Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Caste, the name generally employed to designate the divisions of the Hindoo religious bodies in India, or rather a division partly religious and partly social. The system of caste prevailed in Egypt and in Persia, but it is in India that it has been most fully developed. The theory of its origin is that the Aryan race on arriving in India looked down upon the aboriginal races whom they stigmatised as once-born, while they called themselves twice-born. The twice-born themselves were divided into the priestly or Brahman caste, the Kshatryas or military caste, and the Vaisyas or agricultural class. The aboriginals were called Sudras, and in the south of India, Pariahs. Representing the subject allegorically they held that the castes all sprang from the primitive man, the Brahmans issuing from his mouth, the Kshatryas from his arms, the Vaisyas from his thighs, and the Sudras from his feet. Readers of Arthur Helps's Realmah will remember Realmah's three wives, the high-caste wife, the Varna or middle-class wife, and the Ainah or slave wife. Besides these castes there are mixed castes, of which the Chandala being the offspring of a Brahman and a Sudra. The Pariahs of South India are probably a mixed caste also. The system is now much modified since the free intercourse of the natives with Europeans and with civilised modern life, and the Brahman is the only one of the old castes left. But the system has spread to trades, guilds, and callings, and even the servants have fallen into the custom of making their special work a kind of caste, and refusing to do anything but their own special task. But a loss of caste in any way, except that of changing from Brahman to Christian, is easily atoned for, and a money payment and slight ceremony restore the offender to full communion. It may be said now to exhibit itself rather as a habit of mind than as a principle. The tendency to caste exhibits itself continually in the attitude of a conquering race to the race it has subdued; witness the Normans and Saxons, the American white citizen and the negro, or even where there is great social inequality, real or supposed, as in England and most other countries.