|According to Hindu beliefs, there are four castes (social
groups or classes):
Another group known as the "untouchables" are virtually
outside the caste system altogether.
These castes are hereditary; there is no way to move from one caste
to another, nor can on marry outside of one's caste. Within each of
these four groups there are thousands of subgroups.
According to Hinduism, the caste system is a reflection
of sacred reality. When the gods sacrificed and divided the body of
Purusha, different parts of its body were fashioned into the various
parts of creation including the four castes:
|When they divided Purusha, how many
ways did they apportion him? What was his mouth? What were his arms?
What were his thighs, his feet declared to be? His mouth was the
Brahman [caste], his arms were the Rajanaya [Ksatriya, warrior caste],
his thighs the Vaisya [artisan caste]; from his feet the Sudra [servant
caste] was born.
to see how the body of Purusha corresponds to creation.
The caste system thus is a reflection of sacred reality. It is
inherent in the structure of creation and reflects the will of the
The castes are much more than social or economic
classes. Since there are specific duties and responsibilities
associated with each caste, the caste determines what its member should
do. These social responsibilities are detailed in the Code of Manu which
was compiled around 100 CE. One's moral and ethical duty (dharma)
is to be content with one's situation and to fulfill the
responsibilities associated with one's caste.