Indian Caste System

1997 Words8 Pages
Indian Caste System Caste is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one of the hereditary social classes in Hinduidm, which is also a division in society based on wealth, inherited rank, or occupation, and allows little mobility out of the position to which a person is born. The word caste was first used by 16th century Portuguese traders; it is taken from the Portuguese word casta. Varna, the word for caste, means color and referring to the old racial differences between conquerors and conquered. The basis of the caste divisions was social and economic rather than racial. The origin of the caste system can be traced back to the Later Vedic Phase in Indian history (1000-600B.C.) when society came to be broadly divided into four Varnas. This was a division based on the main professions that were followed then. At the top most rung of the Varna system were brahmins, followed in decreasing order by kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. The brahmins, who worked as teachers and priests, were the educated lot. They conducted rituals and offered prayers for their clients and officiated at the different festivals. The members of this elite rank were considered the "blessed group" who were closest to the gods. The kshatriyas were the warrior group, while the vaishyas constituted the common people, engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding, craftsmanship and trading. The most submissive group were those of the shudras, who were considered "polluted" and unfit even to be touched by the upper caste people. This group consisted of those who did all the dirty work for others, such as removing animal carcasses, cleaning human and animal xcreta, and generally serving the people of higher castes. Since the different ... ... middle of paper ... ... Press, 1987. Bibliography: Works Cited Bougle, Celestin. Essays on the Caste System. Cambridge: University Press, 1971. Carstairs, G. Morris. The Twice Born: A Study of a Community of High-Caste Hindus. Indiana University Press, 1987. Cox, Oliver Cromwell. Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1988. Hazari. Untouchable: The Autobiography of an Indian Outcaste. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1989. Mehta, Ved. The New India. New York: The Viking Press, 1992. Mish, Frederick, C. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Massachusetts: Merriam- Webster Incorporated, 1997. Schwartz, M. Barton. Caste In Overseas Indian Communities. San Fransisco: Chandler Publishing Company, 1965. Spear, Percival. The Oxford History of Modern India: 1740-1947. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.
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