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The Experience Delhi Podcast helps travellers to Delhi fall in love with our city. Anubhav and Ketaki run the award winning www.DelhiShoppingTour.com and have been helping travellers get a local perspective on Delhi and experience things that most travellers miss when the visit Delhi.Read more »
Most Recent Episode
EP 10 - Caste System In India For Travelers
Nov 25, 2017
Ketaki and Anubhav try to understand the caste system. We talk to Akhilesh who tells us how Caste is not the right word to capture the system. The right words in India are Jati and Varna.
Caste should be replaced with Jati.
Jati was economic and not social. There was a Jati of potters, weavers, goldsmith’s or professions. It pre industrial time each village would have different communities grouped by profession. They shared best practices and lived together.
Now lets look at Varnas. There are four Varna’s in India.
There is a mapping between Jatis and Varnas. This mapping was never fixed. A Jati could move between Varnas. It was not a rigid system. when the Varna system was created, it was not on the basis of birth but it was on the basis of Guna (propensities) and Karma (deeds).
Varna were cased on Guna and Karma. Propensity of a human decided his or her Varna.
Jati might be best understood as a job family.
Today, we look at the caste system in a rigid way. There are problems with the caste system that we own. In today’s urban centre my Jati have no bearing on my life. There is still discrimination in villages and it is our responsibility to see that it changes. Various attempts are being page.
Interestingly this caste system is not implemented by law. Its a part of our society and it is slowly dying. For example, you will not ask a stranger or your friend in a city, what is his or her Jati or caste. A certain section of society is still being persecuted but the govt and people are working hard to eliminate this.
Like any good story, there are two sides to the caste system. Most people are reluctant to talk about what was good about the caste system. Lets be the minority and talk about its positive aspects too.
Thomas Jefferson had slaves but he is also seen a positive figure and the founding father of the US. There was a time when slavery was accepted. Same holds for the caste system. New caste systems are coming into place today too.
If you want to become a good potter you can apprentice or learn from your father. There was no university to become a potter. Your home was your university. You inherited customers and skills because of your lineage. Since potters lived together, they gave each other strength and their voice had weight. They could set prices. There was no insurance in pre-industrial times. The Jati provide insurance too. Its good to see this as a guild or union in today’s parlance.
People say, "I'm born into a caste, I’m not allowed to change my caste it”. Very few people are able to move to another caste, a lot of people draw generalities based on your caste". Replace "Caste" with "Country" in the above sentence. Then you will realise how many such categorisations exist in the world today. Its not just India. You can replace caste with “economic status” and these are just mental shortcuts to help you make sense of the world. This is common throughout the world. Unfortunately, this is basic human nature.
Everyone being equal is does not mean everyone is the same. Our countries diversity is what makes it beautiful. Our knowledge and artisan traditions are diverse and rich. They make India different from the world. Appreciate this diversity and you will love India.
We discuss the impact of the industrial revolution on society and India's Jatis and Varnas. Let’s take the Pottery example further. Potters as a community - Jati - were involved in all facets of pottery. The Technical, scientific , design and commercial aspects of pottery were responsibilities of the Jati and everyone from the household participated in these activities. The price at which a pot was sold also decided by the Jati based on the buyer. A low income buyer was charged less than a rich person for the same pot. This discriminatory pricing was decided by the Jati and for every product.
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Episodes of This Show
Sep 25, 2017
Aug 15, 2017
Jul 2, 2017
Apr 22, 2017