Indian Caste System
Caste is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one of the hereditary social classes in Hinduidm, which is also a division in society based on wealth, inherited rank, or occupation, and allows little mobility out of the position to which a person is born. The word caste was first used by 16th century Portuguese traders; it is taken from the Portuguese word casta. Varna, the word for caste, means color and referring to the old racial differences between conquerors and conquered. The basis of the caste divisions was social and economic rather than racial.
The origin of the caste system can be traced back to the Later Vedic Phase in Indian history (1000-600B.C.) when society came to be broadly divided into
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One of the main characteristics of the caste system is that one is born into a particular caste and cannot adopt a caste. Thus, now a person born into a chamar (shoemaker) caste remains a chamar though he might be a shopkeeper or clerk. Also, some jobs are still done, even in urban households, by people belonging to a certain caste. Another important characteristic of the caste system is caste endogamy. Endogamy is when people strictly marry into the same caste. The Indian caste had hereditary membership, and marriage was only permitted within the same caste. There were restrictions on the choice of occupation and on personal contact with members of other castes. Finally, the caste system was broken up greatly during the period of British rule in India. Many things have changed over the years. Long before the arrival of the British, new religions and reform movements within India attacked the caste system. Buddhism was the first to do so in the 6th century B.C.. It is not known how much of an effect Buddhism had on the caste system as a whole. The caste system was next challenged by the Muslims. As a result of Muslim rule, the system divided into more groups. Next came the British. The first effect that the British had on the caste system was to strengthen it, for the British gave the Brahmans back special privileges the Muslim rulers had taken away. On the other hand, the British law courts did not agree that the