Bastardization Of Indian Society

Sometime in the middle of last year, I had written a controversial blog post on Caste and the Gentleman Class. I had written that post after I had read Gregory Clark’s “A Farewell to Alms”. In that post, I had argued that that the reason India failed to develop a large “gentleman class” was due to our caste system – that given the link between caste and profession, competition for survival happened within castes. To quote myself:

On the same lines, one wonders why this kind of development didnt happen in India, and the answer lies in the caste system. Given the rigid caste system here, it wasn’t possible for people to ‘downshif’t’. Given its tight linkage with profession, what the caste system did was to freeze the proportion of various castes in the total workforce.

Hence, even if the upper caste/class people managed to produce more surviving offspring, these offspring weren’t able to migrate to other ‘lesser’ professions. In other words, the survival of the fittest happened within castes. It was not until much after the industrial revolution and urbanization and the development of modern medicine, that people of different castes started professionallly competing with each other.

In this post, I hope to build upon this earlier theory, and in the process perhaps make it more controversial. The basic idea here is that in the middle ages and perhaps earlier, and definitely later, it was okay in India for a man belonging to a higher class to procreate with a woman belonging to a lower class (ok more controversy here – i am using class and caste interchangably since in those days they were tightly linked) (and the opposite was not permitted. a man could not procreate with a woman belonging to a higher caste).

However, it doesn’t seem likely that the upper class man and the lower class woman would be living together. The upper class man would have a wife of the same class with whom he would live with, while the lower class woman would live in what was called in Tamil Nadu as “chinna veedu” (small house).

Given this kind of arrangement, it is likely that the results of such unions would be brought up by their (lower class) mothers, while they themselves would end up belonging to their father’s class (remember that Indian society has been mostly patriarchal). Culture is not something that you are born with. You pick it up from people with whom you grow up. And thus, these kids of the “chinna veedus” would end up picking the culture and habits of their lower-class mothers.

So what effectively happened in India is a reversal of what happened in Europe. In Europe, since there were no class barriers when it came to competition in professions, people from higher class backgrounds would proliferate in society, thus creating a “gentlemanly” society. In India it was the reverse. It was the case of lower class values percolating into the higher classes. Given the process by which this happened (which I’ve described here), we can call it the Bastardization of Indian Society.

8 thoughts on “Bastardization Of Indian Society”

  1. I don’t know about the rest of India, but at least in Kerala it wasn’t the reverse. As you say, it did happen that Namboothiri men often had – not exactly marriable, but “sambandham”, an “informal alliance” – with women of lower caste. And as you state, children were brought up by mothers as well in Kerala. These children belonged to the mother’s class ( Kerala was not matriarchal, but was nevertheless matrilineal ). However, by doing so the Namboothiris were only eating into the “share of lower class men”. The proportion of Namboothiris wouldn’t decrease because Namboothiri women would still be married to Namboothiri men – there was no numerical hiccup, thanks to polygamy! Moreover, many “lower class men” would die out of battle, they experienced more poverty etc. ( not just Namboothiris – kings also used to do this, for instance ).

    1. ok wait – after looking at the comments – yours, naresha’s, etc. i need to rethink one fundamental assumption here – that the kids of the “sambandham” will inherit the father’s class. if that is not true, then my argument falls flat.

      so if they indeed ended up having their mother’s class, then exactly what happened in europe got replicated.

  2. Interesting hypothesis, but naive..

    1. How would a “bastard child” as you put it end up belonging to his father’s class? Would he get a share of his father’s property? Would he get into his father’s profession?

    1a. Culture is a function of education. Peers in school influence you much more than your mother. If he did get into learning the Vedas (or learning politics or become a tradesman), he would go to a school where his peers would be “gentlemanly” and he would become a gentleman himself.

    1b. If he did not go through the upper class training, he would still be in the lower class.

    2. If he were not a “bastard child”, his mother would still have a child from the same class, as froginthewell says…

    3. Finally, the case made in Farewell to Alms was that rich people procreated more than poor people. If in your post you equate class to economic position, I don’t buy the assertion that the caste hierarchy was the same as the class hierarchy. How do you just assume that more “bastard children” were born than legitimate children?

    Ultimately, I don’t get your point. Are you claiming that the entire upper class/caste today is a bastard class? Because, surely, the lowest classes _have_ to be pure, by your argument. These brahmin bastards!

    1. fair points. as i mentioned in the earlier comment, i assumed that these kids would’ve inherited their father’s caste.

      1. yeah this was my assumption. and i might be wrong.
      1a. i’m not sure if it’s only classmates that influence your culture. i think the way you spend time outside of school has a huge bearing on culture.
      1b. yes, you make a fair point here
      3. i didn’t assume that. i’m not sure if you saw my earlier post. there i’d said that in india, due to the caste system, competition for jobs was limited among castes. hence even if upper castes procreated more, there weren’t enough jobs to go around for so many, and this “corrected” the ratios and they remained the same. what i was saying here was that the bastard children just added to my earlier argument

      i’m not saying anything about the castes today. i’m not saying anything about purity. all i’m saying is that this is one more reason why we are in general not as “gentlemanly” as europeans.

  3. Flaw is in this sentence: “while they themselves would end up belonging to their father’s class”. No, they didn’t. If they were born to lower class women and raised by lower class women, there is no way they would be considered as upper class. For all practical purposes, it was as if they were sired by lower caste men. So, no, I don’t think there was any reverse flow of lower class values percolating into higher classes. If anything, because of the bastardization, there was a flow of genes from the higher classes going into lower classes and also some percolation of values if the father took interest in educating his bastard children.

    1. as i’ve mentioned in replies to other comments, if this assumption doesn’t hold, then my whole argument falls flat.

      and my argument also assumed that the father didn’t take interest in educating the bastard children.

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