From the moment we are born to the moment we draw our last breathe, society puts us into categories and slaps labels on us. We are given names, nationalities and norms to which we should adhere to. These codes and ideals are what helps us make sense of the world in which we live in. So it is no surprise that India, one of the oldest yet youngest nation has these same codes that structures it’s society.
One of the oldest and strongest notions that holds India together is the class / caste system. In the western world, class is seen as a group to which people belong to according to the hierarchy in a society. The Indian caste system however can be understood as the social hierarchy by which an individual is born into. It is hereditary to the core in which social mobility is nearly impossible.
There are mainly four main types of caste divisions in India which are divided into thousands of groups. The highest caste is the Brahaman or Brahmins, these are the Priests, the educators and the most sacred beings in the system. Followed by the Kshatriyas who are the rulers, the kings and the warriors. The Varshyas who are mostly the traders and farmers, the Shudras who are skilled labourers. Then the Dalits (the untouchables) who are not regarded as part of the caste system. They do the least inhumane jobs such as cleaning animal feaces and gathering dirts.
It is a huge debate as to whether the caste system was created by religion or if religion created the caste system in India. Whatever the case may be, the justification of poverty lies somewhere in between the caste system and religion. In ancient Buddhism according to an individual’s Karma (the results of one’s actions) in their past or current life, they get reborn either into a higher class or a lower class. An individual being in the lower caste is associated with the idea that they committed a bad act in the previous world.
In a society so diverse, the caste is one of the only system that holds India together. To rattle the caste system would like rattling the structures of the nation. One of the most celebrated public figures in India is DR B.R Ambedkar, the father of the Indian constitution. Babasaheb Ambedkar was born an untouchable, into the Dalit Caste but changed the public perception of the caste system.
In modern day India, the caste system is slowly being disintegrated, socially the system is going out but politically it is stronger than ever.