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Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

The Myth called Casteism – Part I

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!

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