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This project throws light on the Indian caste system . this led to the division
of society into various sub castes.It also tells about the origin of caste system
in india .


A caste system is a social system where people are ranked into groups based on heredity

within rigid systems of social stratification, especially those that constitute Hindu India.

Some scholars, in fact, deny that true caste systems are found outside India. The caste is a

closed group whose members are severely restricted in their choice of occupation and

degree of social participation. Marriage outside the caste is prohibited. Social status is

determined by the caste of one's birth and may only rarely be transcended. Certain

religious minorities may voluntarily constitute a quasi-caste within a society, but they are

less apt to be characterized by cultural distinctiveness than by their self-imposed social

segregation. A specialized labor group may operate as a caste within a society otherwise

free of such distinctions (e.g., the ironsmiths in parts of Africa). In general, caste

functions to maintain the status quo in a society.

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The word caste is derived from the Romance word casta (seen in Portuguese and Italian),

which (in addition to representing the same concept as English caste) can mean "lineage"

or "race". It comes from Romance casto, which can mean "pure" or "chaste" [the word

chaste itself is ultimately cognate]. Casto is derived from Latin castus, which also meant

"pure" or "chaste".



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Aryans migrated from Central Europe and settled in the very fertile Indus Valley. Aryans

were very clever. They implemented division of labor in their society. The most clever

members of society were selected and given the task to teach others. The bravest people

were selected and given the task to protect society. The dullest types of individuals who

were able to tolerate a heavy workload were selected and given the task of supplying

labor to others whenever needed. The rest of the people of the society were given the

tasks to grow food, produce materials, trade, and supply the goods to others.

As the Aryans were very clever, they found ways to keep the people doing what they had

been doing. Thus, they bred four types of new generations. The ones considered most

clever whose duty it was to teach were called "Brahmins". The protectors of society were

called "Kshatriyas". The group of producers and suppliers were called "vaishyas". And

the groups of laborers were called "Sudras".

In Hindu philosophy, every creature in this world is created by the God, Brahma.

Brahmins are thought to be created from the mouth of Brahma to symbolize teacher

groups. Kshatriyas are thought to be created from the arms of Brahma to symbolize

warriors. Vaishyas are thought to be created from the lap of Brahma to symbolize a

mother feeding her baby. And Sudras are thought to be created from the feet of Brahma

to symbolize a weight bearer. Therefore, the Brahmins are the uppermost caste of society,

followed by Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras. The source for proof for this setup is the

"Bhaagavad Geeta", one of the holy books of Hindu religion.

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Although every Hindu must follow general moral codes, each has individual duties

according to his or her own nature. These are called sva-dharma, literally "own duties."

They are regulated by the system of four varnas (social classes) .

1. Shudras :- (Artisans and Workers)

The Shudras are the only section of society allowed to accept another's employment;

other Varna’s are occupationally and financially self-sufficient.

• To render service to others.

• To take pride in their work and to be loyal.

• To follow general moral principles, (e.g. not to steal).

Vaishyas (Farmers, Merchants, and Business People)

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The vaishyas are the productive class. They and the two Varna’s below are called twice-

born, indicating that they accept the sacred thread (symbolizing spiritual initiation) and

must perform certain rituals and rites of passage.

• To protect animals (especially cows), and the land.

• To create wealth and prosperity.

• To maintain workers with abundant food, clothes, etc.

• To trade ethically.

• To give taxes to the kshatriyas (ruling class).

3. Kshatriyas (Warriors, Police, and Administrators)

The kshatriyas are the nobility, the protectors of society. Though permitted a number of

privileges, they are expected to display considerable strength of body and character.

• To protect the citizens from harm, especially women, children, cows, Brahmans,

and the elderly.

• To ensure that the citizens perform their prescribed duties and advance spiritually.

• To be the first into battle and never to flee the battlefield.

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• To be true to their royal word.

• To never refuse a challenge.

• To develop noble qualities such as power, chivalry, and generosity.

• To levy taxes (from the vaishyas only) and to never accept charity under any


• To take counsel, especially from the Brahmans.

• To know the scriptures, especially the artha-shastras.

• To deal uncompromisingly with crime and lawlessness.

• To take responsibility for shortcomings in their kingdom.

• To conquer their own minds and senses and to enjoy only according to scriptural


• To beget an heir.

4. Brahmanas (Priests, Teachers, and Intellectuals)

The Brahmans provide education and spiritual leadership. They determine the vision and

values of any society. Traditionally their basic needs were fulfilled so that they could

dedicate themselves to their spiritual tasks. They are expected to live very frugally.

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• To study and teach the Vedas.

• To perform sacrifice and religious ceremonies, and teach others how to perform

such rituals.

• To accept alms and also give in charity.

• To offer guidance, especially to the kshatriyas.

• To provide medical care and general advice free of charge.

• To know Brahman (spirit, the self, God).

• To never accept paid employment.

• To develop all ideal qualities, especially honesty, integrity, cleanliness, purity,

austerity, knowledge and wisdom.


The Indian caste system is the traditional hereditary system of social stratification of

India, in which social classes are defined by a number of hierarchical endogamous groups

often termed as Jāti. Not only Hindus but Muslims, Sikhs and Christians too practice it

(ref. Francis Buchanan, Indian Census Record, 1883). As Islam, Sikhism, and

Christianity gained influence in the Indian subcontinent, Hindu converts would often

retain their caste customs. The Indian caste system was historically linked to Hinduism

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through the use of scripture such as the Manusmriti. The Manusmriti is not necessarily

regarded as "divine proclamation" and is regarded as the work of man. The normative

texts in Hinduism such as the Vedas mention the concept of the Brahmin but do not

canonically allude to any socially mandated caste system.


1. Caste system among Hindus:-

The Indian caste system, prevalent also among local Muslims and Christians, exhibits

some differences from those of other countries. Elsewhere, the separation between one

group and the other is usually along racial lines. Within India, that is not so. Nor is there

any discernable dichotomy (white/black or high/low) because the caste system forms a

continuum that defies such ready definition. While many lower-caste people live in

conditions of great poverty and social disadvantage, many upper-caste Brahmins too are

poor and now disadvantaged politically. Efforts by the Indian government to emancipate

the lower castes with affirmative action like reservations in education, jobs and

promotions have achieved some success, although the benefits have tended to be

cornered by the well-off "Creamy Layer" of lower castes.

The concept of 'upper' and 'lower' caste is therefore a matter of social standing and

assimilation rather than anything based on wealth or influence. Even in this age, some

castes do not allow other caste members, whom they consider to be "lower" to touch

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them, and would have washed themselves or their possessions if they had been touched

by someone from a "lower" caste. In some parts of India, there was the practice of

defining the physical distance one should keep from persons of another caste. As a result

of this, children who attended a school where children of lower castes were present had to

bathe in running water before returning home. In some parts of the world, as well as in

India, such discrimination still exists, though it is punishable by law and unconstitutional

in India. The Indian constitution was drafted by Ambedkar, himself of low-caste origins,

who is regarded as an emancipator of the Dalits.

Loss of caste could occur if individuals strayed from the norms of behavior expected of

them; for instance, if one married a person belonging to another caste. Despite the

prosletysing efforts of Christian missionaries, the fact is that converts rarely

achieve emancipation from the caste system to gain an equal social

standing with people of privilege. Even among converts, matrimony between

members of different castes is rare, although it is not unknown.

A detailed analysis of the caste system, Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and

Development in India was presented by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in his doctoral paper at the

Columbia University.

2. Caste system among Indian Muslims

There is also several caste systems among some Muslims in India. They are broadly

divided into two castes, Ashraf and Ajlaf, or oonchi zaat (high caste) and niichi zaat (low

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caste). The Muslim Caste system in India was analyzed by Ambedkar, who had a very

dim view of the rampant discrimination of the Ajlaf castes by the Ashraf castes.In

addition to the Ashraf and Ajlaf castes, there exist the Arzal under-caste or the Dalit

Muslims who are regarded by the Ashraf and the Ajlaf as ritually impure and are

relegated to professions regarded as "menial" such as scavenging and the carrying of

night soil.

In addition, Muslims in Bengal organize their society according to social strata called

"Quoms", where division of labor is granted by birth, rather than by economic status.

Professions perceived as "lowly" are provided to people of certain ostracized Quoms and

higher Quoms get professions perceived as superior. The Quoms are rigidly segregated

with little or no intermarriage or cohabitation.

3. Caste system among Indian Christians

Converts to Christianity have retained the old caste practices. In particular, Dalit

Christians are regarded as an undercaste by upper caste Christian clergy and nuns and are

discriminated against in society.


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Interaction and Mobility

Interactions between the oonchi zat (upper caste) and neechi zat (lower caste) are

regulated by established patron-client relationships of the jajmani system, the upper

castes being referred to as the 'Jajmans', and the lower caste as 'Kamin'. Upon contact

with an low-caste Muslim, a Muslim of a higher zat can "purify" by taking a short bath,

since there are no elaborate rituals for purification. Higher caste Muslims and lower caste

Muslims are sometimes even segregated by graveyards.

Some data indicates that the castes among Muslims have never been as rigid as that

among Hindus.The rate of endogamous marriage, for example, is less than two thirds.An

old saying also goes "Last year I was a Julaha (weaver); this year a Shaikh; and next year

if the harvest be good, I shall be a Sayyid.".However, other scholars, such as Ambedkar,

disagreed with this thesis .


The caste system was first exposed to the modern Western world during the Portuguese

occupation and rule of sections of India. Indeed, the word 'caste' in this context is derived

from the Portuguese, casta. Later, other European empires, including the British,

occupied parts of the subcontinent. The anthropologist Herbert Risley's The Tribes and

Castes of Bengal, published in 1892, was one of the first works on the caste system in

India written by a Western scholar.

Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes

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Independent India officially documented castes and subcastes, primarily to determine

those deserving reservation(positive discrimination in education) through the census. The

Indian reservation system relies entirely on quotas. The Government lists consist of

scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes

Scheduled castes (SC)

Scheduled castes generally consist of former "untouchables" (the term "Dalit" is now

preferred). Present population is 16% of total population of India i.e. around 160 million.

For example, the Delhi state has 49 castes listed as SC.

Scheduled tribes (ST)

Scheduled tribes generally consist of tribal people. Present population is 7% of total

population of India i.e. around 70 million.

Other Backward Classes (OBC)

Other backward classes generally consist of cultivators, pastoralists, artisans, etc. The

Mandal Commission has covered more than 3000 castes under OBC Category. According

to the Mandal Commission, the present population of OBC's is approximately 52% of the

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population. The Mandal Commission has since been criticized for fabricating data. The

National Sample Survey puts the figure at 32%. For example, Delhi places 53 castes in

this group. There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBC's in India, with

census data compromised by partisan politics. It is generally estimated to be sizable, but

lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or and national Sample


Some Indian states are dominated by caste-based politics. Sometimes converts to other

religions, such as Christianity or Islam, retain their caste identity, often due to the

economic benefits it carries, and also to retain their ties with the community for social

reasons. This practice, however, is often frowned upon by members of the same sub-



Violence against Untouchables or Dalits in rural Tamil-Nadu

In 2000, three young men belonging to the Dalit undercaste were killed in the Cuddalore

district of Tamil Nadu. This fuelled some localized violence in the caste-sensitive region,

which has seen numerous caste-related incidents in which the majority of the victims

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have been Dalits. Six of the killings have been registered as murders under the Indian

Penal Code and others as "Deaths under suspicious circumstances". No arrests have been

made in these cases. However, several Dalits have been arrested as "goondas"

(gangsters). The Chief minister of Tamil-Nadu, M. Karunanidhi, has been accused of

having an "anti-Dalit" bias by the radical organization "Dalit Panthers of India". Theories

concerning these crimes against Dalits range from "alcohol bootleggers opposing

prohibition movements among Dalits" to "inter-caste relations between an upper-caste

Vanniya boy and a Dalit girl". Political parties sympathetic to the Dalits have protested

against these incidents and have alleged systemic biases against Dalits in several parts of

the country.

2. Bant Singh from Punjab

On the evening of January 5, 2006 Bant Singh, a poor Dalit , was attacked by unknown

assailants. His injuries necessitated medical amputation. He alleges that this was in

retaliation for actively working to secure justice for his daughter, who was gang raped by

upper caste members of his village in Punjab five years ago.

3. Phoolan Devi

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Phoolan Devi was a bandit turned politician from a low caste Shudra background. She

grew up in a backward part of the country where caste divisions were prominent in

society. After facing abuse from mainly upper-caste law enforcement, she ran away to the

deep jungle of her native region south of Agra and became the mistress of a bandit leader.

A rival gang from the powerful Bhumihar caste caught them, killed her lover and dragged

her to their village. She was publicly raped for days. She would never bear children. After

three days she escaped, went back to the jungle and gathered a gang. A year later, 20 of

her tormentors were dead. Pursued by the law enforcement authorities, for over two

years, she proved difficult to capture. The government of Indira Gandhi and the police

finally made a deal with her that she and members of her gang would not face the death

penalty.As a part of this arrangement, in 1983 she surrendered on a stage before a crowd

of 10,000 people. On July 25, 2001, she was fatally shot in front of her house in New

Delhi, allegedly by one Sher Singh Rana, which he claims was retribution for the Behmai

massacre. The police, however, are sceptical of his claims.


There has been strong criticism of the caste system existing in India. Some activists

consider that the caste system is a form of racial discrimination. The participants of the

United Nations Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in March 2001,

condemned the discrimination due to the caste system, and stated that caste as a basis for

the segregation and oppression of peoples in terms of their descent and occupation is a

form of apartheid.

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The Indian government denies the claims of equivalency between Caste and Racial

discrimination, pointing out that the caste issues as essentially intra-racial and intra-

cultural. Indian Attorney General Soli Sorabjee insisted that "The only reason India wants

caste discrimination kept off the agenda is that it will distract participants from the main

topic: racism. Caste discrimination in India is undeniable but caste and race are entirely


In India, some observers felt that the caste system must be viewed as a system of

exploitation of poor low-ranking groups by more prosperous high-ranking groups. In

many parts of India, land is largely held by dominant castes high-ranking owners of

property that economically exploit low-ranking landless labourers and poor artisans, all

the while degrading them with ritual emphases on their so-called god-given inferior


Matt Cherry claims that karma underpins the caste system, and the caste system

traditionally determines the position and role of every member of Hindu society. Caste

determines an individual's place in society, the work he or she may carry out, and who he

or she may marry and meet. According to him, Hindus believe that the karma of previous

life will determine the caste an individual will be (re)born into.

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