Question 27. The caste system has taken roots firmly and deeply in the Hindu Society. Mutual hatred based on castes and consequent conflicts are also raising their ugly head. There is a widespread belief that the Varna system is directly responsible for this state of affairs. How far is it true? How did the caste system originate and what is its mature?
The early Vedic society seems to have been divided into two broad groups: the 'Dvijas' ('twice born') who were capable of thinking and acting independently, and the Non Dvijas, also called Sudras, who could not do so. In course of time, as the society expanded, divisions became inevitable. This division took place in accordance with the Guna and Svabhava (qualities and nature) of people, which again were the determining factors with regard to the vocations chosen by them.
In the earliest period of evolution of the Varna system, the Brahmanas and others had the full freedom to choose or change their vocations. However, due to the practical difficulties encountered in a fast growing society, it was not possible to determine one's calling based on one's Guna and Svabhava. Hence the much easier method of fixing it on a hereditary basis was adopted.
At this point of its evolution Varna and Jati (caste) practically got fused. Again, the number of castes went on multiplying gradually as a result of admixture of the various groups as also the development and specialization of more trades and skills. Thus castes came to be determined by birth and hereditary occupations. The very fact that the caste system has survived for millennia shows that there must be something worthwhile and useful in it.
Any person born in a particular caste feels a sense of belonging to that group of society which gives him psychological security. It also helps him to learn the hereditary trade natural to his caste and practise it without unhealthy competition. Endogamous marriage system unites the members of the caste into a well knit group who can come to one another's rescue in times of need.