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CASTE SYSTEM IN INDIA

Author: Shikha Mishra


The word Caste is derived from the Spanish word ‘Caste’, the literal meaning of the term is ‘lineage’. It also signifies race or kind. Being such a fancy phenomenon, the word caste is difficult to define, so different scholars gave different definitions.

Definitions

1. According to Sir Herbert Risely, caste may be a collection of families, bearing a standard name, claiming a typical descent, from a mythical ancestor, human and divine, professing to follow the identical hereditary calling and regarded by those that are competent to present an opinion as forming one homogeneous community.

2. According to C.H. Cooley defined when a category is somewhat strictly hereditary, we may call it a caste.

3. D.N. Majumdar and T.N. Madan have said that caste could be a closed group.

4. A.W. Green defined caste as a system of stratification during which mobility up and down the status ladder, a minimum of ideally might not occur.

CASTE SYSTEM IN INDIA

BRAHMIN: Priests, Academics

KSHATRIYA: Warriors, Kings

VAISHYAS: Merchants, Landowners

SHUDRAS: Commoners, Peasants, Servants

UNTOUCHABLES: Outcastes, Street sweepers

Whenever we discuss class structure in India, the primary thing that strikes our mind is the above-mentioned categories.

In Indian terms, caste is thought to be ‘jati’, which implies a community or a tribe to which an individual belongs. However, the four varieties of castes, which are mentioned above is termed as ‘varna’, which is defined by a person’s work, the existence of this class structure that prevails in Indian society results in discrimination and injustice which ends up in inequality. This happens in India because the varna of an individual is determined by his/her birth which is completely wrong. It shouldn't support birth and also the same is written in books like Bhagavad Gita.


In chapter 18 of Bhagavad Gita, it's mentioned that “all the various qualities of labour of the varied castes in society namely the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras are determined by the innate modes of their nature. Consistent with the varna class structure, Brahmins are considered to be the class of the society which generally includes seers, teachers, scientists, etc. After Brahmins comes the Kshatriyas, which incorporate the defendants of the society like cops, soldiers and so on. Below Kshatriyas comes the Vaishyas or the producers like industrial workers, etc. After Kshatriyas is that the Shudras, which service providers are generally like cobblers, etc. the bottom within the table are untouchables or Harijans, which include outcastes, street sweepers, etc.

CASTE SYSTEM IN OTHER COUNTRIES

Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Rome, Pakistan, Hawaii, Africa, and other countries of South Asia face the practice of class structure. Some parts of the US also face discrimination but that's supported race and colour. It's also said that even the traditional Siberians, Persians, etc have their sort of class structure. Some systems resembling caste are found at the moment in Burma, Massai, Polynesia and Somali of East Horn. However, the class structure, which we understand today with all its peculiarities, is in India alone. The class structure, the joint family system and also the village system of life – are often considered the three basic pillars of the Indian system and therefore the practice of class structure as a style of stratification is somewhat peculiar to India. There's no comparable institution elsewhere within the world.

EVILS OF THE CLASS STRUCTURE

The class structure that's about 3500 years old is unacceptable within the society and not practised anymore. The existence of class structure promotes hatred and results in differences between different sections of the society. It creates a hierarchical division within the society because it is split into several small groups. A way of highness and lowness or superiority and inferiority is related to this gradation.


Brahmins which are being placed at the highest of the hierarchy are thought to be pure and supreme. On the opposite hand, the degraded caste or the untouchables (Harijans) have occupied the opposite end of the hierarchy.


Unacceptable rules are made between all the groups. Restriction on food habits is imposed by the class structure. People belonging to the topmost class i.e. Brahmins will eat only pakka food and folks belonging to lower castes like untouchables are allowed to eat kachcha food. Other restrictions have been introduced years ago. Restriction on marriages was inter-caste marriage wasn’t allowed which implies Brahmins couldn't marry Shudras or vaishyas and contrariwise.


The class structure puts restrictions on the range of social relations also. As an example, a lower caste man isn't allowed to touch a person belonging to upper caste. This has resulted within the practice of untouchability within the traditional caste society, some lower caste people suffered from certain civil disabilities also.


They were made to measure within the outskirts of the villages i.e. far-flung from the people belonging to higher castes. Restriction on occupational choice was also followed. Weaving, shoemaking, sweeping, washing clothes, etc. were considered to be performed by people belonging to lower castes only. However, learning, teaching, priesthood, etc were considered to be superior work and usually were performed by Brahmins only.

Conclusive remarks

Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the discrimination of citizens of India on the idea of faith, race, caste, sex or place of birth. It states that nobody or state is allowed to discriminate against any citizen of the country on the grounds, which are mentioned above. One and all of the country are equal within the eyes of the law.

Reference

· Archana Chaudhary, Bloomberg, October 25, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/india-s-caste-systemDonal Johnson, Jean Johnson, Asia society, https://asiasociety.org/education/jati-caste-system-india

· New World Encyclopaedia, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Caste_system

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