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The History Of Caste System In India

973 words - 4 pages

The caste system in India originated about 2,000 years ago. “Caste”, is a representation of a large-scale kinship that is based on a stratified system of hierarchy. This system is mainly adapted among the Hindu society in India, which is divided into four “varnas”. Rita Jalali describes that the varnas are, “ranked categories characterized by differential access to spiritual and material privileges” (Jalali 249). Each social class has different rights that are entitled from birth and cannot be changed. These rankings include the Brahman (poet-priest), Kshatriya (warrior-chief), Vaishya (traders, landlords), and Shudras (menials, servants). The Brahmans are the highest ranking of the four classes, and believed to have greater ritual purity than the members of the other varnas, giving them the prestige of performing most religious tasks. Kshatriya, initially the highest authority above the Brahmans, are made of rulers and militants protecting the society by fighting and governing. Vaishya decedents are assigned to traditional roles of farming and agriculture. They are landowners and money-lenders. Shudras serve the above three varnas as servants and laborers. However, this excludes the untouchables who are shunned upon because of their impure and polluting occupations/ degrading lifestyles, which are represented at the very end of the spectra.
The formation of the four varnas began with the arrival of the Aryans from southern Europe and north Asia around 1500 BC. The Aryans disregarded the local cultures and began conquering the inhabitants. They took control over regions in north India and organized themselves in three groups: Rajayana (later changed to Kshatriya), Brahmans and Vaishya. In order to secure their status the Aryans resolved some social and religious rules, which allowed only them to be the priests, warriors, and the businessmen of the society. In the caste hierarchy the dark skinned Mahars (people of Maharashtra in west India) were outcasts along with any other non-Aryans. Yet, there was another exception to this class.
The Aryans later added non-Aryans to their system. Different Jats (subcastes) were formed depending on professions and nationality. Foreign invaders were integrated in the Kshatriya Varna. Those who did not posses reasonable (non-polluting) professions were deemed as outcasts. “The Brahmans are very strict about cleanliness. In the past people believed that diseases could also spread through air and not only through physical touch” (Pruthi 4). For this reason, the outcasts were disallowed to touch the high caste communities and had to stand at a certain distance away from them. They later became labeled as the Untouchables. “The operation of this hierarchical society was justified with reference to traditional Hindu religious beliefs about samsara (reincarnation) and karma (quality of actions)” (Jalali 252). In other words, a person’s position in this life was determined by his or her actions in previous...

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