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Manu Smrti: Not a Religious Book:
Seniority of Brahmanas is from Sacred Knowledge,
that of Kshatriyas from
valour, that of Vaisyas from wealth
in grain, but that of Sudras is from
Smriti II, 155)
has declared that those Brahmanas who are thieves, outcasts, eunuchs,
or atheists are unworthy to partake of oblations offered to gods and
Smriti III, 150)
A Brahmin who departs from the Rule of Noble Conduct,
does not gain the fruit described in the Veda,
but he who duly follows the Rule of Noble Conduct, will obtain the full reward."
He who possesses faith may receive pure learning even from a man of lower caste,
the highest law even from the lowest, and
an excellent wife even from a base family."
Smriti II, 238)
Manu Smrti which outlines the scheme of the four varnas (socio-economic classes)
and four ashramas (stages of life of the individual) refuses a provide for the
fifth varna. The four classes are adequate to cover all the sections of the
society. Manu Smrti is a sociological treatise and not a religious or
theological work. It has never been held on par with the Vedas and has never
been claimed to be a Holy Book whose authority is unquestionable. Manu Smrti
does not deal with the Absolute, a field specialized in by the Upanishads. Manu
Smrti is as this-worldly as the Arthasastra is. Manu
was also only a Codifier (Documenter of the then-existing codes) of the Caste System and was not to be interpreted as the creator
of the Caste System.
the British administrators and jurists who dominated the scene since 1757 found
it expedient for their purposes to present it as a religious code binding all
the Hindus. The original text of Manu Smrti has been tampered with is
acknowledged by Sir William Jones who introduced it as the law book of the
Hindus, as he agrees that ' it is accommodated to the improvements of a
commercial age'. The extant text of Manu Smrti is a doctored version, doctored
to benefit the commercial class of Britain which had sponsored the East India
Company, the company for which he was serving as a judge at Calcutta."
of Hindu Social System - By V. Nagarajan ISBN 81-7192-017-9
Varnashrama Dharma, said to be the
mainstay of the Hindu Social Order has no sanction in the Vedas.
In ancient India, these divisions were not based on birth but based on
qualifications. According to the Bhagavad Gita this Aryan family system broke
down in India over three thousand years ago at the time of Krishna. Hence after
three thousand years this system of determining natural aptitude has degenerated
into the caste system which resembles it now only in form.
made it clear that superiority is not by birth but by Conduct. This
Principle was further emphasized later by Maharishi Veda Vyasa in Mahabharata. Manu
himself says that if there is anything in his Smriti which is not acceptable to
the conscience of any person, that person should reject it and act according to
his/her own conscience.
choosing your course of conduct at any time and place, keep in view the
instructions given first in Sruti (Vedas), then in Smritis, Itihaas (History of
great personalities) and finally you act according to your
(Manu Smriti, 11, 6).
as a wooden toy elephant cannot be real elephant, and a stuffed deer cannot be a
real deer, so, without studying scriptures and the Vedas and the development of
intellect, a Brahmin by birth cannot be considered a Brahmin. "
- Manu Smriti 11 -
Louis Francois Jacolliot
(1837-1890), who worked in French India as a government official
and was at one time President of the Court in Chandranagar,
translated numerous Vedic hymns, the Manusmriti,
and the Tamil work, Kural.
His masterpiece, La
Bible dans l'Inde, stirred a storm of controversy.
– Hindoo Law
Hindoo law were codified by Manu more than 3,000 years before the
Christian era, copied by entire antiquity and notably by Rome,
which alone has left us a written law – the code of Justanian,
which has been adopted as the base of all modern legislations.
enpassant, this striking coincidence with French law, that the
Hindoo wife, in default of her husband’s authority may release
from her incapacity, by authority of justice. “
made by a man who is drunk, foolish, imbecile or grievously
disordered in his mental condition….” Manu further adds –
“What is held under comprehension – held by force is declared
not this be thought a mere commentary on the Code of Napoleon?
Of 4-5,000 years after “How far is all this from those barbarous
customs of first ages, when every question was solved by violence
and force, and what admiration should we feel for a people who, at
the epoch at which Biblical fall would date the world’s
creation, had already reached the extraordinary degree of
civilization indicated by laws so simple and so practical.”
Bible dans l'Inde - By Louis
40 - 45). For more on Louis Jacolliot refer to Quotes61-80).
Caste system and Code of
Hindus have been an intensely practical people.
The magnificence of daring glimpses into the cosmos as their meditations
or scientific investigations revealed to them, convinced them beyond doubt that
the complexity of earthly existence could be reduced to some order and the march
of human progress subjected to some form of control. They embraced in their
researches such subjects as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine,
ethics, logic, psychology, aesthetics, politics, economics, sociology, and
metaphysics. Indeed, in sociology alone, they have left
us over twenty treatises; and the Code of Manu, the subject of the
present study, is only one of them.
Manu, Manas, manava, all have
the same philological root, man, to think. Manu’s Code, therefore, is a
treatise of social relations for human beings. (Manava-dharma-shastra). It lays
emphasis on reason, the thinking faculty (manas), in the ordering
of man’s social relations. It stands for a planned society.
Manu’s social theory is an art of life; it is a technique, not mere congeries
of consistent concepts.
An individual’s life is
divided into four parts – 1. studentship, 2 householding 3. partial retirement
or hermitage, 4. and complete retirement. Correspondingly, there are four
groups: 1. the manual worker, 2. the merchant, 3. the warrior , and 4. the
teacher. A unity of function ties each stage of individual life to the
corresponding group. This unity, which lays emphasis on harmonious relations, is
the dharma, or the ethics of Manu. There are thus presented four social
institutions: 1. the educational, 2. the family-economic, 3. the political, 4.
and the religious.
Manu: A Study in Hindu Social Theory - by Kewal Motwani
p. 2 – 5).
"The Hindus assert that
their social formula meets the requirements of man’s individual and collective
nature. The fact that the Hindu civilization has been
able to survive over thousand of years, despite disorders caused by invasions,
schisms, and internal wars, and has been capable of constant renewal, as
demonstrated by one brilliant period after another, merits all our attention in
the study of a social system whose longevity is unique in history."
Success, Pleasure, & Liberation : The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of
Ancient India - Alain Danielou p.
Invasion Theory and Caste system
visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new
liberalism in France, writes:
Invasion theory has today become the standard explanation for the caste system,
though it came up only in the 19th century. Besides, all we have to attest the
Aryan invasion is a specious interpretation of the Mahabharata, which is like
searching the origins of European aristocracy in the works of Homer! In any
case, it is doubtful whether a single invasion, which was more likely a slow
infiltration of the North, could have succeeded in structuring so perfectly
Indian society along ethnic lines for over three thousand years. Finally, in
South India the caste system among the dark, skinned Dravidians is as rigid as
it is in the North, though the Aryans in all probability never reached
racial origin of caste hypothesis tells us little about India but it does tell
us a great deal about the 19th century Westerners who invented the Aryan
invasion theory. It was at the same
time that Sieyes and Augustin Thierry claimed that the French nobility was of
Germanic stock, whereas the lower classes were of Gallic origin; so the 1789
Revolution was a race war rather than a class war! It
was also in the 19th century that appeared the myth of the Indo-Europeans being
at the source of all Western civilization and for this we have to thank British
authors who were taken up with evolutionist theory. Indian historians trained in
Europe have fallen victim to this myth but that does not make it any more
authentic. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, it became fashionable
to support the Marxist theory which replaced race with class, though its
premises were just as shaky."
Genius of India - By Guy Sorman ('Le Genie de l'Inde')
Macmillan India Ltd. 2001. ISBN 0333 93600 0 p.
Indian caste system is a western construct, says scholar at ICHR lecture
said that the caste system was only a "grand assumption", as there is ambiguity
about the origins of such a system in India.
India has castes, but not a caste system. The latter is only a western
construct, which helped Europeans come to terms with their experience of Indian
culture and society, Dr Prakash Shah told his audience at the Indian Council of
Historical Research (ICHR) on Wednesday.
questioning of the existence of a caste system in India was part of a lecture
series organised by ICHR, which is the apex body for funding historical research
in the country.
a reader of culture and law at Queen Mary University of London, said the caste
system and the rules of hierarchy, endogamy, ritual purity and untouchability
associated with it were only a “grand assumption”, as there is ambiguity about
the origins of such a system in India. His lecture was based on his upcoming
book ‘Western Foundation of Caste System’, which he has co-edited with three
cannot say with clarity what a caste system is and, certainly, we cannot say
with any clarity what the Indian caste system is. We also don’t know whether
these (ritual purity, endogamy, untouchability, etc) are constituent elements or
the consequences of the caste system. For example, violence. Do I need to say
that violence is an integral element of the caste system or is it an outcome of
something that already exists?” he asked his audience.
Indians, he further said, accepted the colonial theory of caste system, which
was questioned even by European scholars in the 19th century. “In the 19th
century even European scholars were disagreeing about even the possibility that
a pan-Indian caste system could ever had arisen… With such a diversity in
cultures and languages, how is it possible that a single alleged priestly class
could exercise its influence over the length and breadth of the subcontinent to
such a degree that it could introduce a singular caste system throughout this
culture? They used to ask that question with a great deal of seriousness. But
today we the existence of a pan-Indian caste system for granted.”
another argument to bolster his case for the absence of caste system in India,
Shah said that Buddhism and Bhakti movements were not anti-caste movements.
“There is one sutra that talks about the Buddha and this discussion he is having
on what does it require to be a true Brahmin. When you examine that you realise
that this (Buddhism) is not an anti-caste thing at all. Actually the discussion
in the ancient days was about who is a true Brahmin. It’s not about
destabilising some kind of idea of caste or the caste system that may have
existed at that time at all. So we can’t reduce the Buddha as an exemplary
Referring to a chapter on caste violence in his book, Shah questioned the idea
of oppression that is associated with the caste system. He claimed that official
data on caste-related violence in the country showed the proportion of SCs and
STs who experience atrocities (against each other or by members of another
group) is disproportionately less than the violence experienced by members of
asked how he would explain the violence or discrimination directed at Dalits if
there is no caste system in India, he said, “I am not neglecting or dismissing
claims that there are injustices in Indian society… Don’t all societies have
injustices? Let’s go and research them. But let’s not assume that the caste
system is a necessary explanation for the kinds of ills we see.”
Indians who believe in the caste system, he said, “I would say that is part of
the acceptance of the colonial story. (SN) Balagangadhara (of Ghent University,
Belgium) describes it as a form of colonial consciousness which underwrites the
claim of immorality. We generally accept that. It’s not an inferiority complex.
Because the European cultural claims about the Indian
society are essentially normative in nature, they are bound to put Indians in an
inferior moral position. They also put the westerners in a morally superior
position. That’s part and parcel of the baggage that we’ve been made to accept
since colonial period. We have accepted this story because of the force of the
Indian caste system is a western construct, says scholar at ICHR lecture).
Of India’s ‘Invention’ Of The Caste System And Its Constant Battle Against It
When writer and historian
spoke about the Indian ‘caste system’ at London School of Economics (LSE) last
week, Isaac Asimov, that venerable old doctor of science fiction, had been dead
for twenty five years. Had he been alive, Asimov would perhaps have been quick
to point out the need to avoid such extraordinary
At LSE, Guha said, “Caste system is the most rigorous, most diabolical system of
social stratification ever invented by humans, and we, Hindus, invented it.”
Really? Did ‘Hindus’ invent the caste system? And is the Indian caste system
“the most rigorous, most diabolical system of social stratification”?
A science-fiction short story that is over half a century old may be a strange
place to look for a rebuttal to Guha’s pompous declaration, but it is apt. Strikebreaker,
in 1957, deals with a future human society in a different planet where the
practice of untouchability has arisen and an untouchable rebels against the
system’s injustice, thereby throwing the small planet into a mighty crisis. A
sociologist from Earth, who finds himself in the midst of the expanding crisis,
reminisces about untouchability in his planet’s hoary past: “Lamorak thought of
the Untouchables in ancient India, the ones who handled corpses. He thought of
the position of swineherds in ancient Judea.”
With this one sentence, Asimov creates a crack in the
attribution of caste as a unique institution invented by Hindus.
Historian Kathy Stuart, who studies social stratification in pre-modern Europe,
says that throughout the so-called
“people belonging to the dishonorable trades suffered various forms of social,
economic, legal and political discrimination on a graduated scale of dishonor at
the hands of "honorable" guild artisans and in "honorable" society at large.”
The dishonourable professions were that of executioners and skinners. People who
carried out such jobs “might be pelted with stones by onlookers, they might be
refused access to taverns, excluded from public baths, or denied honorable
burial.” Stuart also states that the “dishonor was transmitted through heredity,
often over several generations...” (Defiled
Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany,
Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Traditional social stratification in the West was steeply pyramidal and
seven-fold (as against India’s Varna system, which is four-fold).
The entry under ‘Labour’ in A
Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature (1840)
states that in Christian lands until nineteenth century, “the hereditary hewers
of wood and drawers of water” were considered “doomed by Providence, if not
primarily by the Creator himself, to a low and degrading yoke, and utterly
incapable of entertaining lofty sentiments or rising to a higher position; to be
restrained therefore in every manifestation of impatience, lest they should
temporarily gain the upper-hand and lay waste the fair fields of civilization;
and to be kept under for the safety of the society, if not for their own safety,
by social burdens and depressing influences of disregard and contempt.”
In other words, the birth-based multi-layered institutions of pre-modern Europe
were supported by Christian theologians and lawmakers. This does not make
Christianity, in the eyes of modern scholars, a supporter or inventor of a
However, with Hinduism, a different yardstick is used.
Interestingly, the nineteenth-century writer of that entry compares serfs and
slaves with the pariahs. But as leaders of the scheduled communities have
repeatedly pointed out, Paraiyars (anglicised as Pariah) enjoyed great
privileges and ritual respects in Hindu society, most probably till the advent
of colonial times. Sure, there were social upheavals in which communities were
tossed from greater positions in society to lower ones and vice versa. But, in
the Indian context, the communities’ share of power and resources were largely
more democratic than diabolically oppressive as Guha claims.
So while colonialists both justified and later opposed jāthi, seeing it
through the lens of their pyramidal social stratification, it is the horizontal
distribution of both sacred and secular power among all sections of society that
distinguishes Hindu Varna-Jāthi system from its Western counterpart. Hindus, in
fact, invented the Varna system. It provided a worth-based matrix to the
birth-based jāthi system. Perhaps, when it originated, it would have been
the only social system in the world that was more worth-based than birth-based.
It served to check and control the ill effects of the birth-based system of
privileges and disabilities.
Even B R Ambedkar noted the diametrically opposite nature of Varna and jāthi:
Varna is based on the principle of each according to his worth,
while Caste is based on the principle of each according to his birth. The two
are as distinct as chalk is from cheese. In fact there is an antithesis between
The caste system in the West disappeared only with the colonial expansion of the
West. With power over natural resources of three continents, namely Africa,
Americas and Australia, and with inflow of slave labour, which was subsequently
replaced by indentured labour, mainly from India, the abolition of caste system
was easier. Now untouchable communities like the
are a distant memory for the West.
In the case of India, caste system became rigid in the nineteenth century as
resources started draining through colonialism. One needs to add to this the
colonial efforts to freeze castes through census and efforts to create as much
division in the society as possible through essentialising of the communities.
Thus, the British created out of Indian communities martial races and criminal
tribes. Such fixed essentialising of community characters was largely, though
not entirely, absent in the Indian narrative.
So, for an anthropologist with a deeper vision, what is that which makes Indian
caste system distinct? There is not a single instance of mass movement in
Christendom that spoke for these voiceless people of “dishonourable” trades.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, took pride in saying he was instrumental in
the massacre of peasants. There is not a single traditional Christian Saint who
spoke against the treatment meted out to European untouchable communities,
though they did exist. But what distinguishes India is the constant voice of
spiritual emancipation which was raised for the marginal communities in society
– and often helping communities break the shackles in the process.
Systems of hereditary social stratification can evolve anywhere in the presence
of appropriate social conditions. In India, it is called jāthi tempered
by Varna, which as Bhagavad Gita points out, is based on swadharma,
according to Krishna. Arjuna, in his confusion, mixed it up with kuladharma and jāthi.
So Hindus can forfeit the notoriety heaped on them by Guha. Hindus neither
invented the ‘caste system’ nor made it the most diabolical. Many such systems
have thrived across the world in the past. Yes, a great deal of injustice has
been committed in the name of caste – and that needs to be corrected. But let us
also remember that several reform movements have arisen from within the Hindu
fold to do just this.
Of India’s ‘Invention’ Of The Caste System And Its Constant Battle Against It -
Refer to chapter on Aryan
Invasion Theory. Watch
Invasion through Conversion
video - Brahmins
have become a minority
Lord goes to Dalit village
On Wednesday evening, Lord Balaji, the diety at the famous Tirupati
shrine in Andhra Pradesh, will make history.
He will be spending the night in a Dalit colony at the Thallapaka
Lord will be spending the night in a Dalit colony at the Thallapaka village.
This is part of a programme called Dalita
Govindam, initiated by the Tirupati Devasthanam, to fight caste prejudices.
priests will perform sacred rituals at the colony and the colony residents will
also be accorded treatment, ususally reserved for important devotees visiting
the Tirupati temple. Thallapaka has witnessed several clashes in the past between Dalits and
upper caste Hindus over entry into the Tirupati temple.
Lord goes to Dalit village - ibnlive.com).
of Hindus vow to end caste divide
Truth and Reconciliation
Delhi, March 10 IANS: Railway porters in their trademark red uniform,
Hindu holy men in saffron robes, social activists, large numbers from the middle
class...all joined hands here as spiritual guru Sri Sri
Ravi Shankar launched a campaign to end centuries of discrimination
Leaders of several social groups from within the
Hindu community, the Dalits included, were among the 4,000 who gathered at the
open air theatre in Pragati Maidan here Friday evening and took a pledge to end
the caste divide that Ravi Shankar warned would harm
's progress in the long run.
A seven-point action plan that Ravi Shankar unveiled at the meeting and
which the thousands of men and women accepted with their right hands
outstretched included an immediate end to the ban on the entry of Dalits into
Hindu temples in parts of
The other aspects of the 'action plan' are ending the practice of keeping
separate utensils for the use of Dalits in eateries and also providing religious
and spiritual education to Dalit children.
'The anger of the past
should not engulf us and divide the country. The fear and communication gap
between communities is what is keeping us apart,' he said in a brief address,
first in English and then in Hindi. 'We must accept the reality and reconcile
'What we have started today will resonate across the
country and unite the people. When leaders come together and take a vow, the
people will follow them,' he added. 'My main concern is
how to bring people together.'
The organisers pointed out that months of
painstaking hard work had gone into the conference, with Ravi Shankar - whose Art
of Living Foundation has millions of followers across the world -
reaching out to the leaders and activists of a wide variety of social groups in
the Hindu fold.
Present at the 'Truth and
Reconciliation Conference' were representatives of the Bhumihar,
Valmiki, Brahmin, Dalit, Gujjar, Vanniar, Kayastha, Kshatriya, Kurmi, Mahar,
Majhabi, Marwari, Meena, Mushar, Paswan, Raigar, Rajput, Thakur, Thevar, Pasi,
Mala, Vaish, Valmiki, Verma and Yadav communities.
pointed out that many were unaware that Dalits had
contributed immensely in the development of Hindu scriptures.
'Historically, many of the
revered rishis were Dalits. The authors of the Ramayana
Maharishis Valmiki and Vyas respectively, were Dalits. The narrator of the
Puranas, Soot Maharishi, was a Dalit...We need to make the people realise that
discrimination is not sanctioned by religion.'
Despite legislation making discrimination against
Dalits a crime, the offence continues in large parts of
. Many young Dalits have today joined the ranks of Maoists in sheer disgust,
convinced that mainstream
does not care for them. Speaker after speaker at the conference praised Ravi
Shankar for his initiative and promised to spread the 'action plan' in their
areas of influence.
But Udit Raj, a
civil servant-turned-social activist, cautioned that it would need more than a
public pledge to end caste discrimination. 'The fact is that the Dalit
community to which I belong has no representation in the capital market, in the
share market. There is hardly any Dalit among the leading journalists in this
country. Can I forget all that?' he said, describing the state of a
community that for centuries was considered 'untouchable' by high caste Hindus
and made to do demeaning work.
'The wound goes very deep,' Udit Raj said. 'The
media calls me a Dalit leader. Why? Do they call Atal Bihari Vajpayee a Brahmin
leader? Do they call L.K. Advani a Sindhi leader?
cannot be a superpower unless caste discrimination does not end. I see so many
(middle class) volunteers from the so-called upper castes here. But will they
attend my rallies too? They won't.' He quickly added: 'But this is the
of Hindus vow to end caste divide - haindavakeralam.org).
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