History of the Indian caste system

History of the Indian caste system

The history of the Indian caste system dates back to the Vedic period.


The origin of the caste system as it is today is still obscure.

A 2001 genetic study, led by Michael Bamshad of the University of Utah, found that the affinity of Indians to Europeans is proportionate to caste rank, the upper castes being most similar to Europeans, whereas lower castes are more like Asians. The researchers believe that the Indo-European speakers entered India from the Northwest, admixing with or displacing the proto-Dravidian speakers. Subsequently they may have established a caste system and placed themselves primarily in higher castes. The study concludes that the Indian castes "are most likely to be of proto-Asian origin with West Eurasian admixture resulting in rank-related and sex-specific differences in the genetic affinities of castes to Asians and Europeans." [cite journal
last = Bamshad
first = Michael
coauthors = Kivisild T, Watkins WS, Dixon ME, Ricker CE, Rao BB, Naidu JM, Prasad BV, Reddy PG, Rasanayagam A, Papiha SS, Villems R, Redd AJ, Hammer MF, Nguyen SV, Carroll ML, Batzer MA, Jorde LB
year = 2001
month = June
title = Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations
journal = Gnome Research
volume = 11
issue = 6
pages = 994–1004
issn = 1088-9051/03
pmid = 11381027
doi = 10.1101/gr.GR-1733RR
url = http://www.genome.org/cgi/reprint/11/6/994
accessdate = 2007-09-09
] . Because the Indian samples for this study were taken from a single geographical area, it remains to be investigated whether its findings can be safely generalized. [cite journal
last = Basu
first = Analabha
coauthors = Namita Mukherjee, Sangita Roy, Sanghamitra Sengupta, Sanat Banerjee, Madan Chakraborty, Badal Dey, Monami Roy, Bidyut Roy, Nitai P. Bhattacharyya, Susanta Roychoudhury and Partha P. Majumder
year = 2003
title = Ethnic India: A Genomic View, With Special Reference to Peopling and Structure
journal = Gnome Research
volume = 13
issue = 10
pages = 2277–2290
issn = 1088-9051/03
pmid = 14525929
doi = 10.1101/gr.1413403
url = http://www.genome.org/cgi/reprint/13/10/2277
accessdate = 2007-09-09

An earlier 1995 study by Joanna L. Mountain et al. of Stanford University had concluded that there was "no clear separation into three genetically distinct groups along caste lines", although "an inferred tree revealed some clustering according to caste affiliation". [cite journal
last = Mountain
first = Joanna L.
coauthors = J M Hebert, S Bhattacharyya, P A Underhill, C Ottolenghi, M Gadgil, and L L Cavalli-Sforza
month = April
year = 1995
title = Demographic history of India and mtDNA-sequence diversity
journal = American Journal of Human Genetics
volume = 56
issue = 4
pages = 979–992
issn = 0002-9297
pmid = 7717409
doi =
url = http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1801212&blobtype=pdf
accessdate = 2007-09-09

A 2002-03 study by T. Kivisild et al. concluded that the "Indian tribal and caste populations derive largely from the same genetic heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians and have received limited gene flow from external regions since the Holocene." [cite journal
last = Kivisild
first = T.
coauthors = S. Rootsi, M. Metspalu, S. Mastana, K. Kaldma, J. Parik, E. Metspalu, M. Adojaan, H.-V. Tolk, V. Stepanov, M. Gölge, E. Usanga, S. S. Papiha, C. Cinnioglu, R. King, L. Cavalli-Sforza, P. A. Underhill, and R. Villems
month = February
year = 2003
title = The Genetic Heritage of the Earliest Settlers Persists Both in Indian Tribal and Caste Populations
journal = American Journal of Human Genetics
volume = 72
issue = 2
pages = 313–332
issn = 0002-9297
pmid = 12536373
doi =
url = http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=379225&blobtype=pdf
accessdate = 2007-09-09
] A 2006 genetic study by the National Institute of Biologicals in India, testing a sample of men from 32 tribal and 45 caste groups, concluded that the Indians have acquired very few genes from Indo-European speakers. [cite web
title=India Acquired Language, Not Genes, From West, Study Says
author=Brian Handwerk
publisher=National Geographic News

According to a 2006 study by Ismail Thanseem et al. of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (India) "the vast majority (>98%) of the Indian maternal gene pool, consisting of Indio-European and Dravidian speakers, is genetically more or less uniform", while the inavsions after the late Pleistocene settlement might have been mostly male-mediated. [cite journal
last = Thanseem
first = Ismail
coauthors = Kumarasamy Thangaraj, Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Vijay Kumar Singh, Lakkakula VKS Bhaskar, B Mohan Reddy, Alla G Reddy, and Lalji Singh
month = August
year = 2006
title = Genetic affinities among the lower castes and tribal groups of India: inference from Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA
journal = BMC Genetics
volume = 7
pages = 42
issn =
pmid =
doi = 10.1186/1471-2156-7-42
url = http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2156-7-42.pdf
accessdate = 2007-09-09
] The study concluded that the "lower caste groups might have originated with the hierarchical divisions that arose within the tribal groups with the spread of Neolithic agriculturalists, much earlier than the arrival of Aryan speakers", and "the Indo-Europeans established themselves as upper castes among this already developed caste-like class structure within the tribes." The study indicated that the Indian caste system may have its roots much before the arrival of the Indo-Aryan immigrants; a rudimentary version of the caste system may have emerged with the shift towards cultivation and settlements, and the divisions may have become more well-defined and intensified with the arrival of Indo-Aryans. [cite web
url = http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070101/asp/knowhow/story_7203802.asp
title = Caste in the genes
author = G.S. Mudur
publisher = The Telegraph, Calcutta
accessdate = 2007-08-31
date= January 01, 2007

Hindu scriptures

Although the Hindu scriptures contain some passages that can be interpreted to sanction the caste system, they also contain indications that the caste system is not an essential part of the Hindu religion, and both sides in the debate are able to find sections in scriptures that support their views.

The most ancient scriptures—the "Shruti" texts, or Vedas, place very little importance on the caste system, mentioning caste only rarely and in a cursory manner. A hymn from the Rig Veda seems to indicate that one's caste is not necessarily determined by that of one's family:

In the Vedic period, there also seems to no discrimination against the Shudras (which later became an ensemble of the so-called low-castes) on the issue of hearing the sacred words of the Vedas and fully participating in all religious rights, something which became totally banned in the later times [White Yajurveda 26.2] .

Later scriptures such as "Bhagavad Gita" and "Manusmriti" state that the four varnas are created by God. However, at the same time, the Gita says that one's varna is to be understood from one's personal qualities and one's "karma" (work), not one's birth. Some scholars believe that, in its initial period, the caste system was flexible and it was merit and job based. One could migrate from one caste to other caste by changing one's profession. This view is supported by records of sages who became Brahmins. For example, the sage Vishwamitra belonged to a Kshatriya caste, and only later became recognized as a great Brahmin sage, indicating that his caste was not determined by birth. Similarly, Valmiki, once a low-caste robber, became a great sage. Veda Vyasa, another sage, was the son of a fisherwoman [Sabhlok, Prem. [http://www.sabhlokcity.com/metaphysics/metaphysics.pdf "Glimpses of Vedic Metaphysics"] . Page 21.] . Vasishtha was a shudra and he became sage later.

Manusmriti, dated between 200 B.C.E. and 100 A.D., contains some laws that codified the caste system. Varna is mentioned as caste equivalent in Manusmriti. Manusmriti and some other shastras mention four varnas: The Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), the Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), the Vaishyas (traders, landowners and some artisan groups), and Shudras (agriculturists, service providers, and some artisan groups). Another group of untouchables excluded from the main society was called Parjanya or Antyaja. A varna can be viewed as a group of castes or a social division that consists of various sub-castes called "jāti"s.

Passages in Manusmriti and other scriptures suggest that the Indian caste system was originally non-hereditary:

The various smritis, like the Yagnavalkyasmriti and the Manusmriti strongly disapprove of marrying outside one's caste. The smritis also argue that new, despicable castes are formed out of such cases. According to these smritis, the chamars were born out of the union of a vaideha and a nishada, the chandals were born out of the sexual relations between a Brahmin and a Shudra [cite web
title=Caste, race, politics
author=Dipankar Gupta
] .

Emergence of rigid caste structures

Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to Chandragupta Maurya's court in India classified people of India into seven classes: philosophers, peasants, herdsmen, craftsmen and traders, soldiers, government officials and councilors.

In its later stages, the caste system is said to have become rigid, and caste began to be inherited rather than acquired by merit. In the past, members of different castes would not partake in various activities, such as dining and religious gatherings, together. In addition, the performance of religious rites and rituals were restricted to Brahmins, who were the designated priesthood.The "Pandaram" priests are an example of an order of Dravidian tamil priests, based in Nepal [http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2005/10-12/18-29_nepal.shtml Nepal's Downtrodden] ,"Hinduism Today"] and South India. [Moffatt, Michael, An Untouchable Community in South India: Structure and Consensus.Man, New Series, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), p. 208] The Pandaram maintain the same tradition as the Brahmin priests, including the use of the Sanskrit language (traditionally reserved for the Brahmins) for the rituals. While they are not generally as well trained as the Brahmin priests, they are highly respected within their community and are addressed with reverence.

According to the Manusmriti, every caste belongs to one of the four varnas (Brahmin, Kshtriya, Vaishya, and Shudra). However, there have been many disputes about the varna of many castes, such as castes being considered Kshatriya by some scholars, while described as Shudra by others. While texts such as the Manusmriti attempted to rationalize ambiguous castes by placing them in varna-sankaras (i.e. mixed varna), the fact remains that Indian society was, and is, composed of numerous geographically diversified but endogamous groups. With many occupational groups practicing endogamy within a particular region, as well as numerous sub-divisions within the four main castes, a more complex system of subcastes and jātis is evident. The jatis have broken up into clans like Agarwal, Iyer, etc.

Mobility across the castes

The view of the caste system as "static and unchanging" has been disputed by many scholars. For instance, sociolgists such as Bernard Buber and Marriott McKim describe how the perception of the caste system as a static and textual stratification has given way to the perception of the caste system as a more processual, empirical and contextual stratification. Other sociologists such as Y.B Damle have applied theoretical models to explain mobility and flexibility in the caste system in India.cite journal
author = James Silverberg
date= November 1969
year = 1969
month = Nov
title = Social Mobility in the Caste System in India: An Interdisciplinary Symposium
journal = The American Journal of Sociology
volume = 75
issue = 3
pages = 443–444
] . According to these scholars, groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.

Some scholars believe that the relative ranking of other castes was fluid or differed from one place to another prior to the arrival of the British. [cite web |url=http://www.ncert.nic.in/textbooks/XI/Un_socity_XI/Chapter%2010.pdf
title=Govind Sadashiv Ghurye: Ghurye's Views about Indian Society

The distinctions, particularly between the Brahmans and the other castes, were in theory sharper, but in practice it now appears that social restrictions were not so rigid. Brahmans often lived off the land and founded dynasties. Most of the groups claiming Kshatriya status had only recently acquired it. The conscious reference to being Kshatriya, a characteristic among Rajputs, is a noticeable feature in post-Gupta politics. The fact that many of these dynasties were of obscure origin suggests some social mobility: a person of any caste, having once acquired political power, could also acquire a genealogy connecting him with the traditional lineages and conferring Kshatriya status. A number of new castes, such as the Kayasthas (scribes) and Khatris (traders), are mentioned in the sources of this period. According to the Brahmanic sources, they originated from intercaste marriages, but this is clearly an attempt at rationalizing their rank in the hierarchy. Many of these new castes played a major role in society. The hierarchy of castes did not have a uniform distribution throughout the country. [ "India." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6 June 2008]

Flexibility in caste laws permitted very low-caste religious clerics such as Valmiki to compose the Ramayana, which became a central work of Hindu scripture.

According to some psychologists, mobility across broad caste lines may have been "minimal", though sub-castes (jatis) may change their social status over the generations by fission, re-location, and adoption of new rituals. ["Social Structure & Mobility in Economic Development", By Neil J. Smelser, Seymour Martin Lipset, Published 2005] .

Sociologist M. N. Srinivas has also debated the question of rigidity in Caste. In an ethnographic study of the Coorgs of Karnataka, he observed considerable flexibility and mobility in their caste hierarchies. [Srinivas, M.N, Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India by MN Srinivas, Page 32 (Oxford, 1952)] [Caste in Modern India; And other essays: Page 48. (Media Promoters & Publishers Pvt. Ltd, Bombay; First Published: 1962, 11th Reprint: 1994)] He asserts that the caste system is far from a rigid system in which the position of each component caste is fixed for all time. Movement has always been possible, and especially in the middle regions of the hierarchy. It was always possible for groups born into a lower caste to "rise to a higher position by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism" i.e adopt the customs of the higher castes. While theoretically "forbidden", the process was not uncommon in practice. The concept of sanskritization, or the adoption of upper-caste norms by the lower castes, addressed the actual complexity and fluidity of caste relations.

Historical examples of mobility in the Indian Caste System among Hindus have been researched. There is also precedent of certain Shudra families within the temples of the Shrivaishava sect in South India elevating their caste.

Historical advantages of the Caste System

Historically, the caste system offerred several advantages to the population of the Indian subcontinent. While Caste is nowadays seen by instances that render it anachronistic, in its original form the caste system served as an important instrument of order in a society in which mutual consent rather than compulsion ruledW. Klatt, Caste, class and communism in Kerala, Asian Affairs, Volume 3, Issue 3 October 1972 , pages 275 - 287, DOI: 10.1080/03068377208729634] ; wherethe ritual rights as well as the economic obligations of members of one caste or sub-caste were strictly circumscribed in relation to those of anyother caste or sub-caste; where one was born into one's caste and retained one's station in society for life; where merit was inherited, where equalityexisted within the caste, but inter-caste relations were unequal and heirarchial. Awell-defined system of mutual interdependence through a division of labour created security within a community.

#Preservation of order in society through the use of institutional stratification of social groups [ [http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring98/india.htm The Varna and Jati Systems] by Terence Callaham and Roxanna Pavich] .
#Integration of foreigners and invading forces into Indian culture by assigning a caste to them (a process that historian Jawaharlal Nehru referred to as "Indianization" [Nehru, J "Discovery of India", Oxford India Paperbacks] ): India has faced repeated invasions from outside the region, dating back to the Macedonian invasion by Alexander the Great. Most invaders were swiftly assimilated into ancient Indian society by assigning them specific castes. Examples include the Kambojas, believed to be of Indo-Scythian descent, who were retroactively assigned a social position in the Manusmriti.
#The Varna system, with its normative interpretation as a division of labor, had and continues to have a heavy bias towards spiritual evolution. The deep religious proclivities and the urge for spiritual uplift had induced the people to search for simpler and effective ways to achieve the spiritual goal which led to innovations like the Bhakti movement which had a powerful impact on the socio-cultural-spiritual life of the people even at mass level without distinctions of caste or class or other social differences. It is these deeply run cultural roots which caused an abiding following for Hinduism even in the face of unrelenting assaults by other religions and had in fact continued to influence the lives of people even after their conversion to other faiths. Thus, the caste system can be said to have preserved ancient cultural values in Indian society.
#The caste system played an influential role in shaping economic activities.cite book | author=Sankaran, S | title=Indian Economy: Problems, Policies and Development | publisher=Margham Publications | year=1994 | id=ISBN | pages = 50 | chapter = 3] The caste system functioned much like medieval European guilds, ensuring the division of labour, providing for the training of apprentices and, in some cases, allowing manufacturers to achieve narrow specialisation. For instance, in certain regions, producing each variety of cloth was the speciality of a particular sub-caste.
#Philosophers argue that the majority of people would be comfortable in stratified endogamous groups and have been in ancient times [ [http://philosophy.lander.edu/oriental/caste.html Oriental Philosophy] ,"lander.edu"] . Membership in a particular caste, with its associated narrative, history and genealogy would instill in its members a sense of group accomplishment and cultural pride. Such sentiments are routinely expressed by the Marathas, for instance.

British rule

The caste system was first exposed to the modern Western world during the Portuguese occupation and rule of sections of India. The word 'caste' in this context is derived from the Portuguese, 'casta'. Later, other European empires, including the British, occupied parts of the subcontinent.

The earliest use of caste as a basis for interpreting social and demographic data arose from British officials' concern to stamp out female infanticidecite book
last =Bate
first =Crispin
title =Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: The Early Origins of Indian Anthropometry
url =http://www.csas.ed.ac.uk/fichiers/BATES_RaceCaste&Tribe.pdf
year =1995
publisher =Centre for South Asian Studies, School of Social & Political Studies, University of Edinburgh
location =Edinburgh
isbn =1-900-795-02-7
] . Later, the use of caste to classify the population formed a basis for British attempts at socialengineering. According to certain British laws (such as the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871), many castes and tribes were described as habitually criminal, and adult male members of such groups forced to report weekly to the local police. The caste-based classification (moneylending, agricultural or martial) was also used for other purposes such as legislation controlling land transfers, the grant of proprietary rights, the regulation of rents, recruitment to the armed forces etc. British anthropologist Herbert Risley's "The Tribes and Castes of Bengal", published in 1892, was one of the first works on the caste system in India written by a Western scholar.

The earliest forms of classification in the British censuses of India (1865, 1872 and 1881) were based on the varna system, with the population being divided into Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Denzil Ibbetson, in his introduction to the 1881 census of the Punjab, argued that the Indian caste system was more of a social than a religious institution, and that conversion from Hinduism to Islam had not necessarily the slightest effect upon caste. He stated that the varnas had "no presentsignificance". The 1891 census was based primarily on castes as occupational guilds instead of the varnas.

Some scholars state that the caste system was broken up greatly during British Raj in India [cite web
title=The Caste System
author=Medina Bogard etal
] . However, some other historians suggest that the impact of British reforms has been greatly exaggerated [cite paper
author=Eric Stokes
title=The First Century of British Colonial Rule in India: Social Revolution or Social Stagnation?
version =
publisher =Oxford University Press
date=February 1973
format =
accessdate =
] .

Initially, the British strengthened the caste system. They gave the Brahmins back special privileges the Muslim rulers had taken away. During the initial days of British East India Company's rules, caste privileges and customs were encouraged in the Bengal Army [cite book
last = Alavi
first = Seema
title = Sepoys And The Company Tradition and transition in Northern India 1770-1830
year = 1998
publisher = Oxford University Press India
id = ISBN 0-195-63484-5
] . But, British law courts disagreed with the discrimination against the lower castes. Many believe that the lack of British respect for sepoys' caste traditions was one of the reasons behind the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

During British rule, the reservation of seats for the "Depressed Classes" was incorporated into the Government of India Act 1935, which went into force in 1937. The Act brought the term "Scheduled castes" into use, which was later clarified in The Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1936 which contained a list of scheduled castes.

British Census Officers determined caste hierarchy based on the principle, e.g. someone who accepts food and water from another person but the other person does not reciprocate the same way, then the other person is superior to the former. It was contested at many places (a notable example is that the Koris of UP who said they won't accept water from Brahmins, and so should be placed higher than them). Because it was met with rampant controversies, arbitration was very common during those days. The most notable arbitration stories are:
#Caste status of Bhumihar
#Caste status of Kayastha
#Caste status of Kurmi
#Caste status of Yadav

It raised more questions than it answered and subsequent census records varied radically, making it free for all, after some time.

Major caste groups

According to the 1891 census data, the major caste groups in India were following (listed in the order of population):

Reform movements

Traditionally, Dalits (Untouchable Castes) were not allowed to let their shadows fall upon a non-Dalit caste member and they were required to sweep the ground where they walk to remove the 'contamination' of their footfalls.Dalits were forbidden to worship in temples or draw water from the same wells as caste Hindus, and they usually lived in segregated neighborhoods outside the main village.However, there have been cases of upper caste Hindus warming to the Dalits and Hindu priests, demoted to outcaste ranks, who continued practising the religion. An example of the latter was Dnyaneshwar, who was excommunicated from society in the 13th century, but continued to compose the Dnyaneshwari, a Dharmic commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. Other excommunicated Brahmins, such as Eknath, fought for the rights of untouchables during the Bhakti period. Historical examples of Dalit priests include Chokhamela in the 14th Century, who was India's first recorded Dalit poet, Raidas, born into Dalit cobblers, and others.The 15th century saint Ramananda also accepted all castes, including untouchables, into his fold. Most of these saints subscribed to the Bhakti movements in Hinduism during the medieval period that rejected casteism.Nandanar, a low-caste Hindu cleric, also rejected casteism and accepted Dalits [ [http://www.shaivam.org/nanaalai.html Shaivam.org] ] .

Many movements in Hinduism have welcomed Dalits into their fold, the earliest being the Bhakti movements of the medieval period. Early Dalit politics involved many Hindu reform movements which arose primarily as a reaction to the advent of Christian Missionaries in India Fact|date=August 2007 and their attempts to mass-convert Dalits to Christianity under the allure of escaping the caste system Fact|date=August 2007 (unfortunately, there is a Caste system among Indian Christians which retains practices leftover from Vedic Hinduism, but only among certain sections of Indian Catholics).

In the 19th Century, the Brahmo Samaj under Raja Ram Mohan Roy, actively campaigned against untouchability. The Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand also renounced discrimination against Dalits.Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa founded the Ramakrishna Mission that participated in the emancipation of Dalits. Upper caste Hindus, such as Mannathu Padmanabhan also participated in movements to abolish Untouchability against Dalits, opening his family temple for Dalits to worship.While there always have been places for Dalits to worship, the first "upper-caste" temple to openly welcome Dalits into their fold was the Laxminarayan Temple in Wardha in the year 1928 (the move was spearheaded by reformer Jamnalal Bajaj). Also, the Satnami movement was founded by Guru Ghasidas a Dalit himself. Other reformers, such as Mahatma Jyotirao Phule also worked for the emancipation of Dalits.Another example of Dalit emancipation was the Temple Entry Proclamation issued by the last Maharaja of Travancore in the Indian state of Kerala in the year 1936. The Maharaja proclaimed that "outcastes should not be denied the consolations and the solace of the Hindu faith". Even today, the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple that first welcomed Dalits in the state of Kerala is revered by the Dalit Hindu community. The 1930s saw key struggles between Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, most notably over whether Dalits would have separate electorates or joint electorates with reserved seats. The Indian National Congress was the only national organisation with a large Dalit following, but Gandhi failed to gain their commitment. Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, developed a deeper analysis of Untouchability, but lacked a workable political strategy: his conversion to Buddhism in 1956, along with millions of followers, highlighted the failure of his political endeavoursMendelsohn, Oliver & Vicziany, Maria, "The Untouchables,Subordination, Poverty and the State in Modern India", Cambridge University Press, 1998] .India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, based on his own relationship with Dalit reformer Ambedkar, also spread information about the dire need to eradicate untouchability for the benefit of the Dalit community.

In more contemporary times, India has had an elected Dalit president,K. R. Narayanan, who has stated that he was well-treated in his community of largely upper-caste Hindus [K. R. Narayanan: [http://pib.myiris.com/speech/article.php3?fl=020725151520 Farewell address to the nation] , 24 Jul. 2002. Retrieved 24 Feb. 2006.] (24 July 2002).Another popular Harijan includes Babaji Palwankar Baloo, who joined the Hindu Mahasabha and was both a politician and a cricketer. He was an independence fighter.In addition, other Hindu groups have reached out to the Dalit community in an effort to reconcile with them, with productive results. On August 2006, Dalit activist Namdeo Dhasal engaged in dialogue with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in an attempt to "bury the hatchet" [http://sangh.wordpress.com/2006/08/31/dalit-leader-buries-the-hatchet-with-rss/ Dalit leader buries the hatchet with RSS] , Sangh Parivar insider's perspective] .

Also, the "Pandaram" are an order of Dravidian Tamil Hindu priests (a task traditionally reserved for the Brahmins) based largely in Nepal and parts of South India [Moffatt, Michael, An Untouchable Community in South India: Structure and Consensus.Man, New Series, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), p. 208] . These Pandaram priests maintain the same tradition as the Brahmin priests, including using Sanskrit for the rituals (a language traditionally reserved for the Brahmins). They perform religious ceremonies from weddings to death rituals. They are not generally as well trained as the Brahmin priests, but are highly respected within their community and are addressed reverentially [ [http://www.hinduismtoday.com/archives/2005/10-12/18-29_nepal.shtml Nepal's Downtrodden] ,"Hinduism Today"] .Also, Hindu temples are increasingly more receptive to Dalit priests, such as Suryavanshi Das, the Dalit priest of a notable temple in Bihar [ [http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1884292,000600030006.htm Dalit priest in temple of Buddha and Hanuman] ,"Hindustan Times"] .

Discrimination against Hindu Dalits is on a slow but steady decline. Many Hindu Dalits have achieved affluence in society, although vast millions still remain poor. Recent episodes of Caste-related violence in India have adversely affected the Dalit community. In urban India, discrimination against Dalits in the public sphere is largely disappeared, but rural Dalits are struggling to elevate themselves. Government organizations and NGO's work to emancipate them from discrimination, and many Hindu organizations have spoken in their favor. [ [http://www.hinduvoice.co.uk/Issues/12/Dalits.htm The Dharmic battle against Untouchability] ,"Hindu Voice"] .

ee also

*Backward-caste Hindu Saints
*Backward-caste Hindu Warriors


External links

* [http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_karan_caste.htm Caste in Medieval India: The Beginnings of a Reexamination]

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