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Caste system and Indian Society

Allover the world, many systems, institutions, structures, principles, and cultures have been developed from time to time, which created a wave sweeping the entire world with it for some time. But soon, they became obsolete and were replaced by anti-waves which replaced them and wiped off the previous influence. But caste system, on which Indian social structure is based, has proved to be an exception. It has given Indian society a distinguished identity.

Caste system is one of the oldest social institutions in the world. It covers almost the entire social fabric of India. It has survived the vicissitudes of time and saved itself by erosion from within and assault from outside only because of its flexibility and adaptability. Unlike Islam or Christianity, it has brought different groups and communities, at different point of time, under one umbrella without any conversion. It has taken different shades and meaning with changing times and places. Its character during Indus Valley Civilization was altogether different from what exists today. It is still in a transient phase.

In the past or at present, quite often Caste-system has been criticized vehemently by politicians, intellectuals or reformers from other faiths like Budhism, Islam or Christianity. Sometimes, even attempts have been made to wipe it out completely from Indian scene, create a casteless society or make drastic changes in Indian social structure. After each assault, it re-emerged with greater force.

All the strength of caste system comes from its foundation pillars, which are based on principle of Varna (which later on gave birth to caste system), accompanied by principles of Dharma, and Karma. Principle of ‘Varna’ gave Indian Society a stable, sustainable and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and sense of direction.

These principles together have ensured the continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups under one umbrella called Hinduism. Principle of Varna has engineered a system for social stratification placing people into different groups according to aptitudes, occupation, and location. Principle of Dharma taught Indians to place one’s duties above rights and principle of Karma imbibed in them tolerance and belief in concepts like ‘live and let others live’ as well as ‘Vasudhev Kutumbkam’ (meaning whole world is a family). The multi-centricity of present society has given it a syncretic character, a pluralistic tradition and an absorptive nature of internalizing alien influences.

Caste still appears to most of the Indians as a very dear and natural social institution . However, some people regard India a caste-ridden society, and caste system as problematic, complicated, discriminatory and exploitative. In such a situation, it is interesting to know what actually caste system is? Has it become obselete and useless in modern context? How, when and why did it come into existence and develop in its present form? What have been the factors, which contributed to its development? What are the strengths and weaknesses of caste system? How much influence does it still exercise on modern Indian society? (The answers to these quaries are in the posts “Origin of caste system of India” and “UN, Caste-system and Discrimination”).

 

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August 10, 2008 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems |

1 Comment »

  1. It’s difficult to find well-informed people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know
    what you’re talking about! Thanks

    Comment by combo protective holster | December 17, 2014 | Reply


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