Categories Anthropology II

II. 3.2.5 Caste mobility


  • Caste shows mobility in upward as well as downward direction
  • Upward movement is achieved by warfare, serving rulers,  population census,  sanskritization and westernization, politicization
  • In download movement by de-sanskritization, tribalization and peasantization
  • According to the Jati model of the caste system in India there are five groups which are arranged in a hierarchial order

hierarchical order of caste system in india

  • This grouping of Indian social organization is an ascribed or closed in nature.
  • It means status in the caste system is a result of birth of a person
  • rules and regulation for interaction among different caste
  • in reality a caste can move upward or downward


caste mobility means movement of caste from one position to another position in a social stratification. It can be an upward mobilization or downward mobilization


  1. Upward mobilization
    1. Warfare
    2. Serving rulers
    3. Population census
    4. sanskritization and westernization
    5. Politicization


  1. Download modification
    1. Desanskritization
    2. Tribalization
    3. Peasantization

Role of Diffusion

  1. Universalisation
  2. Parochialisation

Upward mobilization

1 . Mobility through Warfare – K M Pannikar said that since 5th century BC every known royal family has come from non Kshatriya caste.

Example,  Mauryas belong to Shudra but enjoy the status of Kshatriya caste

MN Srinivas has given the example of Shivaji. He belongs to Shudra caste.  After overthrowing the Mughal power in Maharashtra , through the religious rite of transition into Kshatriyahood.

2. Mobility through serving rulers- Jatis whose members served the Hindu or non Hindu ruler attend higher Varna rank.

Kayastha,  a caste of Scribe belonged to low caste and served Mughal and thereafter the British. By 19 century they rose up to the  twice born (Dwij) category

3. By population census-  recording Jatis identity in census from 1891 to 1931,  many middle and low caste made efforts to get themselves registered as members of higher caste. Evidences were offered from myth and history for every claim

Eg. Kurmi cultivators of Bihar became Kshatriya and Teli became Vaishya.

4. sanskritization – advocated by MN Srinivas is the process of emulation of lifestyle of higher caste by the lower caste and in the process attaining higher status

Pocock has shown that upward mobility of Kurmi in a traditional middle Peaseant caste of Gujarat to the new and more honorable status of Patidar.

5. Westernization – as a result of cultural contact with the western Society for long period many individual members of lower caste have been able to change their caste status. It is not a proof of caste mobility as in the case of sanskritization but individual phenomena.

6. Politicization – use of politics for securing government benefits and representation in legislative and political bodies have enabled many lower caste to move in upward direction.

Eg, Mahars of Maharashtra, Nadars of Tamilnadu, Reddys and Kama of Andhra Pradesh,  Yadav of UP and Bihar

Downward mobilisation

  1. De-sanskritization – it is downward mobilisation from higher position to lower position

Eg. Jats belongs to kshatriya Varna however to reap the benefits of reservation policy they have gone down to the status of OBC

  1. Peasantization – when a upper caste becomes peasant and performs agricultural activities
  2. Tribalization- means a caste through the process of de-Peasantization or de-sanskritization transformed themselves into a tribe.

Eg. Gujjars as ST in Rajasthan, Many caste in Bastar district have become tribes by staying with tribal people and following their lifestyle for generation, Gujjar Bakarwals

Composite model of caste mobility.jpg


Indian society is not a closed or static society but a dynamic entity. Mobilization has provided the opportunity to move from higher to lower and vice versa as per the changing need of the society. The current time is witnessing the mobility of society in religious space by means of religious conversions. The process of diffusion of cultural traits between GT and LT through the process of universalization and parochialization have accelerated the process of caste mobility.


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