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List of Castes in India | Caste System in India

Last Updated : 21 Feb, 2024
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List of Castes in India: In Hinduism, there are four main groups of people called castes. These castes decide what jobs a person can do, their duties, and privileges. The four castes are Brahmins, Khatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras. There is also a fifth group called Dalits, who were traditionally seen as untouchables. The holy book of Hinduism, Srimad Bhagavatam, says that these castes should be based on a person’s skills, qualities, and activities. But in real life, castes often separate people based on their birth. Even though it is been 76 years of independence caste-based issues still exist. Discrimination and untouchability, especially in rural areas and small villages, are still problems today.

In this article, we are going to discuss the List of Castes in India in detail.

What is Castes in India?

Caste means being born into a group that does specific jobs and has its own customs. In India, this system divides people into different groups, each with its own name, job, and way of life. You can not easily move between these groups, and each group is seen as separate and unique. The caste system in India started based on what job someone did and what family they were born into. It sorts society into different levels called castes, which are then split into smaller groups.

In Hindu society, there are four main categories: Brahmins (teachers and priests), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaishyas (merchants and farmers), and Shudras (laborers). But in reality, there are many more smaller groups within these categories, which we call castes in India today.

List of Castes in India

As per the Indian context, there are so many castes and sub-castes. But majorly we can divide them into eight categories. Remember that, Equality Rights (Articles 14 – 18, Indian Constitution) are the same for all and we do not have the right to discriminate against them based on this category. It is just only for the knowledge purpose and to get a view of our ancient society.

Brahmins

Brahmins are like wise leaders in society. They are usually priests who lead religious ceremonies, scholars who study and teach, or teachers who share knowledge.

Kshatriyas

Kshatriyas are like protectors and rulers. They used to be warriors who fought in battles to defend their people and ruled over lands as leaders and administrators.

Vaishyas

Vaishyas are like business-minded people. They are often merchants who trade goods, traders who buy and sell items, or farmers who grow crops to sell.

Shudras

Shudras are like workers who do various jobs. They are typically laborers who work with their hands, service providers who help others, or workers who do manual tasks.

Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables)

Dalits were once seen as outside the caste system and faced a lot of discrimination. They often did low-status jobs like cleaning or garbage collection.

Other Backward Classes (OBCs)

OBCs are a diverse group of people who have faced social and educational challenges. They come from various backgrounds and may have been historically disadvantaged in society.

Scheduled Castes (SCs)

SCs are communities that were officially recognized by the Indian government for special programs to help them. They were often marginalized and needed extra support to improve their lives.

Scheduled Tribes (STs)

STs are indigenous communities with unique cultures. They often live in remote areas and have their own customs and traditions. 

Main Features Of The Caste System In India

In India, the society is divided into different groups called castes. If a person is born into a caste and can not change it based on what you achieve in life. Within these castes, there is a strict social order. Some are considered higher or lower than others, creating a sense of superiority or inferiority. People from different castes often can not eat certain foods together or interact socially. There are rules about what is acceptable for each caste. The idea of purity and pollution is a big part of the caste system. It decides how different castes can interact with each other. People usually marry within their caste, a practice called endogamy. This keeps the caste system strong. There are clear rules that dictate how people should behave within their caste. These rules shape social life. But this should be changed.

Factors That Contributed to The Changes In The Caste System

Over time, the caste system in India has changed due to various reasons as mentioned below.

Sanskritisation

This means that people from lower castes can adopt the customs and behaviors of higher castes. By doing this, they might be accepted by higher castes and face less discrimination.

Western Influnce

Western-style education focuses more on individual achievement rather than traditional caste roles. When people adopt Western culture, they might also adopt new ideas that challenge the caste system.

Modernisation

This involves the growth of scientific, technological, and educational institutions, which creates new job opportunities. This breaks the rigid caste-based occupations.

Industrialisation and Urbanisation

As industries grow and cities expand, people have more job options and can move between occupations. Living and working together in urban areas also weaken traditional taboos, like those against sharing food.

Political and Economic Reforms

After Independence, the Indian government implemented policies like reservations in education and jobs for lower castes. These reforms aim to address past discrimination and provide equal opportunities for all.

Caste-based Discrimination in the Present Times

Discrimination and prejudice are still happening even though we are trying to stop them. Here are some reasons as mentioned below.

  • The rules meant to stop discrimination are not enforced well. Discrimination based on caste can also be hard to notice because it is not obvious.
  • Lots of people do not really understand the caste system and how it affects people. Because of this, they might not realize when discrimination is happening or know how to stop it.
  • If you are poor and do not get a good education, it can make things worse. People from lower castes might not have many opportunities and might face more discrimination because of it.
  • Some people still have unfair ideas about castes. They treat people badly just because of their caste. This unfair treatment is called as discrimination.

Constitutional Provisions to Eradicate Caste-based Discrimination

Here are the major Constitutional Provisions as mentioned below.

Articles

Provisions

Article 14

Equality before law

Article 15

Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

Article 16(2)

No citizen shall on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for any employment or office under the State.

Article 17

Abolish the practice of untouchability and made it a criminal offense.

Article 23

Prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour.

Article 46

Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections.

Article 51A

It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.

Article 330

Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People.

Article 332

Reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Article 338

National Commission for the Scheduled Castes.

Article 338 A

National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes.

Article 338 B

National Commission for Backward Classes.

Article 341

The President specifies the castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races, or tribes be deemed Scheduled Castes in relation to that State.

Conclusion – List of Castes in India

The caste system in India is still a big issue. Despite some efforts to fix it, discrimination continues because laws are not always followed, not everyone knows about it, poverty makes things harder, and some people still have unfair beliefs. To make things better, we need to keep working on education, awareness, and treating everyone equally, no matter what caste they are from.

Read More

Role of Castes in Indian Politics

Fundamental Rights in Indian Constitution

B.R.Ambedkar and his Contribution

Caste Based Census in India – History & Impact

Caste System is Assuming New Identities and Associational Forms

FAQs – List of Castes in India

What are the 7 castes in India?

These four castes are the Brahmins (priests, teachers), Kshatriyas (rulers, warriors), Vaishyas (landowners, merchants) and Sudras (servants), and the 5th group is the group of the untouchables, called Dalits.

How many castes are in India?

The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation. Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots – the Dalits or the untouchables.

Which caste is no 1 in India?

The highest caste within the General Category is Brahmin, historically the priests and other religious leaders who also served as educators. Just 4% of Indians today identify as Brahmin.

What is SC ST and OBC in India?

The Indian Constitution, which came into effect in 1950, provides for affirmative action for the upliftment of disadvantaged groups, including Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Which is higher SC or ST?

There is no such provision which identifies either caste as higher than the other. Both castes have been officially mentioned in the Indian Constitution.

Is SC bigger than OBC?

OBCs are the most dominant group when compared to SC/STs. But no matter what the differences are, the process is the same when it comes to applying for the same certificate.



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