Social Stratification in Nepal

Subject: Sociology

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Stratification is horizontal division of society into higher and lower social units. It is the division of society into permanent groups or categories linked with each other by the relationship of superiority and subordination. Social stratification is mostly based on class, caste, ethnicity, economy, and gender. It can be universal and can be achieved or ascribed. The concept of class originates from man’s ego.
Social Stratification in Nepal

Economy based stratification in Nepal

The economy is the social structural position where groups or individuals hold relations to the economic, social, religious and cultural resources of the society. Those who possess the higher resources come to be in higher class and those who don’t possess the resources come to be in lower class. The class of group or an individual influences the accessibility to the quality education, health status, quality of food, recreation, life chances etc. So, the possession of researchers differs a class to the next. Max Weber defines a class as a group of individual who shares the similar position in a market economy and by virtue of that fact received similar economy rewards. He argues that classes are developed in a market economy in which individual compete for economic gains.

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Thus, in Weber’s terminology a person’s class situation is basically his market situations. Their economic position directly affects their chances of obtaining the things defined as desirable in their society. Furthermore, he associated the concept of class with power and prestige. He said that only more economic power would not bring real honor and prestige to man. Legal honor or status helps man to further strengthen his status in society.

  • Primitive Communism

It is represented by the societies of pre-history and provides only examples of classless society ever existed.

  • Ancient society

It consists of two obvious classes as masters and slaves as the system of land ownership has been noticed by this period.

  • Feudal society

It is characterized by feudal lords and serfs as the land owners and the landless workers respectively.

  • Capitalist society

It is indicated by the relationship to the means of productions as the capitalist having the economic means of production and the labors having the labor force.

Caste based stratification in Nepal

In Hindu society caste rank is hereditary and link to the occupations persuade. Caste also tends to be endogamous and the boundaries and differences in rank between castes are expressed and maintained by restrictions on commensal relations and intermarriage. The caste system is that kind of social hierarchy based on genetic characteristics in which the members of one group are different from the members of others regarding race, face,structure and so on. In the late Vedic societies four Varna were defined to show the caste hierarchy.

The division was mostly based on the division of labor and occupation. The caste ranking was illustrated as Brahmin on the top and Chhetri, Vaishyas and Sudras respectively. The caste system is so rigid and hereditary that one cannot change it throughout the life and need to remain in the same status ladder in which they get birth. People received the caste status as ascribed status in the society.

According to the civil code, the caste hierarchy in Nepal are given below:

  • Tagadhari

The caste groups enlisted in this group are as Upadhyaya Brahmin, Rajput Thakuri, Jaisi Brahmin, Chhetri, Indian Brahmin and so on. They are wearers of the sacred thread.

  • Namasinya Matawali

The caste groups enlisted in this group are Magar, Gurung, Sunuwar, Rai, Limbu and so on. They are non-enslavable alcohol drinkers.

  • Masinya Matawali

Bhote, Chepang, Hayu, Gharti, Kumal and so on. They are enslavable alcohol drinkers.

  • Pani Nachalne, Chhoi Chhito Halnu Naparne

Kasha, Kusule, Dhobi, Kulu, Musalman and so on. Water is not acceptable but whose touch does not require aspirgation of water- impure but touchable.

  • Pani Nachale, Chhoi Chhito Halnu Parne

Kami, Sarki, Damai, Gaine, Pode, Chhayame, Badi etc.

Characteristics of caste system
  • Caste is an ascribed status.
  • Vertical division or hierarchical ranking.
  • Segmental division of society.
  • Restriction of food habits.
  • Restriction on social mobility.
  • Rigid and closed system.
  • The concept of purity and impurity.

Ethnic based stratification in Nepal

An ethnic group is a social division of group of people who share common culture, language, norms and values, traditions, religion, custom and even occupation. Each ethnic group has a common consciousness towards their culture and existence. Any ethnic group claims themselves as a special different group from other ethnic groups in terms of cultural features. So, if there is ethnic diversity in our nation there will be automatically diversity in culture, traditions, language, feasts, and festivals etc.

The term ethnicity is coined in contradiction to race since members of an ethnic group may be identifiable in terms of racial attributes, they may also share other cultural characteristics such as religion, occupation, language or politics. Ethnic groups could also be distinguished from social classes since membership generally cross-cuts the socio-economic stratification within society. An encompassing individual who share the common characteristic that supersede class.

Gender-based stratification in Nepal

The word gender is being used sociologically and has been one of the major agendas of discourse, including the socio-political, intellectual and disciplinary discussion and debates. In Nepal, it has been the hot issue before and after the 2ndstrike, Jana Andolan. Gender issues like woman’s violence, the concern of property right, question of proportionate representative in NGOs , attitudes and belief system towards woman, religious and cultural based discrimination, etc are making the hot debate among the various group of people, including political parties, feminists, social worker, and many more.


Kharel, Durga, Elementary Sociology and Anthropology-XII

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and anthropology in Nepal-XII, Sunrise Prakasan Pvt., Ltd., Kathmandu

Pokharel, Ishwor, Sociology-XII, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

Things to remember
  1.  Social classes are an aggregate of individuals who have same opportunities of acquiring goods and the same exhibited standard of  living.
  2. Caste structure has been a major characteristic of Hindu, a social system as it has been brewed from fourfold Varna
  3.   Gender is a social role of male and female in the society whereas sex is biologically determined.
  4. Economic stratification refers to the conditions within the society where social classes are separated or stratified along an economic line. 
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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