The Indian Caste System
- Unique caste system:
→exists only in India
→plays an important role in the Indian society
→Affects the lifestyle and the education
- Only the Hinduism follows this system
- Also Called as Varna: term to classify a large, generalized caste system
- Discrimination because of the caste is against the law
- Split in 5 groups (castes)
- Caste:→ A group of people having a specific social rank and debates back to 1200 BCE
- Elaborately stratified social hierarchy
→Distinguishing India's social structure
→Indian term for "Caste": Jati
About the Jatis:
- Arranged in hierarchical order
- Fit into one of the four basic varnas
- Size:From a handful of many thousands
- Each Jati has own rules
- Highest rank in the system
- Only Priests, masters and teachers of sacred knowledge → (called veda)
- The highest class in the society → Work performed with intellect
- Main purpose: teach mankind
→ people believe they were born for the mouth of Brahma
→ Brahmin priests were engaged in attaining the highest spiritual knowledge (Brahmavidya) of Brahman (God)
- The original name → Rajanyas
- Warriors and rulers
- Influential in the government and other official/national posts
- Much power/influence in everyday life
→ their decisions could be overruled by the Brahmins
- skilled farmers and merchants
- work in shops/traders
- occasionally have leadership positions in local villages
- considered as "twice-born"
- Second birth entitles them to participate in specified sacraments
→ Gives them access to sacred knowledge
→The Kshatriyas, Brahmins and Vaishyas are the three special varnas
- workers, day laborer, servant, farmers, cobblers, blacksmiths, maids etc.
- most menial jobs
- not the same rights as the higher Castes
- Caste is too low to touch the twice-born
→ Forced to use different temples and public facilities
- foreigners, lawbreakers, people from isolated tribes and people suffering from contagious diseases
- work as sweepers, washers etc.
- live outside the Caste System
→ Today they are also called "the Untouchables" or "Outcastes"
- were hired to do the disliked jobs
→ forbidden to enter temples, schools and wells
- The caste system still creates many problems within the
rising population of poverty
→ The Indian government attempted to give financial aid to those that earn less than a certain amount of money
→ People can put their kids back to school
Here you can watch a good video as a summary of the Indian Caste System: click the link below
The Caste System in Slumdog Millionaire (-> Social differences)
The gap between rich and poor is shown in a very exaggerated way. On the one hand, there is the slum life in extremely poor circumstances and on the other hand there is upper class life.
In the book as well as in the film the contrast between Indian lifestyles in the caste system gets clear.
Jamal/ Ram represents the poverty in India. His own caste is unknown but during the story one can conclude that he belongs to a lower caste of the Indian society: He lives in the slums in Mumbai, he works as a waiter in a bar, he servers for rich people (Neelima Kumari, Taylor family), he has no education.
Because of the fact that the upper classes have more rights they feel superior over the lower classes. In the book/film this gets clear by the torture of the police officers in jail. Moreover, the qui master makes fun of Jamal's/Ram's job and his life. This is a good example for the gap of the social ranks.
Living standards in the Indian society:
Upper class → Apartment house/mansion:
spacious, contemporary, tastefully furnished (expensive), wall-to-wall carpets & paintings, many large rooms, servants, privacy, no contact to other people (isolation, loneliness), robbery, superficial life
Lower class → Chawls/slums:
No running water, no electricity,anonymity, many rumours, thin walls, violence, tiny rooms, social contact, administrator who cares, "black hole", everyone knows about everything, common roof/bathroom
This is comparable with the scene in the film "Slumdog Millionaire" where Latika, Salim and Jamal as children are on the garbage dump in the Indian slum when Maman comes and picks them up.
This is comparable with the houses of the rich people in the film/book "Slumdog millionaire" (Neelima Kumari, Taylor family..).
Here you can see a typical Indian city and the separation of rich and poor: