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< Back to question Did British colonial powers invent the Indian caste system? Show more Show less

The four-tiered caste system gives Hindu society a strict hierarchical structure, with teachers and religious leaders at the top, and the fifth "undesirable" category performing "unclean" work. Where did it come from? Was it a colonial invention? Or are its roots embedded in ancient Indian culture?

British colonial powers disseminated the caste system Show more Show less

British colonial powers did not invent the caste system, but facilitated its wider adoption in Hindu society.
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Academic generalizations helped the adoption of the caste system

It was due to the British attempts to group Hindus together that the caste system expanded across Indian society.
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Proponents


The Argument

British attempted to categorize and classify Hindus, spearheaded by the work of William Jones and Edward Moor, led to mass generalizations. These generalizations led the misconstruction of the Hindu religion. The British attempt to categorize and classify the Hindu religion saw culture, myths, traditions, rituals and beliefs from across the country swept up into the umbrella of Hinduism. It is likely that the caste system was one of these beliefs that may have existed in some Indian cultures but was swept up and woven into the Hindu religion through British attempts to classify groups under the banner of “Hinduism”.[1] There wasn’t a unified Hindu religion before India was colonized by the British. The Hindus that lived in the region only existed as a group independent of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Hinduism doesn’t feature in Andhra scriptures between the 14th and 17th centuries.[2] Therefore, if the caste system existed in some pockets of Indian culture, it was by no means universal before colonialism. This suggests that at minimum, the British colonial powers contributed to the widespread adoption of the caste system.

Counter arguments

Premises

[P1] The caste system existed in Indian culture before British rule but was not widespread. [P2] British attempts to group many religious groups under a single Hindu banner led to the widespread adoption of the caste system. [P3] Therefore, the British colonial powers didn't create the caste system, but did contribute to its spread.

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2054677
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/179206?seq=1

This page was last edited on Monday, 27 Apr 2020 at 11:59 UTC