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Europe invented the word “Casta” linking purity of blood & skin color to status in society

It was not Bharat but Europe which first invented the word “Casta” linking purity of blood & skin color to status in society. Hindus never had a word that meant caste. It’s a racist term connoting white superiority as the measure of intelligence, civilization and morality.

“Casta” is an Iberian word meaning lineage. It is documented in Spanish since 1417. It is the root of the English word caste. It was historically used as a racial and social identifier where colonial Spanish & Portugese societies had a hierarchical race-based “caste system”.

Originating from the Spanish concept of purity of blood called “Limpieza de sangre”, during Christian conflict with Islam, Casta was used in Christian Spain to demarcate those of Jewish or Muslim heritage who were usually convicted by the Spanish inquisition for heresy.

Only the “Old Christians” who had “Limpieza de sangre” or purity of blood, had high social status. So it was Christian religious extremism during the Inquisition with its ideas of racial superiority and purity of blood that created the original Sistema de Casta or Caste System.

In the 1500s, the Spanish solidified the ideas of purity of blood & Casta as directly associated to skin color and percentage of “white blood” in a person. Anyone with a lineage even inked to a dark skinned ancestor was tainted by a “stain” due to that connection.

Emphasizing “cleanliness of blood” & purity of white blood allowed Spain & Portugal to maintain a system of racial discrimination in their colonies. So when the Portuguese landed in Bharat in 1497, they immediately labelled the vastly different Hindu Varna system as “Caste”.

In 1502, Vasco De Gama is said to have asked a Bhartiya man his caste, to which he is supposed to have answered “Nair Bramane” This is not possible as Nairs were Kshatriyas or Shudras. Such instances prove the Portuguese accounts about Hindu caste were mostly fictional.

Duarte Barbosa was the first Portugese author in Bharat to use “Casta” (1515) . He did not apply the word “casta” to identify every social group in Bharat. He used it to refer to groups that combined endogamy & occupation as was common in Portuguese medieval corporations.

Barbosa identified Bhartiya social groups with the phrase “ley de gente” (type of people). He used “alvo, branco, quase branco, baço, & preto” (niveous, white, almost white, dim and black) in a hierarchy starting with “alvo” (whitest) at top, & “preto” (darkest) at the bottom.

Barbosa linked “civilizational” behavior like “courtesy”, “hygiene”, and “food habits” of Bhartiya people to their skin color. His description of “whiter” Bhartiya’s as more civilized than “black” is the origin of when race linked caste was falsely attributed to Hindus.

Barbosa also categorized Bhartiya’s by civility & color, but he used the word “Casta” because he could only think in terms of the Portuguese concept of “purity of blood” to describe how Bhartiya’s avoided intermarriage between certain communities to preserve genetic health.

By 1921, Indo Portuguese Catholic priest Sebastião Dalgado in Glossário Luso-Asiático, equated the Sanskrit word “varna” to caste to purposely portray Hindus as racist with the excuse that the Rig Veda described the fictional Aryan Invasion as a war among white & dark races.

Dalgado’s work was based on distorted racial theories of the false Aryan Invasion Theory. He simply assigned Varna as color to make it mean the bigoted European concept of racial purity based on skin color, declaring caste as the main Bhartiya method of social categorization.

In reality, it was Europeans who practiced caste as a social institution, linking race to social status in their colonies. Black Africans & dark indigenous people were discriminated as inferior races who were uncivilized, immoral & unintelligent due to lack of pure white blood.

In Spain, this racist emphasis on purity of white blood went so far, it meant ineligibility for office, priesthood, or emigration to foreign territories. Having to produce genealogical records to prove one’s pure ancestry resulted in a full blown market for fake genealogies.

By the 1600s, anyone with ancestral connections to black Africans or indigenous people was classified as a ”stain” by Spaniards. Any hint of black ancestry was a stain as shown in 18th c. paintings of racial hierarchy, known as Casta paintings illustrating the “Caste System”.

Casta paintings depicted the supposed “innate” character & quality of people connected to their birth and skin color. In a painting by José Joaquín Magón, a mestizo (mixed Bhartiya + Spanish) was labelled “humble, meek, and docile” because of darker skin than Whites.

Another painting claimed “from Lobo and Bhartiya woman is born the Cambujo, one usually slow, lazy, and cumbersome.” Casta paintings such as this by Ignacio Barreda (1777) showed white Spainards at highest social status & dark skinned as more “uncivilized at a lower status.

Such bigoted discrimination against darker peoples were used by Europeans to justify the racist institution of slavery. Since “white blood” was the ultimate measure of an individual’s intelligence, morality & position – Colonialism was justified as a civilizing force.

That’s why Portuguese colonizers who savaged Bhartiya with a Christian Inquisition, transposed their own racist & colonial ideas of a birth & skin color based caste onto the Varna system of Hindu society. The British found the myth a convenient excuse to divide & conquer Bharat.

In 1901, Sir Risley, the British census commissioner, who believed in racial superiority of “white Aryan Castes” conducted the first census of Bharat classifying 1000s of jaatis as “castes”. The racist European Caste System was thrust onto the Bhartiya people to categorize them.

By doing so, an entire baseless foundation of lies was created about a mythical, birth-based racist system of “caste” which never existed in Hindu Bharat. Hindu scriptures or records do not connect Varna/Jaati with racial superiority, skin color or purity of blood.

That same foundation of lies is used today by special interest groups as a double edged weapon to demonize, distort & denigrate Hindu Dharma. It’s time we called out such lies & discarded the word caste, which was created & nurtured by European colonizers, NOT Hindu Bharat.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread posted by @MumukshuSavitri on Oct 11 2022, with minor edits to improve readability and conform to HinduPost style guide)

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