There is no universal system of caste throughout India. The belief that the Vedic varnashrama dharma was the “caste system in embryo,” seems to be flawed, since the existence of tribes/castes in Andhra Pradesh predate the migration of Brahmins to that region. One may argue that in any society, including European or modern American society, there are four underlying varnalu (colors or divisions or groups), the four groups being, intellectuals and priests (Brahmin varnamu), rulers and warriors (Kshatriya varnamu), agriculturists and business persons (Vaishya varnamu), and all other workers without whose input the society cannot move further (Shudra varnamu). Without these four broad classes there is no society in this world. Thus if the society is the God, his/her head is the intellectuals and priests, shoulders are the warriors and military, the trunk is the business and agricultural community and finally the limbs are the workers who fulfil the basic needs of the society starting from the work in agricultural fields to the temple construction, without which society cannot go forward. Anybody can become a Brahmin varna (religious/spiritual class), but one has to be born into Brahmin caste to be a Brahmin caste. Caste is not a Varnamu and these should not be confused with each other. Caste is a tribal identity that is ubiquitous in every human society. The caste conflict in Andhra Pradesh is nothing more than the tribalism that still exists.
The castes in Andhra Pradesh can be divided into two distinct categories. Brahmin, Komati, Reddy, Kamma, Velama, Kapu, Nayudu, Relli, Mala, Madiga, Yeraka, Yanadi etc., castes are based on their tribal, cultural and religious differences, while the castes like Chakali (washerman), Kummari (potter), Kammari (smith), Kamsali (goldsmith), Mangali (barber) etc are based on their duties. With a few exceptions like the Brahmin caste (see below), all these castes are uniquely localized in Andhra Pradesh. Each caste has a deity and distinct social formalities. The interaction between various castes is difficult because of these religious, cultural and tribal considerations.
Today, all the castes (tribes) in Andhra Pradesh are categorized into four groups, viz., Forward Communities (FC), Backward Communities (BC), Scheduled Castes (SC), and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Preferential quotas and reservations are established for BCs, SCs, and STs. The Constitution of India endorses and enforces such preferential discrimination. This system reinforces the old caste system, while broadly categorizing them into a new form. Here again like in Vedic Varnamu, any caste can be included into FC, BC, SC, or ST group if one attains a certain social stature. Even today the tribalism prevails and the social interactions such as marriage and festivals are influenced by caste. Inter-caste/religious social intercourse is still not accepted. One can see the power of caste/tribe over the society clearly in politics. Even in the North America, the Telugu nationality is divided along the lines of caste, e.g., the Telugu Association of North America is dominated by Kamma caste where as the American Telugu Association is dominated by Reddy caste. Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 10/30/98