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History of The Indian Caste System

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by Danial Sheikh on 8 January 2013

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Transcript of History of The Indian Caste System

History of The Indian Caste System By Danial Atif Sheikh, 197096001 All great civilizations in history have pondered on these questions. How to live life and share the planet with others? How to find true happiness? For Indian people, the 4 traditional goals in life are to live with virtue, also known as Darma To gain wealth and success, Artha To find pleasure, Kama But their main goal is to seek enlightment, Moksha In the fifth century B.C, a series of kingdoms grew up with cities. And in history, cities are always vehicles for change. The most famous was Varanasi, India’s greatest sacred city where the core of Hindu religion, the caste system was born. All Hindu’s are born, married and die. The caste system segregates people from their birth, to their death. It fixes their jobs and their place in society, from the Brahmin Priests at the top to the outcast untouchables at the bottom, whose main jobs are to clean waste from streets and dispose of the dead It is considered by Hindu’s to be a mutually sustaining system, everybody has a place, and everyone needs somebody else. You had to know your place in the order, perform the necessary rituals, fulfill your duty, whatever caste you’re born into. The earliest evidence of the system can be found in one of India’s vast collection of religious scriptures known as the Vedas. These scriptures are considered the source of ancient Indian wisdom. One of the Vedic books is called the “Rig Veda”; it is written in it that the Primal man Purush, destroyed himself to create humanity from different parts of his body The Brahmins were created from his head The Kshatryas from his hands The Vaishias from his thighs And the Shudras from his feet The Indian Caste System is considered a closed system, which means that a person’s social status is directly connected to which caste they were born into. There are set limits on interactions and behavior with people from another social status. The caste system in Indian society has been present from since before the creation of India and consists of four different levels. The system consists of the Brahmin Kshatriya Vaishya Shudra And the Harijans But the Harijans are mostly not considered in the caste system as they are labelled the untouchables and are usually at the very bottom or outside of the Hindu caste system. The Harijans were traditionally given menial jobs such as clothes washers, sweepers, leatherworkers, and those whose occupation was to kill animals. They are also considered by some to be unclean because they eat beef. They make up 15%-20% of India’s population and are also the victims of discrimination and social restrictions because of their untouchability and polluting effect on those with whom they come into contact with. The Brahman’s are usually the priests. The Vaishya are usually merchants, and the farmers The Shudra are usually the artisans, agriculturalists, servants, and sharecroppers. And the Harijan are usually the outsiders/untouchables. A Brahmin belongs to one of the highest priestly caste in Hinduism. They make up about 9% of the total population. The male Brahmins are the priests and the scholars, but may also work in jobs associated with lower castes. The Brahmins cannot eat onions, garlic, and tomatoes as tomatoes are thought to be the seeds of a living element. Next are the Kshatrya which have the second highest status. They are traditionally the military or ruling class They are followed by the Vaishya which are the third of the four castes in Indian society. They compose of the merchant class, and they have provided for Indian society through giving and constructions of public facilities, and the construction of temples. Even though they form the crucial part of the society, they are still among the lower ranking of the castes. The Shudra is the lowest and largest caste in the Indian society. They have worked in service, as slaves or practitioners of unskilled trades. Even though they are not thought as the untouchables, they still face a great deal of discrimination from the members of the higher castes. Still today the values of the caste system are held strongly. It has kept a sense of order, and peace among the people. But the system had not always had such a high level of discrimination against other castes and did not impart total inequality. This was before the British took over India. The British took the caste system to the extreme and started to practice the concept of un-touchability for further segregating the castes Sadly, the British left a mark in Indian society and a majority of Indians are still continuing the concepts that the British left them with. We can now only guess what the future will bring.
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