Caste System: Meaning, Features, Causes, Effects, and Solutions
Caste system can be defined as a social structure according to class of people, which gets decided by their birth. For example: A caste system makes you poor if you are born in a poor family.
Caste system is a hereditary classification of people in a society. The status of a person gets pre-determined in a caste system.
The social stratification that categorize people into different groups called ‘caste’ is usually based on your family tree. This system is known as caste system wherein your social status gets decided by birth. No matter what you grow up to be, your birth caste does not change.
Caste system started with social categories that were determined by people`s job specialization. The caste system in ancient times grouped people of the same profession under one class or ‘caste’. This structured social categorization is termed as caste sytem.
Being born into a certain social category is what will further decide the person`s way of living, social customs and job opportunities. This is the definition of caste system. The origin of caste system might have been based on either religious beliefs or certain historical influences and is usually believed to be a combination of multiple factors.
The following are the distinctive features of a caste system:
Hereditary: Caste system is a hereditary phenomenon. Even though this sounds unfair in modern society, the very base of caste system was decided by birth. Being hereditary, a person`s caste is not under his control and is something that is pre-determined even before his or her birth. In ancient times, if you were born in a farmer`s family, the society caste system dictated you to grow up to be a farmer. This system is thus seen as a rigid one, where a person`s choice and desire was restricted/suppressed.
Occupational: Caste system was primarily meant to categorize the society on people`s job specialization to prevent intermingling between different segments of the society. The whole point of ‘dignity of labor’ was defied in the practice of caste system. People with meagre jobs were looked down upon whereas the people with high-paying jobs were worshipped.
Social division: Cast system divided the society into various segments. It aimed to group people of similar statuses together. There was to be a clear segmentation between the rich and the poor and people were to limit themselves only within their castes. From marriage to socializing, inter-caste interactions was not encouraged and any bifurcation from this norm was seen to be a punishable offense.
Inequality: The caste system preached inequality among people. People were categorized into high and low castes and treated differently in the society. The hierarchy of the castes was decided by their professional and family history. While high caste people enjoyed every possibly liberty, people from lower castes were treated miserably by the higher caste ones.
The following are the causes of Caste System.
Division according to job specialization: A sweeper (Shudra caste) was segmented as low-caste according to the job description. This is a typical example of the caste system categorizing people according to their job specialization.
Segregation depending on job capability: Caste system determined your social status by your ability of doing a job. People with a certain job capability were judged by their professional ability. For example, a locksmith was considered of lower caste than a business person.
Retain hereditary based profession: Caste system dictated people`s career choice. One was expected to follow the path of their ancestors and stick to their hereditary based profession. An uneducated cleaner`s child did not have the liberty to get educated and pursue any other profession other than that of a cleaner`s.
Desire to gain power: The so-called ‘higher caste’ people wanted to gain power over the lower strata people in a caste system. The whole purpose behind the introduction of caste system was a game of gaining power in the society. The rich and well-to-do people of the society wanted to rule over the weaker sections of the society.
Feel superior over others: Caste system allowed people of higher caste to have a sense of superiority over people of lower caste. The castes that belonged to the lower part of the hierarchy ladder were treated as inferior beings by those at the top.
Gain control over others: When there is inequality in the society, the strong and superior tend to control the weak ones. This is law of the Nature and the caste system gave all the liberty to the powerful to exploit and control the poorer ones.
To enhance status in society: Human beings are status hungry and always want to outrun each other in the society. Thus, the caste system segregation allowed people to retain their social status over generations. Once you are born into a higher caste family, your entire clan is destined to have a ‘higher” social status, in the practice of caste system.
To create fear among social groups: Caste system centered the power among certain castes of the society, who would continue to create fear among the lower caste people. High caste section people were meant to rule over the low-caste people, who were supposed to live in fear of the former.
Need for financial, economic and social security: The economic angle plays a big role in the instilling of the caste system in the society. Once segregated, the caste system allowed people of higher castes to retain their financial and social security over lasting generations. The entire family tree was safeguarded against any social crisis.
Limiting marriage and future generations within superior sects: Caste system strictly restricted inter-caste marriages. Caste system aimed to preserve the ‘purity” of higher castes and strongly restricted and invasion from the lower caste genes.
The effects / impact of Caste system have been discussed under the following headings.
Lack of Freedom among people: Caste system had some serious effect on the freedom of people. Since all rules restricted people to practice everything intra-caste, stepping outside your caste and socializing with people was not allowed.
Undemocratic imposition: Caste system went against the democratic rights of people. Keeping the country`s democracy aside, caste system expected people to abide by the caste segregation laws. Since the rules of the society were enforced by the high caste people, the low-caste members did not have a go-to place to protest for their democratic rights.
Prevalance of social Inequality and untouchability: The practice of untouchablility was born solely due to the introduction of caste system. The sense of superiority that came among the people of high caste, thanks to the hierarchy of caste system had widespread inequality in the society.
Drastic impact in equality of Economic conditions: The socio-economic conditions was unequal due to the practice of caste system. The wealth accumulated within the higher castes whereas the lower castes were doomed in eternal poverty.
Lack of professional & business opportunities: Caste system did not allow swapping professions among different castes. As a result, a person born in a low-caste did not have any open professional opportunity. Also, there was no novelty in jobs, people just blindly inherited their professions, which killed the creativity in the professional and business front.
Rigidity in society rules: Caste system did not allow any flexibility in society rules. The caste system rules that were established were extremely rigid and there was no leeway provided for offenders. Straying away from the rules and regulations was not an option and any rebels were severely punished.
Widening of gap between high caste and low-caste people: Caste system created a wide rift between the high and low cast people. This was done purposely so that the high caste people become more powerful and influential in the society.
Limited or restricted Social growth: Caste system preached a unidirectional movement. Open-mindedness was not encouragement. As a result the social growth became restricted. People were not allowed to go beyond their restricted reach and thus their growth was pre-determined and limited by their castes.
Child marriage: Caste system also encouraged child marriage, so that there are lesser chances of inter-caste union. Adults may stray away from the caste system rules and marry outside their castes. Thus, children were married before they could make a decision of their own.
Threat to general peace & society stability: Caste system always threatened the peace and stability of the society. Inequality always gave rise to discontentment and anger. Low caste people with suppressed rights always looked for chances to revolt against the rules of the caste system.
Social Fragmentation: Caste system gave rise to a divided society. Unity was not preached in caste system fragmentation. Intermingling between castes was uncommon and it created a permanent distance between inter-caste relationships.
Favoritism: Caste system also gave rise to partiality and favoritism. High caste people were chosen over low-caste ones in every aspect.
The following are the solutions/ control measures aimed at solving the problem of Caste system.
Spreading literacy and increasing Education: Education can abolish caste system. Educating people about their democratic and moral rights will make them see through the evils of the caste system. Women`s education is also important to prevent them from getting exploited.
Industrialization especially in rural areas: This will increase unbiased job opportunities for people even in the rural areas. To break the caste system, it is important to increase the employment rate. Industrialization will also modernize the society with a cosmopolitan population.
Measures to preach and promote equality: It is important to preach and promote equality among people in a society. Any irrational practice should be shunned by people in unison once they are aware of the exploitation that they are subjected to.
Willingness of the masses to abide with government initiatives: Social campaigns should be organized to make people government friendly. Supporting and working with the government will help them attain social equality and reject illegal social systems like caste system.
Promote inter-caste marriages among people: Inter caste marriage should be promoted among people. This way, the caste system walls will automatically be brought down.
Bringing up children to treat everyone equally: Children should not be taught about caste system so that they grow up feeling equal to all their peers. Children should be pushed to mingle with everyone around them without any social segregation.
Urbanization of villages: Bringing about urbanization in villages will influence the minds of villagers and help them break away from social evils like caste system. Backward villages should be developed to help village people experience the urban sense of freedom.
Spreading modernization: Modernization by itself defies ancient rules and regulations. Thus, spreading modernization in a society inflicted with injustice will help the people fight for their rights.
Making the people aware about cons of caste system: People who are the victims of a caste system should be enlightened about the cons that a caste system brings with it. This way, they will realize their limitations and work towards breaking free from the society defined bondage.
Promote intermingling of people: People should be encouraged to socialize with each other irrespective of their pre-defined caste. This will free them of the restrictions of a caste system and give them the social liberty that they deserve.