Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Casteism - what does it offer?

No, I am not starting with another post opposing casteism or questioning the need for it. On the contrary, I am supporting it! To give a background, castes were formed based on professions - the potter, the cobbler, the undertaker, the scavenger, the priest, the farmer - all were segregated based on their professions. So, how did this help? Today, we talk about a merged society, anybody can take up any profession which suits him/her. What about in the past when the society was small, cohesive and a closed one - say a small village or taluk which was probably ruled by a chieftain? The community then had to ensure that it was self-sustained in all respects. Even the so-called low profile jobs were important - there had to be somebody to do them. So a barber's son had to be a barber to ensure that there was a barber in their community. The same holds good for a priest, potter, artisans and the likes. What did they get in return? The chieftain ensured that their needs were taken care - they were given houses, their kin's marriage taken care and any needs would be addressed by the community. But the side kicks were that some communities were kept off from the rest because of their work - which probably was deemed as dirty work then - say like that of a scavenger, a cobbler or barber. But never (I presume) were they left uncared for or made to feel unimportant. Infact one particular person who is incharge of regulating the water flow from canals to the fields who is from a lower caste is considered important and he has the final say. Even the chieftain looks upon him for inputs and details!

So what does caste has to offer? I see a rich tradition and a whole plethora of different lifestyles associated with the different castes and there is nothing better or worse here - each is unique and special in its own way. Even in the customs and traditions, I do not see exhibition of any hatred or ill-feelings towards other people or castes.

Why are we targetting castes when caste is not that bad at all? What is bad and which needs to be condemned is the hatred and apartheid arising out of casteism and not casteism itself. What we have today even otherwise is segregation based on education, social status, money - how are these better than casteism? If not caste, humans would have come up with something else to differentiate and show superiority over other.

When I visit the agraharam like setup in Mylapore or Srirangam, I wish they continue to uphold their authencity inspite of modernisation. I wish the theru koothus, thiruvizhas, the peasant livelihood, the potters - all continue to exist irrespective of the radical changes in the world. I admire the skills of the sculptor, cobbler, barber - all alike. I get inspired by the little saving techniques of the down trodden and equally get amazed by the architectural beauty of the Chettinadu houses. So which caste is bad? which caste promotes hatred? or apartheid? none! Its us who cultivate these.

Maybe we should start appreciating casteism - not for the differences - but for the rich culture and heritage it holds and instead shun the hatred and differences arising out of it!


simplemissie said...

Hi Ravi,
ur tone sounds like that of a pure brahmin.I am not against what you say,well its sometimes nice to say you are a brahmin..coz the word brahmin comes from the word brahman meaning of the lord brahma(creator).If u read the gita u come to know what are the traits of a brahmin.What about christianity..the word christian means "of christ".One and the same meaning.Well I have read both the bhagvad gita and the bible my only conclusion is from the bible"he is not a jew who is one outwardly but he is a jew who is one inwardly"
we follow several restrictions in food patterns,but the lord says"It is not what you eat which defiles you,it is what comes out of ur mouth".Here in karnataka we have the story of "bedara kannappa" who was a hunter with whom the lord was pretty pleased and the Glory which he saw ,many learned people desired to see and to this day have not seen.There are infact a set of people who also worship Bedara Kannappa
Religion initially was made to protect people gradually it grew in for selfish purposes.The words of krishna"yada yada he dharmasya glanirbhavathi bhaaratha ,abhyuddhaanam adharmasya thadaatmaanam srijymyaham.Pavitraanam cha saadhunaam,vinashayacha dhush kritaam.Dharma samsthaapanaarthayaam sambhavaami yuge yuge"
while there is a psalm in christianity which says eaxactly the same thing"for the opression of the poor and the refuge of the oipressed now I will arise "says the Lord.He is a lovely lord when the Lord himself has paved the way for this just accept the way Lord has arranged things.Everything happens according to his will.See it is he himself who has changed the society though you feel it was through people.
I remember there is another word in the bible which says"man sees the outward appearance but the lord sees the heart".It hardly matters what we are to him .He sees and is aware of every secret thing ,Promotion cometh from the Lord.The holy one cannot see corruption.Develop the right kind of attitude in life......oops I changed my blog name again

simplemissie said...

oops well to say caste now no longer matters..and it is not something to discuss about at all

sthupit girl said...


I totally agree... People just have to learn to accept tht another person does have to right to be different. WE have got to start letting these small difference have a positive effect on our lives.

I hope everyone who reads this post, will realise where he/she goes wrong, and will WANT to correct this. I, as a sikh, have as much right to live in this world, as you, a non-sikh. Castes weren't made to divide and conquer. The one time we let people use it against us, was the time we were under the British. The many times we united, as Indians, we got independence. We won the Kashmir war. We fought disasters. And we even took steps to help other countries in need of aid.

yours truly.

Ravi said...

Wow! You seem to be well versed with the Gita and the Bible alike. But in the end, I am not sure if you are criticising or accepting my views. What I intended to say was we are trying to blame caste when the actual cause of problem is the hatred. This hatred could arise out of anything - be it disparity in money, status, education, beauty - what not! So the root evil is hatred. Instead of targetting that, we blame caste. Casteism has also got a good side like culture, customs, heritage and so on.

Thanks again! That's exactly my point too. Let's appreciate and accept the differences instead of developing hatred and dominance. I love attending marriages of North where people across all ages dance and have fun. So this is what I love and appreciate and no caste or religion preaches hatred!

simplemissie said...

yup..I agree..Ultimately "Love covereth all sins"..(I m irritated with ur accuracy in every answer....I sounded a lil confusing though)

simplemissie said...

I hate to agree with u..that 2 always....but reading ur post for the 2nd time now I feel ur right... I was confused...a confused missie

Ravi said...

Soumya, not a problem. May be you have still not set your feet on the ground after the good news ;-) Keep the good mood intact!

வேதா said...

caste system is not something which evolved in a short span, it always existed. the discrimination among the castes were made on the basis of the work people do. as u said, hatred and discrimination among castes should be destroyed. well,it is not entirely possible as far as castes exist. people belonging to so called lower caste are still being discriminated,assaulted in many parts of the country. even now, we have some panchayats in tamil nadu, which are allocated to low caste leadership and they are still vacant. everytime when the election takes place there no one belonging to lower caste who are supposed to contest,apply. if at all they win the election, they resign the post the very next day. and this place is in india, the largest democracy in the world. u have said that the people working as barbers,sanitary workers,dhobi etc.. do that generation after generation. no barber or cobbler, or no person who are earning their living by the way of work,which is supposed to do by them want their children to continue in their way, why? bcos the caste discrimination by the caste hindus. u wont believe it still happens,even in the cities. will any of the caste hindu allow their children to set up a barber shop? no, they wont.bcos as far as the caste system it should be carried out by the lower caste. whats the benefit of the caste sytem? when it has so many unhuman qualities? times are changing,many intercaste marriages are taking place,does that mean caste will fade away? no new caste systems will evolve? so it will jus exist, but in a different way,thats all.even today i read in the paper,that students of a school refused to eat the midday meal provided by the govt, jus bcos the cook is a dalit woman.the parents insist the children not to eat food cooked by her. such things make things worse,making the children prone to caste discrimination.

Ravi said...

Veda, so as you see, the dark spot is the discrimination and hatred - not the caste itself. Do you think people discriminate only based on caste? Don't we see a biased treatment extended to people based on social status, their posts, education, jobs? Caste happens to be just one amongst them.

Today, we *do* have people from other castes as barbers but they would probably prefer being referred as 'beauticians'. What I was trying to explain was why a barber son had to be a barber in a closed community. Ofcourse, nobody would want to do the job of a scavanger but imagine what'll happen without such people in the society? So instead of belittling their jobs, we should respect them.

Do you think when we totally shun castes, the problem of discrimination will disappear? NEVER! because we'll still have people with filthy mentality. Infact not all people from the so called upper castes oppressed the lower castes. Infact many reformers who spoke for the oppressed castes were from the dominant castes. So no caste is bad, no caste preaches hatred, no caste claims superiority over the other. Each caste is special. Castes were formulated based on professions. The hatred, discrimination, oppression which originated out of caste segregation should be shunned and not caste itself because in this world differences (in all walks of life) will continue to exist. We should try to respect and accept them.

[As we discussed in one of my previous posts, you also agreed about people preferring fair over dark complexion, so would it mean we should evolve something to do away with dark complexions? or do we do away with the wrong mentality associated with dark complexion? - that is exactly my point here too!]

Sarah said...

I tried to comment vanished.. so here it goes again.
Caste was created to seggregate people, so there are always someone superior.. Where as the creator created all of us equal. Ofcourse there is cultural heritage, but it shouldn't be at the expense of human dignity.. that no one is aove or below another

வேதா said...

//Do you think when we totally shun castes, the problem of discrimination will disappear//
i never meant that ravi.
//Infact not all people from the so called upper castes oppressed the lower castes//
i agree with this totally. when many caste hindus, assaulted lower caste, which is taking place even now, only certain communities are targeted. but to be honest, even though these communitites did not assault,they discriminated the lower caste. but the mentality is changing.

Ravi said...

thanks for dropping by. The segregation, I think, was definitely not to show one over the other but only based on profession. As human mind set's tendency, it tries to see superiority over other. But the bottomline was never to discriminate.

thanks! point taken!

ambi said...

well, good thought provoking post.
infact during the period of Rajaji, he insisted "Kula kalvi". mean a coubler son shud learn wat his dad is doing to maintain the balance in society. but that idea was dropped out due to excess opposition.
now , only the FC (forward castes - which includes not only brahmins, also chettiyars etc...) are the real sufferers. coz starting from Eng cut off, they need to reach above 95%.and though being deprived by poverty, a brahmin is denied of all gvt favours like free uniform, books, cycle(yeeh, only for SC/STs').
i know one of my college mate bought a shoe for 750 rs from the Gvt study scholership offered to him. reason is his caste c'fcate says he is an SC and irony is his parents (both mom & dad) were central Gvt employees with 5 digit sal.
my opinion is, pls don't divide/judge pple with caste. but with their income ratio. no matter he is a brahmin or SC/ST.
appadi, this is ambi,first time here ravi...

ambi said...

The film Gentlemen also insists my points, hope u might've seen.

directer shanker thrived my idea,
he hee, Gr8 men think alike.. :)

Viewer said...

Religion/cateism is onething people can argue and debate endlessly and ur comment box isa perfect example . proof of wht am saying.

Religion/casteism is a very sensitive issue

Ravi said...

thanks for dropping by. Yes, I second your opinion. The really deserving candidates (both in upper or lower castes) are ignored many times. Ambi, regarding kula kalvi, Rajaji was made wrong by the opposition just because he used the word "kula" in the initiative. His point was that people from the lower sections should study but also continue to learn their family skills (for their own good) - that was his point but our stupid politicians, as usual, tried to gain mileage out of it. Keep visiting Ambi!

Long time no see?! Religion/Casteism becomes sensitive only when one tries to intrude into others' and when hatred arises out of it. Otherwise, no harm in them.