Varna and Jati

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1. What are the origins of the concepts of varna and jati, and why has the varna-jati system of social organization lasted so long? What social needs did they serve, and how are these social functions addressed in our culture?

            During the Vedic Age of Indian civilization, it is believed that after the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization some of the kinship groups and patriarchal families migrated into India.  As some within the Aryas tribe (light-skinned) entered into the Ganges Valley, they encountered a struggle with the Dasas tribe (dark-skinned) but managed to force the tribe into southern India.   The struggle between the tribes led to the development of the Varna class system.  Under this system, people were born into one of the four Varna’s: Brahmin was the class of priests and scholars; Kshatriya was warriors; Vaishya was merchants; and Shundra was peasants and laborers.  The fifth group was the Untouchables; they were outside the system because of the nature of their work.  The work was considered polluted as it dealt with dead things and cremations (Bulliet, et. 2011).

            Now, the Varna was divided into groups and subdivided into jati’s: order of hierarchy. Under the hierarchy, were complex rules that governed the different occupations, duties, and rituals of each Jati as a well as regulations concerning interaction between people of different Jati (Bulliet, et. 2011).  The system served to assign occupations to the Varna and Jati in which each individual belongs; and the system separated the members of the different Varna and Jati into a system of purity and impurity.  Purity restrictions occurred in the areas of marriage, drink, food and touch.

            The system of Varna and Jati lasted because many of the practices and attitudes were indoctrinated into the Hindu people, rules for social behavior, and the philosophy of reincarnation.  The belief was every individual has an immortal spirit that will be reborn in...
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