word for caste, varna
, actually means color. The color element of castes was emphasized, throughout this period, and was eventually to become deep-rooted in north-Indian Aryan culture. Initially, theefore the division was between the Aryans and the non-Aryans. The Aryans were the dvija or twice-born castes (the first being physical birth and the second the initiation into caste status), consisting of the kshatriyas (warriors and aristocracy), the brahmans (priests), and the vaishyas (cultivators) and the fourth caste the shudras, were the dasas and those of mixed Aryan-dasa origin….The establishment of caste was no doubt promoted by other factors as well, and the process by which the shudras became cultivators is inherent in thee factors….The continuance of caste was secured by its being made hereditary: the primitive taboo on commensality (eating together) became a caste law, and this in turn made it necessary to define marriage limits, leading to elaborate rules of endogamy and exogamy. The basis and continuance of the caste system depended not on the four-fold division but on the vast network of sub-casts which was intimately connected with occupation.”
However, the castes system has grown into an extremely complicated and conditioned by customs, practices, rituals, regional interests and personal and other rivalries and the greed for power over the others. The evil and bad practices such as untouchability made the caste system the butt of criticism and objection from all right-thinking people. The struggles against the caste system and the moves for reformation have opened the door for the modernization of Hinduism and it played a crucial role in India’s political history. “Ask not, say not and practice not caste” – the famous saying of Sree Narayana Guru, sage and Kerala’s foremost social reformer, was the strongest criticism against the caste-based system.