(L. castus, pure, chaste). Social and religious class in despotic societies of the ancient Orient and pre-Columbian America (priests, warriors, farmers, artisans, etc.). In general, castes are divided into higher and lower levels. The position of each human being is determined by heredity, passed on from parents to children, with all mobility between levels prohibited. Remnants of the c. system still exist in some states in India, Japan, and some other Asian countries. The government of India has granted members of the lower castes opportunities for access to educational institutions, employment, and land in order to support their integration into society and to erase the remnants of the c. system.