Explain the social conditions prevalent in India before the ascendance of British power.
About two hundred years ago, society was rigidly divided along caste lines. Brahmans and Kshatriyas were considered to be the upper castes, whereas traders and moneylenders were placed after them. The latter were known as the ‘Vaishyas’. Then came the peasants and artisans such as weavers and potters who were referred to as the ‘Shudras’. At the lowest rung of society were those who laboured to keep the cities and villages clean or worked jobs which upper castes considered ‘polluting’. The upper castes also treated many of these groups as ‘untouchable’. They were banned from entering temples, drawing water from the wells used by the upper castes or taking baths in ponds which were used by the upper castes. In effect, such social groups were given the treatment of inferior human beings.
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