Describing the Traditional Caste System in India

The caste system was a system of social stratification in India, and some areas connected with Hindu culture such as Nepal, that divided people on the basis of inherited social status. It was a division in the society that was arranged in a hierarchy according to occupations and family lineages. Hindu caste system recognized four different classes among people based on these criteria and rigidly enforced it through a code of conduct that was specific for each class.

A person’s caste or class was inherited from the parents and passed on to offspring.

It dictated the occupation, choice of partner or spouse, and many other aspects of a person life. People within a specific caste were expected to interact with people of the same social class and movement into different caste was not allowed.

There were four main castes into which every single one was categorized. At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins, which comprised the priests, scholars and the philosophers.

They were the people who studied the Vedas (book of knowledge in ancient India), performed rites and rituals and spent their lives pursuing knowledge and preserving their traditions. They were the elite people in the Hindu society and acted as the middlemen between gods and men. Next to the Brahmins were the Kshatriyas.

They were the ruler and warrior class and traditionally acted as the protector of the people. They also studied the Vedas and they dispensed justice to the entire Hindu community. They were concerned with the defense and overall administration of their society.

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The third highest caste was the Vaishyas. These were the traders, merchants, and people involved in agricultural production. They studied the Vedas, and were allowed to perform and participate in certain vedic rituals but they were not allowed to marry people of higher caste.

The lowest caste was the Shudras. They were the labor class, whose only function in the Hindu society was to serve the other three castes. There was one other group of people below the Shudras with no caste at all and they were called the Chandalas or the untouchables. They were considered untouchables because of their unclean habits, the menial jobs they performed, and the gory religious practices they carried out. The people of higher caste believe that if they touch the Chandalas, they would be contaminated and would need to go to a cleansing ritual.

The Hindu religion played a very important part in maintaining the structure of the caste system although the system itself was not born out of religious teachings. Hinduism teaches the cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation, in which a person is reborn into a new form after death. The way you live your life today, will determine your fate during your reincarnation and if you live a good life, you’ll get a better lot when you are born again. The caste system fits well into this religious teaching. People of the lower caste believed that when they live a faithful and good life, they could be reborn in a higher caste in their next life.

Although it teaches inequality and discrimination, the caste system might have been very useful during the ancient times, but does not fit into the principles and morals of today’s society. Nowadays, we still see people separate or group themselves but in a way that highlights equality and fairness. The video program talked about, separation or grouping based on shared interest, age, lifestyle, gender, social class, and division of labor as well as political functions. Despite some similarities of this separation with the caste system, it is interesting to note that the separation that the society is experiencing at the moment, values equal treatment to each individual no matter which class or group one belongs to.

A good example of separation, given in the video program, that we see in our society today is separation based on age grade, which is a level of organization in a group of people based on the attainment of a specific age. We see this in schools where children are grouped together in a classroom based on their age.

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Describing the Traditional Caste System in India. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from

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