Short Essay on various Caste Groups in India.
The caste system is the main characteristic of Hindu society. It is generally believed that caste system in India originated in an effort by cattle rearing fair skined immigrants to include the dark skined Palaeo- Mediterranean and Proto-Australoids into a composite social organisation.
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The dark skined people constituted the indigenous population of the country and had already developed an agricultural based civilization. It appears to start with that, at least the system was based on the chatur Varna the four classes of society which came to be recognised on the basis of their work or occupation. The skin complexion also played an important role in shaping the caste system in India.
Later on the caste system became extremely hierarchical and rigid encouraging high caste people to exploit toiling peasantry, artisans etc. The high caste people sometimes became parasite on the lower caste people as the latter were the actual producers and provided required services to the society. This existing position has changed a lot in post-independence period but still the caste system exists in the country which is the cause of caste conflict in rural India.
After independence due to agrarian reforms launched by the government, a big number of non-cultivating owners and the bulk of cultivating tenants have become cultivating owners. A considerable number of scheduled caste populations is being squeezed out of the village and earns its living as workers especially in “polluted” industries like leather tanning.
For the sake of the caste’s study we have Brahmins who are supposed to be on top of caste hierarchy and who are known by different names in different part of India such as the Saryuparis of Awadh, Chiptavana of Maharashtra, Chatiopadhayas of Bengal, Iyengar of Tamil Nadu and Namboodiris of Kerala.
The second group of caste is cultivating castes such as, the Jats of Haryana, the Bhumihars of Bihar, the Reddys of Andhra Pradesh and the Vellalas of Karnataka but the regional structure imposes boundaries especially for inter-marriage.
The next group of caste is toiling Scheduled Castes who are known by different names in different parts of India, such as the Chamars of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Balais of West Bengal, the Meghs of Gujarat, the Mahars of Maharashtra, the Malls of Andhra Pradesh or the Adi-Dravidas of Tamil Nadu.
In spite of its wide prevalence, the caste system is in many ways, also a regional phenomenon. The status and position of every caste group may be determined on an all-India scale of social hierarchy, but the caste group itself, in many important respects is also a regional category. Thus it is an element in the process of regional differentiation in the Social geography of India.