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A Comprehensive Insight Into Caste System

Updated: October 2, 2010 11:24 am

The book has been designed to present the peculiar features of the centuries-old caste system in India, which dominated the Hindu social order. The book, which consists of eight chapters, points out how the caste system came into being, caste system: the early stages, caste as status in the clan, evaluation of castes, from Rig Veda onward, castes in India, their mechanism, genesis and development. Early in our history the Vedic seers realised that division of human labour was crucial for the civilization to evolve rapidly. The society was compared to a human body. Just as different parts of the body perform their unique functions for the well being of the entire body, it was recommended that people in the community should focus on specialised activities according to their ability and aptitude, instead of every member of the society attempting to be a totally self-reliant entity.

                The writer says that various activities of the society were divided into four major categories: development and dispensation of knowledge, protection of the community from internal and external disruption, generation of wealth, and filling in to do various tasks for optimal functioning of the prior three activities. These functions were assigned to different people based on their aptitude and ability. Those with sharp intellect and aptitude to learn were expected to focus on learning and teaching and were called Brahmins. Those with great physical strength, courage and good intellect were assigned the tasks of administration and protection of the community from invaders, and to maintain order from within were called Kshatriyas. Those with acumen and interest in business were given the task of producing maximum wealth for the society and were called Vaishyas, and those of low intellect were assigned to the small tasks under direction from the other three groups and were called Shudras. Brahmins in the society were compared to the function of head/brain in the body and were given the utmost respect, just as the brain is considered the most vital part of the body. Similarly, Kshatriyas were compared to the arms, Vaishyas to the stomach, and Shudras to the legs. Comparison of these four castes or jatis to the human body was appropriately made, in order to emphasise that just as all these parts are required for proper functioning of the human body, all the jatis are required for the society to function and progress smoothly. The assignment of work based on one’s ability and aptitude was thus the earliest attempt at institutionalisation of meritocracy while simultaneously providing meaningful and satisfying work for every.

                The caste system in India is deep rooted in the long-drawn socio-economic, cultural and political history of our subcontinent. The writer, however, maintains that with the passage of time, it brought about a deep and complete division in the Hindu society. These divisions had become the symbols of status, from the upper class to the lowest category. Some social reformers and their movements did effect the socio-economic status of the castes. But the efforts in this direction, the writer emphasises, should not cease and they should remain an ongoing process. The book could be called a well-researched work as the material for this great work is collected from the great institutions.

Kalpaz Publications, C-30, Satyawati Nagar, Delhi-110052

By Ashok Kumar

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