India's caste system divided people by
social distinctions into hereditary groups that had specific
limitations and privileges, depending on where the person is on the
social strata. Although it is illegal in India today to discriminate
against the Dalit or anyone based on caste, nearly half of the Dalit
population lives below the poverty line and more than 60 percent are
Technically, the Dalit are so low in
the hierarchy that they are not part of the caste system, but some
sociologists now classify them with the lowest of the four castes,
Sudra. The traditional castes include:
- Brahmin –
the priestly and teacher caste. Salvation (moksha) is
achieved through Jnana yoga (learning and knowledge).
- Kshatriya –
the ruler and public service caste.
Moksha is achieved
through Karma yoga (good works).
- Vaishya –
the business and merchant caste.
Moksha is attained through
Bhakti yoga (devotion to the Divine).
- Sudra/Dalit –
the semi-skilled and unskilled workers.
Moksha is attained
through Bhakti yoga.
Hinduism offers a path to moving up via reincarnation.
Someone who fulfills his/her duty (dharma) in one life may improve their social position in the next.