varna and jati

Samar Abbas abbas at IOPB.RES.IN
Sat May 22 03:43:39 UTC 1999

On Fri, 21 May 1999, Richard Barz wrote:
> A student who is writing a thesis in political science in international
> relations would like to translate the terms jati and varna into English.

Varna (`colour') is `race' or `caste', meaning skin colour.
Jati is `professional guild'. These would be the best translations.

1. `Dalit' properly refers to Scheduled Castes, not ST's. ST's are
referred to as `Adivasis'. Though, sometimes, both SC and ST are combined
under Dalit. As a name it is of recent origin.

2. The term `Untouchable' is also used. Older terms would be `Harijana'
(coined in the 15th century by a Gujarati poet and later adopted by
Mahatma Gandhi), `avaran' (`casteless or outcaste'). The term Dalit now
occurs in some academic literature in political science. Indologists would
still use other terms (like `Dravidian', `Kolarian', `Mundari') in
preference to Dalit (since the term Dalit did not exist in classical
India). So, usage of `Dalit' is OK in political science, but not
encouraged in Indology.


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