of these articles describes the term caste as sociological and ethnologisches phenomenon; for box in animal states see caste (biology)

the term caste (Portuguese casta - race, of Latin castus - purely) in the people customer and the sociology primarily with one from India admitted social phenomenon associated. In addition, it is used colloquially or sociologically generally and applied to individual groupings of other and even modern societies.

The box nature i.e.S. is in particular in India, on Sri Lanka, in Nepal, on Bali and with the Kurdish Jesiden, spreads.

Table of contents


the box affiliation had effects on the Indian Subkontinent until some decades ago on the entire life of an individual. This very day it determines long no longer among other things, although exclusively to a large extent the partner choice (see. Endogamie) and the occupation choice. Goods in former times in principle no common meals permitted, because Hochkastige felt the common meal with Niedrigkastigen as contaminating, today particularly the traditional separation between the individual groups of societies is also waived within this range of majority in urbaner environment. In rural areas against it one finds the old structures still more firmly embodied, although also here any longer absolute validity does not come to them.

Nevertheless this traditional social order in the daily life has often this very day influence on everything that concerns “roti aur beti” (Hindi): “Bread and daughter”. The arranged weddings are usually organized within the caste.

The box system is a dynamic, very differentiated social order. The criteria are handled regionally quite different, therefore it would be more correctly of „box natures " to speak instead of of one „box system “.

Also the Christian and Muslim Indian e.g. in Kerala a pronounced consciousness of their box affiliation retained themselves. The four main box of the Indian Muslims read Shekh, Khan, Beg and Saiyad (also Säyäd or Sayid).

The allocation to a caste does not state anything over „wealthy “or „poor “. To a large extent ritual purity and field, not however around „Oberschicht “or lower layer “an organization after, concerns which depends on financial criteria. By centuries long exploitation however is to poverty tendentious more with Shudras and untouchable ones, although also brahmanische families, member of the highest caste, can be economically very badly placed.

With the “box system” two are to consider themselves supplementing aspects:

  1. the affiliation to the Varna and
  2. the affiliation to the Jati


Varna (वर्ण) are Sanskrit and meant literally “class, conditions, color”. Traditionally one assumes that with it the skin color was meant: the more highly the caste, the the bright skin, where itself the race affiliation of different immigrant and/or. Conquerer waves reflected. This theory is however disputed. Others place the term in connection with the “mental” colors of the Gunas, the qualities and characteristics in humans and nature. This opinion assigns a certain color to each caste.

There are four Varnas: the Brahmanas, the Kshastriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras. The system of the Varnas can be described as those mentally, ideological level of the box system, since it offers an authentication for the social hierarchy. It is an ideal, purely theoretical order, in the daily life is a matter it rather of the Jatis. The question to the origin is unsettled, no institution and no writing the box order created or ordered. Historically it probably resulted from growing together different trunks, which form now an overall system. Often it to the myth of the Purusha to have led back, göttlichen Urmen, from its parts of the body the first box have developed are (first by heart, second from the arms, third from the thighs, which fourth from the feet).

मुखंकिमस्यकौबाहूकाऊरूपादाउच्येते ||
ब्राह्मणोअस्यमुखमासीदबाहूराजन्यःकर्तः |
ऊरूतदस्ययदवैश्यःपद्भ्यांशूद्रोअजायत || (Rig Veda 10,90,11:12)
as it the PUR-USA (Urmensch), into like many parts divided they divided him? How did they call its mouth, how its arms, how its thighs, how its feet? Its mouth became the Brahmanen, its both arms the Krieger (Rajanya), its both thighs the Vaishya, from its feet developed the Shudra.

The Purushasukta is the only hymn in the Rig Veda, in which the four Varnas are mentioned. In the three other Vedas and the Upanishaden find only rarely the Varnas to mention.

Therefore one differentiates the Brahmanen (priest,

  • scholar ) with respect to the social order from top to bottom
  • Kshatriya (king, prince, Krieger, higher civil servant)
  • Vaishya (farmer, buyer, dealer)
  • Shudra (farmhand, service-carrying out)

real was out-formulated the rules of the box system however only in the Manusmriti (200 v.Chr and 200 n.Chr.). All other Hindu writings take the system than worthwhile fact, argue in addition, again and again critically with it. Particularly the Mahabharata represents it on the one hand in innumerable places as desirable institution, on the other hand one other statements in the same Epos reject the hereditary society hierarchy clearly. After hinduistischer conception determined cosmic and social obligations (Dharma) are connected with the box affiliation. The traditional obligation of a Kshatriya is to be led the society to fight and into the war pull (see. Bhagavadgita), against what Brahmanen are to study the writings, as well as teach to place the execution of the rites surely.

In the early vedischen time the Resitriktionen was clearly smaller regarding occupation and social mobility. An hymn of the Rig Veda reads:

कारुरहंततोभिषगुपलप्रक्षिणीनना | (Rig Veda 9.112.3)
I am a poet, my father am a physician, my nut/mother fill up the Mahlstein.


the Varnas subdivide themselves into hundreds of Jatis (जाति). The term leads itself from the Sanskritwurzel “January” for to be born off. This refers to the main meaning of Jati: Group of births. This is to be understood quite also in the sense from extended family or clan to. The Jatis is thus the social and family dimension of the box system and reminds in certain measure to the medieval condition order. Dumont proceeds from approximately 2000 to 3000 Jatis.

The box affiliation of the individual is determined by the birth, whereby in or withdrawal is theoretically not possible. The Jati serves the ethnical, socio-economic and cultural differentiation beside the vocational also; it connects a group of peoples by special, common, moral standards. In former times with it a strict marriage order was connected, when more or less strict locking opposite other Jatis. In India today everyone by the box nature caused disadvantages are legally forbidden. Nevertheless it is from the practical life not completely disappeared, particularly there it this very day important social tasks fulfilled. The Jatis about has the function social security - of a system, which is embodied in the cultural and social tradition in certain way also. Thus they offer for instance in the towns with millions of inhabitants for work-looking for from other areas of the country often the only refuge, the only possibility admission of finding food and assistance or guarantee surviving the family with unemployment and illness.

The social mobility within the Jati is not very large; however certain Jatis can ascend as whole socially, like this in 19. and 20. Century under the influence of British colonial rule above all the buyer and writer Jatis succeeded. In practice also splitting off occur socially more highly or low ranking partial populations with education of new Jatis. The Jatis subdivides itself in Subjatis.

The Indian sociologist M.N has the ascent of whole Jatis. Srinivas as “Sanskritierung” designates. Jatis of low rank take over the life-style, the rituals and the symbols of higher Jatis and ascend thereby on a long-term basis. Not only the elements of the classical Indian culture are taken over, but parallel to it also western symbols. As models usually Jatis with high economic status serve.

If a Indian liked to know, to which caste another belongs, one asks in Hindi for for the “Jati” or in English “community” (never after, there this term “caste” too many unpleasant Konnotationen has and the social relevance rather in the Jati lies). One would likewise not use the term “Varna” for it.

Beside orthodox Hindus, which publicise the box system this very day as desirable form of living together and has it at all times also hinduistische movements given those, which legitimize privileges and exploitation with the old system, which denounced excrescences and unfairness and demanded an overcoming of the strict box barriers. Thereby the Bhakti was particularly important - movements, which already affected the Indian society for some centuries. Today modern Hindus rejects it often to maintain the fundamental bindingness at box.

Veda study

some Brahmanen regard themselves as the only “pure” Varna and all different than “mixed”. The first two Varnas make approx. 10% of the population of India out. The first three Varnas regard themselves as “two-mark-born” (dvija). With “twice” it is meant that there is “cultural/mental” birth, which is carried out in form of a Initiationsritus (Upanayana) after the natural birth still another for men. In former times only this “second birth” entitled to the study of the holy texts (Veda), today is open this to everyone, within the private and academic sector or with a guru.

The affiliation to the upper Varnas was closely coupled with knowledge of the Veda, the holy Indian texts. One differentiated between “Chaturvedi” (- theoretically - the all four Veden had studied), “Trivedi” (three Veden) and “Dvivedi” (two Veden). These are today still frequent surnames. Knowledge and the privilege to its passing on was an important demarcation criterion first to the remaining Varnas: They regarded the study of the Veden not only as their obligation, but also as it (pre) right, which was passing on of this knowledge to outstanding ones (not “two-mark-born) long time tabuisiert.


the original occupation allocations in the Jatis are today to a large extent theoretical nature, theoretical can everyone each occupation exercise. Only a fraction of the Brahmanen is today a priest (is the Brahmanen likes against it as cooks in better restaurants, since Höherkastige would not eat of Niederkastigen prepared meals), against what its traditional tasks, even the office for priest, are exercised in progressive social classes today strengthened also by members of other Varnas. Only few Kshatriyas are soldiers (most occupation officers - anyhow up to the murder Indira Gandhis 1984 - posed by the Sikhs). The former president Kocheril Raman Narayanan (in the office 1997-2002) was formerly „an untouchable one “, Mahatma Gandhi, which led India into independence, as well as the important religious leader Swami Vivekananda was Vaishya.


marriage the Jatis not alone the vocational allocation, but also the social and ethnical. They differed within India depending upon region substantially. On Indian Websites to the partner search search functions very often are according to box criteria, both regarding the Varna and Jati. Even if there are strong tendencies in the modern India to “love marriage” and arranged marriages box barriers overcome, then the traditional rules did not lose their meaning nevertheless by any means. Even if there is officially no more box system, it is nowadays still like that, as also in other societies that socially Höherrangige should not marry under their conditions.

purity and impurity

for the hierarchy between different Jatis play the conceptions of purity and impurity a large role. As particularly pure the Brahmanen, the priest caste is considered. As particularly impure however that Jatis, which has to do with impure occupations, is considered like e.g. the scrubbers, hairdressers and Müllbeseitiger. The pure box are anxious to keep itself away if possible from the impure box whereby in this connection also physical purity or impurity is a criterion. For this reason also today still untouchable ones the entrance to temples is often refused. However strict Separation is possible only in rural ranges, since one is only informed in the urban surrounding field about the caste of another person, if one knows her personally or at least the name, an important criterion of the Jati. In addition living together in cities other rules than in the country follows and the daily life nearly not possibly makes a constant spatial separation there. For the Zusammenessen in operating cafeterias e.g. criteria are completely irrelevant like “ritual purity”. One finds separation in cities rather, like everywhere in the world, after economic status: who is rich goes with realms into the school, who is poor, then the miserable jobs live in arm quarters, visit worse schools and get.

untouchable box

the western conception of “box lots” (” Paria “) are based to a large extent on outdated descriptions. Primarily the India book of the French Abbé Dubois is to be called, which is today again and again uncritical copied until, like probably it with its emergence approximately two centuries ago was outdated already. (The French of clergyman regarded the Indian box nature as devil work and did not strive not seriously to become fair it.) genuine one of “box lots” hardly gives it. The so-called “untouchable ones” are usually member the lowest box and/or. Unterkasten, about which over 3.000 exist.

Since Indian independence in the case of the occupation of places in the public administration and in the training system are entitled to the member untouchable box certain ratios. This led to the fact that within this range untouchable ones separate no more disadvantaged consciously are promoted. Also in the policy some changed: The last president cried Kocheril Raman Narayanan (in the office 1997-2002) is member of an untouchable caste. It was however shown that the formal Emanzipierung of members low box did not contribute yet everywhere in the measure to a Emanzipierung in the social life, how it would be desirable.

The term “Harijan” for untouchable ones, also common in India, comes from Mahatma Gandhi. It means literally in approximately “child of God” or more precisely “Vishnu born”. The official name for untouchable ones is “scheduled castes”. Of Dr. Ambedkar coined/shaped term “Dalit” for untouchable ones meant a rather kämpferische Konnotation and “suppressed one, exploitation”.

The “ neo buddhistische” movement of the” Dalits “created by Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is clearly aligned against the box system. Most members of the Neo Buddhismus are former member untouchable box. Also the Christianity is with many Dalits and the so-called. Master population relatively strongly represent.

Sri Lanka

in Sri Lanka is considered the box affiliation not only by the tamilischen subpopulation, but also by the buddhistischen Singhalesen. The Buddhismus offers however no religious authentication of the box system, as this is with the Hinduismus the case. In addition, there is no clear offensive against the box system. In the Jatakas (holy stories from the life Buddhas) are quite still details, which reflect the old spirit of the box system.


in Bali was taken over the fourth-hasty Varnasystem, yet there are striking differences to the Indian box system. In Bali there is the Brahmana, Satria, Wesia and Sudra. The two-mark-born hot in Bali Triwangsa. Regarding social status the Majapahit - immigration legend a weighty role (and not the Indian Dharma - plays term). The counterpart to the Indian Jati forms the Dadia, the group of titles. These titles do not have to do however contrary to India anything with occupations. In the competition around prestige the relative status of a group of titles is signaled and established by ceremonies. In Bali there is no untouchability, reduced Kommensalität (together eat) gives it only in higher ranks.

Latin America

similar to the Indian box system one called also in colonial and after-to Latin America the members of different skin colors and corresponding social differentiation box.

other ones

predominant by box coined/shaped societies are to be accepted with some trunks in the transferred sense, in the modern times otherwise no longer available. But mobile also in after social layers and functions richly subdivided and very permeable () societies know individual groupings nevertheless pronounced “box” - courses exhibit (e.g. in the Klerus, in the officer conditions, as cadres of a dictatorship). They are then mostly interpreted as other social samples.


  • Susan Bayly: Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century ton the decaying Age. PAPER-bake edition, Cambridge University press, 2001
  • Christophe Jaffrelot: India's silent revolution: The giant OF the Lower Castes. C. Hurst & CO, 2003
  • Monika support, Aparna Rao: Aspects of the social structure of India: Box and trunks in Dietmar red ago mouth (Hrsg.): India, publishing house C.H. Beck, 1995 S.112-131
  • L.M. Dumont: Homo Hierarchicus. Chicago, 1980
  • M.N. Srinivas, Caste in decaying India and OTHER essay. Bombay, 1962

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