The four-tiered caste system gives Hindu society a strict hierarchical structure, with teachers and religious leaders at the top, and the fifth "undesirable" category performing "unclean" work. Where did it come from? Was it a colonial invention? Or are its roots embedded in ancient Indian culture?
British colonial powers reshaped the caste systemShow moreShow less
British colonial powers did not invent the caste system, but manipulated it to serve their purposes.
The institution of caste existed long before the British arrived in India. However, it was the British colonial powers that introduced the notion of a hierarchy. The caste system that existed in India prior to British colonization focused on social differences rather than social hierarchy. Pre-colonial caste categorized social differences but did not rank the castes or attribute a hierarchy.
The British introduced the hierarchy as part of their “divide and conquer” strategy. The colonial powers knew that their small military contingent could not ensure stability of the Indian colony without the assistance of a subset of the Indian population. By making Brahmins superior and awarding them lucrative and prestigious jobs in the colonial administration, they knew that they could ensure the Brahmin caste would work tirelessly to uphold the colonial system and suppress the lower castes.
[P1] The caste system existed prior to the British colonization.
[P2] This system did not have a hierarchy.
[P3] The British introduced a hierarchy.
[P4] Therefore, the British reshaped, but did not invent the caste system.