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Essay on the Definition and Characteristics of Caste

You may have heard of the Caste system on the TV or on sitcoms and such. It is an Indian system in which people are placed into certain groups based on things they cannot control. In my essay, I will explain the caste system and put it into a perspective that modern millennials will understand.

The caste system in India is a fourfold division of society into the groups:

• Brahmins
• Kshatriya
• Vaishya
• Sudra

The PC game Fallout calls its double-headed cows Brahmins as a jab at the caste system. It firstly makes fun of these so-called enlightened and intelligent keepers of wisdom being represented by dumb animals, and the fact they have two heads is a nod to the tradition of cutting off a calf’s head and having a Brahmin drink its blood. The Brahmin cows are the reason why Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas games are banned in India.

The fourfold system used to have a purpose because it helped divide people by function, but now that India is a modern country, there is really no room for the “functional” side of the caste system anymore.

In theory, the fourfold caste division had the functions listed below:

• Brahmin
Study and teach, to give and teach, to give and receive gifts.

• Kshatriya
To fight to protect the people, to sacrifice themselves and to study.

• Vaishya
To care for cattle, to till the earth, to trade, to give sacrifices, and to lend money.

• Sudra
These are the people that serve the three classes that were just mentioned.

The modernization of India has made this caste system useless in terms of its function, and it has diluted the social structure quite a bit. For example, the Brahmin used to receive gifts and spend their lives studying, but these days there are fewer people that are willing or able to foot the bill to have other people study and not use their studies to add to the economy.

The Sudra are not willing to serve the other classes when they themselves are struggling to survive. In addition, people need jobs, and they cannot find employ through serving the other classes with the exception of household service jobs–and even they are few and far between when compared with Europe.

Just like other countries, India has farmers and an army. People are not farming or fighting because of the caste system, they are doing it because there are jobs there. In addition, such jobs do not require you to be in a certain caste. The army will accept you no matter what your cultural or caste background, and the same is true for working on farms. You may be born a Sudra, but the army won’t care once it has strapped a gun to your back.

One has to give credit to the British for instilling part of their class system into the Indian culture, therefore allowing them to slowly break away from their caste system so that ordinary people may get whatever jobs they wish without having to be born into a caste. The British class system also helped stop people hating each other because they were breaking the caste system rules, and help them start hating their real enemies such as Pakistani people.

Conclusion – How different is it to other countries?

My findings are that the caste system is very similar to the various other grouping systems in the world. The British do it with the class system, and the North Americans do it with the wealth disparity system. Muslim countries do it with the hatred and persecution of Christians, and Russian women are oppressed due to the gender group they are in. One may be tempted to look at the Indian caste system and somehow think their country is better and more enlightened, but I have yet to find a country that doesn’t have a similar grouping and discrimination system set in place.

Contributors Bio

Contributor photo Lona Glenn
Los Angeles
Lona graduated from Los Angeles City College. While being a lecturer in several high school institutions Lona founded an online educational project Tutorsclass.Read more
Contributor photo Maria Castle
Davis, CA
I studied education and currently work as a tutor for school-age children. I've worked as a volunteer in many different international social projects and as a camp counselor every summer.Read more

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