How did the caste system develop in India?

society : How-did-the-caste-system-develop-in-India : 2

Answer by Vishal Kale:

This answer is based on a classic historical investigation into Indian Culture, penned by Maria Misra : Vishnu's crowded Temple, which deals, among other things, quite extensively and deeply with this topic – that of caste divisions and their modern interpretations.

This seminal piece of investigation belongs on every Indologist's book shelf, its downsides notwithsatnding!  This is a book I am currently reading, and is a page turner, a stupendous, brutally blunt and searing analysis of Colonial Brutality. Colonialism's problems are thought to be economic in nature…

Here is a work proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Casteism, Regionalism, Nepotism and Corruption are all directly due to  colonial policies – India as we know it today is a direct result of The British Rapists. Be it Casteism and its evils, or the fractured caste-ridden politics, or be it Hindu-Muslim Divide {Covered in Other Indian Works Extensively; peripherally mentioned here}- each and every thing of the Modern Day can be traced back to The British Raj…

This is a tale of how the British and The White Man destroyed everything in India – Industry, Agriculture, Culture, Arts, Societal Structure – everything. This is a brutal no-holds barred account of the reality…

One that is not well known even in India, which believes Casteism to be an ancient evil, little realising that the scenes we see today have their direct origin in the horror of Colonialism…

This answer is not based on internet records, or websites, but on a deep reading of more than 30 books on Indian History spanning Vedic times to the Modern Day Kargil War. These books are based on authentic records, and provide crystal  clear proofs of their sometimes explosive content. IMO, there is no replacement for books – provided they mention the source clearly in the Bibliography, and provide well-constructed end-notes with links to authentic official proofs. Most of the books I recommend pass these tests

This is not conjecture – other famous authors and investigators have dealt with this quite extensively; for example –

Book Review: Becoming Indian by Pavan K Varma by Vishal Kale on reflectionsvvk

This book, Becoming Indian, proves with numbers taken from authentic colonial records, how Indian Arts were summarily destroyed, with planning and forethought. The records leave no room for any doubt whatsoever; the Britishers habit of metilculous recordkeeping has exposed them fully and finally.


Coming to casteism, I point everyone to yet another resource, which also uses documented and authentic records to raise the veil from the reality. This book is Operation Red Lotus by Parag Tope –

Book Review : Operation Red Lotus by Vishal Kale on reflectionsvvk

I am giving these references at that start, since my claims are nothing short of shocking to the uninitiated, Tejasvita Apte being a notable exception

Refer to the endnotes in this book above {Red Lotus}. There is a document sheet from late 1700s India, a schooling record, maintained castewise by the East India Company. This shows a stunning reality : equal representation of all castes in schools; this data snapshot is conclusive evidence that there is a lot more than what meets the eyes.

This brings me to the current book – which examines in excruciating detail how the British created the entire modern caste edifice by their interventions, which were not for purposes of good or benefit; the games they played led to a massive upheaval in the entire structure of society as it existed. I cannot state in a quora answer what has taken 4 chapters spanning 200+ pages, and innumerable records and historical documents. You have no choice but to read the book. I can only give an excerpt, and try to summarise, as I have attempted to above.

This excerpt is taken from the Chapter Topical Gothic; a reference to its bibliography shows a literally endless series of references : I stopped counting at 52. {This is a habit with me – before I recommend a book, I always check its sources}. These references are from the period 1794 – 2000+. We are talking about a detailed investigative paper here, not a newspaper article.

"The Casteization of Indian Society was not simply a by-product of of taxation policy, or the machinations of wily brahmans' an enthusiasm for the application of science to government also drove the craze to order and classify society.

This data gathering was not merely a sign of idle curiosity, it was directly linked to power…. The Army was issued caste handbooks… have detailed accounts of the physical, mental and moral capacities…other beneficiaries of the new classification were the members of the village councils or Panchayats, charged with Tax Collection… membership of whom was determined by high caste status… "

It is a fact that before the British, the caste construct was fluid and interchangeable, as exposed by Tajesvita Apte here on Quora. That is, howsoever much anyone may deny it, a simple truth. The British intervened with their coloured glasses, and  created a system of differential treatment of various classes and castes, differential economic treatment and power-sharing, combined with labelling of some tribes as criminal {who could be imprisoned on suspicion alone}.

This led to a cascade impact, as a caste identity became the key to economic, political and social status under the new dispensation. This is not conjecture; the books make it plain that this is a British Creation. Internet resources can be found; but you will not find the corroborative evidence in the internet, which can only be gleaned from a deep study of books. Please read the material above. A Quora answer will take weeks to write; this is an extensive matter spanning taxation, agrarian policies, census rules and methods, religion, international politics and economic planning in the 1700s and 1800s.

The one challenge to this is genetic studies, which look at inbreeding within castes to jump to the conclusion that the British did not create caste. Well, The British did not create caste; they only solidified it into the current form. The presence of strong social groups is a known fact in India. The presence of a strong class of traders is also a known fact, for example, with thousand-year-old trading empires along caste lines, as  superbly analysed by Romila Thapar in her book Early India in one entire detailed chapter.

The only point that the pre-colonial castre construct was far more fluid, and non-determinative in nature..

Please read the books for more. I cannot state more on Quora, or on my blog; which I why, despite having read these books for some time, I have not placed it on my 3-year-old blog. Interested parties can visit my blogger site Reflections or my quora blog reflectionsvvk where I have reviewed more than a hundred books, including around 56 on Indian History, Economics and Current Affairs…

cc Balaji Viswanathan

A humble request: there is no substitute to books and reading. I am a techie, a person in telecom whose lifeblood is the internet. But for some things, you cannot beat books.

How did the caste system develop in India?


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