Discussion 5

The Social Organization of South Asia During the First Millennium B.C.E.

The system of social organization that arose in South Asia during the first millennium B.C.E. was known as the caste system. From 1000 to 600 B.C.E., the people of Vedic India migrated east towards the mid-Ganges plain from the Indus River Valley for the purpose of fostering better rice crop growth. The main individuals responsible for this movement were known as the Brahmans, or upper class priests and scholars. It was the Brahmans who were also responsible for the transformation of the social organization and expanding the caste system.

The Caste System

The caste system can be loosely defined as a hierarchy based on an occupational grouping of individuals. The caste system is religious in its roots (Hinduism) and although this system is not a popular ideology as it once was, the caste system can still be found in areas of India today. The caste system is divided into four varnas, or categories of socioeconomic status. The spiritual leaders and teachers are known as the Brahmins. The warriors and nobles are known as the Kshatriyas. The merchants and producers are known as the Vaishyas. The laborers are called Sudras. Within each category, is a hereditary sub-category known as jatis. It is to be duly noted that the classes are not established by race, but by social class.

Consequences of the Caste

Although the caste system has been prevalent for thousands of years, it is not without consequences. One thing that is always mentioned in any caste system is the prohibition of marrying between varnas. You must marry in your own individual varna. Another consequence is the ability to changes classes. When you are established in one varna you cannot go into any other different category. Discriminating anyone because of their caste membership is against the law. Another main consequence of a caste system is that you are born into your caste and you can not determine it for yourself. The social norms were enforced very strictly by the hereditary hierarchy and the fact that the system in itself is religious from fruition. Also, the norms were enforced by law and religious authority. This system of social organization fit into the trends of the day by still establishing classes and the organization of people doing all disciplines of work necessary for a civilization to thrive. However, the only difference is that it forced groups to be stuck in these groups and some found their caste to be undesirable as opposed to being able to help in a different way that an individual may benefit more to the society.

The caste system in view of tiers

Brahmanism: Fundamental Beliefs and Faith

Brahmanism was based on questioning reality and origin of life while also questioning the validity of time, being, and consciousness. It is believed hat everything that has existed, currently exists, and will ever exist is minute in the universe. There is a source of vitality in the Brahman belief known as the Atman. This soul is known as the Supreme Soul and embodies everything. These fundamental beliefs fit well into the caste system due to the fact that it tied in with the Hindu religion and allowed the people to realize that everything is a minuscule event in the ever expansive universe. People were able to believe that they're caste was designed for them and that they must fulfill their duty. Some features that emerged out of early Brahmanism includes, the social class creation from the death of Purusha, the cosmic man, for which each part of him resembles the four varnas, the relationship of mutual obligation between the people and gods, and folk tales to resemble the origination of the Ganges River Valley. One important distinction between Brahmanism and other religions is that they did not necessarily worship the gods. However, they would have a mutual understanding where the Gods must do good to them if the people did good to the Gods. This consisted of human sacrificial rites. Only when the relationship between the Gods and humans was properly established would the world be in order. Also, the Gods did not just create man, but created the social classes. Some parallels include, the reincarnation tenet of Hindusim, some texts from the Rig Veda, one of the four books of knowledge, resembles what is found in Greek and Roman texts, and the questioning of existence that Brahmanism entails aligns well with the early Greek philosophical thinking.

Indra, the most important God in Vedas, slaying Vritra
Ideology of reincarnation

Cited Works





Created with images by Mr ATM - "South East Asia 2017-214" • dalbera - "Palais de la communauté Chettiar (Kanadukathan, Inde)" • dalbera - "Ganesh (Kanadukathan, Inde)" • Hans - "pair lovers togetherness"

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