The Caste System

By: Jade Buford, Avery Pietrowiak, Katrina Songco

What is it?

The Caste System is a Aryan system of social classes. It remains one of the cornerstones of Hinduism. In Hindu belief, each person is born into a caste and has a certain mortal duty, known as dharma. A person can move into a different caste only through reincarnation.
The Indian Caste System - An Introduction

The Four Different Castes

The Brahmans

To us they are known as priests and scholars.

According to the tenets of the caste sytem, Brahmins originated from the head of the Hindu God 'Brahma', that's why the top position. They are considered to have arrived in India around 3500 years ago, alongwith others and drove the native Indian population towards the south of the sub-continent. In the caste system, the Brahmins are a priestly caste and all religious duties, teaching and learning was exclusively reserved for them. However, although the Brahmins are at the top of the caste system, it is concurred that this was not always the case. It was the Kshatriya that was at the top. The Brahmins edged them out of the top caste by introducing religious laws that gave them pre-power. All the same, in a caste ridden society, Brahmins continue to hold a lot of the top positons in democratic India, including offices in politics and business. With the extremely gradual decline of caste and their hegemony over it, Brahmins have made their presence also felt in non-priestly occupations.

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The Kshatriyas

To us they are known as rulers, warriors, and landowners.

According to the tenets of caste system, the Kshatriya originated from the hands of the Hindu God 'Brahma'. It is proven that during the start of the Vedic period, it it was the Kshatriya caste was at the top of the caste system. During the Vedic period, the Kshatriyas were busy conquering local territitores and populations. While the Kshatriyas were gone, the Brahmins edged them out of the top spot by introducing religious laws that gave them pre-eminence by the end of the Vedic period in India. Untill the dawn of the democratic system in India, the Kshatriya caste have traditionally been Kings, rulers and warriors. It was the Kshatriya rulers task to protect and preserve the caste system as indicated in the caste bible 'Manusmriti.' Kshatriyas are expected to marry amongst themselves and inter-caste marriages are generally frowned upon. Kshatriyas continue to hold positions of power in politics and business as well, among other non-traditional occupations and they also hold prominent positions in the army.

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The Vaishas

To us they are the farmers and merchants.

The Members of the Vaishya caste have traditionally been wealthy, as a result of their occupations. This caste has great value to education, particularly religious education so that they would become twice born, an important aspect in the caste system. Several members of this caste were part of the development of modern Indian industry. Because of their wealth, this caste is heavily involved in religious activity and it is generally accepted that the funding for the Hindu fundamentalism in India comes from this caste to a great extent.This caste is also into charity and philanthropic giving for the benefit of society.

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The Sudras

To us they are known as the artisans and laborers.

The Sudra caste is the lowest of the four castes in the caste system in India. They are just above the Dalits. According to Hindu, the Sudras were formed from the feet of the Hindu God 'Brahma' and their role was to serve the upper three castes. The population that comprises this caste is largely a product of the upper three castes mating with the untouchables and with Sudras. Though Sudras are not as badly discriminated against as Dalits untouchables, they still face a great deal of discrimination from members of higher castes. Under the caste system, the Sudras do not have the same rights and privileges as the upper caste Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, including prohibition of access to temples and public facilities frequented by the upper castes. Because the caste system did not give them equal rights and dignity, Sudras converted in large numbers to differect faiths such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

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Racism or a heavenly way of Life?

Katrina's opinion

I do believe that this way of system is a bit racist. I don't believe that you can be reincarnated and become in a different caste because of the way you lived in your previous life. Even though I believe that it is racist, I can totally see how it is a heavenly way of life from the Hindu's perspective.

Avery's opinion

I don't think that it is racist, maybe a little biased, but not racist. I don't really think that it is a bad thing as long as they believe that it is for their religion. If the government were to place the caste system in the US, then I would think it would be unfair because not everyone believes in it. But because Hindu is the majority in India, then they can live religiously however they chose.

Jade's opinion

I believe that it is somewhat racist, but different people view things in different ways. I don't believe in reincarnation and the caste system, but it is a part of their religion and beliefs. I can understand how people view it as a heavenly way of life for the Hindus even though I consider it somewhat racist.