Recontextualizing Caste based on Swami Vivekananda's Views & Postcolonial Ideology

  • By Dr R Lekshmi
  • June 6 2019
  • This article looks at caste from a different perspective.

The article covers The Project of Postcolonialism, Caste: Indian Version of Institutionalised Inequality, Casteism – A Hindrance to Progress, Recontextualization of Caste and Conclusion.

Key excerpts fromthe article below.  

“True, he could not condemn caste outright, for caste fundamentally, was a ‘glorious social institution’, and any future society must recognise it’s intrinsic worth (5.198). But he had no love for the hereditary caste system which is a hindrance to progress. He said: ‘Modern caste distinction is a barrier to India’s progress. It narrows, restricts, separates’ (ibid.).”

Caste is a natural order, though casteism, in the modern sense of the term, is not.

Now the original idea of Jati was this freedom of the individual to express his nature, his Prakriti, his Jati, his caste; and so it remained for thousands of years.

Swamiji makes it clear that caste has nothing to do with religion. ‘Soul has no caste, and to think it has is a delusion’ (7.34).

Viewed in the above light it may be said that Swamiji’s approach towards caste is a kind of deconstruction. It is never destruction but recontextualisation. He says: ‘What you call the Jati dharma is quite contrary to what we have in fact. … Try to bring back the true Jati dharma and then it will be a real and sure boon to the country’ (5.456–7).


It is worth noticing that Swamiji had a message for the different castes.

Whereas for the Western postmodern and postcolonial thinkers this can be achieved through a shift from grand narrative to local narratives, for thinkers like Swamiji, true progress can be achieved only if society is rooted in the spiritual and cultural foundations of truth.

In his view an ideal egalitarian society is not a mere theoretical concept but one which can be best established with the collaboration of the different classes.

To read full article in PDF format. Important parts highlighted in yellow for easy reading. 

Authors are Dr R Lekshmi and O Priya 


This article was first published in the May 2019 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe

DO READ Maharshi Aurobindo on Caste 

Also read

1 Caste is a socio-political institution

2 Re-thinking Caste, why it cannot be so one dimensional

3 Caste as Social Capital

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