Tue Apr 17, 2012, 06:12 PM
Vehl (1,902 posts)
Indians had Jati's , Caste was a British invention [View all]
Last edited Tue Apr 17, 2012, 06:27 PM - Edit history (5)
I decided to make a thread about the caste system after reading about it on a thread in the religion section of DU
It might come as a surprise to many here, but Caste is a British invention.
India had/has the Jatis.
Jāti (the word literally means 'thus born') is the term used to denote the thousands of clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities in India. It is a term used across religions. Each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe, although religious beliefs (e.g. Sri Vaishnavism or Veera Shaivism) or linguistic groupings may define some jatis. A person's surname typically reflects a community (jati) association: thus Gandhi = perfume seller, Dhobi = washerman, Srivastava = military scribe, etc. In any given location in India 500 or more jatis may co-exist, although the exact composition will differ from district to district.
The four fold "Caste" system is a British invention, thanks to the confused British "Indologists" of the 18/19th centuries. The only mention(and definitely not known to the overwhelming majority of Indians...at least not in the past 2500 years!) of fourfold grouping is found in an obscure text called the Manusmriti. No one payed attention to it, and It was relegated to the dustbin of history about 2500-3000 years ago when The Hindu Vedantic/Upanishadic philosophies supplanted the hoary old Vedic Ritualism.
refer to my recent post about this here
Hinduism is a Way of Life, and Life tends to be Organised Chaos
There were/are thousands of Jatis in India. The British, when they took over the continent, decided that they wanted an easier system to classify their subjects. They found the Jati system very complex and confusing. For example, people belonging to a Jati could be both fishermen, and Naval Sailors. Another Jati members could be both scribes and agriculturists. Yet another Jati could be soldiers during wartime, and coconut pluckers during peacetime! This has been(and continues to be) the way the Jatis operate in India. On top of this, the widely different Linguistic/regions subcultures had their own flavors to this system. However some British Indologists who probably read the manustrimiti (forgotten and discarded by Indians) decided that the Hindus should be divided into 4 castes!.
Known for their bureaucracy, soon all British subjects in India were arbitrarily classified into one of the 4 "Castes".The Chrisitan missionaries also played a big part in the creation of this "Caste" system as they believed it was their right to bring "civlization" to the savages...often by misinterpreting, and attacking such misinterpretations as some evil pagan religion/rite.
All of a sudden, even people from regions of India where the 4fold system of the Manustrimit was not even known 3000 years ago, found themselves classified into a 4fold caste system that was totally alien to them.
Contemporary scholars thus argue that the social system was made rigid and the four-fold Varna caste made ubiquitous by the British colonial regime, much like the caste or casta systems literature for southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Before the British use of Varna categories for enumerating and ranking the Jatis in the decennial census, the relative ranking of the Jatis and castes was fluid and differed from one place to another, based on their political and economic power. Dirks proposes that caste is neither an unchanged survival of ancient India nor a system that reflects India's core cultural value. Rather than a basic expression of Indian tradition, caste is a modern phenomenon, the product of commentaries of 18th and 19th century Christian missionaries driven to bring religion to uncivilized masses, and the enumerative obsessions of the late-19th century census. Dirks concludes one effect of British rule of India was to make caste into a single term capable of naming and above all subsuming India's social identity in the world.
Upon independence from the British rule, the Indian Constitution listed 1,108 castes across the country as Scheduled Castes in 1950, for affirmative action. The Scheduled Castes are sometimes called as Dalit in contemporary literature. In 2001, the proportion of Dalit population was 16.2 percent of India's total population.
^^ As evidenced from this,If the British were correct, how could there be more than 4 castes??? This is a clear example of how the Jati system was mistaken for Castes.
The British, since 1901, for the purposes of the Decennial Census, fitted all the Jatis into one or the other of the varna categories as described in Brahminical literature. The Census Commissioner had this to say, "The principle suggested as a basis was that of classification by social precedence as recognized by native public opinion at the present day, and manifesting itself in the facts that particular castes are supposed to be the modern representatives of one or other of the castes of the theoretical Hindu system;". This deliberately ignored the fact that there are innumerable Jatis that straddled two or more Varnas, based on occupation.
As a community in south India put it, "We are soldiers and saddle makers too"
but it was the enumerators who decided their caste. The Indian society since pre-historic times had a complex, inter-dependent and cooperative political economy. One well known text, the Laws of Manu, c. 200, codified the social relations between communities from the perspective of the Varna castes. Although this book was almost unknown south of the Vindhyas, it gained prominence when the British administrators and Western scholars used it exclusively to gain an understanding of traditional Hindu law in India.
For example, lets look at the Popular Kindu God Krishna. His Jati is Yadava. According to the British version of the "Castes", the Yadavas are classified as a "backward caste" ...counting as untouchables in certain instances. They are listed thus because of their trade of cattle herding. However, During the Indian Epic Mahabharat, Krishna was the King of the Yadavs and the Yadavas were Kshatriyas(Aristocrats) of the Chandravamshi (Lineage of the Moon) line. The Mahabharata also lists that even then their immense wealth was due to their vast cattle herds. Thus it was known that a Jati could do two very different trades/jobs. However, according to the British "Caste" classification of The Yadavas, they are not Kshatriya but are lowly farmhands....for the simple reason that the British system could not account for the diversity, and complexity of the Jati system.
On a related note, the role/social-importance/diet of a Jati could vary from region to region..and certain Jatis are only found in certain regions of the Subcontinent.
A South Indian Brahmin is a strict vegetarian
A Bengali (from north-eastern India) Brahmin is not!
They dont look the same, they dont speak the same language(In fact they belong to different language families!), they dont have the same customs...yet according to the British they are the same
I hope more people differentiate between the Jatis(Actual system in existence) and Caste(a British invention).
PS: This British invention of the "Caste" system is very similar to their invention of the "Martial Races" theory. ironically, only those who fought for the British were listed as the "Martial races", the countless communities/people of the Subcontinent who fought against the British(Most often these were the Original Kshatriyas) were excluded from this list.
Feel free to ask any questions/make any comments
A Liberal, Hindu Atheist.
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Indians had Jati's , Caste was a British invention [View all]
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