About Indo-Aryans and the Indian Caste System

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by manitobot, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Hello all, I was wondering if some helpful historians can answer this on the thread. As you guys probably know I am a South Indian American, and growing up I was taught...lets just say a variety of different things on Ancient India. Some right, some wrong, some very wrong. As I wizened up, I have yet a couple questions on certain aspects of the caste system which I am confused upon. Most specifically, did the Indo-Aryans impose the caste system on the native population with themselves at the top, or did the caste-system arise with no correlation to any specific population or group? Is the R1a haplogroup higher in upper castes? Are upper caste Indians generally lighter-skinned? Now I don't want a flame war, so if you here to tell me about how the Indo-Aryan migration theory is false, go home. The theory is accurate and verified. Similarly, if you are here to tell me about an Aryan invasion theory, go home, as that is also inaccurate and unverified. I thank you for all your help in letting me know more about ancient history, no matter how unsettling or harmonious the truth may be, as online research just gives a flurry of differing and unhelpful opinions. I will use this thread to try and opine and make an informed realization. I will not answer any questions regarding my family's caste, as that concept is unjust anyways and I don't want to continue any relics of it in a label. Thank you respectfully.

    If this thread is in the wrong place please let me know.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    elkarlo likes this.
  2. Bassarion Korax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Aryan invasion as in an invasion of White/Europoid people from Europe, or migration/invasion of White/Europoid people from Central Asia via Bactria? Cuz if we’re saying a bunch of Whites from Europe invaded India and civilized it, that’s of course garbage. However, if we’re saying that Whites from Central Asia invaded it/migrated to it and mixed with the locals to create a unique culture, that would be a more accurate statement.
     
  3. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    The latter
     
  4. Gloss Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2014
    I'd be wary of using Y Haplogroups as a way to identify migration patterns or ancestry(even if just paternal) with such high degree of confidence, some isolated groups in Southern India also have some weirdly relevant amount of R1a.

    Also considering the caste system is highly fluid from region to region and from century to century, I don't think the idea that the idea that Indo-Aryans put themselves on the top holds completely as it is, otherwise we would need to explain southern India and their peculiar castes, it's possible it arose that way but it wouldn't cover the entire system.
     
    ook and Freedom2018 like this.
  5. Bassarion Korax Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Are we saying then that Aryans are indigenous to India? That’s pretty easily falsifiable.
     
    thezerech likes this.
  6. altwere Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    Location:
    Shelburne Vt and Titusville Fl
    No, I didn't get that out of the discussion. The Aryans Probably came through Persia, As some of them were around in the middle east, Ie the ruling class of the Mitanni.
    It has been speculated the the Indo-Europeans had a tripartate social system and imposted it on the local population. However there is no proof of that that I'm aware of.
     
  7. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Thank you for your insights guys, I as well didn't find hard-sealed proof for this.
     
    Sunny likes this.
  8. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    No, no we know the Indo-Aryans come from Central Asia, that isn't being disputed.
     
    AnotherTime, elkarlo and Sunny like this.
  9. WilliamOfOckham Frog Emoji

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    The quadripartite caste, or varna, system (Brahmin - Kshatriya - Vaishya - Shudra) probably did exist in the earliest Indo-Aryan social-religious framework, but it was almost certainly not as inherited and exclusionary as it was later interpreted to be by Brahminic and European chroniclers - and certainly not based along "racial" lines, that was a total historical fabrication. There's even an interesting theory that they represented, at least originally in Central Asia, stages of a single man's life, which would later be frozen as post-nomadic society became larger and more divided. Without necessarily subscribing to that theory, it's pretty clear that the view of inherited and inalienable caste status is a Peninsular innovation.

    Moreover, the obsessive focus on varna as some unique and vitally important aspect of Indian society arose due to the biases of European observers and Brahminic informants, who in pursuit of a literary and religious "canon" systematically marginalized postclassic and non-Aryan contributions to Indian society. Everyone in the West knows about varna and hardly anyone about jati, but just tell any Tamil Aunty who you're planning to marry and see if she talks about Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. And the situation in India really was just like that almost everywhere before the British conquest, but mystical pseudohistory enforced a quite different and horribly anachronistic view of "real" caste.

    The idea that varna was used to exclude darker Dravidian or (some other interpretation of) dasas is particularly bizarre because, as a single glimpse at South Indian history can tell us, the relationship between Dravidians, varna and jati is actually really, really complex and certainly not reducible to "they can't have it lol". I've no idea about the genetic stuff, but I'd wager - given the relatively recent innovation of inalienable varna, its complex and only ever partial introduction into Dravidian communities, and the obviously self-reinforcing feedback that caste produces - that such a study would be riddled with confounding factors, and wouldn't justify a racialized interpretation even if that weren't blatantly false.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
    kholieken, Indicus, Falecius and 6 others like this.
  10. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Wow @WilliamOfOckham what an incredibly detailed and informative response. Thank you!
     
  11. Madhav Deval Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2018
    Although, from my read of Arthashastra, I do remember that non- Aryans in his day (circa 300 bc) at least were extremely legally discriminated against, with very few rights as compared to even lower caste Aryans.
    Here’s some relevant portions.

    The most often mentioned group of non aryans were chandalas, who were fined 100 panas for touching an Aryan woman, disallowed from living in towns and cities. Curiously they were fined less for petty theft, but more for defamation or assault. A different group of non aryans were the svapakas, who were branded and exiled or killed for having relations with aryans. Aryans could never be slaves and posing as an aryan was fined using the Highest Standard Penalty. Also, an Arya could lose this status through especially heinous crimes, at which point he is classed as worse than all other non Aryans.
    Also the version of arthashastra I have recommends Prabhati Mukherjees Beyond the Four Varnas which explores the origins of the system up to 200ad.
     
  12. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    @Madhav Deval What you described is unsettling, but I will check it out thanks.
     
  13. WilliamOfOckham Frog Emoji

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    The arya of the Arthashastra pretty clearly refers to a transethnic and trans-caste status corresponding very roughly to settled non-Dalits, rather than Indo-Aryan language or descent - the chandalas were defined by their occupation, just like modern Dalits, and not their ethnicity (most Dravidians, of course, are not Dalits and have never been cast as such). Even mleccha by this time seems to refer more to "disorganized, uncivilised people" in general, rather than specifically non-Sanskrit speakers. It certainly didn't mean Dravidians or dark-skinned people as a whole, with whose powerful and civilised states Kautilya would likely have been familiar. Example:

    The whole problem of post-conquest European interpretation hinged around the original presumption that arya meant a race. The conclusion that the Arthashastra and hundreds of other Sanskrit works attributed positive qualities to that race seemed to naturally follow, but if you realise that arya denotes instead a purely economic and sociopolitical category the reason why these positive qualities arise is much clearer; race doesn't need to come into it at all.

    Here's a pretty interesting map for everyone to consider:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
    kholieken likes this.
  14. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    @WilliamOfOckham So it would be fair to say that the Aryans never put the natives of India as the lower castes and put themselves as the higher castes?
     
  15. WilliamOfOckham Frog Emoji

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Not in the modern definition of "caste", no. It's fair to say that they did put themselves above other population groups, who were originally non-Indo-Aryan speakers, but the echoes of that behavior through time and the eventual varna system that coalesced are so far separated from the original migrations that it didn't apply in anything like a "racial" or even linguistic sense for any period of Indian history you could care to name.
     
    KaiserWilhelm, kholieken and Falecius like this.
  16. Optical_Illusion Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2016
    From what I understand, the religious ideas about varna probably emerge from religious thought in India in sometime post 1000 BCE but prior to 300 BCE (when they are directly attested in writing).

    Indo-Aryan languages and a migration of speakers with ancestry more related to Europeans than proceeding layers probably came in around this time or within 500 years before, and they had a relatively strong position in forming these religious ideas.

    So the ancestry of these migrants was somewhat more preserved in general in priestly endogamous groups, who were most observant or inflexible in these structures, and most dependent on being able to perform the rituals of the religious complex.

    On the converse, groups with somewhat more ancestry from earlier migrations from the Neolithic and particularly from people who were present before the Neolithic earlier, tended to be away from the core of the developing civilization and religious system and so tended to be less advantaged into being integrated into its varna hierarchy / system.

    This is what all the dna seems to be saying, and is the general picture, but obviously there is variation from this overall process in many cases because you have about a few milennia of history in which religious ideology has to make compromises against material reality and is subject to intellectual / spiritual challenge and development.

    (Yes, also skin shade seems to be linked to social groups in the way you mention- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30099804)
     
    Hrvatskiwi and Freedom2018 like this.
  17. WilliamOfOckham Frog Emoji

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    @Optical_Illusion, do you have a non-paywalled full article on that? The abstract is extremely vague in this context.
     
  18. SeaCambrian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2018
    The paper, A genetic chronology for the Indian Subcontinent points to heavily sex-biased dispersals, gives a good overview of the topic.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5364613/

    "Maternal lineages primarily reflect earlier, pre-Holocene processes, and paternal lineages predominantly episodes within the last 10 ka. In particular, genetic influx from Central Asia in the Bronze Age was strongly male-driven, consistent with the patriarchal, patrilocal and patrilineal social structure attributed to the inferred pastoralist early Indo-European society. This was part of a much wider process of Indo-European expansion, with an ultimate source in the Pontic-Caspian region, which carried closely related Y-chromosome lineages, a smaller fraction of autosomal genome-wide variation and an even smaller fraction of mitogenomes across a vast swathe of Eurasia between 5 and 3.5 ka."

    "Higher-ranking castes do seem closer genetically to Pakistan and ultimately Caucasus and Central Asian populations, but this proximity was most likely established over millennia, by several distinct migratory events—indeed, a sizeable fraction of the non-R1a West Eurasian Y-chromosome lineages (e.g. R2a-M124, J2-M241, L1a-M27, L1c-M357) were most likely associated with the spread of agriculture or even earlier expansions from Southwest Asia, as with the mtDNA lineages [55, 59]. The tribal groups are generally more divergent from other South Asian groups and in particular from western South Asians, but the particular genetic diversity of tribal groups might have been due to isolation [20], and not necessarily because of more recent strict social boundaries enforced by newly-arriving groups imposing a new system, which in its historical form was likely established much more recently, not more than around 2000 years ago [12, 24, 26, 103]."

    Silva, M., Oliveira, M., Vieira, D., Brandão, A., Rito, T., Pereira, J. B., . . . Soares, P. (2017). A genetic chronology for the Indian Subcontinent points to heavily sex-biased dispersals. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17(1). doi:10.1186/s12862-017-0936-9
     
  19. Kaushlendra pratap singh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2018
    Location:
    India
    Caste is same as European noble and peasant concept but in India there are 50 %(Brahman and Kshatriya )are noble 25%(vaishya)are merchant class wealthy population and 25% are peasant nothing extra
     
  20. Shahrasayr The Emperor of Dune

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    Location:
    Holy Terra, Australis Sector
    There is much debate as to whether varna was implemented on a societal basis at all or whther it was simply a hypothetical division of labour. Buddhist texts and the Jain Agamas do not mention caste except grihapatis ''householders" and chandalas.

    Yet then we must ask the question of how varna formed into jati and whether these sections of society were not mentioned due to a lack of literacy and inclusion.

    As for skin colour it's a given that colour has never been a point for repression. However the more northwest ern ones origins the higher a chance of them having lighter skin tones. Yet it is still very common for people with extremely dark skintones to have 'Europoid' features as racial theorists and eugenicists from the 19th century such as Gobineau and Hope Risley would have put it.