Caste System in India Part 1| What is the caste system in India | Teh Tak

Whenever caste politics is discussed in the country, the names of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar immediately come to everyone’s mind. There are reasons behind this. For example, Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement against Indira Gandhi’s emergency and many leaders like Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati, Ram Vilas, Nitish who emerged from it, used casteism to their fullest to advance their politics. But it is not that caste politics is seen only in UP and Bihar. But it is not discussed with that much prominence. Ranjitram Mehta, the founder of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, had also written in one of his articles 100 years ago that Gujarat has the highest casteism in the whole of India.

How did caste originate?

The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. Smriti means religious scriptures. The religious text written by Manu is called Manusmriti. Manusmriti has a total of 12 chapters containing 2684 verses. It is claimed that this book accepts and justifies the caste system as the basis of the order and regularity of society. At the top of the hierarchy of this book were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and were believed to have come from the mouth of Brahma. Then from his arms allegedly came the Kshatriyas, or warriors and rulers. Third place went to the Vaishyas or traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from the feet of Brahma and did all menial jobs. When the British came to India, they found that just like Muslims have Sharia as their law book, Hindus also have Manusmriti. Because of this, they started hearing cases on the basis of this book. Along with this, the Pandits of Kashi also asked the British to propagate Manusmriti as the Sutra Granth of Hindus. Because of this, the notion was formed that Manusmriti is the standard religious text of Hindus.

Jyotiba Phule challenged Manusmriti

The book became quite popular during the British Raj as it was used in legal cases. William Jonas translated the Manusmriti into English, which brought the book to the public’s attention. Jyotiba Phule was the first to challenge the Manusmriti. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar publicly burnt the Manusmriti on July 25, 1927, at Mahad in the Colaba district of Maharashtra (now Raigad). The system granted many privileges to the upper castes while sanctioning the oppression of the lower castes by privileged groups. However, despite the obstacles, some Dalit and other caste Indians such as BR Ambedkar who wrote the Indian Constitution and KR Narayanan who became the country’s first Dalit President, both of whom have held prestigious positions in the country. However, historians say that until the 18th century, formal distinctions of caste were of limited importance to Indians. Social identities were much more flexible and people could easily move from one caste to another. The Constitution of independent India banned discrimination on the basis of caste, and in an effort to rectify historical injustice and provide equal opportunities to the traditionally disadvantaged, authorities announced the lowest quotas in government jobs and educational institutions for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

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