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An explanation of the Caste System

Updated on May 18, 2009
The humble sage sees with equal vision.
The humble sage sees with equal vision.

An introduction to the Caste System

The Caste System is the long-time Hindu practise of job allocation based on the group one is born into. There are 4 groups - the Brahmins (the learned), the Kshatriyas (the warriors), the Vaisyas (the merchants) and the Sudras (the labourers). There are sub-divisions inside each one of the 4 groups based on the job specialisation.

The logic behind the Caste System

The Caste System was one of the first attempts at division of labour when the society was primitive. There were a few major job roles that needed to be filled in.

The different roles were alloted based on the inherent nature one was born with. Brahmins possesed the intellectual capacity, Kshattriyas exhibited valour, Vaisyas had good business sense and the Sudras could serve well. Since these natures had to be passed on through generations, inter-marriage between the different castes was not encouraged.

Not only was this division of labour natural, it helped in easy grasping of the job skill by the child from the parent.

The Caste System also had a ranking structure. It progressively decreased from the Brahmins to the Sudras. This helped in smooth issue of commands for getting things done in the society. 

 For the above reasons, the Caste System became a deeply established practise in the Hindu society.

The growth of weeds in the Caste System

Since the Caste System was based on ranking, the higher castes misused it to subjugate the lower ones. It went to such intolerable levels as to the creation of the idea of 'untouchables' - those who were considered sub-standard humans.

The different castes itself was a dividing factor. No wonder that foreign invaders, time and again, capitalised on such a division of strength of the Hindus. The practise of Caste System was removed from the Indian Constitution with the birth of the Indian nation. However, Indians still practise it to a great extent.

Karma, Rebirth and the Caste System

The Caste System was conceived by ancient Hindu sages after deep spiritual practises. It started with the Manu Dharma and is recommended by Lord Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad Gita.

One of the accusations of the Caste System, that it is unfair to some, can be argued against like this. Karma states that one reaps what one sows. Hinduism suggests also an immortal soul that is reborn. Thus, the actions in a past life decides the fate and thus the caste one is born into in the future life. Suppose a man hurts a dog for no reason, he will face a similar fate in the next life. This is the only justice that the nature implements. Imagine this scenario...a man who is in charge of a nuclear bomb wants to destroy the world while shooting himself with a gun. If karma does not carry to the next life, he will have no hesitation to do the act because he will think that he is going to die in this life by simply pulling the trigger. To prevent such a collapse of the world, nature tallies the karma and passes on to the next life. Likewise, someone born in a high caste, if his karma was wrong, will be born in a low caste in the next birth.

Those who accuse that Karma is fatalistic by saying that someone is punished for errors he did in the past do not understand that he can act in the present wisely to have a better future.


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