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‘Dalits’ Empowerment

The only way

“You have to work-out your own problems, work hard everyday; you have to hold on to the real thing; believe me, there’s no other way!” Gertrude T Buckingham

Introduction

Journey of Shudras Begin – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. Since then, they have traveled a long distance and has passed through various stages, at present known as Dalits. The whole of 20th century, especially the first and last two decades have been especially important for political empowerment of Shudras (Untouchables). Different terms have been used for Shudrs at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages –

‘Shudras’, ‘Outcastes’ and ‘Panchamas’

Till the beginning of 20th Century, the lowest strata of Hindu Community were known as Shudras, Panchamas or outcastes.

Who were Shudras in ancient times? – Socially, Shudras were supposed to do all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas. Individuals or groups belonging to –

  • Conquered groups or individuals in a war;
  • Groups engaged in menial or unhygienic occupations;
  • Groups clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable;
  • Persons born illegitimately or
  • Groups engaged in anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society.
  • Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the mainstream of society.
  • Permanent loss of caste or out-caste- were considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes.

In Western and Southern parts of India, they were kept outside the four Varnas. In the Northern and Eastern parts of India, they were very much belonged to fourth Varna “Shudra”, which was divided into two parts pure or non-excluded and excluded or untouchables.

Why Lower Ranking for Shudras? – In ancient India, Shudras performed basic/essential social services. They  also worked in economic as well as in agricultural sectors under the guidance of caste Hindus. Still they were placed at lower level. Why? 

  • Segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status nor on their incapability to do any intellectual work.
  • In ancient India all the social groups were placed more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
  • It was on cultural grounds – unclean habits, in-disciplined life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc. 
  • All of the people living in a local area, whether high or low, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
  • They cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of their needs.

Concept of forwards or backwards non-existent in ancient India – Higher rank in the society or respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.

Masses reconciled, if not contended – Many studies have shown that Hindu system always kept masses reconciled, if not contended in the past. Hindu Dharma taught the people that instead of holding others responsible, for all their sufferings, exploitation and miseries it was their own “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) which were to be blamed.

Respect for Shudras with knowledge or character – Society never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers.

Troubles started not only for Shudras but everyone after continuous invasions – All troubles (of lower strata of society along with other sections of society) started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. Feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, blaming caste Hindus out-rightly could not be totally justified. It was not out of malice, but the circumstances under foreign rule, that had pushed Shudras away from the mainstream.

Continuous suffering without the help of government or society responsible –  The low status and continuous sufferings  for centuries had gradually stopped growth of their personality and made them completely dependent on others for their livelihood. Their total dependence on others and inferiority complex pushed them away far from the mainstream. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, superstitions, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence completely are the factors responsible for their exclusion from the mainstream of Hindu society. They were pushed below poverty line and had to suffer due to their own poverty as well as insensitive and inhuman treatment by other sections of the society .

Position of Shudras in modern era – During the nineteenth Century, in official circles Shudras were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British government in India regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’. British rulers as well as Missionaries launched an ideological attack on the social-structure of Hindus and tried to improve their social position – Missionaries by converting lower strata of society  into Christianity. And British rulers passed many Legislative regulations and administrative orders declaring denial of access to untouchables to schools, well, roads and public places as illegal.

Separation between Backwards and untouchables – So far, untouchable activities were combined with the intermediate castes’ non- Brahmin movement. But in the beginning of 20th century, untouchables were inspired to enter into the political arena under the name of “depressed class” and get a reasonable share in political power separately.

Attempt of British rulers to exclude ‘untouchables’ from Hinduism – Through the census of 1911, British rulers attempted to exclude untouchables from Hindu population. Continuous decline of number of Hindus cautioned the national leaders. In order to retain their Hindu identity, Gandhiji and his followers called them, ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. On one hand, Gandhiji tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for Harijans and on the other he appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up freely with other sections of society. Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

Humanitarians and reformers to elevate the position of untouchables – During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

  • They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability.
  • They tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism.
  • They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift.
  • They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.

Political rise of Untouchables under the supervision of Dr Ambedkar – Till 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society was known as Depressed class/backward class. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

Criticism of Hindu hierarchical structure – Some prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

Rise of political groups on caste-basis – By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

Untouchables separated from Backward class – In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.

Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.

Untouchables in Independent India

After Second World War, the whole of the world was swept along with the concept of  the ‘welfare-state’. Independent India, also became a Welfare Democratic nation pursuing justice -social, economic and political. The government considered it its humanitarian obligation to plan for uplift and empowerment of the submerged-sections of the society.  After Independence, seeing the overwhelming-poverty of millions of people, especially  belonging to the lower strata of the society and their near absence in echelons of power, Government of India took up some concrete measures.

The Constitution of India- The Constitution of India has directed the Government to promote social justice and educational, economic and other interests of the weaker sections with special care. It instructed the Government to remove the poverty and reduce inequalities of income and wealth and provide adequate representation to the downtrodden in power echelons through Affirmative Action Program/Reservation Policy. Public facilities, which were denied to untouchables so far, should be made accessible to them. The successive governments both at national as well as provincial levels initiated various Welfare Plans and Policies for employment generation and their social, economic and political growth from time to time.

Rise of the word ‘Dalit’ for untouchables – Dalit, a Maradhi word means ‘suppressed’. The term was chosen and used proudly by Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956). The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience.

Dalit Panthers , a political party in Maharashtra – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India. One of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation was primarily militant and rebellious. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables.

Main aim, abolish of caste-system  – Earlier, a few leaders of untouchables had at least some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism, out-rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj. But present Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. it has given rise to a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

Dalit’s March towards Bihar – In mid sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under the banner of Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements.

Dalit’s rise in UP – The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP, where the upper caste domination has been challenged by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayavati. They redefined Dalit politics especially in north India. Their approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. BSP has started pursuing power with militancy since 1990. Its supremo Mayawati succeeded four times in becoming Chief Minister of UP. Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. Political and economic vested interests of its leaders has aroused militancy among discontented youths of different castes and communities all over the nation. They care only for rights and pay scant attention to their duties. There started a cutthroat competition for scarce positions of power and prestige.

Dalits vs. Non-_Dalits – Once again, the tendency of ‘divide and rule’, as was there during British domination, has emerged in national scenario. India has been divided sharply between the two – Dalits and Non Dalits (caste Hindus).   The growing desire of Dalits to get control over political power has made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, even after so many years of Independence has identified Upper Castes as their enemy and intermediate castes sometimes as their friends and sometimes as their enemies. Kanshi Ram, a BSP leader initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs.

Vested interest of Dalits creamy layer – Creamy layer  amongst Dalits does not care much to bring poor Dalit masses into the mainstream. For some, presence and miseries of large number of dalits is a recipe for Dalit vote-bank, for others enjoying all the benefits of affirmative action programs initiated and implemented by the Government of India and other concessions given to them. Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. And here lies the crux of Dalit poltics.

Creamy Layer amongst Dalits – There emerged an elite section amongst Dalits, which protects its turf under the banner of Dalits at the cost of poorest of Dalits. The Supreme Court In famous Indira Sawney case in 1992 had observed that the benefits of Reservation policy had been cornered by influential and dominant sections of different Dalit caste groups covered under the scheme . In order to make it available to really needy persons, it directed the Government to identify creamy layer among the backward castes and exclude it from taking the benefits of Reservations. Because it was a measure of protective discrimination to help the socially disadvantaged. The inclusion and exclusion of a caste or a section of caste would have to be periodically reviewed, to take care of the changing circumstances. The court had directed the Government to specify within four months, the basis of exclusion – the basis of income or extent of holding or otherwise of creamy layer.

No Reservation on Promotion. The Supreme Court also held by a majority that total Reservation up to 50% could be made and there would be no Reservation in promotions for OBCs. Armed forces, some important civilian posts should be kept outside the purview of Reservation.

Implementation of Supreme Courts Direction – It was hoped after the court decision, that the benefit of Reservation would now reach to the needy persons. But witnessing the methods, in which the principle is applied, the concept of creamy layer appears to be an eyewash. In almost all the states, many dominant castes are included in the OBC list. Some states like Bihar have even declared that they did not have any Creamy layer. Tamil Nadu Government has declared 88% people as backwards. Given the corruption prevalent everywhere; it is not very difficult for the candidates having political, economic or muscle power to obtain false certificates from the officials, whom they can influence. I or class-II officer in the service of the Government or holds an equivalent post in a public sector undertaking or is employed under a private employer and draws salary, which is not less than that of a class II officer.

Dalit Vote Bank – Bahen Mayavati had one said that through election Dalits will takeover the posts of PM and CMs and the posts of DMs nd GMs through reservations. Political parties and its leaders are well-aware that the number of Dalit population is large and it can be a large vote-bank for them. Therefore, they try to appease Dalits creamy layer  from time to time, in order to increase their own political strength. Dalit leaders are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties. Dalit leaders are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere.

All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front, all the tree are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. Instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalits now want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing all political power. Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations/Affirmative Action Program.

Impact on paternalistic policies on Education- The following has been the effect of focusing on quantity rather than quality in the sphere of education: –

  • Tremendous pressure has been exerted for expanding the educational facilities at the higher and professional level, reducing hopes for more funds for elementary education;
  • Capitation fee colleges are getting a boost. Earlier, most of them were found in the South, but in post-Mandal period, the trend of Capitation fee colleges started in the North as well;
  • There has been pressure for opening up gates fully for private sector in the field of education, so that at least students get admission, even if the rate of payment is inflated.
  • Brain drain, which already has been a problem, got intensified further after the Mandal. Earlier when anti-Brahmin movement and Reservations started in the South, many Brahmin families migrated from Madras Presidency and settled in other parts of the country or abroad. Now with Reservation spreading in North as well, they are exploring the greener pastures abroad. The sad part is that the reverse discrimination has forced the cream of the nation to go out of country and serve others. Many organizations have come up during Post-Mandal era to help the bright students and professionals to get nice jobs in foreign lands.
  • Students agitation and unrest is continuously increasing with the growing number of educated unemployed,
  • Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries – Every caste is a conglomeration of sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. For political actions, they come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political classification of society into caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult. The unity of backward castes under the label of Dalits is an illusion created by vested interests. Neither the term Schedule caste”, nor OBC nor Dalit makes them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.[i]

Anger against upper caste in rise – The circumstances has resulted in the rise of anger against the Elitist upper caste people. After Mandal, this anger has engulfed the whole nation. Anyone doubting the efficacy of Reservation Policy is labeled today as a part of Manuwadi Brahminical system, which for ages has used religious scriptures, injunctions, propaganda and plain force to impose on masses many deprivations. The politics of revenge makes people irrational, and the authorities to go for reverse discrimination. At present, the forward castes doubt that they are being treated as second rate citizens in their own country, because they are scattered and other categories are united, well organised, and have the advantage of their numerical strength. In such an atmosphere, it is easy for the political authorities to withdraw opportunities from them and bestow it on the Backward classes; not necessarily the real disadvantaged sections.

The animosity of has tended withdrawal attitude amongst forward castes – After Mandal, the talented youth started withdrawing themselves from active politics or joining bureaucracy. Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for them. They either join private sector or multi-national companies or go abroad in search of job. Information technology or software industry is full of such people. The private sector takes good care of them. It again breeds inter-caste jealousy.

Conflict between OBCs and Dalits – The Backwards and Dalits do not have much in common among them, except for their hatred for the caste Hindus, especially Brahmins. Intermediate castes always wanted to be aligned with power. Earlier in the social sphere, when upper castes were strong, they were their right hand persons. Forward castes, have always been non-militant and passive by nature. Therefore, they could not exert force on the lower strata. On behalf of them, the intermediate castes exerted the force on the lower castes. At present, when the wind is blowing in favour of Dalits, OBCs have joined hands with Dalits, to displace the forward castes and to grab the political power.

Growing confrontation – Dalits have always been in conflict with OBCs at social level, in politics, they have no option, but to support them to achieve their mission to change the power equation. Too much assertiveness of Dalit and backward leaders has already created growing confrontation between the lowest and different  intermediate castes in various parts of the country – Dalits Vs Marathas in Maharashtra, Dalits Vs Yadavs in UP and Bihar or Dalits Vs Thevars in Tamil Nadu. A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society.

The fight initially started between rural poor (marginal and marginalized) – Poor OBCs with a bit of land and some degree of political protection infuriated poorer Dalits, who neither had land, nor education, nor political power. In urban areas the fight is again for property and jobs. The main fight is for land, jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security and progress. This fight is moving from the margins to center stage of Indian politics. Therefore, there is not much in common between a BC landless agricultural laborer and OBC landowner. Very often, the rudeness of OBC towards BC is the main cause of social tension in rural India. Caste-Hindus, even Brahmins have been more considerate to an untouchable than intermediate caste such as rich Jat, Maratha, Reddy, or Patel etc. In the post-Mandal era, the intermediate castes have become very strong economically and politically. They own big farmland and employ landless tillers for farming. Their numerical strength gave them the political power also. The economic and political strength made OBCs to exploit the downtrodden.

Along with OBC, the post Mandal era has witnessed Dalit assertion and a massive shift in power in favour of Dalits as well. With the caste equation hardening, the Dalit groups got united. They have come together and are fighting for their rights. Earlier they allowed OBCs to exploit them, now they resent it. Todays’ Dalits are aggressive and militant enough to take the OBCs head on. OBCs are getting it back with the rise of Dalit reprisal attacks, which often results in heavy loss of life and property on both the sides. Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Intra-Caste rivalries – Not only are there inter caste rivalries, but intra-caste rivalries exist as well. Every caste has both, rich and poor people. The rich amongst them not only oppress the caste lower to it, but also the poor people of its own caste. It is not that forward castes, SCs, STs and OBCs are rivals of each other. Many emerging castes within each political group are fighting against each other for power, such as amongst intermediate castes – Jats, Yadavs, Koeries are fighting with each other for power. Also, the attempt of each political party to woo the same Dalit, OBC or minority group has given rise to intra-caste rivalries. In order to be one up each party tries to please different castes within each group by taking up different sectional issues. Each powerful caste now acts independently during elections and seeks political alliance before and after election with other caste groups. Post-election alliances, in an attempt to secure a majority, have led to the rise of inter-caste and intra-caste rivalries. (Sunday, pp. 12-13, and 8-14, June, 1997). 

Dalits influence at International platform – Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining enough places in the government jobs. Since 2001, these activists have been pushing the cause internationally arguing that Indian Dalits are like blacks in US till 1950. They faced problems in workplace, at school and in temples.

In 2005, some Dalit leaders belonging to All India Confederation have sought intervention USA, UN and the British and EU Parliaments on the issues of ‘untouchability’. UN recognizes religion, race, language and gender as main causes of inequality in the world. Dalt activists want caste to be included too in this category. They desire to have Global alliance, global involvement and intervention of the international community to put pressure on the government of India to address the problem Dalit marginalization. They feel that globalization and privatization has made it difficult for Dalits, tribals and OBC’s to compete on equal footing or find enough space in the job market within the country or abroad. At the behest of the Republican Congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, the US Congress had held a hearing on 6.10. 05 on the subject. A resolution on the issue – “ India’s unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for 200 million victims of the caste system” was prepared by the house committee on International Relations and US Human Rights to be tabled in the US Congress. Despite the Indian government’s extensive affirmative action policies, which aim to open government service and education to Dalits and tribes, most have been left behind by India’s increasing prosperity…. Much much more remains to be done.” The resolution says, “It is in the interest of US to address the problem of the treatment of groups outside the caste system… in the republic of India in order to better meet our mutual economic and security goals….”

So far, intensive lobbying by Dalit groups including followers of Ravidass sect succeeded in getting passed the Equity Bill on March 24, 2010 in the house of Lords. It empowered the government to include ‘caste’ within the definition of ‘race’. In 2001, India was able in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at 2001 Durban Conference.

Along with it, staunch supporters of Human Rights, some Scandinavian countries, Church organizations around the world and Lutheran World Federation have shown interest and expressed their solidarity with Dalits. Recently the comment of UN Commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay asking India that “time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste” and proposals of UN Human Rights Council’s or US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to recognize caste as a form of discrimination ‘based on descent and birth’ appear not to be based on rational understanding of caste system. Their opinion about untouchability is greatly influenced by the lobbying of powerful/influential Dalit leaders and Dalit intelligentsia.

No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? It is not the paternalistic policies, (which have failed to yield so far the desired results) that are required for the uplift and empowerment of submerged sections of society, but there is need to educate, make them aware of their rights and duties, provide enough employment opportunities and basic civic facilities like health etc. at the grass root level for the sustainable growth of backward communities.

August 12, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Dalit’s movement for empowerment in India

National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other.” Kaka Kalelkar

           “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”                         Eleanor Roosevelt

“You can fool some of the people all the time’ and all of the people some of the time. But you can-not fool all of the people all of the time.”         Abraham Lincoln

Introduction – Pathetic condition of untouchable masses along with a other sections of society (In 2012, the Indian government stated 21.9% of its population is below its official poverty limit, including those belonging to lower castes, presently known as Dalits) even after 65 years of Independence, is a great matter of concern.

Poverty: 2011-2012 Percentage of people by Caste – Findings below are based on a survey conducted during 2011-12.

 Poverty in India based on caste

Caste     Percentage of Poverty No. of People
FC 12.5% 49.1M
OBC 20.7% 108.5M
SC 29.4% 73.8M
ST 43.0% 46.4

Caste Percentage No. of People
FC 30.8% 393M
OBC 41.1% 524M
SC 19.7% 251M
ST 8.5% 108M

Total population of India 1,276,267,631 according to the survey’

Who are Dalits? – Officially known as Scheduled castes, and in politics people called as Dalits/Untouchables have been described as “The oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low”. Millions of Dalit community have been the victims of discrimination, violence, exploitation, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, other hate crimes and consequential disabilities for a very long time. They are treated as lesser human beings.

Uplift of submerged sections of society, a humanitarian obligation – Uplift of submerged sections of society is a humanitarian obligation of every citizen. All the people together should think compassionately for their poor brethren, who are still far away from the main stream. Majority of them belong to Dalit community and are still weak and are below poverty line. Government and sensitive people should plan for their uplift. Instead of politicizing the Dalit issue, the creamy layer of Dalit community too should take up the responsibility to help their poor brethren to join the main-stream of the society, and work for their true development in a peaceful manner.

Poverty in India is a historical reality. From late 19th century through early 20th century, under British colonial rule, poverty in India intensified, peaking in 1920s. (T. Roy, London School of Economics, Globalization, Factor Prices and Poverty in Colonial India, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 73-94 (March 2007) and Maddison, A. (1970), The historical origins of Indian poverty, PSL Quarterly Review, 23(92), pp. 31-81) Famines and diseases killed millions each time. ( Murton, Brian (2000), “VI.4: Famine”, The Cambridge World History of Food 2, Cambridge, New York, pp. 1411–27 and A Sen (1983), Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Oxford University Press.) After India gained its independence in 1947, mass deaths from famines were prevented, but poverty increased, peaking post-independence in 1960s. Rapid economic growth since 1991, has led to sharp reductions in extreme poverty in India. (Bhagwati & Panagariya (2013), Why Growth Matters: How Economic Growth in India Reduced Poverty and the Lessons for Other Developing Countries, Public Affairs. And Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, The Elephant That Became a Tiger: 20 Years of Economic Reform in India Cato Institute (20 July 2011).  However, those above poverty line live a fragile economic life. (Joh n Burn-Murdoch and Steve Bernard, The Fragile Middle: millios face poverty as emerging economies slow, The Financial Times (13 April 2014).Lack of basic essentials of life such as safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, health infrastructure as well as malnutrition impact the lives of hundreds of millions.

Identity Of a human being – Every human beings in a society is accorded a social identity – individually or community-wise. Pr. Herbert Kelman of Harvard University says “To accord a person identity is to perceive him as an individual, independent and distinguishable from others, capable of making choices and entitled to live his own life on the basis of his own goals and values.” And “To accord a person a community is to perceive him – along with one’s self – as part of an interconnected network of individuals who care for each other, who recognize each-others individuality and who respect each other’s individual rights.”

Blame game – Instead of everyone helping the down trodden, many political parties, Dalit activists and leaders blame caste system, holding it responsible for keeping 750 million untouchables – dalits, tribals and other backward classes – poor, “subjugated, discriminated against and humiliated. ”They say that fruits of all the opportunities opened up so far in modern economic, social, political spheres and technological advancement, developed for human survival and convenience are being tasted only be the upper castes. Through their inflammatory speeches on discrimination and caste system, they have divided the society and put into danger the integrity of the nation as a whole. In the hearts of the oppressed castes, they have filled anger and hatred.” They demand their emancipation by ending all kind of discrimination. At present the nation needs that masses should to be educated and trained enough not to be swayed away by the irresponsible comments of persons with vested interests.

Anti-social elements – Recently, PM Narendra Modi blamed a few anti-social elements, who are the perpetrators violence against Dalits. Such anti-social elements, in the night, indulge in anti-social activities which no civilized society will approve of and proclaim themselves as ‘cow protectors’ by day. They make weaker sections of society the targets of violence and give speeches on ‘no beef eating’ or ‘cow-protection’ etc. They take law into their own hands – they themselves frame the laws, execute them and punish those, who do not toe their footsteps. Nobody has any right to take law into one’s own hands and ill-treat others. It is inhuman to take away basic dignity of any individual especially belonging to submerged section of society.

Violence needs to be condemned – Violence in any form against anyone should be condemned in the strongest terms. Administration should ensure the stringent punishment for individuals or groups who are involved in criminal activities. Dalits issue should not be politicized by political parties. Government should not allow the divisive elements to be successful. On social issues “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.” (AynRand)

Speedy and deterrent punishment for perpetrators of violence – Delay in punishment emboldens the spirits of anti-social elements. The government There are enough laws to take care of the welfare of the people – like two major laws at the national level – Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955, and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 – dealing with discrimination against specific groups. One of the reason of increasing rate of crimes and violence against Dalits, minorities or women (like murder, rape, hurt and so on) in the recent past is that the government could not crack down on criminals judiciously on time.

Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa are among the states with the highest number of such offences. It is only when a Dalit suffer, many leaders and media wake up and shout. Otherwise even on heinous crimes, even on spreading violence and atrocities on women, due to constantly deteriorating situation of law and order, political parties and national leaders close their eyes and ears and remain silent.

Negative mindset of a few creates troubles – To pinpoint or treat other sections of society as their enemy is the brain-child of people having negative-thoughts. Politicizing social issues whether related to Dalits or women or Muslim; giving inflammatory speeches; and criticizing the administration basing it on a few very shameful incidents, misdeeds, behavior or thinking is not fair. It polarizes the society into watertight compartments. Such ccriticisms are the brain-child of anti-social elements having negative mindset. The mindset of such people needs to be changed, which is a social issue. When a social issue is polarized, the problem gets aggravated. Its continuance end up dividing society and the nation.

Politicization of Dalit issue. Why? –

Politicization of Dalit issue. Why? – About 20% of Dalit population in India plays a decisive role in polls throughout the nation. With state assembly elections in Punjab and UP round the corner, all political parties including BJP are wooing Dalits vigouressly, in a bid to strengthen their position in elections and create a strong vote-bank for themselves. In Punjab, their population is about 32%. Out of 21 districts, 13 have Dalit population higher than the state-wise average (such as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar -42.5%, Mukhtar Sahib-42.3%, Firozepur-42% so on and so forth)), 34 of its 117 assembly seats are reserved for SC candidates. In UP, Dalit population is 21%. In 34 out of 70 districts Dalit population is higher than their state-wise average like in Sonbhadra -42%, Kaushambi-36%, Sitapur-32% Unnao and Hardoi-31%.. There is a cut-throat competition amongst BJP, BSP and Samajwadi party.. Just before elections, either of Lok Sabha, or of state assemblies or Panchayats, political parties spent most of their time, energy and money in flaring up the sentiments of Dalits and appeasing them.

Some developments in recent past – Dalits have formed a strong assertive political block. The new phase of untouchables/Dalit assertion during last two-three decades under the leadership of many leaders like Paswan, Manjhi, in Bihar or Kansiram and Mayawati. In UP, the most populous state, BSP under the leadership of Mr. Kansiram and Bahen Mayawati had taken the destiny of Dalits during eighties in its own hands. She has been The Chief Minister of UP four times – earlier in 1994-95, BSP formed the government first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. From 2007 to 7th March 2012, on its own strength, BSP had ruled U.P. In the recent past, other political parties are trying to follow their footsteps in order to woo Dalit population.

ng to different political parties and groups (like SFI, or ASA) have become quite vocal and aggressive. Instead of finding out the solution of the problems in peaceful manner, and raising their voice for exemplary and speedy action against the perpetrators of crimes irrespective of caste and creed, national and regional parties are stretching/politicizing the Dalit issue beyond limits. They have given a casteist colour to Dalit issue. It is easier to them to divide the society into Dalits and non-Dalits and try to garner more votes.

Dalit anger spilled on the roads – Stung by electoral setbacks, some national leaders, political parties as well as Dalit activists have castigated the upper castes for their anti- Dalit attitude. They blame dominant upper caste for being unable to tolerate upward mobility of Dalits and accept the changed social order. Dalit activists say that now jobs and small businesses are a growing trend among SCs. Cars and good houses of Dalits in their neighborhood are visible. Dalits now refuse to work in landlord’s fields. It is enough a provocation for dominant peasants and other groups, mostly castes belonging to OBCs, who are unable to take the resistance from Dalits and use force and violence to frighten/suppress/humiliate Dalits. It is leading to brutality against Dalits. They blame that upper castes want to withdraw from the Dalits the facility of reservation under one pretext or the other. Such allegations seems to be politically motivated.

Politicization of sad event of suicide of a student– The sad event of Rohit Vemula’s, a student of Hyderabad University, had been politicized and was projected as exploitation of Dalits by upper caste. Instead of improving the system to disburse the scholarships/fellowships on time, so that poor students do not face economic difficulties, the mindset of Caste-Hindus was blamed. The presentation of violent attack on Dalits for skinning dead cows at Una in the name of ‘Gau Rakshak’ has been done in such a way that it tended to Dalit anger spilled on the roads. The crimes against Dalits are politicized to such an extent that it echoes even in parliament with great furor by top national leaders. The present day Dalit politics has led to re-grouping of various political parties for gaining political power in 2017 national elections.

An individual has multiple identities – Only a single identity should not be imposed on any individual or group. Every Indian has multiple identity like ‘geographical identity’, ‘national identity’, ‘provincial identity’, ‘local identity’, ‘social identity’, ‘political identity’, ‘economic identity’ ‘religious identity’, ‘occupational identity’ and so on and so forth. Dalit politics has placed political identity of a particular group on the top. Rest have lost their sheen.

Historical Background of Dalit Politics

About permanent stigma of backward identity – The upper caste is not responsible so much about caste-divide in India, as British government during its imperial rule in India. They purposely launched an ideological attack on Hinduism and social structure of Indian society. They blamed caste system for being “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified” system, responsible for evil many social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution. They held Hindu society and its caste system for all the agonies of untouchables.

Ancient India

Philosophy behind Hinduism and its caste system? – In one of its, judgements, Supreme Court has described ‘Hinduism as a ‘way of life’. It is its basic mosaic culture that binds all Indians together. One of its basic tenets is ‘tolerance’. Instead of holding others responsible, Hinduism held “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) responsible for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

Some of its basic principles are –

  • Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. It concedes validity to all religions and communities and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world and more than 4000 social groups popularly known as ‘caste’ are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.
  • Hinduism has adopted the path of assimilation and does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. It has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots. It follows the path of ‘Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression’. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the whole world is one family Indians is the hallmark of Hindu culture. It gives emphasis to self-restraint and self-discipline.
  • Ranking of different social groups – There was no hard and fast rule for ranking various castes. In ancient India, ranking of numerous social groups (castes) was not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels.
  • Basis for segmental ranking of different caste groups was done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. The factors like usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different groups of people determined their social, economic or political status in society, vis-a vis others.
  • All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area were inter-dependent, bound together by economic and social ties. They cared and supported each other in day-to-day life.
  • There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another.
  • Considerations of knowledge, self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals.
  • Maximum importance was given to knowledge. That is why Brahmins, the pursuers of knowledge, were accorded the highest place in the society. But they were put under maximum restrictions – lead a simple life, devote all their time to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.
  • Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.
  • Ranking was not done on the basis of material success or control of power. Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives despite their being so powerful and the ruling community. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Position of Shudras in ancient India – Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables/Dalits) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks as well as in agricultural sector.

Who were Shudras? – Initially people clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, Conquered groups, individuals or persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as ‘Shudras’. They were mostly engaged in menial work and were given lowest status in the society.

During those days, breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty.

By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes. Socially, they were put amongst the lower strata of Hindu community doing all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas.

Shudras as role-models in ancient India – Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society.

Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

Reconciled, if not contended – Hinduism or its practices can-not be blamed totally for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, or forcing them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs. Before British-rule in India, the system kept the masses irrespective of their caste-identity, reconciled, if not contended.. The social values and systems kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability and continuity.

Troubles for ‘Shudras’ started during medieval period – The position of Shudras continuously deteriorated after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. To save its distinct identity under foreign rule, Hindus turned inwards and observed all the rituals rigidly and blindly. Many social practices developed during this period like pitiable condition of women and Shudra. In addition to it, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Position of Untouchables, when British came to India – By the time British established their rule in India, the condition of Shudras was pitiable. There were restrictions on their entry to temples. They were forced to do menial work at meagre payments or work without remuneration. They were low in social and ritual standing. They were victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities. They were far away from the main-stream of the nation. Their representation in the power structure of the nation was negligible.

Stigmatizing particular groups officially of their low social status – Earlier even British rulers avoided itself from stigmatizing any group, by official acknowledgement, of their low social status and considered it unfair. Indian Statutory Commission 1930 said it clearly in its Report that “Owing to the social disabilities, to which members of the depressed classes are exposed, it would be in the highest degree undesirable that any official authorization might appear to extend such qualification. The fluidity of social distinctions and the efforts of the classes lowest in the scale, aided by social reformers, to improve their status make it more desirable, that government should abstain from doing anything, which would tend to give rigidity to these distinctions.” (Indian Statutory Commission, 1930, VI, p. 341)

But later on political awareness and demands of non-Brahmin castes compelled British rulers to do give backward status to lower castes. Arbitrary acts of a few persons also gave opportunity to non-Brahmins and British rulers to pin-point Brahmins as exploiters of other sections of society.

Portrayal of Brahmins oppressors of backwards – The circumstances compelled the rulers to portray Brahmins as oppressors. Having learning background, they were ahead of others in opting for Modern education and making their place in modern callings. When British introduced modern education in 1834, it was the impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood which looked upon modern education as means to earn their living respectfully. The gradual displacement from their source of income, after the decline in financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars, the appalling poverty of Brahmins compelled them to switch over their attention towards modern education.

Poor Brahmins with learning background opted for modern education – Brahmins devoted their scarce resources and energies to get costly Western Education. Sir Alfred Croft, Director of Public Instruction in Bengal wrote to Rev. J. Johnston in 1881, “We know well that any considerable increase in the fees paid by college students would compel many to withdraw. It seems not to be fully understood… how poor the middle classes that flock to our colleges really are. Half the students live from hand to mouth…. And yet though, far behind in point of wealth, they correspond to, and are in fact the only representative of our professional classes at home, and the pressure on them for the means of subsistence is so great, that they must either be educated or go to wall.”

Their poverty gets confirmed by a study done to examine the annual income of the guarantors of 1271 Brahmin Students enrolled at Ferguson College, Pune from 1885 to 1895. According to it, 76% of the Chitpavan Brahmins guarantors belonged to the low or medium income groups. Similarly of the 277 Deshastha Brahmin guarantors, 70% came from low or medium groups.

Brahmins quick to move ahead of others – Brahmins, being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, were quick to move ahead of other communities. Their long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them to take a lead in all newer areas of advancement and secure an important places in the government and other modern occupations.

Preponderance of Brahmins everywhere – In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service, during 1869 to 1899. The British authorities also noticed the preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, including National movement and their growing influence and hold over the Hindu Community. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement, overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule alarmed the rulers. It made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

Alarmed the British rulers – They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them. Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

Views of some eminent persons on Brahmins influence

  • In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, “There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English (rule).” In the words of an observer, “If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.”
  • Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.”
  • Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces.
  • Many British administrators including Temple advised the Government to stop the dominance of one or few groups in administration and incited other social groups or backward castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in order to counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Lower castes had fallen into the trapMuch more than the arbitrariness of Brahmins, it was because of the superstitions, illiteracy and ignorance that lower castes had fallen into the trap, especially in rural areas and believed in portrayal of Brahmins as oppressors and tyrants as told to them by the missionaries, the British rulers in India and up-coming political leaders of lower castes. They completely ignored the other side of the coin.

British apathy towards indigenous skills – In nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society.

Discrediting many traditional occupations – The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers belonging mainly to Shudra category (for whom work was essential for survival) backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc.

Masses compelled to do menial jobs – A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

March of Dalits towards Empowerment

Dalit’s movement for empowerment started way back during second half of the nineteenth century with reformatory efforts to uplift backward groups of Indian society, especially ‘Dalits’. It was initiated by non-Brahmins of South India. Some economically strong but educationally backward non-Brahmins groups resisted the hold of Brahmins on land, wealth, jobs in government and education.

Reformative attempts – Earlier the movement for uplift of non-Brahmins had economic and social thrusts. It demanded education and land for backwards and freedom from caste rigidities. Later on, by the end of the 19th century, it turned into a political movement, seeking state intervention and initiating the idea of paying special attention to Dalits/untouchables by the government.

Non-Brahmin leaders, supported by other backward communities – Muslims, Indian Christians, untouchables and tribals, desired to secure a place for themselves in modern callings, to obtain legal rights and position of power through govt.’s intervention. They succeeded in fixing up quotas for them in the state Government jobs. During 1874 and 1885, Mysore state reserved 20% of middle and lower level jobs in the police department for Brahmins and 80% for Muslims, Non-Brahmins Hindus and Indian Christians. From Government jobs, it spread to educational field too, in order to prepare non-Brahmins for Government jobs.

Separation of Untouchables from Backwards – Around 1909, for the first time, the lowest strata of non-Brahmin Community or the service class, earlier known as Shudras, was conceptualized politically under the name of untouchables, when the Census Commissioner suggested to exclude untouchables (comprising of about 24% of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population at that time) from Hindu fold for forthcoming 1911 Census. The proposal had divided non-Brahmin Community into two Backwards and untouchables. Also, it had immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too. It had also made numbers important in taking political decisions.

Concern of national leaders – The suggestion to exclude untouchables from Hindu population was not acceptable to prominent National Hindu leaders at any cost, for whom continuous decline of the number of Hindu population had already been a matter of concern. Granting special electorate to Muslims had already weakened the National movement of Independence. They were concerned that such a proposal was made intentionally to divide Indians.

Untouchable’s/Dalit’s movement has traveled a long distance since then. The whole of the 20th century, especially the first and last two decades, have been very important for political empowerment of Untouchables/Dalits. Different terms like outcastes, Panchamas, untouchables, depressed class, scheduled castes and Dalits have been used for Dalits at different points of time. Each one assumed importance, as Dalit movement has passed through various stages, which assumed importance at different points of time.

  • Outcastes or Panchamas – Before 20th Century, the category lower than Shudra or the bottom groups of Indian Society was known as Panchamas or outcastes. In Western and Southern parts of India, they were kept outside the four Varnas. In the Northern and Eastern parts of India, the fourth Varna Shudra itself was divided into two parts pure or non-excluded and excluded or untouchables.[i]Their low status gradually made them to suffer inhuman treatment by other sections of the society. Centuries old enslavement, ignorance, suppression and ostracism shook their confidence completely. They were unable to develop capabilities and skills to attain independent livelihood. They were dependent on caste Hindus for their subsistence.                                                                                                                                 Earlier, the groups clinging to anti-social activities or persons born illegitimately were treated as untouchables. By the beginning of Christian era, out-castes developed a caste hierarchy of their own, each group considering the other group to be lower than it.[ii] They were isolated and disadvantaged by their untouchability. This group was engaged in different menial jobs.
  • Depressed Class– During the 19th Century, in official circles lower castes were addressed as ‘Depressed class’ or ‘Exterior class’. British regarded these people as ‘Oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low’.[iii] During the 19th century, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. Indian social reformers took the path of Sankritisation and missionaries of conversion to elevate this section of society. However, the depressed class desired a share in political power. Therefore, the political activities of untouchables started in close contact with non-Brahmin movement of ‘Backward classes’. Soon they felt that intermediate castes cared more for themselves than untouchables. It made untouchables unhappy. This led to the isolation of untouchables from intermediate castes by 1928.
  • Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest castes got a distinct identity under the banner of untouchability. Dr. Ambedkar, the first undisputed leader of Dalits, regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous.[iv] He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. Otherwise Census Operations might include other groups in this category.[v]Ambedkar and other leaders of untouchables believed that only untouchables were educationally, economically and socially backward. Therefore, untouchables should come under DC category.[vi] They should not be confused with the ‘Backward Classes’, who were only educationally Backward, but held higher status on the socio-economic and religious scale. Dr. Ambedkar gave the untouchable movement a national character. He placed their problems at all India level during Simon Commission proceedings.
  • Untouchables – By 1909, the lowest strata of Indian society came to be known as untouchabes. Emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He insisted to address untouchables just as untouchables. He regarded the terms ‘Depressed classes’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Harijans’ either confusing or degrading and contemptuous. Dr. Ambedkar made it abundantly clear, ‘It was through political power that untouchables were to find their solution, not through acceptance by Hindus’. He gave untouchable movement a national character and a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties.

    Other prominent Dalit leaders like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. They taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society. According to them, Hindus treated lower castes as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, who should always remain at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They tried to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus.

    By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force. Together, they demanded special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste.

    In 1928, Simon Commission established their separate identity at national level, independent of intermediate castes as untouchables. It readily accepted their demands through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division

    Harijans – During this period, the attention of humanitarians and reformers was also drawn towards the pathetic condition of untouchables. They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability and tried to clarify that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. They took the path of Sankritization to elevate them. In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, they drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.                                                                                                                     In 1911 Census, the move of the Census Commissioner, British India, not to give Hindu identity to untouchable population and exclude them from the list of Hindus had cautioned national leaders and reformers. They also got worried because of continuously  declining number of Hindus. Gandhiji along with other national leaders and reformers considered untouchability a blot on Hinduism. They called untouchables ‘Harijans’ meaning the “people belonging to god”. They tried to create compassion in the hearts of forward communities for untouchablesHe appealed to Harijans to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were.                Dalit leaders did not like the word Harijan as it symbolized a meek and helpless person, at the mercy and benevolence of others, and not the proud and independent human being that they were.

  • Scheduled Castes – In accordance with the provisions of the Communal Award of 1932, instructions were issued, in July 1934, to schedule a list of the people entitled for preferential treatment in matter of special electoral representation and appointment in the Central Government jobs. This gave birth to the term Scheduled Caste in 1935. Scheduling was a legal activity having sanction of legal authorities. Therefore, no one had any objection to this term. The term continued after the independence as well, for the purpose of Reservation.
  • Dalits – In 1972, a distinct political party, in the name of Dalit Panther was formed in Maharashtra. It organized the lower castes under the banner of ‘Dalit’ throughout India.  After Independence, the Constitution framers guided the State authorities to provide extra facilities for the uplift of backward class, so that they could join the mainstream of society. Dalit Sahitya Movement legitimized and reinforced the use of the term Dalit. Since then, this term is very popular amongst the untouchables. In 1972, one of the founders of Dalit Panther, Mr. Namdeo Dhasal widened the scope of Dalit by including SC, tribes, neo-Buddhists, landless labor and economically exploited people. Its orientation is primarily militant and rebellious.

After Independence

Through various Plans and Policies, Central and State Governments aimed and worked for- –

  • Economic growth of Scheduled castes.
  • Self-reliance.
  • Employment generation
  • Providing social justice through-
  1. Removal of poverty.
  2. Reduction in inequalities of income and wealth.
  3. Reservation for their adequate representation.

Five Year Plans initiated by Independent India –For the uplift of down-trodden, various Five Year Plans took the following measures under Five year planning scheme –

  •  First Five Year Plan (1951 to 1956) gave highest priority to agriculture.
  • Second Five Year Plan (1956 to 1961) aimed in reduction of inequalities in income and wealth and a more even distribution of economic power.
  • Third Five Year Plan (1961 to 1966) aimed to create substantial employment opportunities and achieving greater equality of opportunities and reducing economic disparities.
  • Fourth Plan (1969 to 1974), aimed at progressive achievement of self-reliance, growth with justice, balanced regional development and providing a minimum nutritional level to the people. A minimum need program was started during this plan period. It talked of improvement in the condition of common men and weaker sections and raised the slogan Garibi Hatao.
  • Fifth Plan (1975 to 1979), was planned against the backdrop of severe inflationary pressures. It laid stress on skillful and speedy implementation of programs started in the 4th plan. It suggested organization of small cultivators and landless farmers. Its objectives were removal of poverty and attainment of self-sufficiency, attaining 5.5% annual growth in GDP, employment generation, National program for minimum needs, elementary education, drinking water, medical care in rural areas, nutrition, home sites for landless labor, rural roads, rural electrification, and slum improvement.
  • Sixth Plan (1980 – 85) aimed at removal of poverty, unemployment, improving the quality of the poorest through minimum needs program, population control. The strategy of rapid growth with redistribution was adopted.
  • Seventh Plan (1985-90) – It observed that 36 million people had crossed the poverty line between 1977-78 and 1983-84. During the Seventh Plan period, the Government continued the strategy of 6th Plan with an additional emphasis on urban poor. It laid stress on objectives of growth, modernization, self-reliance and social justice. Its focus was on food work and productivity.
  • Eighth Plan (1992-97)– Generation of adequate employment opportunities, containment of population growth, universalization of elementary education, provision of drinking water and primary health care facilities. It laid emphasis on people’s participation in areas like health, family planning, literacy, development of land etc.
  • Ninth Plan (1997–2002) – The Ninth Five-Year Plan came after 50 years of Indian Independence. The Ninth Five-Year Plan tried primarily to use the latent and unexplored economic potential of the country to promote economic and social growth. It offered strong support to the social spheres of the country in an effort to achieve the complete elimination of poverty. The main objectives of 9th plan were –
    • Correct historical inequalities and increase the economic growth in the country.
    • Population control
    • Generating employment by giving priority to agriculture and rural development
    • Reduction of poverty
    • Ensuring proper availability of food and water for the poor
    • Availability of primary health care facilities and other basic necessities
    • Primary education to all children in the country
    • Empowering the socially disadvantaged classes like Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes and other backward classes
    • Developing self-reliance in terms of agriculture
    • Acceleration in the growth rate of the economy with the help of stable prices.

10th Five Year Plan (2002–2007) – The main objectives of the Tenth Five-Year Plan were:

  •  Attain 8% GDP growth per year
  • Reduction of poverty rate by 5% by 2007
  • Providing gainful and high-quality employment at least to the addition to the labor force
  • Reduction in gender gaps in literacy and wage rates by at least 50% by 2007
  • 20-point program was introduced
  • Target growth: 8.1% – growth achieved: 7.7%
  • The tenth plan was expected to follow a regional approach rather than sectoral approach to bring down regional inequalities
  • Expenditure of ₹43,825 crore (US$6.5 billion) for tenth five years.

11th Plan (2007–2012)  – Main objectives being –

  • Rapid and inclusive growth.(Poverty reduction)
  • Emphasis on social sector and delivery of service therein.
  • Empowerment through education and skill development.
  • Reduction of gender inequality.
  • Environmental sustainability.
  • To increase the growth rate in agriculture, industry and services to 4%, 10% and 9% respectively.
  • Reduce Total Fertility Rate to 2.1
  • Provide clean drinking water for all by 2009.
  • Increase agriculture growth to 4%.

·12th Plan (2012–2017) – The government intends to reduce poverty by 10% during the 12th Five-Year Plan. Mr. Ahluwalia said, “We aim to reduce poverty estimates by 9% annually on a sustainable basis during the Plan period. Earlier, addressing a conference of State Planning Boards and Planning departments, he said the rate of decline in poverty doubled during the 11th Plan. The commission had said, while using the Tendulkar poverty line, the rate of reduction in the five years (between 2004–05 and 2009–10) was about 1.5%points each year, which was twice that when compared to the period between, 1993–95 to 2004–05.

Some of the important social security and welfare steps taken by various government after Independence – Some of the steps taken by the governments so far for the welfare of SCT have been: –

  • Legislation for the protection of interests of SCT.
  • National Commission for SCT to monitor their progress.
  • Welfare Departments to formulate policies.
  • Voluntary agencies to do field work.
  • Special Economic Assistance.
  • Coaching and Allied schemes for their further education.
  • Girls and boys hostel schemes for SCT.
  • Book-Bank Schemes and Scholarships.
  • Liberation and rehabilitation of scavengers.
  • Tribal Research Institute.
  • TRIFED.
  • Reservation in Service and other areas.
  • National Backward classes Finance and Development Corporation, etc.

Dalit masses still struggling for their survival – Despite all the political empowerment, special attention and preferential treatment, Government and Dalit leaders and intellectuals have failed even 69 years after the independence to change their lot of the masses of Dalit community, to improve socio-economic condition, to give them proper education, enough employment opportunities and a vision of a prosperous society. They are still struggling for their survival and are the victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities.

Still living below poverty line – Majority of them still lives in precarious condition because of low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities and land disputes. Caste rivalries are increasing every day.

Deteriorating law and order situation – Over and above, their sufferings have multiplied due to increasing number of crimes and incidents of violence. The deterioration of law and order position all over India is continuously increasing their miseries. What have Dalit intellectuals and leaders have done so far for their unfortunate brethren.

Creamy layer among Dalits – It is only the followers of powerful Dalit leaders, who have prospered. The creamy layer now commands muscle, money as well as political power. They are in no mood to play a second fiddle to any other section of society or group and wish to make their own place in Indian society and national politics.

What is solution? – The solution of the problem of empowering the whole Dalit community neither lies in letting down the upper castes, who are not interested in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or with Dalits, nor in pursuing Reservation Policy. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up many new opportunities in job-market for all. What is required for their prosperity is learning, acquiring required knowledge, hard-work, intelligence, confidence and will power and courage to face the challenges and move forward.

Why schemes for dalit’s development could not yield desired results – various welfare plans and schemes could not deliver the desired results because: –

    • Political parties are busy in wooing the voters through short-term measures rather than working for their sustainable development.
    • Pervasive corruption, nepotism, favoritism and undue pressure of social interests.
    • Collapse of trust mechanism and accountability due to: –
        • Erosion of the power of Parliament by executive.
        • Bureaucratic failure to detect irregularities and corruption.
        • Reports of Commission not being taken seriously by the Government.
        • Institution of Lok Pal does not exist.
        • Politicians and bureaucrats manage protection of law.
        • Arrogance of power exists everywhere in government offices.
        • Concentration of power in few hands.

The following two problems have specifically plagued the development schemes: –

  • Identification of targeted groups being influenced by economic and political vested interest.
  • Misappropriation of funds by intermediaries. Only a fraction of sanctioned money actually reaches the targeted groups.
  • The entire problem is rooted in extreme centralization of schemes, leading to poor understanding of local needs and priorities.
  • Many States lack rural institutions, which could function democratically and ensure that only needy and targeted persons get benefited from special schemes envisaged for them.
  • The welfare measures and schemes benefit mostly the cream of SCT. Educated SCT know that access to important positions in the government has been provided to them by Reservation.
  • Creamy layer have developed a vested interest in preserving the Reservation as long as possible. Also the caste based Reservation has led the Dalits to insist to preserve their separate political entity. They understand that their unity and organized effort would help them to counter the traditional hold of other sections over socio-economic systems. Aggressive attitude of Dalits During 80’s in UP – In UP, the upper caste domination was first challenged by intermediate castes and then by BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) formed in 1984 under the leadership of Kanshi Ram. Kanshi Ram’s approach to Dalit issues was more socio-political rather than economic. He pressed for a due share in political power. He represents the aspirations of needy educated Dalits, who feel frustrated due to inability of the authorities to fulfill their dreams and provide enough opportunities for their uplift. Dalits in no mood to play a second fiddle – In 1977, for the first time, a section of Dalits left the congress to join new alliance known as Janata Party. Janta Party was soon broken up, because of personality clashes and the changing ground realities, with intermediate castes replacing the upper castes as owners of land in rural areas. Dissatisfied with both these conditions, Dalit leaders of 1980s and 90s attempted to establish their independent identity. They were in no mood to play a second fiddle.
  • Political alliances of Dalits– Up to the emergency in 1975, the majority of Dalit groups, all over the country, were subordinate part of the greater alliance with the parties dominated by upper castes, whether it is Congress of 1950s and 1960s dominated by forward castes or the Janata of 1977 or Lok Dal of 1989 having numerically dominant OBCs.
  • In Bihar during mid-sixties – In mid-sixties, an aggressive Dalit movement started under Shoshit Samaj Dal in Central Bihar, which has, presently, become a major center of Naxalite movement. The Dal was founded by Jagdeo Mahto, who began to mobilize the lower castes against economic repression and exploitation of women by upper caste feudal elements. He gave fiery speeches against upper caste domination and to end Brahminical order. Like Ambedkar, the Dal made an attack on Manu Smiriti, Vedas and other religious scriptures of Hindus.
  • Advancement of Dalit movement after Independence – Ambedkar’s followers under the banner of various factions of Republican Party of India (Formed in 1956) led the Dalit movement forward. The Mahars of Bombay (8%), Jatavs of UP (Half of the SC Population in UP) and Nadars and Thevars of Southern TN being numerically significant, played a decisive role in taking forward Dalit movement. Maharashtra Dalit movement has a longest and richest experience. It has also a long intellectual tradition in the form of Dalit literature of 1970s onward.

Once again, identified Brahmins and Caste Hindus as enemy – The growing political consciousness of Dalits made them very sure of their friends and foes. Dalit leaders, once again, after so many years, identified Brahmins and Caste Hindus as their enemy and intermediate castes as their friends. Kanshi Ram initiated a formula of DS4, meaning Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangarsh Samiti, taking into its fold untouchables, STs, Muslims and OBCs. The only common factor among these constituents was their animosity and rivalry with forward Hindu castes. Otherwise, untouchables have never had cordial relation with others, especially the OBCs. Neither OBCs treat SCs as their equal, nor can they abandon exploitation of SCs.

Intermediate castes (OBCs) replaced the Brahmin domination – Intermediate castes (OBCs), which have been over-conscious of their caste superiority and domination in agricultural, political and economic areas, replaced the Brahmin domination in various provinces. There has been continuing conflict among the intermediate castes and Dalits. In the past and even at present, some of the worst atrocities have been committed on Dalits by the numerically and politically dominant OBCs. However, their alliance with Dalits increases their political strength and strengthen their position in electoral politics. To counter upper caste’s political and economic domination, Dalits and intermediate castes do not hesitate to join hands now and then with each other. OBCs know that Dalit parties now control a large vote bank. It also seeks Dalit support to protect their benefit of Reservation. The beneficiaries of Reservation Policy give full support to BSP. BSP started pursuing power with militancy since 1990.

Dalit’s attitude towards Indian systems – Earlier, the leaders of untouchables had some regard for the cultural tradition of India. They did not out rightly reject Vedic literature or the foundations of Hinduism out rightly. Dr. Ambedkar accepted that all parts of Manusmiriti were not condemnable. Gopal Baba Walangkar had said that Vedas did not support untouchability. Kisan Fagoi, another Mahar leader of pre-Ambedkar era had joined Prarthna Samaj.

Desire to reverse the power-equation – Present day Dalit leaders are vehemently against cultural traditions of India, which according to them, are based on inequality and exploitation. Now instead of demanding a share in power structure, equity or social justice, Dalit political groups want to reverse the power equation and to transform the society by capturing political power.   Their aim is to get hold over the posts of PM-CM (Political Power) through electoral politics and control over administrative authority – the bureaucracy – through Reservations.

Dalit parties role as ‘king-maker’ – Dalit leaders know well of their role as king-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere and their growing influence and crucial position. At present, Dalit support can make the fortunes of the three major national political formation – Congress, BJP and National Front. All the three are competing to have a pre or post poll alliance with Dalit leaders.

BSP borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers – Of late, BSP has made significant inroads in UP, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. BSP has borrowed all their phraseology from Dalit Panthers. Most of their utterances are arrogant, revengeful and opportunistic. The new phase of Dalit assertion is most prominent in the most populous state of UP. The Dalit leaders took the destiny of UP in their hand in 1994-95, first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. During its rule in UP, Dalit intolerance toward Brahmin officers was quite evident from the way, the Government did the transfers, postings and promotions of the officers and the way Harijan Act, passed by Rajiv Gandhi’s Government, known as Protection against atrocities on SC and ST Act.1989, was used. At present, in the State caste rivalries are at its peak. There is always a fear of upper caste or intermediate caste backlash.

Ambedkarization of politics – While in power, in 1997, the BSP Government could not bring any significant change in the socio-economic condition of the Scheduled Castes. It utilized its resources in Ambedkarization of the State. Instead of giving the downtrodden education and the vision of a new society, the leaders sharpened Caste consciousness of people. Majority of scheduled caste population still lives in precarious condition due to landlessness, low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities, and land disputes. Over and above, the sufferings of lower castes have multiplied due to continuously deteriorating condition of law and order throughout the country. The criminals have emerged in a large number. They are above the law of the land and have an upper hand in the day to day life of people living within their respective areas.

Dislodging upper castes socially, still a difficult task – Despite all their efforts either separately or in alliance with other political groups, the leaders of the Backward classes have not been able to dislodge upper castes. When the youth of the forward castes found the political atmosphere stifled for themselves, they moved on to other areas and professions. Very few of them wish to join Government services, because of the quota system. They prefer to engage themselves in private sector, business, trade and commerce etc. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up new opportunities for them to prosper. Their learning tradition, hard work intelligence, confidence and will-power keeps them prospering. They usually do not come in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or Dalits.

Caste-Hindus never looked back – Caste-Hindus never looked back and always tried to survive with dignity and without any confrontation.

  • In the past, when Brahmins were deprived of their traditional occupation due to the difficult financial position of their patrons dethroned by British, they took initiative to go for modern education. In due course of time, they monopolized the Government jobs and modern occupations.
  • Again, anti-Brahmin movement of South, leading to quota in educational institutions and Government jobs, compelled Brahmins to retreat and to migrate to other parts of the country, where movement for Reservation and anti-Brahmin wave were not so strong.
  • Finding a place on the basis of merit in government services difficult, students of general category focused their attention on joining private sector or they moved to foreign lands. There, they feel that their worth is recognized and they are well paid for their work.
  • At present, youth of forward castes do not expect any fair deal in matter of education and employment from state authorities. Therefore, they are withdrawn.
  • No one knows where the Dalit assertion will lead the nation to? -Dalits are not satisfied even after having growing influence in ballot-box politics and attaining powerful positions in the government through reservations. On 7.3.96, at a conference in Madurai, the Devandra Kula Vellala Sangham, an organization of Dalits formerly known as Pallars, demanded a separate state for themselves. It stressed that only a separate state could ensure security and progress of Dalits. [vii]

Conclusion

A critical phase of history – Modern India is passing through a critical phase of history. The actions of present generation in right direction can lead the nation towards a better future. It is a humanitarian obligation of all to think about weak and plan for their uplift. The whole history of twentieth century is full of the concerns and efforts of the nations to uplift the underclass Theories like Communism, Socialism, Marxism etc. were propounded to benefit marginalized sections of society.

All citizens should join hands and work for the sustainable development of the nation. They must realize that they are one human family with a shared vision and common destiny. All Indians must give preference to their national identity over their class, caste, community, gender, linguistic or regional identities and must align together their efforts to restore the vitality, strength and dignity of our nation.

Huge social churning – A huge social churning is going on the margins of the society. The fight started from the margins for land, employment/jobs, education and other opportunities to ensure security, progress and social status moved to center stage of politics and aimed to provide them a wider base in the power structure of a nation.

Fall in moral values after Independence – Materialism, consumerism, ruthless competition for positions of power, money and VVIP status to get access over all the luxuries of life at tax-payers cost have brought some unpleasant changes in the mind-set of people recent past and are increasing every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of the six main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, businessmen, organized workers, surplus farmers and bureaucrats. They want to fulfill all their ambitions, even if they have to ‘beg, borrow or steal’. Such an attitude ignites the desire or craving for ‘more’, gives rise to greed, venom, anger and passion. Most of the times it makes it difficult to maintain good relations with others .

Suggestions given by the Chairman of First backward class Commission Kaka Kalelkar – After Independence, comments of the Chairman of First backward class Commission Kaka Kalelkar had said in his note of dissent of First Backward castes Report –

  • “It would be well, if representatives of the backward classes remembered that whatever good they find in the Constitution and the liberal policy of the Government, is the result of the awakened conscience of the upper classes themselves.
  • Whatever Government is doing by way of atonement is readily accepted and acclaimed by the nation as a whole.
  • The upper classes have contributed their share in formulating the policies of the Government Removal of untouchability, establishment of equality and social justice, special consideration for backward classes, all these elements found place in the Constitution without a single voice of dissent from the upper classes.”
  • “If the backward communities have neglected education it is because they had no use for it. Now that they have discovered their mistakes, it is for them to make the necessary efforts for making the leeway…As far as the assistance in the matter of education for the backward classes,
  • “I am convinced that introduction of basic education in all the states with help the backward communities to cultivate self-confidence. They will also have a better chance of succeeding in life and have the advantage of mixing with other people.
  • “Communalism and casteism are bound to destroy the unity of the nation and narrow down the aspiration of our people.
  • All communal and denominational organizations and groupings of lesser and narrower units have to be watched carefully, so that they do not jeopardize the national solidarity and do not weaken the efforts of the nation to serve the various elements in the body politic with equity.
  • Mutual help, mutual respect and mutual trust are the touchstone, on which all communal and denominational activities will be tested and anything that undermines it, will be expected and brought to book.”
  • Nothing should be encouraged to organize itself in between these two ends to the detriment of the freedom of the individual and solidarity of the nation.

In conclusion, the words of Kaka Kalelkar can again be repeated that “National solidarity in a democratic set up demands Government to recognize only two ends – the individual at one end and the nation as a whole at the other”.

 

[i] Basham Ibid. P 144.

[ii] Basham, Ibid., p 146.

[iii] Wilson K.1982 – They twice alienated culture of Dalit Christians.

[iv] Supplementary Memorandum submitted on 4th Nov., 1931 to the minority sub committee of second Round Table Conference

[v] Note to Indian Franchise (Lothian) committee of the Second Round Table Conference May 1932.

[vi] Rajah MC, the Oppressed Hindus PP4-5 1925

[vii] P.K.Balachandran, Cast in Strange Mould, Hindustan Times, Dated March 12, 1996, P12.

 [LS1]

 

 

 

August 11, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

‘Division of Labour’ in a civilized society

Introduction

Individuals differ in natural endowments No society can remain as an integrated-whole all the time. Some sort of classification or stratification is natural and necessary for every society, be it ancient or modern. It has be divided into smaller social groups in order to meet differing requirements and emerging needs of its people.

A proper evaluation of society’s basic requirements usually forms the basis stratifying the society into various social groups and provides a structure to a society. Structure of a society plays a very important role in the efficient performance of tasks and in the harmony and cooperation of all its people.

What necessitates to form different social groups? – Functional necessity gives rise to the formation of various groups in every society. Every society consists of a large number of individuals. Indian philosophy believes that individuals differ from one another in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups.

A feeling, being different from others on account of differences in callings, problems and difficulties lead individuals to constitute various independent groups. Each society is composed of a large number of groups. And every individual in a society belongs to one or the other social group. All the social groups need to be organized systematically. Proper organization of these groups provides a society a stable structure and leads to its smooth management and prosperity.

On the basis of the structure of a society, the Principle of ‘Division of Labour’ helps to find out – what are the basic and important functions that need to be performed; where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives and how to fulfil the needs of majority of people.  Structure of a society provides or relatively fails to provide stability to any society.

Principle of ‘Division of Labor’ – Division of labour in a civilized society decentralizes authority and resources, makes performance and management of each function within each unit smooth, efficient and effective. If done rationally, it organizes human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society.

Every society devises its own principles, ways and means to group its people in such a way, that each group, through its creative efforts in given position, can contribute to the sustainable development of the society.

Such an arrangement, on one hand serves whole society by taking care of collective interests, purposes and aspirations of all its people, on the other; it serves interests of a person as an individual.

Advantages of ‘Division of labour’ – The importance of the principle of division of labor’ lies in the facts that –

  • It divides rationally all the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of a society.
  • Each social group is assigned a distinct function/occupation to perform.
  • A proper division of functions  avoids confusion or frustration in matter of work, because individuals know what functions they are supposed to perform.
  • Division of labor lays down clear-cut rights and duties for each social group performing a specific function.
  • The principle also does systematic sorting and ranking of different social groups in a hierarchical or vertical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility.
  • Individuals also develops a clear vision about one’s responsibilities, while performing a work according to its attitude and aptitude, develops .
  • On one hand, it makes all individuals serve the society in one way or the other and encourage them to perform their jobs judiciously.
  • On the other, one could live with peace, dignity and honor with a feeling that each individual is contributing something to his society.
  • System of checks and balances – A proper ‘division of labor’ leads to automatic decentralization of authority.
  • The separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter-dependence provides its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority.

Functional necessity gives rise to different groups – Thus, different groups and classes emerge in every society for the functioning of basic necessities. The principle helps to organize it systematically. Structure of a society plays a very important role in the efficient performance of tasks and in the harmony and cooperation of all its people. It is the proper organization of these groups, which provides a society a stable structure and leads to its smooth management and prosperity.

Individuals differ in natural endowments – Individuals differ from one another in natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics. Such differences are apt to give rise to the formations of different social groups. A feeling, being different from other groups on account of differences in callings, problems and difficulties lead individuals to constitute independent groups. Thus emerges a large number of groups within a society. And every individual become a part of one or the other social group.

Necessity of a solid social structure The structure of a society determines what are the important functions that needs to be done; where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives and how to fulfil the needs of majority of people.  Structure of a society provides or relatively fails to provide stability to any society. Systematic sorting and ranking of different groups is done in a hierarchical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility”

Basis of stratification – The basis of stratification of various groups may differ from a society to society – it may be occupational, economic, intellectual or on the basis of caste, class or region.

Stratification of society leads to smooth management Stratification of society decentralizes authority and resources, makes management within each social group effective. It organizes human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society. Each society devises its own principles, ways and means to group its people in such a way, that each group, through its creative efforts in given position, can contribute to the sustainable development of the society. Such an arrangement, on one hand serves whole society by taking care of collective interests, purposes and aspirations of all its people, on the other; it serves interests of a person as an individual.

Division of society in the past From time immemorial, ancient and Medieval societies were divided into two, three, four or five well-marked status groups all over the world. There were Noblemen (Clergy and ruling class) Common free men and slaves. Stratification was further divided into the privileged, middle and lower underprivileged class.

In ancient Iran, there were four Pistras or classes – Priests, Warriors husbandman and artisans. In ancient Egypt, three principal classes – landowners, serfs and slaves existed. Ancient Roman society was divided into Patricians, Plebeians and slavery.

Later during the 18th dynasty, there were at least four classes – soldiers, priests, craftsman and serfs. existed all over the world. Chinese society, has been divided into Gentlemen, Agriculturists, Artisans and Merchants. In Japan from 12th to middle of 19th century, the society was divided into five distinct groups – hereditary soldiers, farmers, artisans, traders and pariahs or out-castes (Eta and Henin communities).

After revolution of 1867-78 up to present day, three classes are established by law – nobility, gentry and common people. In Mexico, the population is distinctly divided into Spaniards, Half-breed and pure Indians with numerous sub-divisions.

Stratification in Modern worldIn modern world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’ as universal basis of stratification within a society. However, stratification of Indian society is based on ‘caste-system’. For the rest of the world, it is difficult to understand and appreciate Hindu system of stratification. They are mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure.

 of various groups may differ – it may be occupational, economic, intellectual or on the basis of caste, class or region.

Division of society in the past – From time immemorial, ancient and Medieval societies were divided into two, three, four or five well-marked status groups all over the world. There were Noblemen (Clergy and ruling class) Common free men and slaves. Stratification was further divided into the privileged, middle and lower underprivileged class.

In ancient Iran, there were four Pistras or classes – Priests, Warriors husbandman and artisans. In ancient Egypt, three principal classes – landowners, serfs and slaves existed. Ancient Roman society was divided into Patricians, Plebeians and slavery. Later during the 18th dynasty, there were at least four classes – soldiers, priests, craftsman and serfs. existed all over the world. Chinese society, has been divided into Gentlemen, Agriculturists, Artisans and Merchants. In Japan from 12th to middle of 19th century, the society was divided into five distinct groups – hereditary soldiers, farmers, artisans, traders and pariahs or out-castes (Eta and Henin communities). After revolution of 1867-78 up to present day, three classes are established by law – nobility, gentry and common people. In Mexico, the population is distinctly divided into Spaniards, Half-breed and pure Indians with numerous sub-divisions.

Stratification in Modern world – In modern world, usually anthropologists, historians and sociologists identify ‘class’ as universal basis of stratification within a society. However, stratification of Indian society is based on ‘caste-system’. For the rest of the world, it is difficult to understand and appreciate Hindu system of stratification. They are mystified by amazing pluralities and unique social structure.

Caste system, an indigenous system, conceptualized in India – Caste system is an indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India. Its complete localization and unfamiliarity with rest of world made the task more difficult. They criticize Indian society being “a highly stratified society”, where Caste system has provided a mechanism to stratify various social groups in India. To them caste has divided the Indian population into vast number of groups, each one being distinct and having diverse thinking and life styles.

One of the oldest system of stratification – Stratification on the basis of caste may be called one of the oldest systems of stratification in the world. The process of the mixing up of the native culture of land with Aryan culture evolved this system of stratification.

“Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India, a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”  

Don Martindale

Caste a natural response of primitive groups of people – Basham says Caste system may well be called a natural response of many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system in ancient India. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.

Why caste, the basis? –  Caste system has emerged in India to provide the society a mechanism to classify and assimilate various social groups, be it immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups, into its mainstream, at different point of time. It has been done through caste system by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. Indian society has not annihilated their originality, internal order, customs, culture or language.

Integrated not disintegrated various groups – Through caste system, India has integrated different ethnic groups and communities like Negritos, Proto-australoids, Mangoloids, Negritos, Proto-australoids, Mangoloids, Alphinoids, Dinarics, Armenoids and Nordics together under one umbrella –i.e. – Hinduism.

New groups included into Hinduism without conversion – India has never adopted the policy to convert new groups into Hinduism like Islam or Christianity and thrusts on them its own values, thoughts, processes, superstructures and practice. Not only that all the incoming groups has been included into it but also given freedom to prosper/change according to their internal rhythm.

Even equalitarian faiths could not remain immune from caste-system – So much and so that, Muslims and Christians, Sikhs or Buddhist, living in India could not remain immune from it for long, though their respective religions believe in egalitarian society. Muslims, with all their equalitarian faith, formed caste groups like Shia, Sunni, Deobandi, Barelwi, Ahl-I-hadith, Jamaali etc. Christians in Kerala were earlier divided into sections, which later on took a caste character. Sikhs could not over come caste feelings. Even Roman Catholics in South India, converted by missionaries in the 16th century, brought their caste feelings with them..

How did it came into existence? The caste system came into existence with the arrival of numerous Aryan hereditary, kinship, or tribal groups, in waves, from different parts of the world to India, and their mixing up with the native people. At present, it comprises the following groups: –

  • Indigenous people of the land,
  • Tribal affiliations.
  • People coming in groups from different parts of the World at different points of time.
  • People belonging to different professional groups, and
  • Non-Aryan groups admitted en-mass in Hindu-fold.Basis of grouping under caste system – Initially caste or grouping of different individuals was based on their qualities, aptitude and occupation as enunciated in Hindu scriptures. Over time, due to economic and social factors, caste system became a traditional, hereditary system of social-stratification. Hindu philosophy believes that whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa) associated with purity, peace and knowledge; Passion (Rajas)with comfort and action; and dullness (Tamas) with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness. These qualities determines physical strength, mental capacity, aspirations, likes and dislikes, inclinations, expectations, tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and gave them direction for action.System worked well in the past – The system of classification in ancient India worked well when society of a local area was small and simple. It had made the nation a cheerful land.  Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands were deeply fascinated by Indian culture. At different points of time, they confirmed that –
  • Formation of four ‘Varnas – According to their natural instincts and qualities Manu, who set norms of Ancient Indian society, classified Hindu society into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold and assigned duties – Brahmins having flair for learning and possessing intellectual/spiritual qualities to preach, Kshtriyas having warrior skills and men of action to rule and defend the community, Vaishyas having business acumen to carry on business, and Shudras unable to do above three tasks or conquered ones to do service.
  • All these were accommodated into Hinduism in the past. Each new group was assigned a new caste name. The caste system legitimized their beliefs, behavior patterns and life styles with freedom to evolve and change according to their internal rhythm. Thousands of endogamous groups existing in Indian society, were termed as caste or ‘jaati’.
  • There was no rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position in ancient India.
  • The system had made India rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields. Vast treasures of rational thinking, social and religious experiences, evolution of traditional culture etc. are contained in its scriptures.
  • The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills.
  • There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence.
  • Assignment of different functions to different communities led to the transfer of knowledge and expertise, from one generation to another, through inheritance, which prepared an atmosphere, where a high level of Specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved.
  • In the past, people could reach up to a high level of intelligence, having specialization in different areas.
  • It had contributed to all round growth of cultural heritage.
  • It encouraged self-discipline, consciousness, self-control and self-direction.
  • Decentralized self-regulated systems directed all activities in social, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning.
  • Authority/power was decentralised. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity.
  • There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people.
  • The system had prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different groups and provided unity of culture throughout India.
  • Caste-system gave Indian society coherence, stability and continuity. Common man person has found a niche in the social system. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, “Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it”. Former U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked that he found “an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone.”
  • Modernization of caste system – In the beginning of Twentieth century, like modern Manu,  Risley, then the Census Commissioner, India, invented a new method to stratify Indian society. Earlier Hindu Society was classified into four Varnas embracing numerous castes and sub-castes within its fold. Instead of four Vernas, British rulers, in 1901  census, created five new unbridgeable water-tight compartments within Indian social structure. –
  • People still have faith in good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors, who contributed in building social culture of India. Almost all the principles of good organisation are found in the system like “team-spirit”, “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (whole world is one family), “live and let live”, “Self restraint”, “automatic checks and balances” “division of labour” along with “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc.
  1. Backward caste’,
  2. ‘Forward caste’ (caste Hindus),
  3. Untouchable or scheduled caste,
  4. Scheduled tribes and

Through legal process, they gave each one a new group separate and distinct identity.

Made the system rigid – The new method of stratifying Indian society, done by imperial rule through Censuses had recorded and placed numerous castes into Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, Muslims, Anglo-Indians, untouchables, non-Hindu Communities and backward castes or in categories of outcastes and aborigines and put them in hierarchical order. It has changed the older system in a fundamental way giving rigidity to social stratification and hierarchical ranking. Every group lives in its own water-tight compartment, having virtually no communication with others, unknown and insensitive to the requirements and plusses and minuses of others. To a great extent, such a situation has given rise to intolerance for others, resulted in politicization of caste-system.

Middleton, a Census Superintendent remarked, We pigeonholed everyone by caste and community. We deplore its effect on social and economic problems. But we are largely responsible for the system…Our land records and official documents have added iron-bonds to the old rigidity of caste. Caste, in itself, was rigid among the higher castes, but malleable amongst the lower…The government’s act for labels and pigeon-holes had led to a crystallization of the caste system, which, except amongst the aristocratic caste, was really very fluid under indigenous rule.” This division remains a by-word even for the present-day political leaders of Independent India.

Therefore, the Census operations destroyed the flexibility of caste system, led to an all-round hardening of social-system and to frantic effort by each group-for upward mobility.

The first volume of Man in 1901 (the Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute) noted, The entire framework of native life in India is made up of groups of castes and tribes, and status and conduct of individuals are, largely, determined by the rules of the group, to which he belonged. Risley’s efforts, in 1901 census, of recording and putting in order numerous castes in hierarchical order like modern Manu had fossilized, imparting it a solidity, it did not have earlier.[i] Therefore, the Census operations instigated caste consciousness, caste animosities and made caste a tool in political, religious and cultural battles, that Hindus fought amongst themselves.

The seeds of caste animosities sown by the British rulers have blossomed to its full after the independence, thanks to Indian politicians and political parties. Today the caste-ism in politics is at its peak.

Census enumeration far from neutral – The process of Census enumeration under British rule was far from neutral. Through it, British rulers in India made an effort to chalk out strategies for the colonial governance. They retained distinctions between different sub-castes, relevant to them for organizing labor and homogenized all those sub-castes, for which they had no use, therefore, no interest. All the floating population like Gujjars, Bhattis, Ranger Rajputs, who remained out-side caste system were fused into one. Census operations kept Brahmins at periphery and instigated other castes against them, because British administrators, Christian Missionaries and Orientalists considered them as potential threat to British rule.

Consequences of the change – The consequences of this system has been that Indians have forgotten about their roots. The new system has made a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts have increased. Sectarian and regional imbalances has generated social and psychological tensions. Work culture has been degenerated. People have lost faith not only in basic principles/systems of their own culture, but also in themselves and their fellow-beings. Favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened social fabric beyond repair. A few Individuals and groups, with political, money or muscle power control destiny of millions and have a say in almost every walk of national life. They work day and night to deny justice to ordinary citizens. Erosion of basic moral and human values has turned life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”. Scientific progress has endowed him with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy, but at slightest provocation, they do not hesitate to unleash its destructive powers accessible to them. Swami Vivekanand had said, “It is we, who are responsible for our degradation.”

Winding-upReal India does not believe in words/theories/doctrines only, but realizes it in real life – not in only believing but also in being and becoming. Seeing the way, the great philosophers dream-t of stratifying an ideal society, was already practiced by ancient India in real life. Many people still regard it as one of the most scientific social system of classification ever evolved anywhere in the world.

Swami Vivekanand had once said “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality or the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, it dies.” C. Rajgopalachari said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”. Don Martindale says, that the system of stratification on caste basis has “succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India,… (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplishedand “at the same time bring considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.”

Traditional systems and way of living is always like anchor, keeping our boat in safe harbor. Once that the anchor goes away, the boat is left at the mercy of wild waves on a stormy ocean. As far as stratification of Indian society to adopt caste as basis is concerned, neither it could be said to be unusual nor to be an exception to the universal rules of stratification.

[i]    Das Veena and Kagal Ayesha, Through the Prism of Clerkdom, Times of India, dated September 16, 1990, p2.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Teachings of Srimad Bhagwat Gita

Introduction

Mahabharata and Ramayana are the two great epics of India. ‘Srimad Bhagwat Geeta’ is a part of Mahabharata – the 25th to 42nd chapters of Bhishma Parva of Mahabharata. In the entire Bhagwat Geeta, there are seven hundred stanzas and 18 chapters. The aim of Lord Krishna’s preaching was to pull out Arjuna from his dejection and despondency. In short, Krishna explains to Arjuna the principles of Reincarnation followed by Immorality. Immorality can be obtained by Karma. Stress is on Detachment and Equanimity. For achieving detachment or renunciation, Knowledge and intellect play an important role.

‘s

A Summary Of Bhagvat Gita

     By

           Justice Shanker Dayal Khare (Retd), Allahabad, 28.10.1975

INTRODUCTION

We seek happiness. We desire that happiness we sometimes feel may last for ever. Do we succeed? Do we get peace of mind?

Gita throws light on these subjects. We may find its philosophy interesting and useful. There is no harm in giving exercise to our minds in the same manner as we give yogic exercises to our bodies.

Philosophy is simple: – ‘Rely on (your own) Laws and Traditions. Keep on doing deeds as you have been doing them. Do your deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

Detachment is the doorway to self-realization and to have control over restless mind. If you want peace of mind try not to feel elated with the feeling that you are the doer of the deeds. Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Then you should not have any attachment towards the results of your deeds.

In that manner you should reach beyond the scope of the three qualities – (saintly, worldly lethargic).

Have complete faith in the Creator and He will help you in establishing such faith in Himself.

I shall feel happy if some people, like me, find this summary useful.

Allahabad                                                                                         S.D.Khare

28-10-75

                                                           CHAPTER ONE

                                                          DESPONDENCY

         After both the parties had drawn themselves up in battle array, Arjun, accompanied by Lord Krishna, went to the battle field to see those who have come to oppose the Pandavas (party with just cause) and to support Kaurvas (party with an unjust cause). For Arjun it was most disheartening to see that even his own kith and kin, and very near relations were supporting the unjust cause and opposing the just cause. Was it proper for him to fight all those people, who had come to oppose him? Arjun, in retrospect, said, “NO”. He observed that in such circumstances it was better to be killed than be the killer. The situation being very confusing Arjun asked for the advice of Lord Krishna.

                                                   CHAPTER TWO

                                         PROCESS OF REASONING

      Arjun was advised to put up a fight, because –

  1. Being a member of the fighting community it was his duty to fight for the right cause. In such a fight death secured Heaven and survival the pleasures of this world.
  2.  It was foolish to think of destroying others in the process. Soul is indestructible. None of the five elements (fire, air, water, earth or sky) is capable of destroying it. Body is, no doubt, destructible. This body, however, does not retain its original form or shape even during one life time. It keeps on changing from childhood to young age and from young age to old age. Death merely changes the form of the body.
  3. People regard you invincible. You shall fall in their estimates in case you refuse to fight. They shall call you a coward. That shall be worse than death.
  4. Why worry about the result of the fight? How can the result of any deed be controlled? It is always the best to do a deed and leave the result of the deed to God. That is a well recognized method (of doing deeds without feeling attached to them). It is par excellent. The practice of this method shall lead one to detachment and to the attainment of Salvation. Such deeds bear no fruits, piety or sin

       Arjun asked: – “Can a person firmly established in this method of doing deeds be spotted out?”

         Lord Krishna replied: – “Yes! Such a person is always fully satisfied with his own soul. Pleasure nor pain, good luck nor bad luck, can ever perturb him. He withdraws his senses from all objects of pleasure and is without any feeling of attachment, fear and anger. Control over mind and practice lead to such a state. Such person devotes himself fully towards God.”

 CHAPTER THREE

                                                      PROCESS OF DEEDS

       Arjun asked again: – “When acquisition of wisdom is supreme why should one do deeds, the results of some of which might be dreadful?”

        Lord Krishna replied: – The universe and the deeds were created at one and the same time. Everything has to be achieved through deeds. One’s quality determines the nature of one’s deeds. One’s existence even for a moment, is not possible without doing deeds.

      One should do only the natural and the prescribed deeds, that should keep him free from the feeling of attachment and envy.

       Arjun thereupon asked: – When people do deeds perforce (according their quality) why should those deeds saddle them with sins?”

       Lord Krishna replied: – Attachment and envy, born of worldly quality, lead people to partake in sin. Attachment has its abode in senses, mind and intellect. Attachment, with the help of all these three, eclipses wisdom. Senses are strong, mind is stronger and the intellect is strongest of the three. Soul is even more powerful than intellect.

          Concentrating on soul, taking the help of one’s intellect and controlling one’s mind and senses, one can destroy ATTACHMENT, which is the supreme enemy.

 CHAPTER FOUR

                                                           TRUE WISDOM

         “I had told about this method (of doing deeds without any feeling of attachment towards them) to Sun when the Universe started. Sun passed on that knowledge to some of his descendants. However for a very long time that method had been forgotten. The same method is repeats to you, my devotee.”

         Arjun asked how Lord Krishna could be there at the time the universe started. The reply of Lord Krishna was: –

         “God and soul have always existed. God, however, revealed himself only in each era to give relief to the pious minded and destroy the evil-minded. The apparent birth and deeds of God Almighty are most unusual.

           Four classifications have been made for the doers of all sorts of deeds. The scriptures (Vedas) contain a description of different kinds of deeds. The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds. True knowledge can be attained only by devotion service and honest questioning. Those who have already acquired true knowledge must guide others. True knowledge is like a huge ball of fire. It destroys the feeling of attachment and burns out all sins, which are merely the results of attachment. The soul which has acquired True Knowledge gets absolute peace and qualifies for God realization.

               After being free from the feeling of attachment and envy, one should remain content with whatever comes in stride. Happiness or unhappiness, or attainment or nonattainmentof his objects should not stir him in the least.Ultimately he is bound to get absolute peace.

CHAPTER FIVE

                            OF DOING DEEDS WITHOUT ATTACHMENT

              Asked Arjun: – Which of the two is better – the Process of Reasoning or the Process of Deeds?”

             The reply was: – Both are equally good and lead to the same result. However the Process of Deeds may be said to be the better of the two. True Knowledge can also be acquired by means of Deeds done without any feeling of attachment. When a person has full control over his mind and body, when his soul has become pure and when he is totally bereft of ego and remains unattached while doing deeds, he can not be bound down to the fruits of his deeds and can never commit any sin. He attains peace.

             The doer of deeds without any feeling of attachment keeps on doing deeds for the purification of his soul, but all the time his senses, mind, body and intellect remain free from attachment.

           One must consider everybody alike and remain moderate inhabit and behavior. He must remain firm in his belief and strive hard to attain True Knowledge.

         The attainment of salvation leads to unending peace and happiness. The quest for worldly pleasures is futile. Worldly pleasures are innumerable, perishable and in themselves sourses of unhappiness. Only those persons can attain peace who are free from the feeling of attachment and envy and who have control over their senses, mind, body and intellect.

CHAPTER SIX

                                                  UPLIFTING OF SOUL

               Lord Krishna said: – A person who does deeds without any feeling of attachment is both a Renouncer and a Doer of Deeds. A person, who has control over his senses, mind, body and intellect has no real interest in preserving or amassing wealth. His continuous effort is only to uplift the Soul.

               For purification of Soul practice has to be done in a proper manner. Everything (eating, sleeping. Rest) should be done in moderation. One’s state of mind should be that of a lamp kept at a place where there is no breeze. One must always have faith in his belief and should never feel bored. He is bound to discern the existence of the Supreme Being in all the objects.”

             Arjun observed: – “It is not easy to control one’s mind. To attain mastery in such practice must, therefore, be very very difficult”.

           The reply was: – “Yes! That is so. But by constant practice one may master it.”

             Asked Arjuna: – “That being a long and drawn out process, will not a person engaged in such practice get lost and annihilated in the same manner as a cloud, which disintegrates into nothing?”

            Lord Krishna replied: – “No. Each stage reached by constant practice, remains secure. One starts from that stage in the next birth.”

                                                         CHAPTER SEVEN

KNOWLEDGE DIVINE

             “The acquisition of no other knowledge can be compared to the attainment of Divine Knowledge. It is something grand. One should know what God is.

             Every person has two components – the body and the soul. The body is made up of eight elements (earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego). The other component, which gives life to the system is different.

             God is the Creator and the Destroyer of the entire universe. God is present in all the objects. Even the feelings, which beget the three qualities (Saintly, worldly and lethargic) are created by God. A grand illusion is the result of the interplay of these qualities. No one can escape that illusion unless he worships God continuously. One, whose wisdom is eclipsed by illusion, does not worship God.

             Four kinds of people worship God. These are of: –

  1. People in quest of worldly objects,
  2. People anxious to avert unhappy events,
  3. People desirous of knowing God, and
  4. People whose every deed is dedicated to God.

Out of them the fourth class is the best.

                People desirous of getting rid of the pangs of rebirth and death must depend only on God.Their faith in Him must be firm.Such a person is not likely to forget God even at the time of his death.

CHAPTER EIGHT

                                                COMMUNION WITH GOD

             “A person, who can manage to remember God even at the time of his death, attain salvation. What one thinks during the last moments of his life, determines his status after death. A person, who can restrain his senses from drifting towards the objects of pleasure, who stations his mind firmly in his heart, and his life force in his forehead, who remains firmly established in such practice, thinks of God only and, at the time of his death pronounce His name (OM) is bound to attain Salvation.

           The doer of deeds with feeling of attachment towards them can go upto heaven only. He returns to earth after the effect of his pious deeds is over. But one who attains Salvation is not born again. The stage of salvation can be reached only by continuous practice and devotion.

             What is time? One day of Supreme Being is equivalent to one thousand eras. Similarly one night of the Supreme Being is also equal to one thousand eras. The Universe was created when the day of the Supreme Being started. It shall get annihilated when the night of Supreme Being starts. The process shall keep on repeating. The Supreme Being alone is undestructable.

               There are two clear-cut paths – one leading to God and other leading to ancestors. A doer of deeds, without any feeling of attachment, takes the first path and does not come back to earth. A doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment takes to the second path and comes back to the earth.

               A person, who fully knows all this, does not get attached to the results of his deeds. He continuously exercises his mind for the attainment of God. The attainment of this True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts and the doing of penance and charity.”

CHAPTER NINE

                                   SUPREME FAITH… MOST SACRED

               “The Supreme faith is the king of all other faiths. It is most sacred, very pure, very nice, consistent with everybody’s code of conduct, easy to follow, good for all times and capable of yielding quick results.

                 The entire universe is full of the Supreme Being in the same manner as ice is full of water. However, neither the Supreme Being is stationed in worldly objects nor are the worldly objects stationed in the Supreme Being.

                 The Supreme Being is the creator of all worldly objects. It holds them and feeds them. But the Supreme Being is not Stationed in them. To affirm that all the objects are stationed in the Supreme Being is tantamount to affirming that air is stationed in the sky.

                 The grand illusion, which is the creation of the inter-ply of the three qualities (saintly, worldly and lethargic), coupled with the Grace of God create all worldly objects.

                   Foolish people, relying on vain hopes, indulging in vain deeds, and attaining vain knowledge, acquire the quality of the demons. They feel attracted by those qualities and adopt them. But saintly people, being of saintly quality, do not do so. On the other hand they worship God with full faith and devotion – either with the feeling of oneness with God, or with a variety of other feelins, such as of master and servant or of the lover and the beloved.

                   The doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment towards the deeds worships god of his choice and attains his object soon. He can even reach heaven. Ultimately he must return to earth. One worshipping god with full faith attains Salvation. God helps him in establishing his faith in Him.

                   Faith and continuous devotion turn one into perfect saint. Even a worst sinner may hope to become a saint.”

CHAPTER TEN

                                                         GOD’S GLORY

                     “God is the creator of all and, therefore, no one can know about the origin of God. It was as a result of a resolve of God that the seven Rishis, the four Sankads and the fourteen Manus, all who control this world, were created. Even the feelings such as wisdom, forgiveness, happiness, power of control over senses and contentment have been created by God.

                       It is only with the help of one’s own soul stationed in his own heart that he may realize God. God is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. One may realize God by looking at things that are remarkable, full of glory and full of power. All such objects have been created by a fragment of God’s glory. The grand illusion created by him holds the entire universe.

                               Thus one may reaize the glory of God by thinking of Varun amongst the sons of Aditya, of Sun amongst astrologers, of Shanker amongst the eleven Rudras, of fire amongst the eight Vasus, of sea amongst water, of king amongst men and so on.

                       The act of continuously repeating the name of God is the king of all the deeds.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

                                                     GOD REALIZATION

Asked Arjun: – Is it possible that I may see you in your true form with all your power, grace and Glory?”

The reply was: – “Yes. But not with the mortal eyes. You can see Me with the divine eyes bestowed by Me.”

The Form then revealed to Arjun had many faces and many eyes. It consisted of a variety of strange forms, all dressed in divine apparels, fully decorated and armed with all sorts of weapons. The entire form looked strange and Limitless. All over it was divine perfume. The brilliance of one thousand suns put together could hardly equal its brilliance. All parts of the universe could be seen in that Form. The Supreme Being, the Rishis and the divine serpants were also in that Form. One could neither see nor perceive its beginning, its middle and its end. Arjun described it thus: –

“I cannot see its beginning, its middle or its end. Eyes are like Sun and Moon. Mouths are like burning fires. It contains the Earth, the Heaven, the intervening sky and all the directions. Everybody is getting afraid after seeing this Limitless Form. It has many facets, is very bright and touches the sky. All that can be seen around is annihilation. All the known warriors are seen entering its fierce mouths and getting perished therein. Who are you?” asked Arjun.

The reply was: – “I am Time (the destroyer) and am here to annihilate this world. All these warriors are bound to be killed. Be the means, attain victory and rule your kingdom.”

Arjun told Lord Krishna that like others he too had lost his bearings and was not finding peace and solace. He requested him to show his Chaturbhuj (Human with four hands) Form.

Lord Krishna revealed to him his Chaturbhuj Form also and told him that none had seen it before and none of two forms could be seen by Penance, Charity, practice or knowledge of scriptures.

CHAPTER TWELVE

                                                     PERFECT DEVOTION

Arjun asked: – “What is better … worship of the abstract or the worship of God after ascribing him a Form?”

The reply was: – “The first is more advanced form of meditation andtherefore, more difficult. People, who themselves have forms, find it easier to worship God after ascribing to Him a Form. Otherwise both the methods are correct.

There is yet another method which is simpler and easier. Have perfect faith in God, devote yourself to God and dedicate all your deeds to God. Very soon you will be relieved from this turmoil of the sea of death.

Try to have perfect devotion with the aid of Mind and intellect. Mind should be applied towards devotion by continuous practice. If that process is difficult try to do all your deeds for the sake of God only. If you find that process also difficult try to feel no attachment towards the results of the deeds. That, by itself, will result in the attainment of peace.

Do not think ill of others. Have love for others without regard of personal gain. There should be no ego. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. Try to forgive even your enemy. Be content. Have control over senses, mind and body.Have absolute faith in God and fully devote your mind and intellect to Him.

Do not stir commotion in others. Do not permit others to stir any commotion in you. Be free from ambition and grief. Do not take sides. Complete the work for which you are destined.

Avoid feeling exceedingly happy about anything. Avoid feeling envious. Have no desire. Never repent. Leave the fruits… good or bad … of all your deeds to God.

Remain steady whether you be among friends or amongst enemies. Regard honour or dishonor alike. Have no craving for heat or cold, happiness or unhappiness. Be free from attachment. Regard praise and abuse alike. Remain content. Have a steady mind. That should be your code of conduct.”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

                                   BODY AND SOUL…. DIFFERENCE

                             “So many questions crop up. What are you? Are you the body or are you the soul? Is your body part of something bigger, brighter and better? Why has it been separated from bigger body? Where in lies the salvation of soul?

                             What is body? What is soul? How body and soul get together? What is the cause of rebirth?

                               True knowledge is to know the answers of these questions.                                 The body consists of five elements (earth, water, fire, air and sky), ego plus intellect plus the illusion created by the interplay of the three qualities (Saintly. Worldly and Lethargic), plus ten organs (skin, smell, taste, speech, ears, eyes, hands, feet, genital organs and anus), plus the feelings (desire, jealousy, happiness, unhappiness, awareness and aim), plus rest of the body. The forms may be different, but these component parts in each body are the same.

                                It is the Supreme Being, who puts life into the body. The Supreme Being has no beginning and no end and is beyond the scope of three qualities and the ten senses enumerated above. But He knows their working. The Supreme Being is all pervading but without any (feeling of) attachment. It is all pervading like the sky or the rays of the sun.

                               Life is created when the Supreme Being comes into contact with body. The part of the Supreme Being that enters body, gets attached to the body by means of the three qualities (saintly, worldly, Lethargic) to which it has become firmly attached.

                             The Supreme Being is beyond the scope and the influence of the aforesaid three qualities. The separate flame of life (soul) in order to be one with the Supreme Being, has to attain similar status – it has also to reach beyond the scope of three qualities. Then only the Salvation is possible.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

                                  DIVISION INTO THREE QUALITIES

                            “What is your aim?” True wisdom or right course of action? If that be so follow the course of saintly quality and all that it implies. It will lead you to contentment and wisdom. After death you shall attain Heaven and coming back to this earth you shall be born in good family.

                               In case your aim is to attain worldly objects follow the course of ‘Worldly’ quality and attain all it implies. It will create greed in you, make you work hard for the attainment of your objects. Take you through the illusion of success and ultimately leave you unhappy. After death you eill be born amongst the people of the same quality.

                               In case you cannot raise yourself beyond useless efforts and seek lethargic or idle pleasure, follow the course of ‘Lethargic’ quality and all that it implies. If you die in that stage, you may be born low, even as an insect or a cattle.

                               By making effort you can change over from one quality to another. Suppress ‘worldly’ quality and ‘Lethargic quality in yourself and you will attain ‘Saintly’ quality in abundance. Similarly if you suppress the ‘saintly” quality and the ‘Lethargic’ quality in yourself, you will get the ‘worldly quality in abundance. Suppress both the ‘saintly’ quality and the ‘worldly’ quality in yourself and much of what would be left in you would be the ‘Lethargic’ quality.

                               If your aim is to achieve Supreme Nectar, Supreme righteousness and the everlasting Bliss, try to be one with God. For that you have got to leave the feeling of attachment behind and go beyond the ambit of the three qualities. One need not hate or despise any of these three qualities. However, to be one with God and attain everlasting Bliss, one has just to leave them behind.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

                              TO BE ONE WITH THE SUPREME BEING

                     “If you have a look at the tree of life, you will find everything tipsy tarvy. The roots are above and the branches are below. Down below, the growth is luxurious and it spreads in all directions. But there is no firmness in the branches.

                     The root is the Supreme Being. The branches, spreading downwards, are watered by the three qualities and their growth reaches all directions.

                     The main branches are of saintly people, of worldly people and of Lethargic people, Desire, attachment and ego keep the people of each branch fastened to their own branch, and its subsidiary growths. The directions of these growths is determined by the deeds of the people. Mind and senses are the feeders of these branches.

                   One should never forget his main root and keep on thinking what is best for him. He should prune all the unnecessary growths. For that the only weapon available is the feeling of non attachment. After having finished the pruning you shall be able to concentrate on the main root.

                 Soul is eternal. Body is perishable. God alone is worth knowing. Take the help of scriptures, purify yourself and make further effort. It is only then that you can attain True Knowledge. Without purifying oneself it is not possible to attain True Knowledge. Effort otherwise is useless.

                       After one has got away from the unrealities of life and become one with the Supreme Being, there can be no rebirth.”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

                               NATURE …DIVINE AND DEMONLIKE

“One should always act according to Laws and Traditions, and take their guidance, otherwise nothing shall be achieved. The feelings of attachment, greed and anger are tree doors that lead to Hell. Avoid them.

                         The saintly nature consists of :- (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absense of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions.

                     The demon-like nature manifests itself in (1) the show off, (2) pride, (3) ego, (4) anger, (5) harsh words, (6) lack of knowledge and (7) falsehood.

                     People having the nature of demons think that there is no one on whom they can rely, that the world is without any Truth and without any Supreme Being, that the main object of life is to enjoy, and it is because men and women get together that children are born. The acquisition of wealth is their main aim and they are unmindful of the means, which may be fair or foul. They remain very attached towards the results of their deeds. They remain tied down to the ropes of vain hopes. They seek happiness but in its place they get worry and restlessness. They feel that they are strong and shall be able to subjugate their enemies. They consider themselves superior to others. They act even against Laws and traditions. They are sinful and cruel towards others. They are the cause of their own degradation and go down towards dirty Hell.

                   Saintly Nature leads to Salvation and demon like nature to bondage.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

                                                 THREE KINDS OF FAITH

                   Arjun asked, “Why is it that one should act according to Laws and Traditions? Is perfect faith and devotion not quite enough? What is the quality of a person having perfect faith and devotion?

                   Lord Krishna replied: – Perfect faith (confidence) or devotion (sincerity) is a must for the achievement of any object…be it for this world or for the next. It is better if it is of saintly quality. The quality of a person determines also the nature of his faith and devotion. A saintly person, while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct, follows Laws and Traditions.

                Food habits and deeds of persons of three different qualities are of three different kinds. A saintly person will eat person will eat saintly food, do saintly deeds, penance and charity and have saintly faith and devotion. A worldly quality will eat worldly food, do worldly deeds, penance and charity, and have worldly faith and devotion. A person of Lethargic quality will prefer food creating lethargy, do lethargic deeds, penance and charity and lethargic faith and devotion. Thus the faith and devotion of persons of each class will differ materially from the faith and devotion of other two classes. In each sphere a member of any particular class will follow the pattern of his own quality.

                 The Supreme Being is called by three names. When a good deed is started in His name, He is called “Om”. When one dedicates his deeds to God, he calls Him by the name “Tat”. In ultimate analysis, the name of the Supreme Being is “Sat” (Truth).

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

                                        SALVATION BY RENUNCIATION

                  “There need not be renunciation of deeds. It is enough if renunciation is of the feeling (1) that one himself is the door of the deeds and (2) of attachment towards the results of the deeds. This latter kind of renunciation is excellent and most desirable.

                   Penance and Charity, being good acts, need not be given up. Such acts, if done in a saintly manner, purify the inner self. Other deeds may have defects. But they too need not be given up. It is enough if the feeling of attachment towards the results of those deeds is given up. And renounced. There after those deeds become non-deeds and yield no result – nether piety nor sin.

                   Even the renunciation of the feeling of attachment towards the results of the deeds is of three kinds. Similarly the deeds, the doer, the intellect, the aim and the happiness are of three kinds each.

                   If doing a saintly deed, there is no pride in the doer, and there is no wish for the results of the deeds. It is done without any feeling of attachment and without any anger.

                     The effect of these three qualities on the Society has been to divide it into four classes – the intelligentsia, the warrior class, the traders and the doers of rough work. The work of each class is different, but in itself, it is neither good nor bad. Any person, to whatever classification, he belongs, may attain salvation while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct. The method, which shall have to be adopted, is to convert deeds into non-deeds by giving up the feeling of attachment towards the results of his deeds. When that stage is reached, the deed of that person will turn into a big zero resulting for him neither in piety nor in sin.

                         As long as one confines himself to deeds strictly in accordance with his own code of conduct, he cannot commit any sin. However, if he tries to deeds according to the code of conduct meant for others, all that he will experience is fear. One should follow well his own code of conduct. That is the easiest method of achieving salvation.

                       Remain unattached and thereby convert all your deeds into non deeds, acquire pure wisdom, lead quiet and healthy life, eat light food, be the master of your mind, body and speech, give up anger, control the inner-self and devote yourself to God. Give up pride, reliance on body force, ego, desire and anger. Thus, even while doing all sorts of deeds according to your own code of conduct, you shall attain inner peace and ultimately salvation.”

                       Closing the sermon, Lord Krishna asked: – “Have you got rid of your false notions? You will not be able to rise above your inherent quality because of these false notions. You are of warrior class and that quality of yours will assert itself and lead you to war.

                         Listen to my teachings once again. Think of me alone. Have faith only in Me. Have respect for Me always. I love you, I promise that ultimately you shall attain salvation.”

                         Arjun replied: – “All my false notions are gone. I have become wise. I shall act as directed by you.”

…………….

Note 1 – Karma Yog leads to Yoga Budhhi (True intellect) and Yoga Budhhi to Sankhya Budhhi (Salvation). Karma Yog includes in itself – (1) Balanced mind (Samatva Budhhi), (2) Path of righteousness (Sva-dharma Buddhi), (3) Devotion (Samarpan Budhhi), work not to satisfy ones own ego or anybody else’s, (4) Detatchment (Asang Budhhi) and (5) Whatever comes, accept it (Prasaad Buddhi).

Note 2 –  Gita prescribes for ‘action’/’deed’ combined with intellect. There are choices before human beings – take action with developed mind/intellect or action with weak mind, bridled with desire, based on emotion, impulse, hatred, greed and selfishness. It quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontent. Intellect needs to be developed to make mind rational. A mind governed by intellect makes a person calm and content.

Note 3 – Dr. K. V. Swaminathan, an eminent Scientist, Engineer, Technocrat engaged in Technology transfer and above all a man well-versed in the knowledge of the Holy book of Hindus, ‘Bhagwat Gita’ has analyzed and synthesized Gita in just 37 verses. These are grouped in three parts.

A set of nine principles can be chosen, each explaining a principle to be learnt from Gita, are put in the pack of 27 stanzas selected from the 573 stanzas from Gita. These nine principles are inherent in Hindu philosophy. The foundation is laid for doing one’s duty. In each segment, the three stanzas selected come from different chapters of Gita. The principle in the first stanza of each segment is reinforced by the following two stanzas –

  • Devotion
  • Recognition of the greatness
  • Reincarnation
  • Immortality
  • Action/Karma
  • Detachment
  • Equanimity
  • Knowledge
  • Intellect

It tells that senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. It tells : Knowledge is better than ‘abhyas’ (practice) meditation is  better than knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation because peace immediately follows.

The first part consists of 7 stanzas, which he called ‘Sapta Sloka Bhagwad Gita’. These are the first stanzas of Dhritrashtra (pronounces only one stanza in the entire Gita of 700 stanzas), Sanjaya, Arjun and Lord Krishna together with the last stanzas of Lord Krishna, Arjuna and Sanjaya.

These seven stanzas briefly states : Dritrashtra asks Sanjay to report what is happening at the battle field; Sanjay immediately starts reporting; Arjuna asks to place his chariot in the middle of the battlefield and on seeing those arrayed Arjuna is choked with emotion and refuses to fight; Lord Krishna admonishes him for his feebleness and advises him in great length about his duties; Lord then asks him whether he has understood what he had advised him. Arjuna responds that he has recovered from his delusion and is now ready to fight; ans Sanjay concludes predicting victory where Lord Krishna will be there.

The principal lessons to be learnt from Bhagwad Gita and come out of delusion are a set of nine principles as following –

  1. Principle of non-duality – The ‘Creator’ (God) and the ‘Creation (every living thing in this world) is an integral part of the same ‘Parmatma’/God/Creator, therefore inter-linked.
  2. Reincarnation – (described in stanzas – 22nd of II Chapter, 43rd of VI Chapter 19th of VII Chapter) After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. A person is reborn depending on his deeds of previous birth.
  3. Immortality/Salvation – (Stanza 9 of Chapter IV, Stanza 13 of Chapter VIII and Stanza 12 of Chapter XIII) The final objective of all humans is to reach to the state of ‘Moksha’ or immortality – getting free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths. In order to reach that status, one should do one’s duties.
  4. Karma –  (Stanza 47 of II Chapter, 11 of V chapter and 47 of XVII Chapter) This is perhaps the centre piece of Bhagwat Gita. Everyone has a role to play in ones life as per one’s karmas and destiny. One must know truth about action,  inaction and wrong action. Actions should be free from desire.While performing one’s duty/action, one should develop detachment – indicating, one should not bother for fruits of Action.
  5. Detachment – (Stanza 62 of Chapter II, Stanza 19 of Chapter III, and Stanza 22 of Chapter V) – Association with sense object breeds attachment, attachment begets desire and desire covers knowledge by passion and generates anger. Men are mislead or indulge themselves in wrong actions when their knowledge is covered by ignorance. By conquering mind, one can do his duties. Therefore he should constantly use his mind and intellect and keep himself free from desires or expect fruits of action.
  6. Equanimity – (Stanza 14 of Chapter II, Stanza 22 of Chapter IV and Stanza 7 of chapter IV) Contact of senses with objects create feelings like cold and heat, pain or pleasures. These feelings are temporary in  nature. By conquering the Mind One should try to be equanimous by overcoming the influence of the “pair of opposites” like heat or cold; pleasure or pain and honor or dishonor. A person who is satisfied with what naturally comes by, can remain cool to success and failure of his action. A self-controlled person can overcome and remain unaffected by all pairs of opposites – pain and pleasure; or praise ridicule.
  7. Knowledge – (Stanza 42 of Chapter III, Stanza 35 of of Chapter IV and Stanza 16 of Chapter V) Desire is the enemy. It covers mind with passion. Passion is seated in sense organs, mind and even intellect. Therefore, one should first contrl the senses and all sinful passions. As per Gita, senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. (Stanza 42 of Chapter III)
  8. Renunciation – (Stanza 21 of Chapter IV, Stanza 13 of Chapter V and Stanza 12 of Chapter XII) Normally people worship God wishing for rewards. One should not seek fruits for actions. Wise persons know truth about action, inaction and wrong action. They conquer their minds and do not care for material objects, pleasures and desires. They do their duties and do not seek fruits for their actions. Gita tells: knowledge is better than abhyas (practice), meditation is better than knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation. (Stanza 12 of Chapter XII)
  9. Four stages in life  – For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, everyone one has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life – before marriage learning; married life raising a family as householder; delegation of authority to next generation and spending time in contemplation; and after fulfilling familial liabilities, complete detachment and renunciation of worldly pleasures. Detachment frees an individual from the fear of birth and death.
  10. Tolerance and acceptance/interdependence – Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance as – (a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane; (b)It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship; (c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths; (d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.
  11. Avatars – The Supreme power visits earth from time to time in some form to make human-beings free from evil and tend them follow virtue. So far, according to Hindu mythology human evolution began with Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise));Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. It is now expecting 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (Quoted from ‘Know your religion through its philosophy by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, p. 20)

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lal Bahadur Shastri – An Exemplary National Leader

In recent past, drought and debt continue to claim lives of a number of farmers in India. The administration has not been able to reach to farmers and find solutions for their genuine problems. Consequent to untimely and sudden demise of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964, Shastriji with his quality leadership and the nation confronted with many critical issues like food shortage, rising prices, language riots and the mounting threats of aggression from China and Pakistan. At that time, Lal Bahadur Shastri, then the Prime Minister of India had taken many challenging decisions and dealt effectively during that crucial hour of Indian history. It would have unnerved even a seasoned leader. His ideals and sacrifices has set an example for today’s political leaders, as to how through simplicity, modesty, firmness and commitment to the cause of the poor and downtrodden, they can identify themselves with the common-men, Jawans (soldiers) and Kisans (farmers) of India. His good governance and efficient leadership enabled India to undergo a smooth transition, consolidating on the gains of freedom even further.

                   An Exemplary National Leader – Lal Bahadur Shastri

After the sad demise of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri became the Prime Minister of India on June 9, 1964. At that time nobody thought that Shastriji would prove to be a tower of strength, an astute politician and a man gifted with rare qualities of head and heart. People were skeptical about his being a worthy successor of Pt. Nehru as the Prime Minister of India. Some had the feeling that he was simple and too modest a person and, as such, he would be eclipsed by the Congress Party’s Syndicate. But soon they were disillusioned when K. Kamraj, the then Congress President, went all out to get him elected as the leader of the Congress Party and the Prime Minister of India.

It was not long before when the people realized that his modesty was due to the traditional Indian refinement and not a symptom of lack of firmness or courage. He believed that Prime Minister’s own functions and responsibilities could not be shared by others and in no case by persons outside the government, however high and mighty they be in the party hierarchy. It was not in his blood to be any Tom Dick and Harry’s satellite or henchman. He proved to the world that he was not a prisoner of indecisiveness and could act on his own, however, formidable the task might be.

Even as Prime Minister, he kept himself away from the bed of roses. From the very inception, he was confronted with ticklish problems. He inherited the legacy of thorny issues like food shortage, rising prices, language riots and last but not the least the mounting threats of aggression from China and Pakistan. He took many challenging decisions, which otherwise would have unnerved even seasoned leaders. He won the hearts of his countrymen by virtue of his humble yet firm handling of national problems. His transparent honesty, unimpeachable integrity, love with the masses and unassuming identification with progressive ideas and forces endeared him to all and sundry.

Shastriji was sure that the finances of the country could be improved only its economy was planned in a more rational and scientific manner. He accorded high priority to agriculture. But he attached equal importance to industry. In his view, the improved agriculture and industry alone could take the country on the road to prosperity.

He believed that the shattered confidence of the people could be restored through the welfare schemes and the Five-Year Plans yielding concrete and immediate results for the well-being of common-men. In this context Shastriji said, “The strain that have shown up in the recent months cannot be ignored. I believe that first task is to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical to the millions. I have, therefore, suggest that planning should be geared up to face these primary needs, at the same time as we pursue other goals.”

Shastriji established Food-grains Trading Corporation to purchase grains within the country at remunerative prices and to distribute it equitably. An Agricultural Price Commission was set up to fix a reasonable margin of price to be enforced at wholesalers and retailers’ level with due consideration to the cost involved in processing, storage and transport etc. Implementation of Minor Irrigation Programs received special attention and the Chief Ministers of States were directed to improve the output of crops. Various steps were taken to bring about coordination of administrative activities at different levels e.g. Central, State, District, Block and Village. Coordination Committees were set up both at Cabinet and Secretariat levels in the States for discussion to expedite the development programs relating to the departments of Agriculture, Irrigation, Revenue, Animal Husbandry, Cooperation, Community Development, Panchayats etc.

Shastriji gave a number of slogans, namely “Self-Reliance”, “Grow More Food”, “Miss a meal”, “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan” etc., to boost the morale of the peasants and jawaans in particular and the people of the country in general. He appealed to the nation to lend a hand in solving the problem of food shortage. All-out efforts were made to hasten self-sufficiency in food. Steps were also taken to control prices of essential commodities. He made available to the common man, the essential goods at fair price shops. Successful programs were instituted to control the sky-rocking prices and unearth the vast quantities of black money.

Shastriji laid great emphasis on administrative reforms. A campaign was launched to curb the evil of corruption and mal-practices. He took deterrent action against black-marketers, hoarders, and foreign exchange racketeers. He accepted most of the recommendations of the ‘Santhanam Committee’ to make an end of the corrupt practices on war footing. He drew a code of conduct for the Ministers, according to which they had to disclose to the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers in the state, their assets and liabilities every year. It also laid down ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for raising funds by the political parties.

Within twenty four hours of the Das Commission’s adverse report against Pratap Singh Kairon, the then the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shastriji took drastic action and asked him to resign his post. It was a remarkable feat of smooth-sailing with which the succession question in the Punjab was handled by him and Comrade Ram Kishan was made Chief Minister of Punjab.

The firm action he took in the case of Sri T.T. Krishmachari proved to be the hit that whenever necessity arose. Shastriji was capable of taking very harsh decisions without fear or favour. He accepted Mr. Krishmachary’s resignation after Mundra episode and without loss of time, he appointed his successor.

The fierce language riots in the South were a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. The handling of the grave situation called for statesmanship, imagination and determination. The Government has to make sure that any measure taken to pacify South did not have repercussions elsewhere in the country. As a sequel to the disturbances in the South, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the States; and with the emerging consensus, it was decided to introduce Hindi for official purposes without displacing English until people in non-Hindi speaking areas were willing for a change-over. The language crisis thus blew over without much ado.

Shastriji’s participation in the Non-Aligned Summit held in Cairo was his first big international event. It was a resounding success. His 5-Point Peace Plan presented at this Conference was not only received with enthusiasm from all concerned at his historic conference, but also formed in a large measure the basis of the final resolution passed on the ‘International Peace’. It brought him laurals and recognition as a protagonist of world peace and peaceful co-existence.

His displayed wisdom, grit and determination against the Pakistan infiltration in the Rann of Kutch and Jammu and Kashmir. He repelled the attacks by force of arms and led India to victory in the battle-field. A ceasefire was brought about with the good offices of the British Government.

Pakistan, after sometime, again intruded into the Indian Territory in a more planned manner than ever before. Shastriji once again picked up the gauntlet. Throughout the three week war with Pakistan, he continued fighting and did not look back. His cool composure and unambiguous strong language of his statements and broadcasts to the nation from time to time boosted up the morale of the brave Indian soldiers against Pakistan’s wanton aggression. In this context, Shastriji said, “India’s faith in peace is unshakeable. With us, it is a matter principle and not of expediency. But adherence to peace does not mean that we should not take up arms to defend ourselves when attacked. Let us not slacken our efforts and activities. We must remain alert and vigilant. All the people of India should be ready and determined to defend the Motherland in any emergency with all their hearts and all their might. … when freedom is threatened and territorial integrity is endangered, there is only one duty, the duty to meet the challenge with all our might.”

Shastriji’s rejection of the “Three-day” Chinese ultimatum was equally irrevocable. It called the Peking’s bluff and their ultimatum and their ultimatum fizzled out. After the crisis was over, Shastriji’s addressing the nation inter alia observed, If the experience of the recent past hold any lesson for us all, it is that we must endeavor to be as self-reliant as possible. In the ultimate analysis, it is the strength of the nation itself which matters more and which is our best safeguard.”

­­In January, 1966, when Shastriji, as Prime Minister of India, went to Tashkent to hold talks with President Ayub of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of USSR, there he played his cards well as an astute negotiator. And after in-depth discussion and exchange of views with the other two stalwarts, he signed the historic, ‘Tashkent Declaration’. It was sheer irony of fate that he did not live to enjoy the fruits of his pyrrhic victory over Pakistan.

There is no doubt that Shastriji as Prime Minister of India in his brief tenure of 18 months, not only brought about unity in the country but also put it on  the road of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He left to his heirs a richer legacy than he himself had inherited. His sagacious and Herculean efforts earned respect for him and for his country.

(This post was published in Saga of Lal Bahadur Shastri, pp. 222 to 224 in 1987 under the title ‘Dharti Ka Lal, released by then the Prime Minister Sri Rajiv Gandhi)

July 1, 2016 Posted by | General | , | Leave a comment

Culture of India and modern education system

        “Culture makes people understand each other better. … But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.”          Paulo Coelho 

          ” Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”             Immanuel Kant

           ” I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in the country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indian think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.” Lord Macaulay’s address to the British parliament on 2nd Feb. 1835.

‘Introduction

The modern education, since its inception, has influenced the Indian society and its culture in a big way. It has both of constructive and destructive effects on its culture. On one hand, it offered to Indian intelligentsia the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thoughts of Modern ‘West’, on the other hand, it had disassociated Indian people from their culture, classical roots, knowledge and traditional way of living. Along with it, faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions.

Issues

The issues that arise here are – what ‘Culture’ is? What is the culture of India? When and why the system of education was changed? How has it been affecting the indigenous culture of India? How can Indians remain rooted to their own Culture? How can its culture be further enriched by taking advantages of the wide horizon of knowledge, modern education offers and of the technologies developed in the Western world? And how people in general could be prevented from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien way of life and its culture?

Animal instincts within human being – History of evolution points out that in the beginning, animal instincts within a human were quite prominent. Thomas Hobbes has described that at that time the life of man was “nasty, brutish and short”. Degree of selfishness was at its peak. Only fittest could manage to survive in that hostile environment.

Formation of civilized society – At some point of time, people joined hands and started living together. Human beings made conscientious effort to overcome the animal instincts hidden within them. They developed empathy and the spirit to cooperate and help each other. It was through socializing and development of norms that people learnt, how to live together or how to treat others and others him. That was the beginning of culture/mannerism, which inspired human to form a cultured civil society.

Dictionary meaning of the term ‘culture’– According to dictionary, meaning of the term ‘culture’, it is –

  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior of a group that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations,
  • the customary beliefs, social norms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group;
  • The characteristic features of everyday existence (a way of life}.
  • The set of attitudes, values, goals, and practices shared by people in a place or time.

Features that reflect Culture – Culture includes within itself all the following features collectively like

  • Sophisticated language as medium of expression; arts and sciences as forms of human expression;
  • Thinking process as the way, people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them;
  • social activities;
  • Smooth interaction with others fellow-beings; and
  • Spirituality as a path to salvation of soul,

All these qualities together and way of life transmitted through generations for the welfare of people, expressed through language and actions are included in culture.

United Nation on ‘culture’ – According to United Nation, a culture is a set of values, attitudes, language and ways of life. Whenever layers of culture and civilization are overshadowed, man’s real nature with all its animal instinct is exposed. Everything works well, when people are humane and familiar with the basics of their culture.

Culture leading to refinement – For keeping humans disciplined, every society enforces its own social, ethical, or legal rules. Culture leads to betterment or refinement, whether it is an individual, society or a nation. The more one follows those norms, the more cultured one is.

In short, culture of a society includes within itself knowledge, belief and behavior as well as attitudes values, goals and practices of that society. Culture is the full range of refined human behavior patterns.  It constantly changes. Across different nations all cultures are concerned about values that are humane and universal.

                                  Culture of India

Cultural richness – India presents a fascinating picture of cultural richness, which is mainly based on Vedic literature and philosophy.  Civilization of India is one of the oldest alive civilizations of the world. Because of its tolerance and capacity of internalizing alien influences, its culture has been able to be one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living culture of the world.( The other three being Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece)

Many principles and cultures developed in the past, within India as well as elsewhere in the world, had created such a wave that swept over the entire world for some time. An anti-wave, replacing such waves, emerged soon. It wiped off the previous influence. The Vedic culture and its basic tenets, however, have been proved to be an exception in this regard. It happened due to basic tenets of Vedic culture, which have always been very close to every Indian.

Vedic culture

 The word ‘Vedic’ is derived from the word ‘Vid’ meaning ‘Knowledge’ and signifies’ ‘knowledge par excellence’. The Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of the culture of Aryan invaders, who came to India in waves, with the culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.

The Indian culture is identified with the whole of India. To foreigners, it represents the ancient culture in its eternity. It mainly originated and flourished in northern parts of India and later on spread throughout India.

Origin of Vedic culture

The origin of the Vedic knowledge and its culture can not be traced in any single founder; neither can it be confined in one single authoritative text. Its sacred knowledge has been handed down from time immemorial, earlier by verbal transmission and later on, in written form by the ancestor to succeeding generations.

Never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’) – Vedas teach that creation and quest for knowledge is a constant process, without any beginning or an end. It is a never ending process (‘Neti’, ‘Neti’). The Sages (Rishis and Munies) were believed that even Vedas were not the end for quest for knowledge or prescribes any final absolutes.

Strength of Vedic culture

The strength of Vedic culture is proved by the facts: –

  • Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu.
  • Had it become obsolete, it would have given place to other religions and cultures.
  • It influenced almost all other religions found in India.

Basic tenets of Indian culture

The basic tenets of Indian culture, which kept its continuity intact, despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups, are as following:

Principles of ‘Varna’ ‘Dharma’, ‘Karma’ The foundation pillars of systems of Indian culture were the principles of ‘Varna, karma and Dharma’. Principles of Varna, Dharma and Karma together provided the whole society a quality of life and contributed to its growth.

‘Principle of Varna’ – Doctrine of Varna has given the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure. In the past, it had assigned duties to different groups according to their natural endowments, instincts and qualities.

Principle of ‘Karma’ – Knowledge is supposed to be necessary for giving Karma”, its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance is considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Doctrine of Karma teaches people to accept their surroundings, as they are and extract as much happiness as possible. Principles of Karma make the inequalities, prevalent a society, tolerable.

Principle of Dharma – Principle of Dharma defines the duties and inspires people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assures the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi are equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing.

Sanatan Dharma (Concept of Eternal Values)- Sanatan Dharma (Concept of Eternal Values) nurtured the basic instincts of human beings over nature, after a deep study of natural instincts, inherent attributes and natural behavioral pattern and taking care of the basic physical, mental and spiritual needs of the human beings at different stages of life.

Spirit of Tolerance

Amongst all factors, which contributed to enrich and continuity of India’s culture has been the spirit of tolerance of Indian people.

  • Concedes validity to all the religions -Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths.
  • No conversions – India has adopted the path of assimilation. Its main religion Hinduism does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. It has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.
  • Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression – Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Firm belief in the principles, ‘Live and let live’, ‘to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity’, ‘simple living and high thinking’ and faith in Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression have always been the part of Indian ethos.
  • Whole world is one family – ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the whole world is one family Indians is the hallmark of Indian culture. In the past, people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right to the wall. John Fischer mentions, Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants was ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.’(John Fischer, India’s insoluble Hunger – 1947)

Positive effect of tolerance

 Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world.

Negative effects of tolerance

Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

Effect of these principles on society of ancient India

All these principles together had organized orderly performance of various functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people in the past. It gave them a distinct character, defined roles and organized inter-relationship of various sections of society. It prepared an atmosphere for co-existence of different sections of the society – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.

Composite Culture of India

The composite culture of India has absorbed the good points of other cultures enriching it further. More than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

The composite culture of India grew out of: –

  • Growth, influence and refinement of values of different religions generated within land of India.
  • Creative interaction between values of indigenous religions and religions of diverse migrating or foreign communities like Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism etc.

All the sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous, have been influenced greatly by Vedic culture – its thinking, practices and systems. For a few centuries after the downfall of Hindu’s rule (around 5th-6th centuries), first under the rule of Turks or Muslim, the culture of Islam and their style of living, practices, traditions influenced the Indian society and afterwards Christianity under British rule flourished and dominated the scene allover in India.

Fusion of different cultures

The wonderful process of assimilation and fusion of different cultures has been a continuous process of the India civilization. It contributed to the cultural richness of India. Such flexibility is not seen in the West. When Christianity broke away from Judaism, it departed totally from the common cultural traditions. Therefore, it is very difficult for the Western world to understand and appreciate Indian culture fully.

  • Composite culture of ancient times – Before 6th century, a cultural synthesis took place. In ancient India, the assimilation of various racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or other groups under its mainstream was done through caste system by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. Assimilation of different social groups was done without imposing on them Hindu value system or annihilating the originality, internal order, customs or language of new groups joining the mainstream. India provided the atmosphere and opportunity the culture of each identity, coming into its fold, to flourish in its own way. A major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture.
  • Composite culture during medieval period – After the downfall of Hindu’s rule, under Turks, Muslim and British rule, Islam and Christianity received substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period. Their cultures flourished and dominated the scene allover in India. It led to another major cultural synthesis. After the 10th century, the thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. As a result, Sufi and Bhakti movements emerged into the scene. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed. These also brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.
  • Modern times – Once again, during the period of 18th to 20th century, major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British.

Survived vicissitudes of time

Culture of India has survived the vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability.

Maintained continuity

The composite culture of India managed to continue despite numerous castes and communities living here for time immemorial; despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of new groups; and despite cultures of Hindus, Islam and Christians receiving substantial state patronage for sufficiently long period at different points of time.

Every time Vedic culture re-emerged 

There were periods during its long period of evolution, when its main Vedic culture had weakened and shaken the confidence of people in Vedic literature and its philosophies, especially under foreign rules. However, every time, it re-emerged and whenever it re-emerged; it did not destroy the culture of other sects, but assimilated their good points within itself.

Major force retain the cultural identity

The composite culture of India acted as a major force for the failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway in India even after mass conversion. Through it, Hindus could retain their cultural identity, while living under an alien political order, whether it was Turks, Mughal, Portuguese or British.

Vedic literature not only religious books

‘Vedic literature’ is a gold mine of Indian philosophy. The ancient Vedic philosophy and literature are found in Indian scriptures known as ‘Vedas’, ‘Smritis’ ‘Sutras’, and ‘Upanishad’. These scriptures are not only revered scriptures of Hinduism or religious books, but hold in itself a vast reservoir of knowledge and experiences of great Indian scholars called Rishies, who had devoted their life in search of knowledge. It is a perfect guide to the art of living.

  • “Ocean of knowledge in a jar”- According to Basham, these Epics contains “an ocean of knowledge in a jar.” (Wonder, That Was India). Vedic literature is a vast reservoir of knowledge. It presents a magnificent example of scientific division and orderly arrangement of rules, in a few words, in different branches of human knowledge, covering almost all the aspects of life, be it phonetics, arts, literature, medicine, polity, metrics, law, philosophy, astrology or astronomy.
  • Perfect guide to art of livingVedic literature is a perfect guide to art of living. It speaks of everything- on staying healthy, social values, improving concentration and tenets of behavior, which are relevant till today. Its rituals are techniques for leading a harmonious life.
  • Self-restraint and self-discipline – In the past, culture of India had encouraged Indians to adopt a self-restraint and self-disciplined life-style; be in tune with the forces of nature; live harmoniously and peacefully with their fellow beings; practice non-violence in thought, action and speech and not cause pain to anyone including oneself. It advised people to lead a self-disciplined life, to do one’s own work sincerely, not to interfere in other’s work and escape from apathy or indifference. It taught people to be self-observant and try to mend one’s own mannerism rather than telling others behave.
  • Stress on contentment – It has advised to be contented, to be self sufficient and to be satisfied with what one can earn honestly, but not to be greedy, jealous or too competitive; not to hoard or accumulate beyond one’s need; not to steal, beg, borrow or snatch belongings of others with or without their knowledge. According to Hindu philosophy, nature has provided enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for even one person’s greed.
  • No destructive activity – It has advised people not to waste energy or over-indulge oneself in wasteful and destructive activity. People should be honest and willing to help others; observe austerity, simplicity and discipline in life; maintain cleanliness of diet, body and mind. In short, it advised people always to try to rise above the animal instincts hidden inside human-beings.
  • Work is worship – Principle of Karma teaches people that Work is Worship. In modern world, when people are so conscious about ‘blue colored or white colored jobs’ and asserts their rights, pay scant attention to their duties, the faith in ‘Principle of Karma’ can inspires common man to do their duties sincerely. It teaches that any kind of work is worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. They should try for action par excellence. A work should not be valued so much for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of Swadharma.
  • No Revenge or putting blame on others – No human has any control over taking birth in a family of one’s choice. Very few are born with silver spoon in their mouth. Everybody else has to make efforts for a better future. Principle of Karma also offers a convincing explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. It prevents people from being revengeful or putting blame on others for their own failures, miseries. Everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s doings. It teaches people that they are not the slaves of circumstances/environment, over which they do not have any control. Principle of Karma teaches common man to keep on making efforts for better future. None of their effort goes waste.
  • Hopes for better tomorrow – Nobody knows ‘when one is going to hook a fish’. Principle of Karma gives hope to people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances. One should constantly make efforts to improve situation by performing one’s own duties well. By channelizing efforts, energies and capacities in proper direction and working hard, one can specialize in his specific area of work, strengthen character, improve economic status and contribute in social/national reconstruction.

Education restricted to those, who can keep its sanctity

In ancient India, education was confined to a very small section of Indian society. It was not so much that common people were debarred or denied access to education because of discrimination, as it was because of the method of education. In absence of any written material, priestly schools in India had devised a most remarkable and effective system of transferring knowledge to succeeding generations in form of hymns. They restricted it only to those, who possessed brilliant feats of memory and capability to keep its extreme sanctity. Opening verse of Chapter (IV) says, “I gave this philosophy of (life and action called) Yoga to men of responsibility, so that, through this philosophy, they will become strong to serve and protect the people, to nourish the people.”

Rituals guidelines to lead a harmonious, disciplined and healthy life

The rituals were the techniques to help and guide the masses of all sects of India to lead a harmonious, disciplined and healthy life. Some rules were prescribed to be observed in day to day life to stay healthy, others to live in a hygienically clean atmosphere, live a self-restraint and self- disciplined life and to develop human relationship including the give-and-take of socialization especially during a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.

Essence of the knowledge and experiences of Intelligentsia – The knowledge and experiences of Intelligentsia of ancient India (Yogis, sages and Munies) benefitted the whole community from top to bottom. The sages of ancient India prescribed certain rules, customs and rituals to be observed by the common men. Through these rituals, masses benefitted by the deep thinking and experiences of sages of many generations; and the vast treasures of Indian philosophy, rational. These rituals gave a sense of direction to the masses. Masses were disciplined through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation envisaged/prescribed by the learned sages.

Wrong practices developed deformities – Most of rituals, customs and traditions have lost their sanctity and developed many distortions because people started following them blindly and in a wrong way. People are losing the spirit of these rituals and festivals. It is necessary to understand correctly what for they actually meant, or what the messages behind it are. For example –

  • Festival of Holi in India was traditionally played by making colors from the flowers and herbs. Gulal was popular for its soothing qualities. But over the years, natural colors have been replaced by synthetic colors. Synthetic colors spoil the fun. They can cause serious skin problems, eye irritation and from skin allergies can lead to cancer.
  • The purpose of Holi festival is to inspire people to meet and greet each other with love and affection, forgetting old rivalries and enmity. Now many a times, people get beserk. They think holi is meant for fun. In the name of fun (mauj and masti), they play Holi in rowdy manner, misbehave and take advantage thinking it a good time to settle old scores. They use everything available to give others a really tough time, – pucca paints, dyes, grease, mud, throw each other in a pit of mud, throw balloons filled with water/coloured water and drink bhaang and get intoxicated and sometimes violent.
  • The ill-effect of this change is that people dread to move out their houses almost a week before Holi. There are many fatal/serious accidents due to drunken driving, dangerous driving, over-speeding, triple riding, driving without helmets or seat-belts is common sight during Holi

Wrong practices, quite often develops a widespread misunderstanding and give birth to social evils, caste-conflicts, feudal oppressions and mass poverty.

Impact of Vedic philosophy and literature on Indian society

The impact of Vedic philosophy and literature on Indian society was as following –

  • No confusion in matter of work – All the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided amongst different groups. Each group was assigned a distinct function to perform. There was no confusion or frustration on matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.
  • Dignity and honor for everyone –One of the unique features was that it provided work and employment to all. It avoided rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position amongst different sections of society. Each and every group served the community. All the groups lived with dignity and honor with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society.
  • Clear vision of responsibilities – Clear-cut definition of rights and duties for each group, based on its traditional occupation, developed clear vision of its responsibilities.
  • Checks and balances – Orderly division of labor based on certain principles and its combination with the principle of inter dependence developed its own systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of its authority.
  • Decentralization of authority – There was an automatic decentralization of authority.
  • Inculcated discipline in masses – Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation envisaged/prescribed by the learned sages.

Contribution of some saints

Tulsi, a Follower of Bhakti (Devotion) MargTulsidas took Rama out of Temples (Mandirs) or massive structures, freed Him from the clutches of Brahmins and placed Him in the hearts of common man. Importance of Ramayana, according to Sri Satya Sai Baba, is that principles of Ramayana teach peace, love humanity and unity. It teaches value of detachment from objective pursuits and realization the presence of Divine in every being. Renunciation leads to joy and attainment brings worries. The characters of Ramayana represents – Dasaratha is the representative of physical senses, three queens queens of three qualities (gunas) – serenity (satwa), passion (Rajas), sloth (tamas). The four goals of life are to get over ‘Kaam, Kroth, Lobh, Moh’. Rama represents righteousness in deed, word and thought, ever pure and totally free from blemish. Lakshmana symbolizes intellect, sugriva wisdom (viveka), Baali despair, Hanuman embodiment of courage. The three demon chiefs are personification of Passion (Rajasic), slothness (taamasic) and serenity (satwic). Sita is awareness of Universal Absolute (Brahma-jnana)

Kabir (15th century Sufi ‘Nirgun’ Sant) and Sufi philosophers – Kabir as well as other Sufi philosophers did not believe in idol worship and criticized numbo-jumbo of rituals, communal and fanatic attitude. All their life they fought against orthodoxy, the ritualistic interpretation of religion and advocated spiritual uplift of a person. But after their death, most of them were caged in the same circle of rituals.

Vivekanand (a 19th century scholar saint) – To Vivekanand, Dharma meant fulfilling duties, not performing mere rituals. Religions are the ways to reach the divine and not to confront any other faith. He did not believe in conversion and advised people to stick to their own religion. In his famous 1893 Chicago speech at World Parliament of Religions said, “I am proud of my Hinduism, which is tolerant and inclusive.” However, some fanatics did great disservice when they use this message not to spread Hinduism’s message of tolerance, but to express a supremacist mentality.

                                           II

                         Modern education

During British rule in India, in 1834, new modern education system was launched in India, which was based on colonized British Grammar School type education. The traditional Indian system of education had withered away for the lack of official support.

Modern education in India (Before Independence) – In 1835, Lord Macauley successfully laid the foundation of modern education in India. In 1844 through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment. It made English medium schools very popular.

The universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1837 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. Since the British were not much interested in scientific and technical education, only three Medical Colleges one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was established by 1857. There was only one good engineering college at Roorkee.

Purpose of introducing Modern Education system

Lord Macaulay’s address to the British parliament on 2nd Feb. 1835. “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is beggar, who is a thief, such wealth I have seen in the country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indian think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

Finding it too costly and perhaps practically impossible to import enough Englishmen to man the large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration, British rulers planned of educating Indians in such a way that they “should through western education get Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments”. Lord Macauley clearly said that, “we must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.”

Served Double purpose

 Introduction of modern education had served a double purpose for the British rulers- they got the credit for the amelioration of the Indian society. But at the same time, through it, they devised a unique method of distribution of power, kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.

Welcomed by all

The atmosphere was completely ready, when Lord Macauley to lay the foundation of modern education in India by 1835. Missionaries as well as National leaders, intellectuals and Reformers not only welcomed but exerted pressure on the company to encourage and promote western education in India.

For Missionaries

For Missionaries, modern education was a good recipe to brainwash Indians and to attract many Indians especially belonging to lower strata towards Christianity. Modern education and preaching of religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant etc. had made their job easy. Formal education in educational institutions under British government led to mass conversion into Christianity. It had succeeded in leaving a deep influence in the minds of both educated and uneducated.

  • Brainwashing educated Indians – In educational institutions under British government or in Missionary schools, an ideological attack was launched purposely on Indian value systems. Indian social structure and its values and systems were described as “discriminatory,” “iniquitous,” “exploitative,” “oppressive” “barbarous,” “uncivilized” and “highly stratified”. Indian social-structure, based on caste system, was held responsible for all evil social practices, feudalistic attitude, backward thinking, belief in dogmas and superstitions sustained by a unique set of rituals, and whimsical concept of purity and pollution.

Formal education in missionary or government aided schools and colleges developed a complex in the minds of educated Indians about primitiveness of Indian society and its value system. Many educated Indians were influenced greatly by the alien culture. Some of them got converted into Christianity.

  • Education and employment an attraction for poor – Missionaries had attracted the attention of poor ignorant masses by preaching and by providing for submerged sections of Indian society opportunities to get free modern education in missionary schools and permanent jobs.  Liberal grants were given by the British government to missionaries and their schools for this purpose. It helped missionaries to lure the downtrodden/people, belonging to lower strata, towards Christianity.

Hopes, national leaders and Reformists had from ‘Modern Education’

Humanitarians, intellectuals, leaders and leaders and social reformers welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English education. They hoped that modern education would –

  • Enlighten Indians by giving them the key to open the treasures of scientific discoveries and democratic, liberal and humanitarian thoughts of the modern ‘West’ through Western literature and philosophy.
  • Make people aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society, remedy the social, political and economic ills of the country and improve the life of common men by enabling them to conquer ignorance, hunger, poverty and disease.
  • Spread of the Principles of Democracy across the nation to bring to an end imperialism and tyranny of British rule.

Impact of the efforts of National leaders

Modern education did produce much-needed manpower for lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers. But it also generated groups of visionary national leaders, intellectuals and reformers during second half of the nineteenth century and beginning of twentieth century like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Neta Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel etc.

Aim, Economic and social uplift – The thrust of Indian leaders and intelligentsia was purely an economic and social. They put emphasis on education and science. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society.

Constructive Influence of modern education on Indian society

Eighteenth century onwards, modern education led to social awakening, gave impetus to social progress and brought many reforms. It had influenced substantially the working style and thinking of missionaries, reformers, educationists and many Indians, especially those belonging to elite and intellectual sections of society. Some of the positive effects of modern education on Indian society were as follows –

  • Opened up the doors of the knowledge – Modern education opened up the doors of the knowledge flourished in Europe after Renaissance movement of Middle Ages. It had widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia.
  • Highlighted evil practices – Modern education had highlighted the weaknesses and real issues, which had developed in the system like rigidity and harshness of social customs and practices prevalent at that time for the weaker sections of the society i.e. women and lower strata of society.
  • Attracted attention of social reformers – Modern education had attracted the attention of social reformers towards social evils caused by ignorance, superstitions or irrationality like mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses, un-touch-ability and inhuman treatment to women, Sati, Polygamy, child marriage etc. etc. prevalent at that time.
  • Realization of the worth of liberty and freedom – Indians realised the worth of liberty and freedom. They got exposure to the philosophies of thinkers like Locke, Mill, Roussseau, Voltaire, Spencer and Burke etc. They came to know about the reasons and impact of English, French, American revolutions. It equipped national leaders with the intellectual tools, with which they fought the oppressive British Raj.

The destructive effects of modern education on Indian society

Some of the adverse effects of modern education system on Indian society were –

  • Disintegration of Indian society – Divisive policies of British rulers divided the whole of Indian society into many uncompromising groups. The primary aim of British rulers was to ‘divide and rule’ and keep the natives busy in their in-fights.  They adopted racial discrimination and many repressive policies in order to disintegrate Indian society. On surface, everything appeared fine, but in reality it compartmentalized the Indian society into uncompromising groups by taking the path of discrimination. National leaders, Reformers and a section of intelligentsia could feel the damage, British racial discrimination and their repressive policies were doing.
  • Rise to unhealthy competition – Modernization of the pattern of education and occupations (making knowledge of English as basic qualification for white collared jobs especially in government) along with industrialization increased role of formal education and training for furthering future prospects of people.

In near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, people had to depend entirely on modern education and Government jobs for earning respectfully. Stiff competition for getting enough space in modern callings divided the Indian society. Opportunities in modern education and government jobs became the bone of contention between different sections of the society. The monopoly of Brahmins in these areas cautioned the British and generated anger amongst the non-Brahmin communities and Muslims. In the Southern states, there emerged two rival groups – Brahmins and Non-Brahmins and in the North – Hindu and Muslims.

  • Biased census operation – British rulers redefined the structure of Indian society through Census operations according to their administrative convenience. Census operations divided Indian society into different political groups – Upper castes, Lower castes, Backward castes, minorities Tribals and untouchables – on basis of race, religion, caste, creed, or place. The government recognized all these groups officially. It divided Indian population into different un-bridgeable groups. It politicized caste and community, which were made tools for Indians to fight amongst them from now onwards.

The government allowed forming their own pressure groups. It gave encouragement to all of them to pursue their sectional interests or to insist for their claims in the areas of education, white collared jobs and power- structure of the country.

  • Racial discrimination giving birth to National movement – During 1858 to 1905, the British Government adopted a racist attitude under the garb of the policy of apparent association. British, philosophers and writers started propagating theories of racial superiority and thereby, justified the domination of white races over dark races of the globe. Historians like Mill, Wilson, Ward vehemently denounced the culture, character and social structure of the native people.

The discriminatory and repressive policies and practices of British rulers alarmed the national leaders. Racial discrimination in the areas of education and jobs and their repressive policies elsewhere; Economic loot; political subjugation; assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race; assumption of a haughty exclusiveness; persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians; exclusion of Indians from all places of honor, authority and responsibility; and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. The destructive character of repressive policies of British rulers lit the fire and gave birth to national movement.

  • Masses remained illiterate – Though during second half of the nineteenth century, British government in India opened the doors of education to all sections of Indian society, irrespective of caste or creed, very few amongst the general public could avail the advantages of formal modern education. Education remained confined within a small section of societyIt was only impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of respectful livelihood, who opted for modern education. Educating general public was not the aim of British rulers. Relentless efforts of missionaries, with an aim to convert poor people into Christianity, could educate a very small number of people from amongst them. Reasons being:
    • Modern education was very costly and, therefore, unaffordable by the masses.
    • Masses did not see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day.
    • English as a medium of instructions in education and as Official language. It alienated the masses from the educated Indians. English gradually became the language of elite section of Indian society.
  • White collared jobs- Introduction of modern education in 1835 and introduction of Wood’s dispatch of 1854, known as Magna Carta, which declared English as an official language, changed the scenario. It gave importance and popularity to ‘White collared jobs’ in organized sector. Declaration of English as Official language pushed the masses away from new employment opportunities. More a person withdraws from physical labor, more honored; civilized and qualified he/she is considered by modern society. The trend of easy and quick money started.
  • Discredited traditional occupations – Emergence of white-collared jobs based on formal education tended to make many traditional occupations obsolete, as they were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming. It scattered the efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. There had been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Work culture has changed tremendously since then.
  • Unemployment increased – Very few of them could join modern occupations. Majority of people could neither enter into modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering the menial work derogatory. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of them had no option, but either to join band of agricultural labors, industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed.
  • Traditional jobs hijacked by educated entrepreneurs – Some young entrepreneurs, having education, money and awareness, did market survey and hijacked many discarded traditional occupations. They modernized such disdained and contemptuous jobs like mechanization of fishing or leather industry and made them profit oriented. Even less capital-intensive occupations like that of barber or washer-men have been hijacked by educated middle class. They re-christened them as saloon, laundry etc and employed those poor traditional workers, who were earlier practicing such occupations independently.

Modern education and Reform movements                 

Social reforms of 19th and early 20th century – The thrust of reformers was purely social. They got alarmed at the erosion of rich ancient Culture of India. Modern education was steadily disassociating Indians from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. They undertook the path of internal reforms. They tried to revive it through Sanskritization.

  • Formation of Social reform organizations in 19th and early 20th century – The thrust of reformers was purely social. Many organizations were formed allover India, like Brahma Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1828) in Bengal or Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867). Arya Samaj (1875) was founded by Swami Dayanand in Northern India, and Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India society. They suggested people to form similar organizations allover India spread awareness amongst common man.
  • Efforts to awaken the masses and interpret religion rationally – Social reformers took upon themselves the job to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture.

They organized people, held conferences and published articles to inspire and spread awareness amongst the people allover India. They interpreted religion rationally. They familiarized the masses with the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as there was more rigidity than other parts of India in observances of various rituals and rules. Illiterate and ignorant masses followed them blindly.

Advice of social reformers to Indians

Social reformers drew attention of the public towards the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society and guided people to remain firmly rooted to Indian Culture.  

  • Advice to eradicate social evils – Social reformers told people to stop all forms of exploitation, inequality and injustice and then move forward. Emphasis was laid on education and science. They asked people to fight against all inhuman practices or treatment given to women and lower strata of society at that time. Women were victimized because of evil practices like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage etc. And practice of untouchablity, which developed into the system made millions of people from lowest strata of society to suffer because of arrogance, ego and irresponsible behavior of some persons. Such persons were responsible for creating the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions to serve their own vested interests and entangle/exploit the ignorant and poor masses.
  • Free Hinduism from all degenerate featuresSocial reformers advised people to set free Hinduism from all degenerate features without foreign intervention. They asked the submerged sections of society to fight with “Abhava” (Scarcity), “Agyan” (Ignorance), “Annyaya” (Injustice), and “Alasya” (Laziness), as these were the causes of all evils. 
  • Not the principles, but practices went wrong – Reformers believed that it was not the Hindu principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Vivekanand who founded the Rama Krishna Mission said, It is we, who are responsible for our degradation. … He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, that nation dies.” i
  • Call to ’Return to Vedas’ – Swami Vivekanand and many other reformers asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture.  They gave a call to “Return to Vedas”, as Vedas were to them source of all knowledge and truth. They advised Indians to interpret religion rationally and remain firmly rooted to their own Culture.

Familiarizing the masses of India and the Western World

Awareness about its greatness confined within a small group – For a long time, the greatness of Indian culture and its philosophy was known only in India, that too, not to the whole of India, but only to a few Sanskrit scholars. For the first time in the 8th century Sankaracharya placed it before the people. Even then, its worth was realized within the world of few scholars and saints.

Later on, during 19th and 20 centuries, Saint Jnanesvar, Vivekanand, Rama Krishna Mission), Lokmanya Tilak, Theosophical Society of India and others tried to reveal to the common man and Western world the greatness of Indian Philosophy and culture as well as the charm and graciousness of Vedic literature. They contributed in making Vedic culture popular all over India.

Inspiration not only Indians, but foreigners as well – From now onwards, this gold mine of knowledge and vast treasures of Hindu philosophy with all its rational thinking, social and religious experiences contained in Indian Scriptures and Epics have inspired not only Indians, but foreigners also, not only in the past, but at present as well. Indian philosophy and its value system gave to people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. It commanded the respect and attention of an average Indian once more. German scholars, in the early Nineteenth Century and English scholars in the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century were deeply fascinated by Hindu philosophy and its rich spiritual and traditional treasures, accumulated through centuries.

Scholars reinterpreted it for a rational mind – Intellectuals from India as well as various countries have translated it in their own languages and reinterpreted it for a rational mind with an aim to spread it throughout the world.

.                                                  After Independence

With minor changes here and there, the education system basically remained the same. Karl Marx remarked that British, had a double mission in India, one destructive, the other regenerating; the annihilation of the old Asiatic Society and laying the material foundation of Western Society in Asia.I (Dutt RP, India Today, p476) The regenerating character can be seen in the social transformation in India through modern education. British rulers made English language as a medium of learning and official language. There was modernization in economic sphere. It led to political unification of the country and laid foundations for many democratic institutions.

The reactionary and destructive character was seen in the economic and social sphere. The growth of casteism had a close connection with these developments. Its result on Indian society was –

Complex in the minds of many educated Indians about their social values –Modern education has developed a complex in the minds of many educated Indians about the primitiveness of Indian society and about efficacy of its value systems. Many educated Indians have lost faith in social customs and practices altogether. Some Indians consider Hindu philosophies and its way of life impractical, or its social practices indefensible.

Apathy towards their values and systems – Apathy towards their value systems has made a large number of intelligentsia alien in their own country. It has disassociated them from their own way of living, classical roots and traditional knowledge. With it; are fading steadily Indian value-system, philosophies and traditions. Usually a person becomes miserable, when he is cut off from his source of life – his own roots. A large number of educated Indians have lost faith in the traditional values, principles and way of life. They have lost faith not only in their fellow-beings, but also in themselves.

Wide gulf between common man and educated – Quality of education, especially in government or government-aided educational institutions has also deteriorated to a great extent. The costly nature of quality education especially in private institutions has further alienated uneducated masses from educated ones. Quality education has become a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers. Their youth have become quite insensitive, arrogant and does not hesitate speaking their minds bluntly.

Culture of Neo-rich – A drastic change is visible in the values, behavior and etiquette of a new educated neo- rich youth of elitist class, which has emerged especially in urban areas and Metros. Their life style and value system have been gradually replaced by the Western ones. They want to enjoy pleasures of modern life at any cost. They are more conscious of their rights.

Undisciplined behavior – Present-day youth want to enjoy life fully in any possible way without any bondage/restriction/comment on their behavior or way of life. Loosening grip of social bondage and observances has made many of them selfish, self-willed and arrogant. Some of them have become so intolerant and aggressive, that they out-rightly discard all social norms and etiquette. Their thinking and value systems are quite different from the older ones.

Failure of Present Education System – Education is supposed to develop positive thinking in learners, so that they can channelize their efforts, make their thinking-base broader and flexible, increase openness to information and enhance spirit to work hard, sincerely in a responsible manner in order to attain desired goals. Present system of education has miserably failed to inculcate in youth these qualities. They do not have a clear vision about their aims and ambitions, courage to own responsibilities, face bravely the challenges in life and a balanced approach towards one’s rights and duties, which are the basic ingredients of any cultured/matured/civil society.

Large population of Illiterates and unskilled work-force – ‘Education for all’ and ‘employment for all’ is still a dream. Lack of proper education and training systems combined with illiteracy and lack of skills amongst a large number of people has turned the visions of national development into empty dreams. Only 64.84 people are literate according to 2001 census, (Males – 75.26% and Females – 53.67%). In absolute number, the figure is alarming.  No nation can afford to have a large number of its population to remain illiterate, ignorant and unskilled. Not only the number of illiterates and unskilled is a matter of concern, but also quality and insufficient resources of education and training are the matter of great concern.  Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on available infrastructure of education and training.

All powerful Government making common man a pigmy – Being a ‘socialist’ and ‘Welfare state’, government has assumed absolute power and taken over itself the responsibility of improving the quality of life of its people from `womb to tomb’. Instead of being a facilitator, it has become the provider. Instead of teaching people ‘how to fish’, it obliges different sections of society by ‘giving a fish’. It has led to centralization of all control systems and made common man a pigmy.

Populist policies to catch vote-banks – In order to create vote banks discriminatory populist policies are being pursued in the name of ‘equality’ or ‘social justice’. More emphasis is being given in pursuing abstract and emotional issues rather than solving the real problems of people. Attempts for social changes make a virtue of narrow loyalties of caste and religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society. Caste and communal conflicts are increasing. There are sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions.

Unhealthy competition – There is neck to neck competition for a few places in educational institutions of repute or in employment, especially in organized sector. Rivalry and bitterness for pelf, power or position is continuously increasing. Total aversion of youth from their traditional occupations and stiff competition elsewhere for employment pushed millions to poverty. It has rendered millions of people unemployed or underemployed, who are now wasting all their efforts and most energetic and creative time of their lives, while hunting for a job.

Effect of Political turmoils on Indian society – Recent political turmoils have adversely affected the whole atmosphere. A few Individuals and groups, with political, money or muscle power control the destiny of millions and have say in almost every walk of national life. They are working day and night to deny justice to common men and upright citizens. Favouritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption, lure for easy money, nepotism and chase of materialism based on ruthless competition have weakened the social fabric beyond repair. The erosion of basic moral and human values has turned the life of men, “nasty, brutish and short”.

Standard of Administration – Standard of governance has declined. Work culture in government offices whether at Centre, state or local level, has been degenerated. Under-currents of caste politics have made the task of governance difficult, making the governance difficult and ineffective. It has given birth to sectarian and regional imbalances generating social and psychological tensions. People are disgusted with the non-performance of government. The administration has become incompetent to solve the burning national issues.

Technological advancement – Scientific and technological developments has endowed human with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy. At slightest provocation, people do not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to them. That is one of the reasons for increase in the incidents of violence and crimes.

Conclusion

There is no denial to the fact that Modern education has brought social awakening and awareness amongst people all over India. Recent revolutionary developments in the areas Science and technology, information technology and mass media have brought tremendous changes in the life style and working of people. Thanks to it, now any kind of information in any area of human knowledge or about any aspects of life is easily accessible, that too at the door-step of each and every individual. It has made the present generation much more informed about the developments happening anywhere in the whole world and knowledgeable than previous generations. But only gaining knowledge is not enough.

Khalil Gibran has pointed out that a little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that remains inactive. A person, whose knowledge is confined to books, is unable to use his wealth of knowledge, when the need arises. Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action.

According to Hindu philosophy, human beings possess three shakties (Powers) – knowledge, will and action. A human mind consists of right knowledge, wrong knowledge, fancy imagination (illusion), sleep, memory. It is only the right kind of knowledge, which gives essence and which is the source of spiritual light and remover of all ignorance. Knowledge brings in understanding and consciousness that vibrates with different types of learning. Right kind of knowledge, like a rock, is a solid support to human beings, which stays with them all the time. Spiritually it brings harmony and peace of mind and materially happiness, relaxation and celebration in life.

There is a difference between knowledge gained through information (intelligence) and its application to real day today life (intellect or wisdom). Intelligence leads to the world of information and knowledge. And intellect enables one to analyze, reason, judge the thinking process and distinguish between facts/realities and opinion. Intellect guides how to apply knowledge. It is lack of intellect that leads a person to vices like egoism, superiority complex etc and creates problems in people’s life and in the world. Only intellect can control human mind and lead it mind to right direction. When intellect becomes weak, negative reasoning takes over mind.

Intellect shows the path to come in touch with ones own inner truth, becoming truly aware of oneself. Self realization/self introspection changes the attitude of a person. After knowing ones strengths and weaknesses, rise above ‘I, me and myself’. It makes a person to put stress on life principles, understand better oneself and other people around without bias, make more intelligent choices and stay calm in the face of crisis and chaos.

Modern education led to ‘Intelligence’, but not to ‘intellect’ – Modern education has made people intelligent and knowledgeable, but could not develop the ‘intellect’ of people properly. Revolutionary developments in the areas Science and technology, information technology and mass media made all kind of knowledge accessible and organized knowledge, but could not guide people to organized life.

Deficiencies of modern education system – Modern education, which has been inherited from the British, has brought social awakening and awareness all over India amongst Indian people. But there are also certain deficiencies in it.  Internally, as Mahatma Gandhi had pointed out long ago, modern education based on colonized British Grammar School type education has deprived masses. English medium has put undue strain upon the nerves of the Indian students, made them crammers, imitators and unfit them for original work and thought. India’s massive human resource needs to be cultivated through sound system of education and training to get out of the rut of mediocrity.

Ignored the culture of heart – Modern education has ignored the culture of heart and hand and confined itself simply to head. It has made people aware of their rights, but unfortunately not about their duties. It has pushed modern youth away from their roots and their own culture, which advised them to adopt a self-restrained and self- disciplined life style, to learn to be contented, honest and willing to help others; to observe austerity, simplicity; to maintain cleanliness of diet, body and mind and; not to waste energy or over-indulge oneself in wasteful and destructive activity. In short, it advised people to rise above the animal instincts hidden inside human-beings.

Pushed people away from their indigenous culture – It has not taught youth of the day to have pride in their surroundings. More modern and advanced they become, the farther they are removed from their surroundings and at the end, becoming estranged from their surroundings. People basically become miserable when they are cut off from his source of life- one’s roots.

Today, people are loosing their natural character, because they are getting away from roots, from their traditional aspirations and values in preference to the western materialism. The traditional culture in its true form can still give to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Modern educated intelligentsia needs to stop imitating the ‘West’ blindly.

Suggestions

Common men in India still have faith in good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors, who have contributed in developing the culture of India. Rajgopalachari has said, “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity— any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”.

Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots, it is important to keep their feet firmly on the ground and to instill right values in them. In recent past, traditional values have lost their sanctity and developed many distortions because people started following them blindly and in a wrong way. It developed a widespread misunderstanding. Apathy of people towards the value system of Indian society has generated caste-conflicts, feudal oppressions, exploitation of vulnerable sections of society and mass poverty. Only after understanding the rationale behind them, people should follow them systematically.

Traditional value system still gives to the people, a purpose to live for and ideals to be achieved. Blind following quite often leads to practice social customs and practices incorrectly or in a wrong way. Later on, with the passage of time, there develops many deformities into the system and harms the whole of the society. All the principles, rituals or customs of ancient India should not be followed blindly without understanding the logic behind it.

But there are some values and systems, which are still relevant and inspire common men to lead a disciplined life style. After evaluating its worth in the light of present circumstances, people should follow them systematically. Modern times and circumstances have changed completely especially after 1970 with information technology revolution. There were many things which the ancestors did not know like World Wars, nuclear weapons, technological advancements in the areas of media, transport, and communications or in the world of computers.

Education should guide youth to have a clear-cut vision of one’s responsibilities and a balanced approach towards one rights and duties, which is a must for any matured/civilized society. It should lead to positive thinking, which could channelize human efforts in proper direction, make vision broader, thinking flexible, increase openness to information and enhance spirit to work hard. Discipline and productivity are also necessary for a sound system of education.

Modern intelligentsia, who have some faith in traditional values and system welcome the rationality and other good features of Modern education, but wish to remain firmly rooted to Indian Culture.

Reformers and intellectuals have shown their anguish at the declining moral and ethical standards and discipline of the modern society. They try to combat negative forces like deceit, treachery, violence, crimes and degradation of values and make the society a better place to live in. There is enough goodness inside and around every human being. Only people need to channelize their ambitions, desires and energies towards right direction through sound education system.

In the recant past, it is not the principles, but the practices, which went wrong. Today, when Indians are getting away from their roots,  nothing is more needed than the constant interpretation of past experiences and present circumstances. Present should be a constant challenge to the opinions of past. A value or a system, which in the light of modern times appears more effective and beneficial, should be replaced by a better one. At the same time, it would be suicidal to sacrifice ancient value systems to an increasing passion for change.

After raising oneself from ignorance, and with a rational and open mind, a person can understand the greatness of the Indian culture and its value system. A knowledgeable and civilized person like a jeweller should spot out gems from amongst worthless pebbles from this ocean of knowledge; pick them up and leave the undesired obsolete elements developed into it with passage of time. In a changing world, nothing can be more disabling than its idolization of past.

June 28, 2016 Posted by | General, Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Summary of ‘Bhagwat-Gita’

A Summary Of Bhagvat Gita

     By

           Justice Shanker Dayal Khare (Retd), Allahabad, 28.10.1975

INTRODUCTION

We seek happiness. We desire that happiness we sometimes feel may last for ever. Do we succeed? Do we get peace of mind?

Gita throws light on these subjects. We may find its philosophy interesting and useful. There is no harm in giving exercise to our minds in the same manner as we give yogic exercises to our bodies.

Philosophy is simple: – ‘Rely on (your own) Laws and Traditions. Keep on doing deeds as you have been doing them. Do your deeds without hesitation and with complete devotion towards God, and achieve what is generally achieved by such deeds.

Detachment is the doorway to self-realization and to have control over restless mind. If you want peace of mind try not to feel elated with the feeling that you are the doer of the deeds. Dedicate the results of all your deeds to God. Then you should not have any attachment towards the results of your deeds.

In that manner you should reach beyond the scope of the three qualities – (saintly, worldly lethargic).

Have complete faith in the Creator and He will help you in establishing such faith in Himself.

I shall feel happy if some people, like me, find this summary useful.

Allahabad                                                                                         S.D.Khare

28-10-75

                                                           CHAPTER ONE

                                                          DESPONDENCY

         After both the parties had drawn themselves up in battle array, Arjun, accompanied by Lord Krishna, went to the battle field to see those who have come to oppose the Pandavas (party with just cause) and to support Kaurvas (party with an unjust cause). For Arjun it was most disheartening to see that even his own kith and kin, and very near relations were supporting the unjust cause and opposing the just cause. Was it proper for him to fight all those people, who had come to oppose him? Arjun, in retrospect, said, “NO”. He observed that in such circumstances it was better to be killed than be the killer. The situation being very confusing Arjun asked for the advice of Lord Krishna.

                                                   CHAPTER TWO

                                         PROCESS OF REASONING

      Arjun was advised to put up a fight, because –

  1. Being a member of the fighting community it was his duty to fight for the right cause. In such a fight death secured Heaven and survival the pleasures of this world.
  2.  It was foolish to think of destroying others in the process. Soul is indestructible. None of the five elements (fire, air, water, earth or sky) is capable of destroying it. Body is, no doubt, destructible. This body, however, does not retain its original form or shape even during one life time. It keeps on changing from childhood to young age and from young age to old age. Death merely changes the form of the body.
  3. People regard you invincible. You shall fall in their estimates in case you refuse to fight. They shall call you a coward. That shall be worse than death.
  4. Why worry about the result of the fight? How can the result of any deed be controlled? It is always the best to do a deed and leave the result of the deed to God. That is a well recognized method (of doing deeds without feeling attached to them). It is par excellent. The practice of this method shall lead one to detachment and to the attainment of Salvation. Such deeds bear no fruits, piety or sin

       Arjun asked: – “Can a person firmly established in this method of doing deeds be spotted out?”

         Lord Krishna replied: – “Yes! Such a person is always fully satisfied with his own soul. Pleasure nor pain, good luck nor bad luck, can ever perturb him. He withdraws his senses from all objects of pleasure and is without any feeling of attachment, fear and anger. Control over mind and practice lead to such a state. Such person devotes himself fully towards God.”

 CHAPTER THREE

                                                      PROCESS OF DEEDS

       Arjun asked again: – “When acquisition of wisdom is supreme why should one do deeds, the results of some of which might be dreadful?”

        Lord Krishna replied: – The universe and the deeds were created at one and the same time. Everything has to be achieved through deeds. One’s quality determines the nature of one’s deeds. One’s existence even for a moment, is not possible without doing deeds.

      One should do only the natural and the prescribed deeds, that should keep him free from the feeling of attachment and envy.

       Arjun thereupon asked: – When people do deeds perforce (according their quality) why should those deeds saddle them with sins?”

       Lord Krishna replied: – Attachment and envy, born of worldly quality, lead people to partake in sin. Attachment has its abode in senses, mind and intellect. Attachment, with the help of all these three, eclipses wisdom. Senses are strong, mind is stronger and the intellect is strongest of the three. Soul is even more powerful than intellect.

          Concentrating on soul, taking the help of one’s intellect and controlling one’s mind and senses, one can destroy ATTACHMENT, which is the supreme enemy.

 CHAPTER FOUR

                                                           TRUE WISDOM

         “I had told about this method (of doing deeds without any feeling of attachment towards them) to Sun when the Universe started. Sun passed on that knowledge to some of his descendants. However for a very long time that method had been forgotten. The same method is repeats to you, my devotee.”

         Arjun asked how Lord Krishna could be there at the time the universe started. The reply of Lord Krishna was: –

         “God and soul have always existed. God, however, revealed himself only in each era to give relief to the pious minded and destroy the evil-minded. The apparent birth and deeds of God Almighty are most unusual.

           Four classifications have been made for the doers of all sorts of deeds. The scriptures (Vedas) contain a description of different kinds of deeds. The attainment of True Knowledge is the ultimate aim of all such deeds. True knowledge can be attained only by devotion service and honest questioning. Those who have already acquired true knowledge must guide others. True knowledge is like a huge ball of fire. It destroys the feeling of attachment and burns out all sins, which are merely the results of attachment. The soul which has acquired True Knowledge gets absolute peace and qualifies for God realization.

               After being free from the feeling of attachment and envy, one should remain content with whatever comes in stride. Happiness or unhappiness, or attainment or non-attainment of his objects should not stir him in the least. Ultimately he is bound to get absolute peace.

CHAPTER FIVE

                            OF DOING DEEDS WITHOUT ATTACHMENT

              Asked Arjun: – Which of the two is better – the Process of Reasoning or the Process of Deeds?”

             The reply was: – Both are equally good and lead to the same result. However the Process of Deeds may be said to be the better of the two. True Knowledge can also be acquired by means of Deeds done without any feeling of attachment. When a person has full control over his mind and body, when his soul has become pure and when he is totally bereft of ego and remains unattached while doing deeds, he can not be bound down to the fruits of his deeds and can never commit any sin. He attains peace.

             The doer of deeds without any feeling of attachment keeps on doing deeds for the purification of his soul, but all the time his senses, mind, body and intellect remain free from attachment.

           One must consider everybody alike and remain moderate inhabit and behavior. He must remain firm in his belief and strive hard to attain True Knowledge.

         The attainment of salvation leads to unending peace and happiness. The quest for worldly pleasures is futile. Worldly pleasures are innumerable, perishable and in themselves sourses of unhappiness. Only those persons can attain peace who are free from the feeling of attachment and envy and who have control over their senses, mind, body and intellect.

CHAPTER SIX

                                                  UPLIFTING OF SOUL

               Lord Krishna said: – A person who does deeds without any feeling of attachment is both a Renouncer and a Doer of Deeds. A person, who has control over his senses, mind, body and intellect has no real interest in preserving or amassing wealth. His continuous effort is only to uplift the Soul.

               For purification of Soul practice has to be done in a proper manner. Everything (eating, sleeping. Rest) should be done in moderation. One’s state of mind should be that of a lamp kept at a place where there is no breeze. One must always have faith in his belief and should never feel bored. He is bound to discern the existence of the Supreme Being in all the objects.”

             Arjun observed: – “It is not easy to control one’s mind. To attain mastery in such practice must, therefore, be very very difficult”.

           The reply was: – “Yes! That is so. But by constant practice one may master it.”

             Asked Arjuna: – “That being a long and drawn out process, will not a person engaged in such practice get lost and annihilated in the same manner as a cloud, which disintegrates into nothing?”

            Lord Krishna replied: – “No. Each stage reached by constant practice, remains secure. One starts from that stage in the next birth.”

                                                         CHAPTER SEVEN

KNOWLEDGE DIVINE

             “The acquisition of no other knowledge can be compared to the attainment of Divine Knowledge. It is something grand. One should know what God is.

             Every person has two components – the body and the soul. The body is made up of eight elements (earth, water, air, sky, fire, mind, intellect and ego). The other component, which gives life to the system is different.

             God is the Creator and the Destroyer of the entire universe. God is present in all the objects. Even the feelings, which beget the three qualities (Saintly, worldly and lethargic) are created by God. A grand illusion is the result of the interplay of these qualities. No one can escape that illusion unless he worships God continuously. One, whose wisdom is eclipsed by illusion, does not worship God.

             Four kinds of people worship God. These are of: –

  1. People in quest of worldly objects,
  2. People anxious to avert unhappy events,
  3. People desirous of knowing God, and
  4. People whose every deed is dedicated to God.

Out of them the fourth class is the best.

                People desirous of getting rid of the pangs of rebirth and death must depend only on God. Their faith in Him must be firm. Such a person is not likely to forget God even at the time of his death.

CHAPTER EIGHT

                                                COMMUNION WITH GOD

             “A person, who can manage to remember God even at the time of his death, attain salvation. What one thinks during the last moments of his life, determines his status after death. A person, who can restrain his senses from drifting towards the objects of pleasure, who stations his mind firmly in his heart, and his life force in his forehead, who remains firmly established in such practice, thinks of God only and, at the time of his death pronounce His name (OM) is bound to attain Salvation.

           The doer of deeds with feeling of attachment towards them can go upto heaven only. He returns to earth after the effect of his pious deeds is over. But one who attains Salvation is not born again. The stage of salvation can be reached only by continuous practice and devotion.

             What is time? One day of Supreme Being is equivalent to one thousand eras. Similarly one night of the Supreme Being is also equal to one thousand eras. The Universe was created when the day of the Supreme Being started. It shall get annihilated when the night of Supreme Being starts. The process shall keep on repeating. The Supreme Being alone is un-destructable.

               There are two clear-cut paths – one leading to God and other leading to ancestors. A doer of deeds, without any feeling of attachment, takes the first path and does not come back to earth. A doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment takes to the second path and comes back to the earth.

               A person, who fully knows all this, does not get attached to the results of his deeds. He continuously exercises his mind for the attainment of God. The attainment of this True Knowledge is far Superior to the knowledge of the Sacred Scripts and the doing of penance and charity.”

CHAPTER NINE

                                   SUPREME FAITH… MOST SACRED

               “The Supreme faith is the king of all other faiths. It is most sacred, very pure, very nice, consistent with everybody’s code of conduct, easy to follow, good for all times and capable of yielding quick results.

                 The entire universe is full of the Supreme Being in the same manner as ice is full of water. However, neither the Supreme Being is stationed in worldly objects nor are the worldly objects stationed in the Supreme Being.

                 The Supreme Being is the creator of all worldly objects. It holds them and feeds them. But the Supreme Being is not Stationed in them. To affirm that all the objects are stationed in the Supreme Being is tantamount to affirming that air is stationed in the sky.

                 The grand illusion, which is the creation of the inter-ply of the three qualities (saintly, worldly and lethargic), coupled with the Grace of God create all worldly objects.

                   Foolish people, relying on vain hopes, indulging in vain deeds, and attaining vain knowledge, acquire the quality of the demons. They feel attracted by those qualities and adopt them. But saintly people, being of saintly quality, do not do so. On the other hand they worship God with full faith and devotion – either with the feeling of oneness with God, or with a variety of other feelins, such as of master and servant or of the lover and the beloved.

                   The doer of deeds with a feeling of attachment towards the deeds worships god of his choice and attains his object soon. He can even reach heaven. Ultimately he must return to earth. One worshipping god with full faith attains Salvation. God helps him in establishing his faith in Him.

                   Faith and continuous devotion turn one into perfect saint. Even a worst sinner may hope to become a saint.”

CHAPTER TEN

                                                         GOD’S GLORY

                     “God is the creator of all and, therefore, no one can know about the origin of God. It was as a result of a resolve of God that the seven Rishis, the four Sankads and the fourteen Manus, all who control this world, were created. Even the feelings such as wisdom, forgiveness, happiness, power of control over senses and contentment have been created by God.

                       It is only with the help of one’s own soul stationed in his own heart that he may realize God. God is the beginning, the middle and the end of all. One may realize God by looking at things that are remarkable, full of glory and full of power. All such objects have been created by a fragment of God’s glory. The grand illusion created by him holds the entire universe.

                               Thus one may realize the glory of God by thinking of Varun amongst the sons of Aditya, of Sun amongst astrologers, of Shanker amongst the eleven Rudras, of fire amongst the eight Vasus, of sea amongst water, of king amongst men and so on.

                       The act of continuously repeating the name of God is the king of all the deeds.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

                                                     GOD REALIZATION

Asked Arjun: – Is it possible that I may see you in your true form with all your power, grace and Glory?”

The reply was: – “Yes. But not with the mortal eyes. You can see Me with the divine eyes bestowed by Me.”

The Form then revealed to Arjun had many faces and many eyes. It consisted of a variety of strange forms, all dressed in divine apparels, fully decorated and armed with all sorts of weapons. The entire form looked strange and Limitless. All over it was divine perfume. The brilliance of one thousand suns put together could hardly equal its brilliance. All parts of the universe could be seen in that Form. The Supreme Being, the Rishis and the divine serpents were also in that Form. One could neither see nor perceive its beginning, its middle and its end. Arjun described it thus: –

“I cannot see its beginning, its middle or its end. Eyes are like Sun and Moon. Mouths are like burning fires. It contains the Earth, the Heaven, the intervening sky and all the directions. Everybody is getting afraid after seeing this Limitless Form. It has many facets, is very bright and touches the sky. All that can be seen around is annihilation. All the known warriors are seen entering its fierce mouths and getting perished therein. Who are you?” asked Arjun.

The reply was: – “I am Time (the destroyer) and am here to annihilate this world. All these warriors are bound to be killed. Be the means, attain victory and rule your kingdom.”

Arjun told Lord Krishna that like others he too had lost his bearings and was not finding peace and solace. He requested him to show his Chaturbhuj (Human with four hands) Form.

Lord Krishna revealed to him his Chaturbhuj Form also and told him that none had seen it before and none of two forms could be seen by Penance, Charity, practice or knowledge of scriptures.

CHAPTER TWELVE

                                                     PERFECT DEVOTION

Arjun asked: – “What is better … worship of the abstract or the worship of God after ascribing him a Form?”

The reply was: – “The first is more advanced form of meditation and therefore, more difficult. People, who themselves have forms, find it easier to worship God after ascribing to Him a Form. Otherwise both the methods are correct.

There is yet another method which is simpler and easier. Have perfect faith in God, devote yourself to God and dedicate all your deeds to God. Very soon you will be relieved from this turmoil of the sea of death.

Try to have perfect devotion with the aid of Mind and intellect. Mind should be applied towards devotion by continuous practice. If that process is difficult try to do all your deeds for the sake of God only. If you find that process also difficult try to feel no attachment towards the results of the deeds. That, by itself, will result in the attainment of peace.

Do not think ill of others. Have love for others without regard of personal gain. There should be no ego. Happiness and unhappiness should be considered alike. Try to forgive even your enemy. Be content. Have control over senses, mind and body. Have absolute faith in God and fully devote your mind and intellect to Him.

Do not stir commotion in others. Do not permit others to stir any commotion in you. Be free from ambition and grief. Do not take sides. Complete the work for which you are destined.

Avoid feeling exceedingly happy about anything. Avoid feeling envious. Have no desire. Never repent. Leave the fruits… good or bad … of all your deeds to God.

Remain steady whether you be among friends or amongst enemies. Regard honour or dishonor alike. Have no craving for heat or cold, happiness or unhappiness. Be free from attachment. Regard praise and abuse alike. Remain content. Have a steady mind. That should be your code of conduct.”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

                                   BODY AND SOUL…. DIFFERENCE

“So many questions crop up. What are you? Are you the body or are you the soul? Is your body part of something bigger, brighter and better? Why has it been separated from bigger body? Where in lies the salvation of soul?

                     What is body? What is soul? How body and soul get together? What is the cause of rebirth? True knowledge is to know the answers of these questions.

                         The body consists of five elements (earth, water, fire, air and sky), ego plus intellect plus the illusion created by the interplay of the three qualities (Saintly. Worldly and Lethargic), plus ten organs (skin, smell, taste, speech, ears, eyes, hands, feet, genital organs and anus), plus the feelings (desire, jealousy, happiness, unhappiness, awareness and aim), plus rest of the body. The forms may be different, but these component parts in each body are the same.

                         It is the Supreme Being, who puts life into the body. The Supreme Being has no beginning and no end and is beyond the scope of three qualities and the ten senses enumerated above. But He knows their working. The Supreme Being is all pervading but without any (feeling of) attachment. It is all pervading like the sky or the rays of the sun.

                        Life is created when the Supreme Being comes into contact with body. The part of the Supreme Being that enters body, gets attached to the body by means of the three qualities (saintly, worldly, Lethargic) to which it has become firmly attached.

                        The Supreme Being is beyond the scope and the influence of the aforesaid three qualities. The separate flame of life (soul) in order to be one with the Supreme Being, has to attain similar status – it has also to reach beyond the scope of three qualities. Then only the Salvation is possible.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

                                  DIVISION INTO THREE QUALITIES

                            “What is your aim?” True wisdom or right course of action? If that be so follow the course of saintly quality and all that it implies. It will lead you to contentment and wisdom. After death you shall attain Heaven and coming back to this earth you shall be born in good family.

                               In case your aim is to attain worldly objects follow the course of ‘Worldly’ quality and attain all it implies. It will create greed in you, make you work hard for the attainment of your objects. Take you through the illusion of success and ultimately leave you unhappy. After death you eill be born amongst the people of the same quality.

                               In case you cannot raise yourself beyond useless efforts and seek lethargic or idle pleasure, follow the course of ‘Lethargic’ quality and all that it implies. If you die in that stage, you may be born low, even as an insect or a cattle.

                               By making effort you can change over from one quality to another. Suppress ‘worldly’ quality and ‘Lethargic quality in yourself and you will attain ‘Saintly’ quality in abundance. Similarly if you suppress the ‘saintly” quality and the ‘Lethargic’ quality in yourself, you will get the ‘worldly quality in abundance. Suppress both the ‘saintly’ quality and the ‘worldly’ quality in yourself and much of what would be left in you would be the ‘Lethargic’ quality.

                               If your aim is to achieve Supreme Nectar, Supreme righteousness and the everlasting Bliss, try to be one with God. For that you have got to leave the feeling of attachment behind and go beyond the ambit of the three qualities. One need not hate or despise any of these three qualities. However, to be one with God and attain everlasting Bliss, one has just to leave them behind.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

                              TO BE ONE WITH THE SUPREME BEING

                     “If you have a look at the tree of life, you will find everything tipsy-tarvy. The roots are above and the branches are below. Down below, the growth is luxurious and it spreads in all directions. But there is no firmness in the branches.

                     The root is the Supreme Being. The branches, spreading downwards, are watered by the three qualities and their growth reaches all directions.

                     The main branches are of saintly people, of worldly people and of Lethargic people, Desire, attachment and ego keep the people of each branch fastened to their own branch, and its subsidiary growths. The directions of these growths is determined by the deeds of the people. Mind and senses are the feeders of these branches.

                   One should never forget his main root and keep on thinking what is best for him. He should prune all the unnecessary growths. For that the only weapon available is the feeling of non attachment. After having finished the pruning you shall be able to concentrate on the main root.

                 Soul is eternal. Body is perishable. God alone is worth knowing. Take the help of scriptures, purify yourself and make further effort. It is only then that you can attain True Knowledge. Without purifying oneself it is not possible to attain True Knowledge. Effort otherwise is useless.

                       After one has got away from the unrealities of life and become one with the Supreme Being, there can be no rebirth.”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

                               NATURE …DIVINE AND DEMONLIKE

“One should always act according to Laws and Traditions, and take their guidance, otherwise nothing shall be achieved. The feelings of attachment, greed and anger are tree doors that lead to Hell. Avoid them.

The saintly nature consists of :- (1) Fearlessness, (2) Cleanliness of mind and body, (3) Devotion towards God, (4) Acquisition of true knowledge, (5) Suppression of the senses, (6) Study of scriptures, (7) Recitation of God’s name, (8) Taking pain in following one’s own code of conduct, (9) Simplicity of mind, inner self and senses, (10)Non-violence in all its forms, (11) Speaking Truth in a pleasant manner, (12) Absence of anger, (13) Non attachment, (14) Peace of mind, (15) Not speaking ill of others, (16) Kindness towards all, (17) Forgiveness, (18) Patience, (19) Lack of ego and (20) Feeling ashamed while doing something against Laws or Traditions.

The demon-like nature manifests itself in (1) the show off, (2) pride, (3) ego, (4) anger, (5) harsh words, (6) lack of knowledge and (7) falsehood.

People having the nature of demons think that there is no one on whom they can rely, that the world is without any Truth and without any Supreme Being, that the main object of life is to enjoy, and it is because men and women get together that children are born. The acquisition of wealth is their main aim and they are unmindful of the means, which may be fair or foul. They remain very attached towards the results of their deeds. They remain tied down to the ropes of vain hopes. They seek happiness but in its place they get worry and restlessness. They feel that they are strong and shall be able to subjugate their enemies. They consider themselves superior to others. They act even against Laws and traditions. They are sinful and cruel towards others. They are the cause of their own degradation and go down towards dirty Hell.

 Saintly Nature leads to Salvation and demon like nature to bondage.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

                                                 THREE KINDS OF FAITH

                   Arjun asked, “Why is it that one should act according to Laws and Traditions? Is perfect faith and devotion not quite enough? What is the quality of a person having perfect faith and devotion?

                   Lord Krishna replied: – Perfect faith (confidence) or devotion (sincerity) is a must for the achievement of any object…be it for this world or for the next. It is better if it is of saintly quality. The quality of a person determines also the nature of his faith and devotion. A saintly person, while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct, follows Laws and Traditions.

                Food habits and deeds of persons of three different qualities are of three different kinds. A saintly person will eat person will eat saintly food, do saintly deeds, penance and charity and have saintly faith and devotion. A worldly quality will eat worldly food, do worldly deeds, penance and charity, and have worldly faith and devotion. A person of Lethargic quality will prefer food creating lethargy, do lethargic deeds, penance and charity and lethargic faith and devotion. Thus the faith and devotion of persons of each class will differ materially from the faith and devotion of other two classes. In each sphere a member of any particular class will follow the pattern of his own quality.

                 The Supreme Being is called by three names. When a good deed is started in His name, He is called “Om”. When one dedicates his deeds to God, he calls Him by the name “Tat”. In ultimate analysis, the name of the Supreme Being is “Sat” (Truth).

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

                                        SALVATION BY RENUNCIATION

                  “There need not be renunciation of deeds. It is enough if renunciation is of the feeling (1) that one himself is the door of the deeds and (2) of attachment towards the results of the deeds. This latter kind of renunciation is excellent and most desirable.

                   Penance and Charity, being good acts, need not be given up. Such acts, if done in a saintly manner, purify the inner self. Other deeds may have defects. But they too need not be given up. It is enough if the feeling of attachment towards the results of those deeds is given up. And renounced. There after those deeds become non-deeds and yield no result – nether piety nor sin.

                   Even the renunciation of the feeling of attachment towards the results of the deeds is of three kinds. Similarly the deeds, the doer, the intellect, the aim and the happiness are of three kinds each.

                   If doing a saintly deed, there is no pride in the doer, and there is no wish for the results of the deeds. It is done without any feeling of attachment and without any anger.

                     The effect of these three qualities on the Society has been to divide it into four classes – the intelligentsia, the warrior class, the traders and the doers of rough work. The work of each class is different, but in itself, it is neither good nor bad. Any person, to whatever classification, he belongs, may attain salvation while doing deeds according to his own code of conduct. The method, which shall have to be adopted, is to convert deeds into non-deeds by giving up the feeling of attachment towards the results of his deeds. When that stage is reached, the deed of that person will turn into a big zero resulting for him neither in piety nor in sin.

                         As long as one confines himself to deeds strictly in accordance with his own code of conduct, he cannot commit any sin. However, if he tries to deeds according to the code of conduct meant for others, all that he will experience is fear. One should follow well his own code of conduct. That is the easiest method of achieving salvation.

                       Remain unattached and thereby convert all your deeds into non deeds, acquire pure wisdom, lead quiet and healthy life, eat light food, be the master of your mind, body and speech, give up anger, control the inner-self and devote yourself to God. Give up pride, reliance on body force, ego, desire and anger. Thus, even while doing all sorts of deeds according to your own code of conduct, you shall attain inner peace and ultimately salvation.”

                       Closing the sermon, Lord Krishna asked: – “Have you got rid of your false notions? You will not be able to rise above your inherent quality because of these false notions. You are of warrior class and that quality of yours will assert itself and lead you to war.

                         Listen to my teachings once again. Think of me alone. Have faith only in Me. Have respect for Me always. I love you, I promise that ultimately you shall attain salvation.”

                         Arjun replied: – “All my false notions are gone. I have become wise. I shall act as directed by you.”

…………….

Note 1 – Karma Yog leads to Yoga Budhhi (True intellect) and Yoga Budhhi to Sankhya Budhhi (Salvation). Karma Yog includes in itself – (1) Balanced mind (Samatva Budhhi), (2) Path of righteousness (Sva-dharma Buddhi), (3) Devotion (Samarpan Budhhi), work not to satisfy ones own ego or anybody else’s, (4) Detatchment (Asang Budhhi) and (5) Whatever comes, accept it (Prasaad Buddhi).

Note 2 –  Gita prescribes for ‘action’/’deed’ combined with intellect. There are choices before human beings – take action with developed mind/intellect or action with weak mind, bridled with desire, based on emotion, impulse, hatred, greed and selfishness. It quite often leads to agitation/aggression and discontent. Intellect needs to be developed to make mind rational. A mind governed by intellect makes a person calm and content.

Note 3 – Dr. K. V. Swaminathan, an eminent Scientist, Engineer, Technocrat engaged in Technology transfer and above all a man well-versed in the knowledge of the Holy book of Hindus, ‘Bhagwat Gita’ has analyzed and synthesized Gita in just 37 verses. These are grouped in three parts.

A set of nine principles can be chosen, each explaining a principle to be learnt from Gita, are put in the pack of 27 stanzas selected from the 573 stanzas from Gita. These nine principles are inherent in Hindu philosophy. The foundation is laid for doing one’s duty. In each segment, the three stanzas selected come from different chapters of Gita. The principle in the first stanza of each segment is reinforced by the following two stanzas –

  • Devotion
  • Recognition of the greatness
  • Reincarnation
  • Immortality
  • Action/Karma
  • Detachment
  • Equanimity
  • Knowledge
  • Intellect

It tells that senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. It tells : Knowledge is better than ‘abhyas’ (practice) meditation is  better than knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation because peace immediately follows.

The first part consists of 7 stanzas, which he called ‘Sapta Sloka Bhagwad Gita’. These are the first stanzas of Dhritrashtra (pronounces only one stanza in the entire Gita of 700 stanzas), Sanjaya, Arjun and Lord Krishna together with the last stanzas of Lord Krishna, Arjuna and Sanjaya.

These seven stanzas briefly states : Dritrashtra asks Sanjay to report what is happening at the battle field; Sanjay immediately starts reporting; Arjuna asks to place his chariot in the middle of the battlefield and on seeing those arrayed Arjuna is choked with emotion and refuses to fight; Lord Krishna admonishes him for his feebleness and advises him in great length about his duties; Lord then asks him whether he has understood what he had advised him. Arjuna responds that he has recovered from his delusion and is now ready to fight; ans Sanjay concludes predicting victory where Lord Krishna will be there.

The principal lessons to be learnt from Bhagwad Gita and come out of delusion are a set of nine principles as following –

  1. Principle of non-duality – The ‘Creator’ (God) and the ‘Creation (every living thing in this world) is an integral part of the same ‘Parmatma’/God/Creator, therefore inter-linked.
  2. Reincarnation – After several births and deaths of body, one can reach a state of immortality. A person is reborn depending on his deeds of previous birth.
  3. Immortality/Salvation – The final objective of all humans is to reach to the state of ‘Moksha’ or immortality – getting free from the cycle of multiple rebirths and deaths. In order to reach that status, one should do one’s duties.
  4. Karma with Detachment – This is perhaps the centre piece of Bhagwat Gita. Everyone has a role to play in ones life as per one’s karmas and destiny. While performing one’s duty/action, one should develop detachment – indicating, one should not bother for fruits of Action.
  5. Equanimity – One should try to be equanimous by overcoming the influence of the “pair of opposites” like heat or cold; pleasure or pain and honor or dishonor.
  6. Knowledge – As per Gita, senses are superior to the body, mind is superior to the senses and knowledge or intellect is superior to the mind. Gita tells: knowledge is better than abhyas (practice), meditation is better then knowledge and renunciation of the fruits of action is still better than meditation as peace immediately follows such renunciation.
  7. Four stages in life – For living life fully and fruitfully and aging gracefully, everyone one has to pass through four stages of life and perform different duties in different stages of life – before marriage learning; married life raising a family as householder; delegation of authority to next generation and spending time in contemplation; and after fulfilling familial liabilities, complete detachment and renunciation of worldly pleasures. Detachment frees an individual from the fear of birth and death.
  8. Tolerance and acceptance/interdependence – Hindu philosophy values interdependence, acceptance and tolerance as – (a) It accepts that there are different paths leading to God and be humane; (b)It gives complete liberty to worship any god or goddess of their choice, as well as use their own methods of worship; (c)It does not impose its own codes of conduct on other faiths; (d) It is liberal enough to see atheism as a legitimate pursuit.
  9. Avatars – The Supreme power visits earth from time to time in some form to make human-beings free from evil and tend them follow virtue. So far, according to Hindu mythology human evolution began with Matsyavatar (fish), then to Kurma (tortoise));Varaha (wild boar); Narsimha (half animal half mam); Vamana (dwarf); Parushrama with axe (tool); Rama the Maryadapurusha; Krishna the playful and serious avatar; and ninth, Budha the enlightened one. It is now expecting 10th avatar in the form of Kalki, a genetically supreme bionic man. (Quoted from ‘Know your religion through its philosophy by Prakash Shesh, the Speaking tree, TOI, p. 20)

June 24, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Job opportunities in Ancient and Modern India

 “Talent hits a target no one else can hit.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Introduction
Changes with ‘Industrialization’, ‘Modernization’ and ‘Globalization’ – As time passed on, the shape of the job-market, opportunities for employment and work culture has changed tremendously. Earlier it was community-based, now it has become individual based. In addition to it, industrialization, modernization and globalization, has given all the freedom to individuals to choose the profession and place of work of own liking. In general, very few educated and enlightened persons could take the advantage of such a freedom. In general, for masses, it has led to unemployment, confusion in the minds of many people to decide what they really want to do. It has created an atmosphere of cut throat competition, where people are chasing very few white collared jobs and developed aversion towards the traditional occupations. The side effects of these changes have been –

  •  Many traditional occupations have become obsolete.
  • In India, new kinds of jobs have been added in the traditional jobs of pre-industrial-society of earlier days.
  • Today, instead of being facilitator, the government has become the generator/creator of employment and the biggest employer.
  • People have been caught under the vicious circle of traditionalism and modernity.
  • There is a confusion in their minds as to what they should do. Masses are caught under the vicious circle of traditionalism and modernity.

Neither traditional nor modern occupations are fool-proof or flawless. Both have their own strength, weaknesses and professional hazards. Only one has to be mentally prepared to meet the challenges coming on the way. It is very difficult for common men to come out of the web of traditionalism and embrace modernity.

Craze for white collared job – In recent past, there has been growing aversion towards traditional occupations. Modernity has given freedom to individuals to pursue an occupation of ones own choice. But in the job market, there is cut-throat competition for white collared jobs and positions of power and pelf. Craze for white-collared jobs has escalated to such an extent, that many people prefer to remain unemployed rather than to go for a job which require hard work. With it emerged other problems. One of such acute problems of modern India is the issue of unemployment.Other Problems – According to UNDP’s Human Development Report, India will have 63.5 million new entrants into the workforce between 2011 and 2016, of which bulk will be in the 20-35 age group. A study jointly coducted by CII and Deloitte reports about aspirations and concerns of a multi-generational workforce as “Indian work-places have become an interesting blend of three generations – the business leaders and CEOs of baby-boomer generation (45 plus); management teams and senior professionals from Gen X (23 to 45); and young Gen Y professional (under 23)”.

This generation gap has led to differences in working and communication styles as well as motivation. It is important for baby-boomers, who are leading organizations, to umderstand the working style and beliefs of the younger generations. The younger generation do not see themselves staying in one organization for long, but their commitment and dedication towards work and responsibilities has not reduced. Also they prefer a fair system, where processes are more transparent and the system is less bureaucratic.  (Quoted from TOI, N. Delhi, P., 19, 24 Aug. 2013)

Issues

‘Once changed, the system never returns to its original form. While trying to find out a better system, people ignore simple solutions to the present problems.

Problems of traditional pattern of employment– Occupations being community based, individuals did not have much choice in matter of selecting occupations according to their aptitude. With the passage of time, the rigidity of the system suffocates the creative minds of such individuals, who could contribute much more to the society while working in the areas of their own interests. The rigidity has led to heartburn amongst ambitious youth.

Problems of Modern pattern of employmentModern system of occupation has generated new kinds of problems. Unemployment is one of the acute problems of modern India, ever since its independence.

  • Government the creator of job opportunities – Instead of being facilitator, the government has become the generator/creator of employment/ jobs-opportunities, whether job-market demands it or not.
  • Government the ‘Messiah’ and common-men ‘pigmies’ – In its role of a provider, those in positions of power – political or bureaucratic – in the government have assumed absolute power to control the destiny of common men. They have become ‘Messiahs’, and down-sized common-men to ‘pigmies’.
  • Dependence on government-jobs – Government being the biggest employer, people’s dependence on government for jobs in government has increased as it gave employees regular fixed salaries and job security.
  • Importance of degrees and certificates has increased tremendously. Instead of understanding the nuances of their occupations, people are after getting a degree by hook or crook.
  • Increased corruption – For each and everything, people look up at the Government and seek the blessings or support of those who occupy places in echelons of power. It has corrupted the whole system.
  • Bleak career prospects for unskilled labor – The process of modernization has adversely affected employment prospects of unskilled workers, especially in rural areas.
  • Stress on degree/diplomas – Access to modern occupations and advancement in career depends on formal education, certificates/degrees/diplomas. Many people  join formal centers of education and training to get more degrees and certificates rather attaining latest knowledge in the areas of their interest and hone their skills.
  • Now-a-days, in present competitive world of job-market, even a degree is not enough to get employment. Employers look for multi-skilled candidates. A job-seekers need to equip himself with other skills in extra curricular activities as well.
  • Shortage of the formal institutions – Employment and advancement in career depend on formal degrees and training. But there is an acute shortage of the formal training institutions to attain necessary qualifications for the large number of aspirants mainly because of population explosion. It deprives many people from getting entry into reputed educational and training institutions, especially students belonging to weaker sections.  It is also very difficult to get admission in subjects of one’s choice.
  • Rush for white-collared jobs – Industrialization and technological developments have made white collared-jobs popular. Most of the time energy and effort of youth are wasted in search and pursuit of those jobs, for which they neither have aptitude nor attitude or which are beyond their reach for one reason or the other. This time they could have utilized otherwise for constructive purposes.
  • Added confusion – At present, choice in matter of employment has confused young minds. A modern youth gets confused as to what career/profession, he/she should opt. Some times employees lack the mindset needed prior to entering into a profession.
  • Increased unemployment – Aversion of modern youths from their traditional occupations has today rendered millions of them unemployed or underemployed. Besides, there is a cut throat competition for each and every job with the result that unemployment or under-employment is continuously increasing in absolute numbers.                             

 

System of Employment in ancient and medieval India

Principles behind the traditional way of Occupations- In ancient and medieval India, assignment of work was based on certain realities, principles and way of life –

  • Human actions dependent on attitude and aptitude – In traditional system, it is believed that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness’ is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion’ with comfort and action; and `Tamas’ with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness.

These qualities determined the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of individuals and give them direction for action. It makes individuals different from each other in attitude, aptitude, physical and mental capacity, aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations.

  • Principles of ‘Varna, karma and Dharma’ – Principle of Varna had assigned duties to different groups according to people’s natural instincts and qualities. Principles of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Karma’ developed clear-cut vision of rights and duties/responsibilities of each group, considering the requirements of different occupations.
  • Stress on “duty, tolerance and sacrifice” – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights” forming the natural foundation of human relationship, systems in India evolved around the concept of “duty, tolerance and sacrifice”. Emphasis on duty had made people or groups humble and tolerant. Sacrifice was regarded far more important than success, and renunciation was regarded as the crowning achievement.
  • Work, employment and dignity for all – In ancient and medieval India, there was work, employment and dignity and honour for all in India. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work.
  • “Adharma”, “Alasya” and “Agyan” responsible – Instead of blaming others for unemployment, “Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and “Agyan” (ignorance) were held responsible for unemployment and for all evils like exploitation, poverty, miseries and helplessness of the people that follow unemployment automatically.
  • Maintained differentiation between various occupations – The traditional system of occupations had maintained differentiation between various occupations. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations, which were distributed amongst different sections of society according to their attitude and aptitude. People were usually engaged in their own hereditary/traditional occupations. They learnt the skills and tricks of their trade in a natural way with every breath while growing up. The system managed well the daily necessities and day to day relation of its members. It encouraged interdependence in social matters.
    • Principle of ‘Varna’ – Accordingly, Principle of       ‘Varna’ did fourfold division of occupations and their performers –       Brahmins were assigned the work of learning, research and development,       kshhatriyas the job of defense and maintenance of law and order in the       society, Vaishyas of trade and commerce, and Shudras all kinds of service       functions.
    • Principle of Dharma – Principle of Dharma assigned       each group a specific work to do and developed a clear-cut vision of       rights and duties/responsibility of each group based on its traditional       occupation. It boosted morale of the people and promoted social       equilibrium and solidarity. There was automatic de-centralization of       control systems and authority. The separation of rights and duties       combined with the principle of inter-dependence developed its own system       of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority.
    •  Principle of ‘Karma’ – Principle of ‘Karma’       created the work culture. It gave stress to duty.
  • Sense of duty – Occupational pattern of India      had filled the community with a sense of duty and trained them in      obedience. Sense of duty stopped those in power to exercise coercion      against its working class. Also it prevented resentment amongst masses. It      helped Indians to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most      drastic changes in the past. The systems stopped people from taking law in      their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody      revolutions, India kept on adapting itself to changing times. In ancient      Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under      the threat of a whip.
  • Importance to ‘Self-discipline’, self-direction and      ‘Self-effort’ – Every group was expected to lead a self restraint      and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily      routine, occupation or inter-group relationship.

The system as a whole had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and specialization in various areas of activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terra-cotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc.

Segmental Ranking according to relevance and contribution to society – Segmental ranking of different groups was done according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Social status of different occupational groups was dependent on their relative self-discipline (relative purity), morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance.

Ranking system did not put different groups within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. ‘

  • No hard and fast rule of ranking – In ancient India, there was no hard and fast rule of ranking various groups. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. There were times when gap between Vaishyas and Shudras became narrow or when Shudras acquired a better position in the society.
  • No group placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position – Categorization of people as forwards or backwards or as weaker sections was almost non-existent at that time. The system was so conceived by the genius sages and ‘Munies’ (intelligentsia of ancient India) that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another.
  • Respect or honor not dependent on birth – Khatriyas and Shudra were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers. Great respect had even earned by persons from humblest origin as a right. They had the all opportunity to pursue knowledge and reach up-to the top.

For example, Sage Vashishta was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute, but he is highly respected allover India as the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism. So was ‘Kshatriya’ Vishwamitra, the maker of the Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, is recited even as of today almost in every house every day and on all auspicious occassions. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman. Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, was an untouchable according to present standards, but is still highly respected.

  • Self-restrictions – Higher a group, greater were the self-restrictions on its conduct through rituals. Brahmins (intelligentsia) commanded respect of the whole society. They, being at highest place in the society, were put under maximum restrictions. They were supposed to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.
  • System not too rigid – The system was not too rigid as far as pursuing an occupation was concerned. The work in the sectors of agriculture or army was open to all. Members of particular Varna did not exercise monopoly over authority or respect. It is an established fact of Indian History that Brahmin or even Shudras sometimes became the kings. There were times, when inter group marriages took place in the past in order to increase their strength.

HT Colebrooke, one of the early Sanskrit Scholars says, “It may be received as a general maxim that occupation appointed for each tribe is entitled merely to a preference. Every profession, with few exceptions, was open to every description of persons and the discouragement arising from religious prejudices is not greater than what exists in Great Britain from the effects of Municipal and Corporate laws.” (Quoted from ‘Indian Express’, dated 18.9.90, p 8). In England also it was not uncommon for a clergyman, a lawyer or soldier to educate and train his sons for his own profession. So was it in India. (Quoted fromShore Fredrick John Notes on India Affairs Vol II P.473)

Salient features of employment and training in ancient India

Traditional occupational pattern of India was unique in many ways –

  • Employment, dignity and honor for all – Traditional occupational pattern had provided employment, dignity and honor to all. The system led to accomplish skill, specialization, success and happiness, decentralized authority and resources, made management within each unit effective and organized human and social behavior in tune with the objectives of the society.
  • Disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills – Unlike West, there is disassociation between Wealth and knowledge/skills. The value system of India has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts.
  • Stress on attitude and aptitude rather than birth – According to “Smritis” it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds of an individual, that fitted him into a particular group of occupation. Later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these occupational groups hereditary. Gradually different hereditary occupational groups emerged in the society. People found it more economical and convenient to practice one’s own traditional occupation.
  • Stress on knowledge and duty – Whereas, in Western societies social status of a person or organization has always been associated with material success or control of power, authority. In India, status of a person is determined on the basis of its knowledge, purity, discipline and moral standards.
  • Division of labour – In the world of occupation there had been division of labor. All functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society were divided into different occupations. On the basis of natural endowments, intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skills, personal needs and other innate characteristics, each group was assigned a distinct function to perform.
  • Specialization – System as a whole evolved an atmosphere, where a high level of specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved. Being constantly in contact with the family occupation, it was natural for the people to learn maximum about their traditional occupations.
  • Spawning bed for social and technical skills – The system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills. The manner, in which social, technical and occupational knowledge and skills were transferred and developed, was through practice and experience; not through formal classroom lectures, which often kills originality and verve of people.
  • Natural training without investment -The system inheritance in matter of assignment of different functions to different groups led the people to learn basic qualifications and tricks of the trade within their families itself from their elders. Skills were learnt more on job under the training and guidance of ‘elders’, already there on various jobs/occupations.
  • Skills passed on from one generation to another – The system transmitted knowledge, expertise and tricks of a trade, intelligence, abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a natural way. Children, while growing up, learnt about hidden intricacies of a profession and solutions of their occupational problems, informally from their elders. The system as a whole increased the confidence of the workers and saved them from confusion or unhealthy competition.
  • Reservoir of natural leaders – Don Martindale said that India possessed a reservoir of natural leaders – Brahman naturally trained in literary skills, Kashitryas in art of leadership and different service groups in skills. It has been seen that a Marwari, traditionally belonging to business community, invests his money in share market with more ease and confidence than a graduate from other communities possessing a degree in business management.
  • No confusion – The system saved common-men from confusion or unhealthy competition. It avoided rivalry or bitterness for pelf, power or position amongst different sections of society. There was no confusion, unhealthy rivalry or frustration on matter of work, because every body had his traditional occupation.
  • Clear vision of responsibilities– Principles of Dharma and Karma made clear-cut vision of rights and duties of each group, based on and due consideration of the requirements of different occupations. It developed understanding amongst people for their liberties, limits and responsibilities.
  • Each occupational group having an independent entity – Each occupational group had an independent entity, having its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. There was not much disparity between different occupational groups or between urban and rural people in ancient India.
  • Job-satisfaction – the system gave job-satisfaction to almost all individuals except for a few and managed smoothly daily necessities and day to day relation of its members. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth, Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on auspicious occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.
  • Automatic system of checks and balances – Such a system of division of labor developed its own systems of checks and balances over arbitrary use of its authority. Separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter dependence provided its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority. There was an automatic decentralization of authority. The principles behind the whole system together provided the society a quality of life.
  • Interdependence – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of the system made close interaction and cooperation between different groups a reality. Not a single group could claim to be self sufficient, capable to survive alone and fulfill all needs of its people. Still people enjoyed a large measure of freedom in respect of their personal matters. The system as a whole was capable to fulfill all the needs of its people.
  • Combination of inter-dependence and self-reliance – Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of ancient system making each local area self-sufficient. Interdependence of different groups made it possible to have close contact amongst the people living in a local area. People whether living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence.
  • Developed a common bond– The system developed a common bond underlying their activities and minds. There was closeness and cooperation within each and every group, engaged in common occupation due to common callings, common problems, and common solutions.
  • All professions worth pursuing – All occupations were regarded worth pursuing. Principle of Dharma inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It brought worldly honor and spiritual happiness for individuals and provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • No confusion, bitterness, rivalry or frustration on matter of work – Each individual and every group served the community in one way or the other and was, therefore, satisfied. All the social groups lived the life of dignity and honor with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society.
  • Benefit of knowledge to the ignorant and illiterate masses – In ancient India, illiterate masses got the benefit of researches and knowledge of intelligentsia – learned sages and Munies. On the basis of their scholarly researches and experiences, the sages prescribed certain guidelines in the form of rituals to for the benefit of common men and keeping order in the society. In modern societies, this job is done by the national governments by enacting laws and forcing people to follow them.
  • Downward filtration of culture – It made downward filtration of culture, sophisticated language and knowledge possible. In modern society, everybody lives in one’s own world, hardly having any interaction with others. There are watertight compartments between different groups living in an area.
  • Control over natural resources of the nation – Society as a whole had control over its natural resources. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind of needs and cared for each other.

The traditional system of occupation of ancient India had led the society to have more production, economic efficiency and expertise in almost all the areas and activities like spinning, weaving, pottery making, bead making, seal making, terra-cotta, handicrafts, brick-laying, metal work etc. The system worked so well that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently.

Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, “Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it”. Recently U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked, “While he had seen poverty in many countries of the world, he found an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone”.

Changes in job-market with industrialization

Industrial revolution started during late eighteenth century. The systems and economics of industrial era were built around long lasting structures like that of agricultural society. But it had undermined every pillar of old agricultural societies. Industrialization process along with modernization has changed the traditional job-pattern and work culture tremendously especially during 19th and 20th centuries under British rule. Instead of learning the tricks of the trade from their elders and getting advantage of their long experiences, the dependence on formal income-generating skills training programs and their certificates increased for getting employed.

Initial period of industrialization – Initially technologies were developed for lessening the strain on human muscles and designed for illiterate labour force. Machines were heavy, rigid and capital intensive. Work was unskilled, standardized and broken into simplest possible operations. All the workers were equally good, easily interchangeable like parts of a machine. Numerous unemployed people were always available. The workers were kept ignorant and powerless by keeping information restricted. These workers were chained to industrial discipline. Their life in the factory was tightly regimented,

Casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style – Outcome of industrialization has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture. Many traditional occupations were discredited. Indian handicrafts and cottage industry were destructed. Efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsmen and weavers were scattered. They lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride.

Unemployment increased – Majority of people could neither enter into modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations. Very few of them could join modern occupations. In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, most of them had no option, but either to join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers and marginal labor for their survival or increase number of unemployed or under employed.

More freedom to individuals to select occupation of their choice – Industrialization gave more freedom to individuals to select occupation of their choice.

Opposed by feudal agrarian – In the beginning of industrial era, the changes, brought in by industrial revolution, were opposed strongly by forces of feudal agrarianism, landed gentry, hierarchical church and the intellectual and cultural elite.

Major changes due to industrialization – Industrial Revolution made drastic changes in the social life of people. There had been shifts in population, ecology, technology, culture and relationships. The behavior, life style, values, and attitudes as well as in the power equations and inter-relationship of various individuals, groups and organizations of the agrarian societies had changes. Along with it changed the pattern of family life, work-atmosphere, and political environment and business culture of the nation.

The industrial societies assimilated different regional groups. They could feel more liberated, while living in anonymity in urban areas. The need for a homogeneous workforce gradually shifted the individual and mass loyalties from society/village to nation. The power of the rural feudal faded.

Industrialization developed mass-culture – Industrialization has initiated the culture of mass capital, mass production, mass-consumption, mass media and mass democracy.

The pace of changes faster – The pace of social, economic and political changes, brought in during the industrial era, was much faster than that of agricultural era. It has influenced the thinking, behavior pattern and work-culture of the societies allover the world.

Money the prime motivator of workforce – Industrialization shifted the attention of the people to generate more wealth. People were desperately dependent on money for their survival. Money became the prime motivator of workforce, the main tool of social control and political power. (Toffler, Power shift) The most basic struggle was over the distribution of wealth-who gets what?

Urbanization – Migration of millions from villages started. Rural landowners shifted to cities, to explore their luck in expanding industrial arena. They relied on new technological developments, machines and material for generating more money. Along with them, many peasants and traditional professionals migrated to cities in search of jobs, as the industrial labour. They became urban workers subordinated to private or public employers.

Many traditional jobs became obsolete – Industrialization has made many traditional jobs obsolete. Many more occupations were considered less paying, more hazardous or time consuming. Millions found their income threatened, their ways of work obsolete, their future uncertain and their power slashed.

Benefitted rich people – Rich and privileged class took advantage of technological knowledge and new opportunities and became richer. But the general masses became poorer and more miserable. The social and economic condition of rural people deteriorated continuously. Consumerism had increased the economic and cultural differences enormously between the elite and the masses of a society.

Modernization

Changes, modernization brought – Traditional system of occupations has already been weakened. Many new kinds of jobs have emerged. In some sectors Indians have brought in revolutionary changes.  In addition to traditional occupations many new jobs have been emerged in IT industry, manufacturing arena, automobiles industry, pharmaceuticals sectors, construction business and telecommunication sectors etc.

Gap between theory and practice – Modernization gave rise to the concept of democracy. People are supposed to be the supreme power. With it emerged the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity and concepts like Welfare State and Development administration. But in real life, the systems developed in recent past have placed immense power in the hands of the elites and executives. Rulers, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, investors and intellectuals now control the natural resources and reap the benefits of developments of modern industrialized world. The power of this privileged class is continuously increasing. They have monopolized the access to knowledge and formed chain of commands to control workforce and mobs.

Multiple choices to all – Process of modernization gave rise to many new kinds of jobs in organized and unorganized sectors, in addition to the traditional occupations. Institutions like the post office, telegraph, telephone, newspaper, magazines, movies, radios and television, each working independently and capable of conveying the same message to millions simultaneously came into existence. Also institutions like bureaucracy, corporations, hospitals, schools etc. have emerged in the modern world.

Dehumanized face of modern institutions- The dehumanization of institutions had weakened the most, the institution of family and eroded the power of elders in a society. Industrialization had relegated family to a purely social and non-economic position. Executives as well as workers were equally torn between the workplace and home in a physical sense and between family and organization in an emotional sense. This conflict had adversely affected the motivation, morale and productivity in modern societies. Many functions of family were transferred to other institutions, like education and training to schools, caring of elders and destitute to state and work to factory or office. Individualism and materialism reigned supreme during industrial era.

Popularity of White collared jobs – White collared jobs gained importance and popularity. Menial work was considered derogatory More a person withdraws from physical labor, more honored, civilized and qualified, he/she is regarded by modern society. The trend of easy and quick money started.

Domination of a few sections of society – New elite like bureaucrats, lawyers, professionals, journalists, industrialists dominated the scene. They seized control over workforce and the mobs. Instead of community reviewing work and pressurizing individuals to perform their duties, a new power structure hierarchical and impersonal-known as bureaucracy, came into being and flourished gradually.

Aversion from their traditional occupations – Total aversion of modern youth from their traditional occupations has today rendered millions of them unemployed or underemployed, thus wasting their time, energy and efforts in pursuit of those jobs, for which they neither have aptitude nor attitude or which are beyond their reach for one reason or the other. This they could have utilized otherwise for constructive purposes.

System benefitted “Haves” only – Some young entrepreneurs, having education, money and awareness, did market survey and hijacked many discarded traditional occupations. They modernized such disdained and contemptuous jobs like mechanization of fishing or leather industry and made them profit oriented. Less capital-intensive occupations like that of barber or washer-men have been overtaken by educated middle class. They re-christened them as saloon, laundry etc and employed those poor traditional workers, who were earlier practicing such occupations independently.

Cut-throat completion for fewer jobs in organized sector – Still there is neck to neck competition for fewer jobs in the market, especially in organized sector. Rivalry and bitterness for pelf, power or position is continuously increasing. Indian government of ‘socialist’ and ‘Welfare state’ has become provider of jobs instead of being a facilitator. Rather than focusing its attention on teaching people ‘how to fish’, the benevolent government believes in ‘giving a fish’ to needy persons. They have taken up responsibility to provide employment to its citizens, which led to centralization of control systems in matter of occupations.

Wastage of most creative and impressionable time of human-life – Stiff competition at present everywhere has pushed millions towards a situation, where they face hardships in getting a satisfactory job for themselves. It has rendered majority of them unemployed or underemployed, who are wasting all their efforts and most energetic and creative time of their lives in constant search for a job. By proper career planning, this valuable time could have utilized for constructive purposes.

Increased mobility – Increased mobility, due to developments in the field of transport and quicker means of mass communications have given rise to mobility and urbanization.

Family no longer a support – Agrarian families, living for generations under a single roof, gave way to nucleus families. It reduced the influence of elders (patriarchs) in the society. The social control mechanisms, which traditionally held the community together for centuries, have lost its grip. As the culture of nucleus family grew, family no longer provides support system to needy and poor relatives of extended family. The safety net provided by the well to do individuals of the community gradually vanished. The poor increasingly became not only poorer, but also destitute.

Human needs increased enormously – Instead of all the attempts to lessen the strain on human beings and making life more comfortable, the process of modernization has made the life of a people more complex. The needs of people have increased enormously in present day materialistic/consumerist society. Everybody is blindly running after money and is trying to get as much as one can by hook or crook.

Degradation moral values – The last three centuries saw the degradation of social, moral and political values. Throughout the period of last few centuries fundamentalism grew, stronger exploited the weak, majority persecuted a minority, and ruling elite oppressed the masses. Uncertainty of mob moods compelled the politicians to get divided into numerous small, temporary, sectional or single issue groups, continually forming, breaking and reforming alliances. Bureaucratic power had joined hands with politicians. It increased favoritism, pay-off and corruption. In such an atmosphere of hostility, communities were torn by moral conflicts, drugs, crimes, corruption, ruthlessness, exploitation, and authoritarianism under the garb of social welfare, family break-up and other agonies. Industrial ecological by-products started threatening urban systems, health systems, welfare systems, educational systems, transport systems, almost all the most basic systems of human life.

Human-life becomes more complex – Diverse demands of the people increased complexity in politics. The redistribution of wealth, power and resources increased rivalry and conflict between various groups and regions. Inter class and intra-class group tensions and conflicts continuously increased due to economic inequality and disparity. The democratic Government could satisfy the demands of strong pressure groups only.

Mal-distribution of wealth and power – The whole scenario has led to many wars including the two world wars. Industrialization is responsible for gross mal-distribution of wealth between different individuals or groups or nations. It has made some very rich and others very poor. Better-industrialized western nations attempted to influence or control the economy of the developing or underdeveloped nations, in order to increase their power and position in international sphere.

Creation of Super Powers – Industrial revolution originated in Europe, therefore, during initial period of industrial revolution money power was centered in Europe. It was after Second World War, that USA and USSR emerged as super powers and became financially the strongest. The collapse of USSR in 1990 as superpower, made economic dominance of USA unchallenged. Internationally, the developing and underdeveloped nations are trying hard to make their place in world economy. And within a nation, sharp social and economic differences were seen between different regions, and between rural and urban areas. Prosperity and poverty grew simultaneously in this era.

Chaos everywhere – Once known, it becomes easier to cope with the changes strategically. However, the industrial revolution and modernization process together have overloaded individuals, organizations and nations, with too many changes too soon, and led to disorientation and incapacity of human beings to guide its course. As a result, began chaos, disparity and uncertainty in almost all the nations, particularly in the developing and underdeveloped nations. People blamed each other as well as their social, political and economic structures and their systems. They dealt with these changes haphazardly, on a one to one basis. In this way, industrialization started disintegrating under its own weight. Everywhere people got sick of too much consumerism and materialism. Some of them even desired to return to pre-industrial culture. By 1970s and 1980s, signs of crisis in industrial societies appeared.

Information technology revolution – Before people could cope with too many changes in too short a time, the world has moved in for yet another major revolution of Information technology somewhere around 1970. It has again changed the power structure, values, work-culture and socio-economic-political atmosphere of the whole world.

Suggestions

Demands of Twenty first century India

Abundance of natural resources for development – Modern India has all the resources, a nation needs for development – men money and material, most important amongst the three being human resource. Its total labour-force is about half a million.

It is estimated that by 2020, India will have the largest and youngest labour force in the world. Its average age will be less than 30 years. There is no dearth of talent, intelligence, quality or knowledge in any given area. There is tremendous amount of skilled and unskilled manpower, all kinds of raw materials, a good legal system, a huge market and potential to export virtually everything, provided the cost of its inputs are kept at international levels. India is the 11th largest economy in the world and is 4th largest purchasing power parity.

It is the world’s youngest country and land of entrepreneurship with largest number of self employed. About 52% of Indians are self-employed, about 55% in rural communities and 41% in urban areas. Many of these (about 20%, according to the international labor organization) are at the bottom of pyramid.

During recent global financial and economic turmoil, India has shown that it has talent for creativity in the face of adversity. It has the capacity to emerge without much difficulty from the crisis. Bringing together India’s creativity in entrepreneurship and youthful dynamism could lead to sustained inclusive growth and overcome the recent economic slowdown.

Not reject out-rightly family/traditional occupation – Modern youth should not out-rightly reject the option of following traditional professions. Rather, it needs to be encouraged. The qualities and knowledge inherited due to family background could always be honed further in various training institutions by making youth aware of recent technological developments.

Today, when there is full freedom to an individual to choose a job of one’s own liking, many youth prefer to follow their family occupations. And they are doing very well. In 21st century, the trend of following family occupations is increasing continuously in many sectors, like the Film world, legal profession, media and business world.

Conclusion

In the 21st century, ‘Power’ is based on knowledge. Knowledge is now easily available to common-men citizens in almost all the fields. In comparison to knowledge, land, cheap labour, raw material and capital – all these conventional forms of production are increasingly becoming less important.

The present is passing through an exceptional time of human history, when the world is leaving behind the industrial era and is ushering into a super-symbolic electronic era based on extra-intelligent networks. Only people have to prepare themselves to gain true knowledge and cope with the changes through sound system of education and training.

In a changing world, nothing can be more disabling than its isolation of past. Nothing is more needed than the constant interpretation of what was seen then in terms of what is seen now. Today must be a constant challenge to the opinions, systems and practices of yester times. Therefore people should not retain a system or outlook, which in the light of modern times can be replaced by a better form and which could be more effective and beneficial to the people. At the same time, society must not sacrifice an ancient form or system to an unreasoning passion for change.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , | Leave a comment

What caste-system means?

“Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …… Hinduism was the ideological and emotional buttress of caste”

“Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.” “

“Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “it to an almost endlessly varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.”

It “succeeded in wielding an enormously varied plurality of semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)

 “Positive aspects of Indian culture are so deep that the merits of ancient systems would be rejuvenated…. The caste system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it. It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of ruling class. … Indian caste system, which has evolved an answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and Dharmasastras.” (Quoted from Ancient caste system worked well: ICHR head, p.1, TOI July15,2014)

 “In modern understanding of ‘caste-system’, element of ‘caste’ has been highlighted and mis-stated; and element of ‘system’ has been supressed.”

Introduction

Caste-system in India giving distinct identity to Indian society – All the above quotations say something about caste system prevalent in India. Some new studies abroad have found (TOI, 23.5.16, P 15) that a strong sense of belonging to social groups make people happier than those who do not. The studies have found that more an individual identified with a particular group, happier one is with one’s life. Researches have found that with each additional group that one is connected with, his/her happiness increases by nine percent. That is the feeling, caste gives to a person -caste appears to be a fundamental social institution – a natural, inevitable unit of society. Sense of belonging to a family seems Natural to a person, Family is nothing but unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula, Kula of a tribe (Vish) – and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). This way, caste is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life. 

Caste system has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. Many structures, systems and principles have been evolved for the harmonious and peaceful living of all its members in a society throughout the world from time immemorial. They remained in vogue for some time, then faded and gave way to new structures, systems and concepts. However it does not apply to caste system, which has given Indian society a distinguished identity and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction. Castes has its ethnic roots as denoted by Jati, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its Varna aspect. It is one of the dominant features still running through the entire social fabric of India.

Developed over thousands of years – Like Islam or Christianity, the origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It has taken thousands of years to develop with the association of numerous social groups into it at different point of time. It started with the arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world. Their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth to caste system. Over thousands of years, the experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities have contributed to evolve this system.

Caste for a common-man in India – For a common man, caste appears to be a fundamental social institution – a natural, inevitable unit of society. An individual is a natural member of a family, which is the unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula, Kula of a tribe (Vish) – and a tribe of a Jana of Jati (Caste). In a way, caste is second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Closer-relationship with caste-fellows – A person’s relation with members of his caste is closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. Caste norms define an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to the norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. It still provides an individual with social security.

Issue

In modern times, intellectuals and political leaders, both in India and abroad, consider ‘caste’ a problematic, complicated and derogatory word. They hold caste-system responsible for mind-blowing disparities, discrimination and exploitation. In such a situation, it would be interesting to see what actually ‘caste-system is? How and when did it come into existence? What are the salient features of caste system? Has it become obsolete in modern India? If not, then how much influence, the system still excercise over the minds of common-men in India? How can such an institution be discarded, which has so many qualities of good organization?

What is caste system?

A mechanism to assimilate new groups – ‘Caste system’ has provided a mechanism, through which numerous discrete tribes/social groups could be internalized in the mainstream of the society. As more and more indigenous and foreign groups desired to merge into the Hindu-fold in the past, caste system came into existence.

 Vedic ‘Varna’ system gave rise to caste system. Numerous castes and subcastes emerged within each Varna. However, the four Varnas and their order in precedence remained the same. Caste system has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Its character is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion.

Giving stability to existing society, while assimilating Numerous communities – The assimilation of various groups, be it racial, immigrants, locals, tribal, professional or others was done under Hindu society cordially through caste-system at different points of time by assigning each new group by assigning each new group a separate caste identity. Hindu society had assigned each new group a separate caste name and included it within its folds without disturbing its existing social order. It never prevented any new group from developing within its own parameters and preserving its specialties and indigenous culture. Each group was allowed to maintain its own rules, regulations, customs, ways of life, beliefs in its own god/goddess and control the conduct of its members. Caste-system has created a plural society long long ago. The beauty of the system was that the main society as a whole remained stable, even while offering a place to new groups within the main-stream.

Preserved carefully the culture of new groups – Caste system never tried to liquidate or absorb new groups artificially into its main stream. Rather it gave them opportunity to come under one umbrella, to preserve their own culture, style of living and traditions, as also an atmosphere to flourish in their own way. While other races and their systems have converted people belonging to other faiths into their own faith, imposing on them their own value system, caste-system has absorbed other groups as whole into itself without annihilating their originality, internal order, customs or language.

Why caste-system came into existence –As Basham says, Caste system may well be called a natural response to many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system known as ‘Hinduism’.

Different social groups were fitted well from time to time as a integral part of the whole society on the basis of their being ritually clean or unclean, nature of work and amount of self-discipline they exercised. As far as castes are concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.

The culture of each identity, coming into its fold, has been carefully nurtured and preserved. Hindu society has absorbed the good points of other cultures as well, which has enriched the composite culture of India. Today more than anywhere else in the world, it holds a multitude of thoughts, processes them and practices them. There has been co-existence of varied belief, pattern and thought due to inter-mixing and cultural mingling.

Adaptibility of Caste- system, its saviour  – Caste- system  has survived the vicissitudes of time, saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of the adaptability. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each Varna. However, the four Varnas and their order in precedence remained the same. Caste system has taken different shades and meaning with the changing times and places.

Changes in caste system according to the needs of the time – Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. Its character is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion. Once changed, the system never returned to its original form. Its absorptive nature has internalized alien influences. That is why, it presents one of the oldest social institution and a continuous and uninterrupted living culture still existing in the whole world.

 Salient features of Caste-system

Following salient features have been the same throughout allover India –

Respect for knowledgeVarna/Caste-system has given a high regard to knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. Knowledge has always been given importance. It is considered essential for the purpose of giving activities their due meaning and value. According to Hindu philosophy even a wise man may get puzzled without knowledge, as to what he should do or should not do. It is only after the acquisition of knowledge, that a person could understand the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action, and inaction.

 Brahmins were given the highest respect in the past, not because of their material successes, but for their learning, character, spirituality and ability to guide the masses. A powerful Emperor, like Ashoka the great, thought it his duty, to bow before the monks as a mark of my deep respect for their learning, wisdom and sacrifice. What matters in life, are not a person’s status or position, but his virtues and wisdom. Only when you have raised yourself up from ignorance, can you recognize the greatness of a few in a sea of humanity.

 Disassociation between Wealth and Status – In Western societies, wealth has always been associated with power, authority and social status. India has never been a materialistic society. Caste system has separated wealth from status, power from authority, pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts. The greatness of a state is judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice, with which the administration governs lives of the people, and not on the basis of the size of a state or its treasury. Similarly, in the society, status of a person or a caste is ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, or control of power.

 Stress on duty Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, caste system evolves around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant.

Importance of discipline in social life – Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation. At present, its place has been taken over by the laws of a nation, which are enforced on the masses by state authorities to keep them disciplined. Fear of punishment compels the mobs to observe the rules and regulations set-up by state authorities.

Inculcating Tolerance in people – In this system, sacrifice is regarded far more important than success and renunciation as the crowning achievement. Such an attitude prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands.

 While other nations have passed through many bloody revolutions, India kept on adapting itself to changing times. Its value-system helps people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes. India has achieved its freedom in a peaceful manner under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. People, here, are filled with a sense of duty.

 Ranking of different castes– Earlier ranking of different castes was earlier dependent on their relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were given importance. Every caste was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. The system of each caste having a specific position in the society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.

No group placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position – Varna system was so conceived by the sages that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. Brahmins, occupying the highest place in the society, were put under maximum restrictions and were denied accumulation of wealth. They were directed to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

Not a rigid attitude while ranking – In ancient times, caste system had the seeds of liberalism. It provided the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn the respect of the whole society. For example, Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman and he was not ashamed of his origin. Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India.

Equitable System – Caste system has been associated, more or less, with social position of each caste group, the restrictions and privileges in matters of social intercourse and clearly defined rights and duties. Though the caste system believes in segmental ranking of different caste groups, according to their relevance and contribution to the society, it has placed all the individuals, within a caste group – rich or poor – on the same footing.

 All members of a caste have similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. A person’s relation with members of his caste remains closer and equal than with those belonging to other castes. His relations with other castes are usually formal. All the members of a caste share moments of joy and sorrow with each other. Establishment of Uniform law code – a nationwide civil, criminal and commercial legal system by British and its uniform application to all castes and communities helped in bringing in the parity.

 Each caste an independent unit – The key, to understand the caste system, is not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste is an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. In the past, there was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. Concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different sections of society and exploitation of the weak were almost non-existent. All this is a development of last hundred and fifty years.

 Interdependence Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system. It was practically impossible for a single caste to fulfill all its needs by itself. Local semi-autonomous nature of Caste system has made all the people self-sufficient and capable to fulfill their needs. Every regional area produced enough to fulfill the basic needs of its people. The society had control over its natural resources.

 Now, with the emergence of Global society, people are becoming more independent and started depending on market forces to fulfill their needs, for which they need enough money.

 Bond between Individual and Caste – Every individual has a caste. There has been a close bond between individual and the society and individual and the occupation through caste, which has held them together. People help their caste fellows in times of need/emergency. Earlier the placement of power and access to authority was through the network of kinship and community.

 Employment, dignity and honour for all – The unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honour and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.

 Now the government has taken over the responsibility of providing jobs to its people. The trend has adversely affected the work-culture. Also it has become a big challenge for the government to give employment to all according to their capabilities and keep everybody satisfied.

 Division of Labour – Caste system is based on the principle of division of labor. All the functions needed for the maintenance and growth of the society have divided among various groups appropriately. Each caste group has been assigned a distinct function to perform. There was no confusion or frustration on matter of work earlier, because every body had his traditional occupation. Each and every caste serves the needs of Indian community.

 All people earlier lived with dignity and honour with the feeling that they, too, were contributing something to the society. Clear-cut definition of rights and duties for each caste based on its traditional occupation, developed a clear vision of one’s responsibilities. The separation of rights and duties combined with the principle of inter dependence provided its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority. There was an automatic decentralization of authority.

 Assignment of workAssignment of work was based on certain principles and realities of life. According to it all people do not have the same attitude and aptitude. There are variations in their physical strength, mental capacity and moral aspirations, like and dislikes, inclination and expectations.

 Hindu philosophy believes that the whole world of activities is a result of complex intermixing of three basic qualities of human nature – goodness (Satwa), Passion (Rajas) and dullness (Tamas). `Goodness is associated with purity, peace and knowledge; `Passion with comfort and action; and `Tamas with ignorance, sloth, sleep and carelessness.These qualities determine the tendencies, potentialities, limitations, traits and character of different individuals and give them direction for action. `Adharma (immoral behavior), Alasya (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) are usually responsible for evils, exploitation, and miseries of the people.

 Earlier different activities were assigned to different groups according to its natural endowment/inclinations, qualities and aptitudes/psychological characteristics. Brahmins having `Sat or `austerity were assigned the work of pursuing knowledge. Rajas quality of Kashtriyas was befitting for actions of courage, bravery, power and protection of the weak. Initially, according to Smritis it was not birth, but the qualities and deeds, which fitted one into a particular group.But, later on, upbringing, atmosphere and convenience tended to make these groups hereditary.

 At present, it is the choice of an individual to decide for ones career and acquire qualifications accordingly through formal education and training.

 Natural leaders – Don Martindale said that India possessed a reservoir of natural leaders – Brahman trained in literary skills and Kashitryas in art of leadership. Most of them were sensitive and caring and totally devoted to their profession. It was with their sincere efforts that numerous reforms were sought and the nation entered the modern era without any cultural break.

 Natural training without investment – The Caste system transmitted the traits of a trade, intelligence abilities, experiences, values and skills from one generation to another in a natural way. People, while growing up, learnt the secrets of their trade, hidden intricacies, solutions of their occupational problems, informally from their elders. It gave them confidence and saved them from confusion or unhealthy competition. Being in constant contact with the family occupation, it was natural for the people to learn maximum about their traditional occupations.

 SpecializationThe Caste system served as a spawning bed for social and technical skills. By its very nature, it encouraged the development and preservation of local skills. There was a tendency to bring in the most diversified skills to high level of excellence. It was encouraged with religious and semi-religious sanctions. Assignment of different functions to different communities led to the transfer of knowledge and expertise, from one generation to another, through inheritance and evolved an atmosphere, where a high level of Specialization and wisdom in different areas of activities could be achieved.

 Mobility– Caste system in its earlier ideology did not restrict mobility. Mobility from one caste to another, was though difficult, but not impossible. Through good deeds, the position of a caste could be improved. Caste system developed the practice of making mobility possible, not for an individual, but for the whole group. Upward mobility could be gained by a caste, either by change in geographical locations, or improving ritual status leading to self-discipline.

 It gave an incentive to groups belonging to lower strata to adopt more orthodox practices, cleaner habits, self-discipline and observance of the rules of Smrities in order to rise in the social scale.`Kayastha community, which is an amalgam of groups from all the four Varnas, secured for itself a place next to Brahmins through its intellectual pursuits, specialization in revenue work and observance of rituals.

 From fourteenth to the eighteenth century, people from all strata of society including the lowest joined army. There was no discrimination in the recruitment and treatment of soldiers of any kind on the basis of caste. Rajput status was given to soldiers.

Institution of ‘Caste’ contains all the essentials of a good organization –

 As is evident, institution of ‘Caste’ contains all the essentials of a good organization, whether social, political or economic, which help its smooth functioning like it –

  •  Provides a stable, sustainable social structure based on Principle of Varna.
  • Satisfies all biological as well as psychological needs of its members as an individual and as a group.
  • Follows the principle of Division of labour.
  • De-centralizes control systems.
  • Defines clearly duties and vocations for different sections of society,
  • Prepares an atmosphere for Specialisation
  • Balances various activities, no activity either be over-valued or under-valued.

  • Believes inself-discipline, inter-dependence, mutual respect for each other, trust and tolrence. 

  •  Creates Team spirit to secure coordination, peace and prosperity for all.

The system had been able to provide such an atmosphere in the past that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas.It has become rich in literary, philosophical and religious fields.

 It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system. An average Indian, according to Dr. Albert Swheitzen, Did not find life a vale of tears, from which to escape at all costs, rather he was willing to accept the world, as he finds it and, extract, what happiness he could, from it.Recently U.S. Ambassador John Kenneth Galbrigth remarked, While he had seen poverty in many countries of the world, he found an unusual attribute among the poor of India. There is richness in their poverty. They did not count wealth in money alone.

 Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. German scholars, in the early Nineteenth Century and English scholars in the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century were deeply fascinated by its scriptures and translated it in their languages.

After Independence in 1947

 After the Independence, the Preamble of the Constitution of India assured all its citizens – EQUALITY of status; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution confers Fundamental rights of “Equality before law.” Article15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Article 16 assures equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.

System less restrictive and rigid – Spread of education, process of modernization, industrialization, attempts of reformers and growing awareness of the masses have made caste less restrictive and rigid. The system allows its members a greater degree of freedom in all walks of life. The post Independence era witnessed the castes becoming socially more and more liberal. Children are brought up in a much more homogenous atmosphere. The ideas, beliefs and values, have changed to a great extent.

Considerations for purity and pollution fading away from public life

 – The traditional barriers on marriage, hereditary occupations and commonality, have started disappearing. Restrictions or interactions between different castes arising due to considerations for purity and pollution are fading away from public life. The old style of authority of caste-elders in every day life has already diminished. Unquestioned obedience or following blindly orders of family or caste elders is no longer there.
Castes no longer enjoy legal or religious sanctions. Expulsion from castes means little. Through Constitution itself, there is free access to public places to everybody, irrespective of caste or creed.

A well-accepted and well established reality of Indian social system

In social life, caste continues to excercise considerable influence on the minds of its respective members. It still meets important needs of its members more than any political or economic institution. People rely on it for moral and emotional support during normal times, as well as during crisis. That is why an ordinary person is reluctant to abondon the institution of caste, which has proven its value.Caste system still acts as a strong cementing force that binds all its members together and keep them under one umbrella i.e. Hinduism. Caste had always been and are still a well-accepted and well established reality of Indian social system.

 But the entry of caste into politics has made it rigid and led the Indians towards caste-ism, because of which all the sections of society are facing hardships. There is centralization of control systems. There is cut-throat competition and rivalry/bitterness for pelf, power or position now allover India. Besides, total aversion o f youth from their traditional occupation has rendered millions of them unemployed or underemployed, thus wasting their time, energy and efforts. This they could have utilized for constructive purposes.

 Some leaders, intellectuals and social reformers want to replace caste system by creating a new social order, common men are reluctant to abandon the institution of caste, which has proven its value. Caste system still acts in India as a strong cementing force that binds all its people together under Hinduism, from one end of the country to the other. Caste still continues to be a well-accepted and well-established reality of the Indian social life and its systems. It exercises considerable influence on the minds of its all Indians. It meets important needs of people more than any other institutions. People rely on it for moral and emotional support during normal times as well as during emergency/crisis.

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Origin of caste as a system in India

Caste was the system of social life, in which Hinduism was expressed. …… Hinduism was the ideological and emotional buttress of caste…. Caste and Hinduism succeeded in doing in India, what no state, no conqueror and no economy was able to do – the establishment of a single unified system of society throughout the whole of India (accommodating numerous semi-autonomous communities arising at many times and in many places), a system of society, which was able to comprise a greater range of local differences in a single system than any society has previously accomplished.”

Through caste system, India has simultaneously accommodated “to almost endlessly, a varied system of semi-autonomous community and at the same time, it brings considerable unity, harmony and condition of peace.”  It  has “succeeded in wielding, an enormously, varied, plurality of semi-autonomous  communities, arising, at many times, and in many places;  and adopting themselves to many different conditions into a single system of society…” (Don Martindale, India since 1947, p 39)
“Positive aspects of Indian culture are so deep that the merits of ancient systems would be rejuvenated…. The caste system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it. It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of ruling class. … Indian caste system, which has evolved an answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and Dharmasastras.” (Quoted from Ancient caste system worked well: ICHR head, p.1, TOI July15,2014)

Indroduction

Evolved in a natural way -The origin of Caste-system can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It evolved in a natural way over thousands of years. The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time have contributed to evolve this system. It is a very old and indigenous system, conceptualized, developed and practiced exclusively in India.

Provided a Mechanism to assimilate small and primitive groups – As Basham has pointed out, Caste system may well be called a natural response to many small and primitive groups of people, who were forced to come to terms, with a more advanced economic and social system. It provided a mechanism, by which numerous discrete tribes could be, all sorts of groups and associations arising for political, sectarian or other reasons could be internalized and preserved within the whole.

Development of thousands of years of the association – Caste is the development of thousands of years of the association of many racial and other groups in a single cultural system. The arrival of Aryans hereditary kinship and tribal groups in India in waves, from different parts of the world and their mixing up with the indigenous people (popularly known as Hindus) gave birth Varna-system of Vedic culture.

Start during ancient pastoral society –  The beginning of the system can be traced from the times of pastoral tribal society, when people started forming small groups mostly living in hilly areas, not far from rivers. Tribal communities were nomadic or semi nomadic and egalitarian. They depended on nature for its subsistence.

Development during Agricultural society – Gradually pastoral tribal society transformed into a settled agricultural society, confining its activities and life within a small area or territory. Agricultural society leisurely evolved its structures and systems over about 2000 years (roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC) and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. As reflected in ‘Rigveda’, when people ceased to be a wandering people, started the early stages of Vedic Age.

Clans and tribes settled permanently in different parts of the country. Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People hardly possessed more than what was needed for their subsistence/survival. The practice of cultivation, rise of crafts and iron tools transformed the egalitarian society into fully agricultural and stratified society sometime during 6th century BC.

Beginning of settled life – After entering into India, first Aryans conquered India’s original inhabitants of Northern part of India, colonized and established kingdoms. Most of  original inhabitants moved to Deccan and then south. During the period, it was possible to have high ranks, but not high social classes. Initially a simple class division was seen in the social structure, i.e. nobility and the ordinary tribesmen. The units of social-political organizations were family, clan, village, tribe and Jana. Family was the unit of society headed by father. Three or four generations lived together, and probably owned property in common. A number of families living in one locality formed ‘grama’ (village). A number of such fighting units dwelling in a particular region constituted a ‘vis’ (canton), ‘Jana’ (a group of tribes) consisted of a number of such cantons, with a king as their ruler.

Mixing up of their culture with native culture of the land – Starting with arrival of Aryans in waves and mixing up of their culture with native culture of the land evolved a social structure based on the principles of “Varna” (giving birth to caste system), “Dharma” and “Karma”, which together distributed, organized performance of various functions and contributed to the growth of Indian society. In the beginning, Varna – meaning color – guided the division of the society. These principles gave Vedic society a distinct character, defined roles and organized inter-relationship of various sections of society.  Fair skinned Aryans, being the conquerors, kept themselves on the top. They spread their language and culture allover the North. Many changes started taking place in the life, manners, religion, language and literature of people.

Social structure bases on ‘Varna’ – Principle of ‘Varna’ had stratified Vedic society into four groups – Brahmins (intellectuals), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (Businessmen) and shudras (service providers) according to aptitudes, occupation and location of people. Aryans dependents of Brahmins and Kshatriyas were the subject class. Vaishyas followed the profession of agriculture or cattle raising and formed also the armed forces of their princes. The three classes were not rigidly separated. People, who were conquered and admitted into the fold of Aryan society, were looked upon as the lowest of the four classes. Conquered Kols and Dravid tribes formed the fourth class of ‘Dasas’ or ‘Shudras’. Aryan princes did not regard ‘Dasa’ princes as inferior, for they made alliances with them.

Possession of land, slaves and hired laborers started. People started producing and possessing more than they needed. The kings collected their surplus yields. The power of kings gradually increased. For regular collection, administrative and religious methods were devised.

Rise of caste system – As more and more indigenous and foreign groups were merged into the Hindu-fold, Vedic Varna system gave rise to caste system. For making place for new groups, caste system provided a mechanism. Through it, the job of assimilation of different tribal, local and immigrant groups was done cordially, at different points of time. Each new group joining it was given a separate caste identity. It neither disturbed the existing internal social order nor any new group was prevented from joining it and still allowed new groups to preserve its specialties and indigenous culture. It gave each one opportunities to develop within its own parameters. Thousands of endogamous groups were included into it. Each group was allowed to maintain its own rules, regulations, customs, way of life and power to control conduct of its members. However, principles of Varna, Dharma, and Karma remained the foundation stones of caste system and contributed to its growth in a systematic way.

Connection between ‘Varna’ and ‘Caste’ -Castes had its ethnic roots as denoted by ‘Jati’, and a ritualistic and symbolic significance in its ‘Varna’ aspect. Different castes found their place under a ‘Varna’ on the basis of their being ritually clean or unclean, nature of work and amount of self-discipline they exercised. Numerous castes and sub-castes emerged within each ‘Varna’. Four ‘Varnas’ remained the same. These were never more or less than four. For over 2000 years, their order in precedence remained the same.  As far as castes were concerned, they rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed from time to time.

Castes in the Making around 5th century – Perhaps, the first faint trace of caste is to be found in the careful cataloguing of traders and professions in later Vedic literature. Many traders were organized into guilds around 5th century AD, in which, some authorities have seen the origin of commercial castes. These can be seen as the castes in making. Even up to 7th century AD, people showed no clear knowledge of the existence of castes. Huan Tsang, in the Seventh century was well aware of the existence of Varna, but not of castes.

Salient features of Caste System – All the strength of caste system comes from its basic principle of Varna, which  gave Indian Society a stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction, accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma,  The principles which ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. Caste system could survive for such a long period because –

  • Principles of a good organization – Almost all principles of a good organization are found in caste system. It provides strong structure based on principles of ‘Varna, Dharma and Karma”, keeps its members comfortable and satisfied, assigns duties to different sections of society according to their natural instincts and qualities and instills amongst people feeling of interdependence and team-spirit etc. Caste-system believes in lofty principles like “Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam” (whole world is one family), “live and let live”, “Self restraint”, “automatic checks and balances” “division of labor” along with “to each according to his needs and from each according to his capacity” etc. etc.
  • Assimilation without conversion- Caste system is a natural response of mixing up of numerous social multi-ethnic groups with indigenous groups of the land into a single cultural system. Beauty of caste system lies in the way; it assimilated numerous social groups coming from different parts of the world at different points of time in waves.– immigrants, locals, tribal, professionals or others – into its mainstream. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought them under one umbrella without any conversion.
  • Caste as a mechanism for inclusion of other groups – Caste system worked as a mechanism, assigning each incoming new group a separate caste identity. Society remained stable, while offering a place to a new community. The system neither disturbed its existing internal social order nor prevented any new group to develop itself. Without any conversion, caste system made new groups its integral part. It never tried to annihilate their faith, originality, internal order, customs, culture or language. Instead, it gave them freedom to prosper/make changes into their systems according to their internal rhythm.
  • Based on the vision of an organic society – Caste-system is based on the “vision” of an organic society. Society as an organic body needs services of all its constituents equally. Each part has been assigned a particular function. All the parts are equally important and indispensible, need equal attention for its growth and care for balanced growth of the whole system. Coordinated functioning of all parts together keeps whole system fit and alive.
  • Employment, dignity and honor for allThe unique feature of caste system was that it provided work and employment to everyone. There was no dearth of employment opportunities for persons willing to work or wanting to become soldiers. Caste system inspired people to do their jobs well, as all worldly honor and spiritual happiness were vested there. It assured the people that proper performance of one’s work, whether high or humble, whether of a priest, warrior, Shudra or yogi were equally important for the society and were, therefore, right, respectable and worth pursuing. It provided the whole society a quality of life.
  • Basis of segmental-ranking – Though the caste system believed in segmental ranking of different caste groups, according to their relevance and contribution to the society, it placed all the individuals, within a caste group – rich or poor – on the same footing. All members of a caste had similar rights and duties, similar thinking process, similar customs, language, food habits, domestic routine, and style of dress. Elders took care of maintaining discipline within the caste and helped the members, who were weak and helpless.
  • Ranking – Varna system was so conceived by the genius sages that there was hardly any room for any Varna to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. The ranking of different castes was dependent on the nature and social relevance of their work, contribution of their work for social subsistence, efforts required to perform their duties and amount of self restraint/self discipline, they exercise, their relative purity, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene and cleanliness on the basis of climatic conditions of the region were also given importance, while ranking different castes.
  • Stress on self-restraint and self-discipline – Every caste was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. Brahmins, occupying the highest place in the society, were put under maximum restrictions and were denied accumulation of wealth. They were directed to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits.The higher the caste within a Varna, the purer it was considered, and greater was the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. The system of each caste having a specific position in the society and a specific work to do with its rights and duties boosted the morale of the people and promoted social equilibrium and solidarity.
  • Inter-dependence – All the activities of urban or rural areas were confined within a small area, having very little links with the outside world because of slower means of transport. Only merchants visited different distant places. The local societies used to be self-sufficient mutually `supporting and caring for each other. No caste took an all India character. There was no nationwide hierarchy of castes. However, in a local area, the relative standing of castes was more or less fixed. All local castes, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended and supported for fulfilling different kind of needs and cared for each other. All people living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. Rituals required the participation of all castes.
  • Local character – Local character and semi-autonomous nature of caste system made close interaction and cooperation between different castes a reality. Inter-dependence in social life and self-reliance in personal life were the intrinsic features of caste system making each local area self-sufficient and capable to fulfill all the needs of its people. People living in a local area shared moments of joy and sorrow with each other. All castes including untouchables were assigned important social duties. Harijan women helped all castes at time of child-birth. Harijan males beat drums in front of Hindu’s houses or in front of a procession on important occasions/ceremonies. Village barber spread news, arranged marriages and served food during celebrations. Occasionally non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings. The key, to understand the caste system, was not in seeing it as a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but as a series of vertical parallels. Each caste was an independent entity, with its own hierarchy, based either on a tribal identity or an occupational identity. All the castes were independent, yet their roles complementary.
  • Not much disparity – There was not much disparity between different castes or between urban and rural people. The concepts of forward castes or backward castes, disparities between different sections of society and exploitation of the weak were almost non-existent earlier. The tropical climate of the country compelled the people to the distribution of surplus, as it was difficult to store anything for long.
  • Automatic checks and balances – Decentralized self-regulated systems managed various activities in social, intellectual, political, and economic life and controlled its malfunctioning or dis-functioning. There was hardly any question of all India tyranny of any caste group. There was not a single group identifiable as very strong-dominating all the others, or as an enemy to defeat. Laws remained unmodified and flexible with the capacity to adapt to local customs and situations. People in power and position cared for the lower castes in order to acquire and retain local followers. The system made upper castes generous in matters of food, drinks and loans, when required. The plurality of society provided automatic checks and balances and controlled the arbitrariness or unbalanced growth of power of any group. Indian peasantry in UP, Bihar and MP were armed. In fact, non-Kshatriya peasant provided leadership of most armed bands, which were numerically predominant and economically and politically strong at the village level. The monopoly of powerful peasant was a reality of the rural life of Medieval India. The Brahmin strongholds were the centers of learning. The floating population, consisting groups like Gujjars, Bhattis, Rajput rangers, who remained outside caste system, were so strong, that they terrorized settled agriculturists for centuries. Forests, which competed with arable land in size and importance, till the 18th century, gave shelter and food to large sections of society and served as havens for those in search of escape from society. Thus, from time to time, and place to place, different castes rose and fell in their social order, some died out and new ones were formed.
  • More stress on duties – The system clearly specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and managed relationship with others. It encourages self-discipline, self-control and self-direction. Sprees on one’s responsibilities/duties rather than on rights, combined with principle of inter- dependence provides its own system of checks and balances over arbitrary use of one’s authority and leads to automatic decentralization of authority.
  • Flexibility and adaptability – Caste system took different shades and meaning with the changing times and places. Once changed, it never returned to its original form. Its adaptability and absorptive nature has pronged its life. The system evolved its structures and systems leisurely and kept on coping with the slow changes, time brought in. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase. It is different in context of village, locality, region or religion.
  • High level of intelligence and specialization – Caste-system worked so well and efficiently in ancient India that when the world was passing through Dark Age, India was full of light. First few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. Caste system had wisely organized all activities of society properly.
  • Acted as a shield – During medieval India, caste system was a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway even after mass conversion. Though many evil practices developed in the system during this period, but it acted as a shield for Hindus to retain their cultural identity, while living under alien rule, whether it was of Mughals, Portuguese or British.

When the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. The first few centuries are recognized as the golden period of Indian history. During this period, arts, commerce, crafts, philosophy and knowledge flourished magnificently. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. Many travelers visiting India, from alien lands at different points of time, confirmed that India possessed huge wealth, knowledge, and quality of life. It was a cheerful land. Each person found a niche in the social system. Its people reached a high level of intelligence having specialization in different areas. It was a cheerful land.

Caste still a strong social institution – Not only in the past, but at present also, caste system appears to be a valid and useful, a natural and inevitable unit of society. It is popular and commands respect and attention of majority of Indian masses of all sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous. For them following four are fundamental social institutions. An individual is supposed to be a natural member of a family, which is a unit of an extended family, extended family of Kula, Kula of a tribe (Vish) – and a tribe of a Jana or Jati (Caste).

Caste second only to family –  A person’s relations with members of his caste are closer than with those, belonging to other castes. Caste values, beliefs, prejudices, injunctions as well as distortions of reality are the indivisible part of a person’s psyche and conscience. Internalized caste norms defines an individual role in the society. It makes one feel good and loved, when he lives up to these norms, and anxious and guilty, when he transgresses them. In a way, caste is still second only to the family in widening a person’s social radius and in getting importance in his/her private and occupational life.

Caste inseparably inter-twined with Indian way of life – Later on, caste-system has became a dominant factor, a natural unit of Indian society, running through the entire fabric of its social structure. Slowly but steadily it got inseparably inter-twined with Indian way of life. So much and so that that, Muslims and Christians, Sikhs and Buddhist, living in India could not remain immune from it for long, though their respective religions believe in egalitarian society. They have, with all their equalitarian faith, formed caste groups within themselves.

Winding up

Developed deformities as time passed on – Caste system has travelled a very long distance since then. Many changes have taken place in the system especially during centuries of Muslim and British rule in the country. As time passed on, vested interests in each era had distorted or interpreted the original concepts in the manner, which suited to their purpose. Many deformities and rigidities had developed into system to preserve its indigenous identity and culture.

In political circles, caste is blamed for all the agonies of submerged sections of Indian society – Caste-system is blamed for everything – it could vary from illiteracy to creating disparities of power, wealth and culture, escalation of violence, crimes and corruption leading the nation towards disintegration and discrimination and exploitation of weaker, unprivileged sections of society, forcing destitution on vast number of people. But the fault lies somewhere else.

Caste-system presents one of the oldest social institution presenting before the world a continuous and uninterrupted living culture existing in the whole world. The strength of caste system has been proved by the following facts:

  • Despite centuries of foreign rule over 75% of Indian population remains Hindu and have strong feelings for caste-system.
  • Had caste system become obsolete, it would have given place to other system.
  • Caste system has influenced all other communities living in India.

Caste system acted as a shield – Caste-system and its values have acted as a shield. During medieval and initial period of modern India, caste system has been a major force for failure of Islam, Christianity and other religions to make headway during the Muslims or British rule and even after the mass conversions of Hindus into Islam and Christianity. Even in 21st century’s atmosphere of chaos, as C. Rajgopalachari has pointed out “If there is honesty in India today, any hospitality, any charity- any aversion to evil, any love to be good, it is due to whatever remains of the old faith and the old culture”.

Conclusion – Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time, which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. Caste system, on which Indian social structure is based, has proved to be an exception. Its character is different in the context of village, locality, region or religion. Its absorptive nature has internalized alien influences.

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