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    The Caste System Essay (1511 words)

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    The institution of caste system, one of the basic pillars of the Hindu society can be considered as old as the Hindu society itself. But over the years, the institution has undergone a metamorphic change.

    However there is a stupendous difference between the caste system prevalent and practiced then and now. The caste system is supposed to have a divine origin and sanction behind it. The caste stratification of the Indian society had its origin in the chaturvarna system. According to the chaturvarna doctrine, the Hindu society was divided into four main varnas namely, the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Sudras. The Varna system which was prevalent during the Vedic period was mainly based on the division of labor and occupation. The Rigveda refers to the ‘Supreme Purusha’ (lord) as the creator of the four groups. The Brahmins originated from the mouth of the Lord, the Kshatriya from his arms, and the Vaishyas from the thighs and the Sudras from his feet. Each class was allotted specific functions to perform and they were rated in the society according to the task they performed.

    There is no evidence to show that intermarriages were prohibited in the Vedic age. As a matter of fact, up to 300 BC restrictions as to marriage for Brahmins were not at all as rigid as they became in medieval and modern times. The innumerable castes now found in the country must perhaps be the offshoot of the inter-caste marriages that had taken place. The original scheme of classes (varnas) was natural and was based on the occupation of a person rather than on birth. The system of castes which is prevalent in India today and which lays emphasis on birth and heredity has nothing in common with the four varnas based originally on race, culture, character, and profession.

    The spirit of exclusiveness and the sense of superiority and pride which differentiated the Aryans from non-Aryans did, however influence the division and subdivisions of people into innumerable jatis based upon difference of occupation, sect, and other causes which are now prevalent in the Indian society. When the spirit of exclusiveness and exaggerated notions of ceremonial purity which were applied to non-Aryans in connection with sacrificial ritual, were expounded systematically and extended to other groups because of the supposed impurity of certain occupations, it gave rise to untouchables, a malady peculiar to the Hindu society.

    The division which was initially made for the smooth functioning of the society, in due course of time, turned into a rigid and water tight compartment. In the name of caste, the society was thrown into an abysmally dark pit from where there was no respite. When India gained her independence, the caste system was at the zenith of its darkest phase. The leaders of the independent movement realized this and felt that the entire society was at stake and it eroded the credentials of the people. This aspect of the Indian society undermined the very principles of democracy. The framers of the Constitution never aspired for a country that was torn because of internal rift which was purely man made. The newly-born country continued with the democratic ideologies, a legacy which they had inherited from the British.

    Democracy aims to protect and promote the dignity and fundamental rights of the individuals, instill social justice, and it fosters economic and social development. In a democracy, the people are able to choose their representatives, as they have the right to participate in the political process of the country. In a democratic system, all citizens have the right to be heard. The Indian Constitution is imbibed with democratic ideals like periodic elections, rule of law, fundamental rights, directive principles, etc. The framers of the Constitution provided safeguards in the Constitution, which would treat all people at par with one another. Hence, the Preamble of the Constitution states that the people of India resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure for all its citizens the following objectives namely liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship, equality of status and opportunity, fraternity, asserting the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation. The Preamble of the Constitution states briefly the broad and long term objectives of the type of society which the people of India aimed to evolve. The people tried to achieve goals by bringing political and economic changes in a democratic manner. The framers of the Constitution were convinced that the traditional values of Indian culture, which aimed at the spiritual and moral perfection of the individual, could be realized only within the national democratic framework.

    There will be no democracy in India unless there is strong and integrated national society. Due to historical reasons, India has been a meeting place of many races and cultures. While maintaining its separate identity, it is imperative that the diverse cultural groups live in harmony, have an emotional identification with the national society, and participate actively in strengthening its bonds. The national consciousness in India has neither a long history nor deep roots. India attained its nationhood in the modern sense only in the process of opposing the British rule. As soon as the British stepped out of Indian soil, the binding knot of national unity began to loosen itself, and the narrow loyalties to caste, sect, or language groups began to raise its head. The future of Indian democracy will depend on the way it can meet the challenges arising out of the various social problems arising in the Indian subcontinent because of the people’s misconceptions and false affinity to cling to the traditional past.

    To alleviate the wrongs done due to blind faith and support to the caste system, the Constitution has adopted various measures. The Constitution by incorporating various articles, guarantees equal opportunity to all citizens in all matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State. It specifically lays down that no citizen shall, on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence, or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office under the State.

    The Constitution also forbids the practice of untouchability in any form. The right to freedom provides among other things, the right to the practice of any calling without restriction. The right to non-exploitation guarantees freedom from forced labor. Through the incorporation of these articles, utmost attempts have been made to establish equality among all sections of the society. Through the implementation of the articles incorporated in the Indian Constitution, the major thrust has been shifted from the caste to the individual as the unit of Indian society.

    It would be wrong to think that the constitutional measures have succeeded in minimizing the impact of caste on the society. The caste system continues to exercise a powerful influence on the political, social and economic life of the people. With the introduction of adult franchise, people have become conscious of the power of the vote. Since castes are the most organized groups, politicians find it easy to woo the people. In fact, political parties take special care to select those candidates who can get the majority of votes of a particular caste.

    Caste bonds are very strong in rural India. People in rural areas are often guided by caste interest rather than political or economic interest. Political parties fully exploit this feeing and there by direct the voting pattern in the villages. The candidates also often seek the support of the religious leaders who can exercise a commendable influence over their jatis.

    The caste system which has shown great resilience in the past, poses the greatest threat to Indian democracy. Untouchability, the worst feature of the caste system, has been deeply entrenched in the Indian society. Laudable efforts have been made from time to time from various quarters to eradicate the system. A new consciousness has to be created among people that untouchability is the most disruptive element in our society that stands in the way of economic development as well as national integration. A system which cuts off human beings from one another is incompatible with the ideals of equality and social justice, which are enshrined in our Constitution. It is a major stumbling block to national integration, economic development, and moral regeneration of Indian society. Hence for the successful functioning of democracy in India and for the people to savor the fruits of equality as provided through the various articles of the Constitution, the disruptive institutions should be kept at bay. It will be difficult to wipe out an age old tradition with one stroke of the pen and it would continue to prick the society for many more decades to come, but the mindset of the people should change and with all sincerity, the people and also those at the helm of affairs should try to implement the provisions of the Constitution in letter and spirit, thereby paving the way for a society, to be based on democratic principles and making democracy a success instead of mockery.

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    The Caste System Essay (1511 words). (2019, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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