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What is the Hindu caste system?

Hindu caste system
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No nation or people have been liberated from poverty, want, or injustice through Hinduism. While the caste system was officially outlawed in India in 1950, in truth, the Hindu caste system continues to enslave people, binding them in their miseries, and is responsible for unspeakable human suffering. The Hindu caste system divides people into four rigid hierarchical groups, based solely on heredity. Members of each caste are restricted in their occupation and their association with other castes. In the Manusmriti, considered the most important book on Hindu law dating back 3,000 or more years, the caste system is favorably regarded as the bedrock of societal order. Here are the four castes of Hinduism:

• Brahmins: teachers and intellectuals
• Kshatriyas: warriors and rulers
• Vaishyas: traders and merchants
• Shudras: laborers and menial workers

Outside the caste system is another group, known as Dalits, the “caste of the impure.” The Dalits, or “untouchables,” are expected to accept poverty and degradation as a fact of life. Overworked, undernourished, and without access to proper health care or basic hygiene, the Dalits toil in odious, inhumane conditions for meager wages that scarcely keep them alive. Many of these slave laborers are young women and children. They have few rights. Most are denied educational opportunities. These marginalized people live in filth and squalor and work long hours in hazardous, often deadly conditions.

A majority of Dalit children are chronically malnourished, and only 2–3 percent of Dalit women can read or write. Dalit children who attend school are segregated from their classmates and are often assigned disagreeable jobs such as cleaning toilets. In a nation already steeped in poverty, the ancient customs of Hinduism prevent the Dalits from rising above their extreme suffering and want.

There is no denying barbarous acts have been committed in the name of Christianity, but those guilty of avarice and senseless bloodshed do so outside of the authority of Scripture. No amount of Scripture-twisting can turn the words of Jesus into a battle cry for bigotry, hatred, and violence, yet one of Hinduism’s holiest books, the Manusmriti, sanctions a cruelly unjust caste system that has enslaved legions of people for more than three millennia. The Lord Jesus can set the captives free (Luke 4:18); the four-headed Hindu god Brahma cannot.

Various Bible passages teach the opposite of the Hindu caste system:

And [Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20, ESV).

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:3, ESV).

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34–35, ESV).

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27, ESV).

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1–4, ESV).

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him (Proverbs 14:31, ESV).

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This page last updated: October 26, 2022