Change is universal law of nature. This law of nature has been prevailing from the primitive period till now. Since Caste System is a social institution, its aspects are naturally changed. In the modern age, many changes happen in the features and functions of Caste System. Modernisation has deeply influenced Caste System. Therefore, it is gradually losing its rigid and conservative principles. The changing aspect of Caste System in India is discussed below:
1) Declined superiority of Brahmins:
In the social hierarchy of Caste System, the Brahmins occupy the top-most position. They are recongnised as superior caste till now, but their predetermined importance has been declined. The Brahmins cannot impulse their dignity and importance on other castes, as it was in ancient days. Today, in various industries, government offices and other occupational institutions efficiency of the people is given more priority that birth.
Though Caste System had established the importance of Brahmins, yet the importance is on the process of steady decline. As a result, the caste status of Brahmins is declining. They cannot enjoy their high social status as a dominant caste unlike in ancient days.
2) Changes in the Restrictions regarding social habits:
In the past, Caste System had imposed certain restrictions on social habits such as food, drink and intercourse. But modern education, transportation and communication have brought a radical change in those restrictions. Though, Caste System has existed today, yet its restrictions on social intercourse have been declined. The member of different castes sits and eats together. The sense of purity-pollution is gradually disappearing among them.
3) Changes in the Restrictions regarding Marriage:
The introduction of inter-caste marriage is one of the major changes in Caste System. Inter-caste marriage was strictly prohibited in the Hindu Society in ancient times but now-a-days, the spread of western education, cultural changes and female education has declined all restrictions of marriage within the caste. Inter-caste marriage destroys the backbone of Caste System. Indian Parliament also encourages inter caste marriage by implementing many Acts.
4) Changes in the Restrictions regarding Occupation:
In the past, a particular occupation had been fixed for every caste. The members belonging a particular caste had no specialty in selecting occupations. They followed the determined occupation from birth of death. Now-a-days, the members of Shudra caste are established in higher post in government offices and the Brahmins works as their sub-ordinate employees. After independence the Government has abolished the occupational restrictions through law.
A person of any caste can follow any capacity. It is clearly noted that changes have taken place in occupational restrictions to some extent.
5) Changes in Caste Structure:
In ancient period, the structure of caste was closed and rigid. There were different customs, traditions, folkways and mores for different castes. These rules and principles were so closed and rigid that the lower caste people could not even touch the shadow of the higher caste people. But now-a-days the structure of caste has become open and flexible.
6) Change in Caste Status:
The caste status was determined in the past. Caste System gave social status to its members on the basis of birth. For example, Caste System placed Brahmins in higher social status and gave lower social status to Shudras. But now-a-days, a radical change has taken place in the social status of Shudras and other lower castes as a result of speedy scientific and technological progress. Besides birth, wealth, power and genius determine the social status of the people.
The lower caste people gradually adopt the customs, rites and beliefs of Brahmins. They follow the life style of Brahmins and try to develop their social status in caste hierarchy. Prof.M.N.Srinivas called this process as ‘Sanskritisation’. The higher caste people on the other hand, adopt the principles of Western civilisation on their food, clothing, shelter and behavioral pattern. It is called as ‘westernisation’.
7) Change in conditions of Lower Caste:
Lastly many changes have taken place it the conditions of lower caste people. In the past, the condition of the lower caste people was very pitiable. They had no rights in the society. The lower castes were oppressed and neglected as Harijan Castes. But due to the direct attempt of Gandhiji, quick development has taken place in their conditions. Gandhiji lovingly called them as the people of God.
Now-a-days the Harijans get much more opportunities than other castes. The Government has brought a quick change in their conditions by legislating different Acts. They are given priority in education and services and seats are reserved for them. The lower caste people are given equal rights and opportunities in social, economic and political spheres almost like higher castes people. As a result of this, the condition of lower caste people has been quickly improved.