I conclude the series in Part 5 which deals with the biggest myth around the Caste System and I go on to talk about practical reasons why class based communities are formed, how strict conformity to the castes began to ease up, how things changed due to external influences and how the Brahmins have lost out the most in the reshuffling of the social order. I also talk about our rich culture and why we need not and indeed must not fall prey to malicious interests and finally a call to arms to perhaps remedy the situation.
The big thing that goes around is this incorrect notion, this huge and I’d even call it gross misunderstanding about the so called Indian Caste system, that you are born into a certain Caste and therefore you are stuck into a life that is predetermined for you, due to the family you’re born into.
Quite the opposite in fact! Brahmin by Birth is nothing short of a figment of overactive imaginations.
Whereas there is no truth to this thought that you can be a Brahmin only by dint of your birth , there are certain facts that we need to bear in mind. In India, like in many societies, a son will inherit his father’s job. This inheritance continued across generations and it ended up as a community, jaati or a caste in the Indian system.
People of similar dispositions huddling, living and forming communities is nothing more than forming communities based on interests or needs. It its just seeking out people who followed similar lifestyles, professions and vocations. This community bonding just got stronger as realization dawned that a person from your own community and background would understand more easily, any issues or dilemma faced by their members and thus a strong support structure was formed.
Is that not just like people from one country settling in foreign countries, but choosing to be co-located with other families from their own home countries?
We’ve established clearly that categorization actually existed since medieval times, throughout history, across continents, in almost every civilization and until this day exists, albeit they stricter classifications have morphed over time.
In comparison, the Indian Caste System is NOT based on birth. It is actually based on Qualities, Attitude, Skills and Knowledge.
Therefore, I reiterate, underscore and propose that we talk about Classes as opposed to Castes, treat, talk and deal with this no differently than we would deal with class segregation in other parts of the world.
I also propose that as time passed and the stricter classifications were diluted out of need, oppression and economic necessity. We see Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras NOT following their traditional family profession or vocation and instead taking up whatever work they are more suited for or for that matter can get.
What went wrong with the caste system is that in some cases, those in a position of knowledge or power, ended up getting power hungry and failed to use that for the greater common good. This is what gave them a bad name and this is why Brahmins came to be looked down upon.
Another huge factor is that as Indian Society started coming under the influence of so many races and cultures from invasions, traders and travellers, many new concepts and influences went into the melting pot and out the door went the purity of Indian culture and beliefs.
As a result, the influence of the Brahmins was on the wane and they found themselves marginalized and even disregarded. Even their frugal way of life was threatened and therefore, they took to other professions. Worse yet, was that for survival they zealously began to guard their knowledge and stopped imparting advice, counsel and dharmic knowledge to those needing it for free, but instead demanded higher compensation.
So on the one hand they are marginalized, whereas on the other hand they need to make a living and yet on the other hand they chose professions not necessarily suited to their well being and in turn there was this degradation of vedic principles and even abandonment.
Personally, I am Brahmin and have that DNA from my fathers and mother’s side of the family, in addition to which I do follow the general principles, have the qualities, the acumen and the experience. However, I don’t ever flaunt it, as I find it’s largely irrelevant and on a need to know basis only.
As I look back at my life and my contribution to my personal circle and professional roles, I can certainly say that I’ve largely played the part. However, I have been subservient, I have been an advisor and I have been an entrepreneur, so by definition, I must say that I am Shudra, Brahmin and Vaisya.
I try to stay as far away from Caste as far as possible, but I will openly admit that I do look at things like family background. Though that’s not the basis on which I make decisions. I certainly do weigh these things in the background and this does sometimes find its way into my final decision.
Another reason why I don’t flaunt Brahmin is somewhat more practical. The word does polarise people into making snap judgements due to bad memories, experiences, misconceptions, false notions and hearsay. But if it does come down to a debate or for that matter, if my lineage becomes a focal point of the debate, I can pretty much hold my end of the debate. I value my ethnicity, my roots and the ideology I choose to follow, ie: Varna-Ashrama Dharma.
I strongly propose that India or our culture and beliefs cannot and must not stand needless and baseless criticism and/or accusation by people, quite the opposite! It needs to be lauded for its Varna-Ashrama Dharma and “Caste System” is a gross and seriously misinterpreted translation of what is a practical and workable system.
Due to the lack of understanding about the “Caste System” and the lack of knowledge about how and why society is naturally divided into Classes, in modern day India, the Brahmins are the new Dalits, for they are the ones oppressed and are eliminated from opportunities around jobs and education, just because their birth certificates carry the classification of “Brahmins”. We see a vast part of the Brahmin community or class driving rickshaws and cleaning toilets, whereas we see Vaisyas and Shudras in important roles.
Like every system or process, its genesis, maintenance, morphing and adaptation depends on people and it is people with serious and malicious vested interests who tend to misuse power, privilege and connections to suit only certain quarters, instead of thinking of the greater common good.
Knocking people misusing systems, processes and privileges is more appropriate than making wide sweeping generalizations against communities, classes and sects such as the Bramins or for that matter the Shudras as is the common trend today.
Despite the gross misunderstanding around Sanatan Dharma (ignorantly labeled as Hinduism), the oldest religion, will not only survive but thrive as a troubled world searches for peace and happiness.
Is it not such a sad thing and a miserable failure on our part, that we see so many instances of people from all parts of the world, coming to India, for our Santana Dharma, for our yoga, for our food, for our art forms for tourism, to learn how to live simpler, wholesome lives? And yet, we are unable to see value in what should naturally belong in the very center of our hearts?
What is certainly needed is a call to arms, with a view to spread the correct perspectives and factual position about so many aspects of our way of life, culture, traditions, beliefs and practices.
This topic is just one of many and I hope to bring more topics of interest to you as a humble effort in this regard.
Once again, Spirituality and Beyond podcasts are available on all major Podcast channels such as Apple, Spotify, Breaker and Google and is my way of providing relevant perspectives and insights on Spirituality, based on research and my own experiences in an uncomplicated manner. Additional content of interest is also available via blogs on www.sumirnagar.com and Medium. We will soon be on Clubhouse as well. I can also be found on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Tumbler and I’d be delighted to have you follow me there for updates and further engagement.
I did say at the outset that this is a controversial topic and I’d love to engage and hear your thoughts. Please feel free to reach out to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments here,