Why did Gandhiji endorse Varna and Jati?
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
I agree wholeheartedly with Shri Aravindan Neelakandan's view that
we should move quickly and resolutely to remove any lingering injustices
towards the Harijans (unfortunately they are called Dalits by the Christian missionaries, the Asuric Forces referred to above). It is already being done
by GoI, individuals, NGOs and the nationalist organisations. More can be done.
We, all of us Hindus, have to do it because it is our Dharma, not because
the EU or other busy bodies are trying to tell us what is ethical behaviour.
The secondary motive of trying to get the asuric forces off our backs is just
that, recognize widely they have a secondary motive (proselytization and
breaking of India)
Otherwise, we risk the danger of being apologetic all the time, and engaging in
mea culpas all the time. The asuric forces will feel encouraged
by this and may try to strengthen their attacks against Bharat.
In that context I want to emphasise that energetic moves for social justice
should also be accompanied by a careful assessment of Indian history.
This calls for distinguishing between Untouchability and Varna-Jati.
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
(Editor's Note: HAF babes were misled by Ramdas Lamb,and Navyashastra &
company to fall into the trap of the Asuric Forces. HAF report is ripe
for abuse by US, UN, EU, RISA and the radical Navyashastra anti-national
activists like Pathmaraja Nagalingam)
Mahatma Gandhi was perhaps the first Indian to oppose Untouchability,
as early as the 1900s. His fight on behalf of the Harijans as he called
them, is well known both in India and internationally. (Editor's Note:This
same setion of the Hindu society was later called "Dalits" by Christian
Missionaries and now the term Dalits is popularized in India and abroad
as the world-view depends on English News Media)
What is less well known is that Gandhiji endorsed Varna and Jati. It is
commonly assumed that because he opposed Untouchability he also opposed
Varna and Jati.
And yet this was not the case. Why was this so ? And what lessons
does this hold for present day Hindus ?
He contrasted the inhuman and degrading aspects of Bhangism (and the related
question of Untouchability) with the creative aspect of Varna and Jati as the
engine of growth and excellence in Indian society. He did not see them as related
to each other. One is an aberration and the other was the natural and spontaneous
evolution of Hindu society.Varna is the necessary division of labour in society
since multi tasking is unproductive. Those who are the intellectual and spiritual
leaders of society (the Brahmans of the Vedic period) should focus on their tasks
and should not seek to mutltiply their wealth or status other than what is accorded
to them by virtue of their position. Nor should they be constrained by the
requirements of defending the nation. This is the task of the kshatriyas. And so
it went. The Vaishayas were the producers of wealth and the Shudras were the
producers of food and as well they performed the menial tasks of society.
A modernized version of this Vedic wisdom can be seen in all societies today.
Very rarely does one see multi tasking on a large scale, although some individuals
may be so engaged. The division of labour is the order of the day even in all
Jati (inaccurately translated as ‘caste’) is the product of the intensification of economic development in ancient India. The Jati is an endogamous unit which performed specific economic tasks and in due time the organization of these tasks led to the establishment of shrenis, the guild like structures which managed the productive processes of society.
Gandhiji was well acquainted with these facts of ancient Indian history and
especially of the Janapadas, the many republics that preceded the rise of the
Mauryan empire in late 4th century BCE. A keen observer of social life, and well
acquainted with the glorious traditions of the craftsmen and shilpis of yore,
and well informed about the economic history of India, he was quick to seize
on the point that without Varna and Jati, Indian society would have remained
backward, rather than being one of the main contributors of the world’s GDP.
He was not insensitive to the high quality of goods produced by Indian society
and as well its great contributions in the major disciplines,which would not
have been possible without a literate and highly educated population.
He would castigate the dirt and unhygienic practices around the temples that he
visited but his eye did not fail to notice the grandeur of temple art. Likewise,
even while he castigated the villages for not maintaining the best of hygienic
principles and for some of their social practices he did not fail to understand
that village craftsmen produced high quality goods, and that the villages were
the basis of the Indian economy.
He therefore DID NOT EMPTY THE BABY WITH THE BATH WATER, nor did he
side with the Christian missionaries ("asuric forces") who were alert to every failing
of Hindu society and even invented some when there were none. He was well aware
of their designs. He did not play into their hands, even while he was self critical.
For us today, it is important to note that he did not connect Varna and Jati
with Hindu spirituality or the religion per se. His interests were in the
future village life of India.
Indeed he famously said that India lives in her villages. That was especially
true of his time and continues to be so, despite the onset of a vigorous
liberalization, modernization and urbanization of Indian economic life.
The ideal village republic would be agriculture based, with handicrafts and
small agro based industries,as the secondary but vital component of the village
economy. Those who belonged to specific Jatis would be free to leave and move
to another occupation, but when they stayed (voluntarily) this would increase
their excellence of work and pride in their work. Today, all over India the
excellence of Indian handicrafts can easily be seen, although the lack of genuine
encouragement by respective state governments is felt in that many of the
handicrafts are dying. In cases where the family is the owner and operator of the
business, the craft continues , as for example the famed mirror makers of
Arumulla (Kerala) who produce mirrors from burnished metal only, without
any glass (a special alloy is used). Or the people who make the boats for the
snake boat races in Kerala, where the knowledge of building these boats is based
on the relevant shastras.
In many ways Swami Ramdev’s work in the villages, the revival of Ayurveda and
Yoga in the Indian setting is like a Gandhian enterprise.
Shri S. Gurumurthy (economist, accountant and political commentator) has written
on the question of the small and medium industries in India being caste based:
"A UNIDO study (1997) shows that out of the 370 small scale industrial clusters
and 2,600 artisan-based clusters, which generated 70 per cent of India’s
industrial output, 66 per cent of exports, and 40 per cent of employment, only
13 were government sponsored. The rest had evolved out of the caste-community
(S.Gurumurthy, ‘Is caste an economic development vehicle ?’ The Hindu, Jan.19,
The Scheduled Castes are on their way up. Work with the tribals is a slow process,
but the sterling work of the Sangh organizations is encouraging. Bhangism remains
and must be vigorously combated. The work of Dr. B. Pathak must be cited here. It
is the absence of technology that is the culprit here as he points out. He and his
organization have established practical methods of doing away with Bhangism.
In 1970 he launched the Sulabh Sanitation Movement which then set up a non-profit organization called Sulabh Shauchalaya Sansthan which combined sanitation and
humane ideology. They came up with a toilet popularly known as Sulabh Shanchalaya.
This is superior to the sewerage system:
“The crux of the problem was devising a system which would dispense with the
need of engaging scavengers to clean human excreta from the individual households.
After extensive research and ground work I came up with a simple and cost effective
low-cost technology of two-pit pour flush toilet popularly known as
The details of this and the difficulties of the sewerage system are well
described in Dr.Pathak’s report:
‘Present Dalit (Scavengers) Situation in India’ Dr.Bindeshwar Pathak
This report is a good example of an account of a concrete project that seeks
to solve a social problem. (Editor's note: Providing sanitation engineering and
infrastructure such as adequate water supply including clean drinking water,
clean environment with adequate waste management are governmental
responsibilities including those of local Municipalities with participation
of the civic minded citizens and this is not an issue related to the societal
structure or Varna and Jati)
The canny and crooked ways of the missionaries must be noted and Hindu India
cannot afford to be complacent about it. On the other hand, any excessive
mea culpaing alone will not help. Since neither the Hindu
religion, nor Varna and Jati are responsible for the ongoing oppression of the
ex-Untouchables, the way out is to vigorously follow Gandhiji in his footsteps
and set about the business of housecleaning. Dr.Pathak is a fine contemporary
example. So are unknown and unsung individuals and NGOs and above all the
Sangh Parivar organizations whose various cadres are always in the forefront
not only in eradicating social evils but also in helping out during natural
disasters like floods and tsunamis.
It is also important for Hindus to be mindful of not producing reports such as
the HAF report (however well intentioned) that because of excessive
mea culpaing and an attempt to please some imaginary audience
or even a real one composed of those that would like to break India, end up
handing everything over to those same asuric forces. It is hard to tread that
fine line, and yet it must be done.
(the writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).