Characteristics of Caste System in India
Caste status of an individual is determined strictly by his heredity, i.e. the caste into which one is born. No amount of personal accomplishments or efforts can alter his caste status.
It endogamous character strictly prohibits inter-caste marriages. Accordingly a person born in low caste can never hope to marry someone in higher caste. Each individual is supposed to marry within his caste and sub-caste. Marrying outside caste makes an individual or ‘without a caste which is the lowest category even below Shudra’.
Caste system has a system of superiority and subordination. According to Hindu Caste hierarchy. Brahmin occupies the highest followed by kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.
4. Fixed Occupations:
Members of any caste are obligated to adopt the professions of their caste. Having developed from Varna system the occupation in caste system is definite; son of blacksmith persues the occupation of his lather, son of carpenter becomes carpenter and so on. (With development of industries people belong to many castes have lost their occupation and have taken agriculture or some other occupation).
5. Restricted Food Habits:
Higher castes try maintaining their traditional purity by different food habits. Thus Brahmins will only take ‘Satwil’ or ‘Pure’ food. Kshtriya and Vaishya will take ‘Royal’ food. A Shudra takes ‘Tamsi’ food. Each individual caste has its own laws which govern the food habits. There is no restriction against fruit, milk, butter, dry fruit etc. but food can be accepted only from the members of ounces own or higher caste.
In Indian caste system Shudra and out castes are considered to be untouchables. In certain times of day even seeing a shudra is considered to be pollution. Even if shadow of a low caste falls on a Brahmin, latter is said to have been polluted.
7. Absence of Vertical Mobility:
In a caste system, there is no mobility movement of its members, up or down, the social status ladder. A person’s status at birth is his life time status.
8. Reinforcement by Religious Beliefs:
Religious beliefs have played a significant role in making caste system unavoidable. Religion has described Brahmin as sacred and also an element of reverence and awe is attached to him. In absence of religious support such rigid caste system was not possible.