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The Caste System or varna-ashrama has been one of the most misrepresented, misinformed, misunderstood, misused and the most maligned aspects of Hinduism. If one wants to understand the truth, the original purpose behind the caste system, one must go to antiquity to study the evolution of the caste system. Caste System, which is said to be the mainstay of the Hindu social order, has no sanction in the Vedas. The ancient culture of India was based upon a system of social diversification according to SPIRITUAL development,  not by birth, but by his karma. This system became hereditary and over the course of many centuries degenerated as a result of exploitation by some priests, and other socio-economic elements of society.

However, as Alain Danielou, son of French aristocracy, author of numerous books on philosophy, religion, history and arts of India, says: "Caste system has enabled Hindu civilization to survive all invasions and to develop without revolutions or important changes, throughout more than four millennia, with a continuity that is unique in history. Caste system may appear rigid to our eyes because for more than a thousand years Hindu society withdrew itself from successive domination by Muslims and Europeans. Yet, the greatest poets and the most venerated saints  such as Sura Dasa, Kabir, Tukaram, Thiruvalluvar
and Ram Dasa; came from the humblest class of society."  In the words of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, " In spite of the divisions, there is an inner cohesion among the Hindu society from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin."

Caste system has been exploited against the Hindus, for the last two centuries by the British, Christian Missionaries, Secular historians, Communists, Muslims, Pre and Post-Independence Indian politicians and Journalists for their own ends. One way to discredit any system is to highlight its excesses, and this only adds to the sense of inferiority that many Indians feel about their own culture. Caste system is often portrayed as the ultimate horror, in the media, yet social inequities continue to persist in theoretically Egalitarian Western Societies. The Caste system is judged offensive by the Western norms, yet racial groups have been isolated, crowded into reserves like the American Indians or Australian Aborigines, where they can only atrophy and disappear. 

This chapter is not a justification of the abuse of caste system, rather it is a collection of interesting information. Caste system has enabled Hindu civilization to survive all invasions and made Indian society stronger. Caste system served a purpose, performed certain functions, and met the needs appropriate to the times in history. India's caste norms may once have had a rationale; but the norms are outlived today. Caste system is not stagnant and is undergoing changes under the impact of modernization. Caste system should undergo reforms in the social arena so that unjustified discrimination and abuse is eliminated.

The caste system was never a tenet of the Hindu faith. 

"The universe is the outpouring of the majesty of God, the auspicious one, radiant love. Every face you see belongs to Him. He is present in everyone without exception."    - says the  Yajur Veda.

"The Lord (The Divine) is enshrined in the hearts of all."  - says the Isha Upanishad 1 -1.  

The Upanishads which are a pure, lofty, heady distillation of spiritual wisdom which come to us from the very dawn of time tell us:  

"Reality (God) is our real Self, so that each of us is one with the power that created and sustains the universe." 

In Sanskrit, Tat tvam asi,  “You are That.”

"In the depths of meditation, sages (rishis)
Saw within themselves the Lord of Love,
Who dwells in the heart of every creature."

                             - says the  Shvetashvatara Upanishad. 1 - 3.


Lord Krsna expounds the unique philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna.

"I am the Self seated in the heart of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the very end of all beings".  

The Bhagavad Gita has influenced great Americans from Henry David Thoreau to J R Oppenheimer.

Listen to The Bhagavad Gita podcast - By Michael Scherer -

Watch Scientific verification of Vedic knowledge


In The Bhagawad Gita, sloka 20, Chapter 10, Lord Krishna says, 

"I am the Self seated in the heart of all creatures. I am the beginning, the middle and the very end of all beings".  All beings have, therefore to be treated alike. "

Again in the Bhagawad Gita, sloka 29, Chapter 9, Lord Krishna says, 

 I look upon all creatures equally; none are less dear to me and none more dear. But those who worship me with love live in me, and I come to life in them.   

Lord Krishna as saying, in response to the question— "How is Varna (social order) determined?"

"Birth is not the cause, my friend; it is virtues which are the cause of auspiciousness. Even a chandala (lower caste) observing the vow is considered a Brahman by the gods."

“The four fold division of castes’  “was created by me according to the apportionment of qualities and duties.” “Not birth, not sacrament, not learning, make one dvija (twice-born), but righteous conduct alone causes it.” “Be he a Sudra or a member of any other class, says the Lord in the same epic, “he that serves as a raft on a raftless current , or helps to ford the unfordable, deserves respect in everyway.”

For the rest of the chapter refer click on the links below:

A Comprehensive Look: Pro and Cons of The Caste System
Sociology of groups in Ancient India 
Discrimination in Western societies
Mahatma Gandhi and Louis Dumont  
No Religious Sanction in Hindu Scriptures

Degeneration of the Caste System

Manu Smrti: Not a Religious Book
Exploitation of Caste by Christian Missionaries
The Anglo-Indians, Pondycherians and Harijan/Dalit Converts
Abrahamic Super Caste System
Christian and Poor Countries
Gandhi and Brahmins


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Updated - October 28, 2008