One of enduring understanding about India we learned about in school was the caste system. It fascinated us, that people were labeled and this label was carried throughout a person’s life. We were especially intrigued with the “Untouchables”. On the tour, I learned that people of higher caste would always be alert when walking in public because an Untouchable’s shadow could contaminate a person.
The Indian social hierarchy consisted of the following:
Brahmins-those of the highest intellectual (wisdom) and spiritual (goodness)attributes (teachers, religious leaders, and philosophers)
Kshatriyas-those possessing courage and energy, the protectors of society (nobles, rajahs, and warriors)
Vaisyas-the producers of things, (those involved in commerce and agriculture)
Shudras-unskilled laborers and servants
The Untouchables-the impure who cleaned up excrement, blood, cremated remains and dead animals.
The whole system is based on merit and the essence of personality. The position is the caste was consequence of past actions in a previous life, Karma.
In 1950, because of the efforts of leaders such as Gandhi, discrimination because of caste titles was outlawed. But covert sigmas still remain. Caste loyalties form political voting blocks but reform is evident. Prime Minister Modi is from a lower middle caste and President Ram Nath Kovind is an Untouchable.
However, the modern use of plastics has presented an unintended consequence. In the past, garbage in the form of paper, wood and other degradable matter had been either burned or returned to the soil. Now India is being buried in plastic because gathering it is considered socially demeaning and no one will do it. In this case, social rigidity is crippling India.
2 thoughts on “India-The Caste System”
Thank goodness for Gandhi! I’m so grateful for his determination and peaceful ways to change this inequitable cast system. Progress is slow, hopefully their city council or equivalent will transform deminal tasks in paying jobs someone would accept.
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Thanks, Michelle. Sorry about the delay in responding to your comment. India was quite a trip. Needed some time to reflect. The world can really use another Gandhi!