Picking up where we left off in Part 1 where I’ve said that there is fallacy in the way the Caste System is perceived and understood, what I’m about to reveal to you now is what the true essence is.
As promised, I’m inverting the order in which people usually speak about this and therefore I will start with talking about the Shudras.
Shudras, are the section of society or a class that accepts another’s employment whereas other varnas are occupationally and financially self-sufficient. Shudras, were or perhaps even now, are people who either had a natural talent or skill and developed or practiced a particular skill or trade. They are the artisans and workers, usually working with their hands. It was the Role and Duty of the Shudras to take pride in their work, to be loyal and to follow general moral principles. If we were to look at their qualifications, traditionally, it wasn’t necessarily formal, but in this day and age, formal education has played an important part in assisting them to move out of their Shudra classification and we see them emerge as lawyers, doctors and take up professions that give them the economic means and respectability. But, for mindsets to change it may take generations as it needs to find its way into the gene pool.
What I am about to say will certainly earn me few friends, but think about it! So what I find as a really amusing perspective is that, the vast hordes or armies of Indian Knowledge Workers who literally run tech globally are also Shudras, because if we go by the definition of the Vedas, ANYBODY who works for someone else is a Shudra.
Where does it really say that Shudras are to be ill treated and discriminated against? If we’re practical, there is the haves and have nots and its really an economic issue not really cultural or spiritual.
So doesn't that clearly imply that Shudras aren't merely the heavy lifters, ie. the knowledge workforce is also recognized as a substantial contributor to organizations and the economy? The only real difference is that they are subservient to masters, ie. the business promoters for a fixed wage.
Later in the series you will also see how there is a pecking order even within the Corporate, right from the line and rank workers through to the very top of the Corporate ladder.
Whereas I’ve presented fact about the true meaning of Shudra, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that discrimination is the dreaded Caste System’s handiwork and the people who abused it have no role to play and therefore the rebellious thought and attitude!
Let’s take a step up the so called social order and look at Vaisyas.
Vaisyas are by definition, Farmers, Merchants and Business folk. Their role is wealth creation, providing employment, sustainable livelihoods and paying taxes from their income to the Ruler or Government. They are the economic engine of society. They are required to be ethical, to be productive and to grow and nurture crops, grains and livestock.
Kshatriyas are rulers, leaders, warriors, administrators and enforce the laws of the land. They are supposedly the nobility, the protectors of society and permitted a number of privileges, however, it is expected that they display considerable strength of body and character. They are expected to provide protection to the weak and less fortunate, ensure that citizens perform their prescribed duties and also advance spiritually. To levy and collect taxes (from the vaishyas only) and to never accept charity under any circumstances.
So that their legacy continues, there was always an expectation that they maintain a strong bloodline and therefore, they usually married only amongst their peers and equals. So you see that we’re talking about genetics or the DNA. We will be talking more about that in Part 4 of this series.
Despite the fact that they are Leaders, in order to play their role effectively, it was expected that they conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and remain above reproach and controversy.
To rule isn’t easy and Rulers are expected to be intelligent, but at the same time, to maintain a balance and to ensure that they have adequate guidance on every aspect of their roles, duties and responsibilities, they have recourse to the guidance of the scriptures, the Artha-Shastra and the intelligentsia or who are popularly referred to as Brahmins.
Tell me your thoughts on this…write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you think that our current rulers or so-called Kshatriyas are fulfilling their roles and responsibilities in this day and age? Isn’t it just all about politics? Do they seek counsel from those more knowledgeable than them in matters of state, welfare, religion?
Brahmins, are intellectuals, priests, teachers, seekers of the truth, philosophers and thinkers. So what exactly are the classification criteria for this Class of People?
Brahmins were expected to study and follow the vedas and provide education, spiritual leadership and be the moral compass by setting vision and values of society. Due to their knowledge and aptitude they are expected to provide guidance to all strata of society, including ensuring that the Rulers and Administrators followed their prescribed duties. In other words this was a means to provide a system of checks and balances. And they were expected to provide this service free of charge, or for whatever the recipients could afford to give them by way of “dakshina”.
What qualified them to take on such a pivotal role? What qualities were they expected to have? What kind of attitudes were they expected to exhibit?
Brahmins were expected to be peaceful, have self-control, practice austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, study and disseminate knowledge, wisdom, be pious, have integrity, be clean in body, mind and soul.
Therefore we see that the Brahmanas were NOT just priests, they were so many other things. Why!!!! In fact they even taught the Art of Warfare and Combat!!!
In the Mahabharata we read that KRIPA (KRIPACHARYA), Son of the sage Saradvan, was taught Dhanurveda, the martial arts by his father, and he became one of the Kurus’ martial teachers. He survived the Kurukṣetra war and counseled the Pāṇḍavas when they ruled the world. Later, they appointed him preceptor of their grandson, Parīkṣit.
We all need the means to survive and make at least a basic living. Being austere and spending their time in deep reflection and serving society, they had little time to engage in commerce or trade, or for that matter find any other means to earn an income. Therefore, they needed to be taken care of.
Traditionally they lived very frugally and therefore they had the most basic needs. They accepted whatever charity or Dakshina recipients of their advice and counsel could give and they lived off the charity of others. They never accepted paid employment. Accepting any formal or predetermined payment, would mean selling their knowledge and this in itself would dilute their fundamental beliefs, role and position of authority.
And then we have what are knows as outcastes, or Dalits. The fact is that, at the time of the scriptures, there were only four castes. All these were like parts of a human body, working together for the common good and all equally important. Over time the caste system came to be abused, and a fifth class of people – the Dalits – were identified. So what are Dalits in reality? “Dalit” is actually Sanskrit for a person or pesons who work against societal interests and are outside the social structure, but somehow it came to be used to describe a Class that is downtrodden, exploited, those who have the least privileges. This is purely a concoction based on the convenience of people who wanted to ostracize a certain set of people. There is no mention of Dalit in our Scriptures. In fact Krishna says that, a learned man will look upon everyone as equal.
So how were these occupations decided? There was already in place an aptitude based evaluation criteria or process, whereby the Guru or Teacher observed and evaluated several aspects of the child and then made recommendations based on such evaluation. These recommendations were then used by the parents and the student in deciding what the child would eventually end up doing.
A Systematic Assasination
Over the years there has been a systematic assassination of our rich and deep culture, both by our invaders, the foreign traders who eventually paved the way for us to be ruled and by ourselves. I also propose that that India and Indian beliefs have been singled out, when the Caste System is alluded to. This happens for a myriad of reasons, the most important being that it is we Indians, under the influence of a continuous onslaught of invasions over generations, throughout history, were quick to distance ourselves, abandon and even ridicule our own traditions, beliefs, and culture. This isn’t really surprising as each invasion had plenty of cultural ramifications, apart from just the war or armed conflict related ramifications. Thus we adapted to the ways preferred by our invaders.
Balancing the Scales
It would be very unfair on my part to not complete the picture on how things got this way. The backlash hasn’t originated just out of ignorance, instigation or then vested interests. It is also a fact that it is also because how certain castes ended up treating or dealing with the other classes.
Take for example the Aaryans. They arrived in India and formed 3 groups of people, namely warriors, priests and farmers. As the warriors and priests fought for leadership roles, it was the priests who emerged victorious and eventually farmers, craftsmen, warriors and locals were led by Brahamans or priests. We’ve seen this through history as well. Much smaller armies have emerged victorious by exhibiting great courage, resilience and coming up with strategies to counter adversity or for that matter, emerging victorious. Similarly the priests used their knowledge, intellect and influence to emerge as the leaders in the time of the Aryans.
Classifications and Segregation are a fact of life and that’s not just peculiar to India and therefore it is indeed most unfortunate that we seem ignorant that almost all cultures, civilizations and even political systems have some form of caste system or the other. Here I propose yet again, that we use Class instead of Cast.
In the next instalment, I will speak about how ancient and modern societies, cultures and civilizations classified, segregated and even discriminated based on various criterion. So stay tuned and read all about it here but don't forget, you can also go to my podcast channels on all major platforms, Apple, Google, Spotify and Breaker.
Write in and tell me what you think about this! I can be reached at email@example.com or you can even leave your comments here.