The day I came into this world, I was tagged as a Brahmin girl child. Many years past, but never did I understand the pride of being called a Brahmin. Whenever I asked my parents or grandparents, they used to say that I was fortunate to be born in a Brahmin family. What made me different from others was never specifically told to me. I had this chain of thoughts but there was no conclusion to it. The deeper I went into this thought process, the more entangled I found myself. When I joined school and made friends, I found them, in no way different from me. I ate the same food, had the same toys and wore the same clothes as they did, why was caste an issue then, when everybody looked equal to me?
In my eighth standard, I was introduced to history and the caste system in India. I was quite inquisitive to know when and why it started. The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (the Hindi word for religion, but here it means duty) is generally accepted to be more than 3,000 years old. The caste system categorizes Hindus into four main groups – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups came into existence from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are said to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third category was of the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs.
But it did not solve my query and confused me further. How was I a Brahmin when I did not even read the Vedas? By just being born to a Brahmin family, I become a Brahmin? If Brahmins were mainly teachers and intellectuals, then aren’t all teachers Brahmins? There was something which was not acceptable to me and I never got my answers until I read more and more about origins of caste and where did it go wrong. While doing my research, I got to know that Vedas do not contain any word that can be considered a synonym for ‘caste’. The two words which are considered to mean ‘caste’ are Jaati and Varna. However all three words mean very different things. Caste is a European innovation having no semblance in Vedic culture.
Initially everybody was free to choose their profession and their profession used to be their caste. With time, more and more people started accepting their father’s profession as an advantage. Even the families of higher stature started favoring their own children to construct their society and for other favorable outcomes. Just like, in older days, kings used to give their throne only to their own son, neglecting the fact whether he was capable or not. This went up to the extent, that people blindly started believing [still most of us believe this way] that one’s caste is what one inherits at the time of birth. This created a big divide in society and led to the inhuman treatment of lower caste people.
My idea of caste differ in many ways. Until and unless I learn all the Vedic literature and become an intellectual, I cannot accept that I am a Brahmin. Just because I was born to one, does not make me one. I make my status by my own deeds, not by any socially constructed idea of caste system. Infact, In Vedic culture, everyone is considered to be born as Shudra. Shudra are known to be hardworking people and I as a human was born to do good deeds and hard work. Based on the education and skill set, one becomes a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya. This completion of education is considered to be a second birth. Hence these three Varnas are called “Dwija” or twice-born. But those who remain uneducated for whatever reasons are not discarded from society. They continue as Shudra and contribute however they can in the society.
According to me, the idea of caste is socially ingrained in India and it is very difficult to take a stand against it. In retrospect, before giving myself to a caste, I would first earn it rather than falling prey to this socially constructed idea. For now, I belong to no one, to no caste. I am an individual, who has lots to contribute to this world and yet to decide upon her caste.

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18 thoughts on “I decide my caste.

  1. I agree with you on most of the points.
    For me Karma is everything. Your Karma decides your caste and status, nothing else.
    If we compare from our ancient society to this post modern society most of the things have changed except our mentality.
    It’s not aur problem, the problem is in peoples mind. They have created boundaries on their mind, they don’t want to think beyond that.
    Time has Come to break these minor boundaries and the weapon is ‘Education’.
    Educate people to think beyond to whatever we are being taught but think in a right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

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