About 1500 BCE, powerful nomadic warriors known as Aryans appeared in northern India. The warriors were from Central Asia, but managed to overcome the Himalayas by finding lower passes in the mountains, such as the Khyber Pass in Pakistan. The Aryans conquered the Dravidians of Central India and imposed their social structure upon them.
The Aryans divided their society into separate castes. Castes were unchanging groups. A person born into one caste never changed castes or mixed with members of other castes. Caste members lived, ate, married, and worked with their own group.
At the top of the caste system were the Brahmin – the priests and judges. Next came the Kshatriya, the warrior caste. The Vaishya caste were the farmers and merchants, and the Shudras, were craft workers and laborers.
The untouchables were the outcastes, or people beyond the caste system. Their jobs or habits involved “polluting activities” including:
~ Killing or disposing of dead cattle or working with their hides.
~ Any contact with human emissions such as sweat, urine, or feces. (washers, street sweepers, etc.)
~ People who ate meat. This category included most of the primitive Indian hill tribes.
Untouchables were often forbidden to enter temples, schools and wells where higher castes drew water. In some parts of southern India, even the sight of untouchables was thought to be polluting. The untouchables were forced to sleep during the day and work at night. Many untouchables left their rigid social structure by converting to Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity.
The Caste System has been illegal in India for more than fifty years, but it continues to shape people’s lives. The Indian government has provided the Harijan, a term now popularly used in place of untouchable, with specific employment privileges, and granted them special representation in the Indian parliament. Despite such measures, the Harijan continue to have fewer educational and employment opportunities than Indians from higher castes.
In the triangle, fill in the hierarchy of the caste