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Caste Societies

The term caste refers to a class of people occupying a specific stratum within the social system and performing the specific roles characteristic of each stratum in accordance with the traditionally stipulated habits and customs. A caste society is designated as a closed class system because of the following characteristics. The position of an individual is ascribed at birth by the virtue of the hereditary inheritance of caste affiliation. Three of the most important features of the Indian caste system pertain to the notions of commensality, rules of marriage and perceptions of purity. Upper castes neither interdine nor accept food from lower castes but may give food to others .The lower castes are acceptors of the food given away by the upper castes. Each caste group is endogamous. The ritual purity or impurity of a caste occupation determines the status of a caste. The notions of purity and pollution result in the maintenance of physical and social distances between the upper and lower castes. Thus the status position of caste are rigidly defined and the rules of social interaction are strictly enforced. This prevents social mobility.