3 Important Perspectives of Indian Caste System

In the Indological-religious perspective, the exponents take their cue from the ancient scriptures and present their views on the origin, purpose, and future of the caste system. They hold the view that Varnas originated from Brahma and castes emerged as fissional units of the varna system.

The origin of Castes came due to the need and development of division of labour in the society. Brahmins were given the superior position in society because of their knowledge of scriptures and a belief in the divine right of Brahmins to interpret and administer rules in accordance with the dictates of ancient, divine and revered scriptures.

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(B) Social-Anthropological Perspective:

The Social-anthropologists like Ilutton, Risley, Krober and several others adopt a cultural perspective for explaining the origin, meaning and nature of Caste system. Their perspective takes four major directions: organizational, structural, institutional and relational.

The organizational and structural perspectives of Hutton consider caste as a unique system found in India. Structural aspect of caste explains that caste is a general from of stratification.

The structural view upholds the view that stratification is a universal reality and caste is therefore an aspect of reality.

(C) The Institutionalist Perspective:

The Institutionalist Perspective does not favour the view that caste is relevant only to India. It takes into account the presence of caste in ancient Egypt, Southern United States and some other societies.

The Relational perspective accepts the presence of caste situations in army, business, factories and some other social units, where a form of caste divisions are identified which are either present till today of have become almost obsolete.

The sociological perspective views caste system in terms of social stratification of society and as a hierarchical system of social inequality. The culturalogical view understands caste in terms of ideas of pollution, purity and notions of hierarchy, segregation and corporateness. It views castes as a distinct phenomenon.

Some scholars view caste as a ‘closed system’ of social stratification. Others consider it both closed and open. As a ‘closed system, caste has an ‘organic’ character in which different castes depend upon each other for the fulfilment of various socio-cultural and economic needs. Bougie (1939) defined caste as ‘an endogamous and hereditary sub-division of an ethnic unit occupying a position of superior or inferior rank or social esteem in comparison with other such subdivisions.

Bailey and Srinivas avoid the problem of giving a definition of caste. They view castes as structures. Ketkar, Suit and Opler also follow this line and instead of defining caste give the inductive characteristics of the caste systems.

According to Ketkar, “Caste is a social group having two features: (i) Hereditary membership, and (ii) Endogamy”.

Krober identifies Caste as “an endogamous and hereditary sub-division of an ethnic unit occupying a position of superior or inferior rank in comparison with other such subdivisions”.