In general caste means any class or group of people who inherit exclusive
privileges or are perceived as socially distinct. Entomology defines caste as a
class of physically distinct individuals with a particular function in the
society. Caste in simple language is a surname a name which comes after one's
name and this surname is referred as caste which divides people in different
class, position, occupations, etc.
In present such caste or surnames have
divided society in different section and created wide range of disparities among
the people. This research paper is attempting to explain how India developed the
caste system and how caste system of India helped British in British colonial
period in India and how India is coping with caste system in India.
Caste system was first time described in Manu smriti between 200 BCE and 200 ce,
it was outlined that caste system is hierarchical structure of society and the
duties associated with each varna.
Caste created a division between the people of distinct group in the society
based on their birth, occupation, and social status. It is historically
associated with Hinduism, although similar system exists in other cultures and
religions as well.
In hind society caste system have divided people in four varnas, known as:
- Brahmins: they are considered the top-class people, scholar, most
privileged in the society. Someone who have God like power and have a
position like God in the society
- Kshatriyas: they come after brahmins and are considered warriors, rulers,
people lower than kshatriyas had to obey their orders as kshatriyas were the
ruler who protect the its kingdom's people.
- Vaishyas: they are considered the merchant and agricultural class.
- Shudras: the laborer and servant class. This community was last of all three
varna the work associated was of serving their loads and had low status in the
society but were considered upper than the Dalits
Dalits the untouchable caste community the people who were not even allowed to
enter place of people in above varna and are not even part if the varna in
India. These people were not even considered part of the society. It is a
oppressed community in the society.
This research paper presents a critical analysis on how origin of India's caste
system, how did it take its deep roots in Indian society before, during and
after British rule in India.
This research paper is of descriptive nature and research performed and written
in this paper is of secondary source. This paper contains deep analysis of caste
system in India. Secondary sources of information consist of newspaper,
journals, and websites, etc.
India is a secular country in present but in reality, Indian society is
populated with Hindu population as compared with other religion. Hinduism does
not have one scripture but is ocean of scriptures such as Vedas, puranas,
shastras, Mahabharat, Ramayana, etc. but as compared with other scriptures of
Hinduism Vedas � rig Veda, Sam Veda, yajur Veda, Athar Veda are given higher
priority and position or rank above all. These are transmitted orally from 2000
BCE (4000 years). These Vedas contains knowledge of spirituality, religion,
society, literature, science, math, astronomy, nature.
These Vedas have divided
people through their occupation but not by people's caste. Vedas does not
contain any division by caste or by their birth. The story of rishi Valmiki the
Ramayana writer, the father of rishi Valmiki was brahmin but rishi Valmiki was
upbrought by hunter then he starts performing loot for his family then he
changed his paths and became brahmin by performing spiritual activity.
Shree Bhagwat Geeta have also discussed that people as not divided into four
varna just by birth but becomes a part of a varna through his work or occupation
which he performs.
B.R.Ambedkar and many scholars have acknowledged that casteism came into
existence in post Vedic society ( 1000 ce or after 3000 year).
Existence of casteism in Indian society
Dharmashashtra first time discussed casteism. Dharmashashtra was a like Hindu
law books in ancient time. Dharmashashtras are the books of various scholars and
Hindu priest or brahmins who have written their different ideology and these
ideologies were read and understood by people of that time.
These books have
tried to develop the society according to their ideology which have created
conflict in understanding the previous scripture which explained the working of
the Indian society and consequences of such changes are experienced in present
time. People to save their higher position in the society started to create
disparities and discrimination through caste as expecting and teaching their
child to learn and continue the thing which their ancestor have done throughout
their life and not allowing them to change or not letting them do what they
actually want to do.
People found passing their profession's activity and
religious knowledge to their descendants easy than letting them knowing
different occupation of practices. Brahmins wanted to save their higher
positions in the society and created their own way of society by dividing it by
caste scriptures, shlokas, etc. were interpretated wrong and such wrong
interpretations were passed on and such caste division practice was given a name
of god's division.
People in ancient time did not even tried to interpretate the
scripture on their own but relied on what other have explained them. These
dharmashashtra does not say same thing but explains different views as of each
scholar or priest as what he personally believes or not.
Bahu rajanyah kritah,
uru tadasya yadvaishyah,
padbhyam shudro ajayata
Caste System in India: Part 01 (Varna, Jati and Hinduism) : r/IndiaRWResources
In its original meaning: This shloka explaining that brahma is explains the
occupation in the society with his body parts as how they use their body parts
to perform their occupation. brahmins are the head and the mouth as -people who
have knowledge and have power of mind and play a role priest and teacher in the
society and use to direct others as how they have to live in the society by
creating rituals, laws, etc. Kshatriyas are the arms as people who were warriors
and the rulers, rulers use to work for the justice, protection, finances, etc.
Vaishyas are the thighs as they were the farmers, traders and merchants. Shudras
are the part of lower leg as they perform works like labor.
All these varnas makeup a society a livable for an individual. This shloka does
not compare or include caste, it is talking about occupations and such
occupations are being compared with the body parts which are must in such
occupations. This shloka does not talk about class or caste weather lower or
upper caste but all the works done by human are performed by the part of human.
But this shloka was explained as description of caste and was misused to create
disparities by the brahmins or upper-class people or scholars for their
privileges and benefits.
People with same occupation started to make their own small groups and such
small group or communities were given names and children of such community use
to practice same occupation and were also prohibited to change their profession
and this caused people to get a certain caste who can follow a certain
Origin of lower caste or untouchables
In ancient time people use to live in small groups or tribes and such tribes or
groups or communities had their own way of living. For example, hunters and
gathers, they used to live in small group and use to hunt animals for food and
During period between Aryans to British era some community or tribe
refused to merge with other bigger communities, in the mean time the bigger
communities started to develop faster than the small communities whereas small
communities where stuck with their ancient practices and refused to change o
evolve with the time, this resulted in creating disparities and differences
between the communities. But when time changed and British era was started the
people started to join big communities but due to lack of knowledge between
small communities and bigger communities started to exploit with them.
communities started to hire underdeveloped once to do their small jobs such as
bathroom cleaning, servant works, butchers, etc. so to keep getting such
privileges developed communities started to create discrimination between people
not allowing them to enter temples, education institutions, and making them feel
and practice untouchability.
So that such people do not get developed to know
their rights and develop one's can exploit them. If undeveloped one's were
allowed to develop themselves then developed one's would not be able to get
their services done as underdeveloped ones would have stopped doing cleaning
work or servants work as they would also focus on doing such work which would
raise their standards in the society.
One of the greatest examples of untouchable practice is British's thought
towards Indians or Africans. When British came to India, they also did the same
with Indians as Indians were less developed as compared to Britain and their
people. British during colonial period also ensured that Indians should not
attain much knowledge or developed practice as if they would have got developed
as of British then Indians would have understood their plans and Indians would
have stand against them much prior and would have retained their freedom earlier
Census report of British India, 1881
This report was made by Sir Herbert Hope Risley, the census commissioner, this
report marked the beginning of the systematic enumeration based on the caste. In
his report he introduced a comprehensive classification of caste and tribe.
In which he first presented his view of Indian society as fundamentally
structured by caste. Risley argued that caste was a system of social precedence
deriving from a race-based hierarchy of social life. Historical anthropologist
Bernard Cohn has argued that Risley's formulation of the racial basis of caste
was his "theoretical axe to grind"his response to what he saw as the
fallacious occupation-based view of caste used in earlier censuses. Risley's
reformulation of caste as social precedence had enormous consequences for the
way Indian society would come to be viewed by the British colonial government,
with continual reverberations in contemporary Indian politics.
Risley in his book the people of India presented an explanation for the creation
of the caste system as a consequence of the initial contact between the invading
Indo-Aryan's and the native Dravidians. According to his theory, the largely
male Indo-Aryan marauders arrived in the subcontinent and intermarried with
Dravidian women, but maintained strict hypergamy and prevented Indo-Aryan women
from marrying Dravidian men.
Thus, the two races remained distinct, and caste
was devised by the Indo-Aryans as a way to prevent racial miscegenation. Risley
argued that its continued influence in Indian society today cannot be understood
as a product of religious doctrine since caste was evident in Christian and
Muslim populations as well.
Instead, caste was tied to one particularly crucial
innate characteristic of Indian society writ large-what Risley saw as its
"particularism instinct" and "tendency to morcellement." Whereas European
societies tended to fuse together under the umbrella of "the nation," no such
solidarity was to be found in India, where endless splintering prevented the
consolidation of Indian nationalism.
The origins of caste, Risley argued, were
thus rooted in "a basis of fact and a superstructure of fiction": while
endogamy explained the racial integrity of distinct castes, the Indian mind's
"lax hold of facts" and "its passion for endless division and sub-division"
prevented it from overthrowing this system of social precedence. Ultimately,
it was Risley's formulation of the caste system as a racial hierarchy that would
go on to dominate colonial policies of governance in the form of subsequent
censuses and surveys.
The legacy of Risley's work is still palpable in India
today, where the colonial understanding of caste as rigidly hierarchical has
provided the basis for affirmative action policies since independence.
Britishers have always been known for divide and rule in India, British used
such report of sir Herbert hope risley's was used for dividing Indian people
among themselves so that British can get more grasp of Indian society as fast as
possible to make India a colonialized country under them. India even after
attaining independence is still struggling to remove caste system at its
Caste system after independence
After independence in 1947 India have taken many steps towards eradication of
caste system in the people and creating equality among people.
Some of the steps taken are:
In the constitution of India, Article 14 talks about equality before the law. This article ensures that no person shall be deprived of their rights and will have their equal status, say, rights, etc., before the law. No one shall be discriminated by their status in the society nor anyone shall get any privileges.
Article 15 and 16
In the constitution of India, Article 15 and 16 prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, caste, religion, or place of birth. Everyone shall be given equal opportunities, and no one shall be discriminated.
Article 17 abolishes untouchability, and it is prohibited to be practiced in any form.
Reservation policies are made by the government, and states are also given power to make reservations for their specific state. Reservations are mainly provided in government jobs, educational institutions, etc. People are divided into 4 categories:
- General - People who do not face any discrimination in society and are of upper caste or are not socially backward.
- Scheduled Caste - Those who are backward in society or do not have privileges or belong to lower caste.
- Schedule Tribe - Those who are underdeveloped or have joined developed society late and are facing discrimination.
- Other Backward Class/OBCs.
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was enacted in 1989. This law aims to prevent atrocities against individuals belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. It provides for stringent punishment for crimes committed against these communities and seeks to deter acts of discrimination.
If we see at present time and question does caste system still exist? In present
time caste system is being abolished with the time being and people have start
doing their own work by themselves. For example, "A" a boy who do his own work
like making food, cleaning washroom, working to earn money. Even if we look
around people of upper caste have started to work in odd jobs such as cleaning
jobs, service jobs, etc. people with the changing time and scenarios have
started to accept lower caste people and think them as equal to them by eating
with them, wearing same cloths as of them, working for same jobs, etc.
Caste system in present is like deep rooted tree which was sowed for more than
1000s of years, to cut this system out the society the only weapon is education.
Education is a cutter for such deep-rooted tree. Caste system is a man-made
ideology which man himself can remove it by creating equality, promoting
education, etc. connecting caste system with religion is not fair as to benefit
ourself. Caste system begin with people who wrongly interpretated the shlokas or
ideologies of Hinduism, to solve this people themselves needs to understand
things on their own rather depending on anyone.
People who are offered reservations are for uplifting their social status in the
society but if we see people under reservation are getting benefitted are using
or getting such opportunities generation to generation even after uplifting
their status in the society. Reservation system and other uplifting schemes
should be changes or modified with the changing time. People who are able to
sustain them selves or are able to buy their rations are still availing the
facilities of ration shops and this problem is stopping people who are in real
need of such scheme.
- Hannah Carlan' Sir Hertert Hope Risley (4 January 1851 � 30 September 1911), UCLA Social Science MANAS
- URL: https://southasia.ucla.edu/history-politics/colonial-epistemologies/sir-herbert-hope-risley/#_edn1
- Cohn, "The Census, Social Structure and Objectification in South Asia," 247.
- Risley, The People of India, 79�80.
- Risley, The People of India, 273.
- Risley, The People of India, 273.
Written By: Deepanshi Garg
- Amity university, Uttar Pradesh