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Jayati Singh MAD13048 Response Paper: Varna and Caste The author M.N.

Srinivas in his chapter Varna and Caste tries to examine the relationship between what caste is and what caste is perceived as by the layman. The concept of Varna has deeply affected the ethnographic reality of caste according to Srinivas. He points out the various faults within the Varna system of caste division in our society and implies that a sociologist has to see and analyse what is there but also has to show what is not really there within a society. According to the Varna there are only four castes that exist; Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras, excluding the untouchables. The Varna system refers to the broad categories of society and not its real and effective units which are an integral part of the society like the Untouchables. The Varna model has portrayed a distorted image of caste hierarchy. There is no clear boundary of the castes except Brahmins. For example: the RajGonds who were a tribal shudra caste, sanskritized themselves and claimed to be Kshatriyas. Sanskritization- It is the process by which castes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by adopting the rituals and practices of the upper or dominant castes. In spite of the Brahmins being at the top of the hierarchy, it is still not clear as to what are the boundaries of each caste. Like the Lingayats and the Marka Brahmins of Mysore do not eat food made by other Hindus. This ambiguity between the castes in the middle is what allows a caste to rise from its current status to a higher level. There is hierarchy in matters of diet and occupation and this differs from region to region. A person might claim that acts performed in his caste are those of a high ranked caste while another person might think the opposite. There are times when the sanskritization of a caste has not been accepted by the society and the caste is isolated from the village. The Varna system is a hierarchy because rituals form the basis of differentiation as said by Srinivas. In general the higher castes are better off than the lower castes but stratification whether based on political-economic considerations or on ritual considerations would differ. There are villages where the lower castes are in majority and are village headmen. In this scenario the priest or Brahmins are still treated with respect and they in return also respect the village heads. Srinivas says that Varna has given the laymen a common social language of familiarity and has in some way helped understand the caste system. Mobility does not take place for the whole caste in the country but for a local area of people only. There was a drastic change in caste hierarchy only when British India formed the census and there was encouragement to move up in society. I would like to conclude by saying that Srinivas in this chapter has talked about the varna and caste system in our country and the short comings of the varna system. The examples given by him are very explanatory and give the reader a better understanding of the issue.