Commenter Graham sends along a quote from Greater Britain, an 1868 book by Sir Charles Dilke, a leading British Radical politician:
The Northwest Provinces include the great towns of Benares, Agra, and Allahabad, and the census fell into my hands at Benares itself, at the Sanscrit College. … All callings in India being hereditary, there were entries recording the presence in certain towns of “hereditary clerks who pray to their inkhorns,” “hereditary beggars,” “hereditary planters of slips or cuttings,” “hereditary grave-diggers,” “hereditary hermits,”
“Hereditary hermit” would seem like a contradiction in terms…
and “hereditary hangmen,” for in India a hangmanship descends with as much regularity as a crown.
It became a fairly hereditary job in England, too.
In the single district of the Dehra Valley, there are 1500 “hereditary tomtom men”–drummers at the festivals; 234 Brahmins of Bijnour returned themselves as having for profession “the receipt of presents to avert the influence of evil stars.” In Bijnour, there are also fifteen people of a caste which professes “the pleasing of people by assuming disguises,” while at Benares there is a whole caste–the Bhâts–whose hereditary occupation is to “satirize the enemies of the rich, and to praise their friends.”
I had never realized that Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Andy Borowitz are all Bhâts.
In the Northwest Provinces, there are 572 distinct castes in all.
… The Gour Brahmins claim to have been in the district of Moozuffernuggur for 5000 years.
Indians figured out the concept of “division of labor” long before Adam Smith:
Under the title of “occupations,” the heads of families alone were given, and not the number of those dependent on them, whence it comes that in the whole province only “11,000 tomtom players” were set down. The habits and tastes of the people are easily seen in the entries: “3600 firework manufacturers,” “45 makers of crowns for idols,” “4353 gold-bangle makers,” “29,136 glass-bangle makers,” “1123 astrologers.” There are also 145 “ear-cleaners,” besides “kite-makers,” “ear-piercers,” “pedigree-makers,” “makers of caste-marks,” “cow-dung sellers,” and “hereditary painters of horses with spots.”
There was no backwardness in the followers of maligned pursuits: 974 people in Allahabad described themselves as “low blackguards,” 35 as “men who beg with threats of violence,” 25 as “hereditary robbers,” 479,015 as “beggars,” 29 as “howlers at funerals,” 226 as “flatterers for gain;” “vagabonds,” “charmers,” “informers” were all set down, and 1100 returned themselves as “hereditary buffoons,”
Who knew that John Podhoretz was from India?
while 2000 styled themselves “conjurers,” 4000 “acrobats,” and 6372 “poets.” In one district alone, there were 777 “soothsayers and astrologers” by profession.”
Economic historian Gregory Clark’s recent analysis of surnames found in India an:
“overall rate of social mobility close to zero. India seems to be a uniquely immobile society.”
Is India, under the surface, the world’s most reactionary civilization?