If there is one issue which is used to demonize Hinduism relentlessly, it is ‘caste’. While one cannot simply wish away the prejudices of caste discrimination, an honest and unbiased study of ‘caste’ warrants a deeper understanding of the subject. It is imperative that one asks – how much does caste have to do with religion? How much of it is a result of centuries of social development?
The very word ‘caste’, a foreign imposition, is alien to the Hindu ethos. Ancient Hindu scriptures, from the Rg Veda to the Bhagvad Gita promote the merits of the Varna system, which classifies society into distinct classes based upon their inherent natural qualities. All classes are equal yet not the same. Performing their duties selflessly, these Varnas keep the machinery of society well-oiled and functioning smoothly.
Percolating down the centuries, the concept of Varna gets tempered with discrepancies and loosely transforms into Jati. Jati is a vocation-based social grouping, providing economic and social security to its members. Unlike Varna, Jati is a sociocultural phenomenon rather than a religious one.
This Dharma Speaks video titled “Caste And Hinduism Explained” explains how in modern times, Jati has outlived its purpose and why it needs to be phased out of the Hindu psyche. It is time Hindu society once again reforms the outdated social model of Jati and caste based social injustice.