What changes did colonialism bring about in the caste system?
The institution of caste underwent major changes during the colonial period.
Present status of caste in India is more a product of colonialism than of ancient Indian tradition.
The British administrators tried to understand the complexities of caste in an effort to leam how to govern the country efficiently.
The most important official effort to collect information on caste was through census. It began in 1860s.
The 1901 census under the direction of Herbert Risley was particularly important as it sought to collect information on the social hierarchy of caste i.e. the social order of precedence in particular regions, as to the position of each caste in the rank order.
The counting of caste and to officially recording of caste made this institution of caste identity became more rigid in India.
The land revenue settlements and laws gave legal recognition to the caste based rights of the upper caste.
Large scale irrigation schemes were accompanied by efforts to settle population there, and these also had caste dimension.
So colonialism brought about major changes in the institution of caste. In short the Britishers took initiative in following areas:
- Census-to make sure of number and sizes of the castes and sub-castes.
- To understand the values, beliefs and customs of different sections of society.
- Land settlement.