Q. 64.5( 11 Votes )

Discuss Al-Biruni’s understanding of the caste system.

Answer :

Al-Biruni understood and talked about the Indian caste system in his book. He tried to explain it by looking for parallels in other societies.

1. He described the social categories in Persia, and those were recognized as :-


Knights and princes. Monks, lawyers, physicians and other scientist and finally the peasants and artisans. He focused that social divisions were not unique in India.


1. Al-Biruni observed that there were four Varnas or social Categories in India. His narrative of caste system was influenced by the study of Sanskrit texts. There categories were created from ‘Brahman’; which is only another name for the force called ‘Nature’.


2. According to him, the highest caste are the ‘Brahmans’ and they were created from the head of the very best of mankind.


The next caste is the Kshatriyas who were created from the shoulders and hands of Brahman, Their degree is not much below than that of Brahmana.


After than follow the ‘Vaishya’ who were created from the thigh of Brahman. The Shudra were created from his feet.


3. Al-Biruni noted that this caste system was not Unique to India. He noted that in Orient Persia also there existed four social categories.


4. Al-Biruni accepted the Brahmanical description of caste system, but disapproved the notion of “pollution” assigned to a creation caste that is Shudras.


5. The concept of social pollution, intrinsic to the caste system, was according to him, contrary to the laws of nature. He was not able to foresee that the caste system was not rigid as portrayed in the Sanskrit texts.


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