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The caste system

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It is a fact that more than 70 per cent of the ancient Hindu Rishis, or enlightened masters of India, belonged to the lower castes.


Valmiki and Vyasa , who wrote the epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha respectively, belonged to the lower castes.

In ancient times , one's caste was determined by one's temperament, talents and inclinations. Caste was not a barrier to the lower caste people, who rose to the level of the upper castes through their talents.

This was the reason why Kshatriyas like the Buddha and Vishwamitra , became Brahmins or men of spiritual nature and why a Brahmin like Parashurama became a Kshatriya.

This is also the reason why shudras or low caste people like Valmiki , Vyasa, Vasishtha, Narada, Drona, Karna ,Thiruvalluvar were raised to the position of a Brahmin or Kshatriya , in virtue or their superior learning or valour.

Much more of this information can be found in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's book "Heritage of the dalits".

Shankaracharya and others , were the great caste-makers. They would sometimes get hordes of Baluchis and at once make them Kshatriyas, and also get hordes of fishermen and make them Brahmins forthwith.

It was with the advent of the foreign invasions in India, that the caste system became rigid, and migration of people to different castes were stopped.

Even then, enlightened masters from the lower castes such as Kabir, Ravi Das, Sri Narayana guru were revered by the upper castes as well.

When India gained independence due to the efforts of Hindus like Gandhi, perfect equality was thrust upon the masses of India , no matter to what caste one belonged to, thus reestablishing and continuing the ancient tradition of India.

Even the constitution of independent India , was created by a Dalit called B.R.Ambedkar.

It will take some time for the deadweight of tradition of the rigid caste system to be removed from India. But as enlightened Hinduism and Buddhism, as preached by Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others are reaching the masses, slowly these shackles are being dissolved .

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  • 9 months later...

In the manu smriti , when it comes to stance of hereditary caste system, the verse below is believed to sanction support for vocational non-hereditary caste system.


"As the son of Shudra can attain the rank of a Brahmin, the son of Brahmin can attain rank of a shudra. Even so with him who is born of a Vaishya or a Kshatriya" (X: 65)



Paramahansa Yogananda also opposed what he called to the un-Vedic caste system as we know it today. He taught that the caste system originated in a higher age, but became degraded through ignorance and self-interest. Yogananda said:



"These were (originally) symbolic designations of the stages of spiritual refinement. They were not intended as social categories. And they were not intended to be hereditary. Things changed as the yugas [cycles of time] descended toward mental darkness. People in the higher castes wanted to make sure their children were accepted as members of their own caste. Thus, ego-identification caused them to freeze the ancient classifications into what is called the ‘caste system.’ Such was not the original intention. In obvious fact, however, the offspring of a brahmin may be a sudra by nature. And a peasant, sometimes, is a real saint.”"

—from Conversations with Yogananda, Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2003.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Varnas -The four classes of society/The Original Caste System

Hindu society has traditionally been divided into four classes, based on profession:

the Brāhmanas (also anglicised as Brahmins): teachers and priests;

the Kshatriyas: warriors, kings and administrators;

the Vaishyas: farmers, merchants, herdsmen and businessmen; and

the Shūdras: servants and labourers.

Each of these classes was called a varna, and the system was called Varna Vyavasthā. Some say it is debatable whether the Varna Vyavasthā system is an integral part of Hinduism or not and whether or not it is strictly sanctioned by the scriptures. The Shruti texts make very rare mentions of this system, without providing explicit definitions. But the Bhagavad Gītā (4.13) explicitly mentions that the four varna divisions are created by Bhagavān, the Supreme Lord. And the Smriti texts (including the Manusmriti) are more explicit in their categorisation of the classes and framing rather strict rules about this system. During its early development, the social structure was based upon the profession. The Gītā (4.13) explicitly says that one's varna is to be understood from one's qualities and one's work, not one's birth. It is noteworthy that many great sages became Brahmins. Vishvāmitra was a Kshatriya king before he became recognized as a great Brahmin sage. Vālmiki, once a robber, became a great sage while Veda Vyāsa was the son of a fisherwoman. A hymn from the Rig Veda says :

"I am a bard, my father is a physician, my mother's job is to grind the corn......"

(Rig Veda 9.112.3).

Though historians do not agree on the specific period, the social system later became hierarchical and based upon birth, leading to the evolution of several sub-castes (along with a class of outcastes — now known as Dalits — outside the Varna Vyavasthā) and the practice of social discrimination of the Shūdra and Dalit classes, eventually forming the caste system as we know of today.



The religious institution of Varna-ashrama Dharma is followed in most Vaishnava Sects of Hinduism. Varna is simply an occupational structure for society. In varna there are four tiers Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras. All are important for a functioning society. You determine your varna by your skills and ability. Not by birth or race.


Brahmins are all religious clergy, gurus, saints, sadhus and the intellectual class(anyone with a Ph.D or graduates degree) etc......Kshatriya are the politicians, officers, soldiers etc....Vaishya are the business men, farmers, artists/painters/photographers etc... Shudras are the working class people to poor people. Those are the only four stations in varna ashrama dharma, there is nothing higher or lower. Whether a society labels these position the same or not , they still exist. Every functioning society must have these positions. In hinduism being in one of these stations doesn't carry any negative connotations. It's just something that exist. It's not race based or birth based, it's based on your skill/ability. That's not only fair it's practical, IMO.


In Hinduism there is no Caste, but there is Varna, which is very different system. There is more mobility and evolution with varna ashrama dharma then there is with the static cultural implementation of caste system, which evolved from varna. But it's not the same system.




British Empire: Articles: Britain and the Indian Caste System


<!-- BEGIN TEMPLATE: bbcode_quote -->


<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=6 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD style="BORDER-RIGHT: #666666 1px solid; PADDING-RIGHT: 3ex; BORDER-TOP: #666666 1px solid; PADDING-LEFT: 3ex; BORDER-LEFT: #666666 1px solid; BORDER-BOTTOM: #666666 1px solid" bgColor=#e0e0e0>The word caste is not a word that is indigenous to India. It originates in the Portuguese word casta which means race,breed, race or lineage. However, during the 19th century, the term caste increasingly took on the connotations of the word race. Thus, from the very beginning of western contact with the subcontinent European constructions have been imposed on Indian systems and institutions. </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

<!-- END TEMPLATE: bbcode_quote -->

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