What is the role of the ideas of separation and hierarchy in the caste system?
The caste system can be understood as the combination of two sets of principles, one based on difference and separation and the other on wholism and hierarchy.
Each caste is different and strictly separated from every other caste on the basis of restrictions. These restrictions are related to marriage, food sharing and social interaction to occupation.
Different and separated castes do not have an individual existence. They exist in relation to a larger whole. This societal whole or system is a hierarchical rather than egalitarian system.
Each individual caste follows an ordered rank—a particular position in a ladder like arrangement going from highest to lowest.
The hierarchical ordering of castes is based on the distinction between purity and pollution.
Castes that are considered ritually pure have high status, while those considered less pure or impure have low status.
Historians believe that those who were defeated in wars were often assigned low caste status.
Castes are not only unequal in ritual terms. They are complementary and non competing groups. It means each caste has its own place in the system which cannot be taken by any other caste.
Caste is also linked with occupation, the system functions as a social division of labour. It allows no mobility.This idea of separation and hierarchy has inculcated discrimination, inequality and prejudices in Indian society.