The Indian Caste System: Origins, History, and Development with Dr. Anil Antony

The Indian Caste System: Origins, History, and Development with Dr. Anil Antony


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What do you think of when you think of India? The first answer, for many Westerners, is the caste system. But where did it come from, and how has it developed over time? Join scholar Anil Antony for a historical, cultural, and religious survey that begins with ancient texts and takes us all the way back to the man who was the architect of India’s modern Constitution.

The caste system is arguably the world’s oldest continuous cultural form of social stratification, with rules originating in the second to third century BCE. The Manusmriti, or the “Laws of Manu,” is part of a class of Hindu writings called dharmashastra, distinct from the explicitly religious Vedas or historical records called Itihasas. The Manusmriti is a legal text that has formed the basis for societal values and practices in the subcontinent. We will come to understand how it has been interpreted and applied throughout history.

We will discuss how both major foreign powers in India, the Mughals and the British, exploited the caste system for social organization and political administration. The British understood and accepted the caste system because it paralleled their own national social hierarchies. It was likewise easy to understand why so many Indian Independence Movement leaders came from the lowest castes.

We will hear how activist calls for reform of the caste system came from religious figures like Sri Narayana Guru, a nineteenth-century spiritual leader who famously stated, “One Caste, One Religion, and One God for All.” Then, we will learn how Mahatma Gandhi was inspired to join the movement against the caste system by  B. R. Ambedkar, a low caste Hindu educated at Columbia and the University of London and chief architect of the Indian Constitution. We’ll end with a survey of what it can still mean to be low caste in India today.

Led by an expert on Indian cultural history, Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony, this seminar will explore the origins and history of the caste system in India.  Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the role of the caste system in the evolution of India’s long history.

Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony is an assistant director of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer research organization. He holds a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental biology and a lifelong interest in the history and culture of south India. Born in the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates to an Anglo-Indian Catholic family and trained by a Hindu tantric in Kerala, he has direct experience of all three major Keralite religious traditions.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 12 reviews
58%
(7)
8%
(1)
25%
(3)
8%
(1)
0%
(0)
A
A.

Guest did not leave comment

l
l.C.k.
Great presentation

Great chronology and analysis.

B
B.
Too much info in a short period of time

Great subject matter but too much in a short period of time. Would have preferred the content not being read from a script (it appeared that way)

L
L.N.
Context Travel is very accomodating

Clear straightforward presentation. Professional. Knowledgeable. Well structured.

A
A.
Very informative

Very informative talk with Dr Anil and his partner

Customer Reviews

Based on 12 reviews
58%
(7)
8%
(1)
25%
(3)
8%
(1)
0%
(0)
A
A.

Guest did not leave comment

l
l.C.k.
Great presentation

Great chronology and analysis.

B
B.
Too much info in a short period of time

Great subject matter but too much in a short period of time. Would have preferred the content not being read from a script (it appeared that way)

L
L.N.
Context Travel is very accomodating

Clear straightforward presentation. Professional. Knowledgeable. Well structured.

A
A.
Very informative

Very informative talk with Dr Anil and his partner