By Dr. OP Sudrania
In this part I shall try to deal with some residual aspects of prevailing castes in other communities. I shall discuss it in Zoroastrians and Jains, both communities are a miniscule minority
Castes in Zoroastrians:
Zoroastrians are the people who lived in ancient Persia before the persecutions by tribal barbaric Islam. One must remember that Parsis in India are only about 100,000 populations and globally about 150,000. They are a very insignificant number and trying to maintain their numbers. Even in such a miniscule population, Parsis do have various groups of people having various occupations like castes but it is hidden due to their small size of community.
Nonetheless, “… The instinctive fear of disintegration and absorption in the vast multitudes among which they lived created in them a spirit of exclusiveness and a strong feeling for the preservation of the racial characteristics and distinctive features of their community. …. Even so, at some point (perhaps not long after their arrival in India), the Zoroastrians – perhaps determining that the social stratification that they had brought with them was unsustainable in the small community – did away with all but the hereditary priesthood (called the asronih in Sassanid Iran). The remaining estates – the (r)atheshtarih (nobility, soldiers, and civil servants), vastaryoshih (farmers and herdsmen), hutokshih (artisans and laborers) – were folded into an all-comprehensive class today known as the behdini (“followers of daena“, for which “good religion” is one translation). This change would have far reaching consequences. For one, it opened the gene pool to some extent since until that time inter-class marriages were exceedingly rare (this would continue to be a problem for the priesthood until the 20th century). For another, it did away with the boundaries along occupational lines, a factor that would endear the Parsis to the 18th and 19th century British colonial authorities who had little patience for the unpredictable complications of the Hindu caste system (such as a clerk from one caste who would not deal with a clerk from another). Check here.
Of the eight Atash-Behrams (the highest grade of fire temple) in India, three follow the Kadmi pronunciation and calendar, the other five are Shahenshahi. The Fassalis do not have their own Atash-Behram. More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi
Agiaries and Atashkadeh do not require a high priest and can be attended by Mobeds. A mobed or mobad is a Zoroastrian cleric of a particular rank. Unlike a herbad (ervad), a mobed is qualified to serve as celebrant priest at the Yasna ceremony. A mobed is also qualified to train other priests.
H?rbad (also H?rbad, h?rbed or ?rvad) is a title given to Zoroastrian priests of minor orders. In the present-day, h?rbad is the lowest rank in the Zoroastrian priesthood, and is granted following the basic navar ceremony that marks the beginning of theological training. Unlike a mobed or dastur, a herbad may not be the celebrant of a Yasna service. He may however assist. A herbad may also not officiate at a recitation of the Vendidad. This task is reserved for priests of higher grade. More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbad
The fire is built from the hearth fires of representatives from four professions: the asronih (priests), the (r)atheshtarih (soldiers and civil servants), the vastaryoshih (farmers and herdsmen) and the hutokshih (artisans and labourers). More at: http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/temples/agiary.htm
Kadmis, Shehenshais, churigars (Kadmis), Kabisa controversy, Kadims paid the fine for kicking a woman in stomach. The calendar disputes were not always purely academic either. In the 1780s, emotions over the controversy ran so high that violence would occasionally erupt. In 1783 a Shahenshahi resident of Bharuch named Homaji Jamshedji was sentenced to death for kicking a young Kadmi pregnant woman and so causing her to miscarry well known as the subject of “Kabisa” controversy.
Several other persons who were engaged in the affair were also punished by imprisonment and fines. The latter amounted to Rs. 3,900 and these were paid by the Kadims. Kadims used to be called ‘churigars’ (feminist connotation) pejoratively for quite some time till the controversy was somehow mitigated. Besides there are a class of people called priests equivalent to Brahmins in Hindus and there are other people engaged in business, trade, agriculture, teaching, and so on. All these people are designated their jobs according to their work capacity; as done in ancient times in the Hindus on the tradition of Vedic wisdom. Hence Parsis carried this baggage of caste with them from ancient Persia and it had nothing to do with the caste in ancient India; wrongly misconstrued as the baggage of Hinduism.
According to tradition, the present-day Parsis descend from a group of Zoroastrians of Iran who immigrated to India during the 10th century AD, to avoid persecution by Muslim invaders who were in the process of conquering Iran. At the time of the Arab invasion of Iran, the dominant religion of the region was Zoroastrianism. The Iranians rebelled against the Arab invaders for almost 200 years; in Iran this period is now known as the “Two Centuries of Silence” or “Period of Silence”. After many failed attempts to free the country from Arab domination, the Iranians (sic) were forced to either pay heavy taxes (Jizya) or to convert to Islam, the latter being the ultimate goal of the new rulers and thus the easier way. During this time many Iranians who are now called Parsi rejected both options and instead chose to take refuge by fleeing from Iran to India (whose liberality has been taken for granted thanklessly – Author).
Their long presence in the region distinguishes the Parsis from the Iranis, who are more recent arrivals, and who represent the smaller of the two Indian-Zoroastrian communities.
“However, scholars of Avestan language and linguistics attribute the difference in pronunciation to a vowel-shift that occurred only in Iran and that the Iranian pronunciation as adopted by the Kadmis is actually more recent than the pronunciation used by the non-Kadmi Parsis, as declared by highly influential head priest – Phiroze Kaus Dastur of the Dadyseth Atash-Behram in Bombay.
Of the eight Atash-Behrams (the highest grade of fire temple) in India, three follow the Kadmi pronunciation and calendar, the other five are Shahenshahi. The Fassalis do not have their own Atash-Behram.”
The Iranis are another ethno-religious community in South Asia; descendants of Zoroastrians who emigrated from Iran to South Asia within the last few centuries. They are culturally, linguistically and socially distinct from the Parsis, who – although also Zoroastrians – arrived on the subcontinent over 1,200 years ago. The Parsis and Iranis may also be considered legally distinct. This is based in part on a 1909 ‘obiter dictum’ that, among many other issues relating to the Indian Zoroastrians, also observed that Iranis were not obliged to uphold the decisions of the then regulatory Parsi Panchayat.
Although the term ‘Irani’ is first attested during the Mughal era, most Iranis are descendants of immigrants who arrived on the subcontinent during the 19th and early 20th centuries, that is, when Iran was ruled by the Qajars and when religious persecution of non-Muslims was rampant. The descendants of the immigrants of those times remain culturally and linguistically closer to the Zoroastrians of Iran, in particular to the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman. Consequently, the Dari dialect of the Zoroastrians of those provinces may also be heard amongst the Iranis.
In India, most Iranis live in and around the cities of Mumbai and Hyderabad. Many Indian Iranis have strong historical ties with the city of Hyderabad, but they have now settled in small groups and many of them have even converted to Hinduism for survival and crisis of identity.
“Gaborieau calls for a frankness in studying the phenomenon of caste in Indian Muslim society. The Muslims who entered did not seem to be shocked by the institution of caste, and if they were not shocked by it, it must be that they were not unfamiliar with such arrangements themselves. Even writers such as Ansari, who trace the caste inequalities in Indian Muslim society to Hindu influence, admit however that Islam was not egalitarian when it entered India.
He then traces the origin of caste to the “Indo-Iranian community”. Ansari declares that though “Islam proclaimed the message of equality and universal brotherhood”, “the established and deep rooted institution of social segregation in Persia” eventually won out.”
The preceding statement clearly states that Persia in its olden days was not averse to the caste system in the Iranian communities and it had nothing to do with the caste system in Hindus.
In Persian history, between four and six strata have been reported; with cultivators, menials, qadis, khatibs, muhtasibs and other occupations at the bottom. Full story at:
The most striking difference between Parthian and Sassanid society was renewed emphasis on charismatic and centralized government. In Sassanid theory, the ideal society was one which could maintain stability and justice and the necessary instrument for this was a strong monarch. Sassanid society was immensely complex, with separate systems of social organization governing numerous different groups within the empire. Historians believe that society was divided into four classes: Priests (Persian: Atorbanan?), Warriors (Persian: Arteshtaran?), Secretaries (Persian: Dabiran?), and Commoners (Persian: Vasteryoshan-Hootkheshan?). At the center of the Sassanid caste system was the Shahanshah, ruling over all the nobles. The royal princes, petty rulers, great landlords and priests, together constituted a privileged stratum, and were identified as Bozorgan, or nobles. This social system appears to have been fairly rigid. The Sassanid caste system outlived the empire, continuing in the early Islamic period.
On a lower level, Sassanid society was divided into Azatan (Azadan) (freemen), who jealously guarded their status as descendants of ancient Aryan conquerors, and the mass of originally non-Aryan peasantry. The Azatan formed a large low-aristocracy of low-level administrators, mostly living on small estates. The Azatan provided the cavalry backbone of Sassanid army. Full story
Castes in Jains:
In Jainism also, there are four castes like Hinduism which they ascribe to their talent than birth. Further there are innumerable subcastes also as listed hereby.
Agrawal/ Agarwal, Arasu, Asathi Vaishya, Ayodhyavasi, Bagherwal, Bakarwal, Bannore, Baraiya/Varaiya, Bhabra, Bhavsar, Bhojak, Bogar, Chaturth, Chippiga, Chitoda, Dhakad, Dharmpal, Gangerwal, Golalare, Golapurv, Golsinghare, Indra, Jain Brahman, Jain Bunt, Jain Gouda, Jain Kalar, Jain Koshti, Jaiswal, Jangada Porwal, Jat, Harda, Humad/Humbad, Kuchchhi Oswal, Kamboj, Kandoi, Kasar, Khandelwal, Kshatriya Ghanchi, Kshatriya , Parmar, Laad, Lamechuval, Mevada, Nainar, Nagda, Narsinhpura, Nema, Nevi, Oswal, Padmavati Purwal, Palliwal, Pancham, Parwar, Patidar, Porwal, Saitwal, Sadaru, Sarak, Sevak, Shrimali, Samaiya, Upadhye, Veerval
Annie Shah, a non dalit Boston University student observes, “My tone is bitter because I feel as though devout Jains have not helped the situation of untouchables, and I feel as though Jains belong to the high rungs of the social hierarchy in India and do not help those less fortunate. Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, founded Jainism. Originally, he was a Kshatriya noble. He developed the idea of Jainism because he did not believe in the caste system. It seems to me that a religion that espouses such nonviolence, ethics and is primarily based against the caste system ought to have done more for the situation of caste in India. But Jains have simply become part of the caste system.”
Contemporary Jainism is a small but influential religious minority with as many as 6 million followers in India and growing immigrant communities in North America, Western Europe, the Far East, Australia and elsewhere. Jains have significantly influenced and contributed to ethical, political and economic spheres in India. Jains have an ancient tradition of scholarship and have the highest degree of literacy for a religious community in India. Jain libraries are the oldest in the country.
The Jain sangha is divided into two major sects, Digambara and Svetambara. The differences in belief between the two sects are minor and relatively obscure. Digambara monks do not wear clothes because they believe clothes, like other possessions, increase dependency and desire for material things, and desire for anything ultimately leads to sorrow. This also restricts full monastic life (and therefore moksa) to males as Digambaras do not permit women to be nude; female renunciates wear white and are referred to as Aryikas. Svetambara monastics, on the other hand, wear white seamless clothes for practical reasons, and believe there is nothing in the scriptures that condemns wearing clothes. Women are accorded full status as renunciates and are often called sadhvi, the feminine of the term often used for male munis, sadhu. Svetambaras believe women may attain liberation and that Mallinath, a Tirthankara, was female.
The earliest record of Digambara beliefs is contained in the Prakrit Suttapahuda of the Digambara mendicant Kundakunda (c. 2nd century AD).
Digambaras believe that Mahavira remained unmarried, whereas Svetambaras believe Mahavira married a woman who bore him a daughter. The two sects also differ on the origin of Mata Trishala, Mahavira’s mother. Digambaras believe that only the first five lines are formally part of the Namokar Mantra (the main Jain prayer), whereas Svetambaras believe all nine form the mantra. Other differences are minor and not based on major points of doctrine.
Excavations at Mathura revealed many Jain statues from the time of the Kushan Empire. Tirthankars, represented without clothes, and monks with cloth wrapped around the left arm are identified as Ardhaphalaka “half-clothed” and mentioned in some texts. The Yapaniyas, believed to have originated from the Ardhaphalaka, followed Digambara nudity, along with several Svetambara beliefs.
Most simply call themselves Jains and follow general traditions rather than specific sectarian practices. In 1974 a committee with representatives from every sect compiled a new text called the Saman Suttam. More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism
The native Jain communities of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Southern Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu are all Digambaras, as are the Saravagis and the Agrawals of North India. In Gujarat, the majority of Jains follow the Svetambara tradition, although some Jain communities of these regions, like the Humad, narsinghpura, visa mevada, raikwad are also Digambars.
Chatutath, Pancham, Bogar, Kasar, Patni, Sethi, Tongia, Rara/Raoka, Kasliwal, Godha, Badjatiya and Patwa are sub-castes belonging to the aforementioned Khandelwai or Sarawagi sub-community. They are mainly from Rajasthan. Their ancestors have been engaged in business and have attained great wealth. Many Jain temples and havelis made in the Jaisalmer, Udaipur and Jodhpur regions were built by them.
Those following the Terapanth reforms are called Terapanth. Others who follow more traditional practices are called Bisapanthi. In practice, the division between the sub-sects is unimportant, and separate institutions do not exist.
?v?t?mbara “white-clad” is a term describing its ascetics‘ practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara “sky-clad” Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked. ?v?t?mbars, unlike Digambars, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity.
?v?t?mbars also believe that women are able to obtain moksha. ?v?t?mbars maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Mallinath, was a woman. In 2006, there were 2,510 monks and 10,228 nuns in the ?v?t?mbara sects while there were 548 Digambara monks and 527 Digambara nuns.
The ?v?t?mbara tradition follows the lineage of Acharya Sthulibhadra Suri. The Kalpa S?tra mentions some of the lineages in ancient times. The ?v?t?mbara monastic orders are branches of the Vrahada Order, which was founded in 937 AD. The most prominent among the classical orders today are the Kharatara (founded 1024 AD), the Tapa (founded 1228 AD) and the Tristutik.
Major reforms by Vijayananda Suri of the Tapa Order in 1880 led a movement to restore orders of wandering monks, which brought about the near-extinction of the Yati institutions. Acharya Rajendrasuri restored the shramana organization in the Tristutik Order.
The “Svetambar” got divided into different panths. First some saints left Svetambar to form Sthankvasi in 1474 AD, then in 1760 AD 13 Saints started their own panth called as “Terapanth”. So now at present there are 3 panths in India. The Sthankvasi believe in praying to Saints than to a stone in temple, the same philosophy is carried on by Terapanth. Other difference between Svetambar (Now also called as Murtipujak) and Sthankvasi is that the saints (Monks) of Murtipujak don’t wear white cloth (White cloth called as Mupathi) on Mouth, they hold it in hand. While Sthankvasi Saints wear Mupathi through white cotton thread. Look at the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svetambara
This shows that caste division is not an exclusive right of Hindus who are being targeted for different reasons to malign. Next I shall try to look into the caste divisions prevalent in other nations in the world with no semblance to Hinduism or even India before I finally summarise in the last post, to show the hidden institutions or agencies linked into this heinous blame game on Hinduism.