An Overview of the Hindu Caste System
However, when one looks at their class system from a purely religious standpoint, you discover that the class system is not abusive in itself, and that the abuse that may take place comes from aspects of humanity outside their religious practices. Sanatanadharma breaks down society into four classes (Varnas), and the untouchables.
The Rig Veda contains one of the most famous sections in ancient Indian literature in which the first man created, Purusa, is sacrificed in order to give rise to the four varnas. The varna of Brahmans emerged from the mouth. They are the priests and teachers, and look after the intellectual and spiritual needs of the community. They preside over knowledge and education. The varna of Kshatriyas emerged from the arms. Their responsibility is to rule and to protect members of the community. They are associated with rulers and warriors including property owners. The varna of Vaishyas emerged from the thighs. They are the merchants and traders and those who look after commerce and agriculture. The varna of Sudras emerged from the feet. They are the laborers.
The Hindu believed that it is the will of God to separate people into their respective classes. The caste system leads to the isolation and exploitation of the weak classes of the society by the upper privileged classes, since the Hindu religion and traditions view poverty and their respective social classes as the will of God.
After independence in 1948, the Untouchable caste was abolished by law although not in custom and actual social practice, while all persons were declared equal citizens before the law regardless of caste. To be sure, the caste system continues to exist in reality, especially in rural India, and influences many areas of social and economic life, although it remains incompatible with the ideas of a modern, democratic society.
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