The caste system has taken roots firmly and deeply in the Hindu
Society. Mutual hatred based on castes and consequent conflicts are
also raising their ugly head. There is a widespread belief that the
Varna system is directly responsible for this state of affairs. How
far is it true? How did the caste system originate and what is its mature?
The early Vedic society seems to have been divided into two broad
groups: the 'Dvijas' ('twice born') who were capable of thinking and
acting independently, and the Non Dvijas, also called Sudras, who
could not do so. In course of time, as the society expanded,
divisions became inevitable. This division took place in
accordance with the Guna and Svabhava (qualities and
nature) of people, which again were the determining factors with
regard to the vocations chosen by them.
In the earliest period of evolution of
the Varna system, the Brahmanas and others had the full freedom to
choose or change their vocations. However, due to the practical
difficulties encountered in a fast growing society, it was not
possible to determine one's calling based on one's Guna and
Svabhava. Hence the much easier method of fixing it on a hereditary
basis was adopted.
At this point of its evolution Varna and
Jati (caste) practically got fused. Again, the number of castes went
on multiplying gradually as a result of admixture of the various
groups as also the development and specialization of more trades and
skills. Thus castes came to be
determined by birth and hereditary occupations.
The very fact that the caste system has survived for millennia shows
that there must be something worthwhile and useful in it.
Any person born in a particular
caste feels a sense of belonging to that group of society which
gives him psychological security. It also helps him to learn the
hereditary trade natural to his caste and practise it
without unhealthy competition. Endogamous marriage system unites the
members of the caste into a well knit group who can come to one
another's rescue in times of need.