Zitierweise / cite as:
Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858. -- 16. Quellen aus der Zeit des British Raj. -- 2. Zum Beispiel: Ethnology and caste / The Imperial gazetteer of India, 1907 - 1909 <Auszug>. -- Fassung vom 2008-06-19. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen1602.htm
Erstmals publiziert als:
The Imperial gazetteer of India / published under the authority of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for India in Council. -- New ed. -- Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1907-1909. -- 25 Bde. ; 22 cm. -- Bd. 1. -- 1909. -- S. 311 - 348. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/imperialgazettee030583mbp. -- Zugriff am 2008-06-15
Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-06-19
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008
©opyright: Dieser Text steht der Allgemeinheit zur Verfügung. Eine Verwertung in Publikationen, die über übliche Zitate hinausgeht, bedarf der ausdrücklichen Genehmigung des Verfassers
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von Tüpfli's Global Village Library
Falls Sie die diakritischen Zeichen nicht dargestellt bekommen, installieren Sie eine Schrift mit Diakritika wie z.B. Tahoma.
[S. 311] The word 'caste,' which has obtained such a wide currency in the literature of sociology, comes from the Portuguese adventurers who followed Vasco da Gama to the west coast of India. The word itself is derived from the Latin castus and implies purity of breed. In his article on caste in Hobson-Jobson, Sir Henry Yule quotes a decree of the sacred council of Goa, dated 1567, which recites how ' the Gentoos divide themselves into distinct races or castes (castas) of greater or less dignity, holding the Christians as of lower degree, and keep these so superstitiously that no one of a higher caste can eat or drink with those of a lower.' It was natural enough that foreign observers should seize upon the superficial aspects of a social system which they understood but imperfectly, and should have overlooked the essential fact that the regulations affecting food and drink are comparatively fluid and transitory, while those relating to marriage are remarkably stable and absolute.
A caste may be defined as a collection of families or groups of families, bearing a common name which usually denotes or is associated with a specific occupation ; claiming common descent from a mythical ancestor, human or divine ; professing to follow the same calling; and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community. A caste is almost invariably endogamous in the sense that a member of the large circle denoted by the common name may not marry outside that circle ; but within this circle there are usually a number of smaller circles, each of which is also endogamous. Thus, it is not enough to say that a Brāhman at the present day cannot marry any woman who is not a Brāhman : his wife must also belong to the same endogamous division of the Brāhman caste.
All over India at the present moment we can trace the gradual and almost insensible transformation of tribes into castes. The main agency at work is fiction, which, in this instance, takes the form of the pretence that whatever usage prevails to-day has been so from the beginning of time. It may be hoped that the Ethnographic Survey now in progress will throw much more light upon these singular forms of evolution, by which large masses of people surrender a condition of [S. 312] comparative freedom, and take in exchange a condition which becomes more burdensome in proportion as its status is higher. So far as present observation goes, several distinct processes are involved in the movement, and these proceed independently in different places and at different times :
The leading men of an aboriginal tribe,
having somehow got on in the world and become independent
landed proprietors, manage to enrol themselves in
one of the more distinguished castes. They usually set up as
Rājputs, their first step being to start a Brāhman priest
who invents for them a mythical ancestor, supplies them with
a family miracle connected with the locality where their
tribes are settled, and discovers that they belong to some
hitherto unheard-of clan of the great Rājput community. In the
earlier stages of their advancement they generally find
great difficulty in getting their daughters married, as they will
not take husbands from their original tribe and real Rājputs
will not condescend to alliances with them. But after a
generation or two their persistency obtains its reward and they
intermarry, if not with pure Rājputs, at least with a superior order
of manufactured Rājputs whose promotion into Brāhmanical
society dates far enough back for the steps by which it was
gained to have been forgotten. Thus a real change of blood may
take place, while in any case the tribal name is
completely lost, and with it all possibility of correctly separating
this class of people from the Hindus of purer blood and of tracing
them to any particular Dravidian or Mongoloid tribe. They
have been absorbed in the fullest sense of the word,
and henceforth pass and are locally accepted as high-class
Hindus. All stages of the process, family miracle and all, can be
illustrated by actual instances taken from the leading
families in Chotā Nāgpur.
A number of aborigines, as we may
conveniently call them, though the term begs an insoluble
question, embrace the tenets of a Hindu religious sect, losing
thereby their tribal name and becoming Vaishnavas, Lingāyats,
Rāmāyat, or the like. Whether there is any mixture of blood
or not will depend upon local circumstances and the rules
of the sect regarding intermarriage. Anyhow, the identity
of the converts as aborigines is usually, though not
invariably, lost, and this also may, therefore, be regarded as a case of
A whole tribe of aborigines, or a large
section of a tribe, enrol themselves in the ranks of Hinduism
under the style of a new caste which, though claiming an origin
of remote antiquity, [S. 313] is readily distinguishable by its name
from any of the standard and recognized castes. Thus the
great majority of the Koch inhabitants of Jalpaigurī, Rangpur,
and part of Dinājpur now invariably describe themselves
as Rājbansis or Bhanga Kshattriyas, a designation which
enables them to represent themselves as an outlying branch of
the Kshattriyas who fled to North-eastern Bengal in order to
escape from the wrath of Parasu Rāma. They claim descent from Rājā Dasaratha, father of
Rāma; they keep Brāhmans, imitate the Brāhmanic rituals in their marriage ceremony,
and have begun to adopt the Brāhmanical system of gotras. In
respect of this last point they are now in a curious state of
transition, as they have all hit upon the same gotra (Kasyapa)
and thus habitually transgress the primary rule of the
Brāhmanical system, which absolutely prohibits marriage within the
gotra. But for this defect in their connubial arrangements -- a
defect which will probably be corrected in course of time as
they and their priests rise in intelligence -- there would be
nothing in their customs to distinguish them from Indo-Aryan
Hindus, although there has been no mixture of blood and they
remain thoroughly Koch.
A whole tribe of aborigines, or a section of a tribe, become gradually converted to Hinduism without, like the Rājbansis, abandoning their tribal designation. This is what has happened among the Bhumij of Western Bengal. Here a pure Dravidian race have lost their original language and now speak only Bengali ; they worship Hindu gods in addition to their own (the tendency being to relegate the tribal gods to the women), and the more advanced among them employ Brāhmans as family priests. They still retain a set of totemistic exogamous subdivisions, closely resembling those of the Mundās and the Santāls ; but they are beginning to forget the totems which the names of the subdivisions denote, and the names themselves will probably soon be abandoned in favour of more aristocratic designations. The tribe will then have become a caste in the full sense of the word, and will go on stripping itself of all customs likely to betray its true descent : the physical characteristics of its members will alone survive. With their transformation into a caste, the Bhumij will be more strictly endogamous than they were as a tribe, and even less likely to modify their physical type by intermarriage with other races.
By such processes as these, and by a variety of complex social influences whose working cannot be precisely traced, [S. 314] a number of types or varieties of caste have been formed, which admit of being grouped as follows :
The tribal type, where a tribe like the Bhumij has insensibly been converted into a caste,
preserving its original name and many of its characteristic customs,
but modifying its animistic practices more and more in the
direction of orthodox Hinduism, and ordering its manner of
life in accordance with the same model. Numerous instances of
this process are to be found all over India : it
has been at work for centuries, and it has even been supposed that
the Sūdras of Indo-Aryan tradition were originally a
Dravidian tribe which was thus incorporated into the social system
of the conquering race. We may mention as examples of such
transformation the Ahīr, Dom, and Dosādh of the United
Provinces and Bihār ; the Gūjar, Jāt, Meo, and Rājput of
Rājputana and the Punjab; the Kolī and Mahār of Bombay; the
Bāgdi, Bauri, Chandāl (Namasūdra), Kaibartta, Pod,
and Rājbansi-Koch of Bengal ; and, in Madras, the Māl, Nāyar, Vellāla, and Paraiyan (Pariah), of whom the last
retain traditions of a time when they possessed an independent
organization of their own and had not been relegated to a low
place in the Hindu social system.
The functional or occupational type of
caste is so numerous and so widely diffused, and its
characteristics are so prominent, that community of function is
ordinarily regarded as the chief factor in the evolution of
caste. Almost every caste professes to have a traditional
occupation, though many of its members have abandoned it, and the
adoption of new occupations, or of changes in the original
occupation, may give rise to subdivisions of the caste which
ultimately develop into castes entirely distinct. Thus among the
large castes, the Ahīrs are by tradition herdsmen ; the Brāhmans, priests, the Chamārs and Muchis, workers in leather ;
the Chuhrās, Bhangīs, and Doms, scavengers; the Dosādhs,
village watchmen and messengers; the Goālās or Golās, milkmen;
the Kaibarttas and Kewats, fishermen and cultivators ; the
Kāyasths, writers ; the Koiri and Kāchhī, market
gardeners ; the Kumhārs, potters ; the Pods, fishermen ; and
the Teli and Tili, oil-pressers and traders in oil. But the
proportion of a caste that actually follows the traditional
occupation may vary greatly. It is shown in the Bengal Census
Report of 1901 that 80 per cent, of the Ahīrs in Bihār are
engaged in agriculture; that of the Lower Bengal
Brāhmans only 17 per cent,, and of the Bihār Brāhmans only
8 per cent., [S. 315] perform religious functions; that only 8 per
cent, of the Chamārs in Bihār live by working in leather,
the remainder being cultivators or general labourers; that
two-thirds of the Kāyasths in Bengal are agriculturists ; and
that only 35 per cent. of the Telis follow their traditional
profession. A remarkable instance of the formation of a caste on the
basis of distinctive occupation is supplied by the Gārpagāri, or
hail-averters, in the Mahrātā Districts of the Central
Provinces, village servants whose duty it is to control the elements and
protect the crops from the destructive hail-storms which are
frequent in that part of India. Changes of occupation in their
turn, more especially among the lower castes, tend, as above
mentioned, to bring about the formation of separate castes. The
Sadgops of Bengal have, within recent times, taken to
agriculture and broken away from the pastoral caste to which
they originally belonged ; the educated Kaibarttas and Pods
are in course of separating themselves from their brethren
who have not learnt English ; the Madhu-nāpit are barbers
who became confectioners ; the Chāsā-dhobās are
washermen who took to agriculture.
The sectarian type comprises a small
number of castes which commenced life as religious sects
founded by philanthropic enthusiasts who, having evolved some
metaphysical formula offering a speedier release from the
taedium vitae which oppresses the East, had further
persuaded themselves that all men were equal, or at any rate that
all believers in their teaching ought to be so. As time went
on, the practical difficulties of realizing this ideal forced
themselves upon the members of the sect ; they found their
company becoming unduly mixed ; and they proceeded to
reorganize themselves on the lines of an ordinary caste. A notable
instance of this tendency to revert to the normal type of
Hindu society is to be found in the present condition of the
Lingāyat or Vīra Saiva caste of Bombay and Southern India, which
numbers 2,600,000 adherents. Founded as a sect in the twelfth
century, by a reformer who proclaimed the equality of all
who received the eightfold sacrament ordained by him, and wore
on their persons the mystic phallus emblematic of the
god Siva, the Lingāyat community had begun, by the close of
the seventeenth century, to develop endogamous sub-castes
based upon the social distinctions which their founder had
expressly abjured. At the last Census the process of
transforming the sect into a caste had advanced still farther. In a
petition presented to the Government of India the members of the Lingāyat [S. 316] community protested against the 'most
offensive and mischievous order' that all of them should be entered in
the census papers as belonging to the same caste,
and asked that they might be recorded as Vīra Saiva Brāhmans, Kshattriyas, Vaisyas, or
Sūdras, as the case might be. It
would be difficult to find a better illustration of the
essentially particularist instinct of the Indian people, of the
aversion with which they regard the doctrine that all men are equal,
and of the attraction exercised by the aristocratic
scheme of society which their ancient traditions enshrine. The legend
of the four original castes may have no historical
foundation, but there can be no question as to the spread of its
influence or the strength of the sentiment which it still
inspires. So long, in short, as the sectarian instinct confines
itself to expressing a mere predilection for one god rather than
another, or simply develops a new cult, however fantastic, which
permits men to indulge in the luxury of religious
eccentricity without quitting the narrow circle of their social
environment, its operations are undisturbed and the sects
which it forms may flourish and endure. But directly it invades
the social sphere and seeks to unify and amalgamate groups of
theoretically different origin, it comes in contact with a
force too strong for it and has to give way.
Castes formed by crossing.
Modern criticism has been especially active in its attacks on
that portion of the traditional theory which derives the multitude of mixed
or inferior castes from an intricate series of crosses between
members of the original four. No one can examine the long
lists which purport to illustrate the working of this process
without being struck by much that is absurd and inconsistent. But
in India it does not necessarily follow that, because the
individual applications of a principle are ridiculous,
the principle itself must have no foundation in fact. The last
thing that would occur to the literary theorists of those
times, or to their successors the pandits of to-day, would be to
go back upon actual facts, and to seek by analysis and
comparison to work out the true stages of evolution. They found
the a priori method simpler and more congenial. Having
once got hold of a formula, they insisted, like Thales and
his contemporaries, on making it account for the entire order of
things. Thus castes which were compact tribes, castes
which had been developed out of trade corporations, and
castes which expressed the distinction between fishing and hunting,
agriculture and handicrafts, were all supposed to have
been evolved by [S. 317] interbreeding. But the initial principle,
though it could not be stretched to explain everything,
nevertheless enshrines a grain of historical fact. It happens that we
can still observe its workings among a number of Dravidian
tribes which, though not yet drawn into the vortex of Brāhmanism,
have been in some degree affected by the example of Hindu
organization. As regards inter-tribal marriages, these seem
to be in a stage of development through which the Hindus
themselves have passed. A man may marry a woman of another
tribe ; but the offspring of such unions do not become
members of either the paternal or maternal groups, but belong
to a distinct endogamous aggregate, the name of which often
denotes the precise cross by which it was started. Among
the large tribe of Mundās we find, for instance, nine such
groups, whose names denote descent from intermarriages between Mundā men and women of other tribes. Illustrations
of this sort might be multiplied almost indefinitely. The
point to be observed is that the sub-tribes formed by
inter-tribal crossing are from an early stage complete endogamous
units, and that they tend continually to sever their slender
connexion with the parent group and to stand forth as
Within the limits of the regular caste system, Mr. Gait (Bengal Census Report, 1901) mentions the Shāgirdpeshas of Bengal as a true caste 'which takes its origin from miscegenation, and which is still adding to its numbers in the same way. Amongst the members of the higher castes of Orissa who do not allow widow remarriage, and also amongst the Kāyasth immigrants from Bengal, it is a common practice to take as maid-servants and concubines women belonging to the lower clean castes, such as Chāsa and Bhandāri. The offspring of these maid-servants are known as Shāgirdpesha (servants). They form a regular caste of the usual type, and are divided into endogamous groups with reference to the caste of the male parent. . . . The caste of the mother makes no difference in the rank of the children, but those who can count several generations from their original progenitor rank higher than those in whose case the stigma of illegitimacy is more recent, . . . The relationship between the legitimate children of a man of good caste and their bastard brothers and sisters is recognized, but the latter cannot eat with the former.' In spite of its number (about 47,000), this caste is said to be of quite recent origin, and it is asserted that it did not exist a century and a half ago. An older and more instructive illustration, dating possibly from long before the [S. 318] Christian era, of the formation of a caste by crossing, is furnished by the Khas of Nepāl, who appear to be the offspring of mixed marriages between Rājput or Brāhman immigrants and the Mongolian women of the country.
Castes of the national type. Where
there is neither nation nor national sentiment, it may seem
paradoxical to talk about a national type of caste. There exist,
however, certain groups, usually regarded as castes at the
present day, which cherish traditions of bygone sovereignty, and
seem to preserve traces of an organization considerably more
elaborate than that of an ordinary tribe. The Newārs, a
mixed people of Mongoloid origin, who were the predominant race in Nepāl proper until the country was conquered and
annexed by the Gurkha Prithwī Nārāyan in 1769, may be taken
as an illustration of such a survival. The group comprises both
Hindus and Buddhists. The two communities are quite
distinct and each is divided into an elaborate series of
If the Mahrātās can be described as a caste, their history and traditions certainly stamp them as a caste of the national type. They numbered five million at the 1901 Census: 3,650,000 in Bombay, 1,100,000 in Hyderabad, 81,000 in Madras, 53,000 in Mysore, 61,000 in the Central Provinces and Berar, and 34,000 in Central India. According to Mr. Enthoven (Bombay Census Report, 1901), the Bombay Mahrātās 'may be classified as a tribe with two divisions, Mahrātā and Mahrātā Kunbī, of which the former are hypergamous to the latter, but were not originally distinct. It remains to be explained that the Kunbīs also consist of two divisions: Desh Kunbīs, numbering 1,900,000, and Konkani Kunbīs, of whom there are 350,000 recorded. Intermarriage between these divisions is not usual. The barrier, however, seems to be purely geographical. It may not withstand the altered conditions due to improvements in communications, and it is not apparently based on any religious prohibition of intermarriages.' The highest class of Mahrātās is supposed to consist of ninety-six families, who profess to be of Rājput descent and to represent the Kshattriyas of the traditional system. They wear the sacred thread, marry their daughters before puberty, and forbid widows to marry again. But their claim to kinship with the Rājputs is effectually refuted by the anthropometric data now published, and by the survival among them kuldevaks or totems, such as the sunflower, the kadamba tree, the mango, the conch-shell, the peacock's feather, and turmeric, which are worshipped at marriages and at the ceremony [S. 319] of dedicating a new house, while their close connexion with the Kunbīs is attested by the fact that they take Kunbī girls as wives, though they do not give their own daughters to Kunbī men. A wealthy Kunbī, however, occasionally gains promotion to the higher grade and claims brevet rank as a Kshattriya. The fact seems to be that these superior families represent Kunbīs who came to the front under Muhammadan rule, or during the decline of the Mughal Empire won for themselves offices or estates, claimed the rank of landed gentry, and asserted their dignity by refusing their daughters to their less distinguished brethren.
Castes formed by migration. If members
of a caste leave their original habitat and settle
permanently in another part of India, they tend to develop into a
distinct caste. The stages of the process are readily traced. In
the first instance it is assumed that people who live in foreign
parts must of necessity eat forbidden food, worship alien
gods, and enter into relations with strange women.
Consequently when they wish to take wives from among their own
people, they find that their social status has been lowered and
that they must pay for the privilege of marrying within the
parent group. This luxury grows more and more expensive,
and in course of time the emigrants marry only among
themselves and thus become a sub-caste, usually distinguished by
a territorial name, such as Jaunpuriā, Tirhutiā, Bārendra, and
A good illustration of the formation of a caste by migration is to be found in the traditions of the Nambūdri or Nampūtiri Brāhmans of Malabar. These Brāhmans claim to have come to the west coast from various sacred localities in Kāthiāwār and the Northern Deccan. Mr. F. Fawcett describes them as 'the truest Aryans in Southern India,' and their complexion and features seem to lend some support to the tradition which assigns to them a foreign origin. Whatever their original stock may have been, they are now an entirely separate caste, differing from the Brāhmans of most other parts of India by their tendency to polygamy ; by their rejection of infant marriage; by their restriction of marriage to the eldest son, the other brothers entering into relations with Nāyar women ; and by the curious custom of ceremonial fishing which forms part of the marriage ritual with a certain division of them. Another instance of the same process is furnished by the Rārhi Brāhmans of Bengal. The current legend is that early in the eleventh century A,D., Rājā Adisura or Adisvara, finding the Brāhmans then settled in Bengal too ignorant to perform for [S. 320] him certain Vedic ceremonies, applied to the Rājā of Kanauj for priests conversant with the sacred ritual of the Aryans. In answer to his request there were sent to him five Brāhmans of Kanauj, who brought with them their wives, their sacred fire, and their sacrificial implements, and from these the Rārhi Brāhmans are descended. Adisura did what the Rajas of outlying and unorthodox tracts of country (such as Bengal was in the eleventh century) have constantly done since and are doing still. A local chief, far removed from the great centres of Brāhmanical lore, somehow becomes aware of his ceremonial shortcomings. He sends for Brāhmans, gives them grants of land near his own residence, and proceeds at their dictation to reform his ways on the model of the devout kings whom Brāhmanical literature holds up as the ideal for a Rājā to follow. The Brāhmans find for him a pedigree of respectable antiquity and provide him with a family legend ; and in course of time, by dint of money and diplomacy, he succeeds in getting himself recognized as a member of the local Rājput community. But that does not mean that the real Rājputs will acknowledge his pretensions ; nor will the Brāhmans who have attached themselves to his fortunes retain their status among the community from which they have broken off. It will be said of them, as is said of the Brāhman immigrants into Bengal, that they have married local women, eaten forbidden food, adopted strange customs, and forgotten the endless details of the elaborate ritual which they set forth to teach. As priests in partibus infidelium they will be regarded with suspicion by the Brāhmans of their original stock : they will have to pay high for brides from among their own people, and eventually will be cut off altogether from the ius connubii. When that stage has been reached they will have become to all intents and purposes a separate caste, retaining the generic name of Brāhman, but forming a new species and presenting a distinctive type. And this great change will have been brought about by the simple fact of their abandoning the habitat of their original community.
Occasionally it may happen that social promotion, rather than degradation, results from a change of residence. In Chānda, a remote District of the Central Provinces, a number of persons returned themselves at the 1901 Census as Barwaiks, and it was stated that the Barwaiks were a clan of Rājputs from Orissa who had come to Nāgpur in the train of the Bhonsla Rājās and had taken military service under them. Now in Chotā Nāgpur the Baraiks or Chick-Baraiks are a subcaste of the Pāns, [S. 321] the helot weavers and basket-makers who perform a variety of service functions for the organized Dravidian tribes, and used to live in a kind of ghetto in the villages of the Khonds, for whom they purveyed children destined for human sacrifice. The Census Superintendent observes that 'though it is possible that the coincidence may be accidental, still there seems good reason to fear that it is from these humble beginnings that the Barwaik sept of Rājputs in Chānda must trace its extraction. And it is clear that, before the days of railways and the half-anna post, an imposture of this sort must have been practically impossible of detection.'
Castes formed by changes of custom. The formation of new castes as a consequence of neglect of established usage, or the adoption of new ceremonial practices or secular occupations, has been a familiar incident of the caste system from the earliest times. We are told in Manu how men of the three twice-born castes who have not received the sacrament of initiation at the proper time, or who follow forbidden occupations, become Vrātyas or outcasts, intercourse with whom is punished with a double fine, and whose descendants are graded as distinct castes. Living as a Vrātya is a condition involving of itself exclusion from the original caste, and a Brāhman who performs sacrifices for such persons has to do penance. The idea of such changes of status is inherent in the system, and illustrations of its application are plentiful. Sometimes it figures in the traditions of a caste under the form of a claim to a more distinguished origin than is admitted by current opinion. The Skānda Purāna, for example, recounts an episode in Parasu Rāma's raid upon the Kshattriyas, the object of which is to show that the Kāyasths are by birth Kshattriyas of full blood, who by reason of their observing the ceremonies of the Sūdras are called Vrātya or incomplete Kshattriyas. The Bābhans or Bhuinhārs of the United Provinces and Bihār are supposed, according to some legends, to be Brāhmans who lost status by taking to agriculture. At the present day the most potent influence in bringing about elevations or depressions of social status, which may result ultimately in the formation of new castes, is the practice of widow remarriage. With the advance of orthodox ideas that may plausibly be ascribed to the extension of railways and the diffusion of primary education, it dawns upon some members of a particular caste that the custom of marrying widows is highly reprehensible, and, with the assistance of their Brāhmans, they set to work to discourage it. The first step is [S. 322] to abstain from intermarriage with people who practise the forbidden thing, and thus to form a sub-caste which adopts a high-sounding name derived from some famous locality like Ajodhyā or Kanauj, or describes itself as Biyāhut or Behuta (the married ones) by way of emphasizing the orthodox character of their matrimonial arrangements. Thus the Awadhiā or Ayodhiā Kurmīs of Bihār, and the Kanaujiā Kurmīs of the United Provinces, pride themselves on prohibiting the remarriage of widows, and are endeavouring to establish a shadowy title to be recognized as some variety of Kshattriya, in pursuance of which, with singular ignorance of the humble origin of the great Mahrātā houses, they claim kinship with Sivajī, Sindhia, and the Bhonsla family of Nāgpur. In Bihār they have succeeded in attaining a higher rank than ordinary Kurmīs. But although the Awadhiās have achieved complete practical separation from the main body of Kurmīs, no one accepts them as Kshattriyas or Rājputs, nor are they recognized by Hindu public opinion as forming a distinct caste. In the Punjab the distinction between the Jāts and the Rājputs, both presumably sprung from a common Indo-Aryan stock, is marked by the fact that the former practise, and the latter always abstain from, widow remarriage. The same test applies in the Kāngra Hills, the most exclusively Hindu portion of the Punjab, where Musalman domination was never fully established. Here the line between the Thakkar and Rāthi castes, both belonging to the lower classes of hill Rājputs, is said to consist in the fact that Rāthis do, and Thakkars do not, ordinarily practise widow marriage. In Southern India movements of the same sort may be observed. Among the begging castes which form nearly 1 per cent. of the population of the Tamil country, the Pandārams rank highest, in virtue of their abstention from meat and alcohol, and more especially of their prohibition of widow marriage.
An account will be found in chapter ix of the Report on the Census of India, 1901, of what may be called the internal structure of tribes and castes in India the various endogamous, exogamous, and hypergamous divisions which restrict and regulate matrimony, and form the minor wheels of the vast and intricate machinery by which Hindu society is controlled. It would be tedious to enter here upon a detailed description and analysis of these divisions. But from the point of view of general ethnology considerable interest attaches to one particular kind of division, to those exogamous groups which are based upon totems. The existence of totemism in India on a large scale [S. 323] has been brought to notice only in recent years ; the inquiries instituted in connexion with the Census have added materially to our knowledge of the subject ; and special attention is being given to it in the Ethnographic Survey now being conducted in all British Provinces and the more important Native States. At the bottom of the social system, as understood by the average Hindu, we find, mainly in the Dravidian regions of India, a large body of tribes and castes each of which is broken up into a number of totemistic septs. Each sept bears the name of an animal, a tree, a plant, or of some material object, natural or artificial, which the members of that sept are prohibited from tilling, eating, cutting, burning, carrying, using, &c.; and the members of such a sept may not intermarry. In short, totemistic exogamy prevails in India on a fairly large scale and is still in active operation.
In a country where the accident of birth determines irrevocably the whole course of a man's social and domestic relations, and he must throughout life eat, drink, dress, marry, and give in marriage in accordance with the usages of the community into which he was born, one is tempted at first sight to assume that the one thing that he may be expected to know with certainty, and to disclose without much reluctance, is the name of the caste, tribe, or nationality to which he belongs. As a matter of fact, no column in the Census schedule displays a more bewildering variety of entries, or gives so much trouble to the enumerating and testing staff and to the central offices which compile the results. If the person enumerated gives the name of a well-known tribe, such as Bhīl or Santāl, or of a standard caste like Brāhman or Kāyasth, all is well. But he may belong to an obscure caste from the other end of India ; he may give the name of a sect, of a sub-caste, of an exogamous sept or section, of a hypergamous group ; he may mention some titular designation which sounds finer than the name of his caste ; he may describe himself by his occupation, or by the Province or tract of country from which he comes. These various alternatives, which are far from exhausting the possibilities of the situation, undergo a series of transformations at the hands of the more or less illiterate enumerator who writes them down in his own vernacular, and the abstractor in the central office who transliterates them into English. Then begins a laborious and most difficult process of sorting, referencing, cross-referencing, and corresponding with local authorities, which ultimately results in the compilation of the Census Table XIII, showing the distribution of the inhabitants [S. 324] of India by caste, tribe, race, or nationality. The arrangement of this table is alphabetical, and it consists of two parts. The first is a general list of all the groups returned, with their distribution by religion, while the second shows the distribution by Provinces and States of all groups with an aggregate strength of 10,000. An analysis of the 1901 table shows that it includes 2,378 main castes and tribes, and forty-three races or nationalities. With the latter we are not concerned here ; as to the former, the question at once arises on what principle should they be arranged? An alphabetical system is useful for reference, and essential for the purely statistical purposes of a census table. But it does not help in the least towards presenting an intelligible picture of the social grouping of that large proportion of the people of India which is organized, admittedly or tacitly, on the basis of caste.
Accordingly, the principle adopted in 1901 was that of classification by social precedence, as recognized by native public opinion at the present day, and manifesting itself in the facts that particular castes are supposed to be the modern representatives of one or other of the castes of the theoretical Hindu system ;
that Brāhmans will take water from certain castes ;
that Brāhmans of high standing will serve particular castes ;
that certain castes, though not served by the best Brāhmans, have nevertheless got Brāhmans of their own, whose rank varies according to circumstances ;
that certain castes are not served by Brāhmans at all, but have their own priests ;
that the status of certain castes has been raised by their taking to infant marriage or abandoning the remarriage of widows ;
that the status of some castes has been lowered by living in a particular locality;
that the status of others has been modified by their pursuing some occupation in a special or peculiar way ;
that some can claim the services of the village barber, the village palanquin-bearer, the village midwife, &c., while others cannot ;
that some castes may not enter the court-yards of certain temples ;
that some are subject to special taboos, such as that they must not use the village well, or may draw water only with their own vessels, that they must live outside the village or in a separate quarter, that they must leave the road on the approach of a high-caste man or must call out to give warning of their approach.
In the case of the Animistic tribes it was mentioned that the prevalence of totemism and the degree of adoption of Hindu usages would serve as ready tests. Most of the Provincial Census Superintendents readily grasped the main idea of the scheme, and [S. 325] their patient industry, supplemented by the intelligent assistance given by the highest native authorities, has added very greatly to our knowledge of an obscure and intricate subject.
As no stereotyped scheme of classification was drawn up, but every Province was left to adopt its own system in consultation with local experts and representative men, it is clearly impossible to draw up any general scheme for the whole of India. One might as well try to construct a table of social precedence for Europe which should bring together Spanish grandees, Swiss hotel-keepers, Turkish Pashas, and Stock Exchange millionaires, and should indicate the precise degree of relative distinction attaching to each. The problem in fact is essentially a local one, and India is no more one country than is Europe. The Provincial schemes of classification are summarized in the Appendix to chapter xi of the Report on the Census of India, 1901. Although they cannot be reduced to common terms, they exhibit points of resemblance and difference which deserve some further examination. The first point to observe is the predominance throughout India of the influence of the traditional system of four original castes. In every scheme of grouping the Brāhman heads the list. Then come the castes whom popular opinion accepts as the modern representatives of the Kshattriyas, and these are followed by the mercantile groups supposed to be akin to the Vaisyas. When we leave the higher circles of the twice-born, the difficulty of finding a uniform basis of classification becomes apparent. The ancient designation 'Sūdra' finds no great favour in modern times, and we can point to no group that is generally recognized as representing it. The term is used in Bombay, Madras, and Bengal to denote a considerable number of castes of moderate respectability, the higher of whom are considered 'clean' Sūdras, while the precise status of the lower is a question which lends itself to controversy. At this stage of the grouping a sharp distinction may be noticed between Northern India and Bombay and Madras. In Rājputana, the Punjab, the United Provinces, the Central Provinces, Bengal, and Assam, the grade next below twice-born rank is occupied by a number of castes from whose hands Brāhmans and members of the higher castes will take water and certain kinds of sweetmeats. Below these again is a rather indeterminate group from whom water is taken by some of the higher castes, but not by others. Farther down, where the test of water no longer applies, the status of a caste depends on the nature of its occupation and its habits in respect of diet. There are castes whose touch defiles the [S. 326] twice-born, but who do not commit the crowning enormity of eating beef; while below these again in the social system of Northern India are people like Chamārs and Doms, who eat beef and various sorts of miscellaneous vermin. In Western and Southern India the idea that the social status of a caste depends on whether Brāhmans will take water and sweetmeats from its members is unknown, for the higher caste will as a rule take water only from persons of their own caste and subcaste. In Southern India the idea of ceremonial pollution by the proximity of a member of an unclean caste has been developed with much elaboration. Thus, the table of social precedence attached to the Cochin Report shows that, while a Nāyar can pollute a man of a higher caste only by touching him, people of the Kammālan group, including masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, and workers in leather, pollute at a distance of 24 feet, toddy-drawers (Iluvan or Tīyan) at 36 feet, Pulayan or Cheruman cultivators at 48 feet ; while in the case of the Paraiyan (Pariah), who eats beef, the range of pollution is stated to be no less than 64 feet.
The subject is examined fully in some of the Provincial Census Reports of 1901, to which the reader is referred for further particulars. No attempt was made to grade every caste. Large classes were formed, and the various groups included in these were arranged in alphabetical order so as to escape the necessity of settling the more delicate questions of precedence. As an illustration of the method of procedure, we may refer to the table of precedence for Bengal proper, which was compiled by Mr. Risley some years ago, and was adopted by Mr. Gait (Census Superintendent, 1901) after careful examination by local committees of native gentlemen appointed for the purpose.
The entire Hindu population of this tract, numbering nineteen millions, has been divided into seven classes.
The first class is reserved for the Brāhmans, of whom there are more than a million, forming 6 per
cent, of the Hindus of Bengal. As every one knows, there are
Brāhmans and Brāhmans, of status varying from the Rārhi, who claim
to have been imported by Adisura from Kanauj, to the
Barna Brāhmans who serve the lower castes, from whose hands
pure Brāhmans will not take water, and to the
Vyāsokta Brāhmans who serve the Chāsi Kaibartta caste, and rank
so low that even their own clients will not touch food in
Next in order, at the top of the second
class, come the Rājputs, basing their claims to precedence on
their supposed [S. 327] descent from the pure Rājputs of the distant
Indo-Aryan tract. Their number (113,405) must include a large
proportion of families belonging to local castes who
acquired land and assumed the title of Rājput on the strength
of their territorial position. Then follow the Baidyas, by
tradition physicians, and the writer caste of Kāyasths. The former
pose as the modern representatives of the Ambastha of
Manu, and assert their superiority to the Kāyasths. The Kāyasths, on the other hand, claim to be Kshattriyas who took to
clerical work ; deny the identity of the Baidyas with the
Ambasthas ; and describe them as a local caste, unknown in the great
centres of Hinduism, who were Sūdras till about a century ago,
when they took to wearing the sacred thread and bribed the
Brāhmans to acquiesce in their pretensions.
The third class, numbering three millions,
comprises the functional castes originally known as
Navasākha (the nine 'branches' or 'arrows') and the other 'clean' Sūdras, from whose hands the higher castes take water, and
who are served by high-class Brāhmans. Confectioners,
perfume vendors, betel growers, oilmen, gardeners, potters,
and barbers figure in this group, the constitution of which appears
to have been largely determined by considerations of
practical convenience. The preparation of a Hindu meal is a very
elaborate performance, involving lengthy ablutions and a variety of
ritualistic observances which cannot be performed on a
journey; and it is essential to the comfort of the orthodox
traveller that he should be able to procure sweetmeats of
various kinds without being troubled by misgivings as to the
ceremonial cleanliness of the people from whom he buys them. In
matters of food and drink caste rules are wisely elastic. It
has been held that neither ice nor soda-water counts as water
for the purpose of conveying pollution ; there are special
exemptions in favour of biscuits and patent medicines, for the last
of which the Bengali has an insatiable appetite ; and in an
outlying District where the only palanquin-bearers available were
Dravidian Bhuiyās, these have been promoted to the rank of a
water-giving (jalācharaniya) caste in order that the
twice-born traveller might be able to get a drink without quitting
The fourth class includes only two castes
-- the Chāsi Kaibartta and the Goālā -- from whom water is
taken by the high castes, but whose Brāhmans are held to
be degraded. About the former group Mr. Risley wrote in
18911: 'It seems likely, as time goes on, that this
sub-caste will rise in [S. 328] social estimation, and will altogether sink
the Kaibartta, so that eventually it is possible that they may
succeed in securing a place with the Navasākha.' The forecast has
so far been fulfilled that, at the 1901 Census, the Chāsi
Kaibartta called themselves Māhisya, the name of the offspring
of a legendary cross between Kshattriyas and Vaisyas, and
posed as a separate caste.
1 Tribes and Castes of Bengal.
Class V contains a rather miscellaneous
assortment of castes, including the Baishtam, the Sunri, and the
Subarnabanik, from whom the higher castes do not usually take
water. Their precedence is also defined by the fact that,
although the village barber will shave them, he will not cut their
toe-nails, nor will he take part in their marriage ceremonies.
The sixth class includes a long list of
castes, numbering nearly eight millions, who abstain from
eating beef, pork, and fowls, but from whom the higher castes will
not take water. They are served by degraded Brāhmans, the
regular barbers refuse to shave them, and some of them have
special barbers of their own. Most of them, however, can get
their clothes washed by the village washerman. The typical
members of this group are the Bāgdi (1,032,004),
Dravidian cultivators and labourers; the Jeliya or fishing Kaibartta
(447,237); the Namasūdra or Chandāl (1,860,914); the Pod
(464,921), fishermen and cultivators; and the
Rājbansi-Koch (2,065,982), nearly all of whom are small cultivators.
Class VII represents the lowest grade of the Bengal system, castes who eat all manner of unclean food, whose touch pollutes, whom no Brāhman, however degraded, will serve, and for whom neither barber nor washerman will work. It comprises the scavenging Doms and Haris ; the leather-working Chamārs and Muchis; and the Bauris, who eat rats and revere the dog as their totem, because, as some of them told Colonel Dalton, it is the right thing to have some sacred animal, and dogs are useful while alive and not very nice to eat when dead.
Islām, whether regarded as a religious system or as a theory of things, is in every respect the antithesis of Hinduism. Its idea is strenuous action rather than hypnotic contemplation ; it allots to man a single life and bids him make the best of it ; its practical spirit knows nothing of a series of transmigrations, of karma, of the weariness of existence which weighs upon the Hindu mind. For the dream of absorption into an impersonal Weltgeist it substitutes a very personal Paradise, made up of joys such as all Orientals understand. On its social side the [S. 329] religion of Muhammad is equally opposed to the Hindu scheme of a hierarchy of castes, an elaborate stratification of society based upon subtle distinctions of food, drink, dress, marriage, and ceremonial usage. In the sight of God and of His Prophet all followers of Islām are equal. In India, however, caste is in the air; its contagion has spread even to the Muhammadans; and we find its evolution proceeding on characteristically Hindu lines. In both communities foreign descent forms the highest claim to social distinction ; in both promotion cometh from the west. As the twice-born Aryan is to the mass of Hindus, so is the Muhammadan of alleged Arab, Persian, Afghān, or Mughal origin to the rank and file of his coreligionists. And just as in the traditional Hindu system men of the higher groups could marry women of the lower, while the converse process was vigorously condemned, so, within the higher ranks of the Muhammadans, a Saiyid will marry a Sheikh's daughter but will not give his daughter in return ; and intermarriage between the upper circle of soi-disant foreigners and the main body of Indian Muhammadans is generally reprobated, except in parts of the country where the aristocratic element is small and must arrange its marriages as best it can. Even there, however, it is only under the stress of great poverty that a member of the ashrāf, or 'noble' class, will give his daughter to one of the ajlāf, or 'low people,' as converts of indigenous origin are called in Bengal. Of course, the limits of the various groups are not defined as sharply as they are with the Hindus. The well-known proverb which occurs in various forms in different parts of Northern India -- 'Last year I was a Jolāhā (weaver) ; now I am a Sheikh ; next year if prices rise, I shall become a Saiyid' -- marks the difference, though analogous changes of status are not unknown among Hindus and, as Mr. Gait observes, 'promotion is not so rapid in reality as it is in the proverb.' But speaking generally, it maybe said that the social cadre of the higher ranks of Muhammadans is based on hypergamy with a tendency in the direction of endogamy, while the lower functional groups are strictly endogamous, and are organized on the model of regular castes, with councils and officers which enforce the observance of caste rules by the time-honoured sanction of boycotting.
On the outskirts of the Empire lie two regions where Hindu standards of social precedence and Hindu notions of caste are neither recognized nor known. In Baluchistān, until less than a generation ago, Hindus were tolerated only as a useful class of menials who carried on the petty trade which the fighting [S. 330] races deemed below their dignity. They adopted the device, not unknown in mediaeval Europe, of putting themselves under the protection of their more powerful neighbours, and Mr. Hughes-Buller (Baluchistan Census Report, 1901) tells us that even now a Hindu, when asked to what caste he belongs, 'will often describe himself by the name of the tribal group to which he holds himself attached,' Among the non-Hindu people of Baluchistān the question of social precedence is intricate and obscure, and its details must be studied in Mr. Hughes-Buller's excellent Report. Of the three chief races, the Afghāns rank highest, in virtue of their former sovereignty ; then come the Baloch, who also once bore rule ; and last the Brāhui, who were in power at the time of the British occupation. The relative position of the two latter is indicated by various proverbs, by the attempts of the Brāhui to trace their descent to the Baloch, and by the fact that 'no self-respecting Baloch will give his daughter to a Brāhui.' Below these races come the Jats, a term which seems to be loosely used to denote all sorts of menial classes, including professional musicians (Lāngahs), blacksmiths (Loris), and leather-workers (Muchis). But even here there is no hard and fast prohibition of intermarriage, and both Baloch and Brāhui will take wives from among the Jats. Within the circle of each tribe a condition of theoretical equality appears to prevail, tempered by personal considerations arising from capacity to lead, religious sanctity, age, and kinship with a ruling family.
In Burma caste is so little known that the Burmese language possesses no word for it, while one of the difficulties of conducting the census of the numerous Indian immigrants was the impossibility of making the average Burman enumerator understand the meaning of the Indian term zāt or jāt. Differences of religion he can grasp in a vague sort of way ; he has a notion of what is meant by race ; but caste remains to him an insoluble mystery, a thing with which his democratic spirit has no sympathy whatever. Mr. Lewis (Burma Census Report, 1901) assures us that there are not and never have been any true castes in Burma, though a class of landed proprietors in Minbu, known as the Thugaungs, appear to be endogamous, and thirty-six professional groups with hereditary occupations are said to have existed among the Chins.
No attempt can be made here to analyse and explain the distribution of the nearly 2,400 castes and tribes which have been enumerated in the 1901 Census. The distribution of thirty-six of the principal tribes and castes is shown in the series [S. 331] of maps annexed to chapter xi of the Census Report, and a glance at these will show that some castes are diffused over the whole of India, while others are localized in particular Provinces or tracts of country1. The typical instance of a widely diffused caste is furnished by the Brāhmans, who number nearly fifteen millions, and represent a proportion of the total population ranging from ten per cent, in the United Provinces, Central India, and Rājputana, to three per cent, in Madras, the Central Provinces, and Bengal proper, and two per cent, in Assam and Chotā Nāgpur. The distribution accords fairly well with the history and traditions of the caste. They are strongest in their original centre, numbering nearly five millions in the United Provinces, and weakest in the outlying tracts, peopled mainly by non-Aryan races, whom their influence has even now only imperfectly reached. There can, moreover, be little doubt that many of the Brāhmans of the more remote tracts have been manufactured on the spot by the simple process of conferring the title of Brāhman on the tribal priests of the local deities. The so-called Barna Brāhmans, who serve the lower castes of Bengal, probably obtained sacerdotal rank in this fashion. That the priestly caste is not of altogether unmixed descent is attested by the numerous legends of Rājās who, having sworn a rash oath to feed a stated number of Brāhmans, found the supply run short and were obliged to make them up for the occasion out of any materials that were at hand. As with the Brāhmans, so in the chief functional groups the tendency is towards wide diffusion, and their racial composition probably differs materially in different Provinces. Owing to differences of language, the maps above mentioned fail to bring out the complete facts in relation to the whole of India. Thus, the leather-workers (Chamār and Muchi) of Northern India, numbering about twelve millions and forming twelve per cent, of the population of the United Provinces, correspond with the Chakkiliyan (486,884) and Mādiga (755,316) of Madras, but the maps do not include these. In each Province such groups form, of course, distinct castes which have probably been evolved independently.
1 The distribution of the roost important castes is shown, more generally, in the ethnographic map of the Atlas accompanying the Gazetteer.
Of the localized groups a large number are admittedly tribes. The Bhīl, Gond, Kolī, and Santāl come within this category, and are still outside the Hindu social system. The Doms, Dosādhs, Gūjars, Jāts, Kaibarttas, Namasūdras (Chandāls), Pods, Nāyars, Pallis, Paraiyans (Pariahs), and Rājbansi-Koch [S. 332] represent tribes which have been transformed into castes at a comparatively recent date and still retain some traces of the tribal stage of development.
Several theories of the origin of caste are to be found in theliterature of the subject. The oldest and most famous is accepted as an article of faith by all orthodox Hindus, and its attraction extends, as each successive Census shows, through an ever-widening circle of aspirants to social distinction. It appears in its most elaborate form in the curious jumble of magic, religion, law, custom, ritual, and metaphysics which is commonly called the Institutes of Manu. Here we read how the Anima Mundi, the supreme soul which 'contains all created beings and is inconceivable,' produced by a thought a golden egg, in which 'he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world,' Then ' for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds, he caused the Brāhman, the Kshattriya, the Vaisya, and the Sūdra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet,' and allotted to each of these their distinctive duties. The Brāhman was enjoined to study, teach, sacrifice, and receive alms ; the Kshattriya to protect the people and abstain from sensual pleasures ; the Vaisya to tend cattle, to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land; while for the Sūdra was prescribed the comprehensive avocation of meekly serving the other three groups. Starting from this basis, the standard Indian tradition proceeds to trace the evolution of the caste system from a series of complicated crosses, first between members of the four groups and then between the descendants of these initial unions. The men of the three higher groups might marry women of any of the groups below them, and if the wife belonged to the group next in order of precedence the children took her rank, and no new caste was formed. If, however, the mother came from a group lower down in the scale, her children belonged neither to her group nor to their father's, but formed a distinct caste called by a different name. Thus the son of a Brāhman by a Vaisya woman is an Ambastha, to whom belongs the art of healing; while if the mother is a Sūdra, the son is a Nishāda and must live by killing fish. The son of a Kshattriya father and a Sūdra mother is 'a being called Ugra, resembling both a Kshattriya and a Sūdra, ferocious in his manners and delighting in cruelty,' In all of these the father is of higher rank than the mother, and the marriages are held to have taken place in the right order (anuloma, or 'with the hair'). Unions of the converse type, in which the woman belongs to a superior group, are condemned (pratiloma, [S. 333] or 'against the hair.' The extreme instance of the fruit of pratiloma relations is the Chandāl, the son of a Brāhman woman by a Sūdra, who is described as 'that lowest of mortals,' and is condemned to live outside the village, to clothe himself in the garments of the dead, to eat from broken dishes, to execute criminals, and to carry out the corpses of friendless men. But the Ayogavas, with a Sūdra father and a Kshattriya mother, are not much better off, for the accident of their birth is sufficient to brand them as wicked people who eat reprehensible food. Alliances between the descendants of these first crosses produce, among others, the Sairandhra who is 'skilled in adorning his master,' and pursues as an alternative occupation the art of snaring animals ; and 'the sweet-voiced Maitreyaka who, ringing a bell at the appearance of dawn, continually praises great men,' Finally, a fresh series of connubial complications is introduced by the Vrātya, the twice-born men who have neglected their sacred duties and have among their direct descendants the Malla, the Licchivi, the Nata, the Karana, the Khasa, and the Dravida, while each of these in its turn gives rise to further mazes of hypothetical parentage.
It is small wonder that European critics should have been so impressed by the unreal character of this grotesque scheme of social evolution, that some of them have put it aside as a mere figment of the subjective intellect of the ingenious Brāhman. Yet, fantastic as it is, it opens indirectly and unconsciously an instructive glimpse of prehistoric society in India. It shows us that at the time when Manu's treatise was compiled, probably about the second century A.D., there must have existed an elaborate and highly developed social system, including tribal or national groups like the Nishāda, Māgadha, Vaideha, Malla, Licchivi, Khasa, Dravida, Saka, Kirāta, and Chandāl ; and functional groups such as the Ambastha, who were physicians ; the Sūta, who were concerned with horses and chariots ; the Nishāda, and the Mārgavas, Dasas or Kaivartas, who were fishermen ; the Ayogava, carpenters ; the Kārāvara and Dhigvansa, workers in leather ; and the Vena, musicians and players on the drum. It is equally clear that the occupations of Brāhmans were as diverse as they are at the present day, and that their position in this respect was just as far removed from that assigned to them by the traditional theory. In the list of Brāhmans whom a pious householder should not entertain at a srāddha1 we find physicians [S. 334] ; sellers of meat ; shopkeepers ; usurers ; actors ; singers ; oilmen ; keepers of gambling houses ; sellers of spices ; makers of bows and arrows ; cowherds, and trainers of elephants, oxen, horses or camels ; astrologers ; bird-fanciers ; fencing-masters ; architects; breeders of sporting dogs; falconers; cultivators; shepherds; and even carriers of dead bodies. The conclusions suggested by the passages cited from Manu are confirmed by Dr. Richard Fick's instructive study of the structure of society in Bihār and the Eastern Districts of the United Provinces at the time of Buddha 2. Dr Fick's work is based mainly upon the Jātakas or 'birth-stories' of the Southern Buddhists; and from these essentially popular sources, free from any suggestion of Brāhmanical influence, he succeeds in showing that, at the period depicted, the social organization in the part of India with which his authorities were familiar did not differ very materially from that which prevails at the present day. Then, as now, the traditional hierarchy of four castes had no distinct and determinate existence, still less had the so-called mixed castes supposed to be derived from them, while of the Sūdras in particular no trace at all was to be found. Then, as now, Indian society was made up of a medley of diverse and heterogeneous groups, apparently not so strictly and uniformly endogamous as the castes of to-day, but containing within themselves the germs out of which the modern system has developed by natural and insensible stages. That development has been furthered by a variety of influences which will be discussed below.
1 Laws of Manu, iii. 149-167,
2 Die sociale Gliederung im nordöstlichen Indien zu Buddha's Zeit (1897).
Assuming that the writers of the law books had before their eyes the same kind of social chaos that exists now, the first question that occurs is, From what source did they derive the theory of the four castes? Manu, of course, as Sir Henry Maine has pointed out, is a relatively modern work ; but the traditional scheme of castes figures in earlier law books, such as the Baudhāyana and Apastamba, and it seems probable that for them it was not so much a generalization from observed facts as a traditional theory, which they attempted to stretch so as to explain the facts. The Indian pandit does not take kindly to inductive methods, nor is it easy to see how he could have arrived by this road at a hypothesis which breaks down directly it is brought into contact with the realities of life. But it is possible that the Brāhmanical theory of castes may be nothing more than a modified version of the division of [S. 335] society into four classes priests, warriors, cultivators, and artisans which appears in the sacerdotal literature of ancient Persia1. It is not suggested that the Irānian legend of four classes formed part of the stock of tradition which the Aryans brought with them into India. Had this been so, the myth relating to their origin would have figured prominently in the Vedas, and would not have appeared solely in the Purusha Sukta, which most critics agree in regarding as a modern interpolation. The conjecture is that the relatively modern compilers of the law books, having become acquainted with the Irānian legend, were fascinated by its assertion of priestly supremacy, and made use of it as the basis of the theory by which they attempted to explain the manifold complexities of the caste system. The procedure is characteristic of Brāhmanical literary methods, and is in itself no more absurd than a recent attempt on the part of the Aryā Samāj to discover in the Rig-veda an anticipation of the discoveries of modern science.
1 Spiegel, Eranische Alterthumskunde, iii. 547-670.
The differences in the Indian and Irānian categories are trifling, and admit of being accounted for by the fact that India had, what Persia had not, a large aboriginal population, differing from the Indo-Aryans in respect of religion, usages, and physical type, and more especially in the conspicuous attribute of colour. These people had somehow to be brought within the limits of the scheme ; and this was done by the simple process of lumping them together in the servile class of Sūdras, which is sharply distinguished from the twice-born groups and has a far lower status than is assigned to the artisans in the Irānian system. Thus the four varnas, or colours, of the Indian myth seem to occupy an intermediate position between the purely occupational classes of ancient Persia and Egypt and the rigidly defined castes of modern India. In the Persian system only the highest group of Athravans or priests was endogamous, while between the other three groups, as between all the groups of the Egyptian system (excluding the swineherds if we follow Herodotus), no restrictions on intermarriage appear to have been recognized. Moreover, as is implied by the distinction between the twice-born classes and the Sūdras, and by the prominence given to the element of colour (varna), the Indian system rests upon a basis of racial antagonism of which there is no trace in Persia and Egypt. Yet in the stage of development portrayed in the law books the system had not hardened [S. 336] into the rigid mechanism of the present day. It is still more or less fluid ; it admits of intermarriage under the limitations imposed by the rule of hypergamy ; it represents caste in the making, not caste as it has since been made. This process of caste-making has indeed by no means come to an end. Fresh castes are constantly being formed, and wherever we can trace the stages of their evolution they seem to proceed on the lines followed in the traditional scheme. The first stage is for a number of families, who discover in themselves some quality of social distinction, to refuse to give their women in marriage to other members of the caste, from whom nevertheless they continue to take wives. After a time, when their numbers have increased and they have bred women enough to supply material for a ius connubii of their own, they close their ranks, marry only among themselves, and pose as a superior sub-caste of the main caste to which they belong. Last of all they break off all connexion with the parent stock, assume a new name which ignores or disguises their original affinities, and claim general recognition as a distinct caste. The educated Pods of Bengal are an illustration of the first stage ; the Chāsi Kaibartta of the second ; the Māhisya of the third.
We may now pass from the pious fictions of Manu and the Rāmāyana to those modern critical theories which, whether they carry conviction or not, at least start from and give full weight to the facts, and make an honest attempt to work out a scientific solution of the problem. Among these Sir Ibbetson's description of caste in the Punjab1 contains the most vivid presentment of the system in its everyday working, of the various elements which have contributed to its making, and of the surprising diversity of the results which have been produced. From this wealth of material it is not altogether easy to disentangle the outlines of a cut-and-dried theory, and it may well have been the intention of the writer to leave the question more or less open, and to refrain from the futile endeavour to compress such infinite variety within the limits of any formula. The following passage sums up the leading features of the hypothesis ; but the exposition of its working requires to be studied as a whole, and the entire section dealing with the evolution of caste will be found in the Ethnographic Appendices to the Report on the Census of India, 1901.
1 Report on the Census of the Punjab, 1881, pp. 172-341.
'Thus, if my theory be correct, we have the following steps in the process by which caste has been evolved in the Punjab : [S. 337]
the tribal divisions common to all primitive societies;
the guilds based upon hereditary occupation common to the middle life of all communities ;
the exaltation of the priestly office to a degree unexampled in other countries ;
the exaltation of the Levitical blood by a special insistence upon the necessarily hereditary nature of occupation ;
the preservation and support of this principle by the elaboration from the theories of the Hindu creed or cosmogony of a purely artificial set of rules, regulating marriage and intermarriage, declaring certain occupations and foods to be impure and polluting, and prescribing the conditions and degree of social intercourse permitted between the several castes.
Add to these the pride of social rank and the pride of blood which are natural to man, and which alone could reconcile a nation to restrictions at once irksome from a domestic and burdensome from a material point of view ; and it is hardly to be wondered at that caste should have assumed the rigidity which distinguishes it in India.'
M. Senart's criticism on this theory1 is directed to two points.
He demurs, in the first place, to the share which he supposes it to assign to Brāhmanical influence, and challenges the supposition that a strict code of rules, exercising so absolute a dominion over the consciences of men, could be merely a modern invention, artificial in its character and self-regarding in its aims.
Secondly, he takes exception to the disproportionate importance which he conceives Sir Denzil Ibbetson to attach to community of occupation, and points out that, if this were really the original binding principle of caste, the tendency towards incessant fission and dislocation would be much less marked : the force that in the beginning united the various scattered atoms would continue to hold them together to the end.
Both criticisms appear to miss an essential feature in the scheme, the influence of the idea of kinship, which is certainly the oldest and probably the most enduring factor in the caste system, and which seems to have supplied the framework and the motive principle of the more modern restrictions based upon ceremonial usage and community of occupation.
1 Les Castes dans l'Inde
Mr. Nesfield1 is a theorist of quite a different type. He feels no doubts and is troubled by no misgivings. Inspired by the systematic philosophy of Comte, he maps out the whole confused region of Indian caste into a graduated series of [S. 338] groups and explains exactly how each has come by the place that it occupies in the scheme. As stated on page 286, he assumes as the basis of his theory the essential unity of the Indian race, and appeals to 'physiological resemblance' to prove that 'for the last three thousand years at least no real difference of blood between Aryan and aboriginal' has existed 'except perhaps in a few isolated tracts,' In his opinion the conquering Aryan race was completely absorbed by the indigenous population. The homogeneous people thus formed are divided by Mr. Nesfield, in the area to which his researches relate, the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, into the following seven groups, among which he distributes the 121 castes enumerated in the Census of 1881 :
Allied to fishing state.
Allied to pastoral state.
Landlords and warriors.
Coeval with metallurgy.
1 Brief View of the Caste System of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, pp. 3, 4, 75, 88, 329-132.
The classification, it will be observed, is based solely upon occupation, and it expresses Mr. Nesfield's conviction that 'function, and function only, as I think, was the foundation upon which the whole caste system of India was built up.' The order of the groups is determined by the principle that 'each caste or group of castes represents one or other of those progressive stages of culture which have marked the industrial development of mankind, not only in India, but in every other country in the world wherein some advance has been made from primeval savagery to the arts and industries of civilized life. The rank of any caste as high or low depends upon whether the industry represented by the caste belongs to an advanced or backward stage of culture ; and thus the natural history of human industries affords the chief clue to the gradations as well as to the formation of Indian castes,' At the bottom of the scale are the more or less primitive tribes -- Thārus, Kanjars, Doms, and Nats -- 'the last remains and sole surviving representatives of the aboriginal Indian savage, who was once the only inhabitant of the Indian continent, and from whose stock the entire caste system, from the sweeper to the priest, was fashioned by the slow growth of centuries.' Then come the hunting Baheliyas, the Mallāhs and Dhīmars (boatmen and fishermen), the pastoral Ahīrs and Gadariās, and the great mass of agriculturists, while above these he finds in the [S. 339] Kshattriya or Rājput the sole representative of the landlord and warrior caste. The artisan castes are subdivided with reference to the supposed priority of the evolution of their crafts. The basket-making Bānsphors, the weavers (Kori and Jolāhā), the potters (Kumhārs), and the oilmen (Teli) fall within the more primitive group antecedent to metallurgy, while blacksmiths, goldsmiths, tailors, and confectioners are placed in the group coeval with the use of metals. Above them again come the trading and the serving castes, among whom we find in rather odd collocation the scavenging Bhangī, the barber (Nāpit or Nai), the bard and genealogist (Bhāt), and the Kāyasths, who are described as estate managers and writers. The Brāhmans and the religious orders complete the scheme. But the mere classification obviously offers no solution of the real problem. How did these groups, which occur in one form or another all over the world, become hardened into castes ? Why is it that in India alone their members are absolutely forbidden to intermarry ? Mr. Nesfield replies without hesitation that the whole series of matrimonial taboos which constitute the caste system are due to the initiative of the Brāhmans. According to him they introduced for their own purposes, and in order to secure the dignity and privileges of their own caste, the rule that a Brāhman could only marry a Brāhman, and all the other classes, who up to that time had intermarried freely, followed their example, 'partly in imitation and partly in self-defence.' The proposition recalls the short way that writers of the eighteenth century were apt to take with historical problems, reminding one of Bolingbroke's easy assertion that the sacred literature of Egypt was invented by the priests. Detailed criticism would be out of place here : the main object of this chapter is to lay stress on precisely those factors of evolution which Mr. Nesfield ignores ; but it may be observed that a theory which includes in the same categories the Dom and the Teli, the Banjārā and the Khattrī, the Bhangī and the Kāyasth must, in the race for acceptance, have a good deal of leeway to make up.
After examining the views propounded by Sir Denzil Ibbetson and Mr. Nesfield, and by Mr. Risley in his Tribes and Castes of Bengal, M. Senart passes on to formulate his own theory of the origin of caste. In his view caste is the normal development of ancient Aryan institutions, which assumed this form in the struggle to adapt themselves to the conditions with which they came into contact in India. In developing this proposition he relies greatly upon the general parallelism that may be traced between the social organization of the Hindus [S. 340] and that of the Greeks and Romans in the earlier stages of their national development. He points out the close correspondence that exists between the three series of groups -- gens, curia tribe at Rome; family, φρατρια, φυλη in Greece; and family, gotra, caste in India. Pursuing the subject into fuller detail, he seeks to show that the leading principles which underlie the caste system form part of a stock of usage and tradition common to all branches of the Aryan people. In the department of marriage, for example, the Athenian γενοσ and the Roman gens present striking resemblances to the Indian gotra. We learn from Plutarch that the Romans never married a woman of their own kin, and among the matrons who figure in classical literature none bears the same gentile name as her husband. Nor was endogamy unknown. At Athens, in the time of Demosthenes, membership of a φρατρια was confined to the offspring of the families belonging to the group. In Rome the long struggle of the plebeians to obtain the ius connubii with patrician women belongs to the same class of facts; and the patricians, according to M. Senart, were guarding the endogamous rights of their order or should we not rather say the hypergamous rights? for in Rome, as in Athens, the primary duty of marrying a woman of equal rank did not exclude the possibility of union with women of humbler origin. We read in Manu how the gods disdain the oblations offered by a Sūdra : at Rome they were equally offended by the presence of a stranger at the sacrifice of the gens. Marriage itself is a sacrifice at which husband and wife officiate as priests, and their equality of status is attested by their solemnly eating together. The Roman confarreatio has its parallel in the got kanāla or 'tribal trencher' of the Punjab, the connubial meal by partaking of which the wife is transferred from her own exogamous group to that of her husband.
As with marriage so with food. The prohibition, which strikes us as so strange, against eating with members of another caste or partaking of food prepared by a man of lower caste recalls the religious significance which the Aryans attached to the common meal of the household. Cooked at the sacred fire, it symbolizes the unity of the family, its life in the present, its ties with the past. In Rome, as in India, daily libations were offered to ancestors; and the funeral feasts of the Greeks and Romans (περιδειπνον and silicernium) correspond to the srāddha of Hindu usage which, in M. Senart's view, represents 'an ideal prolongation of the family meal.' He seems even to find in the communal meals of the Persians, [S. 341] and in the Roman charistia, from which were excluded not only strangers but any members of the family whose conduct had been unworthy, the analogue of the communal feast at which a social offender in India is received back into caste. The exclusion from religious and social intercourse symbolized by the Roman interdict aqua et igni corresponds to the ancient Indian ritual for expulsion from caste, where a slave fills the offender's vessel with water and solemnly pours it out on the ground, and to the familiar formula hukka pānī band karna, in which the modern luxury of tobacco takes the place of the sacred fire of the Roman excommunication. Even the caste panchāyat that wields these formidable sanctions has its parallel in the family councils which in Greece, Rome, and ancient Germany assisted at the exercise of the patria potestas, and in the chief of the gens who, like the mātabar of a caste, decided disputes between its members and gave decisions which were recognized by the state.
How was it that out of this common stock of usage there arose institutions so antagonistic in their nature as the castes of India and the nations of Europe ? To what causes is it due that among the Aryans of the West all the minor groups have been absorbed in the wider circle of national unity, while the Indian Aryans have nothing to show in the way of social organization but a bewildering multitude of castes and sub-castes? M. Senart suggests a cause, but makes no attempt to follow out or illustrate its workings. He says, ' L'Inde ne s'est élevée ni à l'idée de l'État ni à l'idée de la Patrie. Au lieu de s'étendre, le cadre s'y resserre. Au sein des républiques antiques la notion des classes tend à se résoudre dans l'idée plus large de la cité ; dans l'Inde elle s'accuse, elle tend á se circonscrire dans les cloisons étroites de la caste. N'oublions pas qu'ici les immigrants se répandaient sur une aire immense ; les groupements trop vastes étaient condamnés à se disperses Dans cette circonstance les inclinations particularistes puisèrent un supplément de force.'
Distribution over a wide area, tending to multiply groups ; contact with the aborigines, encouraging pride of blood ; the idea of ceremonial purity, leading to the employment of the indigenous races in occupations involving manual labour, while the higher pursuits were reserved for the Aryans ; the influence of the doctrine of metempsychosis, which assigns to every man a definite status determined by the inexorable law of karma ; the absence of any political power to draw the scattered groups together; and the authority which the Brāhmanical system gradually acquired these seem to be the main factors of [S. 342] M. Senart's theory of caste. It may be urged in favour of his view of the subject that evolution, especially social evolution, is a gradual and complex process, that many causes work together to produce the final result, and that the attempt to reduce them to a single formula carries with it its own refutation. On the other hand, as Dr. Fick has pointed out1, if caste were a normal extension of the ancient Aryan family system, the absence of any traces of this tendency in the Vedas is hardly accounted for by the statement that development proceeded so slowly, and was based on such primitive and instinctive impulses, that we could scarcely expect to find any tangible indications of it in a literature like that of the Hymns.
1 Fick, loc. cit., p. 3.
Before proceeding farther we may dispose of the popular notion that community of occupation is the sole basis of the caste system. If this were so, as M. Senart has effectively pointed out, the institution 'aurait montré moins de tendance à se morceler, à se disloquer ; l'agent qui l'aurait unifiée d'abord en aurait maintenu la cohésion.' To put it in another way, if the current idea were correct, all cultivators, all traders, all weavers ought to belong to the same caste, at any rate within the same area. But every one knows that this is not the case ; that the same occupation embraces a whole crowd of castes each of which is a close corporation, though the members of each carry on the avocation that is common to them all. Several writers have laid stress on the analogy between Indian castes and the trade guilds of mediaeval Europe. The comparison is misleading. In the first place the guild was never endogamous in the sense that a caste is : there was nothing to prevent a man of one guild from marrying a girl of another. Secondly, there was no bar to the admission of outsiders who had learned the business : the guild recruited smart apprentices, just as the Baloch and Brāhui open their ranks to a fighting man who has proved his worth. The common occupation was a real tie, a source of strength in the long struggle against nobles and kings, not a symbol of disunion and weakness like caste in India. If the guild had been a caste, bound by rigid rules as to food, marriage, and social intercourse, and split up into a dozen divisions which could not eat together or intermarry, the wandering apprentice who was bound to travel for a year from town to town to learn the secrets of his art could hardly have managed to exist, still less could he have discharged, like Quintin Matsys and a host of less famous [S. 343] craftsmen, the traditional duty of marrying his master's daughter. A guild may expand and develop; it gives free play to artistic endeavour ; and it was the union of the guilds that gave birth to the Free Cities of the Middle Ages. A caste is an organism of a lower type ; it grows by fission, and each step in its growth detracts from its power to advance or even to preserve the art which it professes to practise.
A curious illustration of the inadequacy of occupation alone to generate and maintain the instinct of caste as we see it at work in India is furnished by certain ordinances of the Theodosian code. In the early part of the fifth century, when the Western Roman Empire was fast falling to pieces, an attempt was made, from purely fiscal motives, to determine the status and fix the obligations of all classes of officials. In his fascinating account of the constitution of society in those days, Professor Dill tells us how 'an almost Oriental system of caste ' had made all public functions hereditary, 'from the senator to the waterman on the Tiber or the sentinel at a frontier post1.' The Navicularii who maintained vessels for transport by sea, the Pistores who provided bread for the people of Italy, the Pecuarii and Suarii who kept up the supply of butcher's meat, were all organized on a system as rigid and tyrannical as that which prevails in India at the present day. Each class was bound down to its characteristic occupation, and its matrimonial arrangements were governed by the curious rule that a man must marry within the caste, while if a woman married outside of it her husband thereby acquired her status and had to take on the public duties that went with it. This surprising arrangement was not a spontaneous growth, like caste in India, but owed its existence to a law enforced by executive action. 'One of the hardest tasks of the Government (says Mr. Dill) was to prevent the members of these guilds from deserting or evading their hereditary obligations. It is well known that the tendency of the later Empire was to stereotype society, by compelling men to follow the occupation of their fathers, and preventing a free circulation among different callings and grades of life It was the principle of rural serfdom applied to social functions. Every avenue of escape was closed. A man was bound to his calling not only by his father's but by his mother's condition2. Men were not permitted to marry out of their guild. If the daughter of one of [S. 344]
the baker caste married a man not belonging to it, her husband was bound to her father's calling. Not even a dispensation obtained by some means from the imperial chancery, not even the power of the Church, could avail to break the chain of servitude.' There was even a caste of curiales or, as we should say in India, municipal commissioners, of whom we read that at a certain time all of them were ordered back to their native cities, and were forbidden to evade their hereditary obligations by entering any branch of the government service. As the Empire broke up, the caste system vanished with it. Men hastened to shake off all artificial restrictions and to choose wives and professions for themselves. But on the theory that community of function is the sole causative principle of caste, that is the last thing that they ought to have done. They should have hugged their chains and proceeded to manufacture new castes or sub-castes to fit every new occupation that sprang up. If the principle had been worth anything, it should have operated in Europe as effectually as it does in India. No one can say that the Theodosian code had not given it a good start.
1 Roman Society in the Last Days of the Western Empire, Book iii, chap. 1.
2 C. Th. xiv. 4, 8 'ad munus pristinum revocentur, tam qui paterno quam materno genere inveniuntur obnoxii,'
But, it will be asked, if the origin of caste is not to be found in the trade guild may we not seek it in the more primitive institution of the tribe? Early society, as far back as we can trace it, is made up of a network of tribes, and in India it is easy to observe the process of the conversion of a tribe into a caste. The conjecture seems at first sight plausible; but a glance at the facts will show that the transformation in question is confined to those tribes which have been brought into contact with the regular caste system, and have adopted its characteristic usages from religious or social motives. The Manipuris, for example, were converted from Nāgas into Hindus only a century or two ago. The Bhumij, again, were a tribe at a still more recent date and retain plentiful traces of their origin. On the other hand, the races of Baluchistān, where Hindu influence is practically non-existent, show no inclination to follow the example of the Indian Muhammadans and organize themselves on the model of caste. The primitive tribe, in fact, wherever we find it, is not usually endogamous, and, so far from having any distaste for alien marriages, makes a regular business of capturing wives. In short, when tribes are left to themselves they exhibit no inborn tendency to crystallize into castes. In Europe, indeed, the movement has been all in the opposite direction : the tribes consolidated into nations; they did not sink into the political impotence of caste. [S. 345]
In the case of a complex phenomenon such as caste, to the formation of which a number of subtle tendencies must have contributed, all that we can hope to do is to disentangle one or two leading ideas and to show how their operation may have produced the state of things that actually exists. Following out this line of thought, it seems possible to distinguish two elements in the growth of caste sentiment : a basis of fact and a superstructure of fiction. The former is widespread if not universal ; the latter peculiar to India. Whenever in the history of the world one people has subdued another, whether by sudden invasion or by gradual occupation of their territory, the conquerors have taken the women of the country as concubines or wives, but have given their own daughters in marriage only among themselves. Where the two peoples are of the same race, or at any rate of the same colour, this initial stage of hypergamy soon passes away and complete amalgamation takes place. Where, on the other hand, marked distinctions of race and colour intervene, and especially if the dominant people are continually recruited by men of their own blood, the course of evolution runs on different lines. The tendency then is towards the formation of a class of half-breeds, the result of irregular unions between men of the higher race and women of the lower, who marry only among themselves and are to all intents and purposes a caste. In this literal or physiological sense caste is not confined to India. It occurs in a pronounced form in the Southern States of the American Republic, where negroes intermarry with negroes, and the various mixed races, mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons, each have a sharply restricted ius connubii of their own and are practically cut off from legal unions with the white races. The same set of phenomena may be observed among the half-breeds of Canada, Mexico, and South America, and among the Eurasians of India, who do not intermarry with natives and only occasionally with pure-bred Europeans. Illustrations of the same process may be observed in the Himālayas, where, if anywhere in India, the practices recorded with exaggerated precision in the Indian law books still survive. The Rājputs of the Kāngra Hills and the Khas of Nepāl are believed to be the offspring of alliances between conquering Rājputs and women of more or less Mongoloid descent. Working from this analogy, it is not difficult to construct the rough outlines of the process which must have taken place when the second wave of Indo-Aryans made their way into India through Gilgit and Chitrāl. To start with, they formed a homogeneous [S. 346] community, scantily supplied with women, which speedily outgrew its original habitat. A company of the more adventurous spirits set out to conquer for themselves new domains among the neighbouring Dravidians. They went forth as fighting men, taking with them few women or none at all. They subdued the inferior race, established themselves as conquerors, and captured women according to their needs. Then they found themselves cut off from their original stock, partly by distance and partly by the alliances they had contracted. By marrying the captured women they had, to some extent, modified their original type ; but a certain pride of blood remained to them, and when they had bred females enough to serve their purposes and to establish a distinct ius connubii, they closed their ranks to all further intermixture of blood. When they did this they became a caste like the castes of the present day. As their numbers grew, their cadets again sallied forth in the same way, and became the founders of Rājput and pseudo-Rājput houses all over India. In each case complete amalgamation with the inferior race was averted by the fact that they only took women and did not give them. They behaved in fact towards the Dravidians whom they conquered in the same way as some planters in America behaved to the African slaves whom they imported. This is a rough statement of what we may take to be the ultimate basis of caste, a basis of fact common to India and to certain stages of society all over the world. The principle upon which the system rests is the sense of distinction of race indicated by differences of colour : a sense which, while too weak to preclude the men of the dominant race from intercourse with the women whom they have captured, is still strong enough to make it out of the question that they should admit the men whom they have conquered to equal rights in the matter of marriage.
Once started in India, the principle was strengthened, perpetuated, and extended to all ranks of society by the fiction that people who speak a different language, dwell in a different district, worship different gods, eat different food, observe different social customs, follow a different profession, or practise the same profession in a slightly different way must be so unmistakably aliens by blood that intermarriage with them is a thing not to be thought of. Illustrations of the working of this fiction have been given already and might be multiplied indefinitely. Its precise origin is necessarily uncertain. All that can be said is that fictions of various kinds have contributed largely to the development of early societies [S. 347] in all parts of the world, and that their appearance is probably due to that tendency to vary, and to perpetuate beneficial variations, which seems to be a law of social no less than of physical development. However this may be, it is clear that the growth of the caste instinct must have been greatly promoted and stimulated by certain characteristic peculiarities of the Indian intellect its lax hold of facts, its indifference to action, its absorption in dreams, its exaggerated reverence for tradition, its passion for endless division and subdivision, its acute sense of minute technical distinctions, its pedantic tendency to press a principle to its farthest logical conclusion, and its remarkable capacity for imitating and adapting social ideas and usages of whatever origin. It is through this imitative faculty that the myth of the four castes evolved in the first instance by some speculative Brāhman, and reproduced in the popular versions of the Rāmāyana which the educated Hindu villager studies as diligently as the English rustic used to read his Bible has attained its wide currency as the model to which Hindu society ought to conform. That it bears no relation to the actual facts of life is, in the view of its adherents, an irrelevant detail. It descends from remote antiquity, it has the sanction of the Brāhmans, it is an article of faith, and every one seeks to bring his own caste within one or other of the traditional classes. Finally, as M. Senart has pointed out, the whole caste system, with its scale of social merit and demerit and its endless gradations of status, is in remarkable accord with the philosophic doctrine of transmigration and karma. Every Hindu believes that his spiritual status at any given time is determined by the sum total of his past lives : he is born to an immutable karma, what more natural than that he should be born into an equally immutable caste ?
The conclusions which this chapter seeks to establish may now be summed up. They are these :
There are seven main physical types in
India, of which the Dravidian alone is, or may be,
indigenous. The Indo-Aryan, the Mongoloid, and the Turko-Irānian
types are in the main of foreign origin. The Aryo-Dravidian,
the Mongolo-Dravidian, and the Scytho-Dravidian are
composite types formed by crossing with the Dravidians.
The dominant influence in the formation
of these types was the physical seclusion of India,
involving the consequence that the various invaders brought few women
with them and took the women of the country to wife. [S. 348]
To this rule the first wave of
Indo-Aryans formed the sole exception, for the reasons given on
The social grouping of the Indian people
comprises both tribes and castes. We may distinguish three
types of tribe and seven types of caste.
Both tribes and castes are subdivided
into endogamous, exogamous, and hypergamous groups.
Of the exogamous groups a large number
Castes can be classified only on the
basis of social precedence, but no scheme of classification
can be framed for the whole of India.
The Indian theory of caste was perhaps
derived from Persia. It has no foundation in fact, but is
universally accepted in India.
The origin of caste is from the nature of the case an insoluble problem. We can only frame more or less plausible conjectures, derived from the analogy of observed facts. The particular conjecture now put forward is based firstly, upon the correspondence that can be traced between certain caste gradations and the variations of physical type ; secondly, on the development of mixed races from stocks of different colour ; and thirdly, on the influence of fiction.
Chapters ix (Marriage) and xi (Caste, Tribe, and Race) of the Report on the Census of India, 1901, and Ethnographic Appendices.
Sir D. Ibbetson. Report on the Punjab Census, 1881.
H. H. Risley. Tribes and Castes of Bengal (Calcutta, 1902).
Colonel Dalton. Ethnology of Bengal (Calcutta, 1872).
J. C. Nesfield. Brief View of the Caste System of the North- Western Provinces and Oudh (Allahabad, 1885).
W. Crooke. Tribes and Castes of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh (Calcutta, 1896).
Sir H. M. Elliot. Races of the North- Western Provinces (revised by J. Beames, 1869).
M. A. Sherring. Hindu Tribes and Castes (1872-81),
Dr. J. Wilson. Indian Caste (1877).
E. Senart. Les Castes dans l'Inde (Paris, 1896).
Sir A. C. Lyall. Asiatic Studies (1899).
R. Fick. Die sociale Gliederung im nordöstlichen Indien zu Buddha's Zeit (Kiel, 1897).
Madras Government Museum Bulletins, published at the Local Government Press since 1894.
Zu: 3. Zum Beispiel: Calcutta / The Imperial gazetteer of India, 1907 - 1909