The Caste System (AS Hinduism WJEC

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The Five Castes:

Brahmins – priests and teachers, they are at top of the Caste System.

Kshatriyas – the warriors and rulers, they are beneath the Brahmins .

Vaishyras – the merchants and businessmen, they are beneath the Kshatriyas.

Shudras – the farmers and manual workers, they are beneath the Vaishyras.

Outcastes – they do the dirty work, they are not included in the Caste System.

The Caste Rules:

Pollution – top three Castes avoid touching the shadow of an Untouchable. It is seen as unclean and polluting.

Marriage – intermarriages ARE legal, but fellow member’s marriage is preferred. Arranged between families of equal status, financial, social and cultural.

Eating Together – may only eat with fellow Caste members as high Caste Hindu’s could be polluted by eating forbidden foods.

Hereditary Occupation – sons should follow their father’s occupation.

These rules form the basis of caste customs and are deeply rooted in Hindu culture.

The higher the caste the greater their purity.

Marriage to lower caste members is seen as degrading.

Historical Explanation:

Aryans brought with them a tripartite social structure. These included the first three castes. Aryans added on the Shudras to include the original inhabitants of India.

The Aryans imposed their social system on the indigenous peoples, whose aspects started to characterise the Varna system.

Mythical Explanation:

‘Hymn of Primal Man’ / Purusha sukta. This Primal Man was sacrificed because he was too large for this world, and everything was born. The mouth became the Brahmins; the arms became the Kshatriyas, the thighs the Vaishyras and the feet the Shudras.

Religious Explanation:

The Bhagavad-Gita says that Caste is determined by a person’s characteristics, not his birth.

Social structure based on previous lives, the Law of Karma.

The Dalits:

Dalits means oppressed, and are also known as Untouchables, Harijans and Outcastes.

Gandhi campaigned for the rights

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