The caste system has been a bane of this country. Many leaders have fought tooth and nail to reduce and ultimately remove this evil, and the change is visible. However there is the rise of the new age un-said Caste System.
Here is a true story that I heard from someone – Writing it in his words :
The caste system has not changed only evolved or adapted. Let me tell you about a friend of mine. I know him from my childhood. We used to walk together to school. My family was quite well off, as my father had a shop that sold everything from vegetables to grocery to anything else. However my friend was not so lucky, his was from a poor family, his father and mother used to work in the fields, and my friend would have to help his mother to carry the cut grass home in the evening. The cut grass was for the cows in my home and they would get paid for it. His parents did not make enough and most of the time they did not have money to buy even rice and vegetables. So his mother would come and ask my grandmother to tell her son(my father) to give some rice and vegetables on credit and they would pay later. To add to all of this they were from a lower caste so were expected to toil and live a miserable life. My friend however was good in his studies and today he is a Sub-Inspector (SI) of Police. As a SI his work demands that he stand in the scorching sun to ensure that VIPs can zip through. He is at the beck and call of his bosses.
Times have changed and the country has “progressed”, has it really? In my childhood I have seen my friend’s parents being ordered around because they were from a lower caste, and people from specific castes were destined to do certain types of work or activity only. Today my friend is a SI but he still gets ordered around by his “boses”; The old bubble burst and gave way to the new bubble!
I will like to cite here an incident in the life of Adi Shankaracharya+++, philosopher and guru. This incident is narrated in Shankara Digvijaya by Madhava Vidyaranya,who had helped in founding of Vijayanagara Empire and is also the biographer of Adi Shankaracharya. The following excerpt is from “Shankaracharya and an Untouchable” an exposition of Manisha Panchakam%%%.
It is said that one afternoon at Varanasi, Adi Shankaracharya was walking with his disciple to the Ganges, for performing the midday rites. On the way he met a candala, an untouchable on the roadside. The untouchability factor was so deep rooted that even a man of wisdom and realization became subject to it. Shankaracharya said to the candala “move away, move away”.
This was very common wherein the high-class people would keep uttering “move away, move away” going on the roads. This was the scenario many years back in our country and this that too in a holy city like Varanasi (then benaras). Pure madness, probably un-imaginable in today’s context!
The candala responded in the following way “O worthy Brahmana, please let me know what exactly you wish to move away. Is it the physical body from one another, or consciousness from one another”. Is there any difference in the reflection of the sun in the waters of the Ganges or in the water present in the street of a candala? Likewise, is there any difference when the water- containers happen to be golden vessels and earthen pots ?
Adi Shankracharya’s reaction – He thought for a moment and reflected in himself “This man has taught me Vedanta correctly” and replied “That Consciousness which shines forth most distinctly in the state of wakefulness, dream and deep sleep; that which is the one witness of the universe that constitute all bodies from the great creator(Brahma) to the tiny ant; that I am convinced – whoever so possesses this firm wisdom is my Guru, be he a candala or a twice-born###.
“A parasitic creeper can be removed effectively only by removing it from the soil level and pruning the tree or plant. Missing either one will not eradicate it completely”
+++ Adi Shankaracharya was a Philosopher from Kalady, in Ernakulam district of Kerala in South India. He travelled across the length and breadth of India to propagate the great philosophical truths of the Upanishads, which would help rediscover the true cultural basis of our nation.
%%% Manisha Panchakam
###A twice born or Bhramana; after the holy thread is given, a child is considered to be born again.