Indian Sociologists

Indian Sociologists

Question

Explain the structural features of caste given by Ghurye.

Answer
The caste system has got the following six structural characteristics :

(i) Segmental Division : Govind Sadashiv Ghurye sees castes as social groupings or segments the membership of which is obtained and fixed by birth. The segmental division of society refers to its division or compartmentalisation into a number of segments or castes, each of which has life of its own.

Each caste provides a centre of its own regarding rules, regulations, standards of morality and justice.

(ii) Hierarchy : The castes or segments are arranged in terms of a hierarchy. Hierarchy is a scheme, which arranges caste in terms of higher or superior and lower or inferior status in relations to each other.

The relative ranking of specific caste groups differed from one place to another. But everywhere, the Brahmans were placed at the top and the untouchables were kept at the bottom of the hierarchy.

(iii) Principles of Purity and Pollution : The above described two features (attributes) reflect the separation or distance between castes. This fact of separation is reinforced by the principles of purity and pollution find their expression in the codes regulating the acceptance of food or drink from other castes. In practice, most castes seem to take no objection to 'Kachcha food' or food cooked with water from a Brahmans. Higher castes take only 'Pucca food' or food cooked in butter (ghee) from lower castes. But nobody will take food or water from an untouchable, whose even touch is polluting.

(iv) Civil and Religious Disabilities and Privileges of Different Sections : (a) A result of the hierarchical division of society is that rights and obligations are unequally shared by different sections of the society.

(b) The ritual status of a caste vis-a-vis the Brahmans and the nature of occupation are the crucial determinants of the nature of these disabilies. The speech, dress and customs of the high castes could not be copied by the lower castes as by doing so they would go against the governing rule of the society.

(v) Lack of Choice of Occupation : (a) Every group or caste was associated with a hereditary occupation. Since distinction was made between clean and unclear and therefore, between pure and impure occupations, the hereditary occupation a caste reflected its status in society.

Example : (a) For instance, the Brahmans were engaged in priesthood, while the lower castes took up occupations such as those of barber, washerman and cobbler.

(b) The untouchable castes would be doing the most unclean jobs. There have, of course, been examples of change over by one caste or from one occupation to another.

(c) Occupational variation has led to the birth of many subcastes, But the profession of priesthood and literary activities had remained the sole preserve of the Brahmans.

(vi) Restrictions on Marriage :

(a) Inter-caste marriage was prohibited. Hence individual married within their own caste grouping i.e. they practised endogamy.

(b) Each caste was segmented into smaller subdivision or sub-castes and these were the units of endogamy. According to Govind Sadshiv Ghurye endogamy is the key factor behind the caste system.

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