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I have read that people who convert to Hinduism do not belong to any specific caste.

If the concept of no caste (or Jati, Varna) exists, and we are willing to allow people to be free of the caste system, then why are there problems (or perceived misunderstandings) among the castes, for whatever reason?

Also, what practices for worship do the converts follow? If they follow a certain sect's way, do they automatically get considered one of that sect?

  • No one is outside or inside of Hinduism or Sanatan dharma we follow Vasudeva Kutumbakam 'world is one family' concept. So as to casts every person who is not dwija is a shudra and he has to initate himself according to his or her duties which are according to will or fate, then he gets his/her varna after that the yagopavit sanskara is done then person is known as dwija twice born meaning spiritual rebirth. – Yogi Oct 17 '14 at 10:15
  • @Creator: When you say no one is outside or inside Hinduism, does it mean that every person, regardless of their religion or belief, is considered a Hindu? – Suhasini Oct 17 '14 at 10:22
  • yes if he believes in supreme god and lives a righteous life which leads him/her to become a jeevan mukta or mukta person the rules to become jeevan mukta and the lakshana or signs of mukta persons are mentioned in vedas itself. – Yogi Oct 17 '14 at 10:25
  • Is this what you are asking for? hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/407 if yes, then consider deleting your question else flag me for a close vote so that I can close this as a duplicate – Mr. Alien Oct 18 '14 at 6:30
  • No @Mr.Alien, that is not what I am asking. As I mentioned in the very first line of my question, I know that people can convert to Hinduism. I have read the other posts. This is not a duplicate, for what I have asked hasn't been asked elsewhere. Bharat's answer is a very good answer. I am waiting to see if I can get any other answers before accepting his. So, do not close this as duplicate. – Suhasini Oct 19 '14 at 8:11
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There has already been a lot of discussion on converting to Hinduism and about caste system here on this site. The OP's question is slightly redundant. But I will answer the last part which hasn't been talked about here.

And, what practices for worship do the converts follow? If they follow a certain sect's way, do they automatically get considered one of that sect?

A sect is not a Jati or caste. For example, Vaishnavam or Shaivam is a sect and it has followers from many Jatis.

A brief note on Caste :

Caste as we know of today is corruption of the Varna-Jati-Kula system. And this corruption was done by European Indologists's inability to copperhead the system.

Varna was occupational classification. Jati was occupational sub-classification and Kula was lineage. One was born into a Varna & Jati but was free to switch his Varna based on his/her aptitude & abilities. At times a whole Jati switched Varnas even till as recent as 1930s1.

Caste of converts to Hinduism:

When non-Hindus who become Hindus, they don't have to be part of any Varna or Jati unless they choose to, by taking up initiation. (Note that unlike some other religions, becoming a follower of Hinduism itself does not need initiation. One is automatically a Hindu when he/she follows Dharma. Refer to any answer to another question here).

For example one can follow the Vaishnava sect(like ISKCON) and not belong to a particular Varna/Jati. But if one decides to pursue the creation and distribution of Vedic knowledge under the sect full-time, they can choose to be initiated as a Brahamana(who by definition does only that). In fact ISKCON has a written test which needs to be cleared to become a Brahmana2.

For other traditional sects too, if one is qualified, he can take up initiation to be an acharya/brahmana. For example an archarya of a Srivaishanava mutt in Australia who theoratically is a Mleccha(foreigner) has been initiated as an Iyengar Brahmin by the Jiyar of Sriperumbudur3.


Hence if one merely wants to follow Sanathana Dharma but not dedicate his/her full time to a particular profession, they need not be initiated into a Varna or Jati but just remain a follower of a sect.

  • I have read your answers before and found them highly informative. Thank you. Could you please elaborate on "dedicate full time to particular profession"? – Suhasini Oct 17 '14 at 18:05
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    For example if one wants to become a Vedic teacher or a priest but not just remain a follower, one can be initiated as a Brahmana. That is what I meant by full time. Their only source of livelihood will be that. Not like they working as an engineer or a lawyer and do Vedic studies in their free time. But in India thanks to government's policies of affirmative action these varnas & jatis have got frozen at birth. – Bharat Oct 17 '14 at 18:47
  • This is what I was looking for when I asked why the misunderstandings. Doesn't this mean that most of us now, have nothing to do with the varna and jati other than just clinging to the not so meaningful classification! Doesn't it make us mere followers of Hinduism as well? – Suhasini Oct 19 '14 at 8:20
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(Disclaimer: "Caste" is not part of "Hindu religion ", it is "feature/misfeature" of "Hindu society ", which has crept in. Varna is not same as caste. Despite all the misinformation being spread on internet about Caste in hinduism, it has no basis in Hindu scriptures. Islam religion has no concept of tribes in quran, but you have tribes in afghanistans islamic society too)


Now main question: how to tackle if somebody still asks your caste, and you do not know?

TL;DR answer: You should tell that your caste is shiva caste(or, vishnu caste)

DETAILED answer: When somebody(Say, a NRI hindu returning from foreign land)/new converted person does not know his gotra,caste etc; then in some rituals , pundits refer his gotra and caste as "shiv gotra", "shiv caste" . In this context, Shiva is considered as owner, destroyer, purifier of all the shiva-ganas and sects and castes and gotras, desh (country) and any other divisions here. Shiva who had consumed all the poison of samudra-manthan, He consumes all such unknown factors of the sincere devotee/worshipper. His worship is superceding any notion of gotra, caste, country, .. ; and hence can be used as filler.

Currently I have no scriptural reference at the hand, but this i have read and it is practised in my place too.

Note: Caste is not required in canonical hindu/vedic rituals, but in few "localized/vernacular rituals/rites"; the name, gotra, caste, forefathers name, village name/place of origin - of the worshipper is sometimes pronounced.

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