By passing a test one can become a Brahman in Bali – Questions on Castes in Hinduism

By: Mandar Dhayagude

I have few questions about social problems in Hinduism I am struggling to get answers of these question for last few months. Interestingly the questions are increasing day by day as I think on it and try to find answers.

I have tried to discuss these questions with the main stream scholars  but by and large they are avoiding these questions.

  1. There are 18 castes amongst Shrilankan Sinhalese. These castes are occupation based. Following is the list of those castes along with their traditional occupations Ahinkuntaya – Gypsies , Badahäla (Kumbal) – Potters , Bathgama – Traditionally cultivators. Called Palanquin bearers during the British period , Berava – Tom-tom beaters , Govigama – Traditional cultivators and herdsmen , Haali- Weavers, Hannali – Tailors , Hunu – Lime burners , Kinnaraya – Outcastes , Navandanna – Artisans many sub categories, Pamunu – Tenant farmers , Panna – Grass cutters , Pannikki – Barbers , Patti- Herdsmen , Porowakara – Wood cutters , Radala – Nobility of the Kandyan Kingdom , Rajaka – Dhobies, Washermen , Rodiya – Outcastes , Wahumpura – Jaggery makers .

Out of those 18 castes 2 castes namely Rodiya and Kinnaraya are outcastes. It is important to note that Sinhalese people are Buddhist for last 2200 years.

If Hinduism is only responsible for creating caste system and Buddhism is a kind of revolt against Hinduism as it is only caste based religion. Then how one can explain this reality?

On the other hand none of the above mentioned castes, is having history that goes beyond 1000 years, this is similar to the case of most of the castes in India as well.

  1. Emperor Ashok has embraced Buddhism, but after becoming Buddhist how law enforcement mechanism in his empire is changed? I mean has he replaced Manusmruti (although Manusmruti was written in second century AD, the other texts exists during Ashok’s period) or any other Hindu script for law enforcement  with some other book or with any other mechanism.

If yes please let me know about that? If not what is social significance of his changing religion?

The above question is true for all those kings in ancient India who became Buddhist.’Vinay Pittica’, the Buddhist script, on similar topic exist but it never got matured enough to replace the old Hindu scripts.

Now if Buddhism is a kind of revolt against social discrimination and there is a history of so many Kings in India becoming Buddhist, then why they could not produce anything that will replace the old discriminatory things.

  1. In Thailand there was a King RamaThibodhi (1350 to 1365 AD). This person has done two major things that effected the future of that country.

First he declared Buddhism as official religion of  the country (earlier it was Hinduism). Second he translated the Hindu scripts related to Law (Manusmruti and other such books called as Dharmashshtras) into Thai language. The Translated book is called as also called as Dharmashastra.

This book is considered as official book for law enforcement until 1932. Dharmashastra is supposed to be backbone of current Thai constitution.

My question is why there is no caste system in Thailand?Most important question is after becoming Buddhist what Thai people kept the Hindu scripts for law enforcement?

  1. There are castes among Muslims and Christens in India. According to Mandal Commission there are 135 OBC castes among Muslims in India. Whatis the reason behind it?

Obvious answer to this question is, the ancestors of Indian Muslims were Hindus and they carried their caste system along with them to Islam. But there is a catch in this argument. I will explain how, Indonesia is a country that is latest convert to Islam from Hinduism.

In 1478 AD Indonesian King Braha Varman became Muslim and the entire country became Muslim in next 300 years. But the spread of Islam in Indonesia was comparatively peaceful. So one can find Muslim a person with Hindu name. For example Meghawati Sukarnaputri was name of a former president of Indonesia. Name of current president is Sushilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Both of them are Muslims. One can find plenty of muslins in Indonesia with Hindu names. There is no caste system among Indonesian muslins.

My question is, Why those people who did not change even their names after changing their religion from Hinduism to Islam did not carry their caste System with them to Islam? As it is supposed to be happened in India.

Or blaming Hinduism for Caste system is baseless? If not How?

  1. Coronation ceremony of Thai king is done by a Thai Brahman. This tradition is going on since the formation of Thai state, since early thirteenth century.

Phra Vamdev Muni is the name of current chief Brahman priest for the current Thai emperor. He is called as ‘Raj guru’ and he is getting a treatment like living God in Thailand. ‘Phra’ meaning delightful is a title allowed for Royal Family members and the Raj guru.

Indraditya is the name of first king of Thailand. Neither his ancestors were from India nor he was anyone from the Khmer royal family. In fact he revolted against Khmer empire, created his own state, named it as Ayodhya that later being known as Thailand.

He declared himself as knower and protector of Vedas. He was coroneted by the then Thai / Khmer Brahmans. No one opposed it.

My question is what is difference between Chatrapati Shivaji and Indradiya? Alternatively what is difference between Thai Brahmans and Brahmans from Maharashtra ? Or what is difference between contemporary Thailand and Maharashtra ?

  1. The Maheshwari community is originally Kshatriya community (popularly known as Marwaris in India, Birla, Rathi are some eminent surnames among them) , but later became Vaishya because of pressure from Emperor Akbar.

The reason is that people from these clans were living in Akbar’s territory and they helped Rana Pratap against Akbar.

In the same way Brahmans from Maharashtra were forced to oppose Shivaji’s Coronation ? If not why we can find numerous examples in India and outside India that a person with humble background could become a king among Hindus. Why Shivaji was the exception? Was there any interest of Mughal empire in that?

7.Interestingly there is no caste system among Indonesian Hindus. Bali is a state in Indonesia. Its population is about 4 million. 94% people of Bali are Hindus.

Here anyone can become a Brahman by passing exam conducted by Parishad Hindu Dharama Indonesia. Parishad Hindu Dharama Indonesia is organization of Hindus in Indonesia.

  1. In north India there is one Caste Gurjar. It is an OBC caste. This group is migrated from central Asia to north India in 5 th century AD along with Huns. There are many clans among Rajputs who claims Gurjar Ancestry . There is a sub caste among Rajastani Brahmans called Gurjar Brahmans. How one can explain this phenomenon.
  2. There is a OBC caste called Kushwaha and there is a clan in Rajputs called Kushwaha. There is a OBC caste called Chandel and there is a clan in Rajputs called Chandel. Alternatively one can say that for every clan among Rajputs there is a OBC caste with similar name. How one can explain it?

  3. The recent DNA report reveals some important facts I will summarize few of them – There is no major external migration in Indian subcontinent for last tens of thousands of years. It clearly means that there is no Aryan Invasion. – There is no Dravidian race, there is no Aryan race. There were two races Ancient North Indians and Ancient South Indians. Those two races mixed up some 40 thousand years ago. Since then there is no major racial change in Indian subcontinent. – Castes are like clans, each caste is having founder effect. The founder event ranges from 30 generations to 100 generations means from 600years to 2000 years max. And before that it was common ancestry.

How one can explain this with existing social theories.

  1. Anywhere you go in Latin America or even in USA, and ask any native Indian (be it Inca, Maya, Red Indian, Aztec or any)about the Spanish, English and French people, you will find a kind of bitterness about them.

Why such a bitterness is absent in South east Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand etc) about India and Indian people.

If upper caste people are so cruel and they enslaved people of their own country, then why they spared people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia etc. Although there is huge cultural impact of Indian culture in these countries there is no flow of population from Indian subcontinent to South east Asia in recent time.

Can one explain it with current Social theories?

12.For getting causes of Caste system people go up to Manusmruti  (many people to up to Rig Veda) at the same time they do not consider the all countries that comes under Hindu sphere of influence, i.e. to say from Afghanistan to Philippines.

What is reason behind that?

13.Many Latin American countries have caste systems based on classification by race and inter-ethnic marriages. The caste system was imposed during colonial rule by the Spanish.

Under Spanish rule, a detailed caste system was instituted in at one time, classifying individuals according to the race of each parent. For example, Mestizo had a Spanish father and Indian mother, Castizo had a Spanish father and Mestizo mother, Espomolo a Spanish mother and Castizo father, Mulatto a Spanish father and black African mother, and so forth.

It is said that all people converted to Christianity in India is only due to caste discrimination. All intellectuals in India believes in that. Above mentioned facts contradicts to this belief?

  1. What is the exact social impact of foreign rule on any civilization. Every society is having social hierarchy, but this social hierarchy is flexible. In ancient India there are many examples in which people have changed their caste.

A few of these types of examples are given by Romila Thapar who is ‘main stream’ ( read marxists) historian, in her book on Ancient Social History of India.  Now why the flexibility is lost, when it is lost and most immortally what is the impact of foreign rule on that. What is impact of losing prosperity (reduction in resources due to loss of trade and commerce) on this flexibility. Is this impact is ever studied by anyone ? In this regard, it is interesting to know what happened in Bali (Indonesia) during the short period of  Dutch occupation ( roughly 35 years, starting 1908 to 1942).

During this period the Balinese moved towards a  rigid social order with the 4 Varnas became 4 castes. Earlier the Varna system exist among them but there was free movement of people from one to another.

One can observer that the social condition in Bali in early 20 th century is much similar to the situation in ancient India ( in terms of flexibility in social order, the fact that is accepted by the main stream historians as well).

How these Balinese  people came out of it after the Dutch rule is also very interesting to know.

By: Y. K. Wadhwa

Ref:  “7.Interestingly there is no caste system among Indonesian Hindus. Bali is a state in Indonesia. Its population is about 4 million. 94% people of Bali are Hindus. Here anyone can become a Brahman by passing exam conducted by Parishad Hindu Dharama Indonesia. Parishad Hindu Dharama Indonesia is organization of Hindus in Indonesia.”

Apropos of  the above point No.7 regarding anyone becoming a Brahman by passing examination in the state of Bali.

Somewhat similar practice is being followed in Arya Samaj and the Vedic Gurukuls run by it.  In accordance with the Vedic principles and dominating spirit of Manusmriti(without interpolations), Arya Samaj since its inception in 1875  has been emphasizing that caste is based on worth and not birth.

Irrespective of their hereditary caste, Purohits of Arya Samaj who are qualified as Shastries, Acharyas, M.As. or Ph.Ds are addressed as Panditji since they do the work of a Brahmin.

I understand that Late Dandi Swami, Pracharya of Gurukul Etah (U.P.), used to emphasize that his students (irrespective of their family background) on completion of their Vedic studies should use the title of  ‘Sharma’.

This was in clear contrast to the prevailing practice since ordinarily the Sharma title which means a person engaged in intellectual-mental labour(shram) and is used by birth based Brahmins.

Well known example is that of Vedic scholar and writer Late Pandit Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya(1871-1968) of Arya Samaj, Allahabad who was born in a Kayastha community.

As per some information received more than 50% of Purohits-Pandits (who are all qualified) working in over 300 Arya Samaj temples of Delhi hail from OBC/Dalit background.  Some of these  Pandits have won laurels for themselves as Vedic scholars.

Even before independence children born of so called Shudra parents were admitted to the Arya Gurukuls mainly for Vedic studies.

In fact none of the students in these Arya Samaj run Gurukuls while staying together in the hostels knew the caste of their fellow students and all of them were required to wear holy thread and same Indian dress irrespective of their background.  The entire emphasis was on providing quality education.  In today’s context,  the methodology adopted by Arya Samaj shall be quite relevant for upliftment of  the downtrodden sections of the society, unification of all classes and to purge the society of the evils of hereditary caste system.

However, Arya Samaj does not stand for plucking the eye in order to cure the eye ailment i.e, in order to eliminate caste distinctions it does not reject the ancient social order.

Especially in its earlier days, this great institution founded by Maharishi Swami Dayanand Saraswati attempted to restore the Vedic Varnavyavastha in its original form which provides for mobility as per Gun, Karma and Swabhava.

The four fold ancient varna system has its own uniqueness which offers equal opportunities to all for self development as per ones personality traits.

Vedic Socialism does not recognize that any one is higher or lower.  Rigveda (5.60.5) says all men are alike where no one is superior ‘ajyeshthasah’ or inferior ‘akanishthasah’. Mahatma Gopal Swami Saraswati in his book “Human Rights and the Vedas”( Siddharth Milan, New Jersey, Ed.2001) has rightly remarked “Vedas advocate unequivocally equality for all without any distinction of colour or race or language.”

Vedic Varna system is actually connected with division of labour of various kinds of jobs.  Irrespective of geographical location, it  is the need of every society to remove four social ills, i.e, ignorance(agyan), injustice(anyaya), inadequacy(abhava) and indolence(alaysya) through professional categories correspondng to the functions of four Varnas.

I have few questions about social problems in Hinduism I am struggling to get answers of these question for last few months. Interestingly the questions are increasing day by day as I think on it and try to find answers.  I have tried to discuss these questions with the main stream scholars  but by and large they are avoiding these questions.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. varadraj bapat
    Oct 01, 2015 @ 15:25:23

    good article !



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