Prevalence of Caste System in India

Although India is a political democracy, the hierarchical caste system is deeply rooted into the society, whether it is North or South, Hindu’s or Muslim’s and cities or villages. This system of discrimination, between the high and low castes exists, almost in every community. The caste system was evolved when India’s ancient civilizations, absorbed the nomadic Aryan population who crossed central Asia to enter northern India. The four castes developed out of necessity of its own social order and moral and ritual quotes. The word caste comes from Portuguese word ‘Casta’ (breed or race). The Sanskrit word that applied to the groupings was ‘Varna’, which is often interpreted as colour. However as per ‘Mahabharata’, if different colors indicate different castes the all castes are mixed castes. The Hindus also believed that the ‘Varna’ of a man is determined by his profession and deeds rather than his birth. Traditionally, the political power rested with Chatriyas and Brahmins were custodian of dharma. The Vaishyas were the traders and running the economy whereas, Shudras were service providers.


The castes did not constitute a rigid description of occupation or the social status but the Britisher’s attempted to equate the Indian Caste System to their own colonial caste system since the British society was divided by class. Britisher’s further codified the caste system in India and made it more rigid. A section of sociologists agree that the caste system initially had several advantages too. It served as an important tool of social order where mutual consent rather than competition ruled. The caste system played an important role in shaping economic activities in Indian society. The fluidity of caste system was affected by the arrival of British policy of divide and rule. Rigid categorization of population also contributed towards the hardening of caste identities.


In semi rural areas and small towns the caste system is still very rigid. Caste is also a very important factor in the politics of India. After independence, the government has officially documented castes and sub-castes, primarily to determine reservation in education and jobs through census. The Indian reservation system relies entirely on quotas for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward castes. This system has been fairly successful in bringing the backward castes into the mainstream. However, the caste based reservations in India has also led to widespread protests due to reverse discrimination against the upper caste. Also the caste based politics in India has created various undue tensions amongst the social forces. With a passage of six-decades after independence the caste based discrimination in our country has been addressed to some extent but there is still enough scope to bridge the inter-caste gaps in the society. The economic and social equality, globalization, extensive education, youth empowerment and social organizations have contributed a great deal in mellowing down the deeply rooted caste based discrimination in our country. In these situations, it is the responsibility and greater role of the politicians to reform the society instead of concentrating on caste-based politics, appeasement and discrimination, which is unhealthy for the Indian Society.


Keerti Dubey

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