The Caste System

(In case you are wondering I research on all of my posts in here)

Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a lifestyle which often includes an occupation, status in a hierarchy, and customary social interaction and exclusion. Although caste systems exist in various regions, its paradigmatic ethnographic example is the division of Indian society into rigid social groups, with roots in India’s ancient history and persisting until today. However, the economic significance of the caste system in India has been declining as a result of urbanization and affirmative action programs. A subject of much scholarship by sociologists and anthropologists, the Indian caste system is sometimes used as an analogical basis for the study of caste-like social divisions existing outside India. In biology, the term is applied to role stratification in eusocial animals like ants and termites, though the analogy is imperfect as these also involve extremely stratified reproduction.

Brahmin is a varna (class, caste) in Hinduism specialising as priests, teachers (acharya) and protectors of sacred learning across generations.

The traditional occupation of brahmins was that of priesthood at the Hindu temples or at socio-religious ceremonies and rite of passage rituals such as solemnising a wedding with hymns and prayers. Theoretically, the Brahmins were the highest ranking of the four social classes. In practice, Indian texts suggest that Brahmins were agriculturalists, warriors, traders and have held a variety of other occupations in India.

Kshatriya (from Sanskrit kṣatra, “rule, authority”) is one of the four varna (social orders) of the Hindu society. The Sanskrit term kṣatriyaḥ is used in the context of Vedic society wherein members organised themselves into four classes:kshatriya, brahmin, vaishya and shudra. Traditionally, the kshatriya constituted the ruling and military elite. Their role was to protect society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime.

Vaishyas An upper class in the Hindu tradition, the Vaishyas are the lowest level of the “twice-born” (dvijas ). They are commoners, but not a servant group. They undergo the sacred thread ceremony (Yajnopavita ), as do the Brahmins and Kshatriyas. But while male Vaisyas “take the thread,” it is made of a fiber different from that of the two castes above them (Brahmins and Kshatriyas). As part of the cosmic order of dharma, they have been assigned the role of merchants and craftspeople.

Shudra is the fourth varna, or one of the four social categories found in the texts of Hinduism. Various sources translate it into English as a caste, or alternatively as a social class. It is the lowest rank of the four varnas.

The word Shudra appears only once in the Rig veda but is found in other Hindu texts such as the Manusmriti, Arthashastra and Dharmashastras. Theoretically, Shudras have constituted the hereditary labouring class serving others but in reality they have shared occupations with other varnas, including in some rare cases being warriors and kings.

Dalit, meaning “oppressed” in Sanskrit and “broken/scattered” in Hindi, is a term for the members of lower castes of India. The term is mostly used for the ones that have been subjected to untouchability. Dalits were excluded from the four-fold varna system of Hinduism and thought of themselves as forming a fifth varna, describing themselves as Panchama. Dalits now profess various religious beliefs, including Buddhism, Christianity and Sikhism.


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