Are there statements in scriptures (not necessarily by those who might have felt oppressed and/or disdvantaged) that the caste-system was iniquitous?

I am looking for some parallel to the denunciation of anti-semitism in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice:

Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?"

The scriptures seem to have been under the control of the upper castes and its hard to find lamentations like that of Shylock in them.

There ARE statements that the aim of caste is not purely caste-based discrimination - but they seem to be minority views - please see:


The problem with this kind of selective interpretation is the fact that Hindu scripture contains many more verses (by more than two orders of magnitude) supporting ideas of caste-based discrimination (as in the stories of Matanga, Karna, or Shambuka) than they do verses along the lines of Shiva’s statement above. To take a decidedly minority view and present it as the authentic view of Hinduism is intellectually dishonest.

In addition, as I have pointed out from the beginning, the very fact that stories such as Matanga’s, Karna’s and Shambuka’s are prominently highlighted in Hindu scripture means that Hindu scripture can be used to support caste-based discrimination. In other words, a Hindu seeking to indulge in caste-based discrimination will find plenty of material, such as the story of Matanga or that of Karna or Shambuka, to justify his stand.

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    Whether the birth-based caste system is or is not iniquitous is something different sects of Hinduism disagree on, so I'm closing your question. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 20:49
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    Regarding your edit, whether scriptural verses contradict some United Nations document is off-topic for our site. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 22:31
  • OK, I'm reopening your question. Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 23:06
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    "Are there complaints in the scriptures" I don't think so. Even Shudras accepted the caste system.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 23:12
  • I think the latest edit (response to counterexample) is better suited as a comment under the answer. Question shouldn't look like an ongoing discussion. Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


Story of Jabala Satyakama, Jabala Satyakama from Chandogya Upanishad

Gautama, the son of the sage Haridruman, was a celebrated rishi of the Vedic age. He was well versed in the Vedic lore and had many students in his tapovana, or forest retreat. A young boy named Satyakama once expressed a desire to his mother, Jabala, to go to Gautama’s tapovana to study. Though Satyakama was Jabala’s only child, still she readily agreed. She was glad that Satyakama was willing to train for the highest knowledge. “Mother, please tell me my lineage,” said Satyakama, for he knew that Gautama would be sure to ask him the name of saint from whom his family traced descent. The mother was in a fix. She didn’t know who Satyakama’s father was. She had never been married. Satyakama was an illegitimate child, and would probably be denied the right to study the Vedas. It was most embrassing for her to disclose this fact to her child. Jabala thought to herself: “It will give Satyakama quite a shock to learn that he was born to parents not married to each other. Moreover, if and when Satyakama tells this to Gautama, the sage will certainly be scandalized, and the students of the tapovana will also be morally offended. Whoever hears our story will surely hate both my son and me.” Jabala wavered for a while. Then she resolved to speak the truth, whatever the consequences. She would bequeath truth to her son. She kissed Satyakama on the head and said: “My child, in my youth I was extremely poor and served many men in many countries as a slave girl. Your mother has never been married. I am Jabala. So tell the sage that your name is Jabala Satyakama.” Satyakama took leave of his mother and trekked to Gautama’s Tapovana. When Satyakama arrived at the tapovana the sun was about to set and the students were busy arranging the sacrificial fire. In the twilight hour Satyakama prostrated himself before the sage. He was visibly exhausted from his journey. The students had finished their evening worship, and Satyakama had taken a little rest. When the Sage summoned him, Satyakama said: “Revered Sir, I want to live in this tapovana as a celibate. Kindly accept me as one of your disciples.” “Most affectionate blessings! What is your lineage, my child ?” asked Gautama. Satyakama told the sage what his mother had disclosed to him and traced his descent from his mother, saying, “Jabala is my mother; I am Satyakama; so I would be known as Jabala Satyakama.” It was a startling disclosure. Gautama looked at the boy, an embodiment of purity and placidity. The sage rose from his seat and embraced the boy warmly. Then he said: ” My child, bring the firewood for the sacrificial fire. I have decided to initiate you into discipleship. You are verily a Brahmin. You have not swerved from the truth. None other than a Brahmin can utter such unalloyed truth.”

It was triumph of Jabala and her son Satyakama. They marched to victory under the banner of truth. Satyakama was admitted to the inner circle of Gautama, and in course of time became an illumined soul.

Caste was never a barrier for knowing Brahman and Truth. A True Brahmin is from inside and he who always speaks truth and knows the Truth i.e. Brahman.

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    Satyakama Jabala was born as a Brahmin.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Jan 28, 2019 at 19:30
  • @Ikshvaku where is that written?
    – user17303
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 4:39
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    The Brahma Sutras.
    – Ikshvaku
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 15:47
  • @Ikshvaku quote the respective sutra Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 1:10

Al Beruni records that the sort of things in Manu were actually implemented:


page 125:

The Brahmins teach the Veda to the Kshatriyas. The latter learn it, but are not allowed to teach it, not even to a Brahmin, The Vaisya and Sudra are not allowed to hear it, much less to pronounce and recite it. If such a thing can be proved against one of them, the Brahmins drag him before the magistrate, and he is punished by having his tongue cut off.

It is hard to imagine that the Vaisya and Sudra wouldn't have found this iniquitous - but I haven't yet found Hindu sources that say this except in modern times for other forms of oppression.

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    "there is a law that - 'Other than classified military personnel, those who come to know of nuclear code secrets must be imprisoned / hanged' - it's hard to imagine that other people like teachers and businessmen wouldn't have found this iniquitous"
    – ram
    Commented Jan 29, 2019 at 10:18
  • I don't think pouring lac was ever implemented. Seriously. Dharma Sastras were never implemented in History and were restricted to only Bramhins. Fact that author says Vyasa divided Veda into 4 tells his knowledge is theoretical not historical. Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 13:12

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