Caste system and Social Reform
The caste system based on profession gradually developed and became rigid. While the Brahmans the Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas enjoyed a higher status, the condition of the Shudras and the Chandalas was pitiable. The Chandalas were supposed to live outside the villages. They were barred from drawing water from the wells used by the upper castes. They could not enter the temples or recite verses from the Vedas and Shastras. The upper caste people refrained from eating or drinking anything that had been touched by the untouchables.
As a result of the caste system, the Hindu society got divided into many castes and sub-castes and resulted in a wide gulf between different sections of the society. It resulted in a narrow outlook of persons and fostered disintegration between members of a society. The reformers were particularly worried about this, as they wanted people to unite together to oust the British from India.
The caste system also hindered the intellectual and scientific progress of the individuals as well as the society. Certain occupations were reserved for the upper caste people whether or not they were worthy of them. Similarly, lower caste people, even if intelligent and worthy could not rise up or take up higher posts. The system thus, acted as a means of oppression and suppression of the lower castes. It hurt upon the liberty of the individuals and was against the principles of democracy, equality and secularism.
The social reformers of the 19th century challenged the very basis and need of the caste system. They considered it as the main cause of the existing disunity and intellectual backwardness of their countrymen. It is noteworthy that most of the social reformers who raised their voice against the caste system belonged to the upper castes. They willfully violated the taboos on food and water in their regular meetings. The reformers at Bombay formed the Paramhans Mandali in 1840 to carry forward their fight for the abolition of the caste system.
The coming of the Christian missionaries and the British in India also worked in favour of lower castes. The missionaries set up various schools for the children of tribal people and lower castes. Access to education, thus, opened up the opportunities of an entirely new and intellectual world for them.
As a result of industrialisation, the British had a opened up many new factories , offices , public work department etc. which needed labour.
Also , the construction of roads , drains , canals , buildings and offices required labourers like cleaners , sweepers , carriers , diggers , bricklayers , etc. The development of means of transport and communication had also facilitated the movement of labour from one place to another . The upper caste people were reluctant to take up such menial jobs under the British . This gave an opportunity to the low caste people to come to the cities and castes in their home – towns.