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Will it exist in India of tomorrow?
A sociologist would define caste as a hereditary, endogamous, and usually
localized group having a traditional association with an occupation and
a particular position in the local hierarchy of caste. Relations between
castes are governed among other things by the concept of purity and pollution,
and generally commensality occurs within the caste.
In the above definition it is assumed that a caste group is easily identifiable
and that it does not change its social boundaries which however are not
true. A caste is usually segmented into several sub-castes and each sub-caste
is endogamous. Traditionally, caste was the smallest group which constituted
the unity of endogamy and the identity of this tiny group stood out sharply
against other similar groups. All the members of this group pursued a
common occupation or a few common occupations and this group was the unit
of social and ritual life. During the last 60 years or more, however,
the linkages between groups have become more and more significant, and
the strong walls erected between the sub-castes have begun to crumble.
Certain other factors have also been significant in the context: the greater
mobility brought about in the British rule, the movement to the cities
for higher education and employment, urban cosmopolitanism and westernization.
In the case of the lower castes, which were also more rurally oriented
than the higher, political factors have been responsible for the weakening
of the barriers between the sub-castes
The point which has to be emphasized here is that for the purposes of
sociological analysis a distinction has to be made between caste at the
political level and the caste at the social and ritual level. The latter
is a much smaller unit than the former. The policy which the British adopted
of giving a certain amount of power to the local self
Governing bodies and preferences and concessions to the backward castes
provided new opportunities to the castes.
There is indeed a wide gulf between castes as endogamous and ritual units
and the castes-like units which are so active in politics and administration
in modern India. But between these entities there is not only connection
but much communication. Village level leaders cultivate ministers for
privileges and varieties of favors and the ministers in turn need the
help of village leaders during elections.
Every society has a structure of its own but the structure as is seen
by the indigenous inhabitants is not always the same as the structure
which the sociologists infer from the data which M.N. Srinivas has collected.
The sociologists have tried to perceive the complex facts of the caste
system in terms of Varna. According to Varna, caste appears as an immutable
system where the place of each caste is fixed for all the time. But if
the system as it actually operates is taken into consideration the position
of several castes is far from clear.
Concentration on Varna also meant stressing the attribution or ritual
factors in mutual caste ranking at the expenses of economic and political
factors. The idea of Varna was on the one hand the result of preoccupation
with Ancient Indian Literary Material and on the other hand it led the
scholars back to the same material.
The two social processes i.e. Sanskritization and Westernization are linked
processes in modern India and it is not possible to one without the reference
to the other.
Sanskritization is both a part of the process of social mobility as well
as the idiom in which mobility expresses itself. When there is Sanskritization,
mobility may be said to occur within the framework of caste, whereas westernization
implies mobility outside the framework of the caste. This should not be,
however, taken to mean that highly westernized individuals are completely
free from any attachment to caste.
Sanskritization can also occur independently of the acquisition of political
and economic power. In such a case, however, it will not help the particular
caste to move up.
Dominant castes have played an important role in either advancing or
retarding Sanskritization. Dr. D.F. Pocock and Dr. A.C. Mayer have mentioned
the existence of two models which other castes have imitated, viz, the
Brahmin and the Kshatriya. The Brahmanical model was naturally more favorable
to Sanskritization than the Kshatriya model.
In villages within the radius of a few miles from Delhi live Brahmins
whose style of life resembles that of the locally dominant Jats. Even
in the villages of South India, Brahmins resident in villages dominated
by the non-Brahmin peasant castes tend to borrow the speech, style of
life and values of the latter.
In the rural India, while the Brahmanical mode of life has undergone some
modification in the direction of that of the locally dominant caste, the
culture of is undergoing a change in the direction of Sanskritization.
While the influence of the locally dominant caste may spread over a few
villages or a tehsil or district or state, the process of Sanskritization
has acquired prestige all over the country during the last 100 years or
more. Brahmins were able to be agents of Sanskritization in rural areas.
Even when they are cut off from regular contacts with the centre because
Brahmanical life was dominated by the ritual.
The main aim and objective behind this term paper is to find out whether
the caste system would exist in India of tomorrow or not or is it likely
to exist in future.
I also wanted to know about the mental setup of the people regarding the
caste system. What they think about it and do they practice caste system
in each and every perspective of life?
Another aim of this term paper is to find out what they think that is
caste system an important factor regarding marriage or not. Are they willing
to give their son or daughter in marriage to the girl or boy belonging
to other caste if their expectations of a perfect bride or groom are fulfilled?
I also wanted to know that according to them caste system should exist
in the future or not and will the upcoming or the new generations practice
the caste system in future as their parents are practicing today. All
the above description forms the whole perspective of my topic which I
have named my work as “CASTE SYSTEM”: Will it exist in India of tomorrow?
In order to make my work more affective I have prepared certain questions
which also includes their age, caste and Varna. The questions are as follows:
1. Is caste system an important factor regarding marriage?
If yes, why and if no, why?
2. How much do you think caste is important in one’s life?
3. Do you believe in inter-caste marriage or intra-caste marriage and
4. If your expectations regarding a perfect bride or groom are fulfilled,
will you give your son or daughter in marriage to them even if they come
from different caste?
5. What do you think, caste system should exist in
future or not and Why?
6. Is caste system likely to exist in India of tomorrow?
7. Do you think that the upcoming or the new generations would practice
caste system as their parents are doing today?
CASTE IN INDIA OF TOMORROW
M.N.Srinivas was asked two questions. Firstly, that should caste exist
in India of tomorrow? Secondly, are they likely to exist in India of tomorrow?
He considered the former question first.
He said that in this country a small minority who are merely powerful
desires caste system to go out. For the bulk of people living in rural
area, caste is a collection of kin groups and nothing more than that.
He also said that a vast majority of people do not consider caste as an
evil and that the small minority sees caste as a menace or threat to our
Most of us, not only our politicians but our intellectuals as well bamboozled
into agreeing with something merely because we are afraid to be mistaken
for being ‘reactionary’. Even discussion of the subject is taboo. In the
case caste this disease has proceeded so far that there is a great danger
that our talk and policy will leave reality far behind. Secondly, coupled
with the widespread fear of being dubbed a reactionary there is also a
shrewd if somewhat cynical appreciation of facts. Agreeing to progressive
resolutions satisfies our consciences and assures us of our worldly prospects,
while at the same time our sense of facts tells us that nothing serious
is going to be done by anyone, and that caste will continue to remain
as it is.
The principle of caste is so firmly entrenched in our political and social
life that everyone including the leaders has accepted tacitly the principles
that, in the provincial cabinets at any rate, each major caste should
have a minister.
Caste is an institution of prodigious strength and it will take a lot
of beating before it will die. The first lesson to be learnt here is not
to underestimate the strength of your ‘enemy’.
The giving of the vote to the Harijan is also a crucial measure. In the
legislative assemblies, Caste Hindus will be increasingly on the defensive,
as they will not have the courage to come out against measures to improve
the conditions of the Harijans.
Now he considers the second question. “Are caste likely to exist in
India of tomorrow?” To answer this question there must be a reference
to the past.
A feudal type of society prevailed when the British overran India. Only
a tiny section of people lived in the few cities scattered over the sub-continent
while the vast majority lived in villages. Relationships between individuals
and groups were not governed by contract but by status. Relationships
were also ‘multiplex’ – the same people were involved in several kinds
of relationships. Barter was widespread and important while money played
a minimal part. Relations between chieftains and between them and the
king or viceroy were always unstable, and frequently characterized by
The political system erected nearly impassable barriers between one chiefdom
and another. This had many important effects one of which was that it
prevented the horizontal spread of caste solidarity beyond the chiefdom,
and forced the many castes of a region to be interdependent.
At the village level caste were not only interdependent but acutely aware
of the fact, and annual grain-payments made to the Smith, Potter, Barber,
Washer man and Priest dramatized the interdependence. While each caste
had its own solidarity, it was also aware of its solidarity with other
castes. Loyalty to one’s village was universal, and this was common to
all the castes from the Brahmin to the Harijan. It is necessary to point
out here that the Harijan occasionally exercised authority over the members
of the upper caste and this was especially true of south India.
The warring chieftains prevented the extension of ties beyond the region
though here and there we find that the Brahmins were considered superior
to these political cleavages because of their position as priests. The
‘bottling up’ of caste ties within the region, and the derivative emphasis
on interdependence of all castes living therein, was an important feature
of the pre-British system.
The horizontal solidarity of a caste gained at the expense of the vertical
solidarity of the caste of the region. The last 100 years have seen a
great increase in caste solidarity, and the concomitant decrease of a
sense of interdependence between different castes living in a region.
Certain additional factors have helped to increase horizontal solidarity
as well as the tensions existing between different castes. The virtual
monopoly which the upper castes, if not the Brahmins, exercised over the
new jobs induced the British to start favoring the low castes. Educated
members from different castes competed for jobs in the government, and
there were more men than jobs.
There are also signs that Harijans are organizing themselves to assert
the rights which the constitution gives them.
Industrialization and an expanding economy will mean jobs to educated
people and this should minimize the bitter inter-caste hatred which is
now poisoning relations between individuals and groups. Co-education is
bound to make inter-caste marriages more frequent in future.
On a short term basis, the country is likely to have more trouble with
caste, while on a long term basis, adult franchise, the industrial revolution
which our Five-Years Plan are helping to bring about, the spread of literacy
and higher education among the lower castes, the legal rights given to
Harijans, the privileges given to the backward castes, and the greater
Sanskritization of the way of life of the latter, should gradually remove
the more obnoxious features of the caste system.
CASE STUDY ANALYSIS
CASE STUDY – 1
Mrs. Anuradha Bhattacharjee, 63, is a housewife who belongs to the general
caste and is a Brahmin has provided me with innumerable information regarding
my topic which has helped me a lot to develop the perspective in this
regard. According to her caste system is a very important factor regarding
marriage because it would reflect in the blood of their next or further
generations and that caste plays a very crucial role in one’s life. When
she was asked that which type of marriage she believes in i.e. inter-caste
marriage or intra-caste marriage then her answer was intra-caste marriage
because she said that if one goes for inter-caste marriage then after
marriage it can never strengthen the bondage between the bride and the
groom in future. But she also said that if her expectations regarding
a perfect bride or a groom are fulfilled then she might give her son or
daughter in marriage to the girl or a boy belonging to the other caste
provided the partners mental setup should match with each other. She also
expressed her view regarding the existence of caste system in future that
the caste system should exist in the India of tomorrow since it is an
important pillar of our religion. She thinks that the caste system is
likely to exist in the future because the general people of our country
are still rigid though she is not at all sure about it that whether the
upcoming generation would practice caste system in future or not.
CASE STUDY -2
My second case study includes a lady of 45 years who is a teacher by
profession and belongs to the general caste. Her view is different regarding
the caste system. According to her caste system is not an important factor
regarding marriage because she thinks that it is an existing dogma which
retards our social existence and upliftment. She also stressed that caste
system has nothing to do with one’s life rather it does not play a crucial
role in one’s life. She gives preferences to inter-caste marriage because
it can help in the unification of our society which is divided into narrow
domestic walls. She would also give her son or daughter to the bride or
groom coming from other caste if her expectations of a perfect bride or
groom is fulfilled because for her caste is a man-made barrier which has
nothing to do in match making. Finally, she expressed her view that since
this the 21st century and is the age of science and technology, reason
reigns supreme not superstitions or dogmas and so she thinks that caste
system should not exist in future. She also mentioned that since the upcoming
generation will not further practice caste so the caste system is not
likely to exist in the India of tomorrow.
Mr. Manik Sengupta, a retired APMG, age 63, belongs to the general caste
and is a Baidya. According to him caste system is an important factor
regarding marriage because it through an indelible impact about social
status, culture etc. of a family and he also said that caste is very important
in one’s life. He believes in both inter-caste marriage as well as intra-caste
marriage because the compelling circumstance is rapidly changing the social
values. According to him if he finds a bride or a groom to fulfill all
his expectations then he has no objection to give his son or daughter
in marriage to the bride or a groom belonging to other caste. He feels
that caste system should remain till the social values or commitments
like education; unemployment is improved in the society. But he also says
that the caste system is likely to exist in India of tomorrow though in
his view the upcoming generation would not practice the caste system in
future as their parents have done.
CASE STUDY- 4
Debabrata Bhattacharya, 37 and a lawyer by profession belongs to the
general caste and is a Brahmin. He thinks that caste is not an important
factor regarding marriage because marriage is the attachment of two different
soul and caste can never be a part of a soul. He also thinks that caste
is not an important factor in one’s life. For him marriage a holy celebration
which combines two different mankind into a single bondage for good and
as far as it remains ok, then inter-caste marriage or intra-caste marriage
would just be a word for him. Although he is single as of now, but still
from a father’s view, he would have only one expectation and that is that
his son or daughter should live happily with her or his soul mate and
that cast does not matter to him. According to him caste system should
not exist in the future because it always holds back our mind while crossing
certain boundaries that can help us to broaden our own thinking process.
Indian people and mainly he village people are too rigid about this caste
system but he thinks that this caste system should be abolished from our
society in future because he does not think that the upcoming generations
would practice caste system in future.
Mr. Rajib Chowdhury, 43, belongs to the general caste and is a Kayastha
said that caste is not an important factor regarding marriage because
marriage depends on two individual, their likeness, faith, opinion etc.
and that caste is not at all important in one’s life. According to him
caste is not an essential factor for marriage and so he believes in inter-caste
marriage and regarding his son’s or daughter’s marriage he has no problem
if the bride or the groom comes from different caste but the main thing
is that he would give stress on his son’s or daughter’s judgment and likeness
only. According to him caste should not exist in future since it is an
obstacle for the overall development of the country. He stressed that
caste system is not likely to exist in India of tomorrow and that the
upcoming generations would not practice caste system in future as their
parents are doing today.
Mrs. Mitalee Sengupta, 58, housewife belongs to the general caste and
is a Baidya said that caste is a very important factor regarding marriage
because it strengthens the bond between the spouse and balances the mental
setup between them. She is a supporter of the caste system and said that
caste system play a very important role in one’s life. She opposes inter-caste
marriage and supports intra-caste marriage because she thinks that in
intra-caste marriage happens then the mental status or the social status
doesn’t matches with the opposite partner but if she finds a perfect bride
or groom for her son or daughter who fulfills all her expectations then
she would not have any objection even they come from different caste.
Further she also said that caste system should exist in India of tomorrow
though it is likely to disappear since the new generations are not willing
to practice the caste system.
The last case study of my topic includes a lady, Mrs. Soma Chowdhury,
35, who is a private tutor, belongs to the general caste and is a Kayastha.
For her caste is not at all an important factor for marriage because marriage
is based on mutual understanding, adjustment and faithfulness and so there
is no question of caste. For her literacy and culture are more important
in life than caste. She is in support if the inter-caste marriage because
in this way only exchange of true culture is possible. Regarding her son’s
or daughter’s marriage, she would only guide them to choose the perfect
bride or groom and that caste or religion both is immaterial for her.
She stressed that caste should not exist in future. In order to be mentally
united, this meaningless system of caste must be abolished. She also thinks
that the caste system is likely to exist in India of tomorrow because
it is not that easy to abolish such a deep rooted system but to some extent
it would be less effective because the upcoming generation will not practice
caste system in future and will try their level best to overcome this
On the basis of the entire case study, I found that the people belonging
to the age group between 35-55 years are against the caste system and
the age group between 56-60 years and above are the supporters of the
caste system. The former category that caste system is an existing dogma
which retards our social existence and since we are living in the 21st
century, so it is the age of science and technology where reasons reign
supreme and not superstition. They think that caste system is not at all
an important factor regarding marriage because marriage is an attachment
between two souls and caste can never be a party of a soul. They also
supports inter-caste marriage because they help in the unification of
our society which is divided into narrow domestic walls and also makes
the exchange of new cultures possible.
Whereas on the other hand, I found the people belonging to the age group
between 56-60 years and above, are the staunch followers of caste system.
They think that caste system is an important factor regarding marriage
and also is plays a crucial role in one’s life. They said that caste system
is very essential because according to them caste makes the bond between
the bride and the groom strong and that it also balances the mental status
between them. It also has an immense impact on the social status, culture
They also expressed their view that caste plays a very important role
in one’s life and that they do not believe in inter-caste marriage but
intra-caste marriage because intra-caste marriage has been practiced for
a long period of time even by their and so they cannot stop practicing
the caste system. Apart from that only intra-caste marriage helps in the
balancing of mental setup which inter-caste marriage can not.
Thus, from the above discussion we can finally conclude that 57.14% against
the practice of caste system who think that caste system is an existing
dogma which retards our social existence and since we are living in the
age science and technology so reason reigns supreme and superstition whereas
on the other hand 42.85% are the supporters of the caste system. For them
since caste system is an age old practice so one should not stop practicing
it. They also think that caste system should exist in the future and they
are also likely to exist in the India of tomorrow because it is not so
easy to abolish such a deep rooted system though they believe that the
upcoming generation or the new generation would not practice the caste
system as their parents have done.
• Caste in Modern India and Other Essays by M.N.Srinivas.
• Caste System in India: A Historical Perspective by Ekta Singh.
• Caste System in India by Ramesh Chandra Sangh
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