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THE CASTE SYSTEM

The underlying world-view that gives rise to many of the challenges experienced by these women is the caste system. This belief system is several thousand years old and is grounded in an old myth about the origin of the various castes. According to this myth there are four main castes

Brahmins—the highest caste associated with the priesthood and highest levels of society. According to the myth, the Brahmins emanated from the head of the primordial deity.

Shatrya—originally the warrior class, but later the professional and business leaders in society. The Shatrya, it is believed, emanated from the chest of the deity.

Vaishyu—the artisans of society who represent a wide range of roles and classes. The Vaishyu, in this tradition, emanated from the thighs of the deity.

Sudra—the laborers and servants of the other castes, who emanated from the feet of the deity.

Dalits—the untouchables who are outside the caste system and as such are outcastes. Their origin, it is said, is the result of intermarriage between castes.

Tribals—the Indigenous peoples of India who inhabited the land before the Aryan invasion thousands of years earlier.

The Grihini women face the reality that one is born into a particular caste level and cannot change that level during this life. Within each of the castes listed above there are many different classes and groups, but Dalits or Tribals can never become one of these groups.

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