The mystery of caste institution is intricate and complex. It is a local problem with consequences which have a wider scope.
Indian population is a conglomeration of Aryans, Dravidians, Mongolians and Scythians. These stocks of people who (in tribal state) are from different directions and have various cultures settled down as a common culture in India by mutual intercourse. Even if the people are ethnically heterogeneous, they are homogeneous because of the culture. And due to this homogeneity, explaining caste has been difficult. India as a homogeneous unit is parceled with caste. If at all the units are mutually exclusive it would've been a cake walk to explain the genesis of caste.
Understanding the central point in the mechanism of caste system is crucial for this genesis. Usually when defined, caste is considered as an isolated unit but system of caste as a whole should be considered.
Caste in India is partitioning or grouping of people and preventing them from fusing through endogamy. Endogamy is the essence of caste system. So to understand the genesis we have to understand how endogamy is maintained.
Through the ages, the exogamous population of India turned into endogamous one. Exogamy has been superimposed by endogamy which is the base for creation of caste. But it isn't child's play to turn the whole exogamous society into an endogamous one. For endogamy to subsist , it is absolutely necessary to maintain numerical equality between marriageable units of two sexes within the group desired to turn it into caste. Surplus single men or women partners are a menace for endogamy as they encourage the possibility of exogamy (i.e., partnering with people outside the prescribed circle as they can't find them in their own and having off springs who doesn't belong to a particular caste or even if they marry in their prescribed group, they increase the problem even more by effecting the numerical equality).
Consider an imaginary group who has a project to complete - Project E. The main aim is to impose endogamy in society. They need to take care of the 'surplus women/men' first. What can they possibly do?
In case of women, they can kill her if she is a widow. This might work out in some parts of society and might not in others. So, the more practicable solution for this is to enforce widowhood for the rest of her life as burning her fails to guard the morals of the 'prescribed group'.
In case of men, they have upper hand over women with greater prestige where their wishes are always consented. Man as a maker of injunctions don't want to abide them. The concept of burning doesn't even strike just because he is a 'man' - an important and sturdy soul. But even if he is important, Project E can't fail. So he can be marked as a widower for eternity just like a widow. This solution can be implemented easily as some men enjoy self imposed celibacy or even worse advertise the benefits of it which will be a menace to preserve caste endogamy. So, man has to marry and raise a family. But the problem is to provide him with a wife within the caste. Widows are not an option. So, unmarried women ought to be more in number than unmarried men so that he could marry even as a widower.
Finally for Project E:
1. Women should be burned with the deceased husband.
2. Compulsory widowhood.
3. Imposing celibacy on the widower.
4. Marrying the widower to unmarried women.
(The 1st and the 3rd have less chances of possibility)
Castes in Hindu society:
To those who wants to understand caste in India by unfolding the past, the data available is spurious. So, how did the Hindu society help Project E?
1. They enforced the practice of 'Sati Sahagamanam'.
2. They enforced widowhood where widows can't remarry.
3. Child marriage.
No scientific explanation is ever given to these customs nor their origin or existence. So, these are the means to complete the Project E and accomplish the establishment of caste. But this means are abominable and shocking to moral sense so that it needed a great deal of sweetening. Strict endogamy can't be preserved without this means while caste without endogamy is fake.
Genesis / Origin of caste:
We have established by now that endogamy is the only character of caste. So, origin of caste means origin of the mechanism of endogamy. Society is always composed of classes not of individuals. An individual is always a member belonging to particular class. The basis of class may differ but the existence is definite. The study of genesis of caste would be accomplished if we determine the class which first made itself into a caste first.
The customs or means mentioned are from hindu society where only one particular caste follows them strictly - "Brahmins". They occupy the highest place in the social hierarchy. While other non-brahmin castes don't follow these customs strictly and completely. Brahmins are the class who enforced the concept of caste.
Growth and spread of caste system all over India:
Hindu orthodox people believe that caste is moulded into framework of society and it is organization consciously created by 'Shastras'. This belief is justified by another belief that "Shastras can't be wrong" (silly!).
The earliest classes in Hindu society are,
1. Brahmins or Priestley class
2. Kshatriya or Military class
3. Vaishya or Merchant class
4. Shudra or artisan and menial class
This was essentially a caste system in which individuals when qualified could change their classes. Brahmin class socially detached themselves, so other classes have been subjected to the law of social division of labour and underwent differentiation. The unnatural thing about these divisions is the loss of open-door character of the class system and becoming self-employed units called caste. This is because of the psychological interpretation and mechanistic interpretation.
-Psychological interpretation: Endogamy or closed door system was originated from Brahmins and is imitated by non-brahmin class making them endogamous. The conditions for the imitation of closed door system are:
1. Source of imitation must enjoy prestige in group.
2. "Numerous and daily relations" among members of the group.
These conditions were present in India at the time of caste formation.
Another way of proving the imitation in the formation of Castes is to understand the attitude of the non-brahmin classes towards those customs which support the structure of caste. Castes which are in the nearest distance to Brahmins imitate all the customs. The increase in the intensity of imitation is inversely proportional to the distance of that non-brahmin class from the Brahmins.
-Mechanical interpretation: This is an inevitable process. If 'class A' wants to be endogamous by being self-enclosed, all the other classes which are not a part of class A are forced to self-enclose. Every caste have a code with unavoidable rules. These rules must be followed if not the penalty of excommunication is given resulting a new caste.
Caste is impossible to sustain. It runs on belief which has to be the foundation of an institution. This institution needs to be perpetuated and fortified.