It is important to note that the Hindu
caste system is based on interdependence of function, not differences in wealth. The Brahmin
caste, although considered to be the "highest" in society, depends just as much on the lower castes as the lower castes depend on them. A village
could not function properly if its inhabitants were only Kshatriya
, because there would be no one to grow food or create art. Even the Untouchables
), who were traditionally placed outside the caste system, were important to the functioning of every village. They would generally perform tasks associated with the feet, because the feet were considered dirty and this work was not worthy of those within the caste system. Without them, the village would stop working properly.
Ideally, this system should be free from exploitation of the lower castes as would be present in a stratified class society, although this was not always the case. For example, The Harijan were exploited and forced to perform the work that no one else was willing to do, and there were even rules about which way their beards were allowed to point and how they were supposed to look at Brahmins as they passed each other. This may have been justified by the idea that they were outside the system and therefore not worthy of respect, but exploitation was still occuring.
The caste system was eventually outlawed in India, but it is by no means absent from Indian culture. The system is supposedly going strong in rural areas of the country where administrative power is somewhat weaker. Since a very large proportion of the population lives in rural areas, the caste system is obviously not going to fade away anytime soon.