File Name: castes in india their mechanism genesis and development .zip
Paper presented at an Anthropology Seminar taught by Dr. Goldenweiser Columbia University 9th May Text first printed in: Indian Antiquary Vol.
XLVI May In my opinion a student of Ethnology, in one sense at least, is much like the guide. Like his prototype, he holds up perhaps with more seriousness and desire of self-instruction the social institutions to view, with all the objectiveness humanly possible, and inquires into their origin and function. It is my turn now, this evening, to entertain you, as best I can, with a paper on " Castes in India : Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development.
Subtler minds and abler pens than mine have been brought to the task of unravelling the mysteries of Caste; but unfortunately it still remains in the domain of the "unexplained," not to say of the "un-understood. The caste problem is a vast one, both theoretically and practically.
Practically, it is an institution that portends tremendous consequences. It is a local problem, but one capable of much wider mischief, for "as long as caste in India does exist, Hindus will hardly intermarry or have any social intercourse with outsiders; and if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem. Such being the case, I cannot treat the problem in its entirety. Time, space and acumen, I am afraid, would all fail me, if I attempted to do otherwise than limit myself to a phase of it, namely, the genesis, mechanism and spread of the caste system.
I will strictly observe this rule, and will dwell on extraneous matters only when it is necessary to clarify or support a point in my thesis. According to well-known ethnologists, the population of India is a mixture of Aryans, Dravidians, Mongolians and Scythians.
All these stocks of people came into India from various directions and with various cultures, centuries ago, when they were in a tribal state. They all in turn elbowed their entry into the country by fighting with their predecessors, and after a stomachful of it settled down as peaceful neighbours. Through constant contact and mutual intercourse they evolved a common culture that superseded their distinctive cultures.
It may be granted that there has not been a thorough amalgamation of the various stocks that make up the peoples of India, and to a traveller from within the boundaries of India the East presents a marked contrast in physique and even in colour to the West, as does the South to the North. But amalgamation can never be the sole criterion of homogeneity as predicated of any people.
Ethnically all people are heterogeneous. It is the unity of culture that is the basis of homogeneity. Taking this for granted, I venture to say that there is no country that can rival the Indian Peninsula with respect to the unity of its culture. It has not only a geographic unity, but it has over and above all a deeper and a much more fundamental unity—the indubitable cultural unity that covers the land from end to end.
But it is because of this homogeneity that Caste becomes a problem so difficult to be explained. If the Hindu Society were a mere federation of mutually exclusive units, the matter would be simple enough.
But Caste is a parcelling of an already homogeneous unit, and the explanation of the genesis of Caste is the explanation of this process of parcelling. I will therefore draw upon a few of the best students of caste for their definitions of it :. Nesfield defines a caste as "a class of the community which disowns any connection with any other class and can neither intermarry nor eat nor drink with any but persons of their own community.
Risley, "a caste may be defined as a collection of families or groups of families bearing a common name which usually denotes or is associated with specific occupation, claiming common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine, professing to follow the same professional callings and are regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community.
Ketkar defines caste as "a social group having two characteristics: i membership is confined to those who are born of members and includes all persons so born; ii the members are forbidden by an inexorable social law to marry outside the group. He draws attention to the "idea of pollution" as a characteristic of Caste. With regard to this point it may be safely said that it is by no means a peculiarity of Caste as such.
It usually originates in priestly ceremonialism and is a particular case of the general belief in purity. Consequently its necessary connection with Caste may be completely denied without damaging the working of Caste. The "idea of pollution" has been attached to the institution of Caste, only because the Caste that enjoys the highest rank is the priestly Caste: while we know that priest and purity are old associates.
Nesfield in his way dwells on the absence of messing with those outside the Caste as one of its characteristics. In spite of the newness of the point we must say that Mr. Nesfield has mistaken the effect for the cause. Caste, being a self-enclosed unit, naturally limits social intercourse, including messing etc. Consequently this absence of messing with outsiders is not due to positive prohibition, but is a natural result of Caste, i.
No doubt this absence of messing, originally due to exclusiveness, acquired the prohibitory character of a religious injunction, but it may be regarded as a later growth. Sir H. Risley makes no new point deserving of special attention. Ketkar who has done much for the elucidation of the subject. Not only is he a native, but he has also brought a critical acumen and an open mind to bear on his study of Caste. His definition merits consideration, for he has defined Caste in its relation to a system of Castes, and has concentrated his attention only on those characteristics which are absolutely necessary for the existence of a Caste within a system, rightly excluding all others as being secondary or derivative in character.
With respect to his definition it must, however, be said that in it there is a slight confusion of thought, lucid and clear as otherwise it is. He speaks of Prohibition of Intermarriage and Membership by Autogeny as the two characteristics of Caste. I submit that these are but two aspects of one and the same thing, and not two different things as Dr. Ketkar supposes them to be.
If you prohibit intermarriage the result is that you limit membership. Thus the two are the obverse and the reverse sides of the same medal. But some may deny this on abstract anthropological grounds, for there exist endogamous groups without giving rise to the problem of Caste.
In a general way this may be true, as endogamous societies, culturally different, making their abode in localities more or less removed, and having little to do with each other are a physical reality. The Negroes and the Whites and the various tribal groups that go by name of American Indians in the United States may be cited as more or less appropriate illustrations in support of this view. But we must not confuse matters, for in India the situation is different.
As pointed out before, the peoples of India form a homogeneous whole. The various races of India occupying definite territories have more or less fused into one another and do possess cultural unity, which is the only criterion of a homogeneous population. Given this homogeneity as a basis, Caste becomes a problem altogether new in character and wholly absent in the situation constituted by the mere propinquity of endogamous social or tribal groups.
Caste in India means an artificial chopping off of the population into fixed and definite units, each one prevented from fusing into another through the custom of endogamy. Thus the conclusion is inevitable that Endogamy is the only characteristic that is peculiar to caste , and if we succeed in showing how endogamy is maintained, we shall practically have proved the genesis and also the mechanism of Caste.
Not to strain your imagination too much, I will proceed to give you my reasons for it. Its religion is essentially primitive and its tribal code, in spite of the advance of time and civilization, operates in all its pristine vigour even today.
One of these primitive survivals, to which I wish particularly to draw your attention, is the Custom of Exogamy. The prevalence of exogamy in the primitive worlds is a fact too well-known to need any explanation. With the growth of history, however, exogamy has lost its efficacy, and excepting the nearest blood-kins, there is usually no social bar restricting the field of marriage.
But regarding the peoples of India the law of exogamy is a positive injunction even today. Indian society still savours of the clan system, even though there are no clans; and this can be easily seen from the law of matrimony which centres round the principle of exogamy, for it is not that Sapindas blood-kins cannot marry, but a marriage even between Sagotras of the same class is regarded as a sacrilege.
The various Gotras of India are and have been exogamous: so are the other groups with totemic organization. It is no exaggeration to say that with the people of India exogamy is a creed and none dare infringe it, so much so that, in spite of the endogamy of the Castes within them, exogamy is strictly observed and that there are more rigorous penalties for violating exogamy than there are for violating endogamy.
You will, therefore, readily see that with exogamy as the rule there could be no Caste, for exogamy means fusion. But we have castes; consequently in the final analysis creation of Castes, so far as India is concerned, means the superposition of endogamy on exogamy. However, in an originally exogamous population an easy working out of endogamy which is equivalent to the creation of Caste is a grave problem, and it is in the consideration of the means utilized for the preservation of endogamy against exogamy that we may hope to find the solution of our problem.
But this is not an easy affair. Let us take an imaginary group that desires to make itself into a Caste and analyse what means it will have to adopt to make itself endogamous. If a group desires to make itself endogamous a formal injunction against intermarriage with outside groups will be of no avail, especially if prior to the introduction of endogamy, exogamy had been the rule in all matrimonial relations.
Again, there is a tendency in all groups lying in close contact with one another to assimilate and amalgamate, and thus consolidate into a homogeneous society. If this tendency is to be strongly counteracted in the interest of Caste formation, it is absolutely necessary to circumscribe a circle outside which people should not contract marriages. Roughly speaking, in a normal group the two sexes are more or less evenly distributed, and generally speaking there is an equality between those of the same age.
The equality is, however, never quite realized in actual societies. At the same time to the group that is desirous of making itself into a caste the maintenance of equality between the sexes becomes the ultimate goal, for without it endogamy can no longer subsist. In other words, if endogamy is to be preserved conjugal rights from within have to be provided for, otherwise members of the group will be driven out of the circle to take care of themselves in any way they can. But in order that the conjugal rights be provided for from within, it is absolutely necessary to maintain a numerical equality between the marriageable units of the two sexes within the group desirous of making itself into a Caste.
It is only through the maintenance of such an equality that the necessary endogamy of the group can be kept intact, and a very large disparity is sure to break it. Left to nature, the much needed parity between the units can be realized only when a couple dies simultaneously.
But this is a rare contingency. The husband may die before the wife and create a surplus woman , who must be disposed of, else through intermarriage she will violate the endogamy of the group. In like manner the husband may survive, his wife and be a surplus man , whom the group, while it may sympathise with him for the sad bereavement, has to dispose of, else he will marry outside the Caste and will break the endogamy.
Thus both the surplus man and the surplus woman constitute a menace to the Caste if not taken care of, for not finding suitable partners inside their prescribed circle and left to themselves they cannot find any, for if the matter be not regulated there can only be just enough pairs to go round very likely they will transgress the boundary, marry outside and import offspring that is foreign to the Caste.
We will first take up the case of the surplus woman. She can be disposed of in two different ways so as to preserve the endogamy of the Caste. This, however, is rather an impracticable way of solving the problem of sex disparity.
In some cases it may work, in others it may not. Consequently every surplus woman cannot thus be disposed of, because it is an easy solution but a hard realization.
She may marry outside the Caste and violate endogamy, or she may marry within the Caste and through competition encroach upon the chances of marriage that must be reserved for the potential brides in the Caste. She is therefore a menace in any case, and something must be done to her if she cannot be burned along with her deceased husband.
So far as the objective results are concerned, burning is a better solution than enforcing widowhood. Burning the widow eliminates all the three evils that a surplus woman is fraught with.
The year was With money he had earned painting cinema hoardings, Teltumbde bought blue caps and distributed them among students. Whatever it was, it did have a specific strategic goal and we achieved it," he says. After a panel discussion at Tiss, we move to one of the open-air theatres on the campus, where Teltumbde opens up on his life, which began in a small village called Rajur in Yavatmal district. But I do remember some students in Wani, where he enrolled after class VII , who were from better-off families, were dismissive of those like us who came from the villages. I was meritorious from the beginning and that gave me confidence early on," he says. He also has a doctorate in cybernetics from Mumbai University.
Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar is known as a world-class lawyer, Dalit political leader, and chief architect of the Indian Constitution. He is the most sought after the writer of the present era.
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In , assisted by a scholarship from Maharaja Sayaji Rao of Baroda, Ambedkar had enrolled as a student in the faculty of political science at Columbia University, United States. In this essay, Ambedkar critiques the essentialisation of caste and seeks to establish its knowability — as a theoretical and practical problem. Specifically, he seeks to understand intermarriage restrictions, social relations, and the re-rooting of caste structure in new spaces. So the problem, as it were, was to explain exactly how this homogenous culture splintered into neat, impervious parcels, or how caste evolved. To start, he brackets the origin of intellectual positions on caste formation.
The nineteenth century saw the beginning of a violent and controversial movement of protest amongst western India's low and untouchable castes, aimed at the effects of their lowly position within the Hindu caste hierarchy. PDF, 1.
Paper presented at an Anthropology Seminar taught by Dr. Goldenweiser Columbia University 9th May Text first printed in: Indian Antiquary Vol. XLVI May In my opinion a student of Ethnology, in one sense at least, is much like the guide.
Phone: Phil in planning and development. Ambedkar, Pakistan Or Partition of India.
In the paper, Ambedkar made a presentation a social phenomenon that emerged from the strategy of the Brahmins who adopted a strictly endogamous matrimonial regime, leading the other groups to do the same in order to emulate this self-proclaimed elite. He said that "the superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste". Ambedkar presented his paper "Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development" at an anthropology seminar, in which he started with the following statement:.
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