Tuesday, April 18, 2006

one of the reasons why caste is good, and why reservations dont matter to an extent

apr 18th

i believe caste is a useful and good tool. this conclusion i have come to after considerable analysis of the data available.

casteism, on the other hand, is morally reprehensible, and is the same as 'secularism' in india: discrimination based on some un-objective criterion. casteism discriminates against some castes, 'secularism' discriminates against hindus. both completely wrong and immoral.

i too used to think that caste was bad. no, it is a reasonable organizing principle of society. the problems began with the british who built up a) the manusmrti, b) the caste system as founding principles of hindu society. neither is. caste is merely a recognition of fact that there are micro-organizations that social humans prefer to belong to. caste exists quite powerfully in every human society, especially in christist and mohammedan societies, except they dont call it caste.

caste has been useful in making hinduism a distributed system, thus more robust in the face of external invasions, unlike the centralized buddhist system, easily overthrown by mohdans.

this is the reason christists attack caste, because atomized, un-organized hindus are easier to convert. dramatic instance in kerala: OBC ezhava/thiyyas were attracted in large numbers to christist institutions in the years between 1819 and the time of the creation of the SNDP yogam. in fact, so much so that the vast majority of christists in kerala are ezhava converts. but one the SNDP yogam, in effect (although not in intent) an ezhava organization, was formed, ezhava conversion has slowed to a trickle, as caste feeling and pride and support has reduced the charms of the blandishments dangled in their faces by missionaries.

the fact of the matter is that most hindus would not convert under normal circumstances, given that they can see that christism is fundamentally deficient, illogical, and absurd. (i have that 'absurd' on authority of early church bigwg tertullian who said,

Natus est Dei Filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est: et mortuus est Dei Filius; prorsus credible est, quia ineptum est: et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile

(Translation: "The Son of God was born: there is no shame, because it is shameful. And the Son of God died: it is wholly credible, because it is innappropriate. And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible")

conversion comes when people are sick, poor, starving, or otherwise vulnerable.

here is an example of how caste members sticking together has helped them:



daisies said...

I agree with you, Rajeev, though I
have not fully read the article you

I have thought through this for
some years. I never understood
why people from other castes
demanded that Brahmins should give
up their caste and become

Instead, the other castes could
have empowered themselves to become
stronger as groups. I always felt
that the well-off in any caste
should help the not so well-off in
their own caste. Even among
brahmins there are a lot of poor
people without enough resources for
higher education and all that.

I'm not saying I am against general
non-denominational charity. I
have participated in that also.

Many have called brahmins the root
of all caste-ism in India. I dont
think this is so. Carrying on the
culture and traditions of your own
caste is a good thing - it is not
wrong in any way. This is how
heritage is passed on from
generation to generation and lives
on. Also, birds of a feather
naturally flock together, and
groupism (sangat) is a most natural
and also indispensable thing for
humans. Why else do sangams and
clubs and alumni associations etc
exist ? We all need identitites.

Besides, most brahmins have
traditionally been very very
strict vegeterians, and this was
an added factor for their rigidity
of caste.

I think all castes should be proud
of whatever caste they are. It
takes all kinds of groups to make
a society.

If an individual decides he doesnt
care for caste, that is wholly up
to him. I do have a handful of
relatives who no longer wear their
sacred thread. They tell me they do
feel the need for any special

On the other hand, I (as a brahmin,
which may be obvious by now), have
continued to keep up my family's
traditional knowledge of vedas,
sanskrit and so on, and I consider
it worth keeping up, and something
I find interesting also.

Differences should be celebrated
and honored, and kept up with
pride, and not forcefully

If they go away naturally over
time, that is a different thing.
Nature cannot be stopped from
taking her course.

Just sharing my thoughts on this
important subject of caste and the
future of caste in India.


daisies said...

However, I did not understand what was meant by
"and why reservations dont matter to an extent" in the title of your post.

Dont matter to whom ? this is a big raging thing now. it obviously matters to many people.

Could you clarify ?



averageindian said...

My regret, in advance, for a rather long post but felt compelled to share my thoughts based on my readings, work and understanding of the groud realities in India. I have not take the time to check for spelling, grammer or sequence, so please pardon the typos! Also my intent is not to bad hurt anyone's feeling but simply to lay out the details as I have understood them, in an exercise to share and exchange information. I am sure many in this blog are more knowledeable that I am, in that case I shall look forward to more information from them.

The Hindu scriptures, puranas, and ithihasas are windows into the past. One such masterpiece is the Peria Puranam (I have mentioned this a few times in the blog), which only talks about kulam ( and not Jaathi ) -- which is a vocational classification, in fact there are clear references of vocational communities (pulayar, kuyavar etc.) in villages or hamlets. Caste was originally devised as a social security scheme -- remember communities were in harmony with nature, there was no mass production at that time, it was only production by the masses!! Charity and sharing were the hallmarks of those who were blessed with plenty, charity was most always to the temple, which was the common community center for all in the society, that is why each temple in TN has so much in endowment (now misapproriated by the Govt. machinery in the name of Hindu Religious Charity and Endowment board -- most land are leased on 99 year leases to party and vested interest groups). The produce from these lands, where the community toiled were distributed back to the community under the aegis of the temple trustees (who were mostly the endowing and well to do Vysyas -- Nagarathars, Vellalars, Mudalaiyars, etc.) -- the model of empowerment was at the local level. The Kshatriyas (Thevars, Naiakers, etc.)provided security to the communities by virtue of thier control over the kingdom and as part of the model, each locally empowered community would also contribute a share to the central coffers besides the temple. So the temple was the center of the society, where besides worship and religious activities, many local art forms such as (theru koothu,, karagam, pulli vesham etc.) flourished. Since vocations were mostly handicrafts ( such as neyavar - weavers, kuyavar - potters, shirpi - sculptor, etc.) it was necessary to create a social structure to not only foster and protect this intellectual proterty, but also to guarantee a source of income for generations to come. Also since such handicrafts took years to perfect, the model was to start the apprenticeship/education program at an early age -- one can pick up things easier at that age and then be ready to inherit the trade and its guaranteed income upon "graduation". The teacher was invariably the father, who else could be a better aasan (the adage "thanthai bin solbikka manthiram yethu" -- there are no words wiser than your father's, has its roots in this tranfer of information)! This vocational structuring simply created a rural economy model where the local communities could fulfill one another's day to needs, using local raw materials and produces -- a self-sutainable model. This is the same model that Gandhiji (and J.C. Kumarappa) in his later years talked about and advocated as Gram Swaraj -- as this was a time tested model (please read Hind Swaraj). The model was not wrong, as a self-sustaining and environmentally responsible structuring, it guaranteed the lively hoods of millions of our forefathers, for thousands of years, protected the culture, encouraged arts and music, provided social harmony -- hence the underpining our our society as a socialistic democracy in our "modern" consitution! With the passage of time, as the model was proving to be working there were some additional policies, to prevent unnecessary and unhealthy competition that can break the status quo of a working self-sustainable model, these were: do not covet the property and industry of another, respect your vocation and its core values and principles, such as a Brahmin should not aspire for wealth but must perform for the spiritual benefit of the community, in return the community would feed them and be respectful of them, "Ayyar" is a consequence of that, "Ayyan" is a reference to God, "Ayyar" is a reference to one level below God, and "Ayya" is another level below that, but all are respectable terms. While the original intent was noble, along the way the system did get corrupted.

The model was working fine even during the Mughals and Islamic rule of India -- the Tamizh kings were smart, they made a deal with Malik Kafur to not destroy (physically and culturally) TN, instead they would pay the taxes thru the vasals, the Naiaks! The Tamizh kings must have known that the Islamic rule was in decline and the Islamic rulers also must have knonw the logistically nightmare of managing such large number of people from so far away in Delhi -- also there were many uprisings in the North which consumed thier time and resources; a deal was reached between the Tamizh people and the Islamic rulers in Delhi. In this agreement TN was the one state that did not see a discontinuity in Hindu traditions (which was pretty much prevalent all over India at one poin in time) -- as BBC's 7 part "Legacy" also states in its program "Empire of the Spirit". Such is the special place of TN in Indian history but the post-independence politians of India (especially of TN) with their perverse Davidianism have destroyed the very Hindu culture that was protected by the great kings and people of TN, with the Hindu Religious Charity and Endowment board!

Why did I say all the above...

The model of caste as a social security structure was not wrong, it was apt for a socially, environmentally, culturally concious society. It was also protected to an extent during Islamic rule but was firmly destroyed by the nexus of the colonial powers and the christist missionaries. They destroyed the locally empowered economic model ("there was even a movie called 'Lagaan"), did destroyed the local manufacturing bases, developed city/port centers (Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, etc.), to transport the raw materials from the corners of India to fuel the Eurpoean Industrial revolution!! This incidently caused the exodus of the people from the villages to the cities for livlihood (The railways were a beneficial consequence but much damage was done to the culture, society and the social harmony). The early migrants were the Brahmins and the Vysyas, leaving behind the Kshatriyas and the laborers -- now rural India became a fertile breeding ground for unscrupulous politicians, commies, Islamists, and christists. The system was further erorded by appropriation of Hindu wealth (temples), and vote bank politics. Now, not only are the rural Hindus upset with the Brahmins and the Vysyas (atleast the latter contribute economically), they are in search of thier own lost identities -- the Hindu society has lost its spirit and soul, and have made itself vulnerable to "harvest"!! The anti-brahminism plank with which Dravidianism was able to thrive was more only based on this feeling of let-down by the "non-Brahmin" folks, rather than the much touted "social injustice" caused to them (I understand their feelings perfectly, having visited/worked in rural TN). In other words, change in demographics and econmic models have displaced India and Hindu society from its moorings and harmony -- perhaps that was the grand strategy! Today what the overt military campaigns started are being completed by our own politicians.

The need of the hour is Hind Swaraj, were there has to be production by the masses, first to guarantee a sustainable income, and secondly to rejuvenate and restablish the working village economies (not the dysfunctional panchayat Raj initiatives of the Rajeev Gandhi Govt., albeit a step in the right direction). This will insure the destruction of the chrisist/commie/mullah nexus and stranglehold on Hindu society, much to the benefit of all, including Christians, Muslims, et al. We will finally be able to provide for all Indians, without these gimmicks of vote bank politics, such as mindless reservations, minorityism, etc.

To sum up, caste was not bad but has been made irrelevant by successive administrations, both foreign and local. Unless there is a tangible social security alternative (please do not claim that the social security system in the US can be a model!), let us not blindly bad mouth a model that worked for thousands of years, based on propaganda. Who knows we may come back in a circle and adopt the caste model again!

rsk7 said...


Very well written, can you provide more info on the agreement between local Tamil rajas and Malik Kafur. This is the first time I read anything like this.

PreHistoric Bird said...

rajeev , wanted to bring this site to your attention. may be you would know it. spread this to as many kerala hindus as possible , since you would know more than i.


daisies said...

hey averageindian!

"Now, not only are the rural Hindus upset with the Brahmins and the Vysyas (at least the latter contribute economically),"

--- exactly what are you
insinuating ?!

the above amounts to saying
that brahmins do/did nothing
useful and just feed off other
castes! i dont think this was
the case!

though the brahmin community
never was particularly wealthy
overall. the respect they got
for a long time was totally for
other reasons.

"The anti-brahminism plank with which Dravidianism was able to thrive was more only based on this feeling of let-down by the "non-Brahmin" folks"

--- and if brahmins didnt have
much wealth anyway, and if
wealth was the most important
thing worth having, what was
the real reason for the
anti-brahminism ?

wasnt it just a smoke-screen
for something else ? greed for
power perhaps...?


averageindian said...


I do not have any references at the top of my head and my work in a start-up is taking too much time. I shall get you some, either web based or written (mostly in Tamizh) -- but destruction did happen prior to the understanding. That is why most of the temples in Kanchi, Tanjore, Kumbakkonam, Trichy, Madurai, et all are still standing, although in a state of neglect. One day I would like to really do a lot more cultural research and authoritatively document events...


Sorry if my articulation is not clear. Nope Brahmins are not as they are made out to be be. They are simply easy prey, constituting less than 3% of TN population and being the physically "weaker section". There have been great Brahmins who have contributed to TN, India and Tamizh as a language -- U. Swaminatha Iyer, Vanchi Nathan, Subramania Sivam, Subramania Bharathi, actually a very long list...

daisies said...

well averageindian,

you have clearly said in ref. to
brahmins and kshatriyas - "at least
the latter contributed economically"....

which means you are implying that
brahmins made no economic
contributions to society.

this is what sounds nonsensical
to me. so many brahmins worked for
a living in various services. i
know what the people in my family
were doing in TN a few generations
back. not everyone was a priest.

let's leave aside the famous ones,
men of letters, poets, etc.
we are talking of the average
person. the "averagebrahmin" :-).

so your statement is really
far removed from the truth.

brahmins also did contribute
economically. it wasnt only vyshyas
who made economic contributions,
though they were mostly engaged in
shop-keeping, business.


nizhal yoddha said...

great stuff, averageindian! i appreciate this. i too didnt know about any deals between that malik kafur and tamil kings. your insights are appreciated. it's time to bury this nonsense about caste being some great terrible thing.

what are the top five myths you guys can see about caste? i'd like to write demolishing them.

KapiDhwaja said...

what are the top five myths you guys can see about caste? i'd like to write demolishing them.

Ok this might not be a myth, but it is definitely a stereotype which is not true. Its about food and caste. There is a false perception that eating meat makes one aggressive and strong, while the vegetarians are docile and weak. I have met the most docile, gentle folks among meat-eaters and the most aggressive types who are also physically strong, among vegetarians.

This stereotype is there not only in India, but all over the world I guess. I have met redneck idiots in the US who think cooking meat in a grill and eating them is some kind of a macho thing. Our own Varsha Bhosle thinks so too. BTW Hitler was a vegetarian.

Whether a person is aggressive or not is all there in the mind of that person. Not in the food you eat.

Sailesh Ganesh said...


Whether a person is aggressive or not is all there in the mind of that person. Not in the food you eat.

Agreed, but you are trying to relate absolute aggressiveness with vegetarianism. IMO, the more correct approach would be to check for change in aggressiveness wrt vegetarianism. A meat eating person might not be aggressive, but thats his default nature. By eating meat, he might become more aggressive, but the change wouldnt be significant, so the person would still be calm. Try to get an aggressive person to switch over to vegetarianism, and check if he is any less aggressive. This is the correct measure of aggressiveness - change as opposed to absolute. Hope this makes sense.

arunagiri said...

5 myths:

1. Aryans brought in the caste system into an essentially egalitarian (Dravidian) society.

2. Brahmins created the caste system.

3. Brahmins benefitted the most from the caste system.

4. Other castes were denied education and only Brahmins and some high castes got education.

5. Caste-based reservation is the right step towards a socially just nation.

daisies said...

another big myth is that brahmins
got education by depriving others.

the truth about highly educated
brahmins is, if you look into
their families' past, you will
invariably find a lot of struggle
against poverty, sincere hard work,
and toil, to come up. 2 generations
back, many of today's "well-off"
brahmin families would have not
enough to eat/wear, there were
joint families, people supported
each other in different ways. some
were lucky to find support from
community eating places. this is
how they came up - through struggle
and toil.

all this is consistent with the
fact that they never really
had wealth in the distant past.
they led lives of austerity and
simplicity. they were respected
for their vedic knowledge and
wisdom, and for being the keepers
of this knowledge. when the
patronage of kings and society in
general ceased, they had to come
up only through their own toil.
they passed on the benefits to
their children.

the community does seem to be
generally very intelligent, but
then there are highly intelligent
people in other castes too.


averageindian said...

Nizhal Yoddha and Rsk7,

While I am no historian, I shall work on getting you some references about what I had read/understood about the Malik Kafur invasion of Madurai (20-25 years ago). I shall be happy to share any information pertaining to that.


My intent as I mentioned in my preface was not to offend anyone.

You are absolutely right, Brahmins were not traditionally and generally rich and also the city based Brahmins, though in the services, were mostly middle class. Whereas the Vysyas generally have/had more money and a tradition of supporting the others financially.

In rural areas the percentage of Brahmins have gone down significantly, in many villages there are hardly any left. So there is no visible Brahmin presence in these communities -- so easy for someone like Karunanidhi to moot the the gimmick of a Samathuvapuram (when every village hamlet was only that a Samathuvapuram, which housed all castes, in our not so distant past).

The percentage of Brahmins working for the cause of rural poor is limited vis-a-vis the others, due to the size of the community, available resources and willing and committed participants -- this is based on my personal experience, doing service since 1998 (although that is not a lengthy time span). There are institutions such as the Kanchi mutt which are supported by Brahmins (among others), who are doing phenomenal work for the underprivileged but such an institution has been hit due to the recent propaganda.

When Dravidianism created this huge, hydra-headed monster called the "Brahmin", this mega monster could only redeem itself with visible and continuous contributions, for tangible improvements in the rural areas. A visible presence coupled with a continuous organized program of service will serve as a detriment and dispel the monster image -- this is what I implied. I did not imply that Brahmins do not contribute.

iamfordemocracy said...

There has to be some organizing structure for every society. There are families in Britain that send boys to army. Likewise, business skills must have something to do with inheritance.

In simple terms, having something like 'caste' is the best way to exploit genetics, and the principle of natural selection. One peson from a non-business family might succeed..but if you compare 100 businessmen from business families to other 100 from non-business families, the difference will be self-evident. Same will hold for other activities that require special skills..

Mind you, family support is essential in most critical pursuits. A businessman can become bankrupt; militaryman's family has to withstand tremendous pressue; and a scholar's family has to shun many ordinary pleasures just so that he can study peacefully.

I am afraid to say 'caste is good', but I am quite certain that sowing caste-based seeds of hatred is the fastest way to destroy Indian society. The fundamentalists from other religions have reckoned as much. Unfortunately, there isn't a single Indian politician who has a vision about this..(BSP's Kanshiram did have a vision... He was clear that reservations were meningless once BC's got the power. He used to say that clearly).

kum said...

IMO there is no such thing as good or bad. For the question, whether caste is good, the answer would be, it may be good as well as bad. Good for the people who get reservation and don't have to work as much. Bad for others who inspite of hard work won't make it.

What sucks is the basis of reservation. The real and imaginary 'sins' of forefathers should not be the basis of defining a progressive society. Even if that some reparation be done then it should be quantifiable. This will make the people left out by the system frustrated. It seems like the reservation is going to be there forever. That means the a person who is not a govt's brahman is going to suffer. Simply put the current system is unfair.

It seems like nothing changed for better. The system is same like it was, I don't know how long, elitist which care only for the powerful and influential and inherently unfair and stupid.

The situation is desperate like Dhobi ka Kutta, na ghar ka na ghat ka. There is no harm in forming another separate country full of forward caste people where all can become doctors and engineers and go to Savarna College of Technology and Medicine. How about that? why mix everything. Since OBC is 50% and FC is 50% we can divide the country into 2.South and North or may be East and West and equally divide. And may be the white hats with green shawls can go to Land of pure and Ugly and be green with envy. Then there will be no complaints. That would be an ideal solution. Idea is not preposterous. When we have states divided on the basis of languages and now with UPA govt trying to be equitable to greens by giving as much representation as their population % and with OBC also getting their share this is not a bad idea at all.

iamfordemocracy said...

Kum, by writing comments like the ones you have written above, you are falling into congress trap. The British, the Congress, and most anyone who is against India have realised the potential of caste as a tool in their game. Please do not air such one-sided thoughts. As I see it, Hindus of all castes have a contribution to make if India has to move on. Caste-based reservations is an issue that has been taken over by politicians, so it is best not to fan the fire there at the moment.

The most important thing is to raise awareness about the Congress game plan. That is th eneed of the hour.

kum said...

what do you mean one-sided thought. Situation is not very encouraging. It never was. God bless India

Memoryking said...


My Reservations blog.-It's a bit controversial :)