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Roots of All Caste Culture: Ramayan and Mahabharat

Our literary traditions in India, such as the great epics Ramayan and Mahabharat, have long been celebrated and revered. However, it is important to consider the flip side of these works and recognize that they are casteistic and promote discrimination in society. The works depict a rigid social structure based on skin color, with four varnas separated by impenetrable societal boundaries, and offer no room for questioning the caste system. These elements of discrimination are accepted as a norm of the time, even though they contain toxic and oppressive elements.

The epics are taught to children in schools as part of the formal curriculum, and as a result, children will take it for granted that these works are our great literary tradition and that there is nothing to worry about. This acceptance of casteism in our ancient literature starts from a young age and lays the foundation for the universal acceptance of discrimination in our society.

It is not surprising that India remains casteistic, even 7 decades after independence, as long as our society continues to accept this venomous literature as “epic.” Some people may argue that these works make great literature and should not be criticized, but it is important to acknowledge the poisonous layer of caste culture that is present in these works. They are not the only ones, as other works like Kathasarit Sagara and Stories of Vikramaditya are also woven with caste culture.

Here is one bottom line : all our literaray treasures are casteistic in the true sense of the term. And don’t think that it stops with Ramayan and Mahabharat. The story of Bhartruhari’s mother is one example. She was forced to allow her future husband to marry a brahmin, a kshatriya and a vaishya woman in order for her to marry him lastly.  

When you buy a packet of cigerette you will notice that statutory warning that cigertte smoking is injurious to healt. Why cant’ we add a subcript everytime we print and publish our classics: reading them will make you a  racist.

Kannan Sivaram

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