Castes and communities in medieval India

In ancient times in India there was a division of society into four varnas. These are brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras.

At the beginning of our era in the organization of varnas there are significant changes. Each varna began to be divided into higher and lower castes. The most deprived of the lower caste were the so-called “untouchables” who were despised. They performed the heaviest and dirtiest work: they were servants, scavenged garbage, slaughtered cattle, etc. Some of the backward tribes also belonged to this caste. During the Gupta period, dozens of castes already existed.

Belonging to a certain caste was determined by the origin of man, the ability to hold, as well as clothing, hair, a symbolic mark on the forehead, a culture of nutrition. Representatives of a certain caste had a characteristic type of dwelling. Nobody had the right to arbitrarily move from one caste to another. Marriages between representatives of different castes, as a rule,

were forbidden. However, in the society did not cause conviction cases where a man from a higher caste took his wife from a lower one.

The specificity of Indian society since antiquity was the presence of a rural community in it. Its basis was made up of several dozen or hundreds of families of communal farmers who owned the allotments and had a hereditary right to them. The community supervised the irrigation works, organized the necessary mutual assistance and defense. The decisions of the community were often carved on stone slabs, walled in the walls of churches. Gradually, artisans began to stand out among its members: blacksmiths, carpenters, potters, masons, weavers, copper workers, etc. They served the community and received from it everything necessary for life.

The community was headed by the elder and several of his assistants. The council had great public significance. That is, the Indian rural community existed as a self-governing unit, which provided itself with everything necessary. This led to the almost complete absence in the medieval India of internal trade between town and country, which

hampered the development of society throughout the country.

Record of 918 on the rural community

We, the members of the assembly… villages… have made such a decision on the election of committees, starting this year, annually, namely: the “annual committee”, “committee of gardens” and “committee of reservoirs.”

There are 30 genera. Members of each should gather and write on special tickets for the drawing of lots names of those who have more than a quarter of the field of land that is taxed live in homes erected on their own plots; age from 30 to 60 years… clever in business: bodily and spiritually pure; did not perform community duties for three years and are not close relatives of the foremen who had performed community duties before.

They gather in each quarter, and the boy, who does not know how to distinguish the signs, takes them out one by one so that one person is elected from each quarter. The 12 people elected in this way constitute the “annual committee”. Before that, you also need to draw out the tickets of the “committee of gardens”, and 12 people will make a “committee of gardens.” on the remaining six tickets, form a “committee of reservoirs.”

Three committees… let them carry out their duties full 360 days…

Caste is a closed social group, whose members are related by origin, occupation and social status.

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Castes and communities in medieval India