What Caste Actually Was LikeDecember 26th, 2009 Source: indianrealist.wordpress. com
INDIA, November 20, 2009: It was Ram Swaroop who wrote an interesting article about what caste was actually like in Hinduism and what the British and Catholics deliberately made it out to be. Today, it is as relevant as ever. Here it is, in his own words:
Today “casteism” is rampant. Old India had castes but not casteism. In its present form, casteism is a construct of colonial period, a product of imperial policies and colonial scholarship.
In the old days, the Hindu caste system was integrating principle. It provided economic security. One had a vocation as soon as one was born.- a dream for those threatened with chronic unemployment. The system combined security with freedom; it provided social space as well as closer identity; here the individual was not atomized and did not become rootless. There was also no dearth of social mobility; whole groups of people rose and fell in the social scale. Rigidity about the old Indian castes is a myth.
Ziegenbbalg writing on the eve of the British advent saw that at least one-third of the people practized other than their traditional calling and that “official and political functions, such as those of teachers, councillors, governors, priests, poets and even kings were not considered the prerogative of any particular group, but are open to all”.
Nor did India ever have such a plethora of castes as became the order of the day under the British rule. Megasthenes gives us seven fold division of the Hindu society. But under the British, Risley gave us 2,378 main castes, and 43 races.
To observers, the word caste did not have the connotation it has today. Gita Dharampal Frick, an orientalist and linguist tells us that the early European writers on the subject used the older Greek word Meri which means a portion, share, contribution. Sebastian Franck (1534) used the German word Rott (rotte) meaning a “social group” or “cluster”.
For the full article, see source above.