Pyramid of Caste system in India The caste system is a method of dividing up society into a hierarchy according to professions and trades.
The caste system is seen as way of breaking down society into categories that are different from race, class, tribe, and ethnic group, although individual castes often are made of members of a particular race, class, tribe, and ethnic group. Although many other nations are characterized by social inequality, perhaps nowhere else in the world has inequality been so elaborately constructed as in the Indian institution of caste. The Hindu caste system is technically illegal but widely practiced (generally more in rural areas) and comprises four major categories (varnas) that are found India-wide but are often subdivided into hundreds of sub-categories (jatis), many of which are often found only in specific areas. Castes also found in India among Muslim, Christians, Jews and Buddhists who descended from Hindus.
Castes are ranked, named, endogamous (in-marrying) groups, membership in which is achieved by birth. Among the Indian terms that are sometimes translated as caste are varna, jati, jat , biradri , and samaj .
Caste has undergone significant change since independence, but it still involves hundreds of millions of people.
According to the Rig Veda, sacred texts that date back to oral traditions of more than 3,000 years ago, progenitors of the four ranked varna groups sprang from various parts of the body of the primordial man, which Brahma created from clay. Later conceptualized was a fifth category, "Untouchable" menials, relegated to carrying out very menial and polluting work related to bodily decay and dirt. The origin of the caste system is unknown but it may have evolved from differences between the conquering Aryans and subject Dravidians—which happened to be different in color. The caste system is believed to have been introduced in its preliminary form around 1500 B.C. A settled lifestyle for the Aryans brought in its wake more complex forms of government and social patterns. DNA studies of Indians have found that highest caste members have more genetic similarities with Europeans while lower caste members have more genetic similarities with Asians.
The caste system helps maintain social harmony by discouraging competition and helping everyone be satisfied with their place in life. It has been argued that the caste system has endured more for economic reasons than religious ones. The BJP is committed to maintaining the caste system status quo and preserve the privileges of the upper classes.
The existence of rigid ranking is supernaturally validated through the idea of rebirth according to a person's karma, the sum of an individual's deeds in this life and in past lives. Caste punishments and expectations in many ways are set up in accordance with the requirements of dharma. Even though Islam is regarded as egalitarian and Islam forbids hereditary distinction based on social rank, hierarchies exits. In many Muslim communities, most of the residents are farmers and caste-like distinctions are not strong.
Muslims have traditionally worked as butchers because Hindus and Buddhists consider butchering as dirty, distasteful and cosmically and religiously uncool.
Numerous groups usually called tribes (often referred to as Scheduled Tribes) are also integrated into the caste system to varying degrees.
In past decades, Dalits in certain areas (especially in parts of the south) had to display extreme deference to high-status people, physically keeping their distance--lest their touch or even their shadow pollute others--wearing neither shoes nor any upper body covering (even for women) in the presence of the upper castes. In modern times, as in the past, it is virtually impossible for an individual to raise his own status by falsely claiming to be a member of a higher-ranked caste. In a village, members of different castes are often linked in what has been called the jajmani system, after the word jajman , which in some regions means patron. The harmonious qualities of the jajmani system have been overidealized and variations of the system overlooked by many observers. Some observers feel that the caste system must be viewed as a system of exploitation of poor low-ranking groups by more prosperous high-ranking groups. In 1991 the news magazine India Today reported that in an ostensibly prosperous village about 160 kilometers southeast of Delhi, when it became known that a rural Dalit laborer dared to have a love affair with the daughter of a high-caste landlord, the lovers and their Dalit go-between were tortured, publicly hanged, and burnt by agents of the girl's family in the presence of some 500 villagers. Despite many problems, the caste system has operated successfully for centuries, providing goods and services to India's many millions of citizens. There are many Indians, particularly among the educated urban elite, who do not follow traditional purity and pollution practices.
Castes themselves, however, far from being abolished, have certain rights under Indian law. Independent India has built on earlier British efforts to remedy problems suffered by Dalits by granting them some benefits of protective discrimination. There has been tremendous resistance among non-Dalits to this protective discrimination for the Scheduled Castes, who constitute some 16 percent of the total population, and efforts have been made to provide similar advantages to the so-called Backward Classes, who constitute an estimated 52 percent of the population. The growth of urbanization (an estimated 26 percent of the population now lives in cities) is having a far-reaching effect on caste practices, not only in cities but in villages. Caste associations have expanded their areas of concern beyond traditional elite emulation and local politics into the wider political arenas of state and national politics.
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Hinduism The Caste System- UntouchablesThe Untouchables had almost no rights in the society. In some cases, castes become almost become separate groups that have many characteristics of an ethnic group or minority. Caste has long existed in India, but in the modern period it has been severely criticized by both Indian and foreign observers.
Similar hereditary and occupational social hierarchies exist within Sikh and Muslim communities but are generally far less pervasive and institutionalized. The caste system seems to contradict the idea that all men are created equal---an important concept in Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. It was used by Europeans to describe the system they witnessed when they came to South Asia and covers both the indigenous terms: varna and jati. There are thousands of castes and subcastes in India, and these large kinship-based groups are fundamental to South Asian social structure. There is some correlation between ritual rank on the caste hierarchy and economic prosperity. Workers were protected from competitions and skills were handed down from generation to generation by keeping job skills within families and communities. In its preamble, India's constitution forbids negative public discrimination on the basis of caste. Since 1935 "Untouchables" have been known as Scheduled Castes, referring to their listing on government rosters, or schedules.

This period saw the evolution of the caste system, and the emergence of kingdoms and republics. This is consistent with the historical record of the Aryan invasions and links between the Aryans and members of higher castes. It is a completely different way of looking at life than that of Westerners, who see life as an opportunity to improve oneself and one’s family.
One observer called the caste system "the most thoroughgoing attempt in human history to introduce absolute inequality as the guiding principle in social relations.” One of the rationales for the system is that a father is the one who is best trained to teach his son a profession.
Some socialists believe that if the lower classes had more access to land they could gain more freedom and break from the hold of the caste system. After death, a person's life is judged by divine forces, and rebirth is assigned in a high or a low place, depending upon what is deserved.
The Hindu belief in reincarnation ties in with the caste system in that if an individual behaves himself within the confines of his caste he will return in the next life in a higher caste. Indians are keenly aware of where they stand in society and who ranks above them and who they outrank.
Generally, the higher ranking the caste, the more sexual control its women are expected to exhibit. The traditional South Asian Muslim system of social rank distinguishes between nobles ( ashraf) and lower ranks ( ajlaf or atraf, some of which are based on occupations). Many Muslim butchers are forced to lie about their profession if they want to get their children into a good school.
Some tribes live separately from others--particularly in the far northeast and in the forested center of the country, where tribes are more like ethnic groups than castes.
A Muslim feast usually includes a cloth laid either on clean ground or on a table, with all Muslims, rich and poor, dining from plates placed on the same cloth.
Dalits agitated for the right to enter Hindu temples and to use village wells and effectively pressed for the enactment of stronger laws opposing disabilities imposed on them. Such a ruse might work for a time in a place where the person is unknown, but no one would dine with or intermarry with such a person or his offspring until the claim was validated through kinship networks.
Members of various service castes perform tasks for their patrons, usually members of the dominant, that is, most powerful landowning caste of the village (commonly castes of the Kshatriya varna ).
In many parts of India, land is largely held by dominant castes--high-ranking owners of property--that economically exploit low-ranking landless laborers and poor artisans, all the while degrading them with ritual emphases on their so-called god-given inferior status.
A similar incident occurred in 1994, when a Dalit musician who had secretly married a woman of the Kurmi cultivating caste was beaten to death by outraged Kurmis, possibly instigated by the young woman's family. However In modern white collar offices Brahmins and other upper caste members often hold the supervisory positions and Untouchables still clean the toilets. Dining in each others' homes and in restaurants is common among well-educated people of diverse backgrounds, particularly when they belong to the same economic class. Scheduled Castes are entitled to reserved electoral offices, reserved jobs in central and state governments, and special educational benefits.
Among anonymous crowds in urban public spaces and on public transportation, caste affiliations are unknown, and observance of purity and pollution rules is negligible.
Finding power in numbers within India's democratic system, caste groups are pulling together closely allied subcastes in their quest for political influence. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. Castes and property are handed down from generation to generation and marriages usually occur within castes.
Although some educated Indians tell non-Indians that caste has been abolished or that "no one pays attention to caste anymore," such statements do not reflect reality.
Each caste is part of a locally based system of inter-dependence with other groups, involving occupational specialization, and is linked in complex ways with networks that stretch across regions and throughout the nation. Varna , or color, actually refers to large divisions that include various castes; the other terms include castes and subdivisions of castes sometimes called subcastes. Members of higher-ranking castes tend, on the whole, to be more prosperous than members of lower-ranking castes. It is very much in evidence in Muslim Pakistan and Bangladesh, and Buddhist Sri Lanka as well as Hindu Nepal.
Some have also suggested that the lower caste jobs and segregation were created for health reason: the people who handled dead animals, for example, would not pass on diseases to people of others castes if they didn’t have contact with them.
However, caste ranking and caste-based interaction have occurred for centuries and will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future, more in the countryside than in urban settings and more in the realms of kinship and marriage than in less personal interactions.
They are also often called by Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi's term Harijans, or "Children of God." Although the term Untouchable appears in literature produced by these low-ranking castes, in the 1990s, many politically conscious members of these groups prefer to refer to themselves as Dalit , a Hindi word meaning oppressed or downtrodden. Higher castes are usually associated with whiter skin and purer Aryan descent because, it has been argued, the first light-skinned Aryan conquerors gave the conquered dark-skin Dravidians dirtier, lower status tasks. Some have suggested that caste may have originally been a Dravidian concept rather than an Aryan one. This supernatural sanction can never be neglected, because it brings a person to his or her position in the caste hierarchy, relevant to every transaction involving food or drink, speaking, or touching.
This partly explains why so much energy is put into rituals and festivals and pilgrimages, which are designed to win merit. The social system as a whole is more fluid and provides more opportunities for social mobility. In much of India, Dalits were prohibited from entering temples, using wells from which the "clean" castes drew their water, or even attending schools. After independence, Ambedkar almost singlehandedly wrote India's constitution, including key provisions barring caste-based discrimination. Rising on the ritual hierarchy can only be achieved by a caste as a group, over a long period of time, principally by adopting behavior patterns of higher-ranked groups.
Households of service castes are linked through hereditary bonds to a household of patrons, with the lower-caste members providing services according to traditional occupational specializations.
Nevertheless, it is clear that members of different castes customarily perform a number of functions for one another in rural India that emphasize cooperation rather than competition. In the early 1990s, blatant subjugation of low-caste laborers in the northern state of Bihar and in eastern Uttar Pradesh was the subject of many news reports.
Many foreign companies operate under a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it come to caste. India's constitution guarantees basic rights to all its citizens, including the right to equality and equal protection before the law.
For these people, guarding the family's earthen water pot from inadvertent touch by a low-ranking servant is not the concern it is for a more traditional villager. Lynch and other scholars, in the expanding political arena caste groups are becoming more politicized and forced to compete with other interest groups for social and economic benefits.

The constitution mandates that one-seventh of state and national legislative seats be reserved for members of Scheduled Castes in order to guarantee their voice in government. The report, which urged special advantages for obtaining civil service positions and admission to higher education for the Backward Classes, resulted in riots and self-immolations and contributed to the fall of the prime minister. Distinctive caste costumes have all but vanished, and low-caste names have been modified, although castes remain endogamous, and access to employment often occurs through intracaste connections.
In efforts to solidify caste bonds, some caste associations have organized marriage fairs where families can make matches for their children.
This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Indians can often quickly size up the caste of a stranger by their skin color, manner of dress, surname, occupation and village or neighborhood.
One argument for this is the lack of a caste system in other areas conquered by the Aryans such as Greece. The only way to ensure a better position in the next life is follow one’s caste or dharma and perform good deeds to gain karma. Sukhadeo Thorat, a professor at Jawaharwak University in New Delhi and one of the first Untouchables to obtain a Ph.D.
I do everything right, Why am I Untouchable.” It is because he was born one and has been one since he drew his first breath and remains one until his life sentence on earth is finished. By contrast, a Sweeper bride may or may not be a virgin, extramarital affairs may be tolerated, and, if widowed or divorced, the woman is encouraged to remarry.
The highest category includes four caste of Near Eastern origin: Sayyid (descendants of the Prophet), Sheiks, Moguls (descendants of the Mogul rulers) and Pathan. Rather than having caste councils, Muslims have traditional councils called smaj that fill a similar function. In regions where members of tribes live in peasant villages with nontribal peoples, they are usually considered members of separate castes ranking low on the hierarchical scale. In past centuries, dire punishments were prescribed for Dalits who read or even heard sacred texts. Thus, client families of launderers, barbers, shoemakers, carpenters, potters, tailors, and priests provide customary services to their patrons, in return for which they receive customary seasonal payments of grain, clothing, and money.
This cooperation is revealed in economic arrangements, in visits to farmers' threshing floors by service caste members to claim traditional payments, and in rituals emphasizing interdependence at life crises and calendrical festivals all over South Asia.
The practice of untouchability, as well as discrimination on the basis of caste, race, sex, or religion, has been legally abolished. However, even among those people whose words and actions denigrate traditional purity rules, there is often a reluctance to completely abolish consciousness of purity and pollution from their thinking. Reserving seats has proven useful because few, if any, Scheduled Caste candidates have ever been elected in nonreserved constituencies. Restrictions on interactions with other castes are becoming more relaxed, and, at the same time, observance of other pollution rules is declining--especially those concerning birth, death, and menstruation. Traditional hierarchical concerns are being minimized in favor of strengthening horizontal unity. For the higher castes, such control of female sexuality helps ensure purity of lineage--of crucial importance to maintenance of high status. Ideally, from generation to generation, clients owe their patrons political allegiance in addition to their labors, while patrons owe their clients protection and security. For example, in rural Karnataka, in an event described by anthropologist Suzanne Hanchett, the annual procession of the village temple cart bearing images of the deities responsible for the welfare of the village cannot go forward without the combined efforts of representatives of all castes.
Many other atrocities, as well as urban riots resulting in the deaths of Dalits, have occurred in recent years. It is surely rare for a Sweeper, however well-educated, to invite a Brahman to dinner in his home and have his invitation unself-consciously accepted. Several growing Hindu sects draw members from many castes and regions, and communication between cities and villages is expanding dramatically. Unlike Hinduism ,where only some men can become priests by their birthright, any Muslim can be a iman if he undergoes the training, religious study and requires knowledge of Arabic and the Koran. An example of such behavior is that of some Leatherworker castes adopting a policy of not eating beef, in the hope that abstaining from the defiling practice of consuming the flesh of sacred bovines would enhance their castes' status.
Such extreme injustices are infrequent enough to be reported in outraged articles in the Indian press, while much more common daily discrimination and exploitation are considered virtually routine.
Voters from every stratum of society have formed interest groups, overlapping and crosscutting castes, creating an evolving new style of integrating Indian society. It is less rare, however, for educated urban colleagues of vastly different caste and religious heritage to enjoy a cup of tea together.
Kin in town and country visit one another frequently, and television programs available to huge numbers of villagers vividly portray new lifestyles. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Vaishyas--landowners and merchants--sprang from the thighs, and were entrusted with the care of commerce and agriculture.
A Hindu will not feel confident developing a social relationship without knowing your background. Increased economic prosperity for much of a caste greatly aids in the process of improving rank. Some high-caste liberals pride themselves on being free of "casteism" and seek to accept food from the hands of very low-caste people, or even deliberately set out to marry someone from a significantly lower caste or a different religion. Over time a jati may improve its position but traditionally individuals could not improve their position very much.
Hindus believe that the Untouchables did something very bad in their previous life that made them become an Untouchable. Many societies believe that this is wrong and the Untouchables should be treated as equals.Untouchables endure many problems in Hindu society. These jobs consist of cleaning up feces and urine, burning the remains of a body, and eating the skin of cattle and many other animals. People of Hindu believe that the reason the Untouchables are at the bottom is because of something bad they did in their previous life.

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