Caste System

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The Five Castes: The Bhagavad-Gita says that Caste is In India today, many people have risen to
Brahmins ­ priests and teachers, they are at top determined by a person's characteristics, not his prominent positions in profession and politics
of the Caste System birth. from the lower castes.
Kshatriyas ­ the warriors and rulers, they are Social structure based on previous lives, the
beneath the Brahmins . Law of Karma. Many Hindu's believe that the division of society
Vaishyras ­ the merchants and businessmen, into classes is natural, and that the Hindu
they are beneath the Kshatriyas The Dalits: system of basing class distinction on merit and
Shudras ­ the farmers and manual workers, Dalits means oppressed, and are also known as function is superior to one based on money and
they are beneath the Vaishyras Untouchables, Harijans and Outcastes. economic clout, as it is in the West.
Outcastes ­ they do the dirty work, they are not Gandhi campaigned for the rights of the Dalits, They see value in structuring life with a spiritual
included in the Caste System even though he was a merchant and accepted goal in mind without denying the enjoyment of
the system. He didn't accept the privileges that material values.
The Caste Rules: high caste Hindus claimed. He cleaned toilets to
Pollution ­ top three Castes avoid touching the set an example and to see what it was like. In the traditional way of life, caste is a dominant
shadow of an Untouchable. It is seen as unclean Gandhi gave them a new name, Harijans which factor because it helps to keep the village life
and polluting. means Children of God. He hoped that this running smoothly, while offering help and
Marriage ­ intermarriages ARE legal, but fellow would remind other Hindu's that they are still support to its members.
member's marriage is preferred. Arranged children of God, despite their low caste status.
between families of equal status, financial, He also fasted to try and change the attitudes However, India is industrialising so traditional
social and cultural. towards them; however, this didn't improve occupations are changing and new ones are
Eating Together ­ may only eat with fellow their status during his lifetime. emerging.
Caste members as high Caste Hindu's could be In 1950, the law changed and discrimination `Old habits die had' the caste system won't die
polluted by eating forbidden foods towards Untouchables was made illegal. This out easily. However, the system isn't as
Hereditary Occupation ­ sons should follow their law granted equal status to all peoples, but the important to Hindu's raised in Britain.
father's occupation. Caste System wasn't abolished. The issues of caste remain to be one where a
Many Dalits believe that Gandhi could have variety of views and opinions still exist. The
These rules form the basis of caste customs and done more to help them. system continues to have a profound influence
are deeply rooted in Hindu culture. on the life of a Hindu community.
The higher the caste the greater their purity. Treatment of Dalits today:
Marriage to lower caste members is seen as Special places are set aside for lower caste Differences in status are justified by the
degrading. Hindu's in schools and workplaces to ensure religious doctrine of Karma.
that they get a fair share of the benefits of This is a belief that one's place in life is
Historical Explanation: education. determined by one's deeds in previous lifetimes.
Aryans brought with them a tripartite social Recently, India elected K.R Naravan, a Dalit
structure. These included the first three castes. born Hindu, to President.
Aryans added on the Shudras to include the Ambedkar was also born as an Untouchable,
original inhabitants of India. and became a key member of the Indian
The Aryans imposed their social system on the Congress. He helped to write the law against
indigenous peoples, whose aspects started to discrimination.
characterise the Varna system. Ambedkar went to university despite the
difficulties in America and India. He became a
Mythical Explanation: well respected lawyer.
`Hymn of Primal Man' / Purusha sukta. This Ambedkar position gave encourage to others in
Primal Man was sacrificed because he was too the low castes who wanted to improve their
large for this world, and everything was born. livelihoods.
The mouth became the Brahmins; the arms There was a British report about a Dalit girl who
became the Kshatriyas, the thighs the Vaishyras had gained a degree but was unable to find
and the feet the Shudras. employment which was better than her
mother's, cleaning floors.
Religious Explanation:


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