Caste System plays a very important role in traditional India. It has certain merits. Following are the important functions of Caste System in traditional India.
1) Determines social status:
As caste is based on the principle of birth, an individual, by virtue his birth of in a particular caste automatically becomes a member of it and gets, by ascription, the traditional status of that caste in society to take an example, a Brahmin occupies the highest position in Hindu Society not because of his extra ordinary qualities or achievements, but because of his birth in a Brahmin caste.
2) Provides social security:
Besides the psychological security in the form of a fixed social status, caste offers social security to the individual from his birth to death. It provides him with an occupation, acts as a trade union, a benefit society, health insurance and also provides for his funeral, if it in needed.
3) Guides the individual’s behaviors:
Caste, like any other social institution, guides the behaviors of the individual by providing ready made behaviors patterns in matters like diet, ceremonial observances, and rituals at birth, initiation, marriage, death etc.
4) Preserves culture:
Every society must be able to pass on its patterns of skill, knowledge had behavior in short, its culture from one generating to another generation, if it is to survive as a distinct social system. Caste system is specially fit for such a task of handing over cultural patterns from one preceding generation to the other succeeding generation with little change, because craft secrets and caste customs are zealously safeguarded and perpetuated by the occupational castes.
5) Integrates society:
Castes System has acted as an effective means of integrating the diverse racial, religious national and ethnic groups into a vast variegated community. Caste System is capable of incorporating any group be it racial, religious, national or occupational in such a way that it becomes a part the social whole and yet retains its own distinctive character and identity, it is for this reason that Furnivall has described India as “an outstanding instance of a country”, “where” a plural society has proved stable.”
6) Establishes stability in society:
Caste System has also been responsible for the stability in society. It saved Hindu Society from being disrupted under the pressure of alien invasions, famines and upheavals of all kinds in her long history. Hindu society has proved stable because it is family based on Caste System, which survives even conversion to Islam or Christianity. For example, we have Muslim castes like the Momin, Jolaha, Lakhani, Gaddi, etc.
7) Brings political stability in society:
Caste system has acted as a political stabiliser in the country. It served as a constitution for the Hindus. Abbe Doubois considers Caste System of Hindu as “the happiest effort of their legislation”. He praises the system “as being responsible for the preservation of India from complete barbarism and as a sure basis of orderly government, as decency against despotism and as a means for preserving the arts and as a sure means for preserving handy pattern of culture under the regime of alien conquerors.”
8) Serves as a device for division of labour:
Caste System has altered as a unique system of division of labor in Hindu Society. It has made provision for all functions ranging from education to scavenging. The provision is made under a religious dogma namely the belief in Karma which makes the apparently inequitable division of labour acceptable to people. The present position and occupation of a person in the society are the consequences of his actions in his previous lives and that if he performs his caste duties faithfully in this present life, he will have a better position in his next life.
9) Maintain the purity of blood:
It is said that Caste System has served as a method for preserving the purity of blood. Caste System by its insistence on endogamy prevents hybridization and thereby maintains pure line.
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