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Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development

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Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development was a paper read by Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar at an anthropological seminar of Dr. Alexander Goldenweiser in New York on 9 May 1916. It was later published in volume XLI of Indian Antiquary in May 1917. In the same year, Ambedkar was awarded a Ph.D. degree by Columbia University on this topic.[1] In 1979, the Education Department of the Government of Maharashtra (Bombay) published this article in the collection of Ambedkar's writings and speeches Volume 1; later, it was translated in many languages.
In the paper, Ambedkar made a presentation a social phenomenon that emerged from the strategy of the Brahmins who adopted a strictly endogamous matrimonial regime, leading the other groups to do the same in order to emulate this self-proclaimed elite. He said that "the superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste".

36 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 9, 1916

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About the author

B.R. Ambedkar

191 books888 followers
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in 1891 into an “Untouchable” family of modest means. One of India’s most radical thinkers, he transformed the social and political landscape in the struggle against British colonialism. He was a prolific writer who oversaw the drafting of the Indian Constitution and served as India’s first Law Minister. In 1935, he publicly declared that though he was born a Hindu, he would not die as one. Ambedkar eventually embraced Buddhism, a few months before his death in 1956.

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Profile Image for Petra left her heart in Miami.
2,405 reviews34k followers
December 26, 2022
ReviewAmbedekar takes the view that castes are all to do with endogamy and aping of ones betters up to and including the almost god-like and worshipped Brahmins. He did not like castes one bit, unlike Gandhi who thought India would not be India without them (much as the royals at the top of the tree have to rely on those close to the bottom to do all the work for them, but without as much justification as a religious injunction).

Endogamy is the practice of marrying within one's group and making sure there are major penalties for those that transgress and marry out. In the villages in India, he says, there is the problem of what to do with unmarried people not in the marriageable age group who, if given free rein might take a marriageable man or woman that was 'destined' to marry in their peer group. He means widows and widowers.

One of the things to do be done with a widow was to get rid of her by burning her on her husband's pyre. Thi is ok if justified by religion and mumbo-jumbo about life everlasting or karma or dharma and gets rid of the problem. However, not everyone is in favour of it, so the alternative is to make her a forever-widow and totally undesired and undesirable in that state. Ok, so that's the widow.

It's a bit more complex when it comes to a widower. Men wouldn't consent to being burned alive and men are used to determining their own lives (as well as those of women) and so there is an issue. He can't marry in the young age group because he would be taking a marriageable girl from her male peer group. But a man has his needs. So the answer it seems is to take one from a pre-marriageable age group. Yes a young girl. A child.

I love Ambedkhar. I love how he hates the caste system and he came from the very bottom, a long journey of people not wanting even to give him water, let alone a university education.

I was never a fan of Gandhi although at times it seemed like I was the only one who wasn't. He had his good points, but being an old man and sleeping with two young girls at a time to see if he could control his desire is frankly disgusting. His approval of the caste system was occasionally modified but it seemed it was only lip service,
…responsible for durability of Hindu society, seed of swaraj (freedom), unique power of organisation, means of providing primary education and raising a defence force, means of self-restraint, natural order of society, and most important of all, eternal principle of hereditary occupation for maintaining societal order
He wrote much on latrine cleaners and how good they should be at their jobs, and that a Brahmin priest, top of the tree have equal merit in the sight of God. Well, they might have but here on earth, the job of a Brahmin priest is infinitely more desirable than those who clean up excreta for a living.

Gandhi, unlike Ambedkhar was a misogynist as well, to an extreme degree. Rita Banerjee in Rita Banerjee in Sex and Power said, "He believed menstruation was a manifestation of the distortion of a woman’s soul by her sexuality. His view of the female body was warped." He did not believe in the emancipation of women,
Women, who should be the queens of households, wander in the streets or they slave away in factories. For the sake of a pittance, half a million women in England alone are labouring under trying circumstances in factories or similar institutions. This awful fact is one of the causes of the daily growing suffragette movement.
Gandhi wrote, in a very insulting way,
The condition of England at present is pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight. That which you consider to be the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman and a prostitute. Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That Parliament has not yet, of its own accord, done a single good thing. Hence I have compared it to a sterile woman.
But people like to pretend their idols don't have feet of clay, look at another icon of holiness, Martin Luther, who was behind the Peasants' War (he, like Gandhi, felt people were born into their position and aristocracy were aristocracy and the peasants should till the fields and... clean the toilets) and wrote, The Jews and Their Lies which inspired Hitler.

There's a connection there. In July 23, 1939, after the terrible night of Kristellnacht which was well-publicised since my grandparents in Wales told me they heard about it next day, Gandhi wrote to Hitler, "Dear Friend" appealing to him to prevent a war. And then again December 24, 1940, by which time "German Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted all aspects of their public and private lives," he wrote again,
hope you will have the time and desire to know how a good portion of humanity who have been living under the influence of that doctrine of universal friendship view your action. We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity. Hence we cannot possibly wish success to your arms. But ours is a unique position. We resist British Imperialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in degree.
Not a word about the persecution of Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally challenged or gays. Gandhi was not anti-Semitic in any way, rather the opposite, India has never been an anti-Semitic country anyway, but seemed to have a blind spot when it came to Hitler. After the war, he said about him, "The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity." Youth! makes me want to spit.

But although Gandhi was close to Jews and correctly identified them in the West as, "they have been the untouchables of Christianity," he did not identify with them in the same way the Untouchable Ambedkhar did and perhaps that explains his friendliness towards Hitler.

This review is a bit random, mostly because I didn't revise the reading notes.
Profile Image for Vishal.
32 reviews47 followers
October 14, 2022
For any person who has ever read Dr Ambedkar, it is well understood that I need not eulogize him for his erudite thesis, spectacular insight and cogent arguments. Every time I read him, I always learn something new and find a different perspective of looking at things.

In this astute and remarkably concise paper on Caste-system, he explains the origin of Caste-system, and how it was perpetuated with the help of misogynistic practices; he includes in this paper rational arguments backed up with scientifically determined theories. Earlier, when people used to tell me that caste-system is at the root of most social problems in India, it was hard for me to digest. But I was mistaken, as I intend to point out in the quick summary of this paper. I have taken the liberty of adding some of my insights to this issue, I hope I'll be forgiven if I go on explaining at length about the topics that many people are already familiar with.

It is a commonly held belief that castes are created and perpetuated by Shashtras, which leads to the religious sanctity of the caste-system. While it can be said that the Shashtras stratified caste, the Caste might have been originated much earlier and from altogether different circumstances.

Ambedkar defines Caste as an enclosed class created and perpetuated by endogamy. Its origin is convoluted into Varna system which degenerated itself into Caste system when the priestly class isolated itself from others in order to preserve the privileges it had obtained by the means of its high position in the social hierarchy.

Ambedkar had argued with the new-age proponents of Varna-system in his book Annihilation of Caste, that there is no way you can prevent the degeneration of Varna into Caste; because priestly class, once it obtains the privileges and high position, will be unwilling to let go of it for their descendants. Which is precisely what happened, the priestly class didn't want its descendants to be deprived of the privileges it enjoyed, so it isolated itself by the means of endogamy and closing contacts with others. It divided society into two sects: Brahmin and Non-Brahmin.

The other occupational communities followed suit, because they idolized Brahmins as their superiors and a class closer to God than they were. Any social customs practiced by Brahmins were imitated by non-brahmins except those which were strictly prohibited for them. Therefore, each occupational community formed its own caste supported by endogamy, following the example for priestly class which also had a common occupation for their caste.

Now, to support endogamy it was required that gender ratio of males to females is maintained. But in a close-knit group such as a caste, death of a husband or wife disrupted the balance and caused threat to the sexual moral fabric. A widow is susceptible to sexual corruption or a marriage outside the caste, so the practice of widow-burning was devised by Hindus. In case it appeared too inhumane, an alternative was employed which is to enforce lifelong widowhood and distort her beauty so as she is no longer a subject of sexual allurement. In case of a widower, such practices couldn't be employed since a man was an asset to materialistic prospects of a close-knit group, so it was decided that he should marry a younger girl who would be below marriageable age. This would maintain the ratio of men to women of appropriate age.

Later, confounded philosophies were contrived by Hindus to justify these practices in the name of obscure mysticism such as unity of soul and body of the couple in the case of widow-burning. However, they did not explain why the widower is not burnt if the soul and body of the couple is supposed to be united. In case of child-marriage, it was said that a girl should be married before she learns to love because she should love only her husband and no one else, if she grows young without marriage then she might love someone else other than her future husband and that would be a sin. It shows that Misogyny has served as the sole foundation on which the caste-system resides, because endogamy is another manifestation of misogyny where women of a community are treated as properties which should not be given to others. It is still evident in the current instances of Love-Jihad conflicts.

This, however, more or less summarizes the paper by Dr Ambedkar. I'll strongly recommend it to everyone who is concerned with social evils of India. Every communist, socialist, feminist and caste-proponent must read it.

A very contrasting point in this paper is the utter confidence and eloquence of Ambedkar as he stands on the shoulders of eminent ethnologists and crushes their arguments to crumbled rust. He points out flaws in their thesis of Caste-system while demolishing the apparent assumption of his arrogance by the reader, by proposing that his theory is not final and is a contribution to the discussion of issue; and he would be willing to abandon it if he is proved wrong.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,898 reviews1,503 followers
October 31, 2022
Interesting paper/speech. It crossed my path while I happened to be in India, so I picked it up in curiosity. Its age is apparent in some of the language used (it's from the early twentieth century, around WWI) and the author loves complex sentences so it took me a bit to get into the flow enough to parse out his meaning.

It's too bad that he starts with his weakest points, where he takes distasteful aspects of historical culture in India, claims they're inevitable aspects of caste and then reasons why they must be so. The core assumption, that gender distribution is naturally balanced so people reentering the marriage competition from a spouse dying need to be controlled by any means necessary, is shaky on its face (for example, births may be close to equal, but gendered risk tolerances tend to take out an unequal number of males by the time they reach marriageable age. Also, he never deals with the obvious solution of having widows marry widowers). It is a case of handy reasoning after the fact for the treatment of widows, historically, but he talks very fast past it being a reason for "girl brides" as the solution for widowers (who can't be so easily disposed because "men contribute to society"—a nice piece of misogyny that is also rather dated). I mean, yes, he calls out some disgusting practices, but I don't think he actually made the case that they're inevitable aspects of a caste system.

But the last half of the paper is rather brilliant as he gives a likely cause for how a caste system might rise in a population with strong class affinity. I think his case here is well-reasoned and nowhere more so than when he points out that caste is never singular in a society because creation of one caste necessitates the creation of another to contain "those not in the caste". And then shows how the forces that create the first contributes to the fracturing that spills out into the generation of others.

Anyway, the paper made me think, and that's always a bonus. I'm going to give it four stars because of the parts I appreciated. And I wish the first part hadn't been so shaky.

A note about my fiction tags: Yeah, this is non-fiction and fairly scholarly, so steamy, chaste, romance, etc. plays no role. Frankly, I'm only including this section to mess with myself and the tags I always put at the bottom of my reviews.
Profile Image for Arun Pandiyan.
133 reviews30 followers
February 3, 2021
Available in English: Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development – Research paper presented by Dr. Ambedkar at an anthropological seminar in Columbia University, US.

கொலம்பிய பல்கல���க்கழகத்தில் பொருளாதாரத்தை முதன்மை பாடமாக தேர்வுசெய்து பயின்ற அம்பேத்கர், மானுடவியலை ஒரு துணைப்பாடமாக கொண்டு இருந்தார். 1917ஆம் ஆண்டு அப்பல்கலைக்கழகத்தில் நடைபெற்ற மானுடவியல் கருத்தரங்கில் டாக்டர் அம்பேத்கர் வழங்கிய தனது ஆய்வு கட்டுரையின் உரையே இந்த புத்தகம். இப்புத்தகம் வெளியாகி நூறாண்டுகளை கடந்தாயிற்று. எனினும், அம்பேத்கரின் சாதி ஒழிப்பு எனும் அரசியல் கோட்போட்டின் விதையாகவும், சாதியின் நுட்பமான விடயங்களை பற்றி அவர் கொண்டிருந்த நிகரில்லா புரிதலையும் இப்புத்தகம் விளக்கியளிக்கிறது.

தலைசிறந்த மானுடவியல் ஆராய்ச்சியாளர்களின் கருத்துக்களின்படி இந்தியாவில் ஆரியர்கள், திராவிடர்கள், மங்கோலியர்கள் மற்றும் சிந்தியர்கள் பூர்வகுடிகளாக கருதப்படுகின்றனர். இவர்கள் பல்வேறு குடிகளாக, மொழி, நிறம், தோற்றம் மற்றும் கலாச்சாரம் என வெவ்வேறு குழுக்களாக இருப்பினும், பண்பாட்டு ஒற்றைத்தன்மையின் அடிப்படையில் சாதி எனும் நிறுவனம் இவர்களை இணைக்கின்றது. இந்திய துணைக்கண்டத்தில் ஒருவன் முழுமையான சுற்றுப்பயணம் மேற்கொண்டால் சாதியெனும் பண்பாட்டு ஒற்றைத்தன்மையை எளிதாக அறியமுடியும். இத்தகையான ஒற்றைத்தன்மை சாதியின் தோற்றத்தை கண்டறிவதில் அறிஞர்களுக்கு தடையாக இருந்தது. ஒரு ஆய்வின் முக்கியத்துவத்தை உணர்த்துவதன் கருவி என்பது அவ்வாய்வு எத்தனை முறை பிற ஆய்வறிஞர்களால் சுட்டிக்காட்டப்பட்டு மேற்கோள் காட்டப்படுகின்றது என்பதாகும். இதனை ஆங்கிலத்தில் ‘number of citations’ என்பார்கள். சாதியின் தோற்றுவாய் பற்றி பல அறிஞர்கள் முன்னரே ஆய்வு செய்தபோதிலும், அம்பேத்கரின் இந்த குறிப்பிட்ட ஆய்வுக்கட்டுரை பின்னர் வந்த அறிஞர்கலால் இன்றும் பலமுறை மேற்க்கோள் காட்டப்பட்டு வருகிறது. இதற்கு காரணம் ஒன்றே. டாக்டர் அம்பேத்கரின் ‘logic based diagnosis’ , அதாவது தர்க்கவழி முறையான அறுதியீடு என்பதே ஆகும்.

இந்த புத்தகத்தை படித்து முடித்தபின் நான் ஒரு நிமிடம் வியந்து சிந்தித்தது டாக்டர் அம்பேத்கரின் ஆராய்ச்சி திறனை பற்றித்தான். ஒரு ஆய்வின் தொடக்கப்புள்ளி என்பது ஆராய்ச்சி சிக்கல் (research problem). அச்சிக்கல் உண்டாகும் காரணியாக ஒன்றை நிறுவுவதற்கு, ஒரு கருதுகோள் (hypothesis) தேவை. மேலும், அதனை உறுதி செய்ய, அக்கருதுகோளை அறிவியல் சோதனைக்கு உட்படுத்த வேண்டும். இதுவே ‘hypothesis testing’ என்பதாகும். இதுதான் ஆராய்ச்சி முறை (research methodology). இதை முற்றிலும் முறையாக செய்து, எவ்வித மாற்றுக்கருத்துக்கோ, கேள்விகளுக்கோ, கருத்து மறுப்பறுசீலனைக்கோ சிறிதும் வாய்பளிக்காமல், சாதியின் தோற்றுவாயின் மிக துல்லியமான காரணியாக அகமனமும் (endogamy), கதவடைப்பு (exclusivity) மற்றும் போலச்செய்தல் (imitation) என நிறுவி, சமகால மானுடவியல் நிபுணர்கள் மற்றும் ஆய்வறிஞர்களுக்கு நிகராக தனது கருத்துக்களை வெளியீடு செய்து தனது இருபத்தி ஐந்து வயதில் இத்தலைப்பிலான ஆய்வறிக்கையின் கீழ் முனைவர் பட்டமும் பெறுகிறார் டாக்டர் அம்பேத்கர். ஒரு முனைவர் பட்டம் பயிலும் மாணவனாக என்னை பெரிதும் வியப்புக்குளாக்கிய விடயம் என்பது, எந்தவிதமான ஆயுவுக்கருத்துக்களையும் அத்துறைச்சார்ந்த நிபுணர்களிடமிருந்தும், அறிஞர்களிடமிருந்தும் மாற்றுக்கருத்துக்கள் பெறாமலோ, விமர்சனங்கள் இல்லாமலோ வெளியிடு செய்யவோ ஒரு கருத்தரங்கில் பகிர்வது என்பதோ எக்காலகட்டத்திலும் எளியவையாக இருந்ததில்லை. அம்பேத்கர் தனது கருத்துக்கு அறிவியல் மற்றும் தர்க்கரீதியான காரணங்களை சொல்வதோடு மட்டுமல்லாமல், இதர அறிஞர்களின் சாதி பற்றிய புரிதலின்மையையும், அவர்களின் முந்தைய ஆய்வுகளில் உள்ள வரம்புகளையும் விளக்குகிறார்.

அகமனம் மூலம் குறிப்பிட்ட சாதியின் பாலின எண்ணிக்கையை சமநிலையில் வைத்தல் என்பது ஒரு முக்கிய புள்ளியாக நிறுவுகிறார் டாக்டர் அம்பேத்கர். இதன் விளைவாகவே சதி எனும் உடன்கட்டை ஏறுதல் மற்றும் விதவை மறுமணம் மறுத்தல் ஆகிய பெண்கள் மீதான அடக்குமுறைகள் சாதியின் மூலமாக நிறுவப்பட்டதாக விளக்குகிறார். மாறாக, ஆண் ஒருவன் தன மனைவியை இழந்தால், அவன் அச்சமூகத்தின் பொருள்சார் வளர்ச்சிக்கு பங்குவகிப்பதன் நிலையை கருத்தில் கொண்டு, அவனுக்கு மற்றொரு பெண் குழந்தையை மறுமணம் செய்துவிடுவது வழக்காய் இருந்திருப்பதாக கூறுகிறார். இவ்வாறாக, சாதி என்பது பாலின எண்ணிக்கையின் சமநிலையையை உறுதி செய்வதற்கு ஒரு கருவியாக விளங்கியது. மேலும், 'சாதி என்பது தனித்துஒதுக்கப்பட்டு பாதுகாக்கப்படும் ஒரு வர்க்கமே ஆகும்' என்று கூறி பிராமணர்களை கொண்ட புரோகித வர்க்கமானது, தனது பொருளாதரம் மற்றும் அறிவில் மேல்தரப்பட்ட வர்க்கத்தை காத்துக்கொள்ளவும், பிற வர்க்கத்தை அச்சலுகைகளிலிருந்து விளக்கி வைக்கவும், தன்னை ஒரு குழுமமாக தனித்து கொள்ள அகமனத்தை பயன்படுத்திக்கொண்டுள்ளது. பிற வர்க்கத்தினர் இத்தகைய கதைவடைப்பின் விளைவாக, தங்களை விட உயர்ந்தவர்களாக புரோகித வர்க்கத்தை எண்ணி, போலச்செய்தல் என்னும் மனப்போக்கினை பெற்று, அகமனம் மூலம் தங்களை தனிக்குழுமங்களாக தனிமை படுத்திக்கொள்கின்றனர். இதுவே அம்பேத்கரின் ஆய்வுச்சுருக்கம்.

ஒருமுறை படித்த பின்பு, உடனே என்னை மறுமுறை படிக்கச்செய்த புத்தகம் இது. ஒரு ஆய்வின் முடிவுகளை பிற அறிஞர்களுக்கு வலியுறுத்துதல் என்பது மிக எளிமையான பணியல்ல. அதற்கு ஒரு 'structured argument' மற்றும் 'scientific assertion' தேவை. இந்த புத்தகத்தை சாதியை பற்றி அறிந்துகொள்ள ஒருமுறை படித்துவிட்டு , எந்த துறையிலும் ஆய்வறிக்கை எப்படி சரியாக எழுதுவது என்று அறிந்துகொள்ள மறுமுறை படிக்கவேண்டும்.
Profile Image for Mukesh Kumar.
146 reviews55 followers
February 15, 2017
This seminal paper was published 100 years ago by BR Ambedkar! What an absolute lucid piece of writing! Some really intriguing excerpts:
1. "...the means by which endogamous caste is preserved: i) burning of the widow with her husband/ Compulsory widowhood (a milder form of burning), ii) Imposing celibacy on the widower/ wedding him to a girl child not marriageable. With burning / celibacy options being less useful than latter.
2. "Caste is an enclosed class, with the customs most strictly followed by Brahmins/ The prevalance of caste preserving tactics in non-brahmin castes being derivative, their observance is neither strict nor complete."
3. "...no doubt that the whole process of caste-formation in India is a process of imitation of the higher by the lower...the Brahmin class first raised the structure of caste by the help of [above mentioned] customs..
4. "..the role of imitation in the spread of these customs among the non-Brahmin castes, as means or as ideals, though the imitators have not been aware of it, they exist among them as derivatives; and, if they are derived, there must have been prevalent one original caste that was high enough to have served as a pattern for the rest. But in a theocratic society, who could be the pattern but the servant of God?...a demi god/semi god"
And the whole paper is available for free online:
May 17, 2021
பொருளாதார சீர்திருத்தத்தை விட சமூக சீர்திருத்தமே மக்களை முன்னேற்றும் என்பது அண்ணல் அம்பேத்கரின் கருத்து.
சாதிகளின் தோற்றம், அவற்றின் மீதான மக்களின் தாக்கங்கள், அவற்றின் குணங்கள்(Characteristics),சாதிகளின் புனித பிம்பங்கள்,மதங்களில் சாதியின் புனித கட்டமைப்பு மற்றும் அவற்றின் இயங்கும் விதம் ஆகியவற்றை வரலாற்று ரீதியாகவும்,தர்க்கரீதியாகவும் பகுத்தறிவு கண்ணோட்டத்தில் எழுதப்பட்டதே அம்பேத்கரின் "இந்தியாவில் சாதிகள்".
இந்து மதம் மற்றும் பார்ப்பனியத்தின் மீதான மிகவும் காட்டமான விமர்சனமும்,பல்வேறு மானுடவியல் அறிஞர்களின் கருத்துக்களை(அம்பேத்கர் இதில் பெரும்பாலான கருத்துக்களை ஏற்றுக்கொள்ள வில்லை) மேற்கோள் காட்டியும் இந்நூலில் சாதிக���ின் புனித பிம்பத்தை உடைத்தெறிந்து வெளிப்படுத்தி உள்ளார்.
1936இல் எழுதப்பட்டதால் இந்நூலில் வாசிக்கும் பொழுது வாசிப்பவர்களுக்கு அம்பேத்கரின் கடின உழைப்பும்,நவீனத்துவம்,அவரின் மேட்டிமைப் பண்பும் மற்றும் எதற்கும் பயப்படாத அவரின் தீவிர ஆளுமைத்தன்மையும் உணர்த்தும் என்பதில் ஐயமில்லை.
சாதிகளின் மீதான பார்வையில் (இப்ப எல்லாம் யாரு சார் சாதி பாக்குறாங்க! என்பவர்களுக்கு இந்நூலின் வாசிப்பு அவசியம்)இன்றைய காலகட்டத்தில் இந்நூல் வாசிப்பு பெரிதும் தேவையான ஒன்று.
அம்பேத்கரை அறிய விரும்புபவர்களுக்கு இந்நூல் ஆகச்சிறந்த அனுபவத்தைக் கொடுக்கும்.
#ஜெய் பீம்.
Profile Image for Shishir Chaudhary.
203 reviews24 followers
March 26, 2014
Wow! Never before have I read anything as structured, scientific and logically communicated analysis of the practice of casteism in India as this remarkable paper by Ambedkar.

The reasons behind its genesis and the manner in which this system has evolved range from Endogamy, Exclusivity, the psychological act of imitation to the mechanized consequence of exocommunication, to name a few.

While many researchers talk about 'standing on the shoulders of giants' to be an inevitable act of moving forward, Ambedkar stands on the very shoulders of eminent scholars and crushes them for their lack of reasoning and other shortcomings. You need to read to know the confidence and ambition Ambedkar possessed, for in his language lie the wealth of accumulated knowledge and expositions of original ideas.

I am still to fathom why his writings are not included in Indian school curricula to an extent of those by Gandhi or Nehru.
Profile Image for Aamil Syed.
160 reviews36 followers
September 16, 2016
In 20 pages, Babasaheb Ambedkar will literally unravel castes for you and leave you enlightened and enraged at the same time.

Absolutely a must for anyone who wants to understand castes in India and the best introduction to anyone who has never read Ambedkar.
Profile Image for Karthick.
296 reviews112 followers
December 31, 2018
“A learned man would be honored without his being labelled a Brahmin. A soldier would be respected without his being designated as Kshatriya. If European society honors its soldiers and servants without giving them permanent label, why should Hindu society find it difficult to do so is a question. All reform consists in a change in the notion, sentiment and mental attitudes of the people towards men and things”

Castes in India: their mechanism, Genesis and development is a Paper read before the anthropology seminar at the Columbia University on 9th May 1916 by Dr. Ambedkar.

Content is such a heavy one and not to be missed. Every paragraph, every page is important to be accounted for. Such a clarity, lucidity, and erudition.

It mentions definition of Mr. Senart, Mr. Nesfield, Sir H.Risley and Dr. Ketkar. But Dr. Ketkar’ s definition is much more elucidate.

Dr. Ketkar defines Caste as “a social group having two characteristics.
i. membership is confined to those who are born of members and includes all persons so born;
ii. the members are forbidden by an inexorable social law to marry outside the group.”

It throws light upon the real meaning of caste system and here he speaks about ‘Prohibition of Intermarriage and Membership by Autogeny’ as the two characteristics of Caste.
If you prohibit intermarriage the result is that you limit membership to those born within the group. Thus, it’s two sides of the coin.

Primitive Indian Society savored the principle of Exogamy. In fact, marriage between Sagotras (of the same class) was regarded as desecration and had more rigorous penalties. Exogamy as the rule, there could be no caste. Exogamy means fusion between the communities/clan.

Endogamy was foreign to India. Castes artificially chopped off the population into fixed and definite units, each one preventing from fusing into another through the custom of endogamy. It is the only characteristics that is peculiar to Caste. We have different castes because of endogamy. Thus, the superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of the caste.

If a group need to subsist endogamy and Caste, they ought to maintain the equality between the sexes. Otherwise, it turns out to be a chaos and members will be driven out of the circle to take care of themselves in any way they can. So, surplus of men or woman is a nightmare to the caste. If that prevails, they very likely to marry outside and eradicate the caste system. So, they need to create a system of rules to preserve endogamy.

Surplus of women
1. Burn her with her deceased husband and get rid of her = Sati
2. Enforce widowhood on her for the rest of her life.

Surplus of Men
Since men is a dominant figure and has greater prestige in every group and with this traditional superiority, his wishes always consulted.
1. He can’t be burned with his deceased wife, because he is a MAN. If done, a sturdy soul is lost to the caste. So, considering this, he can remain widower for rest of the life. (enjoy self-imposed Celibacy)
2. But imposing celibacy fails both theoretically and practically, as he is the one who raises a family (Grahastha). So, he can be provided with a girl not yet marriageable. By this he is kept within the caste and endogamy morals are preserved

Endogamy and Caste are one and the same thing. Wow! What a piece of shit!

Hindu society in the later Vedic period (1000 B.C to 600 B.C) saw the changes in the status of women which was degraded. They lost their status both in religious and social fields. Baby girl was a curse.
1. Sati
2. Widowhood
3. Girl Marriage

In Medieval India (800 AD-1600 AD), women status was even worse. They were denied to study Vedas, marriageable ages were lowered, destroyed opportunities for higher education etc. According to Manusmirti, “girls were to be given away by their parents between the ages of six and eight”.

All these customs were obligatory and were honored because they were practiced. Strict endogamy could not be preserved without these customs, while caste without endogamy is a fake. Society is always composed of classes. A caste is an Enclosed Class.


These customs in all their strictness are obtainable only in one caste namely the Brahmins, who occupy the highest place in the social hierarchy of the Hindu society. Strict observance of these customs and the social superiority by the priestly class are sufficient to prove they were the originators of this unnatural evil structure. I think the big culprit is “Manusmriti”.
But Ambedkar impresses that ‘Manu did not give the law of caste and it existed long before Manu. Manu was an upholder and philosophized about it. His work ended with codification of existing caste rules and the preaching of Caste Dharma’.
Hindu society was constructed into the framework of caste system which was created by shasthras. They believed and justified the texts, because it cannot be wrong. How Pathetic!.


At some time in the history of the Hindus, the priestly class socially detached itself from others through a closed-door policy became a caste by itself.

Sub-division is natural but unnatural is they become self-enclosed units.
The question is: Were they compelled to close their doors and become endogamous? Or did they close them of their own accord?

1. Some closed their doors. (psychological interpretation)
2. Others found it closed against them (Mechanistic process: If group A wants to be endogamous, Group B must be so by circumstances; means, ‘they are directly closed out, but indirectly closed in’)

Endogamy/Closed-door system was a fashion in the Hindu society and it had originated from the Brahmin Caste and imitated by other Non-Brahmin sub-divisions and became endogamous castes.

It is the “Infection of the Imitation” that caught all these subdivisions on their onward march of differentiation and has turned them into castes. Imitation is a virus deep-seated in the human mind. Given the opportunity, a nobility will always and everywhere imitate its leaders, kings, sovereign, etc. It leaves no doubt that caste formation process in India is the process of imitation of the higher by the lower (Tarde’s laws of limitation: Intensity of Imitation varies inversely in proportion to the distance)

Caste have no mercy for one who violated the code. The penalty was excommunication and the result is a new caste.

How can we eradicate the caste system??...
“Answer lies within you”..
Profile Image for Nihal Lele.
196 reviews
August 25, 2021
The caste system in India has been living on for more than 3000 years. Caste discrimination, child marriages, sati, and many more harmful activities have been going on ever since the Caste system was invented. In this book, Dr Ambedkar talks about the working of this system, its theory, and its effects.

Understanding the reason for the caste system is easy enough. In India, there are four main castes. The Brahmins(or the priests), The Kshatriyas(or the military), The Vaishyas(or the merchants), The Shudras(or the labourers), and finally, The atishudras(or the Untouchables). The untouchables, who were the lowest caste people, were discriminated against by the higher class people. B. R. Ambedkar was a part of this caste, and maybe this was the reason why he wanted to spread his ideas through this book.

Intercaste marriage was another problem faced in the early periods of India, and the author briefly explained this practice. Men and women were married only if they were of the same caste, and intercaste marriage meant harassment of the entire community. Another major problem was the discrimination of people based on their castes. The shudras and the atishudras often fell into this trap of unfairness and differentiation.

The author finally explains the development of the castes. Castes developed from time to time, and some unfair laws were made to separate the higher from the lower. As the British started ruling India, many Englishmen along with some educated Indians decided to pass laws that prohibited Caste discrimination. Modernisation and Industrialisation helped in this process, with more educated thinkers coming forward in this movement.

B. R. Ambedkar was born in this unstable time. Since he belonged to the Untouchable Caste, he was often made to sit outside the classroom so that he won’t ‘pollute’ the higher caste children. When he finally got a chance to study outside India, he took that opportunity. After coming back, he decided to revolt against the caste system and started various movements.

“To conclude, while I am ambitious to advance a Theory of Caste, if it can be shown to be untenable I shall be equally willing to give it up” - Dr B. R. Ambedkar

Profile Image for Alice Abraham.
14 reviews3 followers
October 11, 2020
Must read

A must read book to understand the workings of the caste system and how it thrives on endogamy and the oppressive of women.
Profile Image for Gowtham.
234 reviews27 followers
December 13, 2019
புறமணத்தைப் விட அக மணத்திற்க்கு உயர்வான இடம் அளிக்க பட்டதே சாதியின் தோற்றமாயிற்று.
பொது மக்களுக்கு உதவும் தர்ம சிந்தனையைச் சாதி அழித்து விட்டது.

- டாக்டா் அம்பேத்கா்

"இந்தியாவில் சாதிகளின் தோற்றம், அவற்றின் அமைப்பியக்கம், பிறப்பு மற்றும் வளர்ச்சி- அகிய தலைப்புகள் பற்றி விரிவாகவும் எளிமையாக கடத்துகிறது இந்த நூல்."

A must read

Book: இந்தியாவில் சாதிகள்
Author : Dr. B R Ambedkar 💙

#best 💥🙏
Profile Image for Thirupathi Mani.
15 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2022
நான் வாசிக்கும் அம்பேத்கரின் முதல் நூல்.
இந்தியாவில் சாதிகள் எவ்வாறு தோன்றியது போன்ற பல அடிப்படை கேள்விகளுக்கு தெளிவான, ஆழமான பதில்களை அளித்துள்ளார்.
தொடர்ந்து அம்பேத்கரை நிறைய வாசிக்க வேண்டும் என்றஆர்வத்தை ஏற்படுத்திய நூல்....
32 reviews35 followers
October 18, 2020
In this small book, Ambedkar proposes a cohesive theory for the origin and spread of the caste system in India. Starting from way he defines caste as "a superposition of endogamy on exogamy", Ambedkar makes numerous insightful comments on what caste really is, how it is different from other forms of division of society, what caused the spread of this idea in the Indian setting and the mechanisms that aided in the spread. I really liked how this essay is a self-contained and complete exposition on the question of the origin, mechanisms and the development of the caste system in India. I am looking forward to reading his "Annihilation of Caste" next.
Profile Image for Mohammad Sabbir  Shaikh.
234 reviews38 followers
April 18, 2021
Caste in India was Ambedkar's speech which was later printed in the form of a book. In here, Ambedkar explains the origin of caste along with his theories and certain examples that are hard to imagine. The speech isn't too long. You should be able to finish it in a matter of few hours. And since it's the dalit history month perhaps you should give it a shot. The official website of The Ministry of External Affairs has all the writings and speeches of B. R. Ambedkar. Google it.
Profile Image for Shruti  Chakravarty.
29 reviews7 followers
March 29, 2022
Reading Ambedkar imparts you with depth and clarity on caste like you’ve never had before. It really is clear why he was such a threat to the status quo. His writings had the potential to foment a revolution like no other, and in a way, they did. If at all you decide to educate yourself on caste someday (we all should, imo), I hope you start with Ambedkar.
Profile Image for Alex Marcus.
57 reviews
August 28, 2017
A statement or yet a theory by Ambedkar on casteism or 'Caste System' in India - its origin, growth and development in Hinduism. Ambedkar holds an altogether different perspective to view caste and presents his arguments in such coherent ways that it is difficult to disagree with him. Whether it is his origin in this system or the various studies he has done regarding it, in any ways, Ambedkar was a man who knew Caste in depth and with all his efforts wanted to uproot it.
Profile Image for Godwin.
34 reviews7 followers
April 13, 2020
இந்தியாவில் சாதிகளின் தோற்றம் மற்றும் வளர்ச்சி பற்றிய சுருக்கமான ஆனால் ஆழமான ஒரு உரை.
இப்போ எல்லாம் யாரு சார் சாதி பாக்குறா? என்று கேட்டு விட்டு நகர்கிற நவீன இந்தியச் சமூகத்தில் ஏன் Matrimonial களின் வடிவில் அகமண முறைகள் காப்பாற்றப்பட்டுக் கொண்டே வருகின்றன என்பதையும், மதங்கள் ஏன் மாற்றங்களுக்கு உட்பட வேண்டும் என்பதையும் நம் சிந்தனைக்கு தந்து விட்டு போகும் ஒரு சிறப்பான புத்தகம்.
Profile Image for Shayantani.
310 reviews847 followers
May 11, 2021
Such lucidity of ideas. Dr Ambedkar's writing is always richly rewarding.
Profile Image for Krishnanunni.
82 reviews23 followers
November 21, 2018
When I first picked up "The Annihilation of Caste", I had negative preconceptions about it. If you have observed the Indian political landscape long enough, you will understand that Ambedkar's name is popularly used by proponents of a certain brand of politics. Over the last three days, I've ploughed through 3 of his works. emerging humbler and more knowledgeable and most importantly,more Indian, that I was before.This essay should have been titled "The Unravelling of Caste". If annihilation of caste was a discourse on the question 'Why should caste be eliminated?' This books delves into the question, 'How did caste system came into being?'

I recommend scribbling and organising ideas along with the ones from the other two books.
But one question remains:Where would these discourses find a place, in a Post-Reservation-India?
Profile Image for Dimple.
45 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2017
"The superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste"

Interesting insight.
My inferior level of concentration has hampered my level of understanding.(also this is a thesis :p)
And so, I read some additional reviews on this material.

This is the first time I have a read something by Mr. Ambedkar and I must say that the experience was fascinating.

He is aware of the complexity of the issue and deals with it in a systematic manner. Limiting the paper to mechanism,genesis and development of caste.

"A Caste is an enclosed Class"

Well, according to him, caste is a social phenomenon which resulted from Brahmins choosing to adopt a strict endogamous matrimonial regime.
Since they were almost considered as demi-gods, other people started emulating this.
Those in the military parcelled themselves into Kshatriyas.

There is the concept of surplus woman and surplus man.
The customs of Sati, enforced widowhood and Girl Marriage were all devices to maintain endogamy.
(I did not understand why a surplus man couldn't marry a woman from same caste. Why does it have to be a small girl.)

Anyways, I am glad I was able to take something away from his work.
Thus begins my journey into the annals of Indian History.
22 reviews
March 3, 2022
Unlike most of the people who protests around caste system without knowing the history of caste DR BR Ambedkar stands unique. "Inter caste marriage and other protest will not annihilate caste until the Vedas and manu smriti are destroyed completely". This shows his depth of the research.
Profile Image for Hari.
7 reviews2 followers
March 22, 2016
லாகூரில் நடக்கவிருந்த ஜாத்-பட்-தோடக் மண்டலுக்காக 1936 ஆம் ஆண்டு அம்பேத்கரால் தயாரிக்கப்பட்ட உரையே 'இந்தியாவில் சாதிகள்' என்னும் புத்தகமாக வந்துள்ளது. இந்தியாவில் ஜாதிகளின், தோற்றத்தையும் அதன் வளர்சியைய்யும் அது எவ்வாறு பரவியது என்பதை மிகுந்த நுணுக்கத்துடன் ஆய்வாளர் அம்பேத்கராக தெளிவுபடுத்துகிறார்.

ஜாதி பூசல்களுக்கு காரணம் மக்களல்ல அவர்கள் உள்ளத்தில் ஆழ்ந்து விதையூன்றியிருக்கும் சாஸ்திரங்களும் அதன் அடிப்படையாக கொண்டிருக்கும் மதமே என்பதை பல தரவுகளுடன் விளக்கியுள்ளார். ஜாதியை ஒழிக்க நினைப்பவர்கள் ஜாதிய நம்பிக்கை கொண்டிருக்கும் மக்களை எதிர்க்காமல், அந்த நம்பிக்கையை ஏற்படுத்தியிருக்கும் மதத்தை எதிர்க்க வேண்டும் என்று தெளிவுபடுத்துகிறார்.

மற்ற மதங்களில் காணப்படும் பிரிவுகள், ஹிந்து மதத்தின் ஜாதிப்பிரிவுகளுக்கு எந்த வகையில் வேறுபட்டிருக்கிறது என்பதை விவரித்துள்ளார். கண்டிப்பாக இதைப் படிக்கும் அனைவரும் பெரியாரும், அம்பேத்கரும் ஹிந்து மதத்தை மட்டும் சற்று கூடுதல் கவனத்துடன் எதிர்த்ததற்க்கான காரணத்தை அறிய இயலும்.

ஹிந்து மதத்தில் இருப்பவர்கள், ஜாதி அமைப்பு எப்படி ஏற்பட்டது? பின் எப்படி பரவியது? இந்த அமைப்பினால் நா���் இழந்தது என்ன? நாம் அடைந்த அடையப்போகும் தீமைகள் என்ன என்பதை அறிய விரும்பினால், இந்த நூலை கண்டிப்பாக வாசிக்கவும்.
Profile Image for Surjeeth.
12 reviews
September 30, 2020
This is what serious academic work should look like. Not the bunch of jumbled nonsense that is Buddha or Marx. This book is a very good and, importantly, materialist analysis into castes as well as their relation to sex/gender. Not enough class analysis, that is, not enough explanations as "why" of castes although he explains the "how" really well. Surely they didn't magically pop out of nowhere, which is a question you'll be able to answer if only you had incorporated Marxist methodology in your study. Or maybe he explained and I'm forgetting it. Idk. 🤷‍♂️
Profile Image for Tony Sheldon.
98 reviews83 followers
December 6, 2019
A good book to know the theory presented forth by B R Ambedkar about the definition, origin and workings of the caste system in India and how some of the practices followed in the caste system came into being.
Profile Image for Pooja Banga.
802 reviews83 followers
November 7, 2020
This guy really had double standards.

While covering the aspects of caste ,he has completely neglected the question of gender.

How can you say caste system was spread through Brahmins ?

I agree till an extent but not totally
366 reviews5 followers
November 8, 2020
What a clear, well argued essay about the genesis of caste. The thought and articulation of Ambedkar is truly a goal to strive for.
Profile Image for Premanand Velu.
171 reviews36 followers
May 26, 2019
This seminal paper is a proof to the sheer brilliance of Ambedkar's mind through which he analyses and established the nature of caste in India with a unshakable clarity and strong arguments backed by scientific logic.

//"Having explained the mechanism of the creation and preservation of Caste in India, the further question as to its genesis naturally arises. The question or origin is always an annoying question and in the study of Caste it is sadly neglected; some have connived at it, while others have dodged it. Some are puzzled as to whether there could be such a thing as the origin of caste and suggest that " if we cannot control our fondness for the word ' origin ', we should better use the plural form, viz. ' origins of caste ' ". As for myself I do not feel puzzled by the Origin of Caste in India for, as I have established before, endogamy is the only characteristic of Caste and when I say Origin of Caste I mean The Origin of the Mechanism for Endogamy."//

Above statements clearly explains the purpose and outcome of the caste without complicating it's Genesis and rationally establishing the motive.

//"The study of the origin of caste must furnish us with an answer to the question—what is the class that raised this " enclosure " around itself ? The question may seem too inquisitorial, but it is pertinent, and an answer to this will serve us to elucidate the mystery of the growth and development of castes all over India- Unfortunately a direct answer to this question is not within my power. I can answer it only indirectly. I said just above that the customs in question were current in the Hindu society. To be true to facts it is necessary to qualify the statement, as it connotes universality of their prevalence. These customs in all their strictness are obtainable only in one caste, namely the Brahmins, who occupy the highest place in the social hierarchy of the Hindu society ; and as their prevalence in non-Brahmin castes is derivative of their observance is neither strict nor complete. This important fact can serve as a basis of an important observation. If the prevalence of these customs in the non-Brahmin Castes is derivative, as can be shown very easily, then it needs no argument to prove what class is the father of the institution of caste. Why the Brahmin class should have enclosed itself into a caste is a different question, which may be left as an employment for another occasion. But the strict observance of these customs and the social superiority arrogated by the priestly class in all ancient civilizations are sufficient to prove that they were the originators of this " unnatural institution " founded and maintained through these unnatural means. "//

Ambedkar clearly had ideas about who drove this idea into the rest of the society and thereby questioning the popular belief that it is ordained by supreme power.

//"This sub-division of a society is quite natural. But the unnatural thing about these sub-divisions is that they have lost the open-door character of the class system and have become self-enclosed units called castes. The question is: were they compelled to close their doors and become endogamous, of did they close them of their own accord ? I submit that there is a double line of answer: Some closed the door : Others found it closed against them. The one is a psychological interpretation and the other is mechanistic, but they are complementary and both are necessary to explain the phenomena of caste-formation in its entirety. //
After establishing that basically the society was exogamus, he was able to explain the process in which the switch happened from exogamus to endogamus and the process of propagation of class into multiple castes to facilitate that.

For all those who want to understand the Genesis of castes and their propagation, this short writing from Ambedkar is a must to read
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