The question How to recover from lost caste status after crossing an ocean? and it's answer says that one looses his caste if he takes a sea voyage.

Now, these are my doubts:

  1. Is there any distance associated with it?

  2. Is it specific to ocean?

  3. As we all know that Rama and Lakshmana crossed the sea in order to reach in Lanka, so did they loose their caste?

  4. Does the rule apply on someone who is traveling by air but crosses ocean? If so did Sita also loose her caste?

  5. In modern time, many scholars including Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda travelled abroad. Did they also loose their cast?

  6. Currently, in Kanyakumari, people take sea voyage for a short distance to visit Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Do they loose their caste due to this?

  • 2
    some of the most powerful Hindus today (American Hindus) have allegedly lost status but are reveling in their new life., It can no longer be enforced and this is all purely theoretical.
    – S K
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


5. In modern times, many scholars including Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda traveled abroad. Did they also lose their caste?

By the time he traveled overseas, Swami Vivekananda was already a sannyāsī, so he had no caste at that point. So, the question of 'losing caste' does not arise.

In a letter to Miss Mary Hale (dated 9 July, 1897), he wrote:

I had also a lot of cuttings from different American papers fearfully criticising my utterances about American women and furnishing me with the strange news that I had been outcasted! As if I had any caste to lose, being a Sannyāsin!

Not only no caste has been lost, but it has considerably shattered the opposition to sea-voyage — my going to the West. If I should have to be outcasted, it would be with half the ruling princes of India and almost all of educated India. On the other hand, a leading Raja of the caste to which I belonged before my entering the order got up a banquet in my honour, at which were most of the big bugs of that caste. The Sannyāsins, on the other hand, may not dine with any one in India, as it would be beneath the dignity of gods to dine with mere mortals. They are regarded as Nārāyanas, while the others are mere men. And dear Mary, these feet have been washed and wiped and worshipped by the descendants of kings, and there has been a progress through the country which none ever commanded in India.

(Complete-Works / Volume 5 / Epistles — First Series)

These were his thoughts regarding sea-voyage, published in a Bengali newspaper:


(Vivekananda in Indian Newspapers, pp. 260-62.)

[The Bengalee, May 18, 1895]

There is not a Hindoo who is not proud of Vivekananda Swami — who would not honor him and his teachings. He has done honor to himself, to his race and his religion. If we are right in this view, it follows that the opinions of Vivekananda are entitled to the highest consideration.

This is what he says with regard to the sea-voyage movement:—

Expansion is life; contraction is death. Love is life, hatred is death. We began to die the day we began to contract -- to hate other races -- and nothing can prevent our death, until we come back to life, to expansion. We must mix, therefore, with all the races of the earth and every Hindoo that goes out to travel in foreign parts, does more benefit to his country than hundreds of those bundles of superstition and selfishness whose one aim in life is to be the dog in the manger. Those wonderful structures of national life which the Western nations have raised are supported by pillars of character -- and until we can produce such by the hundred, it is useless to fret and fume against this power or that power. Does anyone deserve liberty who is not ready to give it to others? Let us calmly and in manly fashion go to work -- instead of dissipating our energies in unnecessary frettings and fumings and I, for one, thoroughly believe that no power in the universe can withhold from anyone anything he really deserves. The past was great no doubt, but I sincerely believe that the future in store is glorious still. (Vide Complete Works, IV: 366)

We must mix with other nations and take from them whatever good they have to give us. It is our exclusiveness, our unwillingness to learn from foreign nations which is mainly responsible for our present degradation. We considered ourselves to be the elect of heaven, and superior to the nations of the earth in all respects. We regarded them as barbarians, their touch as pollution, their knowledge as worse than ignorance. We lived in a world of our own creation. We would teach the foreigner nothing — we would learn nothing from the foreigner. At last the disillusion came. The foreigner became our master — the arbiter of our destinies. We eagerly took to his learning. We found that there was much in it that was novel, much that was highly useful. We found that so far as the material comforts of life were concerned the foreigner vastly out-distanced us — that his control over the powers of nature was far greater than any we had dreamt of. He had annihilated time and space, and had subordinated the powers of nature to the convenience of man. He had many wonderful things to teach us. We learnt them eagerly. But still we don't visit his country. If we do, we lose caste. We are under a foreign Government. We eagerly study a foreign language and literature and admire all that is good and beautiful in it. We use foreign articles for dress and consumption. But still we dare not visit the country of our rulers, for fear of excommunication. Against this unmeaning prejudice, the great Swami, who is a Hindoo of Hindoos, indignantly raises his voice of protest. The objectors, in his expressive language, are like the dog in the manger. They will not travel to foreign countries, — they will not allow others to travel. Yet the fact remains, says the Swami, that these travelled Hindoos do more benefit to their country than hundreds of those bundles of superstition and selfishness, whose one aim in life is to be like the dog in the manger. (Vide Complete Works, IV: 366)

. . . . . .

If we had our Rishis in this age, as we had them in the ages that are gone by, we are sure they would have withdrawn the interdiction to sea-voyage, if indeed any such interdiction has been laid in the past. Society is an organism which obeys the immutable law of progress; and change, judicious and cautious change, is necessary for the well-being, and indeed the preservation of the social system. However that may be, it is something to know that so high an authority and so good a Hindoo as Swami Vivekananda supports travel to foreign countries. . .

(Complete-Works / Volume 9 / Newspaper Reports / Indian Newspaper Reports)

  • @sv. There are specific atonement rituals to be done by the savarnas after a sea voyage for the sin of traveling in samudra who is Lord Varuna. Though Sri Rama and Lakshman not being humans this rule is not applicable as Rama walked on a bridge made by vanaras to Lanka and on return, he came in pushpaka viman alongside Sita Ma. Traders from western India in 17th-20 th century used to trade in Africa and return and do Prayaschitta rituals. Commented May 7, 2020 at 2:37
  • @9bilvapatra Do these rituals still make sense in the 21st century? I think most people have given up on these, for the good. See this answer on how the required saṃskāras kept changing throughout history. Commented May 7, 2020 at 17:36
  • @sv.- you mean suddenly in 21st century Lord Varuna ceases to be Lord of all oceans and water bodies..? This is not a samskara; in fact without due prayaschitta rites one stands to lose varna!! Imo all rituals need to be done with SHRADDHA with faith in our scriptures that they are not meaningless prattle. Perhaps due to the neglect to Lord Varuna, we have so many calamities-famines, droughts and floods, tsunami...who is to say? Commented May 8, 2020 at 4:31

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