This is a reprint of Rev. John Wilson’s celebrated work on the doctrine and practice of caste in India that was published posthumously in 1877. Pride of ancestry, of family and personal position and occupation, and of religious pre-eminence which is the grand characteristic of “caste”, is not peculiar to India. But it was in India that the caste system exhibited its most fearful and pernicious development. While in its original form the system may have lent strength and stability to Hindu society, it later degenerated into a stranglehold of the worst kind and became, in the author’s words. “the curse of India and parent of India’s woes”.
In this work Dr. Wilson, Scottish missionary and orientalist, examines the origin, development, character and results of the caste in India. The book which is based on the labour of about twenty years is in two volumes. Volume I entitled What Caste is contains a comprehensive discussion of the institution of the caste as it is set forth and as it later evolved, in ancient Hindu texts from the Vedas to the Puranas, and also as it was viewed by early Buddhist and Greek writers. Volume II entitled What Castes Are deals with the Brahmanical or the priestly caste that comes on the top of the caste hierarchy, in all its bewildering variety.
The author had apparently intended to write on other castes as well but before he could do so he died in December 1875.
Originally published more than a hundred years ago, this book still remains a monumental and authoritative work on the subject.
Rev. John Wilson (1804-1875), D.D. FRS came to India as a missionary in 1829, and here he labored- from 1843 under the Free Church of Scotland- till his death. He actively promoted vernacular education and strove for legal and social reforms.
During 1948-61 he was President of the “Cave Temple Commission” to examine the antiquities connected with the cave temples. In the mutiny he deciphered the rebel’ cryptic correspondence.
He was twice President of the Bombay branch of the Asiatic Society and become Vice- Chancellor of Bombay University in 1868. He died on December 1, 1875, near Bombay.
His other works include; Parsi Religion Unfolded (1843); land of the Bible (1847); History of the Suppression of Infanticide in W. India (1855); India Three Thousand Years Ago (1858), etc.
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