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Indian texts are riddled with controversial claims; but only if you deliberately decide to isolate the sayings

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India is an ancient civilization. There had been the Indus valley as the main source of majority of India as we know it. With the years of civilization, there comes values, culture and teaching, that too are as old as the civilization we can so proudly say ourselves to be a part of. That means that there must have been controversial claims and teachings as well. Because thinking that our ancient ancestors were pure and didn’t do mistakes, is the first step of sidelining ourselves from the Indian culture, which had in summary taught us that only change is eternal, and you need to stay updated with time.

I recently read an article on Scroll in which they declared:

All the Dharma sutras and Dharma shastras asserted that the main task of the Shudras was to serve the twice-born (Apastamba DharmaSutra I.1.1.7-8.

– Caste discrimination: India must disown parts of ancient texts that contradict the Constitution

See how they mention “All” and then quickly fall back to only 2 or 3 such scriptures which ever mentioned the caste system in it’s entirety. But is it correct to isolate the saying of these scriptures out of the context and then claim that you have proved that Indian culture had been discriminatory from the start. I do agree caste system was an integral part of Indian culture, but was it as vile and as discriminatory as is portrayed? Let’s decode each scripture one by one. The first in the list of the scriptures is the Apastamba Dharmasutra.

Now, if you read the Apastamba Dharmasutra in it’s entirety, this is what it teaches:

Āpastamba proposes that scriptures alone cannot be source of Law (dharma), and dharma has an empirical nature. Āpastamba asserts that it is difficult to find absolute sources of law, in ancient books or current people, by stating as follows, according to Patrick Olivelle:

“The Righteous (dharma) and the Unrighteous (adharma) do not go around saying, ‘here we are!’; Nor do gods, Gandharvas or ancestors declare, ‘This is righteous and that is unrighteous’.”

Laws must also change with ages, states Āpastamba, a theory that became known as Yuga dharma in Hindu traditions. Āpastamba also asserts in verses 2.29.11-15 a broad minded and liberal view. The Apastamba Dharmasutra also recognizes property rights of women, and her ability to inherit wealth from her parents.

Aspects of dharma not taught in Dharmasastras can be learned from women and people of all classes.

I will not deny the fact that the Apastamba does tell in I.1.1.7-8, for the Sudras to serve the higher caste people. But if you understand where Apastamba took that reference from, you will realize it merely quotes Manu for the discrimination against Sudras. The same Manu whose Manusmriti was the most controversial text ever exiting in Indian culture, and the same Manusmriti that was easily forgotten by Indian people, only to be brought back by the Britishers, to apply their strategy of divide and rule. The so called four-fold hierarchy was derived from the same Brahman texts. This system of categorization was only textual or theoretical; which had no connection to the reality on the ground. This became embarrassingly evident from the first census in the 1860s when the British government decided to fit all the Hindu population in one of the four categories. WR Cornish who supervised the census of 1871 stated:

… regarding the origin of caste we can place no reliance upon the statements made in the Hindu sacred writings. Whether there was ever a period in which the Hindus were composed of four classes is exceedingly doubtful”.

-WR Cornish (Census of 1871)

In fact there is no evidence that the caste was such a significant feature of Indian society, before the British decided to use it and make it a definitive social feature.

The next in line is the Mahabharat Mahabharata, Shanti Parva 60.28. We don’t need to tell you what Mahabharat teaches. For the god’s own fools, there are several translations and summary to read online to get a gist of what Mahabharat really means. To quote the words as they are:

bharat! ab maian shoodr ka bhi dharm tumhean bata raha hooan. prajapati ne any tinoan varnoan ke sevak ke roop mean shoodr ki srishti ki hai; atah shoodr ke liye tinoan varnoan ki seva hi shastr-vihit karm hai.

Mahabharata, Shanti Parva 60.28

The Shanti Parva book is set after the war is over, both the sides have made peace and Yudhishthir has started his rule. The book is recites duties of the ruler, dharma and good governance, as counseled by dying Bhisma and various Rishis. But there is a very important part that people reading with a biased mind miss.

Chapters 188 and 189 of the parva begin by reciting Bhrigu’s theory of varna, according to whom Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are differentiated as white, red, yellow and black. Rishi Bharadwaja asks how can we differentiate between castes when all the colors are observed in every class of people, all groups experience the same desire, same anger, same fear, same grief, and all other emotions? Everyone is born same, carries blood and bile, die same way, asserts Bharadwaj. So why do castes exist? Bhrigu replies

there is no differnence between castes. It arose because of differentiation of work. Duty and rites of passage are not forbidden to any of them.

Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, Chapter 188 and 189

According to John Muir, Shanti Parva and its complementary book Anushasana Parva claim:

Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, Chapter 188 and 189

The last of the texts is the Manusmriti, which is often cited as the main source of the caste based system. The verse, shamelessly mentioned by the Scroll editor mentioned Manusmriti X.127, which quotes:

dharmaipsavastu dharmajñāḥ satāṃ vṛttamanuṣṭhitāḥ |

mantravarjyaṃ na duṣyanti praśaṃsāṃ prāpnuvanti ca || 127 ||

If those who, knowing their duty, and wishing to acquire merit, imitate the practices of righteous men, with the exception of reciting the sacred texts, they incur no guilt; they obtain praise.—(127)

Manusmriti 10.127

You can visit the link in the citation to see what it actually means. If I translate it to English, as per the translation done by Ganganath Jha, this verse is quoted in Smṛtitattva II (p. 381), as prohibiting for Śūdras the performance of rites accompanied with the reciting of mantras;—and in Śāntimayūkha (p. 2), which quotes Medhātithi’s view that ‘this verse entitles Śūdras only to Fasts and such acts as are done without the use of Vedic mantras. These views are not correct, because to Fasts and other such acts they are entitled by virtue of the injunctions of those acts themselves, and the present verse would be superfluous.

So why is it that every time these so called educated liberals try to justify the caste system by mentioning one or the other texts, which when isolated can really wreak havoc on your mind. You have to read the texts in their entirety, because they are in themselves a story on how a man, a society and humans should exist peacefully on this earth. You would stop reading Harry Potter in between and come to conclusion that Snape was a villain. That would be superfluous, because you are twisting the reality to fit your own agenda. The books, the sacred texts are to be read in their entirety and with complimentary books.

Next time when you see someone mentioning these texts, do your own research. Or reach out to your nearest educated person on twitter. You know where to find and whom to find to debunk these propaganda masqueraded as justification of caste. The caste has been by virtue of your actions, and no propaganda can change that fact.

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