Q. Evaluate the views of Gandhi on the Varna system.
Ans: Mahatma Gandhi had complex and evolving views on the Varna system, which is a traditional social classification system in Hinduism. His perspective on the Varna system reflected his broader beliefs in social justice, equality, and the upliftment of marginalized communities. It’s important to note that Gandhi’s views evolved over time and were influenced by various factors, including his interactions with different sections of society and his evolving understanding of social dynamics.
Early Views and Critique: In his early years, Gandhi, like many of his contemporaries, held conventional views on the Varna system. He believed that Varnas were originally based on occupational divisions, with each Varna having a specific role and responsibility in society. However, he also criticized the degeneration of the system into a rigid and hereditary hierarchy, leading to the exploitation and marginalization of certain groups, particularly the “Untouchables” (Dalits).
Emphasis on Equality and Reconciliation: As Gandhi’s social awareness deepened, he began to actively challenge the oppressive aspects of the Varna system. He advocated for the eradication of untouchability, recognizing that the practice was deeply unjust and inhumane. He believed that untouchability contradicted the principles of nonviolence and equality that he espoused.
Gandhi advocated for reconciliation and unity among different communities, striving to bridge the gaps between castes and classes. He promoted the idea of interdependence and mutual respect among all sections of society, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and understanding.
Harijan Movement: Gandhi’s efforts to uplift the Dalits through his Harijan (literally, “Children of God”) movement were a significant part of his response to the Varna system’s injustices. He sought to provide equal rights and dignity to the Dalits and worked to integrate them into mainstream society. Gandhi’s advocacy for untouchables’ rights and his practice of personally cleaning latrines to break down caste barriers were symbolic gestures of his commitment to social reform.
Later Critique and Rejection: As Gandhi’s understanding of social issues deepened, he gradually moved beyond a reformist approach. He became more critical of the Varna system itself, viewing it as inherently discriminatory and incompatible with the principles of social justice and equality. In his later years, he advocated for the total abolition of the Varna system and the creation of a truly egalitarian society.
In conclusion, Gandhi’s views on the Varna system evolved from a nuanced understanding of its origins to a strong critique of its oppressive aspects. He emphasized the principles of equality, unity, and social reform while working to uplift marginalized communities. Ultimately, Gandhi’s evolving views on the Varna system reflect his commitment to eradicating social injustices and building a more inclusive and equitable society.