>A defense of the Hindu caste system?

>(REPOST FROM Monday, April 10, 2006)

Alain Danielou has written a book called “India: A Civilization of Differences: The Ancient Tradition of Universal Tolerance”. In his book he makes the controversial claim that the Hindu caste system is a defensible form of social organization. Rather than being a coercive institution that forcibly segregates people, it is indeed a justified ordering of people based on natural ability.

To be honest, I only skimmed the book, and I’m willing to be open to all sorts of revisionist history, and unorthodox perspectives generally. But I do wonder about Danielou’s thesis. After all, on one page I flipped to, a defense of Satee, or bride (widow) burning, appears to be defended. Now, my tolerance level for a wide assortment of aesthetially, and at first glance unappealing acts, is quite high. (Some time ago a story about a man in Germany who offered himself up to a cannibal through the classifieds really shook me up, but I decided that a defense of the cannibal could be justified.) The problem with Satee is that as far as I know, the widow, if not willing to throw herself upon the burning body of her deceased husband, is compelled to do so by others. Now that is just straight up murder.

One thing I’d like to ask Mr. Danielou however, is just why so many on the lower rung of the caste ladder happen to have darker skin. If he is correct about it all being a result of a voluntary and “natural” hierarchy (and I do believe in such a thing), then why would so many of those qualified to work in sewers happen to have a similar amount of melanin in their skin? Likewise, why do so many qualified to teach ancient texts be lighter in apperance? And what about “Untouchables”? Why the prohibition on even touching them?

I’m not an expert on Hinduism, and I’m only asking questions. Any further information would be appreciated.

Currently reading : India: A Civilization of Differences : The Ancient Tradition of Universal Tolerance By Alain Daniélou Release date: By 16 July, 2005


One thought on “>A defense of the Hindu caste system?

  1. >Thought I will drop a line. Yes its true that most of those in lower castes tend to be darker but darkness is not restricted to them alone. IT is not uncommon to find very dark skinned Brahmins. Just for disclaimer, I am a Brahmin, though my own extended family is a mosaic of colors. Its hard to tell whether caste system predates intermixing of tribes or followed it. No country has ever been monochromatic more so a country at crossroads, and no society has ever been truly utopian. I guess we must give a benefit of doubt to India too, and be willing to listen to nonconformist views.

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