What is the earliest use of modern-day caste system in India? Where is this documented so I can reference it?

CLARIFICATIONS: These clarifications respond to questions and apparent confusions about what is a simple question. If there is no answer please say so. If down voting, please indicate your reasons. Since caste system is one of the great by-products of Hinduism, it is a valid topic of inquiry.

Modern-day, I meant as we currently understand. I wanted to exclude any ancient categories, such gods or demi-gods or other non-human categories. If I knew anymore about the evolution of castes, I probably won't be asking this question.

By documented, I meant justification for maintaining those categories into modern age, which includes recent colonial periods.

By reference, I meant any other resources besides bibliographic. I kept this deliberately open knowing Hinduism's strong oral tradition. It need not be restricted to scriptures or religious canons.

  • So what is modern day caste-system and from where do you expect the documentation for that? In ancient hindu texts? Off topic. – user11 Apr 24 '15 at 18:46
  • Your question is a little difficult to answer as you refer to 'modern' caste system, not just caste system. The four varnashramas, castes, are mentioned throughout the Vedas, the Gita, and other scriptures. How those varnashramas have come to be actually practiced now is much different than ancient times. – Swami Vishwananda Apr 25 '15 at 5:19
  • So caste system is in Vedas, the Gita, and other scriptures, and the question I ask is when did it start and it becomes off-topic? Off-topic on a Hinduism Stackoverflow? Give me a break. I know this topic causes a lot of consternation among modern privileged Indians, but do you have to curtail discussion on a western website. I beg people responsible for flagging this as off-topic to allow posters like pa1 (see below) to add to our understanding however inconvenient it might be. Instead why not add your wisdom to pa1's contribution? – Emacs User Apr 25 '15 at 19:33
  • If you had simply asked, "What is the origin of the caste system?" without all this mention of "modern-day", then I think your question wouldn't have been closed. It's certainly possible to give an answer on what the origin of the caste system is based on Hindu scripture. Like there are scriptures that talk about people who do different actions being born into different castes in their next birth, discussion of the origins of the castes in the Purusha Sukta of the Rig Veda, etc. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 11 '16 at 14:25
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    @EmacsUser Like I said, if you edit your question along the lines I suggested, removing references to the modern day, then it may be reopened, and then I'd be happy to try to answer it. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 11 '16 at 15:30

Assuming that you are talking about Indian caste-system.
There are several theories regarding the origins of the Indian caste system. One posits that the Indian and Aryan classes ("pistras") show similarity wherein the priests are Brahmins, the warriors are Kshatriya, the merchants are Vaishya, and the artisans are Shudras.Another theory is that of Georges Dumézil, who formulated thetrifunctional hypothesis of social class. According to the Dumézil theory, ancient societies had three main classes, each with distinct functions: the first judicial and priestly, the second connected with the military and war, and the third class focused on production, agriculture, craft and commerce. Dumézil proposed that Rex-Flamen of the Roman Empire is etymologically similar to Raj-Brahman of ancient India and that they made offerings to deus and deva respectively, each with statutes of conduct, dress and behaviour that were similar.

Caste used to be considered as an ancient fact of Hindu life, but various contemporary scholars have argued that the caste system as it exists today is the result of the British colonial regime, which made caste organisation a central mechanism of administration.According to scholars such as the anthropologist Nicholas Dirks, before colonialism caste affiliation was quite loose and fluid, but the British regime enforced caste affiliation rigorously, and constructed a much more strict hierarchy than existed previously, with some castes being criminalised and others being given preferential treatment.

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