The term caste (the Portuguese casta: pure, unmixed), which is of Western and non-Indian origin, combines two different and sometimes competing in Indian society concepts: the varna (वर्ण, color), socio-religious caste of Hinduism related to the practice of Ahimsa, global non-violence, and jati (जाति, birth), socio-professional caste considered by the Indians as their social security system and a factor enabling representative democracy. The caste system divides the Indian society into different categories of people with different functions and duties.
According to most sociologists, although there are hierarchies in all societies, the caste system is peculiar to India.
The system of socio-professional caste (jati), based on birth, exists in modern India. However, discrimination in the caste system is now theoretically prohibited by the Constitution of India.
The caste system in India is defined by:
- hereditary specialization,
- the line organization,
- mutual repulsion.
The modernization of Indian society tends to blur the separation of people, although it remains high in rural areas where still lives the majority of the Indian population, and among the poorest segments of the population.
The caste system has been strongly opposed by many Indian reformers and the most famous of them is Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, editor of the Constitution of India and himself untouchable Mahar before converting to Buddhism. It was theoretically abolished and discrimination is prohibited by Indian law.
However, be aware that the varna (socio-religious caste) never coincides with the socio-economic prosperity: in the highest socio-religious caste of India, that of the Brahmins, 53% of the community lives in Brahmans below the poverty line (having in their possession the least possible amount of material goods) is a traditional Hindu value for only Brahmins.
In India, since independence in 1947, all citizens are theoretically equal. Breaking with an old system of three millennia by uneven nature 50 years ago, India made, in fact, a revolution. However, the caste system was simply regarded as non-existent, and has not been abolished or declared illegal. Indeed, many Indians, like Gandhi, are very attached to their culture, that is to say, to Hinduism and caste, which they consider consubstantial. The destruction of the caste system for many would be simply the destruction of India.
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