Indian Caste System

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The British Raj and the India’s Caste System

The Indian caste system, known as Varnas, is a centuries old system of social stratification. It is a strict hierarchal system that determines a person’s occupation for them. It also determines what they can wear, who they can talk to, who they can marry. Those on the top of the pyramid have all the wealth, power, and prestige, while those on the bottom are treated no better than the trash that is thrown away. It consists of four Varna’s: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. There is also a class outside the Varna’s historically called the untouchable’s. The caste system is an ancient cultural tradition that is so deep-rooted in the India cultural, and backed by historical and religious text. After the conquering Aryans established themselves as the ruling class, they adapted a caste system that would keep the Aryan’s in positions that would bring them wealth and prestige, and keep those they conquered subordinate to them. To strengthen their power, the Aryans were able to enforce their strict social rules through religious texts and the Hindu ideals of Varnas and Karma. It has been exploited and altered throughout the centuries by invaders, conquerors, and colonizers to prevent unification for their own benefit. Some may argue that the British created the modern caste system to benefit themselves, however, If anything, the British tried to alter a system they saw as unjust to give all Indians equal rights and equal opportunity. The modern caste system has its roots in the Islamic-Hindu era. Outside the ancient Hindu texts, The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Eknath Easwaran, I use mainly secondary sources to prove my thesis, that the modern caste system has its roots in the Islamic-Hindu era. I think history speaks for itself it the numerous studies done by scholars: such as the Wiser’s who studied the caste system in tribes virtually untouched by the British; and Brian Smith who studied how the ancient Aryan texts support the ideal caste system. It existed long before the East Indian Company landed on the shores of India, and I am proving that Nicholas Dirk’s argument that the caste system is the result of modern colonialism as invalid. Culturally, India has been very diverse; India culture varies depending on the location you go to in the beautiful and vast country. Even though there are many different ethnic groups in India with their own social and cultural identities—they dress differently, speak different languages, have different religions, and eat different foods—depending on the region they are from, they all have the same “temperament.” They share the same values and “common bond” that shows a national cultural identity. The lifeline of that common bond is the Varnas, which evolved into the Indian caste system. Despite what religion Indian’s follow, their cultural values are highly influence by the great Indian epics: The Vedas, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. Religious and spiritual thought has evolved from the Vedas, and reinforced cultural traditions. Many Indian Christians may still live by Hindu doctrines, such as the Doctrine of Karma, or practice meditation. These aren’t necessarily considered religious practices to all, but are cultural practices, or philosophies. The Indian cast system is so deeply embedded into this national cultural identity, and widely accepted as part of the Indian culture, that it is hard for Indians to escape it. As Nicholas Dirks says in his book Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India” Caste defines the core of Indian tradition.” India’s rich heritage can be seen in their literature; through the great epics: the Vedas (3000 BC-1000 BC), the Ramayana (1500 BC) and the Mahabharata (1000 BC). The Vedas weren’t only religious texts, but a prototype that philosophers and religious leaders used seek their beliefs; or law makers used to create a social and political lifestyle, such as the case with the Indian...
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