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Summarise the social anthropological definition of caste.

Answer :

Social anthropological definition of caste emphasises on following six features –

Caste is based on segmental division: This means that the society is divided into various segments or compartments, which are closed and mutually exclusive. It is closed system because caste is decided by birth and can neither be avoided nor changed.

Caste is based on hierarchical division: Each caste is strictly unequal to all other castes, which means every caste is either higher or lower than the other caste in the hierarchical division of caste system.

Caste imposes restriction on social interaction: The institution of caste is governed by the rule of ideas of purity and pollution, which imposes restrictions on social interaction, specially the sharing of food.

Differential rights and duties for different castes: Due to the principles of hierarchy and restricted social interaction, caste involves differential rights and duties. These rights and duties pertain not only to religious practices but also extend to the secular world.

Restriction on the choice of occupation: The caste is decided by birth and is hereditary and the functions of each cast are rigid with specific occupations being allocated to specific castes.

It Imposes strict restrictions on marriage: Caste involves strict restrictions on marriage. Caste 'endogamy', is accompanied by rules about 'exogamy. This means that marriages can take place only within the caste and one may not marry a person who is not of his or her caste. This rule helps in reproducing the caste system.

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