INDIA-BHAGAVAD GITA TEACHES CASTE DUTIES AND INEQUALITIES
Toronto, Canada Jeffrey S. Ram, Editor APRIL 5, 2022
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
INDIA - BHAGAVAD GITA TEACHES CASTE DUTIES AND INEQUALITIES
The Bhagavad Gita will be a part of the school syllabus for Classes 6 to 12 in the state of Gujarat from the academic year 2022-23. Some other states, also ruled by Bhartiya Janata Party, are expected to follow soon. Many Indians consider it another step toward the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation), or a Brahmin - Kshatriya Raj (Rule by Brahmins(5%) and Kshatriyas (4%) of India’s population) through the caste-based hierarchy. Social relations between castes are more relaxed today, and job mobility is more flexible. Various Hindu groups fear the Bhagavad Gita teachings may justify upper castes’ entitlements and domination and lower castes’ inferior status.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna declared that he is the creator of the four-fold social order, Chaturvarnya, of society. (Chapter 4, verse 13) He also described the duties of the four castes based on their inborn qualities.”(Ch 18, Verses 41-44) Dalits and Adivasis were not mentioned because there were no outcastes in the Vedic Age. Adivasis, or Indigenous, had their own religion. Adivasis were nature worshippers. They were not Hindus; they had no caste.
THE CASTE SYSTEM IN INDIA
The caste system is a way of dividing society into hereditary classes. India's caste system consists of two different concepts: varna and jati.
Varna is a Sanskrit word that means 'class.' The caste system was called the varna system in Vedic society (c. 1100 – c. 500 BCE). The purpose of the varna system was to distribute occupational duties among the people. The four social classes in the Varna system are:
Brahmins (priests and teachers).
Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers).
Vaishyas (farmers, traders, and merchants).
Jati is from the Sanskrit root Jaha meaning to be born. Jati is a group or community with generic inherited characteristics and requires marriage within the same group. As each varna has many jatis, more than 3,000 different jatis are within the four varnas.
THE CASTE DUTIES AND CLASSES
Lord Krishna said, ”The duties of the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas, as well as the Shudras have been divided according to their “inborn qualities.” (Ch 18, Verse 41) In verses 42 to 44, Lord Krishna described the natural duties of the four castes. In verses 45 and 46, Lord Krishna advised Arjuna that man should be “keenly devoted to his own natural duty” and engage “in his inborn duty.” In verses 47 and 48, Lord Krishna continued to stress the importance of “one’s own duty” and “one’s innate duty.”
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THE FOUR VARNAS (CLASSES)
The caste system classifies Hindus into four varnas (classes) based on their occupation. The Rig Veda describes that Lord Brahma created all the four varnas from the different parts of his body. Brahmins were made from the head and were custodians of religion and culture. Kshatriyas originated from arms, so they were responsible for the army and political rule. Vaishyas came from thighs and were responsible for taking care of the two upper castes. Shudras were generated from the feet. They were laborers who served the above three classes.
Brahmins are members of the highest caste or varna. Their priestly class duties included studying and teaching the Vedas and other scriptures. (Ch 18,V: 42) They were priests and teachers.
Kshatriyas are the second-highest of the four varnas or classes. Their natural duties were an “exhibition of valour, fearlessness, firmness, cleverness and steadiness in battle” (V:43). They were warriors and rulers. They had the power to collect various taxes and were in charge of the army.
Vaishyas (the trading class) are the third varna or class of the caste system. Their natural duties are “Agriculture, rearing of cows and honest exchange of merchandise” (V:44). Vaishyas were traders, merchants, landowners, and money-lenders. They supported Kshatriyas and Brahmins by sacrificing, giving gifts, providing food through agriculture, and money through taxes.
Shudras (laborers) are the lowest of the four varnas or classes of the caste system. Their natural duty was “service of the other classes” (V:44). They served the above three varnas or classes.
THE DALITS ("UNTOUCHABLES" OR "OUTCASTES")
The Dalit caste is ranked the lowest within India's system of social hierarchy, formerly referred to as "untouchables," or "outcastes."
Dalits were outside of the caste system. They performed jobs considered "untouchable," such as street sweeping, toilet cleaning, and garbage removal.
The Vedic texts do not describe the untouchable people or the practice of untouchability. Only in the post-Vedic period did texts like Manusmriti mention outcastes and the practice of ostracizing them.
ADIVASIS OR INDIGENOUS (FIRST NATIONS/ THE ORIGINAL INHABITANTS/ SCHEDULED TRIBES)
The Indian Adivasis have more than 700 groups. Adivasi beliefs differ from tribe to tribe and are usually different from the Hindu religion.
They follow pre-Hindu animist-based religions. Adivasis are included as Hindus in the census. Since 2011, they have been demanding that they should get a different religious code. Adivasis worship non-human entities like animals, plants, and inanimate objects or phenomena. They are the least developed, most exploited, and poorest communities.
THE POPULATION OF HINDU CASTES, DALITS, AND ADIVASIS
Hindus constitute almost 80% of India's population, but this figure includes Adivasis (8.6%) and Dalits (17%). Without these two groups, the Hindus are about 54.5%. Brahmins are about 5%, and the Kshatriyas are around 4% of India's population. About 19% of Indians are Vaishyas, and about 26.5% are Shudras.
THE SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION OF CASTE SYSTEM The upper-caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas naturally support the caste system. However, many leaders of the lower castes and subcastes also have a vested interest in preserving their power bases. Even though the caste system is an essential part of Hinduism, many social activists oppose it.
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), a prominent Dalit leader, realized that Dalits could not get equality, freedom, justice, and happiness as long as they were Hindus.
At the Bombay Presidency Mahar Conference on 31 May 1936, Dr. Ambedkar urged, “I tell you all very specifically, religion is for man and not man for religion. For getting human treatment, convert yourselves. Convert for getting organized. Convert for becoming strong. Convert for securing equality. Convert for getting liberty. Convert so that your domestic life should be happy.”
Dalits eat beef and pork. Jains are vegetarian; Sikhs do not eat beef, and Muslims do not eat pork. Therefore, Dr. Ambedkar had only two options-Buddhism and Christianity. On 14 October 1956. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism with 3,65,000 of his followers.
DO NOT BUY BRAHMIN (5%) AND KSHATRIYA (4%) RAJ (RULE) AND LOWER CASTES AND DALITS SUBORDINATION BEING PACKAGED AND SOLD AS BHAGAVAD GITA EDUCATION.
A large number of lower-caste Hindus and Dalits are impoverished and marginalized. These groups should not allow their children to be misled into believing that their career choices are limited to their caste occupations. Eleanor Roosevelt wisely advised, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The children should be able to dream of getting an education and choosing to move above their parents’ caste occupation. They should have the choice to change their lives and change their destiny.
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