The caste system in India is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste. It has its origins in ancient India, and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj. It is today the basis of affirmative action programmes in India. The caste system consists of two different concepts, varna and jati, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.- Wikipedia

There are two different view points regarding foreign influence of caste in India (particularly when Europeans came), the first is that they sullied the caste system and the main negative aspects come from them. For example, instances of Portugese apparently inventing the caste or the British being the ones to create some regressive laws regarding caste and caste conversions is given (see eg: Manusmirti). Another is that the European had no real interest in caste or anything and they simply codified what the people were already actually practicing in the land as laws.

In essence, my question is, based on credible academic sources, have Europeans modified Caste system to a more regressive form than it was or have they just codified the pre-existing cultural practices into written form?

  • 2
    Kind of interested in the answer to this too, but it smells like one of those things that's currently under dispute, so all that a good answer here would provide is a discussion of the bounds of the dispute (which you've already done a bit in the question).
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 9, 2022 at 21:45

1 Answer 1


(S1) means source 1 and (S2) means source 2 below. Both sources are books.

Role of Europeans( Source: Debrahmanising History ( Braj Ranjan Mani) ( S1:https://www.amazon.in/Debrahmanising-History-Dominance-Resistance-Extensively/dp/9350980770) and History of Hindu Imperialism ( Dharam Teertha) (S2:https://www.amazon.in/History-Hindu-Imperialism-dharma-Theertha/dp/B06XSFM711)):

( S1 Chapter 4, Page 190 ) : Striking a deal with the native elites as they were struggling to establish colonial rule, the Britisher adopted the policy of non interference in the internal social and religious matters. The Britishers however for diversity reasons resented the muslims and preferre and promoted the Hindu elites giving them the status of natural leaders of the majority. ... (Page 191) With this and similar moves the Britishers begin to discover hinduism under that tutelage of of the pandits... . The Britishers did not amount to understand- and there was none to tell them- that the sacerdotal literature in Sanskrit represented only the brahminical worldview. It appears that the Brahmanical degeneration of masses appeal to the Britishers as it was in keeping with their own colonial design and racist ideology.

Page 192: The British ignored the existence of other Indian traditions because the brahminical Framework better suited their interests. ..., were a clear evidence of the colonial patronage to the brahmanical traditional.

Hastings academic proteges- william Jones charles Wilkins- learn Sanskrit and things " Indian" from the Brahmin literati, and engaged in research of India mainly through ancient Sanskrit texts .

Page 194: Expectedly, the glorification of their ancestors was well received buy the privilege caste indians.

Page 199: The majority of Indians certainly suffered from colonialism, but there were also those who benefited. the alien rulers and local is influential elite had worked closely together to construct orientalism- and :ialism itself - in mutual self interest.... While recasting the Indian past,:ial did not bother to correlate Shastras, with with Buddhist and shramanic texts or with archaeology. The fact that orientalist construction of ancient India was a historical or at best semi historical is now commonly accepted.

Page 200 : The pandits have always tried to monopolize knowledge and manipulate information, and seldom hesitated to sell false knowledge to promote their ideological and material interests. It was they, who had provided selective information to the British on indogenius tradition and institutions on an unprecedented scale airtel all India level particularly in the presidential cities calcutta Bombay and Madras. British officials became Puppets in the hand of native dominant caste officials, secretaries, munshis, who worked with them everyday and heavily influenced their decisions.

Similar information is also provided in Chapter 15 of Source 2.

  • @SteveBird I hope it is fine now.
    – James
    Oct 4, 2022 at 19:13
  • 3
    This really needs editing down. There's a lot of stuff here that doesn't seem very relevant to the question. Oct 4, 2022 at 23:50
  • @Lars Please note that I had to show that Europeans didn't affected much the caste system( I showed it in 1st part of my answer) and caste system is much older than European colonization and integral part of hinduism( I showed it in part 2, this requires analysis of various books of hinduism and so part (2) is huge). Part 3 is my conclusion.
    – James
    Oct 5, 2022 at 9:02
  • @LarsBosteen I can't make this answer shorter as I have to show all the aspects of this question. Kindly upvote if you think my answer and my sources added knowledge to this website.
    – James
    Oct 5, 2022 at 9:03
  • 1
    @Lars I have edited the answer to remove the claim regrading Philosophy of Hinduism.
    – James
    Oct 6, 2022 at 20:43

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