Indian Sociologists

Indian Sociologists


Summarise the social anthro pological definition of caste.

Summary of the social anthropological definition of caste :

I. Introduction : G.S. Churye is popular for offering a comprehensive (or detailed) definition of caste. His definition stress six characteristics of caste. We can write in short these all features in the following way:

II. Man features of Caste :

(a) Caste is based on segmental division : Caste is an institution based on segmental division. This means that caste society is divided into a number of closed, mutually exclusive segments or compartments. Each caste is one such compartment. It is closed becasue caste is decided by birth–the children born to parents of a particular caste will always belong to that caste.

(b) Its acquiring base is birth : On the other hand, there is no way other than birth of acquining caste membership. In short, a person's caste is decided by birth at birth: it can neither be avoided nor changed.

(c) Caste is bassed on hierachical division : Caste society is based on hierarchical division. Each caste is strictly unequal to every other caste, that is, every caste is either higher or lower than every other one. In theory (though not in practice), no two castes are ever equal.

(d) It imposes restriction an social interation : The institution of caste necessarily involves restrictions on social interaction, specially the sharing of food. There are elaborate rules prescribing what kind of food may be shared between which groups. These rules are governed by ideas of purity and pollution.

(e) Institute of untouchability : Due to caste system of very objectionable institution in India develop. It come up in the form of restriction of social interaction. It is known as the institution of untouchability, where even the touch of people of particular castes is thought to be polluting.

(f) Different Rights and Duties for different caste : Following from the principles of hierarchy and restricted social interaction, caste also involves differential rights and duties for different castes. These rights and duties pertain not only to religious practices but extend to the secular world.

(g) No choice of occupation : Case restricts the choice of occupation, which, like caste itself, is decided by birth and is hereditary. At the level of society, caste functions as a rigid form of the division of labour with specific occupations being allocated to specific castes.

(h) It Imposes strict restrictions on marriage : Caste involves strict restrictions on marriage. Caste ‘endogamy’, or marriage only within the caste, is often accompanied by rules about ‘exogamy’, or whom one may not marry. This combination of rules about eligible and non-eligible groups help reproduce the caste system.

III. Conclusion or benefits of definition given by Ghurye : (i) Ghurye’s definition helped to make the study of caste more systematic.

(ii) His conceptual definition was based on what the classical texts prescribed.

(iii) In actual practice, many of these features of caste were changing, though all of them continue to exist in some form.

(iv) Ethnographic field work over the next several decades helped to provide valuable accounts of what was happening to caste in independent India.

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