G.S. Ghurye, a well-known anthropologist, defines caste as having the following characteristics:
Hierarchy: The superior-subordinate relationship between distinct individuals and groups is referred to as hierarchy. Every culture has some form of hierarchy, but the principles used to determine the hierarchy differ from one society to the next. Caste is the most important factor in determining social status in India. The degree of ceremonial cleanliness and impurity connected with a caste determines its position in the hierarchy. Success is determined by things other than riches and power. A Brahmin with a lower economic status than a Rajput is given a better position because of his higher ceremonial rank.
While political and economic factors undoubtedly play a role in determining the caste's position, sociologists have pointed out that a high ceremonial rank does not always imply a higher social status. As an illustration. While a Rajput may not play as important a role in ritual as a Brahamin, he is unlikely to elevate the Brahmin in other areas.
According to sociologist M. N. Srinivasan, a dominating caste is a caste in a community that has a sufficiently high ceremonial position, numerical strength, and material resources such as land, money, and power. A combination of these criteria maintains a caste's status in the system. The governing caste is typically influential in village politics and social life.
Society is divided into segments: Castes are well-established social groups whose membership is defined by birth rather than selection. Caste councils, which exist in every caste, govern individual rights and responsibilities. These councils wield considerable power over the social lives of their members. They can keep the peace by imposing sanctions for a variety of offences. Adultery, bodily harm to others, and murder are all instances of crimes that can result in penalties, corporal punishment, or even the death penalty. Many castes have their own gods and goddesses who are unrelated to the larger religious tradition. As a result, caste has great autonomy in dealing with issues affecting its members and is not subject to government restraints.
Feeding and Social Interaction Restrictions: The exchange of prepared food across castes is restricted by a series of laws and regulations. Certain castes will only consume dishes produced by members of other castes. Food is classified into two types: pakka and kacha. Pakka produced with ghee is thought to be preferable to kacha made with water. A Brahmin may only have pakka meals prepared by Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, not Shudras or untouchables. Kshatriyas, on the other hand, will accept kacha food from Brahmins but only pakka food from lower-caste Vaishyas. The caste ranks involved determine the distinctions in food offering and taking.
The preservation of social isolation between various castes is an example of such disparities. The physical distance between castes reflects caste standings. In traditional Kerala society, for example, a Nayar may approach but not touch a Nambudri, but a Tiya (lower caste than the Nayar) must keep a 36-step distance from the Nambudri.
Different Castes' Civil and Religious Disabilities and Privileges: Various castes have different privileges and rewards in the system. As a result, social life is divided along ethnic lines. In north Indian villages, impure castes are segregated from pure castes, which coexist. South India is separated into castes. In Tamil Nadu, for example, places inhabited by caste Hindus are referred as as Ur, while areas inhabited by dalits are referred to as Cheri. The village is somewhat far from the Cheri.
Ghurye cites instances from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to show how these restrictions were implemented. Shudras, for example, were barred from walking through temple alleys in Viakom, a town in Travancore's princely state. A widespread movement organised by renowned personalities such as Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar against these discriminatory practises transformed the situation. Similarly, a Shudra could not visit Pune early in the morning or late in the evening since their long shadows would corrupt those of the upper caste. There are significant inequalities in the treatment of people who commit the same offences. For example, if a Brahmin was caught stealing, he was only fined, whereas a Shudra was physically punished for the same offence.
Shudras faced obligations as a result of their caste status, which were exacerbated by religious activity. They were unable to access the sanctum sanctorum, the temple's most hallowed region. Brahmins were the only ones who have this privilege. Even now, discrimination against people of lower castes remains in rural areas. We commonly hear about caste violence as a result of higher caste people refusing to allow lower caste people to join in a wedding or funeral procession on a major road.
Lack of Unrestricted Occupation Choice: Each caste had a traditionally assigned employment, and caste membership was hereditary. Regardless of an individual's qualifications and capacities, he was obligated to work in the occupation of his caste. Similarly, each occupation was linked to a specific caste. As a result, each caste has only one vocation, which was determined simply by the caste's presence. Only a Brahmin could become a priest since he was born into a Brahmin family. Who received an education was determined by caste. To learn the caste's occupation skills, young members would be matched with elder members. There was no such thing as a common or universal education. Despite such occupational restrictions, sociologists have noted that certain activities, including as weaving, agriculture, and military duty, were available to all castes.
In pre-modern times, the jajmani system oversaw economic exchanges between various castes. Each service caste did a certain function for the landowners. They used to be reimbursed in kind, usually once a year. There existed a client-patron relationship between the lower and upper classes. In current times, their relationship has developed.
Endogamy: Endogamy is a marital practise in which members of a tribe marry among themselves. Endogamy is an important aspect of the caste system. Endogamy exists in various castes at the subcaste level. Iyers and Iyengars may not marry despite the fact that they are both Tamil Brahmins.
here are, however, a few exceptions to the rule. The two exceptions are hypergamy and hypogamy. When a higher caste man marries a lower caste woman, hypergamy occurs, and hypogamy happens when a lower caste man marries a higher caste woman. Hypergamy is permissible, while hypogamy is completely forbidden. It is a matter of status if the daughter of a lower caste family is accepted by a higher caste man and family. Marriage between a Nambudri male and a Nair lady is one example of this custom.