Nationalgeographic.co.id—India’s caste system is one of the oldest surviving forms of social stratification in the world. This caste system categorizes Hindus at birth, defines their place in society, what jobs they can hold, and who they can marry.
The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories, namely Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras.
How did the caste come about?
The Manusmriti, widely regarded as the most important and authoritative book on Hindu law and dating from at least 1,000 years before Christ, recognizes and justifies the caste system as the basis of social order and order.
Many believe caste groups descended from Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. At the top of the hierarchy are the Brahmins, who are mostly teachers and intellectuals and who are believed to have descended from the head of Brahma. Then the knights, or warriors and rulers, supposedly out of his hands. The three Vaisyas or merchants were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the pile are the sudras that come from Brahma’s feet and do all the menial or labor work.
The main castes are further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific profession. Outside of this Hindu caste system exist the “untouchables” or Dalits.
Throughout the ages, caste has dictated almost every aspect of Hindu religious and social life, with each group occupying a specific place in this complex hierarchy.
Rural communities have long been organized by caste – upper and lower castes almost always lived in separate colonies, water wells were not shared, Brahmins received no food or drink from the Sudras, and intermarriage was only possible between castes.
The system gives many privileges to the upper castes, while penalties from privileged groups are suppressed by the lower castes. Rules of caste, often criticized as unfair and backward, have remained unchanged for centuries, trapping people in social fabrics.
Finally, India’s caste system was officially abolished in 1950, but the age-old social hierarchy imposed on people from birth still persists in many aspects of life.
Millions of people, about 25 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion people, are grouped into established castes (Dalits) and established tribes (Adivasis) in India’s constitution. Adivasis are the indigenous people of India who have been socially and economically marginalized for centuries.
AP Photo/ Rafiq Maqbool
Illustration of the Dalits caste.
Dalit caste professions
Dalits are forced to take jobs such as janitors, scavengers, brick kilns and leather craftsmen – jobs considered “dirty” or “dishonorable” by the upper caste community.
According to a five-month study of sanitation workers across India conducted in 2017 by Dalberg Advisors, a development policy and strategy, sanitation and cleaning jobs, both formal and informal, employ 5 million people, 90 percent of whom belong to the lowest sub-caste of the Dalits firm , with support from the Gates Foundation.
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