(10,414 words)

The term “caste,” as well as “caste system,” is commonly used to describe the social organization peculiar to India and most of South Asia. Typically, society here is divided into a number of named groups or communities that are ranked and, to a considerable extent, occupationally specialized. Membership of a caste is hereditary, and the groups are largely endogamous. A number of attempts have been made to define caste or caste systems more closely. Since each definition presupposes a particular…

Cite this page
Harald Tambs-Lyche, “Caste”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Edited by: Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, Vasudha Narayanan. Consulted online on 16 February 2019 <>
First published online: 2012

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