Nepali society is divided (stratified) mainly two ways: (a) status and (b) class. According to max Weber, status is connected (related) to honour and privilege and class with economic order, race or Varna, caste and ethnic groups belong to status strata. Estate and social class belongs to class strata. Varna is classified and caste is a group. There are four Varnas named Brahman, Kshhetri, Baishya and Shudra.
Yam Bahadur Kisan, a leading Dalit scholar of Nepal, has listed nine different theories on the emergence of caste system in the Indian subcontinent. These are: Traditional, Religion, Economy, Racial, Evolution, Criminal, Functional, Sanskritization, Social division (Kisan, 2005:7-10).
He has mentioned five bases for the emergence of the Varna system. These are (a) Pursush Sukta, (b) Colour, (c) Occupation, (d) Personal characteristics, and (e) Heredity (Kisan, 2005:14-24).
He has also listed six reasons for the emergence of Shudras. These are (a) non-Aryan slaves and those vanquished the battle, (b) Aryan non-conformists, Aryan enemies, (c) intermarriage, (d) progeny, and (e) occupation and powerlessness (Kisan, 2005:25-27).
Nepal’s racial composition is made of four races: (1) Mongoloid, (2) Caucasoid, (3) Dravid, and (4) proto-Australoid. Indigenous peoples belong to mongoloid, Dravid and proto-Australoid racial groups. Brahman/Bahun, Kshyatriya/Chettri, Vaishya and Sudra/Dalit, and Muslims belong to Caucasoid racial groups.
According to Ulrik, H. Johansen (2002:8), “Hinduism was introduced to the Area, today known as Nepal, in the eleventh century when a massive migration followed ‘the Muslim conquest in North India’. Until then the population consisted of the ethnic groups ‘Janajatais’embracing Bonist, Buddhist and animistic traditions and beliefs”. According to Dilli Ram Dahal et al. (2002:5), “â€¦the genesis of caste system can be traced more accurately from the reign of king Jayasthiti Malla in the context of Kathmandu Valley and with the introduction of the Old legal code of 1854 in the context of Nepal as a whole”, “â€¦the present Dalit population of Nepal could be the mixture of two distinct groups of people”; (i) “a group of people who originally came to Nepal from India along with other Hindu caste members,” and (ii) “the ‘made’ Dalit groups from the illegitimate sexual relations” (Dahal et. al., 2002:6).
Untouchability is practiced by “higher castes” also but they are not considered or referred as Dalits. These are as follows:
– Untouchability is practiced in many Brahmin/Bahun families. In such families for example fathers, who are “Swayam Pakya” (those who cook themselves), do not eat food cooked by other family members, including sons and daughters in-laws.
– Also, among the Hindus, women are considered untouchable during menstruation and childbirth. They are treated like untouchables temporarily. Thus Hindu women became untouchables on the basis of reproductive roles but not on the basis of caste (source: Indian Institute of Dalits Studies, 2008).
Kisan’s view about the genesis of caste system giving the different theories is more reliable because he is a profound Dalit scholar who has a broad vision about social systems like the caste system of Nepal and deep knowledge about cultural and sociological aspects of the caste system. He was illustrating the development of the caste system and how it appeared in the level of Dalits in the Himalayan kingdom, which makes it easier to understand caste history of Nepal. As well Varna system is also reliable. The genesis of Dalits also gives a clear picture of his attitude over caste system of Nepal, which ordinary people can understand.