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Classical Hindu ThoughtAn Introduction$
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Arvind Sharma

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195658712

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195658712.001.0001

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(p.132) Chapter XIX Varṇa
Classical Hindu Thought

Arvind Sharma

Oxford University Press

The existing discussions of the Hindu social order have fallen victim to a stereotype. According to this stereotype, Hindu society is divided into watertight compartments to which one belongs by birth to categories called ‘castes’. One can marry, dine, and pursue one's vocation only within the confines of this compartment. The classical Hindu concept which corresponds to this so-called stereotype dubbed the ‘caste system’ is that of varna. A considerable portion of this book has been devoted to questioning this stereotype, as its persistence constitutes a major obstacle to a proper understanding of classical Hinduism. This chapter demonstrates that a stereotype has indeed been perpetrated, and that it can be perpetuated only by denying or ignoring ‘a substantial part of India's religious literature’.

Keywords:   Hindu social order, caste system, Hindu society, classical Hinduism, religious literature

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