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Caste distinctions first became prominent in Northern India following Aryan migration into the subcontinent During the postclassical era the caste system became securely established in Southern India as well The postclassical era brought a series of political economic and social challenges to Indias caste system The caste system plays a crucial role in India in determining the class and status of not only its people but also migrants The caste system adapted to the arrival of migrants and helped to integrate them into Indian society For instance as Turkish peoples or Muslim merchants pursued opportunities in India they gained recognition as distinct groups under the umbrella of the caste system They established codes of conduct both for the regulation of behavior within their own groups and for guidance in dealing with members of other castes The caste system also accommodated the social changes brought about by trade and economic development As merchants and manufacturers became increasingly important in the larger economy they organized powerful guilds to represent their interests Merchant guilds in particular wielded political and economic influence since their members enjoyed access to considerable wealth and contributed to the economic health of their states Guild members were then able to forge new group identities by working within the caste system Merchants specializing in particular types of commerce such as the silk cotton or spice trade established themselves as distinct sub castes Economic development aided this process by encouraging commercial relationships between southern merchants and their caste-conscious counterparts in the north The emergence of merchant and craft guilds in southern regions strengthened the caste system since guild members usually organized as a sub-caste Powerful temples also fostered caste distinctions Brahmins who supervised the temples provided the only formal education available in most regions and also served as centers of local social life By about the 11th century CE the caste system had become the principle basis of social organization in Southern India
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