Understanding India's Caste System

Most of us are aware of the caste system that existed in Hindu society back in the day. This post was not meant to question whether the caste system is still being practiced in the world as we speak but merely to explain to everyone regarding the caste system and its classes.

It seems that confusion still remains among many people that have misconceptions regarding the Hindus making the clear picture of this very sensitive matter to be left unexplained. How far do you think you understand the caste system that is practiced by the Hindus.

In this article, we will give you a glimpse of what this system is all about.

The Origin of The Caste System

The understanding of the word caste is highly related to the beliefs of the Hindus. This is because according to the Hindus, this world was created by Brahma, the creator god in the Hindus that happens to have four faces.

It is also known by other names like Vagisa and Savayambhu. Brahma was also believed to be the creator of the four Veda scriptures in which each of which represents the four mouths of the god.

Based on the writings contained in the oldest scriptures known as Rigveda, all Hindus came from the parts of the body of Brahma with each of the parts being where the race comes from. This will also mean that each race will be at a certain position as well as constituting a certain function in Hindu society.

Their belief mentions the four groups that originated from Brahma that give birth from the head, hand, thighs, and soles of the feet of Brahma. There is also one final group that is said to not originate from Brahma.

Despite the caste label commonly being used the real name of the system is actually 'jati'. It was only after the presence of the Portuguese in South Asia in the 16th century, the term caste which means race or nation is used by the outside world to refer to the system being used by the Hindus.

When Did The Caste System Start Being Used?

The true history of when the caste system starts being used still remains unknown as there have been many stories and myths that are not clear and vivid. In the early phase, the caste system was said to be introduced by the Aryan people that came to the place from middle Asia.

The Aryans introduced the system to make it easier to control society. The Aryans pick themselves who will be at a certain position putting an individual to their respective group with specific tasks being given.

Starting from that on every person and their ancestors in the Hindu society will have their fate chosen from birth until the end of time. This perception was questioned especially in this modern age in which there was no relation found between the Aryans and the Hindus.

Not just that but the records in the Manusmriti book that was written thousands of years ago showed that the caste system has been used for so long to protect the position and the Hindu system.

Even though it is not precisely known historically, the understanding of the caste system has its own detailed records which makes it easy for us to comprehend. Every group in the caste will be given the karma or job that has been appointed as their daily responsibility with the 'dharma' or duty that must be fulfilled as per the demands of their religion.

Groups of The Caste

There are four groups of caste officially in the social system of Hindu society. The first one is named Brahmin which is those at the highest level of society and responsible for preserving the Hindu religion as well as their common practices. The Brahmins were given the task to become philosophers and religious members.

The second group is known as Kshatriya which means to protect the people. This group is given the obligation to lead the people, playing their roles as kings, warriors or commanders. The majority of the leaders of Hindus will be chosen among the Kshatriya.

The most popular Kshatriya in history will be Siddartha Gautama Buddha who is the founder of the Buddha religion that was born as the heir of a Kshatriya caste. 

Vaishyas will be the third group of this caste that plays a role to maintain peace in the society through their daily activities such as agriculture, livestock, and economic activities. This group has a big influence in Hindu society following their close relations with the people each day.

Most businessmen will come from the Vaishyas and if you were to look at the people who give out loans then most likely it will be from this group.

The final official group of this caste is the Shudras. They are the abundance that does not receive any special benefits. Most of them were given the responsibility to do common jobs and those who were born as Shudras can also come from the higher group of this caste who were punished for their sins.

The Last Group Out Of This Caste

In the caste system, the four groups above are among the officials that are known as the 'varna'. However, there exists another class that is believed to not be from the parts of Brahma's body and they are called 'achoot'.

'Achoot' means those that are not worthy to be touched or are untouchables. In this modern world, they will be known as the Dalits which also means the people that are oppressed. The term Dalit was only used since the 1930s as an improvement to the word 'Harijan' (follower of day/god) that tried to be introduced before.

The main question is how does one gets recognized as a Dalit? Well, the choice is not theirs.

They were born as Dalits and they will also die as one. A Dalit cannot simply get out of their caste and have to accept their fate since every member of the Dalit was believed to have committed sins in the past.

A Dalit must also do the dirty works which involves handling waste products as well as carcasses as part of their daily tasks. Every Dalit is also not allowed to even enter the worship house nor share the common source of water with other groups. They cannot enter the area in which other castes are living by.
British rule has helped the Dalits to get out of this oppression and segregation. There have also been movements to help them be more independent in their social system. Bit by bit the Dalit managed to get out of the trouble that has been haunting them for so long to the extent that they managed to become a very successful community.

But the negative stigma still exists to this day that most Dalits cannot run away from. Even though their population comprises a significant amount of 16 percent or 300 million Dalits in India, they still faced many threats in the caste system as if they were meant to be the victims or slaves.

Gruesome cases involving the murder of a young Dalit girl still happen today and it all happens simply because of her own status as a Dalit. Another young Dalit was also murdered only because he was riding a horse which he was prohibited from doing based on the caste system.

These two cases did not happen long ago but it was still quite recent in these past years. We must also realize that in 2018 in India, someone can be hanged simply because someone did not like their descendants.


Post a Comment