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Jāti also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...
: जाति Tamil
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...
:சாதி) (the word literally means 'birth') 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 (e.g. Sri Vaishnavism or Veera Shaivism
Shaivism is one of the four major sects of Hinduism, the others being Vaishnavism, Shaktism and Smartism. Followers of Shaivism, called "Shaivas," and also "Saivas" or "Saivites," revere Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer,...
) or linguistic groupings define some jatis. A person's surname typically reflects a community (jati) association: thus Gandhi
= perfume seller, Dhobi
= washerman, Srivastava
= military scribe, etc. In any given location in India 500 or more jatis may co-exist, although the exact composition will differ from district to district.
The British, since 1901, for the purposes of the Decennial Census, fitted all the Jatis into one or the other of the varna categories as described in Brahminical literature, ignoring that there are many Jatis that would straddle two Varnas, based on occupation. As a community in south India put it,"We are soldiers and saddle makers too". The Indian society since pre-historic times had a complex, inter-dependent and cooperative political economy. One non-sacred text, the Laws of Manu, c. 200, codified the social relations between communities from the perspective of the Varna castes. Although this book was almost unknown south of the Vindhyas, it gained prominence when the British administrators and Western scholars used it exclusively to gain an understanding of traditional Hindu law in India.
Jātis of Varnas
Originally, the jāti was effectively a system similar to guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...
s, and was associated with occupation or tribe or sect. For example, as a general rule goldsmiths, carpenters and barbers form separate communities could, and can not intermingle. Along with this, members of Jati are forbidden from changing from their caste, or community to another. Most castes and communities with a significant number of members are divided into sub-communities. The development of sub-communities could arise because of these reasons:
- Geographical separation: For example purabia (eastern) or pachchaia (western) sections of some communities, like the barhai (carpenters)
- Variation in standards of conduct: For example, disagreements over the permissibility of certain foods, or customs, such as widow marriages caused some communities to subdivide.
In several cases, merging of sub-communities have been recorded. A jāti
could originally change their occupation and thus association with a varna. Marriages would occur usually within one's community, or sometimes between communities.
At one time there was considerable interest in relative ranking of communities (jātis). There are several ways ranking can be done.
- By public reputation of the community in a region
- By wealth and influence
- Food relationship: Members of a lower community will accept water-cooked (kachcha) food prepared by members of a higher community.
A consequence of the 3rd rule was that Brahmins were often employed as cooks. The rule was often not applicable if the food items are dry (e.g. roasted grains) or cooked with oil/ghee (pakka).
There are now several thousand communities and sub-communities in India. A jāti is defined by the mutual interaction among the members of the community. The two most common bonds are:
- "Roti" (bread): dining together.
- "Beti" (daughter): intermarrying together.