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Fruits of casting caste away?
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bala Offline
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Post: #1
Fruits of casting caste away?

This article analyses whether the breakdown of caste system in southern states through the last 30 years is the reason for them being relatively well off when it comes to education ,birth control etc.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/11/world/...1&ref=asia

What are your thoughts on this?

Note: One of the crucial papers that the article cites is unverifiable as it is behind a pay-wall.
(This post was last modified: 12-09-2010 07:32 PM by bala.)
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manju Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

I'm not sure whether by breakdown the author meant loss of the caste consciousness or the liberation from the restrictions placed on the castes. In both cases, I doubt whether there is much difference between the North and the South. If the focus of the article is about economic prosperity, singling out South doesn't seem correct. Some of the western states like Maharashtra (perhaps should be considered as part of South India), Gujarat and northern states like Punjab, Haryana are equally progressive (probably better off) as southern states. But if the focus is how middle/lower castes have prospered then we need a proper comparison study considering the differences in the caste positions in North and South, geography and the role of Christianity.

My thoughts on couple of points from the article:
1. Caste agitations
I suppose it was anthropologist GS Ghurye who termed the South India as the real playground of Brahmins. Maybe the gulf between Brahmins and non-Brahmins was the greatest in South India along with the stricter caste rules. Non-brahmin was invariably a Sudra including the feudal castes. Thus the castes that could have occupied somewhat independent middle caste position in North India were part of humiliating lower castes. Therefore, all the anti-caste agitations in the South even though look far more intense than those in the North, it maybe just because of the extreme situations here.

2. Entrepreneurship
Unlike in the North, the position of merchants was low in the South thus their number was also very low (most likely many rich merchants became part of the feudal castes). Perhaps, the real business environment was created once the British started ruling. But there was a vacuum in the South because of unfavourable view on business(still exists I guess considering the number of north Indian merchants in South). The feudal castes didn't immediately get into business because of its low position (Perspectives on Kerala History, Ed. P J Cherian) and this gave opportunity to communities like Ezhava/Nadar to break away from their limited life.

I would like to see a study on Andhra Pradesh lower castes to get a real picture of South India.

Manju Vadiarillat
(This post was last modified: 13-09-2010 09:31 AM by manju.)
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TTCUSM Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

(12-09-2010 09:51 PM)manju Wrote:  1. Caste agitations
I suppose it was anthropologist GS Ghurye who termed the South India as the real playground of Brahmins. Maybe the gulf between Brahmins and non-Brahmins was the greatest in the South India along with the stricter caste rules. Non-brahmin was invariably a Sudra including the feudal castes. Thus the castes that could have occupied somewhat independent middle caste position in North India were part of humiliating lower castes. Therefore, all the anti-caste agitations in South even though look far more intense than those in the North, it maybe just because of the extreme situations here.

Are you sure about that, Manju?
Didn't the anti-caste Lingayat movement originate in Karnataka?
And didn't the Bhakti movement originate in Tamil Nadu, with the Alvars and Nayanmars?
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TTCUSM Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

(13-09-2010 02:34 AM)TTCUSM Wrote:  Are you sure about that, Manju?
Didn't the anti-caste Lingayat movement originate in Karnataka?
And didn't the Bhakti movement originate in Tamil Nadu, with the Alvars and Nayanmars?

OK, I found some more proof to support my hypothesis.
The following quote comes from The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760:

Quote:But this is hardly surprising. The Baudhāyana-Dharmasūtra, a late Vedic text (fifth-sixth centuries B.C.) reflecting the values of self-styled “clean” castes, divided the subcontinent into three concentric circles, each one containing distinct sociocultural communities. The first of these, Aryavarta, or the Aryan homeland, corresponded to the Upper Ganges-Jumna region of north-central India; there lived the “purest” heirs to Brahmanic tradition, people styling themselves highborn and ritually clean. The second circle contained an outer belt (Avanti, Anga-Magadha, Saurastra, Daksinapatha, Upavrt, and Sindhu-Sauvira) corresponding to Malwa, East and Central Bihar, Gujarat, the Deccan, and Sind. These regions lay within the pale of Indo-Aryan settlement, but they were inhabited by people “of mixed origin” who did not enjoy the same degree of ritual purity as those of the first region. And the third concentric circle contained those outer regions inhabited by “unclean” tribes considered so far beyond the pale that penances were prescribed for those who visited such places. Peoples living in this third circle included the Arattas of Punjab, the Sauviras of southern Punjab and Sind, the Pundras of North Bengal, and the Vangas of central and East Bengal.

The book can be found online here.
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madhav Offline
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Post: #5
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

Caste system is a remnant of the feudal period. Unfortunately, India still suffers from its feudal past in that feudalism still has a strong foothold in many parts of the country. The posted article fails to take in this historical perspective when saying that the caste system is weaker in the South. It would have been more accurate to say that caste is irrelevant wherever capitalism has developed and Southern cities have been far more successful in becoming the hubs of the industrial/service sectors than their Northern counterparts. Note that in the rural areas of South India where feudalism still prevails, caste is still a huge issue.

Of course, I am not saying that caste will "automatically" disappear with economic progress, but the material conditions for caste will considerably lessen as people will be more occupied with matters related to economic class than their caste. So, even in urban areas, caste can come into play with respect to how people think. In more religious families, it probably is still going to play a part.

Regarding the historical anti-caste movements, I think the major anti-caste movements in the past have been from Northern India. The Bhakti movement, to be more accurate, originated with Tulsidas, Kabir etc. Also Sikhism and Islam were more prevalent in the North which led to a certain level of delegitimization of caste in those areas.

In the South, even the Bhakti movements were almost immediately adapted into the casteist system as various sects of Brahmins mostly appropriated the Bhakti movement into their casteist ideology. The biggest exception to this was the Lingayat/Veerashaiva movement of Karnataka which stood entirely outside the traditional Hindu caste system.
(This post was last modified: 13-09-2010 08:05 AM by madhav.)
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manju Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

TTCUSM:
Do you keep the article in question or the point we're discussing in mind while adding your thoughts?

- Alwar/Nayanmars mostly introduced some of the regressive ideas of the caste system (from an atheist POV) like Karma, Moksha and other Indian gods to generally ghost, goddess worshipping native tribes. I don't think they have done anything to get rid of caste labels. The fact is, anthropologists must have observed the ground realities and not the idealized Bhakti movements. Frankly, I consider even though not harmful, both Bhakti and Sufi movements brought dumbest forms of the caste and Islamic worldviews to the mass. There were some sort of secular philosophical, mathematical and material knowledge in both the caste and Islamic traditions. If these were to become mass knowledge I would have appreciated these movements.

- Until 12th century many ruling classes of Kannada region were Jains and Kannada literature until then heavily influenced by Jain worldview. But afterwards Saiva (in North) and Vaisnava (in South) movements show complete dominance of Brahmanical world view. It should be noted here that Lingayatism's and Vaisnavism's anti-caste outlook was short lived (may be couple of centuries). Afterwards one can observe various types caste supremacy claims. It's doubtful whether untouchables were accepted open heartedly within Lingayat fold even during its initial revolutionary phase. But to keep the article in focus, this is not very important. North Karnataka region where Lingayats are dominant is very backward.

Manju Vadiarillat
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donatello Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

This is an interesting article on caste names recently published in The Hindu.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article596313.ece

The article is relevant considering that we are talking of why the dalits are doing relatively better in the South than in the North. I think the Bhakti movement is a little old to be relevant to explain the difference between the South and the North. As this article shows, in Tamil Nadu, the usage of caste names among people living in Tamil Nadu (forget the NRI's who go abroad and still stick on their caste identities) is almost non-existent. With economic development of the dalits, it is not easy to discriminate based on caste in everyday life.

Aditya Manthramurthy
Web Administrator & Associate Editor
Nirmukta.com
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nastikashiromani Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

From what I have seen during my travels in South India caste and purity/pollution seem to be well and alive.
True?
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astrokid.nj Offline
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Post: #9
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

Having grown to young adulthood in a city (Hyd) and as a higher caste, I never experienced caste strongly enough for it to register strongly on my mind. My singular overwhelming perception was that of economic inequality and the attitudes of servitude it brought along.

Dr Kamath's articles gave me some initial insight into the social inequality, and I bumped into more such articles at shunya.net that I wanted to share with you guys. Namit Arora writes some great stuff, and I wonder why we shouldnt attempt to bring him into the Nirmukta fold, if that hasnt been already tried smile
http://www.shunya.net/Text/Blog/OnCastePrivilege.htm
I agree with him fully.

PS:
I just cant get my head around the purity/pollution concept was sold to all the castes.. continuing to read.. read...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
(This post was last modified: 01-10-2010 01:46 AM by astrokid.nj.)
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Swati Offline
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Post: #10
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

@ astrokid.nj
Thanks for the link - great stuff!
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astrokid.nj Offline
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Post: #11
RE: Fruits of casting caste away?

One last post on the subject of caste in general
1) is this really nice insight into the 'Theory of Caste' by Ambedkar.
You really got to wonder how this caste thing managed to take such a firm hold in India, and nowhere else in the world (to such intensity).. No worries. Ambedkar has done some wonderful thinking, and writing, for us.
CASTES IN INDIA: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development
http://www.ambedkar.org/ambcd/01.Caste%20in%20India.htm
Notable points:
Quote:Mechanism:
The superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste.
Sati, enforced widowhood and girl marriage are customs that were primarily intended to solve the problem of the surplus man and surplus woman in a caste and to maintain its endogamy.

Genesis And Develeopment: A Caste is an Enclosed Class. Brahmins enclosed themselves first. Some castes were formed by imitation.


2) India Untouched - The Movie
Mindsets remain ancient, at least in the rural areas, I am afraid.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_UnVZT0-0k

Caution: This video is very aggravating. Caste.. what a crime against humanity.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
(This post was last modified: 20-10-2010 01:41 AM by astrokid.nj.)
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