(III) Functions for the Caste System itself.
(I) Functions of Caste for Individual:
(i) Caste system is useful for the individual because it provides him a definite particular status. This status of the individual depends upon his birth in a definite caste group.
(ii) Caste system is based upon the theory of Karma. The modern man may dislike this theory or may call it as dysfunctional but Karma theory has several important functions to play. It provides the individual with some satisfaction and contentment in respect of his social position.
(iii) Caste system provides free training and education to its members. The traditional caste system stands based upon a system of specialization in different occupations. These occupations, therefore, are based upon the hereditary skills which are passed from one generation to the next.
(iv) Caste provides a useful association to the individual. It iacts like a trade union as it is based upon co-operation, friendship and understanding. An individual gets several types of help from his caste group. According to Srinivas, the concept of Biradri has a good significance in the life of an individual.
(II) Functions for the Society:
The strength and stability of a society depends upon the types of institutions it possesses. The social system has to maintain some equilibrium for its operation in the environment. Caste system helps the social system to maintain its equilibrium and status (sameness). We may look at any institution of Indian Society, we will notice that directly or indirectly it is affected by the caste system.
(a) Institution of Marriage:
The sacramental character of Hindu marriage is maintained by many factors and the caste is one of them. The caste consideration is of utmost importance in Hindu marriage. No marriage can be declared to be complete unless the nearer ‘Gotras’ have been avoided. Even in modern times caste continues to affect the institution of marriage system of Hindu way of lifey.
(b) Economic Functions:
Jajmani system explains the functioning of caste in the village. This system implies that each caste in the village specialises in some occupation and all castes perform these functions in cooperation with each other.
The literal meaning of Jajmani system is the relation of master and servant. In the village there are some castes which monopolize the means of production and upon which other castes are dependent.
The caste which owns the means of production gives something in return for the services rendered by some other castes. The payment is made in kind and not in cash. In a nutshell, the
Jajmani system is based upon a division of labour and according to Wieser, it is much more efficient in functioning than the modern market system. This is because the element of competition is absent in the Jajmani system.
(c) Political Functions:
Caste is a source of some united political action in so far the people belonging to a particular caste, at times, act a political bloc. Politics in India clearly reflects the role of caste and casteism. Caste acts as a factor of voting behaviour as well as political participation. Currently, caste panchayats have been becoming more active in some states of India, e.g. Haryana.
(d) Religious Functions:
According to Redcliff Brown, the institutions of caste and religion are closely related. He believes that the norms of caste are the norms of religion. Srinivas explains this statement by giving the example of Hinduism as a system. He says that all castes are under the fold of Hinduism and they are governed by the norms of Hinduism directly or indirectly.
(e) Ecological Functions:
Caste system affects the spatial patterning of the society. The members of the same caste always like to live separately and distinctly from other castes. We still find that the houses of the same caste cluster together and this clustering of houses is reflects some distinct ecological features.
(f) Genetic Functions:
According to Westermarck, the mixture of races leads to increase in ratio of females to males. Caste system puts taboos and restrictions in the way of mixture between different races. Endogamy is the main feature of caste system and through this feature each caste is able to maintain its ‘purity’.
It is a wish of every Hindu to have a son in his life. Hindu religion states that a man cannot achieve Nirvana unless he has got a son who list fire to his funeral pyre. Therefore, indirectly caste system serves this function for Hindus. This factor has been a reason behind the fact that ratio of males is higher than females in Indian society.
(III) Functions of Caste for the Caste System itself:
(a) Continuity and Stability:
Caste cannot increase its membership or ideally speaking it cannot fight for higher status. This is because; caste system is based upon Karma theory and ascription of status. That is why the caste system has been able to maintain stability and continuity.
(b) Better Organisation:
Caste can act as a separate body to implement its norms. There are some caste bodies like caste panchayats or some associations based upon caste which execute the norms and other means of social control. Therefore, social deviation can be checked by the caste system.
(c) Makes clear the status of each Caste:
The social status of each caste can be easily known and the hierarchical system of caste is quite specific and clear.