Realising it was futile for them to try and convert Hindus by force, Muslim rulers were content to impose their oppressive taxes, and life in India continued more or less as before.
Dirks, Chancellor of the University of California, has conducted an exhaustive study of how the British transformed Indian society for the worse. What we take now as caste is, in fact, the precipitate of a history that selected caste as the single and systematic category to name, and thereby contain, the Indian social order…In pre-colonial India, the units of social identity had been multiple, and their respective relations and trajectories were part of a complex, conjunctural, constantly changing, political world.
The referents of social identity were not only heterogeneous; they were also determined by context. Caste was just one category among many others, one way of organising and representing identity. Srinivas explains in Castes in Modern India: But there was a problem.
The orthodox Brahmins were not ready to accept Shivaji as a Kshatriya. They argued that according to the shastras holy texts only a Kshatriya could be coronated.
However, the powerful Shivaji was not ready to accept this argument of the pundits. He sent a delegation to various Brahmin centres which finally met the liberal Bishweshwar Bhatt of Kashi.
Bhatt, who had immense knowledge of Vedas, Puranas, Smriti and politics, issued a certificate that Shivaji was indeed a Kshatriya.
In Shivaji was crowned emperor. Even then, at the coronation ceremony, the Maratha Brahmins flew into a rage, saying: Now there is no upper caste except the Brahmin. Like the Mauryas and Marathas, there are other examples of Hindu dynasties that came from the lower castes — the powerful Cholas, Hoysalas, Chalukyas and the Rayas of Vijayanagar.
Two well-known castes that go against the grain of caste are the Lingayats of Karnataka and Nairs of Kerala.
The Lingayats, who claim equality with, if not superiority to, Brahmins, have priests of their own caste who also minister to several other non-Brahmin castes.
InEnglish Orientalist Henry Colebrooke wrote: Nebulousness as to position is of the essence of the system in operation as distinct from the system in conception….
A point that has emerged from recent field-research is that the position of a caste in the hierarchy may vary from village to village.perspective in India and why the caste system is accepted on an individual level. One of the most interesting parts in this book is the fact that it explains the various languages of India and how these languages include words that dominantly allude.
The Sexual Life of English: Languages of Caste and Desire in Colonial India (Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies) Edition Unstated Edition. from a postcolonial feminist perspective, turns the way we conceive of the language of the colonizer, in effect, inside out.” Reviews: 1.
The caste system in India is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste. It has origins in ancient India, and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and, modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj.
Colonial India was the part of the Indian subcontinent which was under the jurisdiction of European colonial powers, during the Age of Discovery. European power was exerted both by conquest and trade, especially in spices. caste is explicitly banned by Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, strong many historians point to the British colonial period as a key turning point in changing caste sentiment among Indians.
Much caste division and India in which the “peaceful and orderly polity” was anchored in the caste. Srinivas had commented on the plasticity of caste and its ability to survive the process of urbanization and the introduction of new technology in India by the British colonial rulers during the late 19th century.