The Caste System Of Ancient India


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This is an introduction to the caste system in ancient India. A brief summary of each caste is given along with helpful pictures.

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The Caste System Of Ancient India

  1. 1. “Some persons are forced to carry on the prescribed callings which are not their choice.” B.R. Ambedkar
  2. 2. Following the Aryan  invasion, India was broken up into five strict classes, known as the caste system. “May all that have life be delivered  from suffering.” -Buddha
  3. 3. Note: Depending on the source, spelling of the various castes may be different.
  4. 4. At the top of the caste system were the  Brahmans, or the priests and leaders. These individuals we few in number. They were the only ones who were allowed to teach in schools and go to school, however the Brahman women could do neither.
  5. 5. Underneath the Brahmans was the Kshatriya,  or the warriors. This group was not large in number. The Kshatriya were in the army or leaders in a way different from that of the Brahmans. Women could not be warriors but they could belong to this class.
  6. 6. Under the warriors were the vaishyas, these  individuals were traders or farmers who owned their businesses or farming land. This group was made up of a great deal of people in India.
  7. 7. Second to last were the shudras, who were servants  and farmhands who did not own their own land or businesses and who were employed by other people in a higher class. Many farmers who were in the vaishyas caste would lose their property or business and fall into this group after a while. This caste held the highest number of members.
  8. 8. At the very bottom of the caste  system, technically not belonging to a class at all, were the untouchables. The untouchables held the worst jobs in society, usually collecting garbage and cleaning up human waste…
  9. 9. The slaves in India were thought to be below  the untouchables and were not classified at all. They were not even seen as human but rather as property.
  10. 10. Living in ancient India, you were defined by  your caste. There was no way for an individual or their  children in India to escape their caste and move up. Not even death could break the cycle.
  11. 11. There were extremely strict rules surrounding  the caste system in India. People from different castes could certainly not marry each other or even become friends and they were not even allowed to eat in the presence of another class.
  12. 12. There are three main religions in India,  Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The time of the Aryan invasion and the adoption of the caste system marked the beginning of modern Hinduism.
  13. 13. Questions to ponder:  1. What are the different castes and what is one  distinct feature of each? 2. Chose one caste and compare it with a modern  day example in our society. 3. Chose one caste and name one part of the day  that you might look forward to. 4. Chose one caste and name one part of the day  that you might dread. 5. After the invasion of which group of people did  the caste system come about in India?