Caste System in India

The Indian social organization has developed over time mainly on the basis of caste. The current education, urbanization, financial expansion and socio-political reform movements have brought about a change in attitude towards the rigidities of the caste system.

The birth of the caste system is not evident. It is usually approved that a division of labour came about due to the expansion of an agricultural society and villages when the new racial factor was introduced in the native population with the advent of the Indo-Aryans. An aspect of race and colour of the skin no doubt played an element in the social divisions that emerged in the past. The Indo-Aryans divided the society into Brahmin and Kshatriya while the others were assigned the lower status of Vaishya and Sudra with the work of cultivation and manufacture of artisan goods. Some of the jobs were made for the lowest strata of society and those who performed it were called outcasts. The division of labour is not exceptional to India, what is exceptional to India is the institutionalization of the division of the labour into the inflexible system of caste so much so that an occupation became a fixed inherited feature of the family. In due course of time, the varna system acquired the characteristics of a class division. The Brahmin and Kshatriya emerged as the upper classes of the society. The caste system is prevalent in large parts of the country. It is the model of social interaction.

Over an era, four major castes have been divided and subdivided into many more sub-castes. The upper castes were the landlords, whereas those who were inferior were landless or working on the land owned by the upper castes. With land getting accumulated in the hands of the higher castes, the Sudras, the artisans, and other sections, especially the outcastes became quite poor. The lowest caste in the society has been given the status of scheduled castes (SC) in independent India.

The scheduled castes are mostly found in the alluvial and coastal plains of India, as they are usually linked with agricultural activities. About 90 per cent of the scheduled castes live in villages. They are mostly landless agricultural labourers, small cultivators, small artisans, providers of services considered 'polluting' or 'dirty', workers in industries associated with traditional crafts such as leather tanning and shoe-making. In spite, of so much advancement in all spheres of life, we are still tied to the evils of the caste system.