The Four Basic Indian Castes

The Four Basic Indian Castes

Every nation has its unique characteristics. Some have more, others less. Indians undoubtedly belong to the former category, as they differ from other nations in many fundamental aspects.

One of these is the caste system, which still functions to a limited extent in the world's most populous country.

Author: Tomáš Bajgar

Origin of Castes

The caste system was a standard in almost every ancient, or medieval culture. However, in India, it persists even today. Much of this is due to cultural and religious reasons.

A significant work that shaped both ancient and contemporary India is the Manusmriti. This is a collection of 12 books discussing morality, law, religion, and also focuses on the caste system, which is supposed to be immutable, as it was decreed by God.

According to the code, castes are divided into four basic groups: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. Members of each caste have their duties, but also privileges.


This caste enjoys the highest respect in India. Brahmins are essentially a priestly class, primarily concerned with spiritual matters.

Most of their time is spent on prayers, or performing religious rituals. Like spiritual leaders elsewhere in the world, Brahmins in India are associated with an ascetic way of life.

Besides the activities mentioned above, Brahmins have always focused on educating others, especially in the religious sphere.


This is the warrior caste, whose mission is to deal with all military matters and protect society from external and internal enemies.

Kshatriyas are not chosen only for warfare, but also for governance. Therefore, they have always had access to education, as a person without adequate knowledge can never be a good king.

In the caste system, Kshatriyas are below the Brahmins, whom they are tasked to protect.


Although third in line, Vaishyas are not exactly a subordinate caste. They have always been the backbone of society, mainly comprising traders, craftsmen, and farmers.

For centuries, Vaishyas have been responsible for the economic functioning of the state. They ensured the supply of food and other commodities to other castes.


This is the lowest social class in Indian society. Shudras never had much access to education. They were excluded from many religious rituals and even denied access to many public places.

Shudras always existed only to serve the above-mentioned classes. Therefore, they were left with the least qualified work, such as cleaning and hard labor in the fields.

Unfair and Discriminatory

The Indian caste system has always been very unfair and highly discriminatory. However, after many legal and social reforms, the caste system in today's India is increasingly less relevant. Positive discrimination and other supportive measures play a significant role in this.

Yet, in many parts of India, the caste system has functioned for hundreds of years with practically no change.