Two hundred years the British ruled our people, and now it is their culture spread throughout the world.. in the language which is acceptable the world over, and their ways of doing things. Others were just dropped along the way, dismantled and destroyed under their aegis.
Then to ensure longevity of their own ways, they sowed misconceptions about the older ways in those very native lands from where they had tried to uproot them. One wonders naturally, can this really have been so? Do you? Have you ever stopped and thought about your real culture? Have you thought how life may have been very different had our ancestors had the strength to ward away the external. Maybe you have. And if you reflected at all on this, you must also realize it was a weakness not of physical strength, but in our minds. Ours and in all the other so called eastern cultures, which ... hey, what a surprise! .. are all the ones lagging now.
One such insidious idea sowed by the westerners, and one which I have seen still perplexes many Indians, to the point of making them doubtful about the entire culture of our past, is of the inherent unfairness in the fourfold caste system --- an inherent and a cornerstone of our Indian culture. Yes, it truly perplexes us, because in these times it is equated to the discrimination practiced between people say, on the basis of color.
Funny, it should have been so hard for us, as Indians, to get past this subterfuge of the west against our own heritage. Strange, because now apparently we are free to think, free to explore the truths about our past, and yet we always seem to trip over this obstacle, cleverly planted by our detractors.
So, have you an open mind now? As we reconsider the meaningfulness of this fourfold division which our ancient and original constitution was built upon. To me a clue was provided by coming upon the meaning of the word 'Shudra' in Sanskrit. That word actually means 'gross' or 'vulgar'. That is, unrefined or lacking in civilization.
An intrinsic human state, not an imposed one!
If we imagine ourselves faced with a task, such as Manu, the originator of Indian societal form had. Given the totally chaotic collection of a large mass of people with varying needs, capabilities and other things... it is obvious that left to itself it would never progress. Progress in the way that there is a stepwise and gradual development of the different facets of this mass; that one facet advances, then using the progress the other has made, is able to take itself further. The other facet similarly, left unencumbered of things which it has lesser capabilities to deal with, shares the progress with one which has developed; and so on it is like a braiding of hair, an intertwining where each contributes equally of something it is most capable to provide.
I think this is truly a very visionary idea, of having not two classes but four. Visionary like all other things we find from those times, only if we take that time to look for them.
I think it is similarly inherent in our natures, as humans, that our inclinations are one of these kinds: We are rough and physical, or we are inclined to manufacture and deal with goods, or we wonder about higher learning, or we simply do not have any particular inclinations to learn anything, in which case we are likely to remain, uncivilized, but still gladly accept it preferring that to the effort of learning of skills or ideas or of playing politics as rulers.
But look at you now! You work in a telephone company, or a software house or maybe you buy and sell property. You've put yourself entirely to that single segment, because you believe that is how you progress. In any case, you say, it seems to be working well enough in western countries, so let us get there at least, as we are 'developing countries' .. but we forget, that is their label for us.
The answer, and any chance of resuscitation for us as a people, lies in recovering the source of our knowledge, is it not? Or would you rather believe that meaning to human existence too lies in discovering the secrets within objects, and learning more about their properties. Or maybe, you don't even see that, that is where you are being led to. Why this confusion? Or how come we can so blatantly have been misled all out lives, and our ancestors of recent generations as well?
Two main ideas should be convincing to an open mind, to really want to know more.
Enter a foreign power, into a country of which they have no clue, specially of its culture. You yet can judge in a general way from just how people deal with you and each other, or from their countenances, whether while carrying out their activities or at rest, that this is a society which is quite balanced and at peace with itself. The people are simple, yet not dull. You find refinement in behaviors as well as the objects around, which you can certainly put a value to, because value of material goods in a sense goes beyond cultural boundaries.
Were you as a foreigner to stay long enough you would discover the high regard the people put to a class and category which is totally foreign to you. As you delve deeper into it, you discover that not only its language, but even its ideas are beyond your comprehension. Whatever be your design, even if one simply of curiosity, you befriend some people and eventually understand the ideas of the texts which this civilization has such regard of. Strange indeed are the ideas, the foremost, that our human life is only a part of existence, a temporary existence. Everything around this is equally fantastic to you. You know how ridiculous it will all seem were you to go back and suggest it in your country, as an alternative system of thought, a philosophy which has yet enabled a large country to endure and thrive.
Now, like you, if others too from your land, having explored this culture, go back and talk of the same things they found here; and it all gathers in the aristocratic circles of your country and further percolates up to the ruling class in your land. The reaction is as inevitable. We do not understand, nor will we, so let us weaken it; decimate it of its strength. Is it hard to imagine some people gathered around tables and pondering how to overcome a flourishing land, that we may take its riches without check and use the people and the generations to follow to serve our menial wants.
You can be sure, it must have seemed an idea of sheer brilliance then, and the person suggesting amply rewarded, in wealth and honor, who was able to point out, the importance of the mysterious fourth class -- whose function, seemed so unnecessary yet was in reality quite the opposite. The brilliant and simple solution was simply, " pinch it off!". Pinch this mysterious source of strength of this culture, and the civilization slowly will lose its coherence. Then, once divided and bereft of the value of its principles, which perplex us, they are like simple people, like any other without an inner binding fabric. They will be ours and so will be their progenies for ever.
Now tell me, you people, what part of this narrative, your own history, you find hard to accept? Do you even know whose debt you are most under if it happened this way -- yes, to those who freed us from the yoke! And do you know why they did it -- in the belief that we will find our way back to our roots! For that would make all they did worthwhile, when the tree of this civilization finds its own source of vitality, and begins to grow those parts that have dried up, fed as it has been, guided by foreign hands !!
Thanks Susan. Your comment though has made me wonder about some intrinsic superiority you yet believe westerners have. Is it their strength? It was only their physical might and deviousness that they overcame these eastern cultures, is it not ? Now these people of Eastern societies, having been led to chase your ideals of what being civilized is, and more unfairly, in modes which are native to you, the english language being the foremost of those, your scientific methods being another... will of course lag; and continue to believe they are inherently less equal to their 'caucasian' brother and sisters, as humans. Fairness from you, as you say all that is now changing, would be not in giving us a helping hand 'up' to where you are -- it would be in coming down from these mental structures you live in, and help us recover ours, if that is possible at all, from the debris of the past. We would be easier doing that, as those actions would be native to us, and the fragments we find familiar, as pieces of larger wholes ...
Make no mistakes. You're on the other side from us. Beginning with recognizing where dividing line truly lies would be a good start... towards creating an equal world.
I think you are judging me unfairly. Most of my family is Buddhist, though we were raised Catholic. We were aware enough to learn to think for ourselves, and upon questioning some of the bloody horror stories in the Bible, we realized whoever wrote it thought they had to instill fear, to rule people. My feelings for my own government are not great, as I believe we are, and always have been, like the bully on the playground, taking what we want, when we want it. I am ashamed of what my government does.
You wrote, "Make no mistakes. You're on the other side from us. Beginning with recognizing where dividing line truly lies would be a good start... towards creating an equal world."
It seems to me that it is people like you, who draw lines and see human beings only in labeled groups, not as individuals, that keep us separated. What I recognize is that there IS no dividing line.
I hope I am not interrupting you Mr. Rajiv. However don't you think it was our own inferiority that led a handful of Britishers to rule us for more than 200 years?
What I feel is that all cultures have their demerits which are overcome by new reformations. The caste system, no widow-remarriage, Sati system--- do you really think we need to save and encourage that kind of culture ? Probably the Gen X is losing their traditional roots, but look at what we have gained through it. In just less than 65 years, India has become one of the most powerful democracy in the world.
One such insidious idea sowed by the westerners, and one which I have seen still perplexes many Indians, to the point of making them doubtful about the entire culture of our past, is of the inherent unfairness [...]
I am really shocked to see these lines. You really think westerners did a wrong thing by discouraging the caste system? I hope the westerners who discouraged this caste system were more humane than the eastern people who planted the idea of caste system. How can be any other human being superior to other? Why can't the lower caste people enjoy the luxuries of the upper caste, if they have worked hard for it? Just because their ancestors were so called "shudras". I really think that its the best thing that the caste system is broken down. For instance, being a student, right now what I see is that there is a 49.5% reservation in India for so called minorities and lower castes.. but when I look at the top universities of the world-Harvard, Oxbridge, Stanford etc., I never see any sort of reservation over there.
You've put yourself entirely to that single segment, because you believe that is how you progress. In any case, you say, it seems to be working well enough in western countries, so let us get there at least, as we are 'developing countries' ...
My friend, its not their label, its the reality. We are still a developing country. Look in the sector of Healthcare, Education etc. where do we stand? University of Wales in UK has been ordered to shut down after a visa fraud scandal. How many bogus India universities have you seen being shut down because of corruption? I rarely hear such news or action being taken in India. We surely have a sound economy, but look at the gap between the rich and poor.
I am not in total support of the British rule we endured . No country has the right to rule another country without its will. But when few hundred thousand Britishers ruled Million Indians,,... then don't you think it was partly our own weakness too? Look in the history, India has always been suffering because of traitors. Culture or no culture... religion or no religion ... civilized or uncivilized.... the best religion in this world is HUMANITY... the day we learn and start respecting, forgiving, loving other human being, without the thinking who is inferior or superior... we will have peace. Germans had NAZIS, but it doesnt mean that the present day Germans are bad. It was just a temporary bad patch of history and it is now gone. Some narrow minded inhumane people might still support it, and thats where we need to make improvement. A culture is never lost if its for the betterment of the society and the humanity and if a culture is lost in such evolution, then probably its a good riddance.