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Caste System Collection

The caste system, a deeply ingrained social structure in India, has been the subject of extensive exploration and documentation throughout history

Background imageCaste System Collection: Hovahs; Recent Explorations in Madagascar, 1875. Creator: Alfred Grandidier

Hovahs; Recent Explorations in Madagascar, 1875. Creator: Alfred Grandidier
Hovahs; Recent Explorations in Madagascar, 1875. [ The Hova, or free commoners, were one of the three principal historical castes in the Merina Kingdom of Madagascar ]

Background imageCaste System Collection: Group of Mahrattas, 1818, c1891. Creator: James Grant

Group of Mahrattas, 1818, c1891. Creator: James Grant
Group of Mahrattas, 1818, c1891. From " Cassells Illustrated History of India Vol. I.", by James Grant. [Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, Paris and New York]

Background imageCaste System Collection: Group of Brahmins, c1891. Creator: James Grant

Group of Brahmins, c1891. Creator: James Grant
Group of Brahmins, c1891. From " Cassells Illustrated History of India Vol. I.", by James Grant. [Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, Paris and New York]

Background imageCaste System Collection: Low Caste Hindoo Women of Bombay, c1891. Creator: James Grant

Low Caste Hindoo Women of Bombay, c1891. Creator: James Grant
Low Caste Hindoo Women of Bombay, c1891. From " Cassells Illustrated History of India Vol. I.", by James Grant. [Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, Paris and New York]

Background imageCaste System Collection: Group of Rajpoots, c1891. Creator: James Grant

Group of Rajpoots, c1891. Creator: James Grant
Group of Rajpoots, c1891. From " Cassells Illustrated History of India Vol. I.", by James Grant. [Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, Paris and New York]

Background imageCaste System Collection: Brahmins, India (b / w photo)

Brahmins, India (b / w photo)
5996597 Brahmins, India (b/w photo) by English Photographer, (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: Brahmins, India)

Background imageCaste System Collection: Puckaly in Moor Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon

Puckaly in Moor Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon
Puckaly in Moor Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840

Background imageCaste System Collection: A Goldsmith, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon

A Goldsmith, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon
A Goldsmith, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840

Background imageCaste System Collection: Solf-Coraven, or Beggar, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon

Solf-Coraven, or Beggar, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon
Solf-Coraven, or Beggar, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840

Background imageCaste System Collection: Mat-seller, in Malabar Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon

Mat-seller, in Malabar Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon
Mat-seller, in Malabar Cast, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840

Background imageCaste System Collection: Woodmonger in Culla Caste, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon

Woodmonger in Culla Caste, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840. Creator: Anon
Woodmonger in Culla Caste, from Indian Trades and Castes, ca. 1840


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The caste system, a deeply ingrained social structure in India, has been the subject of extensive exploration and documentation throughout history. In 1875, Alfred Grandidier's "Recent Explorations in Madagascar" shed light on this complex system. The images captured by James Grant in 1818 and later reproduced in 1891 showcased various groups within the caste hierarchy. One such group was the Mahrattas, who held significant influence during that time. Their distinct identity and position within society were evident through their attire and demeanor. Similarly, Grant's portrayal of Brahmins highlighted their revered status as priests and scholars. However, not all castes enjoyed such privilege. Grant also depicted Low Caste Hindoo Women of Bombay, emphasizing the challenges faced by those belonging to lower castes. These women struggled against societal prejudices but displayed resilience amidst adversity. Rajpoots were another prominent group featured by Grant; they belonged to a warrior caste known for their valor and bravery. Their depiction reflected both strength and pride associated with their lineage. In addition to these visual records from the late 19th century, older black-and-white photographs showcased Brahmins engaged in religious rituals—a testament to their integral role within Indian society. Anon's illustrations from "Indian Trades and Castes, " dating back to around 1840, provided further insight into specific occupations tied closely with particular castes. From goldsmiths crafting intricate jewelry to beggars surviving on alms—these depictions demonstrated how one's occupation often determined social standing. The Mat-seller from Malabar Cast exemplified yet another occupation linked with a specific caste—an individual whose livelihood relied on selling mats made from natural fibers found abundantly in that region. Lastly, Anon portrayed a Woodmonger belonging to the Culla Caste—a reminder that even mundane trades played an essential part within this hierarchical system. These captivating images offer glimpses into different facets of the caste system, showcasing its complexities and the diverse roles individuals played within it.