The Controversial Indian Caste System Has Been Dividing India for 2000 Years

Aug 7, 2017 by

By April Holloway –

A study of genetic populations in India suggests the Indian caste system, a traditional method of social organization into a hierarchy of hereditary groups, has been prevalent in the South Asian society for about 2000 years.

As an overview: the caste system is based on Hindu religious principles and dictates how different groups of people can interact. This hierarchical organization of society only permits marriage within the same caste and dictates that a caste is fixed from birth. Moreover, each caste is linked to a traditional occupation.

A 1922 stereograph of Hindu children of high caste, Bombay, India.

A 1922 stereograph of Hindu children of high caste, Bombay, India. (Public Domain)

Live Science reported that researchers analyzed the DNA of 371 people from 73 groups and reported their findings in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The researchers discovered that different populations began to intermix in India about 4200 years ago, but stopped intermingling approximately 1900 years ago. These results were supported by clues found in ancient texts which suggest class distinctions have existed since about 3000-3500 years ago. Caste divisions became strong approximately two millennia ago.

An 1860s photograph of Rajputs, classified as a high Hindu caste.

An 1860s photograph of Rajputs, classified as a high Hindu caste. (Public Domain)

Three principal groups of people – priests, nobility, and common people – were identified in the 3500-year-old collection of Sanskrit hymns known as the Rigveda. This source doesn’t mention segregation or restrictions on employment areas at that time. A fourth group, called the Shudra (the lowest class), was mentioned by 1000 BC. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 100 BC that the holy text Manusmruti mentioned direct prohibition of marriages across castes. This restriction reflects the results of the genetic analysis.

Source: The Controversial Indian Caste System Has Been Dividing India for 2000 Years | Ancient Origins

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