Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan
About six crore of devotees from more than 140 countries speaking 56 languages visited Haridwar and took a dip in the holy Ganga during the period of the Kumbha Mela which concluded recently. They have all one and only identity—they are Hindus—children of Mother Bharat and those who adore this Holy Land as the land of their forefathers, the land of their hoary spiritual culture and heritage, the land of their salvation. When this ocean of humanity immersed itself into the surging waves of River Ganga, rubbing shoulders to each other, none of them did ask the question what was the caste of the one standing next to him or her in the cool waters of Mother Ganga, the Ganga maiya for all of them. When millions congregated in the dining halls spread out on the river bank by hundreds of religious and spiritual organizations to provide food for the pilgrims from far and wide, none in the gathering asked the question who was sitting next to him and partaking the food so lovingly served by their own Hindu brethren.
A few months earlier, there was a congregation of three million mothers lighting ovens in front of the Attukal Bhagavati temple near Tiruvanandapuram, to offer ‘Pongala’—sweet rice pudding prepared with milk and jaggery—to the Divine Mother. All the roads surrounding the temple town were blocked to enable the mothers to set up their ovens to prepare the Prasad for the Mother of all. The Guinness Book of Records called it the greatest congregation of women in the world. The mothers who stood in line to prepare the food for the Mother did not care to know to which caste the women standing next to them belonged. For all of them, She was the Only Mother and all were Her children.
Millions throng from all parts of the country and abroad to the renowned temples in India, whether Rameshwaram, Tirupati, or Kollur in the South or Kashi, Kedarnath, Badrinath or Vaishnodevi in the North. In last March, about 1 lakh devotees had Darshan of Tirupati Balaji on a single day. The pilgrims stand in long cues for hours together to have Darshan of their beloved Deity or to share the Prasad in the temple dining halls. None bothers about the caste of others standing or sitting by their side. In the schools, colleges, universities, market places, theatres and cinema halls, in the hotels and restaurants, in trains and buses, millions of people sit side by side, but no one has ever asked the caste of another sitting by his side. In crowded cities and towns, in flats and residential colonies, people of all castes and creeds live together.
Then where is caste?
Caste has never existed in the remote past nor does it exist today. The Vedas nowhere speak about caste system. Manu emphatically declares, “Janmanaa jaayate shoodrah, samskaarena dwijah”—all men are born as Shudras—unrefined—and by samskaara—refinement, one becomes a dwijah—twice born, i.e., one among the Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas.
The classification of the four Varnas is not based on birth. Krishna says very clearly in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita—“Chaaturvarnyam mayaa srishtham, guna karma vibhaagashah”—”I have created the four Varnas on the basis of quality and temperament”.
Veda Vyasa was the son of Sage Parasara and born in the womb of a fisherwoman, but he became the Guru of all Gurus and compiler of the Vedas by virtue of his inclination and actions.
Satyakama Jabali was son of a woman who was serving many masters and therefore he could not know who his father was. His guru Haridrumata Gautama accepted him as a Brahmana because he spoke truth, and speaking truth was the noblest quality of Brahmana, and he became a great Upanishadic seer.
Narada was the son of a servant maid.
Ravana, though born as the son of a Brahmana, descended to the level of Rakshasa whereas his brother Vibhishana rose to become adored as an Alwar saint—a saint of the Vaishnava order.
There were anuloma and pratiloma marriages among the Hindus, one of the higher Varna marrying a girl from the lower Varna and vice versa, respectively.
The classification of the four Varnas mentioned in the Purusha Sookta, as rightly pointed out by Sri Guruji Golwalkar in the “Bunch of Thoughts”, speaks about the Raashthra Purusha.
The men in whom wisdom is predominant and who are inclined to spiritual life are the spokespersons of the Jnaanabhoomi, Karmabhoomi, Mokshabhoomi Bharat. Vasishtha, Viswamitra, Gautama and other rishis of highest enlightenment guided kings and emperors like Dasaratha and Janaka.
Men in whom the emotion, prowess—strength of the shoulder–, patriotism and the qualities of a warrior are predominant, become the protectors of the nation and society.
Men in whom entrepreneurial skill is predominant become Vaishyas or traders.
The common run, whose interest and inclination are to do casual work and eke out a living are Shudras.
All the four Varnas are various limbs of the Rashtra Purusha. Nowhere it is said that one cannot move from one Varna to another.
Karna, who was considered as a charioteer’s son and was not accepted as Kshatriya, was appointed as King of Angadesha and elevated to the position of Kshatriya by Duryodhana.
Vishwamitra, who was a Rajarishi, was elevated to the position of Brahma Rishi and was accepted by Vasishtha.
Veetahavya, who was also a Kshatriya, became a Brahmana.
Valmiki, a hunter and dacoit by profession turned into the highest Brahmana of the land who gave us the Ramayana.
Parasurama and Dronacharya, though Brahmanas by birth, wielded weapons and chose to serve as Kshatriyas.
This classification on the basis of Varna gave strength to the Hindu society in most ancient times. When many civilizations and societies all over the world which arose in the later days crumbled because of their conflict with outside forces, Bharat withstood the invasions by Shakas, Hunas and Greeks and even absorbed many of them into the mainstream of Hindu race.
However, the rigidity of the Varna distinctions which later came to be called as casteism arose when society advanced with many professional groups coming into existence and intermarriages created many new castes and sub-castes.
In the historical period, reform movements like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism cleansed the Hindu society of the disintegrating caste system and movements like those of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Maharashtriyan saints like Ramdas, Tukaram and Eknath, the saints of South India like the Alwars and Nayanmars, Sri Ramanuja, Saint Ramalinga and Sree Narayana Guru fought against the distinction between castes as higher and lower.
Swami Vivekananda, the greatest reformer and patriot monk of modern India, points out: “We believe in Indian caste as one of the greatest social institutions that the Lord gave to man. We also believe that though the unavoidable defects, foreign persecutions, and above all, the monumental ignorance and pride of many brahmanas who do not deserve the name, have thwarted in many ways, the legitimate fructification of the most glorious Indian institution, it has already worked wonders for the land of Bharat and is destined to lead Indian humanity to its goal.”
During India’s freedom struggle, many great Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Lokamanya Tilak and Veer Savarkar strove to break the barriers between different castes and integrate the entire Hindu society. Mahakavi Bharati, the poet-patriot of the South sang: “Jaatikal etume illayadi paappaa, kulat taazchi uyarchi sollal paapam”—“There are no castes, it is sin to speak of higher and lower births.”
Swami Harshananda rightly points out: “There is no gainsaying the fact that during the last 150 years, there has been a true decline of the true spirit behind the caste system. It has been much more pronounced during the 50 years after our political independence.”The British colonialists made the best use of the caste distinctions among the Hindus to divide and disintegrate the nation to keep the country as a part of their empire and the Christian evangelists converted the poor and downtrodden Hindus into their religion to perpetuate the white man’s rule over this nation.
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who founded of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925, had a deep foresight and he realized that unless and until the entire Hindu society from Kashmir to Kanyakumari stood as one man, wiping out all distinctions based on caste, colour and language, Bharatavarsha could not rise up once again as Hindu Nation and he launched the movement to integrate the entire Hindu society under one banner and with a fiery ideal of adoration of Motherland and elevating Mother Bharat once again as the Loka Guru.
In 1934, a winter camp of the Sangh took place in Sevagram at Wardha. One thousand five hundred Swayamsevaks participated in the camp which took place in an open ground near the Ashram where Gandhiji was staying. Seeing the disciplined manner in which the programme of activities of the Sangh were conducted, Gandhiji expressed his desire to visit the camp. As soon as the information reached the Sanghchalak, Sri Appaji Joshi, through Mahadeva Desai, Gandhiji was invited to the camp. On 25th December 1934, in the early morning, Gandhiji visited the camp and spent one and half hours with the Swayamsevaks. He was deeply impressed by their character, discipline and above all the unity which crossed all the barriers of caste and creed. He visited the camp hospital and the dining hall and when he found that the Swayamsevaks did not even care to know each other’s caste and lived like members of one family, he expressed his desire to meet the person who had built up this organization. Next morning, when Dr. Hedgewar visited the camp to participate in the concluding function of the camp, the information was conveyed to him and he accordingly called on Gandhiji in the night. Gandhiji spent an hour with Dr. Hedgewar discussing about the Sangh work. Gandhiji was amazed to find that what he was striving to do though his incessant propaganda, i.e., removing the blot of untouchability, was already achieved by Dr. Hedgewar through his Sangh Shakas.
After the attainment of Independence, it was expected that the distinctions in the name of caste will be totally wiped out, but the Europeanized politicians who came to power after the British left the shores of this land found a duck that lays the golden eggs in the caste system and realized that as long as they perpetuate the caste distinctions among the Hindus, it will be easy to create vote banks which will help them keep themselves in power perpetually. Therefore they have divided the parliamentary and assembly constituencies in such a way that one or the other caste is predominant there and by appeasing the caste leaders, they could create vote banks. Reservations in jobs, admission to educational institutions and even electing the peoples’ representatives on the basis of caste were found to be easy means to catch votes to remain in power. Today, even those who got converted to Christianity and Islam from Hinduism, apparently protesting against casteism in Hindu society, want to claim the rights given to Scheduled Castes and Tribes among the Hindus. It is those who want to deliberately keep the Hindu society divided for their nefarious political purposes that go on raising the charge that casteism is part of Hinduism.
The cunning politician today wants to perpetuate the disintegration and disunity among the Hindus by promoting census on the basis of castes. The foreign Christian missionary and evangelical organizations, who have a hold on the Government of India through a Christian leader of foreign origin controlling the ruling party, find an opportunity to fix their targets for large scale conversion through the caste based census which will disintegrate the Hindus.
The so called secular politicians of the country who have betrayed the Hindu society for the sake of power and have always been anti-Hindu, find this caste-based census as an opportunity to keep the Hindus ever divided so that no Hindu nationalist party would ever come to power. “The counting of castes in the ongoing census will weaken the efforts of social harmony and Rashtriya Ekatmata (national integration) being pushed by various organizations and people in the country. It will also ruin the dream of creating a casteless society as was emancipated by many great personalities like Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and others.
The RSS has been working since beginning for the unity of the whole Hindu society irrespective of castes,” said RSS Sarkaryavah Shri Bhaiyaji Joshi, while talking to the media persons at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, recently. Why is this caste-based census directed against the Hindus only? Among the Christians, there are so many castes like Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans and Syrians. Among the Muslims, there are Pathans, Labbais, Shias, Sunnis and Ahamadiyas. Will the caste-based senses take the head-count of all these groups? Caste-based census is a conspiracy of anti-Hindu politicians, Christian evangelists and Muslim fundamentalists to destroy Hinduism.
Patriotic Indian citizens, irrespective of caste, creed or linguistic differences, should oppose this caste-based census tooth and nail. In countries where Hindus are settled in large numbers, the caste distinctions are almost non-existent. Even in India, only in some remote village areas, these distinctions are prevalent, that too because of ignorance and because of the patronage of politicians who want to create vote banks in the name of caste.
The Sindhis, who are the descendants of the Vedic Rishis who built up the Hindu civilization on the banks of River Sindh, do not have any caste distinctions among them. The day casteism will be totally wiped out of India is not far. Why harp upon it again and again? Let us make positive efforts to remove the blot of Casteism that has crept into Hindu society as a virus infecting the whole body.
The Rishis addressed the whole of humanity as “Amritasya putraah”—Children of Immortality and called the whole world as one family, “Vasudaiva kutumbhakam”. They proclaimed a ‘Maanava Dharma’—Religion of Man— that is ‘Vishwa Dharma’—Religion of the World—which is the ‘Sanaatan Dharma’—the Eternal Religion.
They have entrusted to the children of Mother Bharat and their descendants the task of spreading in the entire world man-making and universal values of life. Let us fulfil the hopes and aspirations of our forefathers. We could achieve this mission only when we do away with all distinctions in the name of caste.
Let us declare ourselves as Hindus first and Hindus last and refuse to identify ourselves with any caste when the officials come to take the census.
Let us boldly declare that we have no castes and WE ARE HINDUS, WE ARE BHARATIYAS.
Vishwa Dharma ki Jai! Bharatamata ki Jai! Vande Mataram!