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Impact Of British Colonialism On The Indian Caste System

2930 words - 12 pages


The caste system in India is elaborately structured to have an Indian touch to it, clearly distinguishing it from social structures worldwide. Caste is a word often used to describe a cluster of people who have a specific rank in the society. Each caste system is elaborately crafted to suit the needs of the society and they vary from group to group; each has its own rules and customs. Different chaste systems are planned in a hierarchical manner to become part of any of the four basic colors; varnas (a Sanskrit word for color). These include; the varna of Brahmans, identified with the learned class and priests; varna of Kshatriyas, which is encompasses warriors, rulers and property owners, the varna of Vaishyas, which attracts traders ; and lastly the varna of Shudras, who are servile laborers (Bayly, 1999).
The earliest manifestations of caste is traced from Vedas, which is a term used to refer to religious blockader in India. The Vedas were transmitted were traditionally passed down through oral literature before they were finally written down; they are considered as sources of ancient Indian wisdom. The Rig Veda which is the first of the Vedic books. It contains information about Purusa which is sacrificed to birth the four Varnas. His mouth was the Brahmin, Rajanya made the two arms (warrior, king and Kshatriya,), the Vaishya made the two loins and the Sudra (the servile class) was born from the feet (Bayly, 1999).
The current manifestations of the caste system are now far more generalized across the Indian subcontinent than was the case in former times. Caste as we now recognize has been endangered, shaped and perpetuated by comparatively recent political and social developments. This is evident even in parts that are so-called the Hindu heartland of the Gangetic upper India, the institutions and beliefs which are now often described as elements of traditional caste were only taking shape as recently as the eighteenth century, the period of rapid regional state-building which accompanied the collapse of the Mughal rule and the expansion of Western power in the subcontinent (Bayly, 1999).

Pre-colonial Indian Society
Indian’s history is long and varied, at times tedious to study and confusing, despite this, the role of the caste system can be comprehended by paying attention to fundamental eras in the Indian history. The early system often included something analogous to the medieval guild system. It made provisions for specialization in the society assigning each member a role. As the country interacted with other international nations, the caste system began to have different connotations. The west thought of it as backward. The coming and the going of the British brought the greatest changes in perception and reality.
In pre-colonial India, the Brahmans were superior to Kings; religion was not intertwined with the political system. State forms played an important role in the Indian society; they were however...

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