Doctoring History for Political Goals: Origin of Caste System in India

Ram Puniyani



Caste hierarchy is the major obstacle to the goal of social justice and it continues to be a major obstacle to social progress even today. There are many a theories, which have tried to understand its origin. The latest in the series is the attempt of RSS to show its genesis due to invasion of Muslim kings. Three books written by RSS ideologues argue that Islamic atrocities during medieval period resulted in emergence of untouchables and low castes.  The books are "Hindu Charmakar Jati", "Hindu Khatik Jati" and "Hindu Valmiki Jati". 

The Sangh leaders claimed that these castes had come into existence due to atrocities by foreign invaders and did not exist in Hindu religion earlier. According to Bhaiyyaji Joshi, number two in RSS hierarchy, 'shudras' were never untouchables in Hindu scriptures. 'Islamic atrocities' during the medieval age resulted in the emergence of untouchables, Dalits. Joshi further elaborated, "To violate Hindu swabhiman (dignity) of Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, foreign invaders from Arab, Muslim rulers and beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable works like killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. Foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such works as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners." 

The truth is contrary to this. The foundations of the caste system are very old and untouchability came as an accompaniment of the caste system. The Aryans considered themselves superior, they called non-Aryans krshna varnya (dark skinned), anasa (those with no nose), and since non-Aryans worshipped the phallus, they were considered non-human or amanushya. (Rig Veda: X.22.9) There are quotes in the Rig Veda and Manusmriti to show that low castes were prohibited from coming close to the high castes and they were to live outside the village. While this does not imply that a full-fledged caste system had come into being in Rig Vedic times, the four-fold division of society into varnas did exist, which became a fairly rigid caste system by the time of the Manusmriti. 

Untouchability became the accompaniment of the caste system sometime around the first century ad. The Manusmriti, written in the second–third centuries ad, codifies the existing practices which show with utmost clarity the type of despicable social practices that the oppressor castes were imposing upon the oppressed castes. The first major incursions of Muslim invaders into India began around the eleventh century ad, and the European conquests of India began in the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries.  

Over time, the caste system became hereditary. The rules for social intercourse as well as establishing marriage relations were laid down by the caste system. Caste hierarchies also became rigid over time. The shudras began to be excluded from caste society, and ‘upper’ castes were barred from inter-dining or inter-marrying with them. Notions of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ were enforced strictly to maintain caste boundaries. Shudras became ‘untouchables’. It is this rigid social division that Manu’s Manav Dharmashastra (Human Law Code) codified. 

Golwalkar, the major ideologue of RSS ideology defended it in a different way, ‘If a developed society realizes that the existing differences are due to the scientific social structure and that they indicate the different limbs of body social, the diversity (i.e. caste system, added) would not be construed as a blemish.’ (Organiser, 1 December 1952, p. 7) Deendayal Upadhyaya, another major ideologue of Sangh Parivar stated, ‘In our concept of four castes (varnas), they are thought of as different limbs of virat purush (the primeval man)… These limbs are not only complimentary to one another but even further there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interests, identity, belonging… If this idea is not kept alive, the caste; instead of being complimentary can produce conflict. But then that is a distortion.’ (D. Upadhyaya, Integral Humanism, New Delhi, Bharatiya Jansangh, 1965, p. 43)   

Social struggles to oppose this system and the struggles to escape the tyrannies of caste system are presented by Ambedkar as revolution and counter-revolution. He divides the ‘pre-Muslim’ period into three stages: (a) Brahmanism (the Vedic period); (b) Buddhism, connected with rise of first Magadh-Maurya states and representing the revolutionary denial of caste inequalities; and (c) ‘Hinduism’, or the counter revolution which consolidated brahman dominance and the caste hierarchy.

Much before the invasion of Muslim kings, shudras were treated as untouchables and were the most oppressed and exploited sections of society. The rigidity and cruelty of the caste system and untouchability became very intense from the post-Vedic to Gupta period. Later, new social movements like Bhakti, directly, and Sufi, indirectly, partly reduced the intensity of the caste oppression and untouchability. This doctoring of the history by Sangh ideologues is motivated by their political agenda and tries to hide the truth.

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

അസഭ്യവും നിയമവിരുദ്ധവും അപകീര്‍ത്തികരവുമായ പരാമര്‍ശങ്ങള്‍ പാടില്ല. വ്യക്തിപരമായ അധിക്ഷേപങ്ങളും ഉണ്ടാവരുത്. അവ സൈബര്‍ നിയമപ്രകാരം കുറ്റകരമാണ്. അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍ എഴുതുന്നയാളുടേത് മാത്രമാണ്. ഇ-മലയാളിയുടേതല്ല


ഐഎസില്‍ ചേരാനായി ഇന്ത്യ വിട്ട നാല് മലയാളികള്‍ കൂടി കൊല്ലപ്പെട്ടു

സത്യജ്വാല July, 2017

ഇടവകയിലെ പത്ത് കുടുംബങ്ങള്‍ക്കെങ്കിലും ശൗചാലയം നിര്‍മ്മിച്ചുനല്‍കാതെ പുതിയ പള്ളിമേടയില്‍ താമസിക്കില്ലെന്ന് ഒരു വൈദികന്‍

റോക്ക് ലാന്‍ഡ് സെന്റ് മേരീസില്‍ ഫാ. ജോസ് മുളങ്ങാട്ടില്‍ നയിക്കുന്ന ധ്യാനം 7,8,9 തീയതികളില്‍

സത്യജ്വാല December 2015

Women’s ordination, moot question, what? reason or sentiment?

Laity Voice, October 2015

സത്യജ്വാല ജൂലൈ ലക്കം: കത്തോലിക്ക സഭയെ നന്നാക്കാന്‍ ഒട്ടേറെ ലേഖനങ്ങള്‍

Laity Voice-July

Synod: No Indian Bishop responds to Papal Call?

സത്യജ്വാല-ജൂണ്‍, 2015

Laity Voice-June

Church or mammon of iniquity worshp? reactions

Laity Voice-May

Who destroys Indian Christian families? Peddlers of pure blood: deadly virus

വംശഹത്യാ പരാമര്‍ശം: വത്തിക്കാന്റെ വെബ്‌സൈറ്റ് ഹാക്ക് ചെയ്തു

Laity Voice-April

കാലാവധിക്കു മുമ്പേ സ്ഥാനത്യാഗം ചെയ്യാനുള്ള സാധ്യത തള്ളിക്കളയാനാവില്ല: പാപ്പാ ഫ്രാന്‍സീസ്‌

ലെയിറ്റി വോയിസ്-March

Missionaries of Charity says RSS chief misinformed

സഭ കല്‍പിച്ചതും മോദി ഇച്ഛിച്ചതും ഒന്ന്

ഇഗ്‌നാത്തിയോസ് അഫ്രേം ദ്വിതീയന്‍ പാത്രിയര്‍ക്കീസ് ബാവയുമായി സിബിസിഐ ലെയ്റ്റി കമ്മീഷന്‍ ചെയര്‍മാന്‍ മാത്യു അറയ്ക്കല്‍ കൂടിക്കാഴ്ച നടത്തി

വിശ്വാസ തര്‍ക്കങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് കോടതികളിലൂടെ പരിഹാരം ഉണ്ടാകില്ല

NY Times editorial continues pattern of disparaging Hindus: HAF

French Muslims seek positive image post Paris attacks

Hindus in Malaysia slam cleric's views on garlanding PM

Pope Opines On Spanking

ലെയിറ്റി വോയിസ്-ഫെബ്രുവരി ലക്കം

What was Gandhi’s Evaluation of RSS?

വിവേകത്തിന്‍െറ ശബ്ദം

View More