How did the caste system develop in India?

society : How-did-the-caste-system-develop-in-India : 1

Answer by Shannu Prasad:

A brief intro to caste system:-  The Indian caste system grouped people into thousands of jatis. The jātis are thought of as being grouped into four varnas Brahmins,  Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and  Shudras. Certain groups, now known as "Dalits", were excluded from the varna system altogether, ostracized as untouchables.

The book is set in the vedic period (1700B.C to 500B.C) during which the author claims that the caste system was not discriminatory. There is some truth to that. For instance, Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana was a member of the lower caste. Other ancient texts cite numerous examples of individuals moving from one caste to another within their lifetimes. This suggests that the caste system was rather flexible i.e. one could choose a different profession than that of his varna if so he desires. However, it is sad that this was about to change.

Slowly, discrimination based on profession started to arise. There was a Buddhist pilgrim from China visited India in about 400 A.D. I believe his writings on how the caste system worked in India are noteworthy because he was not biased. This is what he had to say about the Indian society:

"Only the lot of the Chandals I found unenviable; outcastes by reason  of their degrading work as disposers of dead, they were universally  shunned". But no other section of the population were notably  disadvantaged, no other caste distinctions attracted comment from the  Chinese pilgrim, and no oppressive
caste system drew forth his  surprised censure. Peace and order prevailed.

But one can see the gradual change from flexibility and reason to rigidity and racism. First no profession based discrimination was present, then people disposing of dead bodies were shunned and then laborers and servicemen were shunned and so on. Slowly, the opportunistic Brahmins and Kshatriyas started exploitation and by medieval period, caste system as we know it took form.

Also see:-

 Tejasvita Apte's answer to Is caste system mentioned in Hindu sastras and Bhagwad Gita?

How did the caste system develop in India?


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