Op. Cit.


Show Summary

The oldest and most famous [theory of the origin of caste], accepted as an article of faith by all orthodox Hindus, . . . appears in its most elaborate form in the tenth chapter of that curious jumble of magic, religion, law, custom, ritual, and metaphysics, which is commonly called the Institutes of Manu. Here we read how the Anima Mundi, the supreme soul which "contains all created beings and is inconceivable," produced by a thought a golden egg, in which "he himself was born as Brahman, the progenitor of the whole world." Then "for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds, he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet," and allotted to each of these their distinctive duties. The Brahman was enjoined to study, teach, sacrifice, and receive alms; the Kshatriya to protect the people and abstain from sensual pleasures; the Vaisya to tend cattle, to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land; while for the Sudra was prescribed the comprehensive avocation of meekly serving the other three groups. Starting from this basis, the standard Indian tradition proceeds to trace the evolution of the caste system from a series of complicated crosses, first between members of the four original groups, and then between the descendants of these initial unions [emphasizing the rule of hypergamy by which the son of a Brahman by a lower caste woman is elevated to a higher caste than that of his mother while the son of a lower caste man by a Brahman woman is ranked below the caste of his father]. . . . Thus the son of a Brahman by a Vaisya woman is an Ambastha, to whom belongs the art of healing; while . . . the son of a Sudra by a Brahman woman . . . is described as "that lowest of mortals," and is condemned to live outside the village, to clothe himself in the garments of the dead, to eat from broken dishes, to execute criminals, and to carry out the corpses of friendless men. . . .

It is small wonder that European critics should have been so impressed by the unreal character of this grotesque scheme of social evolution, that some of them have put it aside without further examination as a mere figment of the systematizing intellect of the ingenious Brahman. Yet, fantastic as it is . . . it shows us that at the time when Manu’s treatise was compiled, probably about the second century A.D., there must have existed an elaborate and highly developed social system, including tribal or national groups like the Magadha, Vaideha, Malla, Licchivi, Khasa, Dravida, Saka, Kirata, and Chandal; and functional groups such as the Ambastha, who were physicians, the Suta, who were concerned with horses and chariots, the Nishada, and the Margavas, or Kaivartas who were fishermen, the Ayogava, carpenters, the Karavara and Dhigvansa, workers in leather, and the Vena, musicians and players on the drum. It is equally clear that the occupations of the Brahmans were as diverse as they are at the present day, and that their position in this respect was just as far removed from that assigned to them by the traditional theory. In the list of Brahmans whom a pious householder should not entertain at a sraddha [sacrificial feast for the dead] we find physicians; temple priests; sellers of meat; shopkeepers; usurers; cowherds; actors; singers; oilmen; keepers of gambling houses; sellers of spices; makers of bows and arrows; trainers of elephants, oxen, horses, or camels; astrologers; bird fanciers; fencing masters; architects; breeders of sporting dogs; falconers; cultivators; shepherds; and even carriers of dead bodies. . . . Then, as now, Indian society was made up of a medley of diverse and heterogeneous groups, apparently not so strictly and uniformly endogamous as the castes of today, but containing within themselves the germs out of which the modern system has developed by natural and insensible stages.1

With these statements as a background we may inquire (1) what were the sources of the definitions of the situation which shaped the present caste system, and (2) what are the forms of struggle for rank and distinction among the castes.

1Risleyn/an/an/an/an/an/a, , 547–548.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Op. Cit.

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Op. Cit.

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Op. Cit.," Op. Cit. in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 19, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QVYM9HMN7BFVAWS.

MLA: . "Op. Cit." Op. Cit., in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 19 Jul. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QVYM9HMN7BFVAWS.

Harvard: , 'Op. Cit.' in Op. Cit.. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 July 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=QVYM9HMN7BFVAWS.