Wednesday 6 July 2016


In my blog ' The Caste System in India ' ( see ) I stated :

" The caste system is one of the greatest social evils plaguing our country today. It is acting as a powerful social obstruction to our progress, and a political divisive force in our country at a time when it is absolutely essential for us to be united if we wish to face our nation’s challenges. It is a curse on our country which must be eradicated if we wish to progress "

But I also said therein :

" Many people think that the caste system did a lot of damage to India. This is undoubtedly true of modern times. But it must also be said that in the feudal age the caste system did good to India because it corresponded to the feudal occupational division of labour in society , which resulted in the great development of the productive forces (at that time). "

Thus, while the caste system is a totally reactionary and evil institution today, at an earlier stage of our historical development it was progressive and good.

This may sound a contradiction, and so has to be explained.

As stated by the great British economist Adam Smith in his book ' The Wealth of Nations ', division of labour results in great development of the productive forces in society.

In feudal society, while the primary occupation of most people was agriculture, there was also a handicraft industry, and the caste system contributed to the growth of this. As stated in my blog, every handicraft vocation became a caste e.g. potter, smith, cobbler, textile manufacturer, barber, etc.
But there was also a need of some mental workers ( intellectuals ) in feudal society, and these were the Brahmins.

In feudal society there was no universal education ( as in industrial society ), firstly because there were no resources to provide them, and secondly there was no need to educate everyone, as agriculture and handicraft industry could be carried on by illiterates.

And yet there was need in feudal society for some mental workers too. This was for two reasons.
Firstly, in those days education, which was provided only to Brahmins, was mainly theological, and religion was needed by the ruling class to keep people pacified. People were told that they should accept their fate, since God had so ordained ( hoye wahi jo Ram rakh raakha ). The Brahmins were the custodians of theology, and so they performed this job of keeping people under mental subjugation, using religion for this purpose

Secondly, while feudal society was relatively stable ( as contrasted to industrial society which is dynamic and fast changing ), there was still some progress in it, however slow. For this, intellectuals were required, and these were the Brahmins.

Thus, Brahmins served a dual role in feudal society

The Brahmins, a small minority, were the only educated section of society in feudal times, and the rest of society, even the kings and aristocrats, were broadly illiterates ( with some exceptions ), and their language was Sanskrit This may be compared with the situation in Europe, where the only educated section of society ( with some exceptions ) were the priests, whose language was Latin.

Thus, Brahmins performed a dual role in society. The first was the role of keeping people under mental subjugation ( so that they may not revolt against the oppressive system ), the other being to help society in its progress.

As stated above, division of labour leads to great progress. In feudal society, the Brahmins were a small section of people who were left free to do mental work, the rest of society providing them for their material needs. Without this division of labour progress would have been impossible.

We may compare this with the situation in ancient Greece and Rome. These were societies based on slavery, and slavery in those days played a progressive role, because it left a section of society free to do mental work, their material needs being provided for by slaves.. No doubt the condition of slaves was very bad, but without slavery we would not have had Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, Pythogaras, Hippocrates, Homer, Aeschylus, Herotodus, Archemides, and the other great men of science and art in ancient times.

Similarly, while the caste system resulted in great oppression of the dalits, etc it also had a positive aspect. Without an intellectual section of society ( the Brahmins ) there would have been no Aryabhat, Sushrut, Charak, Kalidas, Panini, Vijnaneshwar, Valmiki, Kapila, Gautam and the other great Indian philosophers and men of science, art, law, etc.

So when we consider the caste system, and in particular the role of Brahmins, we must keep this aspect also in mind. The matter must be considered scientifically, not emotionally

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