Loading Events

This event is over. See upcoming events

Sun 16 Apr 2023

9:30 AM - 7:00 PM (UTC+5.5)

Symposium on Jaati, Varna, and Caste

The English word and concept of “caste” is often used as a translation for the emic words and concepts of jaati/kula(mu) and Varna, which are often mutually conflated. This word and concept have gained attention on global, Indian national, and regional forums, both from an academic and activist perspective. However, from the beginning of the colonial and modern discourse, the word “caste” has been used in a pejorative sense to mean a discriminatory and inhuman social system. As a result, both the words Varna and Jaati acquired the same pejorative connotation, which makes it difficult to interpret and understand pre-modern classical Sanskrit and other Indian language texts.

This problem leads to issues in both academic and activist aspects. At an academic level, this problem can be resolved only by exploring the possible positive sense in which the word Varna could have been used in these texts. Additionally, there is the problem of interpreting traditional oral literature such as folk and tribal literature, where words such as jaati/kula(mu) are used in a neutral or positive sense to express and discuss the self-esteem, hereditary occupations, customs and traditions, deities, worship, rituals, and rites of passage of the jaati/kula(mu).

There is also a problem in textual interpretation, as debates around the validity of Varna-based superiority claims in ancient Buddhist and other texts are in conflict and contradiction with the expressions in the ancient texts where Varna is treated as a ‘Dharma’, a social order that deserves to be followed and protected by the rulers. Similarly, the word jaati/kula(mu) has a similar problem of textual interpretation, as there are expressions in oral and written texts of Bhakti and Yoga movements where a ‘right’ to spiritual practice and attainment is argued not to be based on jaati/kulam(u).

The pejorative use of the word “caste” at an international level has reached such a level that today, it is universally used to mean any discrimination towards a human group anywhere in the world. However, there are academic endeavors in which the positive and neutral ideas behind the emic words and concepts of Jaati and Varna are being brought to light through decolonizing and modernity-critiquing efforts.

Another major area that is receiving attention is the changing contemporary reality regarding the continuity or discontinuity of different features of jaati and/or Varna in contemporary society. The categorization of jaatis into SC, ST, OBC, and General OC categories due to policy provisions, studies on horizontal and vertical mobility of castes/jaatis during modern times, and the role of jaati/caste in contemporary democratic politics are also being studied. Additionally, cultural anthropological studies on Indian society, Indian village, and other aspects such as Dominant Caste, Jajmani System, Bara Balutedar system, Sanskritization, Kshatriyization, etc. are contributing to a better understanding of the words and concepts of Jaati and Varna, particularly in relation to the concept of caste.

INDICA is organizing an online symposium on the topic of Jaati, Varna, and Caste to bring together colonial, modern, decolonizing, and modernity-critiquing discussions on the topic.

# Speaker Topic Time
1 Dr. Nagaraj Paturi
Senior Director & Chief Curator, INDICA
Welcome Address & Opening Remarks 09:30AM
2 Sri Srinivas Udumudi Varna: From Buddha to Vemana 09:45AM
3 Dr. Karanam Aravinda Rao
Retd. DGP & Trustee, INDICA
Varna and Caste – What Our Texts Say 10:15AM
4 Sri Nithin Sridhar
Chief Curator, Indica Moksha
The Missing Link: The Ritual Dimension of Varna Dharma 10:45AM
5 Sri Mylavarapu Sudha Mohan Emic Perspective on the Differences Between the Colonial Caste System and Hindu Varna, Kula, Jaati Systems 11:15AM
6 Prof. M S Chaitra A Prelude to New Ways of Looking at Jaati & Varna 11:45AM
7 Prof. R.Vaidyanathan Caste as Social Capital 12:15AM
8 Prof. Kanagaraj Eswaran Varna Jati and Samaya: An Insider Understanding of Social Integration from the Kongu Region 12:45AM
01:15 to 02:00 PM
9 Sri Halley Kalyan Understanding Machine-vaad before putting Manu-vaad in the dock 02:00PM
10 Sri Ashish Dhar Understanding Modernity Through Caste 02:30PM
11 Sri Prakash Shah Caste in the West 03:00PM
12 Sri Shivakumar GV
Scholar-in-Residence, INDICA
Kula-Jati-Varna: An Adaptive Societal Order Based on Rta for an Optimal Pursuit of Purushartha 03:30PM
13 Sri Sumanspati Reddy Tribes and Castes : Within and Between Themselves 04:00PM
14 Dr. Nagaraj Paturi
Senior Director & Chief Curator, INDICA
Jaati Studies from Inside Jaati: Interface of Jaati with Traditional Varna Lens and Contemporary Caste Lens 04:30PM
15 Sri Nikunj Trivedi Creating “Caste Consciousness”: The Colonial Re-engineering of Indian Society 05:00PM
16 Dr. Sushumna Kannan Jaati-Varna as Based on Violence and Non-violence 05:30PM
17 Dr. Rajiv Malhotra
Author, Researcher, Professor &
Founder, Infinity Foundation
Valedictory Address 06:00PM
18 Dr. Nagaraj Paturi
Senior Director & Chief Curator, INDICA
Conclusion & Vote of Thanks 06:30PM

Dr. Nagaraj Paturi

Senior Director & Chief Curator, INDICA

Dr Nagaraj Paturi trained in Sanskrit and Advaita Vedanta by his hyper-polyglot, polymath and spiritually accomplished sakala-shaastra-paarangata father, late Sri Paturi Sitaramanjaneyulu garu, he is seriously committed to the transmission of Vedic sciences to the present generation. He designed a very big number of courses of contemporary applications of Vedic Sciences and has been successfully teaching them and getting them taught. Presently he is Presently he is Director, Indic Academy And Distinguished Professor, Curriculum Designer, Executive Committee Member and Member, Board of Studies, MIT School of Vedic Sciences, Pune. Member, Board of Studies for Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth, Kavikulaguru Kalidasa Sanskrit University, Veda Vijnana Gurukula. Formerly Senior Professor of Cultural Studies FLAME School of Communication and FLAME School of Liberal Education Former Visiting Professor, University of Chicago, US) In his PhD (1998, UoH) Developed Indic Model of Myth Criticism of Literature. MPhil (1987, UoH) Brought out Vakyapadiyam as theoretical foundation of Ashtaadhyaayee Around 50 publications, around 60 conference /seminar/ workshop papers. Consultancy to numerous culture research and theater and dance innovation projects. Scores of creative writing works for Classical Dance, Modern Theater and magazines. Several series of talks and other programs on Radio and Television channels.


Sri Srinivas Udumudi

Sri Srinivas Udumudi was a former director at Indic Academy and former convener of Indica Hyderabad. Sri Srinivas has deep interest in history of ancient Indian thought, and is a keen follower of various schools of thought providing counters to colonial Indian self. Sri Srinivas has a B.Tech in Computer Science and worked towards a Masters in Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence) in the US. He currently heads India's premier Genetics and Genomics Laboratory based out of Hyderabad.


Dr. Karanam Aravinda Rao

Retd. DGP & Trustee, INDICA

Dr. Karanam Aravinda Rao is a retired Director General of Police (Andhra Pradesh), who studied Sanskrit under Maha Mahopadhyaya Padmasri Dr. Sri Pullela Sriramachandrudu and studied Vedanta under Maha Mahopadhyaya Swami Tattvavidananda Saraswati. He has authored many books on Hindu philosophy.


Sri Nithin Sridhar

Chief Curator, Indica Moksha

Nithin Sridhar is a practicing Hindu, author, and a public speaker. He has authored six books on a variety of subjects including much acclaimed books such as Menstruation Across Cultures: A Historical Perspective, Isopanishad: An English Commentary, and Samanya Dharma. His upcoming book is a commentary on Manusmriti. He regularly contributes articles and essays on subjects such as religion, spirituality, social issues, development, politics, and ecology. He is the Chief Curator of Indica Moksha dedicated to the dissemination of Advaita Vedanta. Earlier, he served as the Editor of IndiaFacts- a portal on Indian history and culture. He is based in Mysuru, Karnataka.


Sri Mylavarapu Sudha Mohan

Mylavarapu Sudha Mohan is an aviation professional by trade, whose true passion lies in Hinduism, its history and its legacy of colonization. In the past, he has authored two books and several articles on the challenges faced by the Hindu community of today. His latest book Sivasya Kulam talks about the colonial narratives and distortions along with the actual dimensions of caste, untouchability and Dravidianism exposing the Christian onslaught on Hindu society.


Prof. M S Chaitra

Associate Professor of Practice

Mr. Chaitra’s work involves reconceptualizing Indian intellectual traditional traditions. Most of his research is an attempt to access and reconstruct the extraordinary understanding of the experiential world that the Indian intellectual traditions have offered to humanity. This endeavour involves comparing western and Indian cultures using the framework called Comparative Science of Cultures. He started his professional life as a biologist who specialized in molecular genetics, ecology and evolutionary biology. Before starting his work in social sciences, he worked with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) Dehradun, the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. He is one of the founders of the initiative called Aarohi Research Foundation and he served as Senior Fellow at India Studies Unit at CESS, Bengaluru.


Prof. R.Vaidyanathan

Dr. R. Vaidyanathan is retired Professor of Finance at IIM- Bangalore. A graduate of the Loyola College, Madras and a Masters from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta he obtained his Doctorate from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta where he also taught for four years. He is two times Fulbright scholar and a Fellow of ICSSR-Visiting Faculty at various universities in USA/UK, he has been selected by Business today as one of the ten best professors at all IIMS. He has the rare privilege of being in various committees of regulators like SEBI/RBI/IRDA/PFRDA. He is consultant to many organizations and is on the board of many corporates. He has been conferred Life Contribution award by Asia Pacific Risk and Insurance Association [APRIA] and KYBO LIFE in 2019.His book India Uninc--Role of Non-corporate sectors in India—which focus on Indian/Asian value systems- has been well received by planners and policy makers. His other book on Black money and Tax Havens has been acclaimed by experts. His recent book–Caste as social Capital-has been well received by the market. He is on the Advisory council of Vivekananda International Foundation [VA]. He was a member of “National Security Advisory Board” under National Security Council [2019/20] Currently he is Cho Ramaswamy Chair Professor in Public Policy at Sastra University Tanjore-Tamil Nadu and Emeritus Adjunct professor of Rashtriya Raksha University [RRU] an institution of national importance at Ahmedabad


Prof. Kanagaraj Eswaran

Dr. Kanagaraj Easwaran is a professor and teaches social work and community development in Mizoram Central University since 2004. Apart from social sciences and social work, he is interested in Indian philosophy and spirituality. He is a devotee of Lord Shiva since his childhood and initiated to Veerashaivism. He is one of the advocates of Bharatiyakaran of Social Work with integration of Indian Knowledge systems and Spiritual traditions.


Sri Halley Kalyan

Halley Kalyan is an inquisitive Hindu trying to understand Sanatana Dharma. He has a B.Tech in Computer Science from IIIT-Hyderabad and also holds an MBA degree from IIM-Lucknow. He works as a product manager in the IT industry for livelihood. When not busy with work he is busy reading and engaging with the world via social media on the following areas: Modernity-Tradition-Continuity; Religion-Ecology-Economics; Technology-Society. Some of his talks are hosted on the Atharva forum on Youtube. He was a speaker at Indica's Symposium on Jaati Puranas in the past.


Sri Ashish Dhar

Ashish Dhar is a Kashmiri Hindu living in exile in New Delhi. He is a Mechanical engineer by training and a social entrepreneur by occupation. He is the co-founder of Upword, an alternative media outlet that produces audio-visual content and commentary on socio-cultural issues like Hindu Temple autonomy, judicial reform, civilizational conflicts like Kashmir, and so on. Ashish is also the operations head of the Indic Collective Trust, which is a legal research and activism forum that represents Indic civilizational positions in legal cases of national and international significance.


Sri Prakash Shah

Prakash Shah is a Reader in Culture and Law at Queen Mary University of London. He works on law, religion, culture, caste and migration.


Sri Shivakumar GV

Scholar-in-Residence, INDICA

Shivakumar GV is an IT professional in the domain of Learning and Development, with a deep interest in Bharateeya Samskriti. He is proud to be part of the Indica fraternity contributing to various transformational initiatives. He is the Curator of “Aryaa - An Anthology of Vedic Women” - a collection of 10 stories on 10 Vedic Women written by 10 different authors published by Indic Academy. He hopes to inspire a relook at old narratives & create new cultural conversations around how the glorious women of Bharatavarsha are portrayed in the Modern World.

As a Scholar-in-Residence at Indica, he studies Itihasa-Puranas to create frameworks for application in contemporary times. He writes on Mahabharata, Puranas, Civilizational thought and anchors Kannada content at IndicA Today, where he contributes as a Consulting Editor. He is also one of the authors of ‘’Unsung Valour: Forgotten Wars of Kurukshetra’’ - curated by Sai Swaroopa Iyer for Indica.

Mahabharata, Rigveda, Bharatiya Itihasa-Purana and Civilizational Conflicts are his areas of interest. He is a storyteller imagining narratives that appeal to audiences of diverse spectrums. He has delivered courses on Mahabharata for children, teenagers and aspiring leaders. He is now busy reflecting Indic Ontology on the plane of Modernity and constructing a version which can spawn Indic Frameworks for various disciplines in the Modern World. He is fascinated by the perspective of Purushartha and Srishti-Sthiti-Laya on which he is writing several papers.

He is a BE graduate from National Institute of Technology, Surat and an MTech from IIT Mumbai. He lives in Bangalore with his parents, wife and daughter. He is greatly inspired by the Rivers of India – Saraswatee in particular. He sees them as being in existence always, flowing forever and eternal as the Sanatana Dharma.


Sri Sumanspati Reddy

An Ethnographer, Writer, Translator, Culture-Critic, Photographer, Radio Broadcaster and Documentary Filmmaker

Sumanaspati Reddy is an ethnographer, writer, translator, culture- critic, photographer, radio broadcaster and documentary filmmaker. After serving All India Radio as producer for 30 years, he is now completing many of his unfinished projects including books and films on the cultures of the adivasi communities of Adilabad. During his tenure at All India Radio, he has done significant work in creating audio archives of the fast disappearing folklore, songs and mythologies of rural and adivasi communities of Telangana. His Telugu short story Nissabdam figured in Katha-90, an anthology of the best Telugu short stories published in the year 1990. He has edited two books which feature Telugu translations of important research papers of the celebrated anthropologist Christopher von Furer Haimendorf and his student Michael Yorke on the fortunes and culture of the Raj Gonds of Adilabad.


Sri Nikunj Trivedi

Nikunj Trivedi is the president and co-founder of CoHNA, a grassroots advocacy and civil rights organization dedicated to improving the understanding of Hinduism in North America and working on matters impacting the Hindu community. He has been involved in education, advocacy and civil rights for over two decades, and speaks frequently on various national and international forums as well as media outlets. He is a former Chairman and President of Hindu Students Council, one of the largest Hindu student organizations in North America, and also serves on its Board of Trustees. He works in the financial services industry in New York and lives with him family in New Jersey.


Dr. Sushumna Kannan


Sushumna Kannan has a PhD in Cultural Studies from Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore, India. Her research on the South Asian devotional traditions and feminist epistemology focused on the medieval mystic, Akka Mahadevi and her vachanas. She received the Bourse Mira, French research fellowship in 2006 and 2007 and the Sir Ratan Tata fellowship for PhD Coursework and Writing in 2003 and 2007. She has published some of her research work on Bhakti and dharmashastras and has an essay on translation theory. She has completed a book project on Hinduism, Violence and Nonviolence and is currently working on a translation of the Yoganga Trividhi by Akka Mahadevi and on a research project on the position of women in the Manusmriti. For her writings, visit: www.sushumnakannan.weebly.com


Dr. Rajiv Malhotra

Author, Researcher, Professor & Founder, Infinity Foundation

Rajiv Malhotra was trained initially as a Physicist, and then as a Computer Scientist specializing in Artificial Intelligence in the 1970s. After a successful corporate career in the US, he became an entrepreneur and founded and ran several IT companies in 20 countries. He exited all for-profit activities in the early 1990s. As the founder of his non-profit Infinity Foundation (in Princeton, USA), he has, on a full-time basis, been researching civilizations from a historical, social sciences and mind sciences perspective. He has authored several best-selling books. Infinity Foundation has also published a 14-volume series on the History of Indian Science & Technology.