Monday, November 16, 2009

Explain Caste?

I was doing an assignment on Cultural Diversity with a friend today, and we repeatedly came across the word "caste" in relation to India. So he asked me what the word "Caste" meant since he had never heard it before.

I was flummoxed. How do you explain caste?
How does one condense several hundred years of history into a few pithy sentences? A hundred years of opression and injustice? I tried, of course. And gave him a crash course on the Hindu caste system.

I started with the four castes. How people were classified by birth (though it was hard to explain "untouchables"- he did not get the concept). Schedules castes and tribes. OBC's. How marriages were fixed only within castes. The caste honor system.
Reservations. Mandal Commision. Self-immolation. Supreme court rulings, the creamy layer, admissions in college. Caste Politics, Mayawati, Laloo Prasad Yadav.

He resolved never to ask me the meaning of any word he did not know.


Richa said... should have sent him to wikipedia instead! :)

Rachna said...

@Richa- I did.. after I got through the crash course :)
When are you getting back here?

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read this blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

Anonymous said...

It goes like this.

Castes were developed because of the need to pass down a trade from one generation to another. A farmer's daughter was to marry a farmer in order to pass down the knowledge. Not much was in writing of course. If you are a jeweler, your child has to marry a jewelers' child because of the knowledge and also because outside people should not know your secrets of the trade. Some people were educated in the books and hence were called to educate the children of the Kings. You get the idea.

Now many (if not most) people do not engage in their trade. That is why it is silly to continue doing it. But, you cannot undone thousands of years of practice and obviously not knowing why it existed in the first place.

Tell this to your friend. :)

- Chamaree

Richa said...

Mid-December. Can't wait to be there..Miss the bay area so much.