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Colonial Roots of 'Caste' and Its Impact on Hindu Society

  • Published
    1st Feb, 2024

Caste remains persistent in India. Therefore, the historical origins of the concept of 'caste' in India and its portrayal as an inherent social structure remains vital. It needs the exploration of the influence of Christian European missionaries during colonial times in shaping perceptions of Hindu society and the implications of this lens on contemporary discourse.

Missionary-Colonial Roots:

  • The missionary-colonial influence on 'caste' classifications, these lenses distorted the pre-existing varna-jati complex.
  • Drawing parallels with European misrepresentations of other cultural aspects, the 'caste,' along with Devadasi, Sati, and Jagannath Rath Yatra, served as tools to malign Hindu society.

International Context:

  • The missionary-colonial misrepresentation and it’s links to a broader global pattern is marked by the continuity of thought, action, and outcomes observed in Christian-dominated societies across continents.
  • This perspective sheds light on the systematic distortion of Hinduism and Indian culture for justifying intervention.

Distortion in Other Aspects:

  • Works on Devadasis and Sati, suggests that misrepresentations were not confined to 'caste'
  • Examples from history reveal a concerted effort to dehumanize and proselytize, raising questions about the reliability of early scholarly literature.

Contemporary Impact:

  • The acknowledgment of distortion is not an endorsement of casteism; instead, it is a call to understand the system before distortion.
  • Addressing contemporary social challenges requires original and culture-rooted solutions, as opposed to applying a Christian colonial template that perpetuates caste discourse.

Mulish Resistance to Research:

  • Despite calls for the "annihilation of caste", a resistance to research and comprehend the distinctions between the varna-jati complex and 'caste/tribe' classifications need a relook.
  • This intellectual reluctance, spanning beyond political ideologies, hinders progress in addressing societal challenges.
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