Caste system is an integral part of the Indian social system. It is the arrangement of people in a hierarchy of status where there is negligible mobility up and down the social ladder.
Origin of the caste system:
Caste system is very complex and complicated that is why a number of theories have been given explaining the origin of the caste system. Some of the theories are:
Racial theory- One very old and important theory about the origin of the caste system is the racial theory. Herbert Risley and D N Majumdar are supporters of this theory. According to Risley before Aryans came to India they were divided into 4 classes which came to be regarded as from different races after their settlement. Majumdar believes that after the Aryans established themselves as superior in India they became a separate race and called the defeated as the dasas and thus the Aryans the Dasas became two separate races. This was the beginning of the caste system and once this distinction started it became difficult to narrow down the gap and it still continues.
Political Theory- Some of the thinkers believe that not race but the political convenience and manipulation by those who wanted to retain authority is the basis of the caste system in India. It is said that the Brahmin who wanted to hold authority devised this system. In the words of Dr.Ghurye, “Caste is a brahmanic child of Indo-Aryan culture, cradled In the land of Ganges and hence transferred to other parts of India by brahmanic prospectors.” How the Brahmins, however manipulated is not very clear. Thus, according to the supporters of this theory it has nothing to do with religion, it is a man-made institution and creation of few for the perpetuation of authority.
Occupational theory- Nesfield is of the view that occupation is the basis of the caste system. In his view “function and function alone is responsible for the origin of caste structure in India”. Thus, he and his supporters also do not believe that the system has any religious background. According to them occupation was the basis of the caste system. In the beginning when there was no rigidity each individual was free to have occupation of his choice. But gradually with the rigidity in the system changing of occupation became difficult and caste began to come into existence on the basis of his occupation. Those who were doing noble occupations like those of educating the people, fighting on the battlefield, or traders became noble and began to be considered superior caste people and others began to be treated as those belonging to the inferior caste ,example the shudras. The former then began to enjoy social respect which was denied to the latter. The system was continued because that suited the former.
Traditional theory- Exponents of this theory believe that the caste system is not of human but of divine origin. They argue that the main four castes were created by god Brahma whereas the sub-castes came into existence subsequently as a result of inter-caste marriages, etc. Since the purpose of creation of each caste, according to them, is to perform a specific function as such because of human will these castes cannot be changed. They also believe that any change in the system could be brought about only at the cost of winning the displeasure of God.