“We divided ourselves among caste, creed, culture and countries but what is undivided remains most valuable: a mere smile and the love.”

- Santosh Kalwar

 

The Hindu caste system is one of the world’s oldest forms of social stratification.  It determines the social positioning, work, and duty of Hindus, and divides them into rigid hierarchical groups. The system has existed for centuries, dating back to one of the most authoritative books on Hindu law, written at least 1000 years before the birth of Christ: Manusmriti.

At the top are Brahmins, considered to be teachers, priests, and the most respected and privileged caste. Then come the Kshatriyas, who are warriors and rulers, followed by Vaishyas who are designated farmers, traders, and merchants. At the bottom are the Shudras who are one of the least respected groups, and are given the task of labourers. Even below the Shudras, however, are the Dalits, or “untouchables” who are heavily discriminated against.

The system was extensively exploited by European colonialists. They used it as a tactic to divide and control the Indian people, self-assuming their role at the top of the caste system. This made the people easy to govern, and gave the British cultural legitimacy, who set strict boundaries restricting social mobility, and only preferring the already powerful, and rich Brahmins, whom they could exploit for their own gain.