Indian Caste System

Augusta Tostrud

Religious Background

- Earliest form of the caste system was discussed in in one of India's bodies of religious scripture known as the Vedas.


- The Vedas are believed to have been written between 1500 and 1000 BCE.


- However, The Vedas were transmitted orally for many generations before officially being written down, so their official origin is unknown.


“The Brahmin was his mouth, his two arms were made the Rajanya [Kshatriya, king and warrior], his two thighs [loins] the Vaishya, from his feet the Sudra [servile class] was born.”

This is one of the most famous passages from the Rig Veda, in which the first man created, Purusa, is sacrificed in order to give rise to the four varnas.

The Caste System

-"The caste system in India can be described as an elaborately stratified social hierarchy distinguishing India’s social structure from any other nation."
- Indian term for caste is jati, and is defined as a group, which varies in size from a dozen to thousands.
- There are four basic caste's, which are traditionally arranged in hierarchical order:
Brahmans
Kshatriyas
Vaishyas
Shudras
Lastly, there are The Untouchables, which do not occupy a place in the varna scheme.

Brahmans

-Provide education and spiritual leadership
-Their basic needs were filled so that they can dedicate themselves to spiritual tasks.

Priests, teachers, intellectuals

Kshatriyas

- The nobility, the protectors of society
- They were permitted many privileges, yet they were expected to display considerable strength and body of character.

Warriors, police, administrators

Vaishyas

- The productive class
- Had to perform certain rituals and rites of passage, such as protecting animals and giving taxes to the Kshatriyas

Farmers, merchants, business people

Shudras

- The only section of society allowed to accept another's employment

Artisans and workers

Untouchables

- They were considered to be "impure" and therefore "untouchable" by those in other castes

- Were not allowed in temples or other public places


Toilet cleaners or garbage men

Connection to God of Small Things

- The God of Small Things has a connection to the Indian Caste System because it had an impact on how the story was percieved and made the story seem even more prevalent due to the fact that the Caste System is an important part in the history of India.

- One example of the use of the Indian Caste System in the book was when Ammu had an affair with an Untouchable, so she was banished from her home.

Works Cited

Category. "History of the Caste System in India." Asian History. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. <http://asianhistory.about.com/od/india/p/indiancastesystem.htm>.


"Heart of Hinduism: The Four Varnas." Welcome to the Heart of Hinduism. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. <http://hinduism.iskcon.org/practice/701.htm>.