The stratification of four-fold caste is based on the following principles:
(1) Unchangeable status based on birth;
(2) The gradation of professions;
(3) Restriction on marriage outside one’s own caste.
In brief, in Hindu social system caste system is a mode of social stratification. In it, individual status is somewhat hereditary. Membership of a caste is confined to those who are born members. The Caste System, Joint Family System and Rural Life are often seen as the three basic pillars of Indian society. Caste is a hereditary group which does not permit social mobility for its members.
Caste is used both a unit as well as a system. As a unit, caste is defined as a closed-rank status group, i.e., a group in which the status of members, their occupations, the field of mate- selection and interaction with others is fixed. As a system, it refers to collectively of restrictions, namely restrictions on change of membership, occupation, marriage and commensurable social relations.
In this context, there is presupposition that no caste can exist in isolation and that each caste is closely involved with other castes in the network of economic, political and ritual relationships. The closed rank group feature of caste also explains its structure. The caste system which we find in India has all the peculiarities of Indian social system.
Caste is closely linked with Hindu Philosophy and religion, custom, tradition, marriage and family, food and dress habits. It is believed to have a divine origin endlessly supported by rituals and ceremonies.
The term ‘Caste’ is derived from Spanish sword ‘Caste’ which means breed or lineage. The word caste also signifies ‘race’ or ‘kind’. The Sanskrit word for caste is ‘varna’ which means colour. It is also called ‘Jati’.
Varnas are four in number and the castes run in thousands. Caste, according to the Indological perspective, originated due to the division of labour. Gradually, castes become more and more rigid and membership and occupations became hereditary. The Indologists further argue that since castes are divine, these will continue to exist in future also.