Caste Structure and Occupations.
A striking feature of caste has been its traditional association with an occupation. Agriculture, however, was a common occupation for all castes. The castes are accorded high or low status according to whether its traditional occupation is ritually pure or polluting. Within this system of caste structure, the jajmani system operates in the village. Some castes are patrons while others are service castes who provide their services to the landowning upper castes in return of cash and kind. In the Norththe Rajputs, Jats, Bhumihars are the patron castes, the service castes are Brahmins (priest), Barber, Washerman, Carpenter, Blacksmith etc.
However, caste is also undergoing some change which alter its traditional mode of inter-relationships by bringing about changes in power structure, which maintained its hierarchical character. In Bisipara (a village in Orissa studied by Bailey) the untouchable Boad distillers by trading in hides and liquor could earn enough money to purchase land equal to that of the warrior castes, similarly, Ganjam distillers through trade in liquor purchased more land than any other caste in the villages. Following these economic changes, there have been changes in the political structure of the village altering the balance of intercaste relationships. This type of change is common in villages of other regions in India too, and has especially been observed in the changing form of traditional jajmani relationships.
Caste Structure and Power.
A caste is considered dominant when it has a high ritual status, has numerical preponderance and is economically and politically strong in the village. There are regional variations in the caste groups who are dominant. Local power generally comes from land as it is the main source of wealth. Numerical strength further safeguards the power. In the new democratic system where every vote is important, unity of caste makes it a political force. In regions where caste and power hierarchy overlap, there is a definite concentration of power, wealth and land invested with high-ranking caste groups. Ritual notions of purity and pollution further reinforce the high and low status of caste groups.
In regions where caste and power structures do not correlate, there is constant dispute over their position in the hierarchy. This may result in factions within caste groups. Diffused power structure emerges with no single dominant caste. In districts of Punjab, Haryana and parts middle-rung castes e.g. Jat, Ahir, Kurmi etc. wield enormous power and are dominant in the region.
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