Notes on the origin of Caste System in India



Several social thinkers’ philosophers and scholars have tried to find out the origin of the Caste System in India. Several researchers have also been made but so far no definite and concrete proof is available on the basis of which the date of the origin of the caste-system may be enumerated or pointed out. Indian Caste System is very complicated.

Its complexity is evident from the fact that after a century of pains taping and meticulous research in the history of functions of social system, we do not process yet a valid expiation of the circumstances that might have contributed to the formation and development of this unique system.

In order to lie down or point out the origin of the caste –system, several theories have been advanced. Some of the important theories that try to establish the origin of the Caste System are-

1) Traditional theory 2) Political theory 3) Religious theory 4) Occupational theory 5) Evolutional theory 6) Racial theory 7)Cultural integration theory 8) Man theory or theory of man.

Let us take all the theories one by one and discuss them a bit in detail:-

1) Traditional theory:

According to this theory members of different castes were born out of different parts of the body of the original man Brahma the creator of the universe. According to this theory Brahmins were born out of mouth, Kshatriya out of the hands, Vaishyas out of stomach or things while the Sudras out of feet. According to the different functions of the body these castes have to perform the function accordingly.

This theory receives a classical interpretation in the account of Manu. His accounts rest on this assumption that the self-existent created Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra from his mouth, arms, thighs and feet. According to this theory, after these castes, different sub-castes were born as a result of different types of marriages permitted in ancient India. The sub-castes are the results of different systems of the marriages.

Criticism of the Traditional Theory:

i) It is only a supernatural theory not based on reality ii) Base on divine origin iii) Ideological.

2) Political theory:

According to this theory the caste system is the result of the political conspiracy of the Brahmins to earn superior most places in the society and also have control over the functions of the society. This theory was originally pro-pounded by French scholar Nibey Dubais. Amongst Indian thinkers, Dr. Ghurey has also said something in support of this theory:-

3) Religious Theory of the Origin of the Caste System:

According to this theory, the caste system has grown out of religious customs; traditions, sanskars etc. In ancient India, the king or the ruler was recognised as the representative of the god and religion. Since he was the representative of the religion, those who were connected with the religion were given higher position. Different people had to discharge different functions for the administration of the ruler. Those functions later on were responsible for origin and creation of different castes.

Supporters of this theory also put forward the view that caste system has grown out of the restriction on food habits taking food with different people and groups of people. Originally there was no restrictions on taking food or inter dining. People worship different gods and those who worship common god thought themselves to be the sons of common ancestors. Later on, worship of different gods to treat but with people who worship some other god. This laid foundation for the Caste System.

4) Occupational Theory:

This theory was originally pounded by Nesfield, who said that occupation is the main base of the theory of the caste-system. Some of the occupations are considered superior while others are considered inferior and so, on the basis of the superiority and infirmity of these occupations, the followers of these occupations were considered superior and inferior.

As a result of this, caste-system was born. He has, in support of this theory that ancient Indian Brahmins alone do not come as Purohits. Kshatriyas also take to this task. All those who carried out functions of the Purohits were considered superior. As a result of the complications of the religion customs and traditions, Purohits had to take to specializations. Thus all those, who knew this specialised takes were considered Brahmins and superior to others.

As the time is past, they organise themselves into a group and called themselves Brahmins. Similarly follows of other occupations also organised them into a group or a class and so the system of Caste or Caste System developed. Nesfield reconginesed functions as slow basis of Caste System.

5) Evolutionary Theory:

According to this theory, the caste system like other social institution has originated as a result of the process of the evolution. Originally the people were engaged in different occupations and they had their own organisational set up. Men of one occupation could take to another occupation. Later soon with this mortality was stopped and these occupational groups become closed groups. The Caste System came into being.

Denzil Ibtson has further pointed out that originally man laid a nomadic life. Latter on agriculture and there after the industry came into being. This group about the development of the economic life and the rural in order to purpose his economic policy had to divide the society into the various groups based on occupation. These groups on order to maintain their prestige and status, clashed with one another.

As a result of these structural, the class of the Purohits become vitreous and they not only established their supremacy but also established the practice of the endogamy other groups also followed sent and so different castes came into being.

6) Racial Theory of the Origin of the Caste System:

It was Sir Herbert Rosely who for the first time in his book. The people of India “propounded this theory, in which he has recognised the importance of the racial element. He has said that two factors a) Racial deficiencies and b) Endogamous marriage have been responsible for the development of the Caste System.

Different castes were born out of the mixture of these groups anti classes. As a result of the struggle of different racial groups endogamous groups were born. They tried to maintain their racial and cultural purity and also maintain their unity. As a result of this, divine occupations were fixed for these different classes and later on the caste system developed.

7) Cultural Integration Theory:

According to this theory Caste System is the result of the mingling and interaction process of mingling of the cultural characteristics. This theory was propounded by Professor S.C.Rai who said that every race his own characteristics. In this respect he pointed out that Indo-Aryans had the characteristics. In this respect he pointed out that Indo Aryans had the characteristics of born system and the concept of curve while Dravidians had the born system and the pre-Dravidians had the characteristics of the concepts of the self.

All these characteristics got influenced as a result of coming together of these races and some institution of caste system developed.

8) Manu Theory or Theory of Many:

It was professor Hutton, an authority on the study of Caste System who propounded theory. According to professor Hutton, the caste system was present in India even before the Aryans came. Aryans made it more clear in putting themselves over the above everybody. He has further said that even today in India. There certain places where every village is an independent unit and all the inhabitants of that village follow the same occupation. A clearly proves that the caste system was present even before the Aryans came to this land.

In order to clarify the restrictions regarding the eating he took recourse to the theory of Manu. According to him Manu is a power which is to be found in every object and which enters another person or object because of the contact or touch. It gives good as well as bad results.

That is why we suffer from the fear of touching or coming in contact with strangers. This feeling is present amongst the Nagas even today. Thus according to Hutton the main origin and development of the Caste System is the occupational division and the feeling of the people to put certain restrictions on certain things.

These theories give the view of different scholars and social thinkers in regard to the development of the Caste System. In fact caste system is not the result of one factor or two factors. Several factors are responsible for its origin and development. It is neither solely social nor religious. Similarly it is neither based on occupational division nor on racial factors. As Hutton has pointed out, it is based on several factors.

It is urged that the Indian caste system is the natural result of the inter action of a number of geographical, social, political, religious and economic factors not elsewhere found in conjunction.