Paragraph on Caste System in India!
The word ‘Caste’ owes its origin to the Spanish word ‘Casta’ which means ‘breed, race, strain or a complex of hereditary qualities’.
In India it is known by the name of ‘Jati’. The English word ‘Caste’ is an adjustment of the original term.
Risely has defined caste as “a collection of families or group of families bearing a common name; claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine; professing to follow the same hereditary calling and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community.”
‘Caste’ has come to be associated with a social science concept. The phenomenon which we now call caste was named by western observers of India at an early stage in the colonial period. The phenomenon of caste has probably aroused more controversy than any other aspect of Indian life and thought. Some scholars see India’s caste system as a defining feature of ‘Indian Culture’.
In India, the four caste groups (Varna) were the Brahmins, the priestly class having religious authority the Kshatriyas the secular and military ruler and landlord caste, the Vaishyas the mercantile middle class and the shudra, the servants and slaves class. Caste has been described as the fundamental social institution of India.
As Andre Beitelle points out, “The caste system among the Hindus in India, that we find, the system in its most fully developed form, although analogous forms exist among Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other religious groups.”
Caste system may be seen traditionally as performing the following functions:
(i) It minimises economic competition by determining the occupation of various caste groups.
(ii) By restricting and limiting the range of choosing spouse, it helps its members in their endeavour of choosing a life partner.
(iii) Caste may also be seen as a social and psychological resource for its members. Because of a sense of solidarity and common consciousness the members of a caste come to the rescue of the follow caste-men.