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Manu Smrti: Not a Religious Book:

"The Seniority of Brahmanas is from Sacred Knowledge, that of Kshatriyas from valour, that of Vaisyas from wealth in grain, but that of Sudras is from age alone."  (Manu Smriti II, 155)

"Manu has declared that those Brahmanas who are thieves, outcasts, eunuchs, or atheists are unworthy to partake of oblations offered to gods and ancestors."   (Manu Smriti III, 150)

" A Brahmin who departs from the Rule of Noble Conduct, does not gain the fruit described in the Veda, but he who duly follows the Rule of Noble Conduct, will obtain the full reward."  (Manu Smriti I,109)

" He who possesses faith may receive pure learning even from a man of lower caste, the highest law even from the lowest, and an excellent wife even from a base family."   (Manu Smriti II, 238)

Manu Smrti which outlines the scheme of the four varnas (socio-economic classes) and four ashramas (stages of life of the individual) refuses a provide for the fifth varna. The four classes are adequate to cover all the sections of the society. Manu Smrti is a sociological treatise and not a religious or theological work. It has never been held on par with the Vedas and has never been claimed to be a Holy Book whose authority is unquestionable. Manu Smrti does not deal with the Absolute, a field specialized in by the Upanishads. Manu Smrti is as this-worldly as the Arthasastra is.  Manu was also only a Codifier (Documenter of the then-existing codes) of the Caste System and was not to be interpreted as the creator of the Caste System. 

" Only the British administrators and jurists who dominated the scene since 1757 found it expedient for their purposes to present it as a religious code binding all the Hindus. The original text of Manu Smrti has been tampered with is acknowledged by Sir William Jones who introduced it as the law book of the Hindus, as he agrees that ' it is accommodated to the improvements of a commercial age'. The extant text of Manu Smrti is a doctored version, doctored to benefit the commercial class of Britain which had sponsored the East India Company, the company for which he was serving as a judge at Calcutta." 

(source: Origins of Hindu Social System - By V. Nagarajan ISBN 81-7192-017-9 p 3-11).

Varnashrama Dharma, said to be the mainstay of the Hindu Social Order has no sanction in the Vedas. 

In ancient India, these divisions were not based on birth but based on qualifications. According to the Bhagavad Gita this Aryan family system broke down in India over three thousand years ago at the time of Krishna. Hence after three thousand years this system of determining natural aptitude has degenerated into the caste system which resembles it now only in form.

Manu made it clear that superiority is not by birth but by Conduct. This Principle was further emphasized later by Maharishi Veda Vyasa in Mahabharata. Manu himself says that if there is anything in his Smriti which is not acceptable to the conscience of any person, that person should reject it and act according to his/her own conscience.

"For choosing your course of conduct at any time and place, keep in view the instructions given first in Sruti (Vedas), then in Smritis, Itihaas (History of great personalities) and finally you act according to your conscience." 
(Manu Smriti, 11, 6).

"Just as a wooden toy elephant cannot be real elephant, and a stuffed deer cannot be a real deer, so, without studying scriptures and the Vedas and the development of intellect, a Brahmin by birth cannot be considered a Brahmin. "
 - Manu Smriti 11 - 157). 


Louis Francois Jacolliot (1837-1890), who worked in French India as a government official and was at one time President of the Court in Chandranagar, translated numerous Vedic hymns, the Manusmriti, and the Tamil work, Kural. His masterpiece, La Bible dans l'Inde, stirred a storm of controversy.

Manu – Hindoo Law 

The Hindoo law were codified by Manu more than 3,000 years before the Christian era, copied by entire antiquity and notably by Rome, which alone has left us a written law – the code of Justanian, which has been adopted as the base of all modern legislations.   


“Observe, enpassant, this striking coincidence with French law, that the Hindoo wife, in default of her husband’s authority may release from her incapacity, by authority of justice. “  “The contract made by a man who is drunk, foolish, imbecile or grievously disordered in his mental condition….” Manu further adds – “What is held under comprehension – held by force is declared null.” 

Would not this be thought a mere commentary on the Code of Napoleon? Of 4-5,000 years after “How far is all this from those barbarous customs of first ages, when every question was solved by violence and force, and what admiration should we feel for a people who, at the epoch at which Biblical fall would date the world’s creation, had already reached the extraordinary degree of civilization indicated by laws so simple and so practical.” 

(source: La Bible dans l'Inde - By Louis Jacolliot  p. 40 - 45). For more on Louis Jacolliot refer to Quotes61-80).

Caste system and Code of Manu

The Hindus have been an intensely practical people.  The magnificence of daring glimpses into the cosmos as their meditations or scientific investigations revealed to them, convinced them beyond doubt that the complexity of earthly existence could be reduced to some order and the march of human progress subjected to some form of control. They embraced in their researches such subjects as astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, ethics, logic, psychology, aesthetics, politics, economics, sociology, and metaphysics. Indeed, in sociology alone, they have left us over twenty treatises; and the Code of Manu, the subject of the present study, is only one of them. 

Manu, Manas, manava, all have the same philological root, man, to think. Manu’s Code, therefore, is a treatise of social relations for human beings. (Manava-dharma-shastra). It lays emphasis on reason, the thinking faculty (manas), in the ordering of man’s social relations. It stands for a planned society. Manu’s social theory is an art of life; it is a technique, not mere congeries of consistent concepts. 

An individual’s life is divided into four parts – 1. studentship, 2 householding 3. partial retirement or hermitage, 4. and complete retirement. Correspondingly, there are four groups: 1. the manual worker, 2. the merchant, 3. the warrior , and 4. the teacher. A unity of function ties each stage of individual life to the corresponding group. This unity, which lays emphasis on harmonious relations, is the dharma, or the ethics of Manu. There are thus presented four social institutions: 1. the educational, 2. the family-economic, 3. the political, 4. and the religious.

(source: Manu: A Study in Hindu Social Theory - by Kewal Motwani  p. 2 – 5).

Stable Human societies 

Alain Danielou says:

"The Hindus assert that their social formula meets the requirements of man’s individual and collective nature. The fact that the Hindu civilization has been able to survive over thousand of years, despite disorders caused by invasions, schisms, and internal wars, and has been capable of constant renewal, as demonstrated by one brilliant period after another, merits all our attention in the study of a social system whose longevity is unique in history."

(source: Virtue, Success, Pleasure, & Liberation : The Four Aims of Life in the Tradition of Ancient India - Alain Danielou p. 29).


Aryan Invasion Theory and Caste system

Guy Sorman visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new liberalism in France, writes:

"The Invasion theory has today become the standard explanation for the caste system, though it came up only in the 19th century. Besides, all we have to attest the Aryan invasion is a specious interpretation of the Mahabharata, which is like searching the origins of European aristocracy in the works of Homer! In any case, it is doubtful whether a single invasion, which was more likely a slow infiltration of the North, could have succeeded in structuring so perfectly Indian society along ethnic lines for over three thousand years. Finally, in South India the caste system among the dark, skinned Dravidians is as rigid as it is in the North, though the Aryans in all probability never reached there. 

The racial origin of caste hypothesis tells us little about India but it does tell us a great deal about the 19th century Westerners who invented the Aryan invasion theory.  It was at the same time that Sieyes and Augustin Thierry claimed that the French nobility was of Germanic stock, whereas the lower classes were of Gallic origin; so the 1789 Revolution was a race war rather than a class war! It was also in the 19th century that appeared the myth of the Indo-Europeans being at the source of all Western civilization and for this we have to thank British authors who were taken up with evolutionist theory. Indian historians trained in Europe have fallen victim to this myth but that does not make it any more authentic. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, it became fashionable to support the Marxist theory which replaced race with class, though its premises were just as shaky."

(source: The Genius of India - By Guy Sorman  ('Le Genie de l'Inde') Macmillan India Ltd. 2001. ISBN 0333 93600 0 p. 60-61). 


Indian caste system is a western construct, says scholar at ICHR lecture

He said that the caste system was only a "grand assumption", as there is ambiguity about the origins of such a system in India.

India has castes, but not a caste system. The latter is only a western construct, which helped Europeans come to terms with their experience of Indian culture and society, Dr Prakash Shah told his audience at the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on Wednesday. 

His questioning of the existence of a caste system in India was part of a lecture series organised by ICHR, which is the apex body for funding historical research in the country.

Shah, a reader of culture and law at Queen Mary University of London, said the caste system and the rules of hierarchy, endogamy, ritual purity and untouchability associated with it were only a “grand assumption”, as there is ambiguity about the origins of such a system in India. His lecture was based on his upcoming book ‘Western Foundation of Caste System’, which he has co-edited with three other scholars. 

“We cannot say with clarity what a caste system is and, certainly, we cannot say with any clarity what the Indian caste system is. We also don’t know whether these (ritual purity, endogamy, untouchability, etc) are constituent elements or the consequences of the caste system. For example, violence. Do I need to say that violence is an integral element of the caste system or is it an outcome of something that already exists?” he asked his audience.
Indians, he further said, accepted the colonial theory of caste system, which was questioned even by European scholars in the 19th century. “In the 19th century even European scholars were disagreeing about even the possibility that a pan-Indian caste system could ever had arisen… With such a diversity in cultures and languages, how is it possible that a single alleged priestly class could exercise its influence over the length and breadth of the subcontinent to such a degree that it could introduce a singular caste system throughout this culture? They used to ask that question with a great deal of seriousness. But today we the existence of a pan-Indian caste system for granted.”

In another argument to bolster his case for the absence of caste system in India, Shah said that Buddhism and Bhakti movements were not anti-caste movements. “There is one sutra that talks about the Buddha and this discussion he is having on what does it require to be a true Brahmin. When you examine that you realise that this (Buddhism) is not an anti-caste thing at all. Actually the discussion in the ancient days was about who is a true Brahmin. It’s not about destabilising some kind of idea of caste or the caste system that may have existed at that time at all. So we can’t reduce the Buddha as an exemplary anti-caste activist.” 

Referring to a chapter on caste violence in his book, Shah questioned the idea of oppression that is associated with the caste system. He claimed that official data on caste-related violence in the country showed the proportion of SCs and STs who experience atrocities (against each other or by members of another group) is disproportionately less than the violence experienced by members of other groups.

When asked how he would explain the violence or discrimination directed at Dalits if there is no caste system in India, he said, “I am not neglecting or dismissing claims that there are injustices in Indian society… Don’t all societies have injustices? Let’s go and research them. But let’s not assume that the caste system is a necessary explanation for the kinds of ills we see.” 

As for Indians who believe in the caste system, he said, “I would say that is part of the acceptance of the colonial story. (SN) Balagangadhara (of Ghent University, Belgium) describes it as a form of colonial consciousness which underwrites the claim of immorality. We generally accept that. It’s not an inferiority complex. Because the European cultural claims about the Indian society are essentially normative in nature, they are bound to put Indians in an inferior moral position. They also put the westerners in a morally superior position. That’s part and parcel of the baggage that we’ve been made to accept since colonial period. We have accepted this story because of the force of the colonial violence.”

(source: Indian caste system is a western construct, says scholar at ICHR lecture).


Guha's Self Flagellation

Of India’s ‘Invention’ Of The Caste System And Its Constant Battle Against It 

When writer and historian Ramachandra Guha spoke about the Indian ‘caste system’ at London School of Economics (LSE) last week, Isaac Asimov, that venerable old doctor of science fiction, had been dead for twenty five years. Had he been alive, Asimov would perhaps have been quick to point out the need to avoid such extraordinary self-flagellation

At LSE, Guha said, “Caste system is the most rigorous, most diabolical system of social stratification ever invented by humans, and we, Hindus, invented it.” 

Really? Did ‘Hindus’ invent the caste system? And is the Indian caste system “the most rigorous, most diabolical system of social stratification”? 

A science-fiction short story that is over half a century old may be a strange place to look for a rebuttal to Guha’s pompous declaration, but it is apt. Strikebreaker, written by Isaac Asimov in 1957, deals with a future human society in a different planet where the practice of untouchability has arisen and an untouchable rebels against the system’s injustice, thereby throwing the small planet into a mighty crisis. A sociologist from Earth, who finds himself in the midst of the expanding crisis, reminisces about untouchability in his planet’s hoary past: “Lamorak thought of the Untouchables in ancient India, the ones who handled corpses. He thought of the position of swineherds in ancient Judea.” With this one sentence, Asimov creates a crack in the attribution of caste as a unique institution invented by Hindus.

Historian Kathy Stuart, who studies social stratification in pre-modern Europe, says that throughout the so-called Holy Roman Empire, “people belonging to the dishonorable trades suffered various forms of social, economic, legal and political discrimination on a graduated scale of dishonor at the hands of "honorable" guild artisans and in "honorable" society at large.” 

The dishonourable professions were that of executioners and skinners. People who carried out such jobs “might be pelted with stones by onlookers, they might be refused access to taverns, excluded from public baths, or denied honorable burial.” Stuart also states that the “dishonor was transmitted through heredity, often over several generations...” (Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany, Cambridge University Press, 2006) 

Traditional social stratification in the West was steeply pyramidal and seven-fold (as against India’s Varna system, which is four-fold). 

The entry under ‘Labour’ in A Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature (1840) states that in Christian lands until nineteenth century, “the hereditary hewers of wood and drawers of water” were considered “doomed by Providence, if not primarily by the Creator himself, to a low and degrading yoke, and utterly incapable of entertaining lofty sentiments or rising to a higher position; to be restrained therefore in every manifestation of impatience, lest they should temporarily gain the upper-hand and lay waste the fair fields of civilization; and to be kept under for the safety of the society, if not for their own safety, by social burdens and depressing influences of disregard and contempt.” 

In other words, the birth-based multi-layered institutions of pre-modern Europe were supported by Christian theologians and lawmakers. This does not make Christianity, in the eyes of modern scholars, a supporter or inventor of a “diabolical” system. 

However, with Hinduism, a different yardstick is used.

Interestingly, the nineteenth-century writer of that entry compares serfs and slaves with the pariahs. But as leaders of the scheduled communities have repeatedly pointed out, Paraiyars (anglicised as Pariah) enjoyed great privileges and ritual respects in Hindu society, most probably till the advent of colonial times. Sure, there were social upheavals in which communities were tossed from greater positions in society to lower ones and vice versa. But, in the Indian context, the communities’ share of power and resources were largely more democratic than diabolically oppressive as Guha claims.

So while colonialists both justified and later opposed jāthi, seeing it through the lens of their pyramidal social stratification, it is the horizontal distribution of both sacred and secular power among all sections of society that distinguishes Hindu Varna-Jāthi system from its Western counterpart. Hindus, in fact, invented the Varna system. It provided a worth-based matrix to the birth-based jāthi system. Perhaps, when it originated, it would have been the only social system in the world that was more worth-based than birth-based. It served to check and control the ill effects of the birth-based system of privileges and disabilities. 

Even B R Ambedkar noted the diametrically opposite nature of Varna and jāthi

Varna is based on the principle of each according to his worth, while Caste is based on the principle of each according to his birth. The two are as distinct as chalk is from cheese. In fact there is an antithesis between the two. 

The caste system in the West disappeared only with the colonial expansion of the West. With power over natural resources of three continents, namely Africa, Americas and Australia, and with inflow of slave labour, which was subsequently replaced by indentured labour, mainly from India, the abolition of caste system was easier. Now untouchable communities like the Cogots are a distant memory for the West.

In the case of India, caste system became rigid in the nineteenth century as resources started draining through colonialism. One needs to add to this the colonial efforts to freeze castes through census and efforts to create as much division in the society as possible through essentialising of the communities. Thus, the British created out of Indian communities martial races and criminal tribes. Such fixed essentialising of community characters was largely, though not entirely, absent in the Indian narrative.

So, for an anthropologist with a deeper vision, what is that which makes Indian caste system distinct? There is not a single instance of mass movement in Christendom that spoke for these voiceless people of “dishonourable” trades. Martin Luther, the great reformer, took pride in saying he was instrumental in the massacre of peasants. There is not a single traditional Christian Saint who spoke against the treatment meted out to European untouchable communities, though they did exist. But what distinguishes India is the constant voice of spiritual emancipation which was raised for the marginal communities in society – and often helping communities break the shackles in the process.

Systems of hereditary social stratification can evolve anywhere in the presence of appropriate social conditions. In India, it is called jāthi tempered by Varna, which as Bhagavad Gita points out, is based on swadharma, according to Krishna. Arjuna, in his confusion, mixed it up with kuladharma and jāthi.

So Hindus can forfeit the notoriety heaped on them by Guha. Hindus neither invented the ‘caste system’ nor made it the most diabolical. Many such systems have thrived across the world in the past. Yes, a great deal of injustice has been committed in the name of caste – and that needs to be corrected. But let us also remember that several reform movements have arisen from within the Hindu fold to do just this.

(source:  Of India’s ‘Invention’ Of The Caste System And Its Constant Battle Against It - by Aravindan Neelakandan).

Refer to chapter on Aryan Invasion Theory. Watch An Invasion through Conversion - Watch video - Brahmins in India have become a minority


Tirupati Lord goes to Dalit village

On Wednesday evening, Lord Balaji, the diety at the famous Tirupati shrine in Andhra Pradesh, will make history.

He will be spending the night in a Dalit colony at the Thallapaka village.


Lord Balaji

The Lord will be spending the night in a Dalit colony at the Thallapaka village.


This is part of a programme called Dalita Govindam, initiated by the Tirupati Devasthanam, to fight caste prejudices.

Temple priests will perform sacred rituals at the colony and the colony residents will also be accorded treatment, ususally reserved for important devotees visiting the Tirupati temple. Thallapaka has witnessed several clashes in the past between Dalits and upper caste Hindus over entry into the Tirupati temple.

(source: Tirupati Lord goes to Dalit village -

Thousands of Hindus vow to end caste divide
Truth and Reconciliation Conference

New Delhi, March 10 IANS:  Railway porters in their trademark red uniform, Hindu holy men in saffron robes, social activists, large numbers from the middle class...all joined hands here as spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched a campaign to end centuries of discrimination against Dalits.  

Leaders of several social groups from within the Hindu community, the Dalits included, were among the 4,000 who gathered at the open air theatre in Pragati Maidan here Friday evening and took a pledge to end the caste divide that Ravi Shankar warned would harm India 's progress in the long run.   A seven-point action plan that Ravi Shankar unveiled at the meeting and which the thousands of men and women accepted with their right hands outstretched included an immediate end to the ban on the entry of Dalits into Hindu temples in parts of India .  The other aspects of the 'action plan' are ending the practice of keeping separate utensils for the use of Dalits in eateries and also providing religious and spiritual education to Dalit children.  

'The anger of the past should not engulf us and divide the country. The fear and communication gap between communities is what is keeping us apart,' he said in a brief address, first in English and then in Hindi. 'We must accept the reality and reconcile the differences.  

'What we have started today will resonate across the country and unite the people. When leaders come together and take a vow, the people will follow them,' he added. 'My main concern is how to bring people together.'  

The organisers pointed out that months of painstaking hard work had gone into the conference, with Ravi Shankar - whose Art of Living Foundation has millions of followers across the world - reaching out to the leaders and activists of a wide variety of social groups in the Hindu fold.  

Present at the 'Truth and Reconciliation Conference' were representatives of the Bhumihar, Valmiki, Brahmin, Dalit, Gujjar, Vanniar, Kayastha, Kshatriya, Kurmi, Mahar, Majhabi, Marwari, Meena, Mushar, Paswan, Raigar, Rajput, Thakur, Thevar, Pasi, Mala, Vaish, Valmiki, Verma and Yadav communities.  

Ravi Shankar pointed out that many were unaware that Dalits had contributed immensely in the development of Hindu scriptures.  

'Historically, many of the revered rishis were Dalits. The authors of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Maharishis Valmiki and Vyas respectively, were Dalits. The narrator of the Puranas, Soot Maharishi, was a Dalit...We need to make the people realise that discrimination is not sanctioned by religion.'  

Despite legislation making discrimination against Dalits a crime, the offence continues in large parts of India . Many young Dalits have today joined the ranks of Maoists in sheer disgust, convinced that mainstream India does not care for them. Speaker after speaker at the conference praised Ravi Shankar for his initiative and promised to spread the 'action plan' in their areas of influence.  

But Udit Raj, a civil servant-turned-social activist, cautioned that it would need more than a public pledge to end caste discrimination. 'The fact is that the Dalit community to which I belong has no representation in the capital market, in the share market. There is hardly any Dalit among the leading journalists in this country. Can I forget all that?' he said, describing the state of a community that for centuries was considered 'untouchable' by high caste Hindus and made to do demeaning work.  'The wound goes very deep,' Udit Raj said. 'The media calls me a Dalit leader. Why? Do they call Atal Bihari Vajpayee a Brahmin leader? Do they call L.K. Advani a Sindhi leader?  ' India cannot be a superpower unless caste discrimination does not end. I see so many (middle class) volunteers from the so-called upper castes here. But will they attend my rallies too? They won't.' He quickly added: 'But this is the beginning.

(source: Thousands of Hindus vow to end caste divide -

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