“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.”
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.
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 knowledge – Varna/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 work– Assignment 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.
Specialization– The 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.
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.
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)
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 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 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.
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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“The illiterate of twenty-first century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Toffler
“Knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise ction.” Khalil Gibran
“Education is the great engine of personal development … It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” Nelson Mandella
“There is no knowledge without right faith. No conduct is possible without knowledge. Without conduct, there is no liberation. And without liberation, no deliverance,” Mahavira
Long, long ago, Newton had said that he was ‘like a child, who is picking pebbles at sea-shore while the great ocean of knowledge lies before me’. Since then, knowledge has grown enormously at a much faster speed than human ability to cope with it.
Technological advancements of twentieth century, especially during post 1970’s due to revolution in the field of information technology, have changed the whole scenario. Entering into world of knowledge is like going into a dense forest. Only way out is to develop clarity of thought/mind, as to what one wants to know and make sincere efforts to pursue relevant knowledge in that specific area.
“Neti Neti” (no end to learning) – J Krishnamurty has very rightly said, “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” Also it is equally important to upgrade knowledge continuously. As Alvin Toffler, renowned writer has said, “The illiterate of twenty-first century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Purpose of education
Literacy, not only the knowledge of three ‘R’s – Unfortunately, meaning and purpose of literacy and education is misunderstood. Literacy does not merely mean the knowledge of three ‘R’s, nor does it mean only academic or theoretical studies/knowledge leading to award of degrees. Increasing knowledge-base through available information is also not the purpose of learning. Bookish-knowledge and award of degrees through formal education without effective training-systems neither serve any purpose nor lead the people to get employed gainfully. Henry Kravis comments, “If you don’t have integrity, You have nothing. You can not buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethic person, you really have nothing.”
Valuable is the knowledge, that acts – As Khalil Gibran has said – knowledge, the object of knowledge and application of the knowledge – all the three are equally important for motivating to take a wise action. A little knowledge that acts is worth more than much knowledge that is inactive. One, whose knowledge is confined to books, can not use his wealth of knowledge, whenever required.
The scope of education – The scope of education is much broader. It is a continuous process. It means complete up-bringing of the individual starting from the childhood till end. In its wider sense, literacy and education embraces within itself reading, observation, thought and its application in real life situations. Within its jurisdiction, also comes formation of habits, manners, character, attitude and aptitude along with imparting knowledge. Learning at each and every stage of life increases knowledge-base, understanding and attitudes of a person.
A well-planned and sound system of education inspires human beings to control their senses, mind and intellect, so that they could be adjusted better in real life’s environment. It guides people to achieve their goals within time and cost parameters and to channelize their efforts towards desired direction. In short, a sound education system imparts knowledge, shapes attitudes, cultivates skills and builds work habits of the people.
Distinction between action, forbidden action, and in-action – Knowledge has been 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 about do’s and don’ts. It is only after the acquisition of knowledge, that a person understands the real nature of work and could distinguish correctly between action, forbidden action and in-action.
India and its Education system
High regard for knowledge- India has always given importance to and showed a high regards for knowledge, wisdom, virtues, characters and will power. According to Indian philosophy, ‘Wealth of knowledge is supreme among all forms of wealth’. (Vidya dhanam sarvadhana pradhanam). Therefore, knowledge is the greatest thing to be sought after. A human being is human because he has the organic capacity to think and seek knowledge.
More importance to knowledge than wealth – Unlike India, in Western countries, more importance is being given to creation of wealth. Wealth is the ultimate aim of the people, yardstick of success and a status symbol. Traditional India was not so materialistic. Its systems had separated pursuit and achievement in knowledge from temptations of worldly comforts, wealth or power-politics. According to Indian philosophy, when a person runs blindly after money and forgets about the real purpose of knowledge, both wealth and knowledge vanishes from their lives. The only judicious way to generate wealth and gain power goes via the path of true knowledge.
Knowledge as the base of ranking – Earlier the greatness of a person, institution or a nation was judged on the basis of the degree of righteousness and justice. Greatness of a nation was judged with which its administration governed lives of the common men or their character. It was not on the basis of the size of a state, its military power or its treasury/bank-balance. Similarly, in the society, a person or a caste was ranked on the basis of knowledge, discipline and moral standards, and not on the basis of material success, muscle or money power or of having controlling power over the destiny of common man.
Respect for knowledgeable persons – In ancient India, apart from Brahmins, others were also paid respect by the society for their learning, character, spirituality and ability to guide general masses. The system was quite liberal in this matter. It gracefully accepted 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 (belonging to Mahr community – Dalit according to present standards and to which Dr Ambedkar, the messiah of Dalits belonged). Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India. None of them were not ashamed of their origin. They still hold a very high position in general public minds.
Close connection between Knowledge and hard work -For acquiring knowledge, training mind in a scientific manner and concentrating energies of mind, one has to struggle, work hard, make sincere efforts and face many challenges in life. Now-a-days, courage to struggle or work hard is missing except in a few students, who still keep the fire of seeking knowledge burning all the time. Without hard-work, search for knowledge remains incomplete and superficial.
In ancient India sages (Rishi-Munies) had worked day and night to acquire true knowledge. The love for knowledge inspired many students to walk from different parts of the country to centers of learning at that time like Taxila or Nalanda. 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.”
For creating modern civilization, sincere knowledge seekers in Western world also did not care for inconveniences or challenges. They had sacrificed their time (for about two centuries), energies and comforts in search of knowledge. Then only they could develop great modern scientific knowledge, technique and wealth.
Education in modern India
Sixty four years after independence and self-rule, literacy-rate has gone up to 74% from 65%. For males it has risen to 82% from 75%, for females to 65% from 54%. 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.
That all is not well in education system in India – has been noted by distinguished academicians, policy-makers, political leaders, other eminent persons, commissions and committees. Now and then, they have pointed out its failures in one area or another. It has always been felt that Modern education has become increasingly unrelated to national needs and aspirations, insufficient, wasteful and dysfunctional.
Education system loaded with external and internal problems – In addition to what constraints that have already been existing in the education system, many more external and internal problems, paradoxes and constraints have cropped up. Some defects in modern education based on colonized British Grammar School type education, were pointed out by Gandhiji like –
- It is based upon foreign culture to the almost entire exclusion of the indigenous culture.
- It ignores the culture of heart and hand and confines itself simply to head
- Real education is impossible through foreign medium.
- Externally, socio-economic and political pressures have violated its identity and autonomy. Some changes have taken place in the recent past in the character, role and inter-relationship of these main constituent of the national elites – the political executive, the legislators, the businessmen, the media persons, the organized workers, the surplus farmers and the bureaucrats. It brought into the forefront some undesirable social changes and political turmoil. It has affected adversely the whole atmosphere in the field of education as well.
- Population explosion has put a heavy pressure on present education system and its available infrastructure. Narrow loyalties, sectional interests and sub-cultures like – favoritism, nepotism and corruption have fast become an accepted way of life. Result is that communal, regional and caste conflicts and unhealthy competition between different powerful lobbies are increasing every day to have their exclusive hold on scarce resources available in the field of education or for power and pelf.
- Few persons and groups, who have the power in their hands, control almost every walk of national life and are working to deny justice to common men. The reflection of all these social evils is found in the educational system as well.
Internal Constraints – Internally the system has been fractured along the lines of discipline deteriorating standard of education in general and student sub-culture. Slowly but steadily, the education system lost its capacity to equip the younger generation with relevant knowledge and skills for enabling them to get gainfully employed and to perform their jobs with a sense of responsibility. It has failed to produce much-needed dynamism in youth as well. Now people have started questioning the legitimacy of a modern education system itself.
Disintegrated society – Instead of being an instrument of social integration, education system divides people into two groups – ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. There is government or government aided schools that give education to poor masses. It is economical, but do not maintain good standard. On the other hand there are private schools, which caters mainly the needs of ‘Haves’, because it is very costly.
Deteriorating standards – After independence, India is facing a rapid deterioration in standards of education. In the past, though education was thinly spread, it had maintained some standard. Now in an attempt to do quantitative expansion of education, quality of education suffered a lot. The examination and evaluation system tests only a narrow range of skills, especially those of memory. Standard of general education has deteriorated considerably and suffers from grave errors. In addition to it, there is lot of interference and control of the government at every stage of the educational process.
Unfit for original work – Education system in advanced countries makes student a lively, inquisitive and original thinking person. There, it has been able to develop certain special qualities like regards for laws of the nation, awareness, contempt for hypocrisy, sympathy for underdog and courage to resist cruelty or misuse of power and authority. An educated youth in India generally fails to display genuine social conscience.
Store-house of information – Importance of information in knowledge, which provides the basis of all the thinking, cannot be denied. However, present education system at all stages of education, from preliminary through secondary right up-to the college stage makes mind a store-house of information/knowledge and discourages original thinking. It lays emphasis on giving students ready-made knowledge, systematically and neatly organized in the form of lessons, units and text book. R W Emerson comments on modern education, “We are students of words: we are shut up in schools and colleges and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words and do not know a thing.” ‘
English medium – English medium puts extra strain upon the nerves of students and makes them crammers, imitators and unfit for original work and thought. Masses remains deprived. System is producing mostly the youth, who are unable to express clearly in any language, including their own and lack woefully the competence and confidence to assume responsibilities.
Early childhood Teaching – Early childhood learning plays a vital in improving the quality and quantity of learning. Latest brain researches tell that first 2000 days are the most important in a child’s life, when children develop learning strategies, learn how to think and problem-solve. Children are born with billions of brain cells. Unless these are interacted with properly, they actually die off. Such programs needs to be developed that encourage the synaptic connections between those cells.
Early childhood Teaching, instruction and methodology is necessary for developing lifelong qualities in children. It is necessary to understand the importance to encourage Children to think, ask questions and develop problem-solving ability in them. There should be more interaction between adults and the children.
Higher secondary, the weakest link in Indian education system – Higher secondaryeducation is considered to be insufficient and a weakest link in Indian education system. It needs sincere efforts to improve the Academic standards, curricula and methods of teaching at higher secondary level. In western countries the standard of higher secondary education is sufficiently high to ensure recruits of higher intellectual attainment to join various jobs at this stage.
Degree-oriented: The whole system of education and employment is degree oriented. Degree is the master-key to a nice and respectable career giving status, authority and final reprieve from manual work. Such a narrow mind-set has put tremendous pressure on higher education system. A large number of new substandard and superfluous institutions are being created every day to meet the demand. Government also encourages mass entry into universities and colleges. Rush in institutions are of such students as well, who want degree as a passport and are not interested in studies. Such students seize every opportunity to spoil the academic atmosphere and breed indiscipline.
Indiscipline- There is a growing unrest in the student community. Youth of the day want to be absolutely free from all compulsions. For them, discipline and observance of rules are supposed to be unnecessary and irrational. They have no respect for rules/discipline/morality or for elders, teachers or authority. Their interests lie in all that is sensuous, in material gains and in enjoying pleasures in life. Indiscipline in student’s world leads to chaos and violence. It makes people slaves of their weaknesses.
Employability – One of the major aims of education is to make youth employable. At present it is difficult to find out and recruit well qualified persons for various jobs in government, public or private sectors. At pre-employment stage, education needs to be comprehensive in scope and sound in nature for making youth acceptable in job-market. It needs to be supplemented by rigorous foundation training telling the fundamentals of their specific jobs and inculcating in them relevant knowledge and skills, otherwise effectiveness, efficiency and quality of work gets a setback. At present, all the basics about their jobs are told to employees after their join work-force, which requires a much more massive effort in order to make employees do their jobs well.
Unrealistic Manpower Assessment – Assessment of manpower requirement for economic growth is not done rationally according to national needs. After Independence, the need for technical people was felt and in recent past for management experts. The Government created large number of professional institutions in these areas without assessing the needs of the nation. It resulted in educated unemployment. A large number of scientists, doctors, engineer’s technicians and management graduates have to go abroad in search of suitable jobs.
Therefore, for streamlining the performance of people at work after employment, most essential and fundamental requirement is that the character and scope of pre-employment educational system should be redesigned in such a way, that it could continuously provide men and women of vitality, vigor, initiative and imagination with intellectual accomplishments, qualifications and soundness of character needed in different disciplines and at different levels at job market.
Where the fault lies? – For all these lacunas, students blame teachers, teachers blame students. Both together try to blame educationists. They, in turn, attack social system. The present system of education can not be changed or improved overnight. It needs concentrated efforts of all – students, teachers and the society. Then only a larger base of skilled and trained manpower could be created.
Rational thinking needs to be done about the real problems and the role of education in modern life after understanding its basics, fundamentals and aims correctly.
The requirement of a university degree as a Passport for starting nice and respectable career (white collard jobs) has made a mockery of higher education. Such an attitude has by-passed the need to “educate all”, resulted in negligence of primary and higher secondary education and in over-crowding the institutions of learning. The stress on quantitative increase has subverted all the attempts to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It has led to continuous fall in the academic standards and students’ discipline, regional imbalances in the growth of educational institutions and politics in the temples of learning.
In the present times of neck to neck competition, one should continuously upgrade knowledge. It is the best way to create a larger base of skilled and trained manpower. Education should instill in students problem-solving attitude and develop the courage to meet the challenges of real life bravely. Instead of offering excuses or blaming others for one’s failures and dissatisfaction, it should inculcate in students the spirit to face the difficult situations in life and make efforts to change their destiny themselves. Education must teach people always try to have control over ones life’s situations and to stand up on his own feet rather than depending on others for moving forward. Success in life depends on developing capacity and courage to take right decisions at right time.
Only sound system of education and training can provide a lasting solution for various problems, people are facing today. It can lead the youth towards rational, positive and creative thinking. It would make youth capable to make right decision at right time, plan rationally about their career that would suit to their attitude and aptitude and to shoulder their responsibilities properly. It would enable them to act judiciously and promptly, give them courage to avoid out-dated traditions and dogmatic ways of doing things, courage to face realities and challenges. For doing so, it is required that –
- It is necessary to understand the psychology of students and the changes happening every day in today’s world.
- There should be a collaborative and distributive system between the teaching staff and students in such a way that teachers should encourage the students to share knowledge and express their thoughts and views freely and frankly.
- An atmosphere of healthy competition should be created in schools and colleges. They should not try to let others down while competing with each other.
- Sub-standard education should be avoided. Standards of teaching should be high. All schools and colleges should have a good faculty. Finding committed teachers is not an easy task, but is urgently required for keeping standards of education high.
- Educational institutions should not be used as money-minting machines.
- Every student can not learn and understand at the same pace and his/her doubts need to be clear. To do so, students in any educational institution need individual attention. For giving individual attention to all the students, the number of enrollments should not be large in one batch.
- Wisdom/Enlightenment and empowerment
- Rights and duties
- Role of Bureaucracy in good governance
- India – Unity in Diversity
- Fusion of many cultures in India
- Theory of biological Evolution
- Dalit Assertion, A Journey from ‘Shudras’to Outcastes, to’Panchamas’ and to ‘Dalits’
- Untouchables (“Dalits” of modern India) in Ancient India
- Happiness in life
- Census operations
- Good Governance
- Basic tenets of Hindu philosophy/Hinduism