Tuesday, 1 January 2013

CASTEISM- A Barrier to India’s progress

Sandeep Kumar Singh

To Vivekanand caste consciousness was a barrier to India’s progress. Because at times casteism kills national consciousness. Although Caste loyalty is valuable as the firstly step to nationalism, yet when it degenerates into sectarianism and checks the growth of nationality, it becomes an unmitigated evil. Caste loyalty is a virtue but, when it degenerates into passive disloyalty to the state, it becomes a positive crime. Caste restrictions on actions likely to undermine the foundations of the social structure are wholesome; but when such restrictions lead to disabling inequalities and denial of social justice, as in the case of the untouchables now mercifully called ‘Harijana’, they become a curse.
At one place Vivekanand said, “Good Heavens: A country the big leaders of which have for the last two thousand years been only discussing whether to take food with the right hand or the left, whether to take water from the right side or the left if such left, whether to take from the right side or the left if such a country does not go to ruins, what other will? A country, where millions of people live on the flower of the Mohua plant, and a million or two of Sadhus, and a hundred million or so of Brahmins such the blood of these poor people, without even the least effort for their amelioration is that a country or a hell.’1
Vivekanand also realized that casteism “narrows, restricts and separates the noble bond of humanity”. Even then be hoped that “It will crumble before the advance of ideas”.2 Signs are bright the Vivekanand’s prophecy is on the way to fulfillment at no distant date Fortunately some of the undesirable features have disappeared during last few years, though some of them still persist. Casteism is still not unimportant problem that baffles politicians, statement and social reformers alike.
Solution of the problem- It is not easy to find a solution of the problem. Because the solution demands the death of the spirit of caste consciousness. It requires a change in the fundamental notions of Hindu life, a change in the values of the life and a change in outlook and attitude towards men and things. Social reformers have expounded different theories to solve this problem. Some say that intercaste-marriages an dinners may solve the problem. Because such things will provide opportunities to the people on the life and as such a feeling of oneness will necessarily follow. Others are of opinion that sub-castes must be abolished because there is greater dissimilarity in manners and status among the sub-castes then among the castes themselves. But remedies are neither practicable nor effective and may prove to be wrong, if tried. Vivekanand’s solution of the caste questions is not degrading those who are already high up is not running ‘amuck through food and drink, is not jumping out of our limits in order to have more enjoyment but it comes by every one of us fulfilling the dictates of our Vedantic religion, by our attaining spirituality and by our becoming the ideal Brahmins. He said, “There is a law laid on each one of you in this land by your ancestors, whether you are Aryans, or non-Aryans, Rishis, or Brahmins, or the every lowest outcaste. The command is the same to you all, that you must make progress without stopping, and that from the highest man to lowest pariah, everyone in this country has to try and become the ideal Brahmin”.3 Thus, “The ideal at one end is the Brahmin and the ideal at the other end is the ‘Chandala’, and the whole work is to raise the chandala up to the Brahmin”.4 It, therefore, becomes necessary for us to examine Swami Vivekanand’s suggestions to raise the lower untouchable) until it reaches on a level with the higher (Brahmin).
 “My idea is first of all to bring out the gems of spirituality that are stored up in our books and in the possession of a few only hidden as it were, in monasteries and in forests In one word I want to make it popular. I want to bring out these ides and let them be the common property of all of every man in India”.5 in this way people will get the information, they will get below surface of the problem and many misgivings about caste system will be removed.
Secondly, Sanskrit must be taught to them, because all our scriptures are in this language6 and “this difficulty cannot be removed until, if it is possible, the whole of our nation are good Sanskrit scholars”.7 Sanskrit alone can be helpful in making the plan a success. To substantiate his argument he stated, “The attempts of the great Ramanuja and Chaitanya and of Kabir to raise the lower classes of India show that marvelous results were attained during the lifetime of those great prophets; yet the later failures have to be explained, and cause show why the effect of their teachings stopped almost within a century of the passing away of these masters. The secret is here. They raised the lower classes they had all the wishes that these should come up, but they did not apply energies to the spreading of the Sanskrit language among the masses. Even the great Buddha made on false step when he stopped the Sanskrit language from being studied by the masses”.8
Besides knowledge, culture is also essential. Until the masses are cultured there can be no permanence in their raised condition. There will be another caste created, having knowledge and the advantage of Sanskrit, which will quickly get above the rest and rule them all the same. To this end Vivekananda appealed to Brahmins that” they must work hard to raise the Indian people by teaching them what they know, by giving out the culture that they have accumulated for centuries. It is clearly the duty of the Brahmins of India to remember what real Brahmin hood is. As Menu says, all these privileges and honors are given to Brahmin because ‘with him is the treasury of virtue’. He must open that treasury and distribute its valuables to the world”.9 He further said that “it was because he did not give it to the people that the Mohammedan invasion was possible. It was because he did not open this treasure to the people from the beginning, that for a thousand years we have been trodden under the heels of everyone who chose to come to India. It was through that we have become degraded, and the first task must be to break open the cells that hide the wonderful treasures which our common ancestors accumulated; bring out, and give to everybody, and the Brahmin must be the first to do it”.10
The only rational explanation of Vivekananda’s thesis on caste is found in ‘Mahabharata, which says- that in the beginning of ‘Satya Yuga’ there was one caste, the Brahmins, and then by difference of occupations people went on dividing themselves into different castes. And, it is also there, that in the coming ‘Satya Yuga’ all the other castes will have to go back to the same condition.
To conclude, it may be said that Vivekananda upheld the noble tradition of Hindu Unity and harmony by giving a synthetic interpretation of social relationship based on Varanvyavastha, though he condemned conservatism and orthodoxy developed into the behavior patterns of Hindu society. He favored Varna-system essentially and originally based on natural dispositions and merits of the individual, and not on birth. Thus, to him the true measure of man worth not birth.
1.        Quoted by Majumdar: op. cit., p. 138.
2.        Swami Vivekananda Centenary Memorial, Vol. I, p.37
3.        The Complete works, Vol. III, p.198
4.        Ibid., p.295.
5.        The scriptures have been translated into may languages, of late, yet the importance of Sanskrit cannot be ignored because the purest water can be had from the source of the river.
6.        Ibid., p.290             
7.        Ibid., pp.290-i
8.         “The only way to bring about the leveling of the caste is to appropriate the culture, the education which is the strength of the higher castes”. Vivekananda: Ibid. p 291.
9.        The Complete works, Vol. II, p.297.
10.      Ibid., p.298.
            Dr. Sandeep kumar singh
Assistant Professor,
Ancient History Dept.

S.V.N.  P.G. College Kalan, Sultanpur