Castes are forms of social stratification characterized by endogamy (marriage within the group), hereditary transmission of a lifestyle that often includes an occupation, status in a hierarchy, customary social interaction, and exclusion.
Such groups have sometimes been compared to races, for reasons such as endogamy, possible ancestry differences, possible natural selection differences, and possible genetic differences. Such argued genetic differences have been argued to have contributed to the persistence and influence of the caste system.
"Caste one of the hereditary social groups of India," 1610s from Portuguese casta "breed, race, caste," earlier casta raça, "unmixed race," from Latin castus "cut off, separated" (also "pure," via notion of "cut off" from faults), past participle of carere "to be cut off from," from PIE *kas-to-, from root *kes- "to cut." Caste system is first recorded 1840. An earlier, now-obsolete sense of caste in English is "a race of men" (1550s), from Latin castus "chaste."
India was according to the Indo-Aryan migration theory invaded/colonized by Indo-Europeans (Indo-Aryans) in ancient times. They established a caste system which is still holding. The four principal castes (Varnas) are: Brahmins or the priests/scholars, Kshatriyas or the rulers/warriors, Vaishyas or the pastoralists/traders, and Shudras or the workers. There are also the Dalits or the "untouchables".
Varna (caste) means "color". According to one origin version in Hindu religious texts, "Brahmins Varna was white, Kshtriyas was red, Vaishyas was yellow, and the Shudras' black". This has been interpreted as race related.
The Indo-Aryans were not the first invaders/colonizers. The Dravidians, associated with the Indus Valley civilization, were also invaders/colonizers who largely displaced earlier groups, who may have been related to the Australoids. Today, there are "tribals" who live in isolated areas and who are outside the caste system. The tribals may be the descendants of early groups who were never conquered by the Indo-Aryans (and perhaps not by the Dravidian invaders either).
In addition to these large groups, there are thousands of Jatis. Each Jati typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe. Under the Jati system, a person is born into a Jati with ascribed social roles and endogamy, i.e. marriages take place only within that Jati.
Affirmative action policies involving the caste system have been implemented.
Different castes/groups have been argued to differ on characteristics such as average IQ. See the "External links" section.
Castes in other countries
While the Indian caste system is the most well-known, castes also exist in other countries, notably in those where the country, or a specific group in the country, has a culture similar to India.
Groups similar to Jatis have been argued to exist in some Muslim societies, including in India.
See also the article on Gypsies on argued ancestral relationships to castes.
More generally and historically, foreign conquers of an area have sometimes implemented systems argued to have similarities with the Indian caste system.
- Caste https://www.etymonline.com/word/caste
- How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/how-genetics-is-settling-the-aryan-migration-debate/article19090301.ece
- Bamshad, Michael; Kivisild T, Watkins WS, Dixon ME, Ricker CE, Rao BB, Naidu JM, Prasad BV, Reddy PG, Rasanayagam A, Papiha SS, Villems R, Redd AJ, Hammer MF, Nguyen SV, Carroll ML, Batzer MA, Jorde LB (June 2001). "Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations". Gnome Research 11 (6): 994–1004. doi:10.1101/gr.GR-1733RR. PMID 11381027. Retrieved on 2007-09-09.
- Hart, M. H. (2007). Understanding human history: An analysis including the effects of geography and differential evolution. Washington Summit Publishers.