Very interesting but largely untenable. Here's the sociological / anthropological take on this. Jati did not suddenly happen in India. Though the word jati may have originated after the Buddhist era, jati is much older than Buddhism and the Rigveda. It is the ENDOGAMOUS UNIT of a society. This means it is the group WITHIN which people marry. Some form of such a unit exists in all societies and cultures anywhere in the world, though obviously cultures are slowly (very slowly indeed) moving away from marriage restrictions. There is a similar EXOGAMOUS UNIT within which people may NOT marry. That is the gotra in Hindu society. In anthropology it is called the exoganmous clan. There are some slightly more complex structures such as phratry and moeity but the basic logic is the same - you can marry some people and you cannot marry some others. In the jati system in India there is an additional parameter - the occupation of the jati is fixed. So it is a kinship and economic ordering of society. A potter can only marry a potter but again not one from his clan (gotra), a blacksmith a blacksmith. How did the scheduled castes originate? Obviously in the schedule that called them scheduled castes. Basically there is a purity -pollution binary that is believed to operate in Indian society (and in many other societies such as Arabic, Jewish). Certain occupations in India have traditionally been seen as inherently polluting but nevertheless necessary. The rather hypocritical public discourse in ancient India failed to address this paradox. While the rest of the jatis could be neatly hierarchised and classified as belonging to one varna (more about this later) or another, those dealing in leather, human excretion and some other polluting substances could not. So they were simply unspoken of and history over centuries took away their voice as well. This was not so in the Buddhist discourse of social order and all occupations and jatis were included. It is this inclusiveness that Ambedkar made a political statement (I do not say so in a negative sense but a positive one) when he converted to Buddhism. Buddhism is as plural as the indigenous religions of India and so is Hinduism. Just that those discourses that called themselves Hindu typically sided with the hierarchies that existed in society and the blatant inequities, or at least did not address them, while those that called themselves Buddhist did. There may be exceptions on either side. Ambedkar was the first modern liberal intellectual to discuss this, to take Buddhism and Hinduism as written texts (though neither is entirely represented by written text) and as monoliths (again, neither is) and posit Buddhism as the religion that advocated equity. And he was right - the more equitable cultural resources did reflect in Buddhism or what can be included in the vast and diverse universe that calls itself Buddhism. There always were more equitable and less equitable trends in India's indigenous cultural resources, Buddhist disourse largely drew upon the former. A varna is a hypothetical, normative social order based upon religious and ethical prescriptions - the purusha shukta hymn and the concept of the three gunas. The clever and self-serving persons who actually administered social order (typically the ruling classes and the landowners) classified jatis as belonging to one varna or another, giving them hypothetical attributes that made them classifable as obne or the other. More often than not these served the interests of the existing power imbalances and contributed to the wealth and growth of the particular groups dominating social interaction. Though Brahminism is what the whipping post of anti-establishment has been called, I suspect those jatis which became Brahmin were probably less instrumental in creating and sustaining inequitable social order than were those which called themselves kshatriyas and vaishyas and in some cases shudras (where the dominant landowners were peasants). The Brahmins were beneficiaries but are unlikely to have had the social leverage to enhance status and power in ancient India when all religion and ethics was ORAL lore. They may have, though the history textbooks like the one the earlier posting cites cite are without an exception silent on this, gained disproportionate powers when writing originated and this is probably also the time when the two divisions of discourse which called themselves HIndu and Buddhist originated. They must have lost it again soon after when scribes and nation like kingdoms took over the politcal order. Anyone for a discussion? Arnab Sen Flat # 1024 Sector C Pocket 1 Vasant Kunj New Delhi 110070 INDIA __._,_.___
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