When one talks about India, the stereotypes that often arise are that of arranged marriages, Bollywood, poverty and the caste system. With the second largest population on this planet of 1.324 billion people, and the world’s second largest English-speaking country, India surely is a land of many surprises.
Looking at India from an academic point of view, there are many aspects of Indian society, business and culture that we can dissect. One of the more popular topics of discussion is that of the caste system as it dictates the social order. So what is the caste system?
The caste system is (give or take) 3000 years old, and was introduced 1000 years before the birth of Christ. As seen depicted from the pyramid above, the system determines everyone’s roles in society thereby imposing a class separation and inequality. It divides Hindus into 4 main categories with the Dalits (blue collar workers) considered to be too low to be a part of the system. This system separates people into the category of “upper” and “lower” castes. As the majority of Indians still live in rural communities, one can find the communities segregated between the upper and lower castes in the way that they live. Moreover, the caste system actively degrades women and their position in society.
Traditionally the system benefitted the upper caste as the Brahims (Priests) would not accept food or drink from the rest of the castes. It was also seen as a taboo to marry outside of one’s caste. In fact, this has even inspired an era of fiction whereby films, shows and literature portrays relationships between two people of different castes. In case one may be wondering, this system is still enforced today.
Arranged marriages are another facet of Indian culture, that many accept as something stereotypically Indian. While the country has been practicing this custom for hundreds of years, they are not the first country to have started this archaic practice. One can argue however, that when it comes to arranged marriages today, India dominates as it can be seen as a solution to the rising demographic of professionals and millennials who chose a career over a relationship.
The question then arises: why is the caste system still practiced in India? If it only seeks to segregate countrymen and represent inequality it is a hierarchal system that is outdated. What one must bear in mind is that this system is so engrained in their culture, that as mentioned previously, to loose one’s culture is to loose a sense of their identity. Much of what we know about India, is what we are presented with. They are the largest producers and exporters of milk and human hair, their actresses are beautiful and they are the second largest nation in the world. After the novel Eat, Pray, Love, was published, the crazy to go to India was unreal, and so it should be. The country is absolutely beautiful.