It is clear that the class system is a function of the total culture; social classes are rarely to be found in the lower primitive barbaric societies. As material goods increase in volume however conditions become more favourable for the creation of class.
As culture grows, so does division of labour, this likewise fosters the development of social class, since the different degree of social prestige attached to different-occupation of the later can be transmitted from parents to children.
While a higher development of material culture is favourable to the growth of social classes. The situation is not uniform on any cultural level.
Hindu Society is divided and subdivided in castes and classes. While telling, caste from class, Ogburn and Nimkoff write, “In some societies it is not uncommon for individuals to move up or down the social ladder where this is the case the society is said to have “open classes.” Elsewhere there is little shifting, individuals, remaining through a life time in the class unto which they chanced to be born. Such classes are ‘closed’ and if extremely differentiated constitute a caste system. “When a class is somewhat strictly hereditary” says Colley “we may call it a caste.”
Although evidence of caste are to be found in many parts of the world; the most prefect instance is not doubt that exists in our country. Here we find a social organization. At the top is the Brahmin or priestly caste. Below it m rank, comes Kshatriya or warrior cate, next comes the Vaishya or agriculturist and mercantile class; and then the Shudra or artisan and labouring caste. These castes in turn are divided and subdivided into hundreds of sub-caste. Finally, there is the group outcastes.
Although history of this system is not clear. It seems that in the beginning, class lines followed occupational lines but were not sharply drawn. The first influence towards a caste system was supplied by the organization. The Shudra class is mainly composed of the descendents of the conquered natives.
As the priestly influence grew in our country, complicated rules of ritual and conduct were built up and incorporated into the religious books of Hinduism especially effective in sharpening class lines with the idea. According to this view, individual’s caste is determined by his previous life. Therefore to accept his present status with grace; but he may if he likes look forward to a promotion in the next life. This religious ideology has made it exceedingly difficult to effect any far raching modification in our caste system.
An individual’s caste rather definitely fixes his role in life. It determines not only the work he will do for the group within he will marry; but his very routine of his daily conduct whether born as a Brahmin or a Shudra will perform his only.
In our country caste-restrictions are very harsh. If anybody tries to violate the caste rule or traditions, he is punished severely through an institution, of Panchayat. The highest punishment of Panchayat can give is to outcaste the member but in the case of an ordinary crime the Panchayat may ask the guilty to give dinner to the members of the caste. Sometimes Panchayat may send the guilty for ‘Ganga Snan’ so people can not dare to break caste rules. Thus the caste system works as an effective means of social control in our country.
Caste societies are relatively closed, however in the most rigid social structure shows some mobility, that is movement up and down the social ladders wee this not so it would be difficult to account for the hundreds of sub-caste which are to be found in our country.