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Sociology of groups in Ancient India 

The whole philosophy of Indian social organization may be summarized in one word, varna-ashrama-dharma, which may be appropriately translated as Social Federalism. This principle of social integration or synthesis was understood as early as the times of the Samhitas in the Vedic age. The Vedic seers realized that the best and surest way of saving society from frequent suicidal chaos was to divide its members into specific groups, with well-defined functions and privileges or rewards for each. 

The first group was that of the Brahmans, the teachers and the priests. They were the custodians of the social and spiritual heritage of the group and were to pass it on to the succeeding generations. They were to preserve the purity of idealism, point the way to the Eternal discovered by them through study and meditation, while their fellowmen were busy with life’s daily tasks which left little leisure. The Brahman was a man of intellect; he came from the mouth of Brahma.   

Watch video - Brahmins in India have become a minority

The second group was that of the Kshatriya. They were men of action. They were the guardians of the race. They were soldiers, sailors, civil servants and legislators. They kept the peace and order within the group and protected it from alien aggression. Theirs was a life of service and sacrifice; they came from the arms of Brahma. 

The third group was that of the Vaishyas, the merchants. They attended to the distribution of the necessities of life. The vaishya was the merchant who made wealth; he was a man of desire. He was born from the thighs of Brahma. 

The fourth and last group was that of the Sudras. The sudra was engaged in producing life’s necessities, food, clothing and shelter, so that the physical organism of the group was kept in good health. On this group of working men depended the physical welfare of the whole community, its industries, its prosperity. This working class was psychologically, a group of undefined aptitudes, un-evolved, men of mechanical temperament, the common men. They came from the feet of Brahma. Look where we will, whether it be a primitive community or a modern nation, its population falls easily into these four categories. According to Manu, there are no other groups. 

Integration of various factors 

This division of men into four types, the teacher, the warrior, the merchant and the laborer, is based on sound psychology, ethics, biology and economics. Some men are intellectually by temperament, some are active, some acquisitive and others undefined, none of these. To each are assigned the task true to its type, in conformity with its inherent temperament, svadharma. All together formed an organic whole. Under an arrangement such as this, there is conservation of social energies; there is no necessity of trial and error method. All are not equally endowed with equal physical and mental capacities, but every one should be given an opportunity for putting to use the faculties with which he has been endowed. Man should be treated as man, and not as an economic hand. Danger of exploitation of one group by another can be eliminated. Social harmony and conscious co-operation were made the chief characteristics of human association. The ideal was to evolve a functional and not an acquisitive society. It is this varna dharma that has been the bulwark of Indian civilization and saved it from wreckage of time. Each group had its duties and its own rewards or compensation. The laborer had to work, but he was to be looked after as a younger member of a family. The man of desire, the vaishya, was to acquire wealth; power and authority was vested in the kshatriya, while all these were to honor the teacher, to obey his religious and spiritual injunctions and accept his guidance. The teacher was to be supported by the gifts of the other three groups. 

It was with the aid of this mechanism that India sought to solve her racial problem. The Aryans did not resort to the short cut of annihilating the primitive people with whom they came into contact as the European races have done whenever they have occupied lands in America, Asia, Africa and Australia, but they gave them a place in their body-politic, assigning to them the task befitting their intelligence and subordinate status. Observant scholars of the West have not failed to notice the spiritual significance of the varna-ashrama-dharma and given it its due praise. 

Writing of this varna-ashrama-dharma, Auguste Comte (1798-1857) the great French sociologist, wrote in his book Système de philosophie positive or Positive Society

“No institution has ever shown itself more adopted to honor, ability to various kinds than this polytheistic organization…In a social view, the virtues of the system are not less conspicuous. Politically, its chief attribute was stability…As to the influence on mortals, this system was favorable to personal morality, and yet more to domestic, for the spirit of caste was a mere extension of the family spirit….As to social morals, the system was evidently favorable to respect for age and homage to ancestors.”

These principles formed the background of the Indian social organization; on them was built a superstructure of social institution, such as education, marriage, family and the state.

It was realized by the Indian sociologists that both the individual and the group could find self-expression and fulfillment only in and through a complex of social institutions, based on dharma, co-operation, mutual aid, integration, synthesis, the vision of the whole. 

Balance, orderly progress of individual and group, harmonious relationship between both, was the ideal aimed at by the Indian sociologist.

(source: India: A synthesis of cultures – by Kewal Motwani p  120 -128).

Caste in India - By John Campbell Oman

If we consider the condition of society in the United States of America – a racial problem surpassing interest presents itself to us.

Four distinct varieties of human kind.

1.    A dominant white population of mixed European races.

2.    Remnants of so-called Red Indian race.

3.    Certain colonies of Chinese and Japanese

4.    A mass of Black descendants of West African imported into the country as slaves, not conquered but kidnapped or else bought with gold, and only emancipated from bondage as recently as 1863.

Here the dominant Whites disallow all matrimonial relations between their women and men of other races more especially the Blacks. To such a degree is this sentiment encouraged that in Southern states of the Union an outrage by Black man on a White woman is generally avenged by death of the Negro Black at the hands of infuriated Whites who rarely suffer any punishment whatever for such lawless acts.

Whites and Blacks even though they belong to the same Christian sect or denominations, do not worship together, they do not attend same school, do not dine together, or even sit at the same tables – do not travel in same cars and are buried in distinct cemeteries.

White men had for centuries formed irregular unions with their Black female slaves, the result being an addition to the slave population of persons of mixed descent.

Yet the treatment of Pariahs of South India have scandalized the so called good Europeans in the past.


British form a distinct caste, the most exclusive and Haughty varna in the land

In India, the British form a distinct caste, the most exclusive and Haughty varna in the land. Though theoretically, Englishman laugh at and condemn caste, they like others are sticklers for it whenever their own interests are concerned and whatever their official utterances may be, Anglo Indians are well pleased that the caste ridden Hindus are what they are.

To members of the ruling race in private life, no one is more distasteful than the denationalized Hindu gentleman, whatever his rank, who, putting aside his caste prejudices, and willing to conform to European social laws and etiquette, would seek to establish intimate friendly relations with the disinterested exiles, who devote their lives to the thankless task of governing and uplifting their Indian fellow subjects.

From a general survey of matter it may be asserted that, carried away by conceit, a dominant race naturally arrogates itself to a fundamental, inherent and permanent superiority and Western science explains such claims by setting up Anthropological stands and studies.

(source:  The Brahmans, theists and Muslims of India. - By John Campbell Oman p. 62 - 70).

Note to Ponder

Failure of Communism, Globalization and Capitalism?

From Rooftops - The West Countries, and So called Christian Missionaries in India claim that Christianity is an Egalitarian Religion - then why this discontent and why are all these protests happening on Wall Street?

Refer to the Occupy Wall street, Occupy Wall Street protests and London Riots 2011 and Violence in Rome 2011 and Dante's Inferno in Italy

Same with The Arab World - Protests are sweeping across the deserts of the Muslim world - the question is Why? - Riots spread across Arab World

Communism (a morally bankrupt idea) - imploded in 1989 with the fall of Soviet Union.

Karl Marx couldn’t comprehend the subtlety of God nor foresee the opiate inhumanity of the bloody, godless religion his philosophy created.

The essential belief that all men are equal—an admirable thought—lies at the heart of communism. Unfortunately, all men are not equal. That is the logic behind religion. Because all men are not equal, they depend on the infinite mercy of god to overcome fate’s travails.

Refer to Political correctness and the refuge of faith – By Ravi Shankar Etteth

Caste system in Europe

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.  

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

Views of John Oman Campbell

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. He wrote in his book, "Caste in India", in Brahmanas, Theists and Muslims of India

"No little amused wonder and supercilious criticism on the part of Europeans has been 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."

"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."
(Oman, J. C.; pp. 63-64).

" 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." (Oman, p. 65)

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.


Edward Alsworth Ross (in his book Principles of Sociology, 1920 Ed.[iii] and 1922 Ed.) gives a detailed description of rigid and strict caste system of Europe, which lasted till the beginning of the nineteenth century.

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."

"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. 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, p. 194, quoted by Ross, 1920, p. 322).[v]

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).

Oman quoted from John Kells Ingram in his book, A History of Slavery and Serfdom, Adam and Charles Black, 1895.

 "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)

"In a constitution of Constantine (A.D. 332) the colonus is recognized as permanently attached to the land. 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. 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).[vi]
Max Weber's Comparison of Hindu Caste and Untouchability with European Hereditary Guilds

Max Weber found that the Vedic Indian society did not have anything like medieval European, or later Indian caste.

"Perhaps the most important gap in the ancient Veda is its lack of any reference to caste.

The (Rig-) Veda refers to the four later caste names in only one place, which is considered a very late passage; nowhere does it refer to the substantive content of the caste order in the meaning which it later assumed and which is characteristic only of Hinduism.

Max Weber was able to find similarities between modern Hindu castes and pre-modern European guilds. He wrote: "In this case, castes are in the same position as merchant and craft guilds, sibs, and all sorts of associations."

Thus a review of works of Oman, Ross, Dill, Ingram and Weber is enough to prove that the caste system existed in Europe throughout most of its history. On the other hand, we find that the caste system has a history of less than 1000 years in India.

(source:  Caste system in Europe).


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