Caste

Caste

Overview
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy
Endogamy
Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such basis as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. A Greek Orthodox Christian endogamist, for example, would require that a marriage be only with another...

, occupation, culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, tribal affiliation
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 and political power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

. It should not be confused with race or social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, e.g. members of different castes in one society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 may belong to the same race, as in India. Usually, but not always, members of the same caste are of the same social rank, have similar group of occupations and typically have mores which distinguish it from other groups.
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Encyclopedia
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy
Endogamy
Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such basis as being unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. A Greek Orthodox Christian endogamist, for example, would require that a marriage be only with another...

, occupation, culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, tribal affiliation
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 and political power
Political power
Political power is a type of power held by a group in a society which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the...

. It should not be confused with race or social class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

, e.g. members of different castes in one society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 may belong to the same race, as in India. Usually, but not always, members of the same caste are of the same social rank, have similar group of occupations and typically have mores which distinguish it from other groups. The word caste can also just generally refer to any rigid system of cultural or social distinctions

Although Indian society
Caste system in India
The Indian caste system is a system of social stratification and social restriction in India in which communities are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis....

 is often now associated with the word "caste", was first used by the Portuguese
Portuguese India
The Portuguese Viceroyalty of India , later the Portuguese State of India , was the aggregate of Portugal's colonial holdings in India.The government started in 1505, six years after the discovery of a sea route to India by Vasco da Gama, with the nomination of the first Viceroy Francisco de...

 to describe inherited class status in their own European society. English caste is from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 castus "pure, cut off, segregated", and is etymologically related to carere "to cut off". Application to Indian social groups
Caste system in India
The Indian caste system is a system of social stratification and social restriction in India in which communities are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups called Jātis....

 originates in the 17th century, via Portuguese casta "breed, race, caste". This terminology has informed and greatly influenced the negative European view of caste.

Identification and sometimes Discrimination
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

 based on caste, or casteism, as perceived by UNICEF, is prevalent mainly in parts of Asia (India, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, Japan) and Africa. UNICEF estimates that such perceived discrimination based on caste affects 250 million people worldwide.

India



Indian society has consisted since ancient times of several thousand tribal and occupational groups or communities called Jāti
Jati
Jāti is the term used to denote clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities in India. It is a term used across religions. In Indian society each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe, although religious beliefs Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति Tamil:சாதி) (the...

. The phrase "Caste System" conflates the reality and theory - the reality of the Jāti
Jati
Jāti is the term used to denote clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities in India. It is a term used across religions. In Indian society each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe, although religious beliefs Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति Tamil:சாதி) (the...

 system prevalent throughout the Indian society since ancient times and the varna (class/group), theoretical scheme based on idealised self-identification in Brahmin
Brahmin
Brahmin Brahman, Brahma and Brahmin.Brahman, Brahmin and Brahma have different meanings. Brahman refers to the Supreme Self...

ical traditions.

Faced with a confounding array of thousands of autonomous and hierarchically fluid communities (Jatis), the late 19th century British colonial administration decided to categorise and rank the entire Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 population of India by placing each of the Jatis within the theoretical varna scheme of the so-called "Aryan Castes" for the purposes of the decennial Census, ostensibly to test a theory of racial basis of Indian society. The 1901 Census was led by Herbert Hope Risley
Herbert Hope Risley
Sir Herbert Hope Risley KCIE CSI was a British ethnographer and colonial administrator, a member of the Indian Civil Service who conducted extensive studies on the tribes and castes of Bengal. He is also remembered for the formal application of the caste system to the entire Hindu population of...

, an ICS officer with racial beliefs about the Indian population, including the superiority of the "Aryan Castes" that constituted less than ten percent of India's population and whom he saw as descendants of the ancient Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 invaders, in the light of then prevalent but flawed historical views. Simultaneous with this first ever codification into secular law of varna-based caste identities, communities (Jatis) sought to place themselves on higher levels of varna categories. On the other hand, most of the Jatis were grouped into the lower caste categories and rejected the varna categories outright, as they found this arbitrary classification unreasonable, unfair and unacceptable. This newly frozen materialisation of caste created a growing resentment firstly against the system itself and secondly against the "Aryan" or "Upper" castes, especially the Brahmins, who were seen as the beneficiaries of an arrangement which now officially anointed their place at the top of the social hierarchy. The revolt of the Justice Party and Periyar
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy and the eradication of caste
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy , also known as Ramaswami, EVR, Thanthai Periyar, or Periyar, was a Dravidian social reformer and politician from India, who founded the Self-Respect Movement and Dravidar Kazhagam...

 in the south, by the Maharaja of Kolhapur and Dr Ambedkar
B. R. Ambedkar
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , popularly also known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, a revolutionary and one of the founding fathers of independent India. He was also the Chairman...

 in western India against this, in the early decades of the 20th century, has had a profound, long-lasting impact on the Indian society and politics, which continues to this day.

The forced melding by the British colonial power in 1901 of the ubiquitous Jati
Jati
Jāti is the term used to denote clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities in India. It is a term used across religions. In Indian society each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe, although religious beliefs Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति Tamil:சாதி) (the...

 with the theoretical varna categories of the Brahmins, has promoted a general and erroneous belief that the entire Indian society was grouped into the four ideal "static and unchanging" Varna categories since time immemorial. Indian society has viewed this artificial rigidity with dismay and has been struggling with this flawed imposition ever since the beginning of the 20th century. To explain the continuance of the British imposition even after India's independence, it has been postulated that Indians do not seem concern themselves much with the facts of history and have accepted the fabricated reality of modern caste as given. In any event, for the Indian politicians, as it was for the British colonial masters, this has proved to be a useful myth to promote, as it provides them with ready constituencies for which to claim a perpetual victim status and benefit from the divisions and votes this garners. According to an Indian sociologist "This happens partly because the idea of caste has become embedded in the idea of India as a nation: caste is taken as proof of India's cultural continuity and a stable past"(Surinder Singh Jodhka - Sikhism and the caste question: Dalits and their politics in contemporary Punjab).

The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 lists 1,108 castes across 25 states in its First Schedule. The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950 lists 744 tribes across 22 states in its First Schedule.

Some activists, most prominently at the UN conference at Durban
Durban
Durban is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It forms part of the eThekwini metropolitan municipality. Durban is famous for being the busiest port in South Africa. It is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism...

, have asserted that the caste is a form of racial discrimination.[23][24]Genetic studies have corroborated this view, esp. with regard to the caste matrix in Southern Indian regions. UNICEF estimates that some form of discrimination based on caste affects 250 million people in South Asia.

According to the eminent sociologist Andre Béteille, treating caste as a form of racism is "politically pernicious" and worse, "scientifically anomalous" since there is no discernible difference in the racial characteristics between Brahmins and Scheduled Castes. He writes that "'Every social group cannot be regarded as a race simply because we want to protect it against prejudice and discrimination.'"[25]

The Indian government, too, has denied the claims of equivalence between caste and racial discrimination, pointing out that the issues of social status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 is essentially intra-racial and intra-cultural. The view of the caste system as "static and unchanging" is disappearing. The Indian government has been working towards creating equality between castes with affirmative action, such as guaranteed seats in educational institutions, government jobs (and promotions) and even in the parliament for those of the Scheduled Untouchable castes and tribes. Scholarships have also been available to all of these groups, so that they can go on to further education more easily and this has raised their social status. Sociologists describe how the perception of the caste system as a static and textual stratification has given way to the perception of the caste system as a more processional, empirical and contextual stratification. Others have applied theoretical models to explain mobility and flexibility in the caste system in India.[26] According to these scholars, groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes. The eminent Socio-anthropologist M. N. Srinivas has also questioned the rigidity of caste and introduced the concept of Sanskritisation.[27][28].

A number of social commentators, well-known journalists and academics and social activists fighting for Dalit rights have opined that the opposition to Caste being discussed under the rubric of Racism at the Durban Conference is an attempt by Indian government to escape international accountability for the empowerment and welfare of subalterns. At the same conference, the Indian government also opposed giving the Tribals (Adivasis)
Adivasi
Adivasi is an umbrella term for a heterogeneous set of ethnic and tribal groups claimed to be the aboriginal population of India. They comprise a substantial indigenous minority of the population of India...

 of India the status of "Indigenous peoples" as that too would've made India a part of the international accountability regimes under the Convention against Racism.

Varna



Early Indian texts like the Manusmriti and the Puranas speak of 'Varna,' which means order, nature, type or colour. It groups the society into four idealised main types as follows.
  • Brahmins (scholars, teachers, fire priests)
  • Kshatriyas (warriors, kings, administrators)
  • Vaishyas (merchants, agriculturists)
  • Shudras (artisans, service providers)


All others who did not belong to this Hindu society, including foreigners, tribals and nomads were called Mlechhas and even those who had been excommunicated to being "Anaryas" (non-Aryans), were to be treated as contagious and untouchable barbarians. Its members feared banishment from society as a powerful disincentive against violating social norms. A late section of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

 suggests an origin of this practice: "He who becomes harsh in speech, or violent in temper, he who seduces or abducts other people's women or robs the wealth that belongs to others, should be cast off by us".

The hypothetical system provided each group with its own niche, and few individuals were left without a distinct role. According to the Varna system, Brahmins are enjoined to live in poverty and their primary vocation was to learn the Vedas, sacred texts and secular subjects, teach others and pray for the well-being of all. The Kshatriya's chief occupation was martial skills, protection of civil society and governance. The Vaishyas were those occupied with trade, banking and agrarian activities including cattle raising, while the Sudras were other workers, craftsmen and service providers of all types. The reality of thousands of Jatis in the Indian society, which freely did what they pleased, had a variety of mixed roles and did not know or care about what the Brahmins had to say about them, was explained away by the texts as having been the outcome of a pre-historical mixing of Varnas, or 'Varna Samkara'. All the Varnas were urged, without exception, to inculcate non-possessiveness, non-stealing, truthfulness, non-violence and benevolence. These too were the very attributes propounded by the Jain
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 and Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 doctrines. It was believed by some that after death, people are reborn into a higher caste if they had led a moral life, or a lower caste if they led an immoral life. Thus, it was thought that those who served undesirable functions, like the untouchables, deserved their lot, because of their past Karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

.

As the historian Romila Thapar
Romila Thapar
Romila Thapar is an Indian historian whose principal area of study is ancient India.-Work:After graduating from Panjab University, Thapar earned her doctorate under A. L. Basham at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London in 1958...

 has pointed out in her 'The Past and Prejudice': "The dynamic of Indian society was the juxtaposition of precept to practice, of the organisation of life as it should be, to the organisation of life as it is. For every aspect of life, from the most mundane to the most exhilarating, there was a theory of functioning which did not necessarily reflect the reality. The theory was the ideal image.....The resulting dichotomies were not forced into confrontation but were adjusted...Such adjustments seem easier in pre-industrial societies whose cultures invariably appear to be more gentle, meditative and less competitive,.."

Although Brahmins have usually been described as the priestly class, this is not entirely accurate, as a temple priest need not have been a Brahmin, in fact very few could have been, given the vast number of temples and the sparse population of Brahmins; however, the performers of a Vedic Yajna for others or a public Yajna fire sacrifice usually were Brahmins. All the Dvija (Twice Born) i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas could and did perform the Homa fire sacrifice for themselves. Even this has not always been followed by all sects within Hinduism - for example, in the Arya Samaj, all castes including Shudras can perform the fire sacrifice. There were several categories among the Brahmins and temple priests, if any at all, were usually at the lowest end of the Brahmin social scale. The ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, e.g., Megasthenes in his Indika and the Muslims, e.g. Alberuni (1030 CE) described Brahmins as philosophers. Megasthenes calls them Brachmanes and characterises them thus:

"The philosophers are first in rank, but form the smallest class in point of number. Their services are employed privately by persons who wish to offer sacrifices or perform other sacred rites, and also publicly by the kings at what is called the Great Synod, wherein at the beginning of the new year all the philosophers are gathered together before the king at the gates, when any philosopher who may have committed any useful suggestion to writing, or observed any means for improving the crops and the cattle, or for promoting the public interests, declares it publicly."

Jatis



Professor Madhav Gadgil (1983) has described the reality of self-governing, closed communities, which are called Jatis, in India, based on his research in rural Maharashtra: "The Indian society is even today an agglomeration of numerous castes, tribes and religious communities. The tribal and caste groups are endogamous, reproductively isolated populations traditionally distributed over a restricted geographical range. The different caste populations, unlike tribes, have extensive geographical overlap and members of several castes generally constitute the complex village society. In such a village society, each caste, traditionally self regulated by a caste council, used to lead a relatively autonomous existence. Each caste used to pursue a hereditarily prescribed occupation; this was particularly true of the artisan and service castes and the pastoral and nomadic castes. The several castes were linked to each other through a traditionally determined barter of services and produce (Ghurye 1961, Karve 1961). These caste groups retained their identity even after conversion to Islam or Christianity. Each of the caste groups was thus the unit within which cultural and perhaps genetic evolution occurred, at least for the last 1500 years when the system was fully crystallized and probably much longer. Over this period the various castes had come to exhibit striking differences in cultural traits like skills possessed, food habits, dress, language, religious observances as well as in a number of genetic traits." [1]

In A New History of India, Stanley Wolpert states", a process of expansion, settled agricultural production and pluralistic integration of new people led to the development of India's uniquely complex system of social organisation by occupation...."

Under the Jati system, a person is born into a Jati with ascribed social roles and endogamy, i.e. marriages take place only within that Jati. The Jati provided identity, security and status and has historically been open to change based on economic, social and political influences (see Sanskritization). In the course of early Indian history, various tribal, economic, political and social factors led to a continuous closing, consolidation and variation in the prevailing social ranks which tended to become traditional, hereditary system of social structuring. This system of thousands of exclusive, endogamous groups, is called Jāti. Though there were several kinds of variations across the breadth of India, the Jati was the effective community within which one married and spent most of one's personal life. Often it was the community (Jati) which provided support in difficult times, in old age and even in the resolution of disputes. It was thus the community which one also sought to promote.

The Untouchables - Pariahs or Antyajas, were at the bottom of the social scale and even now perform the jobs nobody else wants such as disposal of corpses, night soil handling or execution of criminals; They lived in their own ghettos at the peripheries of the towns and villages and were not allowed to even hear the vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

. It is, however, rather interesting and not so well known is that people of all Jatis across the spectrum, from the so-called upper castes to the lowest of castes, including the Untouchables, tended to avoid intermarriage, sharing of food and drinks, or even close social interaction with a Jati other than their own. Indeed, for some of them, for example, the Tharu Boxas, even Brahmins were untouchable. Most of the Jati castes did not see themselves as socially inferior to the others in any way . If at all, it was the other way round and many of them had folk narratives, traditions, myths and legends to bolster their sense of identity and cultural uniqueness. For instance, the Yadavs, a prominent backward class believe that "Even in the Vedic age the Yadavs were upholders of the Republican ideals of government.... The Mahabharata furnishes interesting details regarding the functioning of the republic form of government among the Yadavs.... It is now an agreed fact that Sri Krishna, the central figure of the epic narratives tried to defend the republican ideas against the imperialistic movement led by Jarasandha of Magadaha and Kamsa of Mathura" (R.V.K. Yadav quoted by Lucia Michelutti in "Caste and modern politics in a north Indian town"). Dalits also have "the stories that assert the glory of the caste, identify legendary figures who, the narrators imagine, have played pivotal roles in building their caste identity. The facts of the past are interspersed with myth and fantasy to create a new perception of a past that is glorious, pure and exclusive. This in turn is accorded historical status and imagined to have existed from time immemorial (Seneviratne1997: 5). This kind of history, which seeks authenticity from written sources and from the self-interpretation of so-called archaeological re-mains, is sustained by commemorations such as feasts, fasts, celebrations and the creation of new symbols like flags and emblems based on these..." (Dalit mobilisation and nationalist past" by Badri Narayan).

An interesting perspective on ancient North India
North India
North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

n society is provided by the Greek Megasthenes, who, in his Indika, described the society as being made up of "seven castes":

"The whole population of India is divided into seven castes, of which the first is formed by the collective body of the Philosophers, which in point of number is inferior to the other castes, but in point of dignity preeminent over all. For the philosophers, being exempted from all public duties, are neither the masters nor the servants of others. They are, however, engaged by private persons to offer the sacrifices due in lifetime, and to celebrate the obsequies of the dead: for they are believed to be most dear to the gods, and to be the most conversant with matters pertaining to Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

. In requital of such services they receive valuable gifts and privileges. To the people of India at large they also render great benefits, when, gathered together at the beginning of the year, they forewarn the assembled multitudes about droughts and wet weather, and also about propitious winds, and diseases, and other topics capable of profiting-the hearers. Thus the people and the sovereign, learning beforehand what is to happen, always make adequate provision against a coming deficiency, and never fail to prepare beforehand what will help in a time of need. The philosopher who errs in his predictions incurs no other penalty than obloquy, and he then observes silence for the rest of his life."

The other classes are also described by Arrian, in The Anabasis Alexandrae, Book VIII: Indica (2nd c. CE) relying on the account of Megasthenes:

"Then next to these come the farmers, these being the most numerous class of Indians; they have no use for warlike arms or warlike deeds, but they till the land; and they pay the taxes to the kings and to the cities, such as are self-governing; and if there is internal war among the Indians, they may not touch these workers, and not even devastate the land itself; but some are making war and slaying all comers, and others close by are peacefully ploughing or gathering the fruits or shaking down apples or harvesting.

The third class of Indians are the herdsmen, sheep and cattle pastoralists, and these dwell neither by cities nor in the villages. They are nomads and get their living on the hillsides, and they pay taxes from their animals; they hunt also birds and wild game in the country.

The fourth class is of artisans and shopkeepers; these are workers, and pay tribute from their works, save such as make weapons of war; these are paid by the community. In this class are the shipwrights and sailor
Sailor
A sailor, mariner, or seaman is a person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in their operation, maintenance, or service. The term can apply to professional mariners, military personnel, and recreational sailors as well as a plethora of other uses...

s, who navigate the rivers.

The fifth class of Indians is the soldier
Soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

s' class, next after the farmers in number; these have the greatest freedom and the most spirit. They practise military pursuits only. Their weapons others forge for them, and again others provide horses; others too serve in the camps, those who groom their horses and polish their weapons, guide the elephants, and keep in order and drive the chariots. They themselves, when there is need of war, go to war, but in time of peace they make merry; and they receive so much pay from the community that they can easily from their pay support others.

The sixth class of Indians are those called overseers. They oversee everything that goes on in the country or in the cities; and this they report to the king, where the Indians are governed by kings, or to the authorities, where they are independent. To these it is illegal to make any false report; nor was any Indian ever accused of such falsification.

The seventh class is those who deliberate about the community together with the king, or, in such cities as are self-governing, with the authorities. In number this class is small, but in wisdom and uprightness it bears the palm from all others; from this class are selected their governors, district governors and deputies, custodians of the treasures, officers of army and navy, financial officers and overseers of agricultural works.

The same man may not practise two pursuits; nor change from one class into another, as to turn farmer from shepherd, or shepherd from artisan. It is only permitted to join the wise men out of any class; for their business is not an easy one, but of all most laborious."

Nepal



The Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

ese caste system resembles that of the Indian Jāti
Jati
Jāti is the term used to denote clans, tribes, communities and sub-communities in India. It is a term used across religions. In Indian society each jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe, although religious beliefs Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति Tamil:சாதி) (the...

 system with numerous Jāti divisions with a Varna system superimposed. But since the culture and the society is different some of the things are different. Inscriptions attest the beginnings of a caste system during the Lichchhavi period. Jayasthiti Malla (1382–95) categorized Newars into 64 castes (Gellner 2001). A similar exercise was made during the reign of Mahindra Malla (1506–75). The Hindu social code was later set up in Gorkha by Ram Shah (1603–36).

Pakistan


Religious, historical and socio-cultural factors have helped define the bounds of endogamy for Muslims in South Asia. There is a preference for endogamous marriages based on the clan-oriented nature of the society, which values and actively seeks similarities in social group identity based on several factors, including religious, sectarian, ethnic, and tribal/clan affiliation. Religious affiliation is itself multi-layered and includes religious considerations other than being Muslim, such as sectarian identity (e.g. Shia or Sunni, etc.) and religious orientation within the sect (Isnashari, Ismaili, Ahmedi, etc.). Both ethnic affiliation (e.g. Sindhi, Baloch, Punjabi, etc.) and membership of specific biraderis or Jaat/quoms are additional integral components of social identity. Within the bounds of endogamy defined by the above parameters, close consanguineous unions are preferred due to a congruence of key features of group- and individual-level background factors as well as affinities.this fact must be remembered that modern Pakistan used to be part of India before 1947,caste system affected the society very little,Hindus changed their religion to Muslims but hierarchy continued.

Genetic origins of South Asian caste system


A large study done by sahoo et al.(2006) on south asian caste communities have found the origins of south asian caste to be largely south asian in origin with minimal external contributions.

China


The Southern and Northern Dynasties
Southern and Northern Dynasties
The Southern and Northern Dynasties was a period in the history of China that lasted from 420 to 589 AD. Though an age of civil war and political chaos, it was also a time of flourishing arts and culture, advancement in technology, and the spreading of Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism...

 showed such a high level of polarization between North and South that northerners and southerners referred to each other as barbarians. The Mongol
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 also made use of the concept; Yuan subjects were divided into four classes, with northern Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 occupying the second-poorest class and southern Han Chinese the poorest one.

Traditional Yi
Yi people
The Yi or Lolo people are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China...

 society in Yunnan
Yunnan
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

 was class based. People were split into the Black Yi (nobles, 5% of the population), White Yi (commoners), Ajia (33% of the Yi population) and the Xiaxi (10%). Ajia and Xiaxi were slaves. The White Yi were not slaves but had no freedom of movement. The Black Yi made slave-raids on Han Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 communities. After 1959, some 700,000 slaves were freed.

The Tibetan caste system was less rigorous than that in India. In Tibet, there were hereditary professional groups including beggars. Some people of lower castes were forced to live on the outskirts of the villages.

Japan


The four main classes in Japan were samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 , peasants,craftsmen and merchants. Only the samurai class was allowed to bear arms. A samurai had a right to kill any peasants and other craftsmen and merchants whom he felt were disrespectful. Craftsmen produced products, being the third, and the last merchants were thought to be as the meanest class because they did not produce any products.

Japan historically subscribed to a feudal class system. While modern law has officially abolished the class hierarchy, there are reports of discrimination against the Buraku or Burakumin
Burakumin
are a Japanese social minority group. The burakumin are one of the main minority groups in Japan, along with the Ainu of Hokkaidō, the Ryukyuans of Okinawa and Japanese residents of Korean and Chinese descent....

 underclasses, historically referred to by the insulting term Eta. The Burakumin are regarded as "ostracised." The burakumin are one of the main minority groups in Japan
Demographics of Japan
The demographic features of the population of Japan include population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population....

, along with the Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 of Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

 and those of residents of Korean
Zainichi Korean
Koreans in Japan are the ethnic Korean residents of Japan. They currently constitute the second largest ethnic minority group in Japan. The majority of Koreans in Japan are Zainichi Koreans, also often known as Zainichi for short, who are the permanent ethnic Korean residents of Japan...

 and Chinese descent.

Korea



The Baekjeong were an "untouchable" minority group of Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

. The term baekjeong literally means "a butcher", but later changed into "common citizens" to change the class system so that the system would be without untouchables. In the early part of the Goryeo
Goryeo
The Goryeo Dynasty or Koryŏ was a Korean dynasty established in 918 by Emperor Taejo. Korea gets its name from this kingdom which came to be pronounced Korea. It united the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 and ruled most of the Korean peninsula until it was removed by the Joseon dynasty in 1392...

 period (918-1392), these minority groups were largely settled in fixed communities. However, the Mongol invasion left Korea in disarray and anomie
Anomie
Anomie is a term meaning "without Law" to describe a lack of social norms; "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and their community ties, with fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French...

, and these groups became nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic. Other subgroups of the baekjeong are the chaein and the hwachae. During the Joseon dynasty, they were specific professions like basket weaving and performing executions.

With the unification of the three kingdoms
Three Kingdoms of Korea
The Three Kingdoms of Korea refer to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, which dominated the Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria for much of the 1st millennium...

 in the 7th century and the foundation of the Goryeo dynasty in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, Koreans systemised its own native class system. At the top were the two official classes, the Yangban
Yangban
The yangban were part of the traditional ruling class or nobles of dynastic Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. The yangban were either landed or unlanded aristocracy who comprised the Korean Confucian idea of a "scholarly official." In reality, they were basically administrators and bureaucrats who...

 that literally means "two classes." It was composed of scholars (Munban) and warriors (Muban). Within the Yangban class, the Scholars (Munban) enjoyed a significant social advantage over the warrior (Muban) class, until the Muban Rebellion in 1170. Muban ruled Korea under successive Warrior Leaders until the Mongol Conquest in 1253. In 1392, with the foundation of Joseon dynasty
Joseon Dynasty
Joseon , was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul...

, the full ascendancy of munban over muban was final.

Beneath the Yangban class were the Jung-in(중인-中人: literally "middle people"). They were the technicians. This class was small and specialized in fields such as medicine, accounting, etc. Beneath the Jung-in were the Sangmin(상민-常民: literally 'commoner'). These were mostly the peasants. Beneath the Sangmin were the Chunmin. They were specialised in lowly professions such as executing, butchering etc. These people composed the majority of Korean society until the 17th century. Underneath them all were the Baekjeong. The meaning today is that of butcher. They originate from the Khitan invasion of Korea
Goryeo-Khitan Wars
The Goryeo-Khitan Wars were a series of 10th- and 11th-century invasions of Korea's Goryeo Dynasty by the Khitan Liao Dynasty near the present-day border between China and North Korea. It resulted in the defeat of Liao Dynasty.-Background:...

 in the 11th century. The defeated Khitan invaders who had surrendered were settled in isolated communities throughout Goryeo to forestall rebellion. They were valued for their skills in hunting, herding, butchering, and making of leather, common skill sets among nomads. Over time their ethnic origin was forgotten, and they formed the bottom layer of Korean society. Korea had a very large slave population, nobi, ranging from a third to half of the entire population for most of the millennium between the Silla
Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

 period and the Joseon Dynasty
Joseon Dynasty
Joseon , was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul...

. Slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 was legally abolished in Korea in 1894 but remained extant in reality until 1930.

The opening of Korea to foreign Christian missionary activity in the late 19th century saw some improvement in the status of the baekjeong; However, everyone was not equal under the Christian congregation, and protests erupted when missionaries attempted to integrate them into worship services, with non-baekjeong finding such an attempt insensitive to traditional notions of hierarchical advantage. Also around the same time, the baekjeong began to resist the open social discrimination that existed against them. They focused on social and economic injustices affecting the baekjeong, hoping to create an egalitarian
Egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

 Korean society. Their efforts included attacking social discrimination by the upper class, authorities, and "commoners" and the use of degrading language against children in public schools.

With the Gabo reform
Gabo Reform
The Gabo Reform describes a series of sweeping reforms introduced in Joseon Dynasty Korea beginning in 1894 and ending in 1896, during the reign of King Gojong, in response to the Donghak Peasant Revolution. Historians debate the degree of Japanese influence in this program, as well as its effect...

 of 1896, the class system of Korea was officially abolished. However, the Yangban families carried on traditional education and formal mannerisms into the 20th century. With the democratisation of 1990s in South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, remnant of such mannerisms and classism is now heavily frowned upon in the South Korean society, replaced by a belief in egalitarianism. However in North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, there is still a class system.

Hawaii


Ancient Hawaii
Ancient Hawaii
Ancient Hawaii refers to the period of Hawaiian human history preceding the unification of the Kingdom of Hawaii by Kamehameha the Great in 1810. After being first settled by Polynesian long-distance navigators sometime between AD 300–800, a unique culture developed. Diversified agroforestry and...

 was a class-based society. People were born into specific social classes; social mobility
Social mobility
Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or economic level to another. It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to...

 was not unknown, but it was extremely rare. The main classes were:
  • Alii
    Ali'i
    Alii is a word in the Polynesian language denoting chiefly status in ancient Hawaii and the Samoa Islands. A similar word with the same concept is found in other Polynesian societies. In the Cook Islands, an ariki is a high chief and the House of Ariki is a parliamentary house...

    , the royal suuwop class. This class consisted of the high and lesser chiefs of the realms. They governed with divine power called mana
    Mana
    Mana is an indigenous Pacific islander concept of an impersonal force or quality that resides in people, animals, and inanimate objects. The word is a cognate in many Oceanic languages, including Melanesian, Polynesian, and Micronesian....

    .
  • Kahuna
    Kahuna
    Kahuna is a Hawaiian word, defined in the as a "Priest, sorcerer, magician, wizard, minister, expert in any profession." Forty different types of kahuna are listed in the book, Tales from the Night Rainbow...

    , the priestly and professional class. Priests conducted religious ceremonies, at the heiau
    Heiau
    A heiau is a Hawaiian temple. Many types of heiau existed, including heiau to treat the sick , offer first fruits, offer first catch, start rain, stop rain, increase the population, ensure health of the nation, achieve success in distant voyaging, reach peace, and achieve success in war . Only the...

    and elsewhere. Professionals included master carpenters and boat builders, chanters, dancers, genealogists and physicians and healers.
  • Makaāinana, the commoner class. Commoners farmed, fished and exercised the simpler crafts. They laboured not only for themselves and their families, but to support the chiefs and kahuna.
  • Kauwa, the outcast or slave class. They are believed to have been war captives, or the descendants of war captives. Marriage between higher classes and the kauwa was strictly forbidden. The kauwa worked for the chiefs and were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini
    Luakini
    In ancient Hawai'i, a luakini temple, or luakini heiau, was a Native Hawaiian sacred place where human and animal blood sacrifices were offered....

     heiau
    . (They were not the only sacrifices; law-breakers of all classes or defeated political opponents were also acceptable as victims.)

Arabian Peninsula



Mainstream Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 society can be conceived of as divided into three classes, Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

(nomads), farmers fellah
Fellah
Fellah , also alternatively known as Fallah is a peasant, farmer or agricultural laborer in the Middle East and North Africa...

in
(villagers) and hadar (townspeople), though these are often little more than descriptive. Tribal loyalties are regarded as more important in Arabian society.

Yemen



In Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 there exists a further class, the Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n-descended Al-Akhdam
Al-Akhdam
Al-Akhdam or Akhdam is a social group in Yemen distinct from the majority by their more African features. They are considered to be at the very bottom of the social ladder in Yemen...

 who are kept as perennial manual workers. Though conditions have improved somewhat over the past few years, the Khadem are still stereotyped by mainstream Yemenese society, considering them lowly, dirty, ill-mannered and immoral.

Latin America


The Spanish and Portuguese colonists of the Americas instituted a relatively loose system of racial and social stratification and segregation based on a person's heritage. The system remained in place in most areas of Spanish America up to the time independence was achieved from Spain. Classes were used to identify people with specific racial or ethnic heritage. However, privileges or restrictions were more related to social status and wealth than to a clearly defined system of classes.

Among the racial classifications used then in Spanish America are: Peninsular, Criollo
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

, Castizo
Castizo
Castizo is a Spanish word with a general meaning of "pure" or "genuine". The feminine form is castiza. From this meaning it evolved other meanings, such as "typical of an area" and it was also used for one of the colonial Spanish race categories, the castas, that evolved in the seventeenth...

, Mestizo
Mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...

, Cholo
Cholo
Cholo is an ethnic slur created by Hispanic criollos in the 16th century, and it has been applied to individuals of mixed or pure American Indian ancestry, or other racially mixed origin. The precise usage of "cholo" has varied widely in different times and places...

, Mulatto
Mulatto
Mulatto denotes a person with one white parent and one black parent, or more broadly, a person of mixed black and white ancestry. Contemporary usage of the term varies greatly, and the broader sense of the term makes its application rather subjective, as not all people of mixed white and black...

, Indio
Indio
Indio may refer to:* Indio, California* Indio, person of indigenous peoples of the Americas* The Spanish Colonial racial term for the native Austronesian peoples of the Philippines between the 16th and 19th centuriesSpecific people:...

, Zambo
Zambo
Zambo or Cafuzo are racial terms used in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires and occasionally today to identify individuals in the Americas who are of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry...

 and Negro
Negro
The word Negro is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not...

.

Africa


Countries in Africa who have societies with class systems within their borders include Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso – also known by its short-form name Burkina – is a landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest.Its size is with an estimated...

, Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

, Chad
Chad
Chad , officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west...

, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, Gambia, Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau
The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

, Ivory Coast, Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

, Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, Mauritania
Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

, Mauritius
Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...

, Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

 and Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

.

West Africa


In West Africa, the osu class systems of eastern Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 and southern Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

 are derived from indigenous religious beliefs and discriminate against the "Osus" people as "owned by deities" and outcasts.
The Songhai economy was based on a caste system. The most common were metalworkers, fishermen, and carpenters. Lower caste participants consisted of mostly non-farm working immigrants, who at times were provided special privileges and held high positions in society. At the top were noblemen and direct descendants of the original Songhai people, followed by freemen and traders. At the bottom were war captives and European slaves obligated to labor.

Similarly, the Mandé societies in Gambia, Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, Ivory Coast, Liberia
Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

, Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 and Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone , officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of and has an estimated population between 5.4 and 6.4...

 have class systems that divide society by ethnic ties. The Mande class system regards the jonow slaves as inferior. Similarly, the Wolof
Wolof people
The Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality with about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs...

 class system in Senegal is divided into three main groups, the geer (freeborn/nobles), jaam (slaves and slave descendants) and the underclass neeno. In various parts of West Africa, Fulani
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

 societies also have class divisions.

Central Africa


Class systems in Central Africa
Central Africa
Central Africa is a core region of the African continent which includes Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda....

 include the ubuhake
Ubuhake
Ubuhake is the name given to the social order in Rwanda and Burundi from approximately the 15th century to 1958. It has been frequently compared to European feudalism. Based on cattle distribution, it was, however, a much smaller system than the one of uburetwa, which affected a much larger...

classes in Rwanda
Rwanda
Rwanda or , officially the Republic of Rwanda , is a country in central and eastern Africa with a population of approximately 11.4 million . Rwanda is located a few degrees south of the Equator, and is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 and Burundi
Burundi
Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...

.

East Africa


The Borana Oromo of southern Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 in the Horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

 also have a class system, where the Watta, an acculturated Bantu group, represent the poorest class.

The traditionally nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic Somali people
Somali people
Somalis are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family...

 are divided into clans, wherein the Rahanweyn
Rahanweyn
The Rahanweyn is a Somali clan, composed of two major sub-clans, the Digil and the Mirifle. It makes up about 17% of the population of Somalia, and is one of the five major Somali clans residing in the Horn of Africa.-Overview:The Digil sub-clan mainly consists of farmers and coastal people, while...

 agro-pastoral clans and the occupational clans such as the Madhiban are sometimes treated as outcasts.

North Africa


Class systems in North Africa include the Tuareg social stratification.

Sahrawi-Moorish society in Northwest Africa was traditionally (and still is, to some extent) stratified into several tribal classes, with the Hassane
Hassane
The Hassane is a name for the traditionally dominant warrior tribes of the Saharan-Moorish areas of present-day Mauritania, southern Morocco and Western Sahara...

 warrior tribes ruling and extracting tribute - horma
Horma
The horma was a tribute paid by subservient tribes to their protectors in traditional Sahrawi-Moorish society in today's Mauritania and Western Sahara in North Africa. The powerful Hassane warrior tribes would extract it from low-caste Znaga tribes, where each member was forced to personally pay an...

 - from the subservient Znaga
Znaga
The Znaga or Zenaga tribes were at the bottom of Sahrawi-Moorish society in today's Mauritania and Western Sahara in North Africa. They performed demeaning duties for their Hassane and Zawiya overlords, and were additionally exploited through payment of the horma tax in exchange for protection,...

 tribes. Although lines were blurred by intermarriage and tribal re-affiliation, the Hassane were considered descendants of the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 Maqil
Maqil
The Maqil were an Arabian nomadic tribe that emigrated to the Maghreb region, with the Banu Hillal and Banu Sulaym tribes, in the 11th century. They mainly settled in and around Morocco's Saharan wolds and oases; in Tafilalet, Wad Nun , Draa and Taourirt...

 tribe Beni Hassan
Beni Hassan
Beni Ḥassān were a nomadic group of Arabian origin, one of the four sub-tribes of the Maqil Arabian tribes who emigrated in the 11th century to the Maghreb with the Bani Hilal and Banu Sulaym Arabs.. They originally lived with their Maqil relatives in the area between Tadla, Moulouiya River...

, and held power over Sanhadja Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

-descended zawiya (religious) and znaga
Znaga
The Znaga or Zenaga tribes were at the bottom of Sahrawi-Moorish society in today's Mauritania and Western Sahara in North Africa. They performed demeaning duties for their Hassane and Zawiya overlords, and were additionally exploited through payment of the horma tax in exchange for protection,...

 (servant) tribes. The so-called Haratin
Haratin
Haratin are oasis-dwellers in the Sahara, especially in southern Morocco and Mauritania, who make up a socially and ethnically distinct group of largely sedentary dark colored workers speaking either Berber or Arabic...

 lower class, largely sedentary oasis
Oasis
In geography, an oasis or cienega is an isolated area of vegetation in a desert, typically surrounding a spring or similar water source...

-dwelling black people, have been considered natural slaves in Sahrawi-Moorish society.

In Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, "desert Berbers and Arabs usually have a rigid class system, with social ranks ranging from nobles down to an underclass of menial workers (mostly ethnic Africans)"

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