Vast literature on Caste system in India Essay Example
Vast literature on Caste system in India Essay Example

Vast literature on Caste system in India Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1724 words)
  • Published: August 28, 2017
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In this chapter, the focus is on exploring different literature related to the caste system that dominates Indian society. Various writers might have differing opinions on this subject matter. Louis Dumont's book Homo Hierarchicus (1980) explains that hierarchy in Indian society is based on the relationship between purity and impurity, which is a religious concept rather than political or economic. He defines hierarchy as a means of ranking elements in relation to the whole. Dumont highlights traditional hierarchy based on four classes known as 'varnas': Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras - excluding Harijans from these categories.

Another author M.N.Srinivas (1962), in his book Caste in Modern India and Other Essays, emphasizes the role of caste within modern India's democratic process in education and administration. The author encountered conflicting attitudes regarding caste amongst elect groups; one group ad


vocated for statute law to eradicate societal immorality such as caste discrimination while another not only refused to fight against it but also practiced it themselves. The author aimed to explain two societal processes: Sanskritization and Westernization - where Sanskritization refers to social mobility within the caste framework while Westernization occurs outside of it.Despite the potential decline in caste popularity among neighbors and possible harassment of lower castes by upper or dominant caste leaders, measures such as reservations and safeguards for Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes have aided in uplifting lower castes in independent India. The author also acknowledges the impact of British rule on the caste system, which helped weaken the power previously held by the caste panchayets. Although British rule introduced a new rule of justice stating that all individuals are equal before the law regardless of thei

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caste, this principle is not always fully implemented in rural areas where caste panchayets still hold significant influence. Despite its flaws, the Varna system has provided an easily understood framework for comprehending caste throughout India. While only a minority perceives caste as harmful to society as a whole, this viewpoint is gradually gaining traction among urbanized youth living in rural areas. At its core, people must recognize that caste inevitably leads to discrimination and that any benefits it may provide come at a heavy cost to society.In her book "Caste Today," Taya Zinkin (1962) delves into the intricacies of India's caste system, exploring its origins and relationship with democracy. The author argues that caste cannot be easily categorized as each caste comprises individuals of varying education levels, wealth, and social status. Furthermore, skin color does not determine one's caste; a Brahmin with dark skin remains a Brahmin while an untouchable with fair skin remains untouchable. Although some literature may present alternative beliefs, the author posits that caste is a way of life that divides society into distinct groups living differently from one another. These groups hold significant power over aspects such as marriage due to their societal position and re-embodiment concept combining birth-determined status with past actions' rebirth idea integral to understanding the caste system. Overall, the complex nature of the Indian castes involves numerous sub-castes and levels of untouchability. Additionally, Zinkin notes Untouchables typically have later marriages than Brahmans who arrange early marriages for their children. She also highlights Hindu society's loss of belief and changing attitudes among different castes/sub-castes due to rural area education spreading awakening new perspectives/non-Brahmanical leadership. Ultimately, according to Zinkin

(1962), it is crucial to understand what caste is not rather than what it is - challenging preconceptions about this pervasive societal construct in India.Marc Galanter's (1963) article, "Law and Caste in Modern India," explores the relationship between caste and laws during British rule. The concept of re-embodiment sheds light on the birth and rebirth cycle within the caste system. Galanter explains how legal regulations impact the caste system as an institution, covering personal law, caste liberty, and disabilities. Personal rights and duties are determined by one's caste identity. During British rule, castes were only used for legal purposes. All castes were given equal rights and responsibilities regardless of rank but customs differed in matters such as inheritance, acceptance, and marriage. Inter-caste or inter-varna marriages faced restrictions while courts imposed limitations such as not allowing certain castes to enter temples. The British aided in reducing caste discrimination but also caused its exacerbation.In independent India today higher castes no longer hold dominance over legal affairs; lower caste groups have gained government benefits towards equality reducing discrimination based on social ranking significantly overall throughout society.Marc Galanter (1963) characterizes the legal effects of caste during the British period as a period of "Sanskritization." Despite India's democratic government, constitution, anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action programs, and economic liberalization initiatives, Smitha Narula's 2008 article "Equal by Law, Unequal by Caste: The 'Untouchable' Condition in Critical Race Perspective" argues that caste-based oppression continues to exist. Narula focuses on how gender and caste discrimination affect the Dalits or "Untouchables" in India. Dr. Santosh Singh Anant's 1972 work "The Changing Concept of Caste in India" delves into the psychological aspects of caste and untouchability.

He introduces the theory of 'status consistence,' which measures an individual's rank on a hierarchical scale; status inconsistency would occur if a Brahmin worked as a laborer while someone from a lower caste held an executive position. Although education has spread throughout India since its inception over 1500 years ago when Aryans arrived from Central Asia, the caste system persists today.
According to Nehru's hypothesis, Aryans viewed Dravidians - who were more advanced in civilization - as potential threats leading to their forced inferiority and creating the modern-day caste system.The caste discrimination in India has been reduced due to factors such as education, industrialization, and mobility. Murkot Ramunny's book, Sree Narayana Guru the Ascetic Who Changed the 'Lunatic Asylum' into God's Own State, depicts the life of a philosopher and reformist who contributed greatly to uplifting lower castes in Kerala. Through his selfless service, Narayana Guru helped millions of underprivileged people gain access to education and freedom of worship, leading to Kerala achieving a 100% literacy rate compared to other Indian states. Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by Guru's efforts during a visit to uplift Harijans (Untouchables), which led him to promote his slogan "One caste, one faith, one God for man." Despite having left caste and religion years ago, some individuals still claim that he belongs to their community; however, Guru clarifies that he belongs to no caste or faith and only those who do not identify with any should follow him. This literature has helped bring awareness about Kerala's caste system. However, according to Harsh Mandir's Burning Baskets of Shame article from August 9th, 2010 (pp.3), there are still incidents of manual scavenging - around

6.4 lakhs according to Planning Commission data from 1995.The Safai Karmchari Andolan is a non-violent mass resistance movement that began due to its founder's personal experience with the practice of Untouchability, having grown up in a scavenging family. Harsh Mandir highlights this as the first attempt in India to end such discrimination, but it is important to recognize that other efforts have been made across different regions and periods. Madhudvisa Dasa explains the caste system according to ancient texts like The Bhagavad Gita, where castes are based on qualities (Guna) and work (Karma), rather than birth. However, presently people consider those born into Brahmin households as Brahmins despite their lack of relevant qualities. While karma determines rebirth, proper training is necessary to become a Brahmin instead of automatic conferment at birth as believed today. In UNESCO Courier (2001), Gopal Guru and Shiraz Sidhva criticize India's oppressive caste system that subjects millions to poverty and human rights abuses still persisting today despite statutory laws aimed towards change; however attitudes are slow to evolve.The upper caste has utilized the caste system to oppress the lower caste, ensuring that they maintain control over wealth, knowledge, power and education. The Harijan group had to announce their arrival with a drumbeat so as not to pollute the upper caste due to discrimination being widespread. Despite abolishing the term 'untouchables' under India's Constitution in 1950, discrimination still persists. To minimize this issue, the Indian government has reserved quotas for lower castes in public sector employment and education. An article published by 'The Economist' highlights these efforts while also discussing the controversy surrounding including the caste system in the upcoming census; it

hasn't been done since 1931 due to India's complex caste system presenting challenges for accurate counts because there are various sub-castes that may not be recognized by the government beyond the four Varnas. However, despite obstacles, economic growth has contributed significantly to reducing discrimination based on one's castes. Many Indians are now more accepting of inter-caste marriages although limitations and societal pressure remain surrounding such unions. The article titled "Untouchables and Unthinkable;Indian Business" commends Indian businesses for not discriminating against lower castes while criticizing reservation practices in private sectors.The article argues that the responsibility of promoting lower castes falls upon authorities and their educational systems, refuting claims of discrimination in businesses. The Economist (2007.pp17) highlights that unlike businesses, educational systems cannot have reserves. As individuals become wealthier, they tend to care less about caste. Middle-class Indian households are more likely to intermarry with other castes and not discriminate against Dalits compared to rural and poor areas. Harold A. Gould's study in 1963 found that while technological advancements and social structural changes have occurred in rural areas, caste still exists through ritual purity, business, and hierarchy. Although the caste system persists among educated middle-class urban households, it has diminished over time. Given its deep-rooted influence on Indian society spanning ages according to various reliable sources, it is impossible to envision an India without some aspect of the caste system. The Westerners are fascinated by this system which encompasses two ideologies: whether or not it holds significance when within the same state and people.The Economist articles cited discuss reservations and quotas based on caste rather than discrimination based on occupation or ritual purity.Despite assumptions that the caste

system in Indian society has vanished, it is still acknowledged by educated Indians who are uncertain and troubled about its implications within a modern world. According to Fuller.C.J (1996) in "Caste Today" (pp153), defining and understanding the meaning and significance of caste in contemporary India remains a challenge without a clear or definitive answer.

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