Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

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shiv
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Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 14 Apr 2016 08:22

TRADITION,CULTURE RELIGION & LAW IN INDIAN SOCIETY

Thoughts revolving around this subject have been playing on my mind for months now and I will try and put them down in a coherent manner. I will start with a disclaimer and a few definitions - the definitions are vitally important to explain what I am trying to say.

Disclaimer: It is always going to be wrong to say "All Indians behave in this way, or in that way." Every human being has basic reactions which are the same - fear of pain, joy and pleasure from good food or companionship, sorrow from loss. Indians are obviously no different. But when one asks if the behaviour, as a group, of Indians would be indistinguishable from the behaviour of Japanese people as a group, one is less likely to think that all group behaviour is the same. Different cultures cause differences in group behaviour - and an obvious example is the contrast between what we call Pakistani behaviour versus the behaviour of Indians or other, or Arab behaviour versus others. So there are cultural aspects to group behaviour and group behaviour is the sum total of multiple decisions made by individuals of a group. For example Japanese spectators in a football stadium may all individually make sure that the seat they used and the floor below is free of litter - leaving an entire swathe of the stadium spanking clean. On the other hand, you may not litter, but you will find someone else littering so the effect of your group is not the same as Japanese.

My idea is to explore and explain why Indians might behave in a particular manner. But here the explanation gets a little more complex. In fact it gets "communal" if you like, but I don't use that in a negative sense. Let me start with definitions.

WHAT IS A LAW?

Strictly speaking a law is some action that invariably and unavoidably occurs in response to an event. Gravity is a law. It is unavoidable and unstoppable. Another basic physical response like atoms of any material getting agitated when heated - is also a law. A more complex event involving layers of reasoning is a "law" that says that a human without any food will die, given time. Inevitable event following action. Another one is "Putting your hand in a flame will burn you" These could be termed "natural laws" or "laws of nature". They are inevitable, and humans are not required for them to be fulfilled.

How about "The hand of a thief shall be amputated"? By itself this is not a law. It is a threat or promise. a recommendation or statement of intent. It takes two steps to make a statement into a law.

1. Statement of intent about what needs to be made a law
2. It must be implemented (by a police force or by citizens or a ghazi)

Step 1 alone will not make it law

It is possible to have a "super-law" (or "oopar" law) that sits over and above man made recommendations. That is to say "It is God's command that a thief's hand shall be cut off (law). If this law is broken the person who breaks God's law shall be beheaded. "

By means of a set of rules and a list of consequences if the rules are not followed and by implementation of the rules by a "rule enforcing apparatus", human behaviour can be brought under "laws". These laws differ from the natural laws mentioned earlier and can be termed "law" only when they are fulfilled by human intervention. For example a leader or government cannot make a "law" that all cars shall run on diesel and expect that to work unless it is enforced. It is consistent and uniform enforcement that converts a statement of intent into a law. A law against insulting the prophet of Islam is no law until is is carried out consistently and the people who carry it out are considered upholders of the law.

All through history there have been rulers/kings who have made laws of their own. The laws may have been good or bad, but it was the implementation that made them law. The code of Hammurabi was one such set of written laws.

Christianity and Islam set a new benchmark in human history by producing a "law books" of rules by a God, claiming inevitable consequences if the laws in the books were broken. These books were backed by militant clergy who ensured that the rules in the book were followed, creating - over a span exceeding 1000 years, societies who accepted laws written by humans and bowed their heads to those human laws because they were implemented with certainty and brutality.

DID INDIA HAVE LAWS?

India has a history, culture and tradition that extends for 3000 years or more before either Christianity or Islam. Natural laws were recognized and listed a very long time ago. But man made laws were never codified and implemented as "the last word" written in a book claimed to be from God. I am not going to enter into trying to explain why "God" never gave any law books to pre-Christian, pre-Islamic Indians, except to mention that the concept of God is itself is not one of a being that hands down codes to humans, but more in the nature of the existence that creates and controls the laws of nature.

In turn, pre-Christian/pre-Islam Indians, (called Hindus) had a list of "natural laws" called "Dharma" which exist without human control. Dharma also entailed a set of "recommended behaviours" that would be in consonance with natural laws. Some of these are easy to understand - like duties to society, and some are moral guidelines somewhat similar to the Ten Commandments.

Human behaviour under Dharma was recommended, but imposition of Dharma as "law" was simply left to the individual or the king. In other words Hindu society had some individuals conforming to Dharma and some that were not. There was no specific punishment for not conforming to Dharma unless a king imposed such punishment. Not conforming to Dharma was assumed to have long term consequences for society and life as a whole, but it was not always imposed as law on pain of punishment in the same way as saying "Not believing in my god means death for you". This allowed Hindu society to develop different deities, different forms of worship and different mores of morality. The one common skein that ran through these variegated societies was a broad agreement on the rules of Dharma, even if significant proportions of every society had people who did not conform to the recommendations of Dharma. This was because Dharma itself was idealized as necessary behaviour for the long term and that the person who did not conform was damaging himself in the long term.

The lack of one single rule book, and one single system of implementation of rules by punishment (like beheading for not believing in a god) led to a non uniform society with extreme variation in appearance, practices, diet, health and morality. The freedom to be different was unprecedented in a kind land that was warm and provided two crops a year. There was no imposition of uniformity because imposition of uniformity was itself seen as a restriction of the freedom allowed to an individual. The individual's only restriction was Dharma, and he was not necessarily punished for not following Dharma. The individual conforming to Dharma was free to do anything else.

The rules of Dharma have been propagated in Indian society both by memes told and retold in the epics and in stories, but also in family life and behaviour. Indians do not do sociological studies of their own family and society and nowadays we are unhappy about observations made by outsiders. But even an empirical study of Indian society throws up memes that are considered to conform with Dharma. Indian society was rarely 100% Dhrama compliant, but it does not appear to be 100% non compliant also. Even "unfashionable" recommendations of Dharma such as sacrifice and lack of arrogance, modesty and lack of greed are still practised by some people. In the absence of "past studies" and statistics it is hard to reach anything more than empirical conclusions about what percentage of the population in India conform to 50% or more of the recommendations of a Dharma compliant (Dharmic) life.

It is common to see things like very wealthy people being modest in their dress and lifestyle, and contributing a huge percentage of their earnings to charity. However the methods by which they became wealthy may or may not be Dharmic. There are millions of Indians who choose to live in India doing low paying jobs simply to fulfil obligations like looking after elderly parents. And because of a powerful meme of not being greedy and not desiring more than what is necessary you get dedicated and competent people who are not necessarily tempted by larger salaries if they are satisfied with what they have. This explains the satisfaction of people in ISRO and people in other successful programs or research and educational institutions. Some of our best teachers fall in this group. The tendency also explains the return of many NRIs from very lucrative jobs abroad.

India has no uniform, formal dress code. Some of the most respectable people can be seen with simple clothes, or on occasion, partially unclothed - such as a bare chest. Very often the appearance of Indians in Indian dress attract descriptions like "slovenly", "unkempt" or "unshaven". India never had laws that stated that special dresses were required for special occasions, or that appearance was a hallmark of character - particularly good character. Simplicity, modestly, lack of excess have always been stated as goals to strive for. At the same time there is no law that people must not dress up ostentatiously or specially. Comments about workers in chappals or non uniform clothing reflects a fundamental reality in which Indian society accepts wide variations in dress code. However there is a fairly strict code about footwear of any kind. I will not go into a detailed explanation of why the code exists - but it is both rational and scientific and explains why chappals are better than shoes in many Indian situations.

THE NATURE OF INDIAN SOCIETY

Because of its past Indian society allows a tremendous amount of variation in belief, diet, dress, language and social status. There is no ancient Indian meme to encourage uniformity, to try and make everyone like everyone else, speaking the same, worshipping the same, wearing the same, doing the same, being the same. This is the explanation of the bewildering diversity of Indian society. This is also the reason why new faiths are both generated and tolerated in India.

Strict Islam and British style democracy are top down imposition of laws. There is nothing in Indian society that resists a top down imposition of law as long as fundamental needs in society are not interfered with. There is also nothing in Indian society that demands tolerance of the intolerable and all Islamic onslaughts have, at some stage been opposed and fought. It is my judgement that Islam itself was bent and made to cut many corners to fit itself in India.

The British saw India as a lawless society. An attempt to impose laws on India in the British secular mould needed one pre-requisite. The boundaries of religion had to be known so that religion could be allowed its practices up to an extent, while state laws kept away from them. For Christians and Muslims the answer was simple. the entire religion was pretty much summed up in one book each. What was in the book represented religion, and what was outside was secular, where the state could rule.

For Hindus this process was not just difficult, it was impossible. While the British and Muslims may have found it convenient to label "Hinduism" as a religion, it was simply too diverse and not held in one book. But secular law making demanded that Hinduism should be reduced to one book or a few books. That is how the British, out of a vast mass of about 150 million Indians in the mid 1800s got hold of a handful of Indians and simply cooked up a law book - "The Code of Gentoo Laws". This cooked up law book named Manu smriti as "Hindu law". It also codifies Sati as a common Hindu practice implying that it was favoured by all Hindus across the length and breadth of India - a complete fabrication.

It is vitally important for our understanding to go back the the definition of "Law". In Hindu terms only Dharma is law but it is natural law that will take its course and consequences occur without human intervention. Manu's "smriti" was not Law. Manu recommended a lot of things, and much has been mistranslated to suit political, and particularly evangelical narratives. Much else of what Manu wrote was simply ignored and never mentioned. In any case it was never law that was implemented by a system of implementation across all of India as a "Hindu law book". It was, like everything else, just one more book in an old nation with millions of beliefs and practices.

But what this act of the British did was to "freeze" a diverse Sanatana Dharma into a "Hindu religion" within the covers of a cooked up book that contained some of the most undesirable practices that helped paint Hindus as followers of a backward, barbaric religion. This is what many of us have been taught, and many in the media and high places still believe.

EFFECT CHRISTIAN/ISLAMIC DOGMA IN INDIA

I believe that a large number of Indian Christians and Muslims, being converts, simply continued practice of Dharma insofar as they had retained it in their lives. It certainly helped that some aspects of Dharma and some things in Islamic society and Christian morality were similar. In any case Hindus probably found it easy to adopt a new faith and still show some allegiance to the old - leading to hybrid cultures.

But there are things in Christian and Islamic faith that are dogmas. They are beliefs that are essentially "law" to be enforced. The designation of a non Christian or a non Muslim as an "other" or "outsider" comes easily if one follows the books strictly. The treatment to be given to the "other" includes death, which is also something that has been used as "law" in the past to massacre unbelievers. These have been used liberally against Hindus.

The question that arises from this is why did Hindus simply allow themselves to be killed and not fight back. In fact they did fight back and did kill. But here is an important philosophical difference in the "laws" of the monotheistic religions and Hindu Dharma. Hindu Dharma never declares any human as the other who can be killed for his beliefs. He can be given all sorts of designations, even discriminated - but killing over belief is adharma. With Christianity and Islam, slavery, ill treatment and killing were all tools of the trade allowable by law as long as someone was designated as "the other" or an outsider.

As long as India was not ruled by constitutional secular law, Hindus could respond as necessary to adharma, using violence and retribution if necessary. The use of force to protect Dharma was always acceptable. Conversion and forced impositions could be prevented or avenged as protection of Dharma. Once constitutional secular law was imposed on India everyone was restricted from killing, but India still bases itself on the same old flawed definition of Hindu as a caste ridden, woman discriminating, widow burning society that requires government regulation (as the British era evangelists envisioned it) while Quranic and Biblical practice is unfettered. Of course killing for religion is outlawed, but it is fully legal in India to describe Hindu faith as a flawed and regressive "religion" while other religions are progressive and egalitarian.

THE BURDEN OF SECULARISM

In the post independence era adharmic practices like forced change of religion cannot be amended by force because violence is outlawed. But they cannot be remedied in the courts either, because adharmic religious practices of Islam and Christianity are fully legal under "freedom of religion". So Hindus in India have no legal means to defend Dharma without breaking a constitutional "freedom of religion" for Christians and Muslims.

There are some trans national consequences of the differences between Indian culture and religions. Pakistan can legally designate all Hindus as enemies and kill them for being Hindu. From the Indian viewpoint, neither Dharma nor the Indian constitution allow the killing of anyone simply based on faith. The killing of Indians by Pakistan can only be addressed via Indian constitutional means. But Indian secular laws do not allow pointing out the fact that is is fully legal under Islamic law to treat a Hindu as an enemy to be subjugated or killed. We cannot even point out that Pakistan does exactly that because that would throw up a terrible constitutional dilemma in India. No one is allowed to say that the emperor is naked while he covers himself with a net.

But because Hindus are "regulated" under Indian laws, and Hindus allow themselves to be regulated by Indian laws, it has become perfectly normal to treat open discussions of Sharia, Islamic law and Christian evangelical intolerance of Hindus as figments of hateful and deluded right wing fascist forces of Hindutva. This, then is the damage that secularism has wrought.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 14 Apr 2016 09:04

Every society had a lawgiver. Indians were one of earliest (if not the earliest) to invent law (Dharma). Obviously, it was not perfect, but it had one important idea. The law is based on culture of society. And every society and sub-society had the freedom to come up with their own laws.

Basic principls were:
- violence prohibited.
- fraud prohibited.
- theft prohibited.
- social privileges and responsibilities are proportional. More power, more responsibility, so more penalities.

west stresses on the idea:
All are equal before the law.

Idea is to remove oligarchy and aristocratic manipulation of justice system. The idea is good in principle, but is not practical. Its better to treat more powerful members of society with more severity before law.

West has come up with new concept: rights. These are rights which a govt cannot usurp. The idea is protect people from govts. I think US constitution does a great job in coming up with some fundamental rights. I think India and others can learn from US constitutions' s basic rights.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 14 Apr 2016 10:45

shiv wrote:TRADITION,CULTURE RELIGION & LAW IN INDIAN SOCIETY

That is how the British, out of a vast mass of about 150 million Indians in the mid 1800s got hold of a handful of Indians and simply cooked up a law book - "The Code of Gentoo Laws". This cooked up law book named Manu smriti as "Hindu law". It also codifies Sati as a common Hindu practice implying that it was favoured by all Hindus across the length and breadth of India - a complete fabrication.


You have a lot of valid points, in criticism some of them could be held to be your opinion and not facts. One such para is the one above I'd tend to hold it in that light... If you have never read the Smritis (yes there are many of them), I'd highly recommend reading at least two if not more in the original Sanskrit. Your point of the British misunderstanding Dharma to be law and Manu as the original law giver are all valid, but to say they cooked up a law book is opinion not fact. If on the other hand your point is that there is no such thing as a "Hindu law book" perhaps you are correct - Followers of Sanathana Dharma had the choice and access to many Dharma Smritis - meaning I am refusing to translate those to two words into English or its framework.

PS: I dont know if you chanced upon the link to the Justice Katju article I'd posted a while ago - where he claims India is secular because of "Hindu Law" :-)

THE IMPORTANCE OF MITAKSHARA IN THE 21ST CENTURY

It must be correct as Katju wrote it right? He is the supreme authority on secular onlee no? <sarc never off/>

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 14 Apr 2016 11:06

johneeG wrote:Every society had a lawgiver. Indians were one of earliest (if not the earliest) to invent law (Dharma). Obviously, it was not perfect, but it had one important idea. The law is based on culture of society. And every society and sub-society had the freedom to come up with their own laws.

Basic principls were:
- violence prohibited.
- fraud prohibited.
- theft prohibited.
- social privileges and responsibilities are proportional. More power, more responsibility, so more penalities.


None of what you say is based on facts - the Śruti (what Dharma is based on...) had no human origin.
The Smriti have authors and referees. Your first paragraph is a regurgitation of Western idiocy and misunderstanding.

Violence cannot be prohibited to the Kshatriya. Fraud & theft where punished differently based on your Varna/Jathi and the criminal and civil codes were more empirical and based on discovery rather an on belief... all this needs a total rewrite of how the West has perceived incorrectly the entire framework of Dharma thought...

johneeG wrote:west stresses on the idea:
All are equal before the law.


Reconcile this equally among all citizens - "Murder is a crime" - expect if you are a police officer or a soldier, etc.
One has to invite - "in the line of duty," "following orders," etc. to sanction murder not being a crime.
The Nazis were following orders too...

johneeG wrote:West has come up with new concept: rights. These are rights which a govt cannot usurp. The idea is protect people from govts. I think US constitution does a great job in coming up with some fundamental rights. I think India and others can learn from US constitutions' s basic rights.


In the West - since Dharma does not exist and did not exist - the Monarchy could create laws - unlike in India where the Rajan was provided with a choice of Dharma Smriti all claiming authorship on previous Smritis and every one of them claiming foundational origin to the Śruti. The Rajan was himself or herself under the same Dharma - why even the Gods are themselves bound by Dharma as well as this entire universe. This means the Rajan had an incentive to enable a market for different Dharma Smriti, this is critical to understand.
This was also based on the principle that uniformity and equality causes maladjustments in society. The idea was
to enable micro culture and micro codes of conduct, with default recommendations when the micro features fail.
It is a rather elegant system, that the current Western based Indian constitution and state have further bludgeoned without understanding its beauty and elegance.

It is an oxymoron to say Natural Law vs. what? Unnatural Law? The West had to invent rights and law based on equality as the citizen wanted to free herself from the tyranny of the Monarchy who could emit Laws at their whim. In India this never happened, and when it did, the Rajan was deemed tyrannical and a follower of adharma. Your final line that India and others can learn from US constitution's basic rights is rather gratuitous. While there are many things to learn from the arguments of the founding fathers and who influenced their opinions - mostly European thinkers such as Paine, Locke, etc. it would be somewhat silly to not consider that the founding fathers of India did incorporate both the wisdom of their land with those found in other democracies at the time of the writing of the Indian constitution. It would not be entirely mischievous perhaps, to entertain that the Indian constitution being younger, and having learnt from the older examples offers more to a student of law today. Especially since it carries forward the ideas of the old into personal law and segregates them accordingly.
Last edited by Pulikeshi on 14 Apr 2016 11:29, edited 1 time in total.

RajeshA
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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RajeshA » 14 Apr 2016 11:24

This sounds a bit like that old bottle: The Bharatiya - Identity, Vision, Agenda, Proposition. :)

It would be interesting to see the development of this thread.

shiv
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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 14 Apr 2016 13:20

Pulikeshi wrote:
shiv wrote:TRADITION,CULTURE RELIGION & LAW IN INDIAN SOCIETY

That is how the British, out of a vast mass of about 150 million Indians in the mid 1800s got hold of a handful of Indians and simply cooked up a law book - "The Code of Gentoo Laws". This cooked up law book named Manu smriti as "Hindu law". It also codifies Sati as a common Hindu practice implying that it was favoured by all Hindus across the length and breadth of India - a complete fabrication.


You have a lot of valid points, in criticism some of them could be held to be your opinion and not facts. One such para is the one above I'd tend to hold it in that light..

An opinion derived from the following sources:
1.
http://www.cscs.res.in/dataarchive/text ... 11505/file link dead now), but posted earlier by me at: viewtopic.php?p=1781271#p1781271

Hindu law was created on the basis of selective appropriation of the Dharmasastras, especially the Smrtis and to some extent the Nyaya-Mimamsa tradition (the tradition of logic and interpretation) as the methodological tool. It is rather intriguing how Hindu law was perceived as the civil and personal law of the Hindus. In fact, since the earliest days, many British ideologues and officials such as J. Z. Holwell, Willial Bolts, Luke Scrafton, Alexander Dow and Harry Verelest referred to the “Sastras” or “Sastahs” as the civil and personal laws of the Hindus.

On the basis of this perception, Hastings appointed a team of eleven Pundits to compile a code on Hindu law in 1772. Vivadarnavasetu, the original Sanskrit version was later on was first rendered in Persian and then into English under the title – A Code of Gentoo Laws from the Persian rendering by N. B Halhed. It was first published in 1776 followed by several editions and reprints in different European languages. This text was repeatedly referred and described in the contemporary documents as the ‘standard handbook on Hindu law’. However, the discrepancies in the meanings of original Sanskrit compilation and the English rendering is very significant in the process of the metamorphosis of the traditional literature of the Dharmasastras and invention of Hindu law. Vivadarnavasetu literally means ‘a bridge on the ocean of disputes’. The meaning was totally transformed in the English rendering. It imported the following terms – ‘code’, and ‘law’ from British legal terminology and a new tradition was invented through the appropriation of the prescriptive, normative and moralistic principles expounded in the traditional literature of the Sastras


2.
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080328/j ... 059489.jsp
Is there something called Hindu law? This scholarly book’s emphatic answer to the question would be in the negative. Nandini Bhattacharyya-Panda argues rather convincingly that what is known as Hindu law in common parlance and in Indian jurisprudence is a late eighteenth century construction by British administrators based on a very selective and deliberately lop-sided reading of the Dharmasastras.
<snip>
What the British produced was the first digest of “Hindu law’’ in Sanskrit, the Vivadarnavasetu, and its English rendering (by N.B. Halhed), The Code of Gentoo Laws. The initiative to produce this was taken in 1772 by Warren Hastings soon after he was appointed Governor-General. He appointed a team of 11 pundits to prepare the compendium. A second initiative was taken by William Jones. This was the compilation called Vivadabhangarnava. Jones began the translation of this text; he died before he could finish the work and it was completed by H.T. Colebrooke and published as A Digest of Hindoo Laws in 1801.

Hastings, Jones and the Britons involved in the project of producing a body of Hindu law ignored the fundamental point that “the primary concern of the Dharmasastras was the community and the individual and not the state.’’ The Brahmin pundits involved in the project were unaware that one of its purposes was the undermining of the authority and influence of Brahmin pundits in society. They may have often not understood the questions posed to them by their white masters.


3.
And from an earlier post
http://www.infinityfoundation.com/manda ... ameset.htm
also: viewtopic.php?p=1752362#p1752362
In the late 18th century, the British began to study the ancient shastras to develop a set of legal principles that would assist them in adjudicating disputes within Indian civil society. In fact, they found there was no single body of canonical law, no Hindu Pope to legitimise a uniform legal code for all the diverse communities of India, no Shankaracharya whose writ reigned all over the country. Even religious interpretations of popular epics like the Ramayana failed to fit the bill because every community and every age exercised the freedom to recite and write its own version. We have inherited hundreds of recognised and respected versions of this text, and many are still being created. The flourishing of such variation and diversity, however, did not prevent the British from searching for a definitive canon of Hindu law.
....
The British began to mistrust the pandits and became impatient with having to deal with such a range of customs that had no apparent shastric authority to back them, since that made it difficult for them to pose as genuine adjudicators of Hindu law. The British were even more nonplussed because they had a history of using the common law system, based on precedent. However, given the myriad opinions of the Indian pandits, they couldn't depend on uniform precedents to make their own judgments.
....
An Anglo-Brahamanical Hybrid

In order to arrive at a definitive version of the Indian legal system that would mainly be useful for them, the East India Company began to recruit and train pandits for its own service. In 1772, Warren Hastings hired a group of eleven pandits to cooperate with the Company in the creation of a new digest of Hindu law that would govern civil disputes in the British courts. The Sanskrit pandits hired to translate and sanction this new interpretation of customary laws created a curious Anglo-Brahmanical hybrid. The resulting document, printed in London under the title, A Code of Gentoo Laws, or, Ordinations of the Pandits, was a made-to-order text, in which the pandits dutifully followed the demands made by their paymasters. Though it was the first serious attempt at codification of Hindu law, the text was far from accurate in its references to the original sources, or to their varied traditional interpretations.


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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 15 Apr 2016 17:14

I bring this up in the context of the current drive to allow women equal access in Temples. This is a classic instance of the conflict between law and religion, or Hindu belief versus Universalism. My thoughts stem from the anger and confusion and sometimes absurd arguments made for and against allowing women into the few temples that bar women.

In the period before 1850 Brahmins were the custodians of knowledge related to Hindu beliefs. By Brahmins I mean the formally trained priests who have to undergo a minimum of ten years of learning to get a "basic degree" and then may have another 10 years or more ahead to move higher. Once a child goes down this path, he is useless for anything other than becoming a priest. He cannot be a carpenter or an engineer. He could possibly become a vaid, or a teacher or a cook, but I digress. Brahmins were the learned professors of ancient India. they could not make a living on their own and their survival to propagate the Vedas depended entirely upon "universities" or Vedic schools funded by someone else.

The British were true conquerors of India - they were learned enough to figure out that taking the Brahmins down was needed to break society. They did that effectively. They ended the funding of Vedic schools, and provided channels for Brahimns to move away and take on a British education (or become destitute). The took the books of the Brahmins, wrote them painstakingly down in European languages and translated them in a manner that suited their world view. Brahmins, over generations simply forgot Sanskrit and the Vedas.

We now have a situation in which the descendants of the same Brahmins, and anyone else who is interested if offered a wealth of dubious information about Hindu studies from European translations. But a whole lot of other information is hidden or lost.

For example, it should have been easy to contact one single scholar and ask "Why are women not allowed in the Shani Shingnapur Shrine?". Did you see one person coming up with that information in the millions of words and thousands of minutes of airtime spent on the issue? I did not. Clearly it is not easy to come by such information. Not nowadays.

There is a lot more information available about Sabarimalai, and also some misinformation. Women between 10 and 50 are not allowed (i.e allowed before menarche and after menopause, in a sense). But the real reason why women are not allowed is not menstruation, it is about male celibacy as far as I can make out. But the same men live with their wives and work with other women before going to Sabarimalai so the company of women is not a hindrance to celibacy.

One explanation on the net is that there is a special design of the temple and special energies that are harmful to women. This is unfortunately one of the pseudo-explanations that goes 180 degrees against the Hindu tradition of "search for truth". It obfuscates but does not explain.

So we are back to a situation in which no Hindu is able to give an explanation about disallowing women other than "tradition". But tradition has been used to slap Hindus in the face time and again. Hindus have been accused of an untouchability tradition which they have been made to give up apparently by constitutional order. Hindus are accused of a bride burning tradition which has also been "removed" by a benevolent government.

When Hindus try and escape questioning by saying tradition, someone is going to chew up their asses. Neither Sati nor the act of not touching some people are "Hindu traditions" cast in stone and practised ubiquitously. They are certainly not "Hindu law'. So there is no easy escape by citing tradition.

The point to understand (as per my opinion and understanding) is that Hindus, for many thousands of years have been happy to accept others and others' practices as they are. If a sadhu smeared himself with ash and walked around naked - that was his wish and none of my friggin business to interfere as long as he did not bother me. That is how Indian society has no problem in accepting variety. But there is one problem that stems from this.

When an outsider comes and asks, "Why the heck do you tolerate this?" "Or why does that happen?" - we have no ready explanation. Hindu "tolerance" is often about acceptance without asking questions. The problem is times have changed. people who ask questions have now split Hindu society into a thousand parts and every time a question is asked we don't like it but often have no answers.

The answers are all there. In some cases it is about liberalism and individual rights to an extent that America can neither teach us nor achieve for themselves. But we have to have the scholarly weight to check our history and provide answers and move on or change with the times if need be without fretting and fuming.

Starting to read parts of our own texts in Sanskrit is probably one way forward. But this post is not about solutions.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Viv S » 15 Apr 2016 17:44

shiv wrote:When an outsider comes and asks, "Why the heck do you tolerate this?" "Or why does that happen?" - we have no ready explanation. Hindu "tolerance" is often about acceptance without asking questions. The problem is times have changed. people who ask questions have now split Hindu society into a thousand parts and every time a question is asked we don't like it but often have no answers.


Not necessarily outsiders either (though the article's written by Jean Druze) -

For Ambedkar, there was an “ism” above nationalism: Humanism, with its values of equality and liberty. Hence his collaboration with the British to promote the cause of the Indian plebe and to fight the Axis pow-ers — hence also his conversion to Buddh-ism. While Hinduism tends to be conside-red as the national religion of India par excellence today, Ambedkar looked at it as disrespectful of human dignity, in contrast to Buddhism.

While he considered that religion was “absolutely essential for the development of mankind”, his vision of religion was overdetermined by social considerations.

He rejected Hinduism because he thought that the caste system was co-substantial to this religion, whereas equality was inherent in Buddhism. He said: “By remaining in the Hindu religion nobody can prosper in any way. In the Buddhist religion 75 per cent bhikkshus were Brahmins. Twenty-five per cent were Shudras and others. But Lord Buddha said, “O bhikkshus, you have come from different countries and castes. Rivers flow separately when they flow in their provinces, but they lose their identity when they meet the sea. They become one and the same. The Buddhist Sangh is like an ocean. In this Sangh all are equal”. There is probably no better metaphor of the nation that is supposed to be made of peer citizens paying allegiance to the same encompassing body politic, without any intermediate entity.

On October 14, 1956, while he converted to Buddhism in a grand ceremony in Nagpur, Ambedkar said: “By discarding my ancient religion which stood for inequality and oppression today I am reborn”. And one of the 22 oaths that he took on that day, and even asked those who converted like him to take, was: “I thereby reject my old religion, Hinduism, which is detrimental to the prosperity of human kind and which discriminates between man and man and which treats me as inferior”.


http://indianexpress.com/article/opinio ... ationalism

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby A_Gupta » 15 Apr 2016 20:06

http://political-science.uchicago.edu/f ... erence.pdf
(PDF file)
"Living With Difference in India; Legal Pluralism and Legal Universalism in Historical Context," with Lloyd Rudolph, in Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment, edited by Gerald James Larson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001);

Henry Thomas Colebrooke, leader of the second generation of Asiatic Society of Bengal Orientalists, distinguished Sanskritist, author of Digest of Hindu Law [1798] and founder of the Royal AsiaticSociety, joined other scholars in the belief that in India the laws of groups pre-existed the state. He cites an injunction from Bhrigu, a mythical law giver, that calls on each category of person to litigate controversies according to its own law:

The frequenters of forests should cause their differences to be determined by one of their own order; members of a society, by persons belonging to that society; people appertaining to an army, by such as belong to the army...husbandmen, mechanics, artists...robbers or irregular soldiers, should adjust their controversies according to their own particular laws.


Sanskrit law texts held that the king should oversee the self-regulating society rather than create laws for society. The Manusmriti, initially translated from Sanskrit into English by Sir William Jones, holds that "the king [was] created as the protector of the classes and the stages of life, that are appointed each to its own particular duty, in proper order." Nor were such injunctions found solely in the Hindu texts favored by the early British Orientalists such as Jones and Colebrooke. Richard Eaton shows us numerous exemplars of legal understandings in 16th century, Mughal ruled Bengal, where Muslim administrators enforced laws particular to specific communities.

Such an understanding of Indian society supported the view that Indian society was constituted by groups.

Legal Uniformity and Individual Rights Enter the Contest

Group concepts flourished under Company rule as long as Jones and his Orientalist brethren held sway. Their view of the value of Indian civilizations and social formations and practices was challenged and largely overturned with the arrival in 1828 of Lord William Bentinck, the first of a series of liberal and utilitarian Governor Generals. Liberal individualist themes now competed with earlier Orientalist constructions of India as a society constituted of groups. Liberal utilitarians in the era of Bentinck and Macauley strove to liberate Indians from domination by groups, to unravel individuals from the grip of family, caste and religious community, to strengthen individual choice against collective decision. Until Victoria's 1858 proclamation reversed its course, the Benthamite thrust posited that individualism and universalism were a requirement for progress and civilized living.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby ramana » 15 Apr 2016 21:42

After UPA loss social stability of Indian society is being attacked via social activists.
Million mutinies are being activated.

Need to recognize this.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 15 Apr 2016 21:53

Pulikeshi saar,
- I was talking of basic principles, you are talking some exceptions. Exceptions exist for all rules.
- Vedhas are man made. Vedhas having non-human origin is a nonsensical dogma of Mimamsa school.
- Dharma is law. Shruthi implies revelation. Vedha means knowledge. Smruthi means memory.
- Perhaps, it was India which first used the concept of revelations and justified laws nominally based on revelations.
- Indian kings arbitrarily intervened in the social and religious practices. Though, it was less due to polytheistic society.
- the bill of rights of US constitution is worth emulating for all republics and even non-republics.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 16 Apr 2016 06:44

A_Gupta wrote:http://political-science.uchicago.edu/faculty/rudolphs/living-with-difference.pdf
(PDF file)
"Living With Difference in India; Legal Pluralism and Legal Universalism in Historical Context," with Lloyd Rudolph, in Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment, edited by Gerald James Larson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001);

Liberal individualist themes now competed with earlier Orientalist constructions of India as a society constituted of groups. Liberal utilitarians in the era of Bentinck and Macauley strove to liberate Indians from domination by groups, to unravel individuals from the grip of family, caste and religious community, to strengthen individual choice against collective decision. Until Victoria's 1858 proclamation reversed its course, the Benthamite thrust posited that individualism and universalism were a requirement for progress and civilized living.


It has been a fundamental pillar of the western method of inquiry to resort to reductionism - once famously described as "smashing a watch to look at its parts to see how it works." Reductionism requires the breaking down of a whole into smaller chunks that get classified under names that we are all taught as 5th std school kids as "taxonomy" in botany/biology - i.e vertebrate/invertebrate blah blah

What these Europeans seem to have done is to see Indian society as groups and they "froze" the classification/taxonomy there, without looking deeper and finding the liberal allowance for individual freedom within Indian society. It was that liberal freedom that probably led to the large number of individuals in India who belong to no groups. These include sadhus, mendicants, beggars and intinerants, and even transgenders. Each of these again has been classified as a "group" but they are groups only insofar as they unite to form a trade-union type organization to demand rights, but they are individuals carrying individualism to the extreme.

I think the freedom to diversify without interference from a "law from above" has allowed the formation of everything from huge groups, to smaller groups, to micro-groups to individuals. Society in India in a sense has the same diversity as rocks carved out by erosion which reveals everything from boulders, rocks, pebbles, gravel to grains of sand. This is the only way to look at Indian society that explains diversity.

The mere recognition of groups is insufficient and the demand (quoting from above) "to unravel individuals from the grip of family, caste and religious community, to strengthen individual choice against collective decision" simply calls for individualism within the groups - and that only breaks that group but does not touch thousands of other groups or the millions of individuals outside groups.

Take jati (aka "caste") as an example. Using western universalist demands caste has been declared irrelevant. But it is still relevant in so many ways. Individuals within a caste group meet universalist standards by rejecting caste. But the group as a whole transcends this by pulling the individual back al the time of life events like marriage, festivals and death. When the member of a caste/jati group rejects everything and goes out he does not necessarily meet a world that loves individual freedom. He has given up his identity and finds that other "individuals" (say in the West) have their own old identities based on colour, language and origins. This is what brings the individual back to his jati/caste group - which is, in any case, always ready to accept him back as a "prodigal son" to use biblical terminology.

On the other hand the individual has some choices of leaving groups and being a "true individualist" but he won't necessarily be making money by becoming an itinerant, a sadhu or a mendicant or by taking sanyasa. Sanyasa is the most extreme form of individualism and is a deeply ingrained concept among Hindus. Unsurprisingly this does not find mention among Western sociologists and Indologists who sought to break "caste groups" without seeing the space available for true individualism outside caste groups. It only indicates partial and incomplete observation of Indian society.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 08:56

johneeG wrote:- Vedhas are man made. Vedhas having non-human origin is a nonsensical dogma of Mimamsa school.


I personally find your English spellings of Sanskrit words nonsensical, but it is your choice.
If you do not understand that no valid evidentiary method (per most widely accepted schools of epistemology)
will be able to prove your first sentence: "Vedas are man made" then all further conversation is futile.
Even per any modern scientific method where is the proof? We should trust you said so? We trust hearsay now? :P

johneeG wrote:- Dharma is law. Shruthi implies revelation. Vedha means knowledge. Smruthi means memory.
- Perhaps, it was India which first used the concept of revelations and justified laws nominally based on revelations.
- Indian kings arbitrarily intervened in the social and religious practices. Though, it was less due to polytheistic society.
- the bill of rights of US constitution is worth emulating for all republics and even non-republics.


What a nice bow tie on this pre-packed prejudice boxed in as translated western bunkum! :-)

Dharma can mean nature, stability, tradition, ordinance, attribute, etc. - Where in the world is Dharma law?
Śruti can mean word, stream, road, hypotenuse, division of an octave, perception, etc. - no equivalence to western "revelation" unless you invent one in the middle of the desert!
Smriti can mean desire, mindfulness, awareness, tradition, poetic meter, reminiscence, remembrance, etc. - no equivalence to western lawgiver given codes

If you take words in Sanskrit that are in technicolor and convert them into a Western framework - no matter ur funny spelling choice -
you get not even - greyscale or monochrome - you get black & white - good & evil - heaven & hell - God & Devil -
Bill of Rights & Hindutvalike Chaddi wearing Traditionalists hell bent on not seeing the light & accepting the good news or Sharia law of the RoP :mrgreen:

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 09:22

A_Gupta wrote:http://political-science.uchicago.edu/faculty/rudolphs/living-with-difference.pdf
(PDF file)
Group concepts flourished under Company rule as long as Jones and his Orientalist brethren held sway. Their view of the value of Indian civilizations and social formations and practices was challenged and largely overturned with the arrival in 1828 of Lord William Bentinck, the first of a series of liberal and utilitarian Governor Generals. Liberal individualist themes now competed with earlier Orientalist constructions of India as a society constituted of groups. Liberal utilitarians in the era of Bentinck and Macauley strove to liberate Indians from domination by groups, to unravel individuals from the grip of family, caste and religious community, to strengthen individual choice against collective decision. Until Victoria's 1858 proclamation reversed its course, the Benthamite thrust posited that individualism and universalism were a requirement for progress and civilized living.


Thanks for the good article...

The Western intellectuals who get attracted to Buddhism and Hinduism are only partially successful - resulting in a U-Turn (to borrow Malhotra's term I suppose)... my own feeling is they cannot place themselves in a group - jati for example - which acts as an unit of diversity and positively establishes a prejudice or a stereotype of Dharma for that group. Thereby providing the human a crunchable subset of the collective wisdom of millennia to consume. Lacking this... the artificial groups or more correctly much more loose grouping that exists in an ashram of one denomination or another does not sufficiently play this role outside the context of the said ashram. Anyway, that is my hypothesis, have not pursued it...

My explanation on Dharma Smriti goes like this - every so often someone so inclined goes and observes empirically the current practices in various common groups across the Jambu Dvipa. They then decided to write an example recommendation of practices and tradition and call it a Smriti, usually illustrating the work of previous authors and showing their alliance and deviations with clarity. Once this work was reviewed and accepted by the learned... the Rajan, their vassals and local governors, in turn each group - jati for example and their panchayats were free to accept or reject these works. Typically, these groups themselves adopted what worked for them. The obsession with establishing an universal and positing that this guarantees the rights and therefore makes every citizen equal will sound absurd and crazy to someone imbibed in the ways of what I have described above...

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 16 Apr 2016 14:18

Pulikeshi,
Every religion & sect has its share of dogmas. The onus is on you to prove that Vedhas or whatever other literature is not made by man. By default, all literature is assumed to be human made.

Your meanings for Sanskruth words are mostly wrong. I am talking of precise meanings. You are talking of approximately similar usage of words in different contexts.

US constitution gives a bill of rights which protect the citizens. Its worth emulation by all states.

Besides your points being just wrong, I have no idea what your essential point is. If your essential point is that ancient Indian system was without any flaws and has nothing to learn from west, then I disagree with you.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RajeshA » 16 Apr 2016 14:55

Pulikeshi wrote:in turn each group - jati for example and their panchayats were free to accept or reject these works. Typically, these groups themselves adopted what worked for them. The obsession with establishing an universal and positing that this guarantees the rights and therefore makes every citizen equal will sound absurd and crazy to someone imbibed in the ways of what I have described above...


It becomes challenging when the boundary of community cannot be defined anymore with much precision. In endogamous groups, it was possible. In certain guilds it was possible. However as communities open up to urbanization, migration, co-education, professional careers and modern workplace, everything that defined a close-knit community is up in the air.

I am not saying, that federation of Smritis is wrong per se. I think, it has become much more difficult in the present world.

The way to go, I think is to continue to have a nationwide discourse on Dharma, and to continue to improve the laws that govern us based on that understanding. We need to know that our understanding of Dharma would remain in evolution as has been the case till day. It is about finding a balance between individual and community's responsibilities which strengthens the family and community as well as provide the individual sufficient level of freedom for creative expression.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby csaurabh » 16 Apr 2016 15:40

There are many cases of weird law cases in the USA - like suing McDonald for making them overweight, suing a restaurant for spilling coffee, and that sort of things. Often millions of dollars are awarded in compensation for these cases.

Why does this sound weird and nonsensical to us?
Why does it sound OK in the legal parlance of the USA and its society?
How does it fit into the framework of 'Dharma' and ethics instead of rigidly defined 'laws'?

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 16 Apr 2016 19:40

Pulikeshi wrote:My explanation on Dharma Smriti goes like this - every so often someone so inclined goes and observes empirically the current practices in various common groups across the Jambu Dvipa. They then decided to write an example recommendation of practices and tradition and call it a Smriti, usually illustrating the work of previous authors and showing their alliance and deviations with clarity. Once this work was reviewed and accepted by the learned... the Rajan, their vassals and local governors, in turn each group - jati for example and their panchayats were free to accept or reject these works. Typically, these groups themselves adopted what worked for them. The obsession with establishing an universal and positing that this guarantees the rights and therefore makes every citizen equal will sound absurd and crazy to someone imbibed in the ways of what I have described above...

I like this explanation.

From observing Indian behaviour, I get the impression that some sense of "Dharma" has been instilled across the entire population - in fact not just India but beyond the borders of modern India as well. That was probably achieved a very long time ago and the consequence of that is that people weigh all laws imposed upon them through a lens of what Dharmic or not. But because groups have been allowed to reach their own decisions about Dharma, its recommendations are followed loosely and variably.

Unfortunately by saying this I am giving the impression that the concept of what is Dharma is set in stone and that it can simply "be followed". That does not appear to be true. For humans the demands of Dharma are not always clear and every society has to have a leadership body of a system of jurisprudence to decide on the problems that Dharma throws up in day to day life. I think that smritis provided guidelines in this process.

For example, take a simple criminal act - say a thief caught stealing something - for example - grabbing someone's smartphone in a public place. Theft is adharma. What should the consequence be? Should the thief be allowed to go and live out his karma and pay for his actions be being delayed from achieving moksha at some future date? Maybe being born as a dog for a lifetime? This is a wholly unsatisfactory thing because it can be argued that the thief was merely gaining revenge for a theft committed on him in a previous life by the person he stole from. If you look at Dharma as "preserving society" - you cannot preserve society via fanciful rationalizations that will only encourage theft, which is adharma. Clearly upholding of Dharma requires some punishment for the wrongdoer and some recompense for the wronged.

Unlike "laws" carved in stone by Hammurabi, Bible and Koran, Dharma, from a much earlier era leaves the field open for writing a suitable set of "laws" for this situation, which themselves should conform to the demands of Dharma.

For example: "What punishment should the thief receive?". I think this was left open for individual groups to write. But one could dive deep into the intricacies of jurisprudence which a civilized society should do. Should his hand be cut off? To me this sounds like egregious adharma because it is certainly painful punishment, but there may be aggravating and mitigating factors, and the permanent disability leaves no scope for corrective action. A teenage schoolboy who errs from temptation really should not have a hand cut off because someone wrote it in a book back when. So there needs to be a civilized system of judicial process in a "good country, or good kingdom/Ram rajya". That is also a demand of Dharma.

It is possible to say that the Indian constitution and the IPC are the smritis to be followed today. They are, and we need to examine where Dharma stands in relation to that.

I am no lawyer and I don't know the provisions of IPC but a thief who steals a something, if caught, needs to be reported to the police because the constitution and IPC are a top down process that give no leeway to the urban citizen to decide matters. The police file an FIR and (I am guessing here) take the thief into police custody initially. Stolen goods, if any are found, will be retained by the police as evidence to be presented at a trial. I think the police then have to present the thief to a court within 72 hours. The judge then decides whether the accused can be released on bail or keep him in judicial custody for a further period of time.

If the accused is released on bail he will eventually come to trial. In the trial the police have to produce witnesses and evidence that the man committed the crime. The actual witnesses who saw the petty theft are often simply not available by then. They simply caught the man and moved on ensuring that he reaches a police station. The thief may plead via his lawyer (provided by the state if need be) that he was accused falsely and was beaten up to boot and his assaulters are at fault. The aggrieved party cannot attend court for these sessions. Typically in India such minor criminal infractions never go through this process because it is a useless waste of time. The case will simply get dropped by the wayside.

So what actually happens in India? If a crowd catches the thief, they will beat him up and restore the stolen goods to the owner. There is instant "justice" of a sort. If the beating is too hard and the man dies or is grievously injured then that becomes a second criminal case, provided it is reported to the police by someone. Alternatively, if the police get the man they know damn well that the judicial process will solve nothing in this petty crime. They will simply thrash the guy and restore the stolen goods (or keep them) and let him off with bruises and a warning. All these acts are unconstitutional. They are just the sorts of things that the constitution seeks to prevent. But a top-down system is that inefficient unless it is implemented in the way "rule of law" is implemented in the USA. The aggrieved has rights. The accused has rights. And all those conditions must be fulfilled by a quick and efficient process of law.

But the fact that this sort of instant justice is meted out both by police and by the public in India can be seen in two ways
    1. It is an indicator of how groups in India can arrive at a judgement of punishment required on the spot, depending on the crime. The punishment may be unjust but it appears to the group/crowd as if instant justice has been done.
    2. From a top-down justice system viewpoint this sort of action is "lack of rule of law" and violation of human rights.
India works on a curious blend of these things. Neither fully here nor there. In Saudi, with sharia, there are no doubts, no worries. In the west one assumes the thief will be punished as per the law, but so will the assaulters who beat him up. This does not always happen. A vigilante who shoots someone, possibly innocent can get away on various grounds.

We need to pick up every event that occurs in India and ask if what happened was "rule of constitutional law" or "group justice based on a reading of the event by people" and see which one serves the Indian ideal of Dharma. I suspect that many controversies in India revolve around this conflict. Will try and list a few in due course - there are many

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 16 Apr 2016 20:02

How are Hammurabi or Moses different from Manu, Baudhayana, Apasthambha,...etc? Except very fine details, they all seem similar to me in terms of basic principle.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 20:18

^^^Say this with respect - yes they were all human, other than that, all is fine detail enhanced by monochrome glasses.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 20:30

johneeG wrote:Pulikeshi,
Every religion & sect has its share of dogmas. The onus is on you to prove that Vedhas or whatever other literature is not made by man. By default, all literature is assumed to be human made.


You are in the business of religious reengineering :-)

Dogma - a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

The claim that the Vedas are not of human origin, even though they may have human authorship is not based on any authority except the body of work itself. It is a tautology but not dogmatic. Please get your framework of reference corrected before you can have these discussions. There is no single point of authority, especially a human pope or a mullah or a prophet where it all rests. How can you apply dogma to a system that predated it by millennia?

johneeG wrote:Your meanings for Sanskruth words are mostly wrong. I am talking of precise meanings. You are talking of approximately similar usage of words in different contexts.


Precise to support your point of view? Why translate multi-color, multi-flavored words to black and white to misunderstand them?

johneeG wrote:US constitution gives a bill of rights which protect the citizens. Its worth emulation by all states.

Besides your points being just wrong, I have no idea what your essential point is. If your essential point is that ancient Indian system was without any flaws and has nothing to learn from west, then I disagree with you.


I never said the ancient Indian system is without flaws, if you have read about a decade of posts here at BRF - no one can accuse me of saying there is nothing to learn from the west, west-asia, south-america, etc.
Your waving of the US bill of rights is your right - seems misplaced when we are discussing "Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society" - perhaps the bill of rights can replace that whole (pun intended!).
The religious reengineering would be complete! :mrgreen:

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 16 Apr 2016 20:40

Pulikeshi wrote:You are in the business of religious reengineering :-)

I said as much on anther thread. Surprised that no one else noticed. IMHO and all that

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 20:45

shiv wrote:
We need to pick up every event that occurs in India and ask if what happened was "rule of constitutional law" or "group justice based on a reading of the event by people" and see which one serves the Indian ideal of Dharma. I suspect that many controversies in India revolve around this conflict. Will try and list a few in due course - there are many


Slight off topic - had a similar discussion with a friend who is a native and a professor in the US on the difference between the rights/codes in the constitution and the empirical evidence seen among low income groups in the application of the said codes and how and why this violates the Anglo-Saxon concept of fairness. The idea of Fairness is important to understand. The foundational principles of the western ideas of natural law, which in many cases predates Christianity and perhaps even the Greco-Roman substrate is the idea that we all ought to play fair!

Look forward to see your list as it should be empirically verifiable and therefore very useful to get insight.
Someday it would be interesting to juxtapose - Ideas of Fairness and Dharma from a game theory perspective.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 16 Apr 2016 20:50

So, saying that all literature must be human made, is 'religious engineering'? :lol: I thought it was common sense. How is this Dogma different from believing in divine origins of Quran or some other literature?

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Pulikeshi » 16 Apr 2016 23:24

For those interested, it is to some smug satisfaction that i've spent some years trying to understand the confusion and pure naked fear the proposition that "the Vedas have no authors" has caused intelligencia outside India. :-)

See these paragraphs for example:

Take the fundamental dogma of M¥måµså and Vedånta, according to which the
Veda has no author, be he human or divine. Bilimoria finds this claim
preposterous’ (p. 19),


responded with:

The general (and in my opinion correct) understanding of the M¥måµså position
is that the Veda literally has no beginning: just as every present-day teacher of Vedic
recitation has learned his skills from a teacher, so every teacher in the past had a teacher
who taught him. There is no beginning to this tradition of recitation, there never was a
first reciter (or teacher), and consequently, there was no "author" of the Veda either.
This view is peculiar from a modern Western perspective, but it is coherent, and by no
means preposterous. Seen in this way, the Veda is literally eternal, i.e., without
beginning, and literally without author


Further, the language and the error correction chanting provides for self referential integrity.
This is the basis of Sanathana - meaning it has no beginning and no end. The Karman wheel turns!
This means all human prophets and languages used in authorship of revelations can be dismissed as claims of quackery -
They all have a beginning, human authors in a human language corruptible and therefore has an end.
this is why this argument is "pulikeshi agni™" :mrgreen:

Sheldon Pollock (1989: 607-608) has recently pointed out that basically two
arguments are presented by the M¥måµsakas in support of the apauru∑eyatva of the
Veda. Empirical grounds are supposed to show that the recitation of the Veda must be
beginningless. The second argument Pollock describes as follows: "The transcendent
character of the Vedas, which is proved by the fact of their having no beginning in time
and no author, is confirmed by their contents: the Vedas show no dimension whatever
of historical referentiality. Allusions to historical persons or to historical sequentiality
are only apparently so."


Et tu Pollock? :P

DOES THE VEDA HAVE AN AUTHOR?

To lose this key principle is not a trivial issue of dogma or common sense or similarity or otherwise...
this argument has defended Dharma against all those who stand opposed to it.

There are tons of references to papers all over the interwebs - their only defense will be this is preposterous! :mrgreen:
I'll spare this thread of further derailment.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RoyG » 17 Apr 2016 20:15

Shiv,

HOW exactly did our ancestors pull this off? India run by jatis and King ensuring that it remains so and regulates itself made Marx very jealous of India. There must have been some basic tenets that linked the jatis together that the state could use as a reference point. Seems to me that the state was merely enforcing voluntary social contract within jatis. During period of economic and social hardship and/or in absence of central rule jatis perhaps became more rigid out of self preservation and protection of trade secrets from foreign invaders/other jatis. Not because they necessarily believed that jati members couldn't mix.

Moreover, could what the colonialists observed as "untouchability" been casual drifters looking for work floating between jatis? Balu notes that most societies had these types of people. Perhaps, AGupta can offer his thoughts on the matter.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 08:21

RoyG wrote:Shiv,

HOW exactly did our ancestors pull this off? India run by jatis and King ensuring that it remains so and regulates itself made Marx very jealous of India. There must have been some basic tenets that linked the jatis together that the state could use as a reference point.

RoyG - I recall reading how the British went about documenting jatis. They started in their usual reductionist way making a taxonomy of jatis and ended up with an enormous and very complex volume with thousands and thousands of "caste groups" which were impossible to classify. This same fooging document is used to this day - thereby freezing all Indian jatis into the same compartments that the British "anthropologists and Indologists, Orientalists and Evangelists" put them. The layers were so soooo complex that the Brits found it easier to dumb them down by linking them with 4 varnas - so that about 10,000 jatis became Brahmin; another 10,000 became Kshatriya; another 10,000 became Vysya, another 10,000 shudra and the last 10,000 became something outside - including all the so called "untouchable". I will write more on untouchbaility later and how Brits may have come across it and how they may have seen it - but that is a digression

Let us leave this caste classification aside - we are all too Macaulayized by our education and Indian laws to see jatis as anything but multiple impermeable layers. The fact is that jati layers were not impermeable. There were different jatis that were closely enough related to intermarry.

Because of my own birth in a household that was stamped as Brahmin - my personal knowledge of Brahmin jati layers is slightly more than my knowledge of jati layers among other communities. Besides we Macaulayites never talk about these things, but talking to workmen, maidservants etc and getting to know what they do or what they face gives me the feeling that the same exchanges always took place among related jatis so that it was never "frozen for all time" like all worms are frozen for all time as "invertebrate" and all humans are frozen for all time as "vertebrates" in a classification that looks only at spine and not at the presence of eyes or legs. If the classification had been on legs for example, or on penis size, or absence of penis, then we would have had a different view of life forms. But I digress again

For example - among the Brahmin communities I find around me in Bangalore I find Madhwas, Hoysala Karnataka, Babbur Kamme, Uruch Kamme, Mulknaad Brahmins, Havyakas (who appear frequently in genetics studies), Kayasths, Iyers, Iyengars and the list is endless. But these groups are tight only so long as there is someone available within the community in marriage. Otherwise someone from a slightly different jati is picked. So what jati does a child of such a union belong to? Typically the child would probably acquire the jati of the father.

Similarly every other "caste group" has a million different subgroups that are not watertight. Some of these issues are now coming up increasingly because we have made "caste" watertight - according to the book. What caste is the son of a kshatriya software engineer from Pune and his Reddy wife from Andhra? The child may have no caste - but he will definitely identify himself with both jatis and have relatives on both sides.

But how did things become this way? I can only imagine that a very long time ago (eg 20,000 years?) when India was peopled by maybe a few hundred thousand people, the concept of Dharma was probably discovered and recognized to be a superior societal peace-mongering force than allegiance to any God. If you look at it rationally and imagine you were living back then 20,000 years ago - maybe your tribe had a God and the neighbouring tribe had a different God. But a higher God seemed to screw both tribes during floods or drought. Maybe you thought you could be clever and screw the other tribe and steal their stuff during drought saying your God is better. But then what? The drought continues and you still get fewkued. Dharma merely demanded that you preserve society using certain modes of behaviour. This was good for all and it did not matter which God was in power for the day or week.

When I apply this reasoning I get the sense that this would have been true for tribal societies anywhere in the world - but the concept of Dharma was probably discovered and spread only in India leading to a typically Indian society. Elsewhere in the world, Dharma lay undiscovered and competing religions developed and ended up screwing one society after another and still do not find peace.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 14:26

I wanted to write about a form of untouchability followed by Brahmins which is perfectly legal and followed to this day. But it is easy to understand how a Briton would consider this as odd "back then"

I will go so far as to say that this form of untouchability is
    Is unprecedented in other cultures
    Has a sound modern scientific basis
    Is now practised under a different name in every country in the world

But it is definitely untouchability in practice and intent

There is a Brahmin ritual called "Madi" in Kannada (pronounce "muddy :D , but the intent is different).

Technically Madi was to performed before first praying in the morning, but be that as it may, Madi is performed before cooking food or before doing something that calls for physical cleanliness. Madi is fairly straighforward. Basically it is a bath, followed by the donning of clean clothes. After this - any person who is not in that state of cleanliness who touches this person contaminates him (or her) and he/she will need to go through the whole cleansing process again. When you hear of Hindus doing this it sound phenomenally stupid until you learn about something called "Operating theater sterile technique"

In Operating Theater Sterile technique one is supposed to be physically clean (can't walk in after game of tennis sans shower); the clothes are changed to fresh washed OR clothes. Then the hands and forearms are scrubbed up to the elbows. After drying on a special towel a sterile operating theater gown is donned ensuring that one's hands do not touch the outside of the gown at all at any spot where it is likely to come into contact with the patient. The part that touches the wearer (the insides) is considered contaminated. Then one puts on gloves ensuring that the fingers at no time come into contact with the outside surface which touches the patient.

Now guess what happens if a non scrubbed person touches the outside of the gown or gloves? It is immediately considered contaminated by bacteria and must be discarded and a new set donned. This is untouchability in the operating theater.

It is certain that foreign observers saw Brahmins in this state of ritual cleanliness reacting with irritation and considering themselves untouchable by others. This surely added to the reputation of "Caste Hindus treating others as untouchable" but the point here is that all operating room surgeons and nurses must not touch anyone else or be touched by others who are not scrubbed. The intent is the same - prevention of contamination. And if you try and walk into an operating theater with your shoes and without changing, you will be stopped. Brahmin priests treated the sanctum of temples as a clean area that required prevention of contamination in just the same way. Remove footwear; wash hands and feet; don't spit.

Prevention of contamination is easy to understand when you look at operating theaters and kitchens. But Indians have used techniques of prevention of contamination in many different ways some of which have become part of group habits - excluding others and some which are practised by all.

Watch a community water source (tap) with a shared glass. Everyone drinks without touching his lips to the glass. The idea is to avoid putting your body fluids on a shared oral resource.

Removing chappals/shoes before entering a home or a temple has exactly the same effect as demanding the removal of shoes before entering a clean area like an Intensiv Care Unit. Spread of dirt and bacterla adherent to your footwear is reduced. Washing feet and hands while entering a temple is intended to have the same effect as using alcohol based hand sanitizers before entering an Intensive Care Unit.

Having a bath after visiting and viewing a dead person may sound off - but not odd at all when people were dying of smalpox, cholera and plague

Boiling milk has pretty much the same intent as pasteurization.

Washing hands after shitting and peeing is well knows nowadays to non Indians - but even in the UK of the 1980s people were being told that it would be a good idea to wash hands after using the toilet. Even use of left hand for ahem and right hand for eating has the same logic and has an analogy in surgical technique.

So some Hindu habits based on avoidance of contamination especially from people who were thought not to maintain the same degree of hygiene as one's own group was definitely untouchability. But untouchability with a purpose and explanation.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RajeshA » 18 Apr 2016 14:44

shiv saar,

Indians do Namaste by folding hands from a distance. Shaking hands like Europeans spreads diseases. Muslims go a step further and kiss each other on the cheeks. All old practices.

Considering the conditions in India - hot, humid, dense, where diseases can spread swiftly, it was definitely the rational way to keep some distance.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 18:21

RajeshA wrote:Considering the conditions in India - hot, humid, dense, where diseases can spread swiftly, it was definitely the rational way to keep some distance.

What is remarkable is how they discovered milleniums ago that contact can spread disease, and that washing can avoid it. The conclusion is not so simple as we might imagine.

In Europe the idea was discovered by a fellow called Ignac Filip Semmelweiss who noticed that women in labour who had no infection got infected if he had been examining an infected woman before seeing her. He realised that washing hands in antiseptic could stop that. This was around the mid-1800s - at a time when other Europeans were bitterly accusing Indians of "untouchability"

Now, in the current era we see so much fuss about body contact and germs spreading from hands emerging from Amrika - but hey not touching a person if he is thought to be carrying or spreading disease is untouchability in practice.

In hospitals - a person who has to carry some equipment or medicine from point A to point B - say from cupboard/trolley to doctor's hand needs to wash his hands first. Of course the doctor must be clean too.

Now look at an India where a community owned a water resource and they, knowing that contact from unwashed hands and contaminated water can spread disease had made it law in their village that people must be clean to access the resource or certain people were delegated to access water.

If visitors from another group who did not follow these community practices came by - perhaps fleeing from an epidemic and knowing those days smallpox was 100% death and Cholera was 90% death. You get it you're dead. Your mom gets it she would soon be dead. What do you do? Be liberal?

Untouchability is definitely partly about "caste". But its origins lie in beliefs and trust regarding group hygiene practices. Considering that Europeans did not have a frigging clue about cross contamination till 1850 - in fact exactly what sort of history do we attribute to our own people?

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RajeshA » 18 Apr 2016 18:30

Reposting here from "The Bharatiya - Identity, Vision, Agenda, Proposition" thread
First Posted on 28 Dec 2014


Untouchability among Hindus

Cross-posting from the "Western Universalism - what's the big deal?" Thread

Blog post

csaurabh wrote:In those days there was ridiculous things, like 'sight untouchability' - If a Brahmin saw an untouchable at a distance of 20 feet he would get 'polluted'. Yes this is the kind of nonsense Hindus were up to in those days. Lets be clear about it- such things are anti Dharma and should be condemned.


Untouchability makes perfect sense in India, in order to stop spread of disease. Many professions and Jatis who were often into certain professions like skinning animals, garbage collection, sewage drain cleaning, etc. were simply considered as such who were more prone to have disease, and so many others kept them at a distance. One did not socialize with them for same reasons.

If Europeans had followed such rules, perhaps the plague would not have killed off so many Europeans.

Now why didn't the untouchables all die off? Well, there is the concept of "developing natural immunity"!

Often foreigners or NRIs/PIOs/OCIs, who come to India, they are more prone to getting diarrhea than Indians living in India. BTW, Birds who carry "Avian Flu" often don't have "flu" themselves and they are only "carriers", but these can be dangerous for humans.

Secondly one should remember that not all diseases imply certain death.

Not just untouchability, even in families, often there is the concept of "Jhootha", something that has been touched by the mouth of another. Often one would not eat or drink, "jhootha" of another family member.

So untouchability in a sense was there within family itself.

Then there is the custom of greeting others by folding one's hands and saying "Namaste"! Same thing when taking leave of somebody! Why not shake hands? Well that too can be a reason for passing on disease, so better avoid it.

So untouchability in a sense was there within the same community itself.

Today you see pictures of doctors running around in Africa with full-body hazmat suits. Is that not "untouchability"? If people who have been in a region infected by Ebola, and they are kept in quarantines, is that not "untouchability"? How was it with Bird Flue? How was it with Swine Flu? How was it with BSE?

However if a person has taken up a profession which does not expose him to infectious diseases and lives in a community where the diseases are rare, then he stops being "untouchable"! "Untouchability" is not bound to his birth, but rather to his profession and environment.

Sure, this reasoning may have gone missing, as during the foreign invasions and rule, the various Jatis became more introvert and suspicious of others.

Hindu Samaj or rather British-framed "Hinduism" has been smeared with Casteism, Suttee, Untouchability, and many others social ills.

It is important to frame the context of how these phenomena came to exist in India, how these phenomena became institutionalized and became tradition, and how they are not part and parcel of Dharma.

It is a Western project to show these as part and parcel of some immutable religion "Hinduism" so as to tarnish our traditions, and argue in favor of conversion!

I am not speaking in favor of "Untouchability" or justifying it on any "religious grounds" or "social grounds". I am providing an explanation for the phenomenon on "health grounds". If the environment changes, there is also no reason to have "untouchability" on "health grounds" either. Modern research and medicine, hygiene, etc. changes the environment, the circumstances.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby KJo » 18 Apr 2016 18:54

shiv wrote:Untouchability is definitely partly about "caste". But its origins lie in beliefs and trust regarding group hygiene practices. Considering that Europeans did not have a frigging clue about cross contamination till 1850 - in fact exactly what sort of history do we attribute to our own people?


I had this discussion some 10 years ago with some Muslim friends online on a forum. They, especially a woman there was outraged that I did not denounce the "caste system". I told them that my caste was my identity just like their sect (sunni) was theirs. They were :shock: like the clueless US media (and their Indian slaves) are. So they needed to denounce their sect system first. I told them I was against caste (or any kind) discrimination, not the caste system itself which was for most part outdated and redundant except for some social reasons.

I told them that castes in ancient India were based on occupation so there was a carpenter caste, a priest caste(s) etc etc. There were occupations wherein people worked in sanitary services. It was understandable that people did not want to touch people who were not hygienic because of their jobs. More outrage. Of course no outrage towards crazy islamic practices.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 19:06

Untouchability was largely about hygiene not birth. Extended family groups were formed in India based on birth and Indian culture as discussed above allowed every group to have its own laws. It was necessary for outsiders to always follow the local law. If a group had laws regarding touch for the purpose of hygiene it was interpreted as "untouchability"

A practical example Hindus see every day is a bowl of teertha" (in Kannada) - a little sip of scented water or something that has been offered to a deity then given in spoonfuls to devotees. That stuff is ladled out without touching anyone's hand, and spoons are definitely not touched by anyone's hands or lips. This is the most basic procedure of hygiene. If this was not necessary it would be perfectly acceptable to lay down a glass for drinking water on a table in a restaurant in the morning and never change the glass, allowing all customers using that table to use the same unwashed glass. Why remove and wash it?

If all humans are equal and clean there is absolutely no need to worry about touching parts of anyone's body and thinking that you can get contaminated. Unfortunately Hindus have been branded and pilloried by ignorant foreign rulers and colonizers for following basic hygienic practices which they knew nothing about.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 19:09

KJo wrote:
shiv wrote:Untouchability is definitely partly about "caste". But its origins lie in beliefs and trust regarding group hygiene practices. Considering that Europeans did not have a frigging clue about cross contamination till 1850 - in fact exactly what sort of history do we attribute to our own people?


I had this discussion some 10 years ago with some Muslim friends online on a forum. They, especially a woman there was outraged that I did not denounce the "caste system". I told them that my caste was my identity just like their sect (sunni) was theirs. They were :shock: like the clueless US media (and their Indian slaves) are. So they needed to denounce their sect system first. I told them I was against caste (or any kind) discrimination, not the caste system itself which was for most part outdated and redundant except for some social reasons.

I told them that castes in ancient India were based on occupation so there was a carpenter caste, a priest caste(s) etc etc. There were occupations wherein people worked in sanitary services. It was understandable that people did not want to touch people who were not hygienic because of their jobs. More outrage. Of course no outrage towards crazy islamic practices.



I have started objecting to the use of the word caste. it does not exist. It is a word for a non existent concept. It may be tough shit for me that the word is used in our law books, but our law makers also need to learn gradually about our history and culture. And our law books and attitudes will need to change accordingly.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 18 Apr 2016 19:15

RajeshA wrote:
csaurabh wrote:Now why didn't the untouchables all die off? Well, there is the concept of "developing natural immunity"!
<snip>
Secondly one should remember that not all diseases imply certain death.



There is one more reason why everyone would not die even in smallpox epidemics - that had near 100% deaths. That was because people would simply flee their village.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RoyG » 18 Apr 2016 21:17

Shiv,

Didn't India first come up with variolation? Chinese also made advances in immunity as well.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby johneeG » 18 Apr 2016 21:29

Caste was mainly based on birth, atleast from 1000 CE. Cleanliness, education, food, money, power,...etc. were results of caste system, not causes. Untouchability was/is not limited to some small ritual or one's private kitchen. It was/is an oppressive social apartheid. Blaming foreign invaders for caste system is lame. Infact, it seems to me that foreign invaders were successful precisely because many faultines( mainly based on castes & sub-castes) existed in Indian society. foreign invader was able to win over because of social fragmentation.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby RoyG » 18 Apr 2016 22:03

johneeG wrote:Caste was mainly based on birth, atleast from 1000 CE. Cleanliness, education, food, money, power,...etc. were results of caste system, not causes. Untouchability was/is not limited to some small ritual or one's private kitchen. It was/is an oppressive social apartheid. Blaming foreign invaders for caste system is lame. Infact, it seems to me that foreign invaders were successful precisely because many faultines( mainly based on castes & sub-castes) existed in Indian society. foreign invader was able to win over because of social fragmentation.


Caste comes from the word Casta (Portuguese) and originates from the European feudal system.

As far as jati (not caste) being birth based, the latest genetic research shows that jati rigidity began sometime around skandagupta's rule and was probably shaped by political and economic factors.

Merely reproducing European experiences of Indian culture in the form of the British census and Jesuit sociologists and anthropologists is the wrong way to go about studying indian social phenomena.

Not sure where you have been for the past 10 years.

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby shiv » 19 Apr 2016 07:18

RoyG wrote:Merely reproducing European experiences of Indian culture in the form of the British census and Jesuit sociologists and anthropologists is the wrong way to go about studying indian social phenomena.
.

Macaulayite education does this - a blind acceptance of what has been told and anger and irritation at anything different. But anyone who is trying to change Indian society towards WU/Christianity would say the exact same things. Either way the expected reaction to anything different from what has been written by Orientalists and Evangelists is disbelief anger and dismissal and a knee jerk reiteration of everything written to prove Hindhoos as a bunch of racist retards 8)

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Re: Tradition, Culture, Religion & Law in Indian Society

Postby Gus » 19 Apr 2016 07:42

on a side note - you can see that the west has pushed this hygiene thing to absurd levels of carrying pocket size sanitizers in bags, cars, desks, restrooms and over use of disinfectants at home. i know people who don't give their infants to others for holding for fear of contamination by germs, and they say something polite like baby not feeling good, or it does not go to other people etc.

I actually think that this sort of sterility messes with immune response calibration, causing the allergy stuff. but that's just me..i am a caveman type on these things.

transport that parent to an indian home with no handy disinfectant products to be used for all guests coming in - i can see aspects of 'untouchability' beginning

heck, growing up, my mom would not let me touch anything when i come home after playing in the streets as we all know how indian streets are - dust and dirt, dog poos, people poos, dead animals and what not. sometimes i have to go back and take a bath in the back before i can get into kitchen for food.


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