Caste System in India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 25, 2022, 13:49

The large and diverse Indian society is characterized by the caste-based societal segregation that is a part of its history and culture. An individual in Indian society is identified by the caste or jati group into which they are born. It is the strict system followed in India from the time of ancient Veda to segregate people into inflexible hierarchical groups. These groups are formed based on karma and dharma. The whole caste system is believed to be more than 3000 years old. The classification of people based on their class is made on the basis of their varna or occupation. However, the Caste System in India today indeed exists in a much-diluted form. It is important to study the main characteristics to understand the caste system.

Caste System in India Characteristics

Segmental Societal Division Society is divided into many small groups known as castes. Each caste group is autonomous, and the birth process identifies its memberships. Each caste has its own rule, customs and practices, and rituals.

Hierarchy The Caste System in India is hierarchical in nature. The four primary castes are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras, with the Brahmins being the head of the ranking and the Sudras at the bottommost. But, then again, every cast is divided into small units based on gotras. Hence, mainly there are four castes and small sub-groups under them.

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Endogamy It indicates that the caste system allows its members to get married within the caste itself. And endogamy was strictly practised in the olden days when inter-case marriages were not tolerated as it indicated a loss of caste. Hypergamy, hypogamy, and gotra exogamy are also practised.

Hereditary in Nature The caste is determined by birth and remains unchanged even if there is a change in the person’s occupation, wealth, and education. This is called the ascribed status of an individual. Also, the occupation is decided on the basis of the caste system. And in some cases, the caste is named after its occupation like dhobis, napitas, and Mochis.

Pollution and Purity Although there have been relaxations in the concept of pollution and purity in the caste system, it still exists in some parts. In the early days, intermingling between higher castes and lower caste was strictly prohibited and the people from lower caste were required to maintain distance from the upper castes. This concept varies from place to place. The concept of eating taboo, cooking taboo, and other societal taboos are also related to this idea of pollution of caste.

In lieu of the protests and strong voices that have been raised against the oppressive and unjust segregation of people, the Caste System in India has lost its stringency, and the boundaries are almost nonexistent. There are exceptions with caste-based violence occurring in some parts of the country, but as a whole, people have risen above this narrow and favouritism-prone caste system.

With Government adopting important measures to provide equal rights and opportunities to all, the underprivileged have come up the societal ladder and are now rubbing shoulders with the upper classes to get what they rightfully deserve.

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FAQs on Caste System in India

Q.1. What is Caste System in India called?

The Caste System in India is called Jati. It is related to the concept of kinship and lineage.

Q.2. What are the main Caste System in India?

The Caste System in India is divided into five main castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Sudras, and Dalits (untouchables).

Q.3. What are the main theories of the evolution of the Caste System in India?

Racial theory, Political theory, Occupational theory, Traditional theory, Guild theory, Religious theory, and Evolutionary theory

Q.4. What changes have occurred in the Caste System in India?

There have been distinct structural, attitudinal, and functional changes in the caste system for the good of all.