Caste System

Essential Question

What are the members of the Indian Caste System and their roles?

Caste System

Ancient India in the Vedic Period (c. 1500-1000 BCE) did not have social stratification based on sociology-economic indicators; rather, citizens were classified according to their Verna or castes. Four principal categories are defined:

  • Brahmins (priests, gurus, etc.),

  • Kshatriyas (warriors, kings, administrators, etc.),

  • Vaishyas (agriculturalists, traders, etc., also called Vysyas),

  • Shudras (laborers).

Each Vhas certain duties they are required to follow, rules, conduct, and beliefs essential to their caste. Indian society was based on the four castes. When people obeyed their caste duties there was prosperity and order.

The first mention of Varna is found in the Purusha Suktam verse of the ancient Sanskrit Rig Veda. Purusha is the primordial being, constituted by the combination of the four Varnas. Brahmins constitute its mouth, Kshatriyas its arms, Vaishyas its thighs, and Shudras its feet.

Finally, the caste system has had a tremendous impact on Hindu lives. Caste dictates what job you will work, where you may live, and who you can marry. Hindus do not aspire to change their caste — to do so would violate dharma, the comsic law of right and wrong actions.

Discussion Questions

  • Who are the four members of the caste system? What are their jobs?

  • Who are the "twice-born?" What does that term mean?

  • Who are the Dalits "untouchables?"

  • Even in modern times, it has been difficult to get untouchables to pursue medical care(despite life-threatening illness). Why do you think that might be?

Activity 1: What are the different classifications of the caste system and the "untouchables?"

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities