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The institution of caste was not peculiar to India. In fact, the phenomena of caste are world-wide in their extent. In India the priests and nobles contended for the first place. India had progressed along the line of ethnic evolution from a loose confederacy of tribes into several nations, ruled by kings and priests, and the iron fetters of caste were becoming more rigidly welded. At first the father of the family was the priest. Then the chiefs and sages took the office of spiritual guide, and conducted the sacrifices. As writing was unknown, the liturgies were learned by heart, and handed down in families. The exclusive knowledge of the ancient hymns became hereditary, as it were. The ministrants increased in number, and thus sprang up the powerful priestly caste. Then the warrior class arose and grew strong in numbers and power, becoming differentiated from the agriculturists, and forming the military caste. The husbandmen drifted into another caste, and the three orders were rigidly separated by a cessation of intermarriage. At the bottom came the Sudras, or slave bands, the servile dregs of the population. In course of time, from various influences, the third class became almost eliminated in many provinces. From the cradle to the grave these cruel barriers still intervene between the strata of the people, relentless as fate and insurmountable as death.