Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism > Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 4

Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 4

In the previous part of this series, I pointed out how the many systemic dysfunctions which have plagued Indian society for over 1,500 years can be traced back to adoption and spread of the jati system. In it, I also briefly talked about how the jati system created a highly fragmented society without he social cohesion necessary to form armies capable of effectively fighting invaders as well as hindered the adoption of newer weapon technologies in addition to causing a decay of pre-existing capabilities. It is therefore no surprise that Muslim, and later European, invaders had no trouble defeating local kings and ruling that part of the world for centuries.

While I do intend to revisit those particular issues in more detail later, let us now focus on how the varna and jati system screwed up things as fundamental as sex, marriage and dietary habits in India. Have you ever wondered why most Indians as a people seem unable to conceive of marriages that are not loveless “arranged” marriages and why they obsess about remaining vegetarian- even though doing so makes them physically weak, skinny fat, diabetic and at higher risk of heart disease? I mean.. what kind of sad idiot would willingly inflict “arranged” marriages and vegetarianism on themselves? As you will see, both are intimately linked to jati and varna.

So let us start with the issue of “arranged” marriage or what was until recently child marriage- in all but name. Have you ever wondered why this wretched custom is now almost exclusive to India (and a couple of neighboring countries)? But.. but.. some of you might say, weren’t arranged marriages common in many other societies in the past? I mean.. weren’t arranged marriages common in a previous era within societies such as diverse as Japan, Indonesia and parts of the Middle-East? Sure, they were.. but most differ from their Indian version in some very fundamental ways.

For example, the majority of arranged marriages within east-asian countries were arranged based on factors such as who was the more compatible bride or groom with the right amount of money and family connections. Contrast this to Indian arranged marriages in which (until the last 50-60 years) little children were betrothed to each other without any feedback based almost exclusively on considerations of jati. Yes.. you read that right. Betrothing children between 5-10 years old was standard practice. Sure, the marriage would be consummated after the girl entered puberty, but the betrothal happened usually when she was literally of the age when girls play with dolls.

But it gets better.. or worse, depending on you viewpoint. Not only did the girl or guy had any say whatsoever in making these decisions, the death of the guy before or shortly after marriage would make the girl who has just entered her teens a bonafide widow- with not much chance of remarriage (though that did vary somewhat from jati to jati). At best, she could marry one of the brothers of the guy she was betrothed or married. If that was not possible, she had no real status in society. There is a good reason that the British, even though they came from a class-ridden and highly unequal society, thought this practice was especially barbaric. But what does this supremely fucked up system of marriage have anything to do with caste or jati?

Well.. everything! The sole and only reason behind betrothal of young girls into that fucked up arranged marriage system before they were ten was to maintain genetic purity of whichever jati that girl and boy belonged. I do find it odd that this obsession with genetic purity seems to consistently produce.. for the lack of a better word.. some of the ugliest specimens of humanity. Some of you might counter that things have changed since then and even in villages such ugly customs are now the exception rather than the rule. And I do agree that things are not as bad as they used to be, however we cannot pretend that whatever passes for arranged marriage in urban India today is anything other than a shady financial transaction between families of two people who never liked (or will like) each other.

Which brings me to the question- how did such a wretched system of marriage ever come into existence? Most Indians, who have not much knowledge about their own history, will confidently tell you that “it has always been this way”. Except that there is a lot of historical evidence to suggest otherwise. For starters, a significant percentage of women in Indian mythology chose their own husbands- which suggests that things once used to be quite different. But that is just mythology.. right? Well, consider the Arthashastra, a multi-volume treatise on statecraft, economic policy, military strategy and laws written by Chanakya sometime in the 3rd century BC. FYI- Chanakya was the lifelong prime-minister of the first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta.

To make a long story short, Chanakya was the prime minister of the Mauryan empire at a time when it was the most populous and likely largest empire on earth. To put it another way, he was writing about how things were being done under his leadership rather than how they ought to be done. Also, this was a bit before Qin Shi Huang united warring Chinese states into one empire- so the Mauryan empire being most populous part at that time is correct. So what is the relevance of Chanakya’s writings on law to the history of arranged marriage in India. For starters, he lists many types of marriages other arranged marriage and how the inheritance and rights of women in each type of marriage differ. He then goes to write about laws governing divorce, property rights, spousal support and many other issues that are quite contemporary.

Chanakya also wrote about laws governing remarriage and property, prosecution of physical abuse in marriage, right of widows to property and much more about issues that are also contemporary. To put it another way, The society in which Chanakya was a prime-minister was quite different from what most people In India believe today. And there is evidence, from a few roman accounts around 1st century AD, that the overall system of laws and regulations which Chanakya described in his work were still the norm. I keep coming back to my original point about major and poorly-documented cultural shifts (especially in North India) between 2nd and 5th century AD. Might go into some detail about that in later posts.

To summarize, the fucked up and almost universal arranged marriage system in India was always about preserving genetic purity of jatis and varnas (but much more of the former). It had all sorts of negative effects, many of which continue to this day. Furthermore, the arranged marriage system in India became dominant only after the jati system became well established sometime between the 2nd and 5th century AD in Northern India. In the next post of this series, I will show you how the Indian obsession with vegetarianism has everything to do with caste and nothing about preventing cruelty or pain to animals.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Nf
    September 6, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    This has nothing to do with the article but musk on Rogan might be the most brain numbing shit I have ever heard.

    Fucking Rogan…the man who put on Randall Carlson and graham Hancock didn’t blink a fucking eye when musk casually describes civilization being only 7 thousand years old. He was far more interested in getting him to smoke weed like a sophomoric fan boy.

    I find the deification and now demonization of Elon Musk quite amusing. Tells you more about the mindset of public than anything else.

  2. Gp
    September 7, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Great series AD. Keep on writing on this topic. We expect this series to be a mini book. Bestt series right now on blogosphere

  3. 99 Percent Libertarians Are Blue Collar Chumps
    September 8, 2018 at 7:12 am

    You mentioned *spousal support*,yet I’m sure you are aware that in pretty much every society,even the ancient ones women had something they could do to support themselves,to be sure it was a worse life than what they could have had as wives,but they could sustain themselves.
    Why should a man have to support a woman he is no longer married to?

    As a man society demands of you that you work as hard as you can,no ifs no buts,of course there are a few men that through either luck or the virtue of their intellect manage to avoid having to live up to this ever-present social mandate,but in the case of most men,it is there and it has a dire effect on their lives.

    Why should women,married or otherwise be able to live without working or producing anything?

    A man living like that would be treated like trash in pretty every human society and discarded,facing a premature and very bitter end to his existence.

    • P Ray
      September 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

      The fact that people don’t question why women are allowed to get away with being wasters, is already a good indicator you live in a misandric society.

  4. hoipolloi
    September 8, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Kudos, AD. Your insights on aspects of Indian society are quite accurate. Very few people get it right. Cheers.

  5. lalit
    December 2, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    The Betrothal at young age was to reduce her attractiveness to Muslim governors who prized virginity in the Kaffir women they abducted.

    Right.. that is why it was already present in India a thousand years before Islam came into existence.There are things you can blame on that religion, and then there are others you cannot.

    • hoipolloi
      December 2, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      The betrothal and marriage of kids around 5 years could be seen in villages into the last part of 20th century. That is 200 years after the Muslim rule ended in India. I read a news paper story where a district collector visiting some village in the South found a number of elementary school age girls playing in the streets with mangal sutram (marriage symbol) in their necks. He was so horrified that he summoned their parents and made an issue of it.

      Stop blaming Muslims for what they were not responsible for. Also, if that was indeed the reason- you would see a large geographical variation for that wretched practice in India. You should be aware that it was mentioned in the accounts of many foreign travelers to India from hundreds of years before Islam came into existence.

      Examining some evidence from legends and puranas, Ram and Sita married quite young as adolescents. Krishna had a bunch of groupies and girl friends when he was a pre-adolescent. Fear of Muslim kidnappers did help continue this tradition for a long time.

      There are things you can blame that religious community for and then there are things you cannot. Child marriage in India is clearly an example of the later. As I said before, it has been documented in India for many centuries before that religion came into existence.

      • lalit
        December 3, 2018 at 5:24 pm

        Okay, lets have names and references for this documentation? Which Travelers are we talking? Megasthenes? Fa-Hien? Hieun Tsang? Just to be clear We’re talking about the marriage of pre-pubescent and girls who have just hit puberty here. Your time starts now. Links to that documentation would be appreciated as well.

        Also please provide documentation that this happens in Nepal as well as Assam which were not touched by the Islamics.

        I’m not blaming the Muslims for everything, just outlining their invasions as one of the important causes. The biggest blame must always be with the Hindus for being weak in the first place. Weakness is the greatest Sin and the greatest fault a people can have. Weakness is the source of all Evils and strength is the source of all virtue. Had Hitler won, the Nazis would have been perceived as more virtuous than the Brits or Americans or at least evil. You gotta win, and then write the history,

        Still, I look forward to your links and the results of your research on this most fascinating topic.

        Many Indian “law” books first written between 400 BC and 300 AD recommend child marriage..

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_marriage_in_India#Origin_and_causes_of_child_marriage

        Dharmaśāstra (Dharmasutras) state that girl should be married after they have attained puberty.[21] In Manusmriti, a father is considered to have wronged his daughter if he fails to marry her before puberty and if the girl is not married under 3 years of reaching puberty, she can search for the husband herself. Medhātithi’s Bhashya states the right age for marriage of a girl is eight-years-old, this can also be deduced from Manusmriti. According to the Tolkāppiyam, a boy should be married before he is sixteen-years-old and a girl before she is twelve. The Greek historian Megasthenes though talks about early puberty of girls in South India. According to Edgar Thurston, in South India a candlelight ceremony was held for girls (vilakiddu kaliyanam) from seven to nine years, likely later, but always prior to the marriage. Allan Dahlaquist states this is evidently a puberty ceremony before marriage which may explain Megasthenes’ comments.

        and
        https://archive.org/stream/ArthashastraOfChanakyaEnglish/Arthashastra_of_Chanakya_-_English_djvu.txt

        WOMEN, when twelve years old, attain their majority (prdptavyavahdra) and men when sixteen years old. If after
        attaining their majority, they prove disobedient to lawful authority (asusrushdydm), women shall be fined 15 panas and men, twice the amount.

  6. lalit
    December 5, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Okay, good to see, good to see. Very valid points. Good research. However, let us ask some more questions

    1. When a girl hits puberty, she is ready to mate, period. Biology says she is ready. Whether she hits it at 10 or at 14, she is ready. So it is hard to disagree with that based on contemporary notions of what is appropriate and what is not. Biology trumps any notions of morality or propriety, period! The question is whether to mate outside of marriage or inside of it. We can go there, but that is whole different topic. So let’s talk about marriage of pre-pubescent girls.

    So why don’t you see similar customs in every culture or (at least) most of them? Marriage of pre-pubescent girls has historically been restricted to only a few part of the world.

    2. In the case of an unambiguous exhortation for pre-pubescent marriage, we are basically limited to the Manusmriti among the references you have provided. Now this leads to more questions.

    3. The manusmriti is not the only law book the Hindus follow. It is not the final authority. It is not the only authority. There are several with often conflicting ideas. Here is an example, a quote from a RigVeda

    Irrespective of what some old books say (since literacy in India was always rather low), consider the fact that marriage of pre-pubescent girls was uncommon among tribals- unlike Hindus. Why?

    An unmarried learned daughter should be married to a bridegroom who like her is learned. Never think of giving in marriage a daughter of very young age. (Rig Veda III 55:16)

    4. The point is that if you dig deep enough into the Hindu scriptures, you will find arguments justifying any point of view that you want. The point of view that is prevalent is largely a result of the social dynamics of the time.

    Ya, and this is true for other religions too. The question, therefore, should be- why do Hindus today (and in past) choose to believe only the most pathetic and retrograde parts of their religious cannon.

    5. Certainly, Hinduism has many silly aspects, but it is hardly unique at least in the respect of marrying off girls the moment they hit puberty. To really get to the bottom of this, one has to compare the Indian age of marriage with the age of marriage in other societies of the time, such as china, Persia, Byzantine, Egypt etc before the advent of the islamic invasions. This is huge research obviously and very time intensive.

    Here is a hint: while betrothal of underage daughters of rich men (to other rich men or heirs) was common in many old cultures, that practice almost never extended to the vast majority of people in those cultures. The question, then, is- why was that not the case in India.

    6. Finally, I’m also curious about what Fa Hien (Guptas), Hieun Tsang (Harshavardhana), Nicolo Conti (Vijayanagara), Domingo Paes (Vijayanagara) and Fernando Nunes (Vijayanagara) had to say about marriage in India in their times in the places they visited in India, if they had anything to say on that topic at all.

    Do you want to know what I think.. Hinduism is not a religion or even a way of life- unless you define living a shitty existence as chosen way of life. The reality is that people in India have traditionally seen their children as no better than captive breeding slave stock. Then their children repeat the cycle.. and so on.

    • lalit
      December 5, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      You raise thought provoking questions.

      1. Yes, Hindus today do some incredibly stupid things, I won’t contest this point you make. However, As I said before, modern day Hindus have been conditioned by the ravages to Islamic invasions to marry off their daughters young. They have also been conditioned to become ass-kissers for the same reason. Hard to maintain self respect and dignity when you’ve been getting your ass handed to you most of the last millenium. That’s 40 generations. So this point is a non-sequitor.

      Correction.. they have been doing stupid and self-destructive stuff for at least 1500 years. Do you have any idea about the size of the harems compared to the population. Also how many Muslim rulers were there in India? Hint: both were a minuscule percentage. FYI- Hindu kings had harems too.

      Did I mention that over 90% of Muslims in India are converts and have completely indigenous ancestry?

      2. The comparison I’m interested in is between pre-islamic indians and pre-islamic persians, romans, greeks, chinese, byzantines. What age were these people marrying their women off in pre-islamic times?

      Usually after puberty and it remained that way.

      3. I am not aware of the age at which Tribals in India marry off their girls. This needs research. Do they even have marriage in the form settled people have? Do they even have monogamy? What is considered marriage in those societies? In those societies, can you have kids without marriage? Or does the definition of marriage include having kids? What sources of information are you referring to when you make your claim regarding the age at which tribals marry off their daughters?

      Google around a bit to find that information.

      4. Another point for you to chew on. When Kashmir was under Afghan Rule, hindu fathers used to deliberately sully their daughters looks to make them less attractive to the Afghan noblemen. After the battle of Talikota, this happened in the south as well as some areas came under muslim governance. In fact, even today fathers in the part of India where I come from become distinctly uncomfortable if their daughters look attractive. They try many passive-aggressive tricks to get their daughter to tone down their attractiveness. My own uncle made the confession, that he is secretly relieved at the fact that his daughter is fat as it increases the probability that she will remain a virgin until marriage. So marrying a girl young making her a non virgin to make her less attractive to a Muslim governer makes sense to me as a perfectly reasonable evolutionary strategy.

      Judging by how most Indian women look today, I think that would have been quite unnecessary. Between the effects of deliberate malnutrition, vegetarianism and inbreeding- I find it hard to believe that they were in demand.

      Over time this abnormal behavior becomes Custom as people are not too inclined to think too deeply about the nature of “things”, unless that “thing” happens to be a way to raise their own status by shafting their fellow man. As Russell Peters says, “The difference between terrorists and Indians is that terrorists hate America while Indians hate each other.” He really means Hindus but we both know he can’t say exactly that.

      5. Allow me to re-iterate my point. Forget modern Hindus and their shenanigans for a minute. Let’s go back to the 6th century or before if we can and make the comparison with other settled societies around that time. Or, compare 14-16 century Vijayanagara with contemporary civilizations of the time based on the writings of Paes, Nunes or Conti. Deal?

      Indians hate writing their own history because that would require them to do things like be objective (at least a bit) and think rationally. Objectivity and rationality are incompatible with continued belief in the ‘jati’ system- which is what Hinduism is really about. Foreign accounts of India can tell us only so much..

  7. lalit
    December 6, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Let’s deal with one issue at a time. We’ll talk about the paucity of historical accounts from Indian point of view, vegetarianism later. Let us focus on the early marriages for now.

    1. You seem to use the account of Megasthenes to make your point about early marriage but in the next breath you dismiss what Nunes, Paes or Conti might have to say on the same matter. If Paes, Nunes or Conti do not mention this at all, could it be that they saw nothing there that was extraordinary?

    Digging around a bit regarding the age of marriage in other contemporary societies
    1. Greece: 14 years
    2. Rome: 12 years
    3. China: 15
    4. Egypt: 12
    5. Persia: Legally not before 15

    Apart from the Persians, the Hindu marriage age age for girls does not look that extraordinarily low if you compare pre-Islamic.

    2. The Sushruta Samhita, a Medical treatise does not recommend marriage before the age of 16, which seems more conservative than the Persians as well.

    I again re-iterate that pre-pubescent marriages make their appearance in a big way medieval India because our friendly neighborhood desert Hordes paid us an extended visit for the reasons I have already outlined.

  1. September 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm

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