India has a rich and vibrant history. One can easily trace the building of the modern Indian society by following certain historic events and also the ancient practices that laid the foundation for the present Indian society. One such ancient practice that has found its way into the contemporary times is the caste system. Though not as stringent as in the earlier times, the society is definitely functioning under a well-pronounced caste system. It is this caste division that makes people aware of their status, responsibility and role in the society.
In the Past…
The history of the caste system can be traced back to the time when civilization came into existence in India. Even though the caste division was primitive and not very intricate, it laid the foundation upon which a more complex caste system was to be built. In ancient times, there used to be a leader who took decisions for a community or a group of people and they were supposed to abide by it. With time and due to growth in the size of the community, the leader appointed helpers and gave them designations. Work was divided among various sections of the society and people were given specified roles to function in the society.
The Hindus particularly had a stringent caste system. It was divided into four broad categories namely - Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The top most slot in the society was occupied by the Brahmanas and they were given the power to set rules for the society, do religious tasks, educate people and do things that learned men do. They were the messengers of Gods and people did not dare to defy them. The Kshatriyas were basically the protectors of the society. They belonged to the warrior class and excelled in warfare, use of weapons and knew how to use artillery efficiently. The Vaishyas were the basically merchants and traders, who excelled in finance and commerce in the society. The last slot went to the Shudras who were usually ostracized from the society. They were employed to do menial jobs like cleaning garbage and were regarded as untouchables.
The Contemporary Times
Though one finds the segregation in the Indian society even today, it has now taken a very subdued form. People from any caste can do any job. A person from a low caste can take up any job he/she likes. There are no inhibitions about it anymore and people have become tolerant towards each other’s social identities. Though there may be some clashes now and then, the caste system is not as stringent as it used to be. Those belonging to the lower caste have been finding much support and their living standard is being uplifted in the society.
There are a lot of improvements in the living conditions of the people belonging to lower castes. The government has given them many subsidies and has framed policies that make them explore different opportunity areas that would eventually lead to their growth and up-liftment. Untouchability has been done away with in modern India and they have been accepted as a part of the society. With the acceptance of inter-caste marriages to a large extent in the Indian society, we are witnessing a surge of acceptance and tolerance in the Indian society.