What are Hindu or India’s Caste system types and it’s benefits


The Hindu caste system is said to be more than 3,000 years old. It is a system that divides the whole society into a hierarchy according to people’s Dharma (duty or occupation). There are more than 3,000 sub-castes in India and there is no system that can tell about the order of ranking all 3,000 sub-castes. The caste system was formed keeping in mind that the people belonging to a particular caste will follow the occupation assigned to that caste only but people no longer follow that. Nowadays, you can see a person belonging to carpenter caste but not working as a carpenter or a person who is a Brahmin but does not act as a priest. For the people following Hinduism, their caste matters a lot. Earlier, people made their children marry a member of their own caste only.

The caste system was created to make things organized and to promote brotherhood but due to its misinterpretation and some disadvantages, it led to discrimination and promoted hatred.
Let us see all the concepts and truth behind the Hindu Caste System.

Caste Types

The Hindu Caste System is broadly divided into four categories or four varnas. Thus, this system is also known as the Chaturvarnya system. This system includes:-

  1. Brahmin
  2. Kshatriya
  3. Vaishya
  4. Shudra

1. Brahmin

Ranking
They are the highest-ranking caste group. It is believed that they came from Brahma’s head.
Duties
They specialize as priests (in a temple or for a particular family), in teaching and in spreading sacred knowledge. They are expected to maintain a higher level of purity than other castes. They perform rituals at marriages or any other functions in their own caste and in other castes as well. They were paid in the form of cows instead of money sometimes. In the early days, they didn’t use to accept food or anything from the Shudras.
They also worked as advisers or ministers of the ruling chief of the Warrior (Kshatriya) caste. Brahmins are divided into 10 territorial divisions. Maithil, Gauj, Utkal, Kannauj and Saraswat Brahmins belong to north India while Dravid, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra and Malabar Brahmins belong to south India.
Dress
They wear a sacred thread. It is made up of three threads in a loop form and they wear it over their one shoulder going across their chest and under the other arm. The sacred thread is known as ‘Janeu’ or ‘Janai’. It is believed that the janeu wearer is born two times. First, by his mother and second, when he wears the janeu.
Color
The Brahmins are given White color.
Surnames
Brahmins were told to use ‘Sharma’

Read more about Brahmins here

Priest

2. Kshatriya

Ranking
They are considered lower than the Brahmins but higher than the Vaishyas and Shudras. They used to constitute the military elites. They were the warriors.
Duties
They got the responsibility of protecting the people and also the animals of their kingdoms. It is believed that they came from Brahma’s arms. All Kshatriyas were not only warriors, but some were kings also.
Their responsibilities were to govern their land and protect their citizens. Mahavir and Gautam Buddha, the founder of Jainism and Buddhism respectively were also Kshatriya. They are believed to be the descendants of the Sun, the Moon or the Fire. The descendants of the Sun are known as the Suryavanshi, the descendants of the Moon are known as the Chandravanshi while the descendants of the Fire are known as the Agnivanshi. There is also the Nagavansh who was started by the grandson of a king who belonged to the Suryavanshi community.

Kshatriyas
Source Pixabay


There are some duties/qualities of Kshatriya as mentioned in Bhagavad Geeta. These duties or qualities are:

  1. Fame
  2. Courage
  3. Patience
  4. Giving charity to needy
  5. To worship God
  6. To protect citizens of their kingdom
  7. To not quit a war out of fear of the enemy

Color
The Kshatriyas are given Red color.
Surnames
Kshatriyas were told to use ‘Varma’

Read more about Kshatriya’s here

3. Vaishya

Ranking
They belong to the third caste. They are believed to be higher than the Shudhras but lower than the Brahmins and the Kshatriya. Some believe that they came from Brahma’s thighs while some say that they came from Brahma’s stomach.
Duties
They were mainly traders, merchants, and businessmen. There are many sub-castes in this caste such as – musicians, metal workers, agriculturalists, sheepherders, cow herders, bakers, traders, and businessmen, etc. They were also supposed to give loans to the people. According to Bhagavad Gita, they are given the works such as protecting cows, farming and conducting business. Mostly, they are devotees of Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth).

Businessman Selling
Source Pixabay

In some early hymns, they were called Aryas or Aryans (Indo-European invaders). Their responsibilities were to sacrifice, study and help the needy by giving them food and money. They were basically responsible for providing a good standard of living to all. They were advised to donate funds to the Brahmins also. They were supposed to know many different languages so as to make their trading ways more effective. They were allowed to make profits but in good ways only and they had to donate some portion of their profit to the poor.
Color
The Vaishyas are given Yellow color.
Surnames
Vaishyas were told to use ‘Gupta’

Read more about Vysyas in this Post: https://www.hindusinfo.com/what-are-the-duties-of-hindu-vaishya/

4. Shudra

Ranking
They are considered the lowest among all the four castes. They are believed to come from Brahma’s feet.
Duties
They are generally laborers and artisans.
They were treated very badly. They were treated like servants and they used to do low-grade works such as shoemaking, washing and sweeping, etc. Some Shudras also did farming. They served all the other castes. They served the Brahmins in ashrams, the Kshatriya in their palaces and the Vaishya in their business.

Sudras
Source Pixabay

Other
It is said that when a person belonging to the Shudra caste dies, their body is taken for burial only through the south gate because all the other gates are said to be reserved by the other castes (upper castes). They are not discriminated as much as the untouchables but still, they are discriminated a lot. Due to this discrimination, many Shudras changed their religion. From Hinduism, they went towards Jainism or Buddhism.
They always obeyed the other castes, who they used to call their masters. Shudras were also allowed to enter the occupations of the Vaishyas.
Color
Shudras were given Black color
Surnames
Shudras were told to use ‘Dasa’

Read more about Sudras in this article.

5. The Untouchable or Dalit

Any person outside the caste-system is known as the Untouchable. Mahatma Gandhi used to call the Dalits, the children of God. Generally, the people involved in polluting activities such as
i) people who used to take the life of other animals like fishermen
ii) people who used to clean human urine & feces
iii) people who used to eat cattle’s flesh such as pig, chicken, etc. (these included the tribal people).
Earlier, people said that the touch of a Dalit made upper caste’s people polluted. They were not even allowed to enter the temple or to eat with a member of any other caste. Many people believe that the Shudras and the Untouchables are the same. Still, untouchability exists in some parts of India.

History

The caste system is believed to be originated in the 19th century by the Aryans. They started the caste system so that they could control the locals well and there would be a division of labor. The first two groups, the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas were fighting and struggling to rule under the Aryans and to get a higher position in society. Aryans made the third group, the Vaishyas which consisted of the craftsmen. The fourth groups, the Shudras were further divided into two groups. The first group consisted of the locals residing in the area where Aryans ruled and the second group consisted of the descendants of the locals with the Aryans.

Advantages of the Caste System

  • It brought unity among the intra-caste people.
  • Because of the caste system, arts and crafts were preserved by the craftsmen (Vaishyas) generation after generation.
  • There was a clear division of labor.
  • People used to follow the laws of their own caste and lived with harmony, without the need of the government.
  • The government started giving reservations to improve the standard of living of the lower castes who were earlier isolated by society.

Disadvantages of the Caste System

  • It led to the exploitation of the lower castes. They were not allowed to do any good grade work. They were not even allowed to study Vedas or to enter the temple.
  • It let to discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and color. Discrimination still exists in many parts of India.
  • The reservations given to the lower castes for their betterment promoted hatred for them among the upper castes.
  • Untouchability still exists in some parts of our country.
  • People are still not allowed to marry someone from a different caste which leads to ‘Honour Killing’.

The Concept of Purity and Impurity

There are many parameters that are used to consider a person’s pure or impure. The parameters include occupation, social status or way of life and human behavior.
Keeping in mind all these parameters, the Brahmins, who are intellectuals, spread sacred texts and are vegetarians are considered purer than the Kshatriyas, as they fight and also eat meat. Similarly, the Kshatriyas are considered purer than the Vaishyas and the Shuras (also the untouchables) are considered impure as they kill and eat other animals also.

The Dvija / Twice Born Concept

According to the Hindu caste system, the three upper castes, the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, and the Vaishyas are said to be born twice. The Brahmins and the Kshatriyas wear a sacred thread or janeu made up of cotton. They wear this sacred thread during the upanayana ceremony. After wearing the janeu, they are considered reborn. Only after wearing the janeu they get the right to start their Vedic studies. Like the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas also wear the sacred thread, but the sacred thread they wear is not made up of cotton. It is made up of some other material. They also wear janeu during the upanayana ceremony. Thus, they are also considered reborn and they get the right to study the Vedas. The Shudras and the untouchables don’t have any upanayana ceremony, thus, they are not considered twice-born and they don’t have the right to study the Vedas as well.

Who Belongs to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Caste?

1) Scheduled Castes

They are the people who have faced social isolation and oppression during the earlier caste system. They belong to the lowest caste among all the four castes of the Hindu caste system. Not only Shudras but also the Untouchables are included in the scheduled caste. Even after Independence, they were facing a lot of hatred and social isolation. For their welfare, there are many acts and laws in our constitution.

2) Scheduled Tribes

Many people consider the untouchables to belong to the scheduled tribe but that assumption is wrong. Scheduled tribes include the tribal communities that were nowhere in the Hindu caste system. They existed before any religion came into existence. India has the largest tribal population in the world. But among Indian caste-categories, scheduled tribes are the least in number.  In India, most of the tribes are seen in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh.

3) Other Backward Castes

They are the people who had to face social isolation and oppression earlier, but they do not belong to scheduled castes or scheduled tribes. They are 50% of India’s population. Slowly more and more sub-castes that were under the unreserved category are demanding to declare their respective sub-castes to be considered under the OBCs so that they can also get a reservation.

4) Unreserved Castes or General Category

The people who do not belong to scheduled castes, scheduled tribes or the other backward castes fall under this category. They are the people who belonged to the higher class in the early times. They do not get any kind of reservations.

 Constitutional Information

In the preamble of the Indian constitution, it is mentioned that there will be equality of status and opportunity.  According to article 14 of the Indian constitution, the constitution guarantees equality before the law and according to article 15 of the Indian constitution, no citizen should be discriminated on the grounds of caste. Untouchability was abolished back in 1950, which is mentioned in article 17 of the constitution. Section 2 of Article 15 of the constitution says, that no citizen should be subjected to any restriction or disability on grounds of caste or race. According to sections 4 and 5 of article 15 of the constitution, there is a provision to give the scheduled castes reservation in educational institutes and according to section 4 of article 16 and article 335, there is a provision in favor of scheduled castes for jobs. Under article 330, there is a provision for reservation of seats in Lok Sabha and under article 322, there is a provision for reservation of seats in State Assemblies for scheduled castes. The constitution also guarantees protection from social injustice as written under article 46.
Reference:
https://www.indiacelebrating.com/social-issues/caste-system/
http://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/social-awareness/all-are-equal

Source Pixabay

Acts Against Caste Discrimination

  1. In 1950, the Indian constitution banned all the practices of untouchability.
  2. In 1955, the parliament enacted the Untouchability Act to remove all forms of caste-based discrimination from the country. In 1976, this act was renamed as Protection of Civil Rights Act.
  3. In 1989, an act for prohibiting casteist harassment was enacted.

Current Reservation Percentages in Education and Job Quota

The purpose of reservation in India is to promote equality and eliminate all kinds of discrimination. According to the central government, the three categories, the scheduled caste, the scheduled tribes, and the other backward castes are given reservation in educational institutes as well as for jobs. The scheduled caste comprises 15% of the Indian population. 15% of seats in educational institutes and 15% of jobs are reserved for them. The scheduled tribe comprises 7.5% of the Indian population and 7.5% seats in educational institutes and jobs are reserved for them. The other backward castes comprise of 50% of the Indian population but the seats in educational institutes and jobs that are reserved for them are 27%. Recently, the Indian government announced a 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections of the society as well. The state government also provides reservation to all these classes but the percentage of reservation varies according to the population of all these categories in different states.
References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reservation_in_India
https://www.clearias.com/reservation-in-india/

Recent Posts

link to Lord Ganesh

Lord Ganesh

Introduction Lord Ganesh worshipped as the beginning. Hinduism portrays him as the retorted son of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. The external appearance of Lord Ganesha seems elephant-headed with a...