The Caste System Of India


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Neither the Brahmins nor the Kshatriyas were the originators or modifiers of the Dharma ‑‑ the former were its recorders or interpreters and the latter were Its executors. It was the Rishi (22) who was the prime mover behind the social processes in ancient India. The Rishis were men of higher spiritual experience and knowledge. In the fluid stage of social evolution during the Vedic times, the Rishis evolved new ideas to shape and influence the socio‑religious paradigms and customs of the people. They were consulted by the kings and revered by all and sundry. It is important to note that the Rishi could hail from any social class and was not bound by the Caturvarna.
Every thesis has its antithesis. There were rebels too who defied the Caturvarna. The individual rebels were the Sannyasis who renounced the social life for a free spiritual life. Sri Aurobindo (23) also points out that there were groups who had the liberty to rebel against the caste system and form sub-­societies with new values like the Sikhs and Vaishnavas, It is important to note that the individuals and groups who outgrew the Caturvarna had one common denominator ‑‑ they all evolved from the same spiritual background. To the Indian psyche, the spiritualist is more dynamic than the mere social reformer. Even in the nineteenth century, Rammohan's and Vidyasagar's attempt at social reformation were acceptable to the masses because both of them upheld spiritual values.
If we have thus to transform the Indian mind's attitude to the caste system, we must begin not from a mere social or humanitarian angle but from a spiritual perspective. And to do so we have to separate the from the 'spirit' and go back to the seed‑ideas in the Purushasukta of the Vedas from which the Caturvarna was born, to see if we can combine the elements to form a novel and innovative synthesis.
The four orders of the Caturvarna figuratively sprang from the limbs of the creative deity ‑‑ the cosmic godhead, from his head, arms, thighs and feet. Ordinarily this is construed to indicate that Brahmins were pure men of knowledge, Kshatriyas were men of power, Vaishyas were the producers and support of the society and the Sudras were its servants. But this is a too superficial reading of the imagery which actually tried to depict how the Divine expresses itself in man and his myriad activities ‑‑ the Divine as knowledge in man, the Divine as Power, the Divine as production, enjoyment and mutuality and the Divine as service, obedience and work. These divisions correspond to the four cosmic principles whose efflorescence need the help of the four great powers of the Divine Shakti ‑

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