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The Four Castes of Orthodox Hinduism in Siddhartha



The four castes of Orthodox Hinduism are Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. These four castes are the four stages of a man's life and four legitimate ends that a man may pursue. Author Hermann Hesse applied each of these four stages to the different phases of Siddhartha's path leading to peace.


The novel Siddhartha relates the story of a young man traveling the path leading to peace. This young man is Siddhartha. Throughout the novel, Siddhartha changes his religion and "thoughts" about the ways of the world several times. Other characters, who influence Siddhartha, are his father, the prostitute Kamala, the rich merchant Kamaswami, best friend Govinda, and the river merchant Vasudeva.


The first caste, Dharma, is adherence to the holy law, careful performance of rituals, and avoidance of taboos. Siddhartha experienced Dharma while living with his father, "he performed his holy ablutions, his holy offerings" (Hesse 3). Siddhartha regularly performed the religious rituals. While he seemed content, he was not. He soon left his father to pursue peace.


The second caste, Artha, is the acquisition and preserving of wealth. Siddhartha experienced Artha by the means of the rich merchant Kamaswami. Kamaswami asked Siddhartha questions and he learned how clever he was. Therefore, Kamaswami hired Siddhartha to work for him; "the merchant entrusted him with writing important letters and contracts and got into the habit of conferring with him on all important matters" (Hesse 60). Siddhartha soon acquired great wealth.


The third caste, Kama, refers to the enjoyment of the world. Siddhartha did this with the help of the prostitute Kamala, "the man who learned love from her was an expert in many pleasures" (Hesse 65). By Kamala, Siddhartha had learned how to enjoy worldly pleasures. He soon became and expert.


The fourth caste is Moksha, which is the final release from the long series of incarnations. Only after he lived a life of self-denial and sin does he finally find peace, " Siddhartha stopped fighting with destiny, stopped suffering" (Hesse 119). Siddhartha finally found peace.


In a story of trial and error, one man finally reaches peace. All four castes of Orthodox Hinduism, Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha, were applied to Siddhartha's experiences. Although Siddhartha seemed to have lived a life of sin, he still found true happiness.


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