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 What are the origins of the concepts of varna and jati, and why has the varna-jati system of social organization lasted so long? What social needs did they serve, and how are these social functions addressed in our culture?  The word Varna, when translated into Hindi, literally translates into color. Howevr the Varna system had nothing to do with the color of the skin of an individual. In fact, the Varna system got degenerated with the passage of time and developed into the much maligned cast system that is seen even today. The cast system meant that a person had no chances of upward mobility in the society, and he remained in the cast that he was born. The original Varna system was devised to have harmony and cooperation between people living in the society and people in different Varnas did not interfere in each other’s lives to compete. It was when the Varna of a perosn was decided on the basis of his birth rather than his qualities that it became rotten.   The ancient Varna system did not have much of significance in the social order in the society. If one was a Brahmin, it may have meant a lot to other Varnas, but inside his own Varna, he was just another individual with no identity. The need for identity within a single Varna led to the development of Jati system inside the Varna system. There was no Jati system in ancient India, and even the chiness Scholar Hsuan Tsang has not mentioned anything about it in his writings. The literal translation of the word Jati gives us the word birth. Jatis developed much later in INdia to reflect the trade or profession of a particular community. So, while Gandhi comes from Gandha which means smell, the community of Gandhis is the one that trades in perfumes. Dhobi community came from the word dhona which meant to wash, and thus Dhobis were people who washed other peopl’s clothes. Thus, a jati is a community engaged in a particular profession or trade. This system of classification continued in modern India till recently, and a person’s surname was enough to let others know all about his profession. However, with modern education system and no discrimination from the state, this caste system or the Jati system is on the decline.  The system of Varna and Jati lasted because many of the practices and attitudes were indoctrinated into the Hindu people, Rules for social behavior and the philosophy of reincarnation. The belief was every individual has an immortal spirit that will be reborn in anothe body after death and that body would be determine by karma in this and previous life. The people believed that rebellion against cast expectations would result in a lower rebirth in the next life (Bulliet, et 2011) The system seen to have kept much of the Indian population under subjection because some members was unwilling to challenge their positions.  Are there substantial similarities between the origins and the development of the Silk Road and the trans-Saharan trade?  Yes, Both routes originated for the purpose of trading. Both routes has harsh desert conditions. Silk roads pass through the Tarim Basin. Trans-Saharan passes the Saharan desert and both has famous outpost. Silk Road had the Samarkand outpost and Trans-Saharan had the Timbuktu post. 

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