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Caste Endogamy

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The chapter gives a broad picture of the preservation of caste endogamy as it occurs at three levels: through the appeal to religious texts to preserve the inter-caste hierarchical order of caste; how over time caste endogamy has been reaffirmed by state-level actors either by force or due to the pressures of social legitimacy; and finally how it is employed in intra-caste governance.

It shows how at the level of intra-caste governance caste panchayats become the enforcers of caste endogamy and each caste devises rules and structures to accommodate its own economic and social needs to the patriarchal framework of endogamy. These caste panchayats thus become an important link between the state, Hinduism’s textuality, and the social structure, enforcing the code of caste based social hierarchy, which requires the oppression of women, with overt or covert support from the state.

In speaking to the nature of the relation between the changing functions of caste panchayats over different periods down to the present day and the relatively unchanging methods they deploy to carry out these functions it further underlines the larger issues of the relation between modernity and tradition that these caste organizations reflect.


  • Brahmanatva
  • Sexual codes
  • Anuloma
  • Pratiloma
  • Hindu law

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-1275-6_5
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  1. 1.

    Brahmanatva is a combination of two words: Brahman and Tatva. Brahman is the twice born of the purest caste and tatva means essence or substance. The word brahmanatva thus means the essence or substance of Brahmanism.

  2. 2.

    Dharmasastras are a group of 5000 juridical treatises written in Sanskrit spanning both theological and juridical subjects. These include the Sutras, Srutis, Smritis, Vrittas and Nibandhas.

  3. 3.

    The detailed rites of passage to be performed at various stages and occasions in one’s life stated in the Srutis and Smritis which are part of the Dharmasastra literature.

  4. 4.

    The French had established a standing consultative committee of Indian jurisprudence in 1827, whereby the French judicial officer and the native leader both had to preside and sign a judgement for it to enter into force.

  5. 5.

    According to a 2012 survey conducted by University of Maryland—called Indian Human Development Survey—only 5% of marriages in India are inter-caste marriages. Of these, the highest 11.8% are in the Northeast, dominated by the tribal peoples, whereas the ‘caste-ridden’ central Indian region records the lowest 1.8% inter-caste marriages (Narzary and Ladusingh 2019).

  6. 6.

    A very common expression used widely in private conversations and in public discourse, attached a positive value to honour that needs safeguarding and preservation. It literally translates as the ‘honour of the daughter and the daughter-in-law’. Ijjat or honour here means her chastity. This is a very common, unchallenged assumption where for example, an instance of rape is referred to as ‘being robbed of one’s honour’ (ijjat loot jaana), or an inter-caste marriage by a woman is referred to as undoing the honour of her family (parivaar ka naam mitti me mila dena).

  7. 7.


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Ingole, A. (2021). Caste Endogamy. In: Caste Panchayats and Caste Politics in India. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

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