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Dr. Ravindra Kumar: Religion and Caste

Religion and Caste

by Dr. Ravindra Kumar

It is an irony that we try to intermingle caste system with religion. It is also regrettable that we affix seal of religion on caste system and thereby we intentionally keep ourselves away from true religion. The truth happens to be that religion can never be, in any way, a helping hand to a system like caste system that is identified, as a factor of disintegration in society. Not only this, the aims and objects of any religious community are as distant from the caste system as the earth is away from the sun.

Religion had originated with man's march on this earth. It can be put in this way - when the Creator sent man on earth in accordance with His action, He also sent religion along with him. As such, man and religion came on earth simultaneously. There is also a purpose behind the fact that both came together. A question is natural about purpose. We shall easily comprehend it if we comprehend meaning of religion in very simple terms.

As I hold, religion signifies adoption. What is to be adopted? As always, my reply is ‘goodness’ or ‘niceness’. As such, religion consists in adopting goodness. It is only goodness owing to presence of which man could sustain his existence. He gradually developed non-violence and then adopted a path of mutual cooperation.

Man came to earth with action in nature. In such a situation, man might have finished his existence in case religion was not with him. ...But, he not only maintained his existence, but also marched forward on the path of progress. This is the reason that human being and religion came together. When? Or what is the span of time in this respect? This can be a topic for research. ...However, both originated and grew up simultaneously.

We should know the meaning of religion in simple terms. It is clear that it stands for existence and welfare of man. Its basis is cooperation, affection and unity. It propagated message of ‘Live and Let Live’. In this regard, any action, contrary to the spirit of cooperation, affection or unity cannot be religious. Religion is, as such, fully dedicated to welfare of all.

According to circumstances pertaining to time and space, ways were established for salvation of man through many mediums from time to time. The establisher can be termed as Great man or Learned man. He may also be God-incarnate or messenger of God. This established a way for a religious community. All religious communities that we know today as Islam, Christian, Confucian, Parsi, Boddh, Jews, Sikh or Hindu etc. are religious communities and give separate directives regarding life-style in case a man aspires for all sided development. Although their ways may be different, their aim is the same.

Difference between religion and religious community is that religion originated with man, while community came into existence afterwards. Situation of religion remained uniform in the whole world whereas establishment of religious community took place from time to time according to the circumstances pertaining to the region and era.

A single force or element that can be adopted as per individual conviction was instrumental behind religion whereas there was more than one behind religious community. Religion is wholly dedicated to mutual cooperation, affection, unity, broad-mindedness, equality and welfare of all. Contrary to it, a religious community irrespective of being dedicated to all-sided development of man is bound by circumstances relating to the region and era and all the facts enumerated above, it has a limited span in comparison to religion. However, religious community happens to be an indivisible part of religion.

After knowing religion and religious community we can conclude that both are dedicated to welfare and all-sided development of man: it is another matter that there is a difference as to their comprehension. A religious community also does not cherish all-sided development pertaining to its followers without cooperation, equality, affection and unity into them. In this regard any division amongst followers of a religious community, whatever may be the basis and whatsoever may be the argument in favour of such a division, is in toto against the aim of the religious community.

The caste system, prevalent today in India, succeeds the Varna System and is based on inequality, non-cooperation, short sightedness and division. Exploitation is at its base. The basic spirit behind caste system remains to ensure maximum possible gain akin to selfishness for self and group of self that is -the people of one's own caste. It has accordingly caused harm to country and society for thousands of years. It has already divided us in about 3500 parts. It is quite amazing that attempts are made to relate it to religion or religious community. However, one, who has even a little intelligence, shall certainly negativate it on the ground that purpose and meaning of religion and religious community is to keep existence of man safeguarded and achieve his objective.

Caste obstructs all this process. As such, religion or religious community-is quite non-related to caste system. Those, who try to affix seal of religion or religious community on caste system or wish to accord a footing to it, are ignorant of meaning and purpose of religion and religious community. Not only that, such persons, expressly or tacitly are not well wishers of society and nation. A perception of humanity happens to be incessantly far away from such persons.


Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a renowned Gandhian scholar, Indologist, India expert and writer. He is the Former Vice-Chancellor of the CCS University of Meerut, India.

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