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The caste system of Hinduism and its significance
Ancient Hindu texts observed the individual self as the immortal pure essence of each and every being. All human beings are positioned in the all embracing Brahman or the Absolute, often linked with cosmic dimensions of the entire cosmos. The Hindu people have a great devotion for Brahman and their place in the caste system and the inherent duties to God and society are important components to their existence and spiritual fulfillment (Rosen, 1996, p.14). Human beings are divine, each being endowed with the reason of awareness, sacrifice and obedience to the Divinity of life. This translates to every Hindu bears a responsibility to adhere to their respective and Brahman given caste, society and family, and to consciously sustain the purity of their eternal soul.
As a fundamental unit of Hinduism, the caste system is said to date back to the Aryan invasion of India from then Persia. This complex social hierarchy of the caste system was introduced and implemented to facilitate the subjugation of conquered natives. The caste system model bears the principle that human society is a complex machine, with the community and individuals as its parts (Irapta, Duka, 2005, p.61). Each individual has an assigned role and function. With each individual rank and performing required tasks, the society’s functionality is enhanced. This is done not for individual fulfillment but for the fulfillment of the Hindu society as a whole.
Everybody has a single code message within, or a set of rules, which dictate what, is fair and proper for them in Hindu religion. This determines an individual’s social class, birth, gender, and personality (Singh, 2005, p.29). From the embodiment of Purusha, who as first man in Hindu religion had the priest caste for a mouth, warrior’s caste for his arms, merchant caste for his thighs and the serf caste for his feet, thus is the nature of the caste system. Every individual caste is naturally encoded in the body, determining gender, or personality (Phadnis, Ganguly, 2001, p.23). Women were not allowed at sacrifices, they were regarded as impure and a source of pollution. Each caste fulfils it traditional function for the good of the entire society. The particular caste in which a life is ranked, in part depends on the relative level of impurity determined by a castes traditional contact with impurities such as menstrual flow, dirt, leather and dung were considered impure (Shama, 1999, p.90). Limitations of the level of contact among castes were observed to inhibit relative purity of a particular caste from pollution from a lower caste.
The rigidity of the caste system turned out to be a disadvantage to the Hindu society resulting in major failures for the Hindu armies. In the hierarchy of the caste system, warriors were the only class allowed to bear arms and defend the Hindu communities (Pruthi, 2004, p.54). The warrior class had limited resources in numbers therefore could not handle enemies effectively. Lower castes were not permitted to bear arms and upon defeat of the Warrior class, the enemy had won. The invaders had an easy time infiltrating the Hindu community with no chance of meeting a second line of defense (Jones, 2009, p.41).
However, in present day Hindu society, the caste system has diminished in its importance. College students have adopted a liberal train of thought; youth in the upper class castes have changed views in regard to religion and marriage, this trend is as a result globalization.
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Pruthi, R. K. (2004). Indian caste system: culture and civilization series. Discovery Publishing House.
Rosen, G. (1996). Democracy and economic change in India. University of California Press.
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Singh, E. (2005). Caste system in India: A historical perspective. Gyan Books.