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Social Structure in traditional India


Hinduism The Ancient Caste System Social Structure in traditional India – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Social Structure in traditional India

HinduismThe Ancient Caste System
  • Social Structure in traditional India

Traditional Hindu Society
  • In traditional Hindu society,
  • Each person had a certain social position in life
  • All life was arranged as a hierarchy, from
    highest to lowest
  • Performing good deeds and following their
    assigned code of behaviour determined whether
    people had earned the right to be born at a
    higher level
  • Source World Religions A Canadian Catholic

Traditional Hindu Society
  • These traditional beliefs were expressed in Hindu
    societys division into castes.
  • Roles, jobs, social standing, and religious
    structures were organized according to the
    hierarchy of castes.
  • Source World Religions A Canadian Catholic

How Caste Shapes Society
  • Rigid, hereditary membership into birth caste
  • Marriage only among member of same caste
  • Occupation choices restricted
  • Personal contact with other castes restricted
  • Acceptance of fixed place in society

Traditional Hindu Society
  • The caste system is said to have come to ancient
    India around 1500 BCE, with the Aryans. The caste
    system had four groups priests, defenders of the
    realm, business people, and farmers.
  • More recently, another caste developed the
    Untouchables or outcastes. This is not a part of
    Hindu philosophy and counter to the spirit of
  • Source World Religions A Canadian Catholic

Caste Systems Benefits
  • Members of a caste rely on each other for support

Caste Systems Benefits
Each caste is born out of Brahman (the creator)
The Castes
  • Brahmins This is the priestly caste. Their roles
    were to study and teach in matters of faith,
    especially the Vedas. They lead most key rituals.
  • Kshatriyas This has been called the warrior
    caste. Their roles were to protect the people and
    run a fair government.

  • Purpose is to help people of other castes fulfill
    their dharma
  • Perform rituals and observe vows for the sake of

  • Responsible for leadership of the people
  • Often rely on advice from Brahmins

The Castes
  • Vaishyas This caste consisted of producers
    traders, merchants, farmers, artists, and
    business people. This group traditionally took
    care of the economic needs of the community.
  • Sudras This was traditionally the lowest caste.
    Their main purpose was to serve the three higher
    castes. This group included unskilled workers,
    servants, and anyone doing menial work

  • Shopkeepers who sell products (unlike the Shudra
    who sell services)

  • Each subgroup of this caste performs a specific
  • Jobs include gardeners, potters, and clothes

The Untouchables
  • Also called outcastes, people in this group
    were considered outsiders they could not
    interact in any way with members of the four
    castes. Traditionally, they did the dirtiest work
    in society and lived apart, in small communities.
    The 20th Century saw a change when quotas were
    put in place to ensure that members of this caste
    had access to better jobs.

  • Belong to no caste
  • Expected to do the dirty jobs
  • Come in contact with animal skins, dead bodies
    and human feces
  • Avoid contact with caste Indians for fear of

How Caste is Determined
  • According to traditional Hindu belief, following
    ones dharma means strictly following rules of
    caste. The best way for a person to move to a
    higher caste in the next life is to act according
    to ones caste in this life. Laws of Manu
  • Acting above ones caste in this life is seen as
    ignoring dharma and generates bad karma, so it
    hurts a persons chances of being promoted in the
    next life
  • The belief is that people are born into the lower
    castes based on the karma of their previous lives

How Ones Caste is Determined
  • Reincarnation A person is born, lives, dies, and
    is reborn again many times. Souls are reborn
    many times until they are pure enough to be with
    the creator, Brahman
  • Karma
  • A persons social position in the next life is
    determined by his conduct in the present life.

How Ones Caste is Determined
  • Dharma
  • Code of behavior or set of moral and ethical
    rules that govern the conduct of each social
    class. Each group has a different set of rules
    to live by.
  • Laws of Manu
  • Hindu book of sacred law
  • Rules and restrictions for daily life

Is the Caste Systema thing of the past?
  • Today in India, discrimination based on caste or
    occupation is illegal. Many Hindu teachers now
    argue that the Hindu sacred writings never
    intended the social and occupational
    discrimination of the caste system.
  • Here in Canada, caste is no longer important for
    many Hindu families.

  • INDIA UNTOUCHED (documentary)
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