Book Review on “The origin of caste system in Hinduism”
Sharma, Bal Krishna. The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism and its Relevance in the Present Context. Kathmandu: Samdan Publishers, 1999. Pp. 206. NRs. 95.00/-
It has been centuries that many of the Hindu religious literature have been kept separated and untranslated from the majority of the Nepalese, especially the marginalized caste group. Most of the people of Nepal are unknown with such literature and their religious teachings and historical progression about the caste system. As a result, we have very diminutive knowledge about the utility of the caste system including the wrong perspectives that have resulted in no good impact on Nepali society at all.
Out of this context, the author is concerned to dig out the proper and genuine meaning of the caste system in Hinduism. We can find some Nepali authors who wrote about the caste system. However, the author’s focus on the subject matter of the caste system and its relevance in the present context is one of the innovative steps that can be the cornerstone for the next generation to eliminate the drawbacks of the caste system in Hinduism as well as to establish human equality in the society.
The caste system in the Rigvedic period was established for the equal distribution of rights and occupations towards the people. There were no motives for discriminating any other occupational people group, and there was the common practice of inter-caste marriage and dining. However, as time passed by people began to misinterpret the Rigved for their advantages. Upanishad developed the Karma–samsara theory to make the Vaisyas and Shudras to live to agree on the fate of their life and not providing the opportunity to raise from their social standing. They were taught to wait for the next birth for a brighter fate.
Gautama Dharma-sutra 21:1-3 described the basic crime, which causes the loss of caste. Moreover, it was derived from the authority of Sruti and tried to implement in the society, and the laws of commensality between the four castes started. Furthermore, if a Shudra touches the food, the Brahmana person could not eat. Mahabharata taught that the characters of Brahman had to be developed not to change the occupation. Ramayana followed the teaching of the Smriti, Dharmashastras, and Dharmasutras that is to obey the rules of the integral caste system. Gita portrayed the four Varnas regarding the dominant gunas or according to the working duties of men. Gita also followed the importance of the heredity occupation and being obedient to the caste principle. The lord Krishna emphasized the accomplishment of the own duty according to the caste, but he did not speak on behalf of Dalits and their right to choose any occupation though he had a close friend called Sudhama, the shudra. Furthermore, the ruling dynasties also followed the previous tradition without evaluating its practical application and equal judgment for the people of their society.
As a result, the planted caste rigid system of Indian Hinduism in Nepal also has been assimilated of many beliefs including demonism and tantrism but left many original purposes and the basic norms of the Caste System that is providing the common human rights and services to the entire people. That’s why the author has proposed the common ground for the people of different faiths to work for establishing humanity in society. The corresponding task of the author between the Nepalese with Hinduism is very appreciable.
The methodology applied to the study seems to be successful to grab the attention of Nepalese society. The result would be better and different if there would be an equal number of respondents from every caste group and an equal number of leader from every sect for the respondent were chosen collectively from all over Nepal. The outcomes of the translated Nepali questionnaire are informative and respondents might have understood the questions clearly. The optional answers provided for each question were also very applicable according to the understanding of the Nepalese society.
Nepalese society is now going through lots of economic, political, and social problems. People talk and teach about the remedy of caste discrimination by strengthening the marginalized people group in education and living standards. However, the author has raised the root of the caste problem regarding religion. This perspective is very accurate in every sense because the problem we see today in our societies is no different than the fruit produced through the root of religious literature. He has dug the contradicting teaching about the Rigved and other following Hinduism literature such as Upanishads, Smriti Literature, and Dharmasutras which claims to be derived authoritative from Sruti Literature.
The promise of the Hindu religious literature to provide the higher caste only in the next birth is the daydream. However, the promise was given to the Shudra by religious literature that was even dissimilar with their previous authentic literature such as Rigved and Sruti literature. The author had much space and opportunity to raise the Biblical teaching about only one physical birth of a person. The author seems to be sympathetic for a Rigved period regarding having no discrimination in the caste system, and it is very important for sharing the right teaching of the people who are living in wrong belief and understanding.
“The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism and its Relevance in the Present Context” is an informative and practical book for the present context in Nepali society. People are looking for a way to manage the caste problem in Hinduism. This book has certainly dealt with many drawbacks of the caste system in Hinduism. The caste system may be understood as an old tradition, but it is still made of the principle of the task and services. That is the reason, we just need to focus on the right management of tasks and services and avoid its drawbacks.