In the last few days there has been much talk about ‘Sanatana Dharma’ and the problems it has created for society. Sanatana Dharma means the eternal principles of living. These are principles and not a rigid set of dos and donts. Being principles, teachers of every generation had interpreted and contextualised these principles to make it valid for the current society they are living in. Is there a caste system? There was no caste system but some mischief by the British colonisers who proclaimed that there were 18 castes in India including Visvakarma, Kumbhar etc. The word ‘jati’ in Sanskrit means group. So Vishvakarma is the group of carpenters while Kumbhar is the group of potters. Instead of translating it as caste, they should have translated it as guilds like guilds in England. The colonisers were familiar with the idea of guilds staying and interacting with each other because of a common work culture and profession. But by deliberately translating it as caste and their policy of divide and rule, there was a lot of confusion and injustice promoted in society. The modern socialist, communists are riding on the same idea to divide society. There was, however, a varna-ashrama system depending on the profession and nature of work. There were four broad categories of intellectuals, warriors, business people, people in the service industry etc. We can never truly have a classless society. Communist countries like China have tried it and failed miserably at it. Some sort of a class will always be there. The idea was that if people fulfil the duties of the class they are born into or choose to be in, they would grow as human beings. Even the classes and groups were meant so that people could grow emotionally, spiritually and professionally. It was not a tool for exploitation that it became, in the hands of the British. So, to blame Sanatana Dharma for all the ills of society is to call a person crazy and hang him. Our politicians make controversial statements for their votebank. This is divisive politics and not an informed statement on Sanatana Dharma.
The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org