Community-caste system - History of the East

7.3. Community-caste system

Rising to the ancient Indian varnas and the Hindu system, consecrated by Hinduism, the caste system has been the basis of India's social organization since ancient times. Belonging to one or another caste was associated with the birth of a person and determined its status for life. But from time to time, life itself introduced amendments to the rigid scheme. The rulers of states and principalities who emerged from the midst of sudras acquired the status of a ksatriya. The same status was acquired by those foreigners who, like the Rajputs, remained primarily a warrior and thus performed the functions of the ancient kshatriyas. In general, the caste-caste status of the Kshatriyas, more than the others, due to political and therefore very dynamic factors, was, in this sense, to be fairly flexible. The hereditary status of the brahmanas was much more severe. He was very difficult to lose, even when the brahmana ceased to be a priest and engaged in other, much more mundane affairs, but even more difficult, it was almost impossible to find anew. As for the Vaisya and the Shudras, the difference between them in the hierarchy of statuses has been decreasing since antiquity and was practically now not very large, but the line has changed somewhat. The vaisyas were predominantly owned by the castes of merchants and craftsmen, and the farmers were sudras. The share of extra-caste outcasts, untouchables ( harijan , as they were called later), performed the heaviest and dirty work.

Varno-caste system as a whole, thanks to its rigid hierarchy, formed the backbone of the social structure of India. Unique in form, it not only proved to be an effective alternative to a weak political administration (or, on the contrary, its uniqueness caused life and caused the weakness of the state administration - for which a strong administrative system is needed if there is no grassroots level, if the whole society lives according to the laws self-regulating caste principles and community norms?), but also successfully compensated for this weakness. But this kind of compensation did not contribute to the political stability of states in India. However, the society as a whole did not suffer from this instability, than traditional India favorably differed from both Islamic and Far Eastern countries, where the crisis of the state invariably affected the welfare of the society.

The fact is that the varno-caste system at all political perturbations very successfully preserved the unshakable status quo, especially on the lower floors of society. Of course, society was not indifferent to whether there were wars or not. From them, the Indian lower classes, as elsewhere, suffered a lot. And it's not that society prospered, when the states waged an armed struggle for power with each other. This means that this did not lead to a crisis in the social sphere, and the apical political struggle for power did not noticeably affect the bulk of the Indians. Here, not only the caste-caste system played an important role, but also the traditional Indian community built on the basis of this system.

The community form of organization of farmers is universal. Specifically, India was not the mere existence of a community there, even if it was strong, but the place that this community, thanks to the existence of the varone-caste system, took over in the social and economic organization of society. In a sense, it can be said that the Indian community and its internal ties were the indestructible microcosm of Indian society, which, acting as a macrocosm, copied this structure. What did this cell consist of?

The traditional Indian community in its medieval modification was, especially in the south, a complex social education. Territorially, it usually included several neighboring villages, sometimes a whole district, organisationally united into a single whole. In each of the villages there was a village elder, often a communal council (), and representatives of each village, the elders and members of the panchayat, were members of the community council of the entire large community. In the north of the country, where the communities were smaller, they could consist of one large village and several adjacent small villages adjoining it and have one village elder and one community council. Headed by a council, often elected from among the farmers one dominant caste in the given locality, the community was a kind of self-regulating mechanism, or rather, a social organism that almost did not need contacts with the outside world. The internal life of the community, strictly regulated by the norms of the community order and caste interrelations, was subject to the principle of the jajmani studied by specialists, as was mentioned relatively recently with the example of a rather late Indian community, but clearly rooted in the depths of centuries. Its essence boiled down to a strictly obligatory reciprocal exchange, strictly regulated by centuries, the order in the interchange of products and services that are necessary for everyone in the closed framework of the community, and in accordance with the norms of the varo-caste hierarchy.


In practice, this meant that everyone in the community had the right to use, say, the services of a community belonging to the community or a lavish jeweler who had paid it generously. But the same jeweler did different amounts and, perhaps, not even the same quality of the product to each member of the community (of course, from his material). Jewelry, usually and mostly gold or silver bracelets for women, had to correspond to the caste and status of everyone in the community-caste hierarchy of the village or group of settlements. The same is true for other relationships within the same community.

The full-fledged members of the community, the community farmers, who owned allotments and had a hereditary right to them, dominated in the community. Plots could be different. Each family, large or small, conducted farming in its own plot, which could sometimes even be alienated, albeit under the control of the community and again most often within the community. Not all the landowners in the community have handled their plots themselves. The most well-off families, most often Brahmin, used the work of the land-poor neighbors, renting their land to them. They could also employ the work of unqualified members of the community, farm laborers (karmakars), etc. Needless to say, poor and underemployed tenants, and even more so laborers, most often belonged to the lower castes.

Moreover, the entire caste system of compulsory reciprocal exchange, jajmani, boiled down primarily to sanctify and legitimize social and property inequality both in the community and in society as a whole. Representatives of the higher castes, according to the established norms, had the unquestionable right to use the services of people from lower castes and especially untouchables, literally for pennies, which should also be treated with contempt. And that is characteristic, such a right has never been doubted by anyone. So it is necessary, this is the norm, the law of life; this is your destiny, your karma - with this consciousness lived and the caste tops of the community, and caste and extra-caste lower classes.

Every member of the community - be he a farmer, a farm laborer, a rich brahmana, an artisan, a despised cattle slayer and scavenger, a laundress, etc. - in short, everyone in his place and in strict accordance with his caste position should not only clearly know his place, rights and obligations, but also strictly follow all that others can expect of him. Actually, this made the community self-regulating and viable, almost independent of contacts with the outside world. At the same time, the principle of jajmani did not mean at all that everyone, using the labor, products and services of others, paid for it himself, especially with those who gave or did anything to him. Most often the situation was quite the opposite: everyone fulfilled his duties, serving all the others, giving others what he had to give, and receiving the products and services necessary for his life (in accordance with the caste's conditioned quality of life). Everything was tightly tied by the traditional system of mutual obligations in strict accordance with the caste duties and position of each of those who lived in the community.

Supervised the entire complex system of internal communications community council, which also examined complaints, performed court decisions, and pronounced sentences; was at the same time the governing body of the corporation (community) and the local authority. A considerable role in the council was played by the elder, whose prestige was high, and the income is usually the same. For the outside world, in particular for the administrative-political and fiscal system of the state, it was the headman who was both the representative of the community, and the local authority responsible for paying taxes and order.

A kind of variant of the community caste system was the organization of Indian cities. In cities, castes played perhaps even greater role than in a communal village, at least in the sense that the communities here were usually single-caste, i.e. almost completely coincided with the caste, whether it is a shop of representatives of a craft or a guild of merchants. All the craftsmen and merchants, the whole working population of the city was strictly divided into castes (weavers, gunsmiths, dyers, traders of vegetable oil, fruits, etc.), and representatives of related or related castes and professions were often combined into several larger specialized corporation-shreni, also headed by councils and leaders responsible to the authorities. Indian craft - weaving, jewelry, etc. - was famous throughout the world. Trade links connected Indian cities with many countries. And in all these connections, the role of castes and corporations of urban craftsmen and traders, who solved all issues and regulated their entire life, from the standardization and quality of products to litigation and donations in favor of churches, was crucial in all these connections.

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