CASTE SYSTEM

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its about the indian caste system

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SOCIAL (HISTORY)

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GURU SHREE SHANTHIVIJAY JAIN VIDYALAYA THE CASTE SYSTEM IN INDIA

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GUIDED BY MR. RAJA RAMAN. G

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DONE BY YATENDRA. N SIDDHARTH. A

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INTRODUCTION

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Since the great majority of Indians are Hindu, the caste system has played an enormous role in the history of India, and it continues to exert tremendous influence on modern Indian culture and politics. "Caste" is the term used to describe the complex system of social divisions that pervades life in India. Caste is an ancient hereditary system that developed alongside and became intertwined with Hinduism. Caste determines whom a person can marry, specifies what kind of work he can do, and even controls what he can eat or touch. Social and economic divides still exist across India

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The word caste comes from the Portuguese word castas , meaning "pure." This Portuguese word expresses one of the most central values of Indian society: the idea of ritual purity. In India, however, the word varna , or "color," denotes the fourfold division of Indian society. The word varna may have been used because each of the four castes was assigned a specific color as its emblem.

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BEGENINING OF CASTE SYSTEM

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The most widely accepted theory is that the four basic divisions of the Hindu caste system—the varna — developed in the period 1500-1000 B.C. as a result of the Aryan conquest of India.

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The earliest known mention of caste is found in the Aryan’s Vedic hymns, perhaps dating from about 1000 B.C.E. In a famous passage, the metaphor of the human body was used to describe Indian society. The brahman , or priestly, caste represents society's head; the kshatriya , or warrior, caste are its arms; the vaishya caste—traders and landowners—are the legs; and the sudra caste—the servants of the other three—are the feet. This metaphor stresses the idea of hierarchy as well as that of interdependence.

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CASTE AND DRAMA

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In Hindu religious texts, the dharma—the law, or duty—of each varna is described. It was thought that this dharma was an inherited, or inborn, quality. Consequently, people thought that if intermarriages took place, there would be much confusion as to the dharma of the next generation of children. As a result of such concerns, marriage between different castes was strictly prohibited. The practice of marrying only a person of "one's own kind" is called endogamy and is still a central rule in many Hindu communities.

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UNTOUCHABLE

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Inevitably, there were certain people who failed to live up to their caste dharma. Such people and their children were considered outcasts from Hindu society. They had to live apart from other castes and were given the jobs that no one else wanted to perform. Because of their contact with things considered unclean or polluted,

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the outcasts were believed to be deeply tainted. They came to be thought of as "untouchable" because people believed that their touch—or even the sight of them—would compromise a brahman's purity. The untouchables were not admitted into Hindu temples and instead formed religious sects of their own.

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After India became an independent nation in 1947, its new constitution outlawed the practice of " untouchability ." The constitution also established affirmative action programs to ensure that the scheduled castes would have access to higher education and better jobs. Because of these programs, there has been a marked improvement in the status of the scheduled castes.

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HARIJANS OR SCHEDULED CASTES

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Over the centuries, they also organized into sub-castes much like those of orthodox Hindu society. In the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi made it one of his life's goals to bring the untouchables back into Hindu society. He renamed them the harijans , or "children of God," and tried to convince orthodox Hindus to admit them into their temples and their everyday lives.

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However, other leaders doubted that upper-caste Hindus would ever treat the harijans as equals. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar , a distinguished scholar who had been born an "untouchable," was a leading spokesman for this view. He used the term scheduled castes when referring to this group, for he believed that the term harijans was demeaning. The scheduled castes, he said, should withdraw from Hinduism altogether and join another religion, such as Buddhism, which does not recognize caste distinctions.

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THE RESERVATION SYSTEM

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In 1950, the writers of independent India's Constitution adopted a policy of reserving jobs in the government and seats in state-funded educational institutes for the "scheduled castes and tribes," as the people marginalized by the caste system were then known. India sets aside 22.5% of its government jobs for the lowest castes, and an additional 27% for what are called the other "backward" castes, the next step up in the caste system.

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Sparks flew in spring 2006 when the Indian government pushed to extend the same quotas to university admissions. Students took to the streets of New Delhi to protest the plan. (Currently, out of the 36,000 undergraduate seats at Delhi University, nearly 8,000 are reserved for lower-caste students. Today an estimated 36 percent of the population falls under the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) category, the group receiving the new reservations.) Medical students at a top university protesting the new proposal

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IS IT FAIR

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India’s constitution guarantees “equal rights.” Article 14 says that the state gives to every person “equality before the law” and “equal protection of the laws.” Article 15 prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, etc. Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, etc.

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At the same time, the constitution provides for a “reservation system.” Article 46 says “The state shall promote with special care the education and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.” Respond: Does India’s reservation system contradict (go against) her constitution’s promise of “equal rights”?

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