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Caste Ideology In Sikhs


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Well thats because a macro one doesnt really exist for most people. Telling sikhs that we once had an empire with the worlds best military is usually met with scepticism by most raised on the notion that sikh identity is just what their parents stand for, not a history that stretches for hundreds of years where sikhs lived in a completely different mindset, as a sovereign nation.

Trying to change this love/pride in caste and the culture that goes with it may end up with people who prefer the 'new' culture being called neo-sikhs or KhalsaPunks but at the end of the day it's better than whats being going on for the last 150 years.

This topic has gone wildly off topic, maybe there should be a thread on why caste still exists and why people still believe in it.

Here we go HSD:

You living in a majority Sikh area probably have more insight than me into this, so I'll let you kick it off.....

Edited by dalsingh101
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Question: Does this cause a conflict of interest amongst Sikhs?

By this I mean with regard to possible shared Sikh interests with other non caste members and also with the aims of the caste group versus that of Sikhi?

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As long as Sikhs (or any other people for that sake) have different and contradicting affiliations and loyalties (to tribe, caste etc) there will never be unity. One reason Guru Gobind Singh was succesful in collecting a band of warriors to fight for a common cause was that he created the Khalsa which gave a diverse band of people a common point of reference to adhere their allegiance to. When everyone agreed that their affiliation was to the khalsa only and primarily a lot of problems where abolished.

the early rehitnamas attest to this: loyality is to the khalsa and akaal purakh alone.

Edited by amardeep
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Maybe we should focus on the causal factors that has people adhering to it so much as well as the consequences of this to the panth?

I know there is a fair few of you out there that strongly value your caste affiliations. Now is the time to speak up for yourselves and clear the air.

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Why is a sikh a jatt/ramgarhia/chamar? An interesting question and one I'll try to answer from my observations, or 'theories' as others like to call them lol.

Well, firstly there seems to be a lot of pride to be gained from belief in one's caste. You'll hear the old classic of 'we jatts did all the fighting against the mughals, afghans and brits'. Now before I go into that, look at the actual phrase. It seems that our lot equate violence and militarism of our ancestors with themselves, not unlike any other bunch of people on this earth. But why dont they say sikhs did the fighting? Is it too big up their own ancestors or disillusionment with the current state of Khalsa Militarism? Probably both. The easy way around this is to explain that all castes had a part to play in the struggles for a sovereignty for all sikhs. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was obviously not a jatt, and many of the Khalsa's legions in the 19th century had skirmishers and fusilier-type units made up of jatts and lower castes. Our strength came from unity and a sense of purpose against a common enemy, not caste. Learning more about our military history and better written sources will only help young people who come up with the above saying without thinking.

Another reason I think that people come up with caste is that it acts as a bind to others. Like whites invoke colour or musis invoke religion to get people to band together, many sikhs play caste in order to get their own lot on their side in order to achieve some shitty objective in their life, like forming seperate gurudwaras. Small mindedness has been a problem for sikhs for a long time.

Beliveing in caste breaks down the sense of community i.e. it leads to individualism. One strength of certain asian societies has always been their belief in the greater cause and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. By breaking our community the casteists are destroying the sense of responsibility and need to help others. To put it simply believeing in caste serves selfish purposes and suits the growing sense of individualism that sikhs have since we went on a kamikaze mission to imitate the whites as they are perceived to be the pinnacle of civilization (but they're not!).

There are other reasons too, but I want to hear what people have to say about what came off the top of my head. If you dont quite get what I said, just ask, dont presume the worst.

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One of the most divisive forces in our society and everyone goes quiet when it comes to facing up to it.

Says it all...........

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nobody is born of any caste, its just a manmade fictional label. think people in punjab are more under its influence due to culture. things are changing quicker outside punjab.

my family has people of other ethnic races. fortunately because the unconditional pyaar is there, we all have a strong affiliation with our faith.

One love.

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Here's another angle.

I'm beginning to believe that caste affects a groups relationship with other communities, especially Hindus. Bear with me.

Let's start with Khatris, they have generally left all that warrior lark behind them and now seem to specialise in trade. They seem to have strong international networks set up for this, which include some sort of credit system. This has connections in Afghanistan, London, Delhi etc. When you look at our history (and indeed our Gurus), these things seem to be long established. We have the example of Omnichand in South India too. Now my point is that the nature of this trading means that it is in their interests to forge amiable relationships with other communities. They aren't as Panjabicentric as some other apnay. Plus they have open relationships with the Khatris who haven't converted to Sikhi. All this informs their worldview. Religiously they are proud of their Sikh heritage but we have to bear in mind that Rama was also one of 'theirs', and they are proud of that too. They value education/knowledge highly, including the wider Indic type.

Now take Jatts, who are a heavily insular people. Their preferred trade is agriculture. What can we say about a jatt and his land (zameen)? They are inseparable. A jatt will kill for zameen, even his own family. Overt status is part of his culture. He seeks this. But being farmers means they have always had an uneasy relationship with governments who traditionally tax the peasantry to fill the coffers. This means that a long standing antagonistic relationship has developed between the two. But the status obsession means that Jatts are very reluctant to perceive others around them as equals. They want to believe they are better. Their trade in Panjab has generally been lucrative so they have relative wealth and are able act on this. Being tied to their land makes them hawkish and protectionist. All this feeds into their relationships with other communities, which I would venture to say can be quite negative. The government now screws them by limiting precious water to their fields. They had a preferential relationship with the English in exchange for providing military support for the imperial agenda, plus many brought into the Aryan/Scythian theories the whites brought with them, strengthening their insularity towards other Panjabi communities. They still retain some of their preSikh cultural practices but often view all things considered Hindu with suspicion and conflate these with some oppressing government force/agenda.

Ramgarhias are carpenters. Their trade meant that they would have contact with all levels of Panjabi society, albeit briefly. Now the wider client base they had, the better for business it was. So they are not tied to any land nor have any longstanding negative relationship with governing entities. Some remnants of their preSikh cultural practice remains with taking a day off once a year and cleaning their tools in honour of the object of their prior veneration. Their relationship with central government and Hindus seem non-antagonistic?

The so called lower castes (churay and chamaars). Despite contributions in the early Khalsa military conflict, these people have been unable to shake of the stigma of their caste label. They are frequently looked down on and excluded by Sikhs considering them to be lowly. This has caused their relationship with the panth to become tenuous. Increasingly asserting their own identity, often in independence to a Sikh one. Their relationship with the government is dominated by the securing reservations for employment in industry. Their relationship with traditional Hindus is a negative one and they can be heard complaining of discrimination from within the Sikh community too.

Point is, do these types of dynamics frequently dictate the attitudes of members of these groups towards 'India' and other lateral Sikh groups?

Addition: When we start to understand and try and imbibe the Sikh message does it not lead to a weakening of the prominence of these types of external identifications which are a manifestation of maya (illusion) to one with a soul, which has all the characteristics given in Jaap Sahib i.e. without jaat, paat, rang, rekh, dharam etc. etc. etc. but then how do we balance this with miri duties here as Sikhs?

Edited by dalsingh101
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dharma and social caste are 2 distinct things. this isnt something people admit to, but something which is different in their actions, born out of stereotyping, ego and division.

there are a lot of benefits even to the egotistical from marrying outside of your caste like gaining a wider social network. people who have such a big ego will pick faults in any partner, not just because of caste. they'll never be happy.

but in the house where there is humility this would give your family a reason to put additional effort into keeping everyone feeling welcome and loved. dare i say, the rewards would be even greater.

we arent capable of bringing people to sikhi. history has proven that. even if a million people came to us wanting to become sikhs we'd turn them away thats how thick & ahankaari we are biggrin.gif

dont burden yourself with what other people are doing. we're all lost in this world of selfishness. best we can do and this is a big step..

is seek the shelter of our Guru. Everything happens in His Will.

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When we start to understand and try and imbibe the Sikh message does it not lead to a weakening of the prominence of these types of external identifications which are a manifestation of maya (illusion) to one with a soul, which has all the characteristics given in Jaap Sahib i.e. without jaat, paat, rang, rekh, dharam etc. etc. etc. but then how do we balance this with miri duties here as Sikhs?"

It is a mistake to totally efface external identifications of caste, this world is maya, maya has to be made into harmony with higher principles not destroyed or effaced. My Grandfather is Ramgharia a carpenter by trade they had a shrine of Baba Vishvakarma in India and used to do pooja to tools. This is true caste it gives status and honour to an individual. There is nothing wrong with having pride in true caste and following on from our ancestors. It is wrong when people use caste as a label to promote their personality this is false casteism i.e. when a brahmin takes money from people to do rituals he has no understanding of - expoiting peoples ignorance by a false caste title. True caste is a reflection of what an individual is in his essence - what he does - in the past when the world was ordered along sane methods of living a caste would perfect a art of living and pass on knowledge through herditary and tradition to new generations who would perfect the art. As the world is now descending into chaos the old castes are not reflective of true inner sanskaars and just labels people affix onto their personalities, bearing no resemblance to reality therefore being false.

It is one of the aims of 'enlightend' western civilization to destroy all traditional knowledge that were preserved by what can be called castes. Because this empowers people and gives them self respect. If a person can be beaten down and made into a number in a faceless corporation he does not know where he come from where he is going and who he is, he becomes easier to control and fit into the machinery of the system.

Also i dont think Gurbani anywhere has the equivalent to the word Soul. The nearest I can think of is Jeev. The correct translation of Jeev is vivifying principle and not soul as it has sometimes been made out to be. The jeev vivifies or animates the physical body. The soul in western traditions is associated with movement either up or down, so the soul can go into bad things as well as good. Just having a soul is not positive it is neutral like a knife is neutral but the intelligence/concsiosness wielding the knife can use it to cut bread and feed the poor or kill someone.

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