The caste system in Chelgrian civilization was a method of social identity that began as a discriminatory system of social stratification.[1] The discriminatory aspects were abolished in the 22nd century CE with the covert aid of the Culture, but the resulting upheaval led to the Caste War.[2]

The Chelgrians were atypical in maintaining a discriminatory social order so long after being contacted.[1]



Many Chelgrian traditions, including the caste system, traced their roots back to the c. 38th century CE.[3]

The caste system and its restrictions were perpetuated by the Chelgrian State. An abolition movement - the Equalitarians - existed by the 22nd century CE. The movement was championed by Mahrai Ziller, a famous composer. Ziller survived two assassination attempts during a brief political career; the first attempt led him to become a Caste Denier; the second severely injured him. The Equalitarians enjoyed a period of popular support while Ziller was politically active, before being forced into retreat in a return to the status quo. Ziller emigrated to the Culture to protest the continuation of the caste system sometime after the defeat.[4]

The Equalitarians gained momentum again within a decade of Ziller's departure.[4] The Culture provided covert assistence; it secured the support of Chelgrian parlimentarians by promising technological assistance, including space technologies.[2] As a result, Kapyre was elected President of the Chelgrian State, the first Equalitarian in that office,[2] seven years after Ziller's self-exile.[4]

Emancipation and civil warEdit

The caste system underwent reforms under Kapyre. The lower castes were fully enfranchised; discriminatory customs and practices became unenforced,[4] the practice of which became purely voluntary.[5] The caste system was not strictly abolished, as a concession to secure the support of the upper castes for the reforms. Castes were retained for legal nomenclature, ceremony, and social identification purposes.[4]

The reforms were followed by a tumultuous period. President Muonze, Kapyre's successor and a Spayed, weathered an attempted coup by conservative Army Guards officers.[2] There were cases of members of the upper castes abusing isolated members of the lower caste.[6] The lower castes continued to deeply resent the upper castes for the past. Muonze and the lower castes demonstrated far less restraint; their revenge was facilitated by new access to advanced weapons through initiatives to improve the presence of the lower castes in the armed forces. The result was the civil war known as the Caste War.[2]

Known castesEdit

Name Notes
Given Above Tacted[7]
Gifted Two levels below Tacted.[4]
Unheard Perceived as above Invisible by higher castes.[8]
Invisible "Lowest of the non-criminal low."[4] Caste colour was green.[5]
Spayed Less desirable than Invisible.[8]

Another caste were the Tallier.[5]

Changing casteEdit

Both partners in a marriage between castes took on the higher caste; the legal redesignation process was handled by elected caste courts. Children inherited caste from their parents. Individuals could unilaterally declare to be of any caste; this was not illegal, but it was also not recognized legally.[4]

Before the reforms, there were no caste courts. Unilateral moves from higher-to-lower castes were permitted; reinstatement into a higher caste for such cases was also possible. Otherwise, misrepresenting one's caste was illegal. Social or culturally significant persons could be treated honorary members of higher castes.[4]

Caste DeniersEdit

Someone who renounced their caste was a Caste Denier. Practically, this made them members of the Invisible caste. Renunciation could take the form of a political protest.[4]

Pre-reform customs and politicsEdit

Prior to the reforms, the caste system enforced practices that promoted segregation and protected upper caste power. The lower castes could not vote; marriage and procreation between castes was forbidden; control of the armed forces, and access to advanced weapons, was predominantly in the hands of the upper castes. These practices were abolished or otherwise mitigated by the reforms.[4]

Other practices included Blinding. For example, Blinded Invisibles went about their work with their upper heads covered by green band - the symbol of their rank - and navigated by touch and echo-location. Blinding became voluntary after the reforms.[5]


Main article: Chelgrian-Puen

The Chelgrian-Puen, the "gone-before", were the Sublimed portion of Chelgrian civilization. The Chelgrian-Puen were atypical in not only being the result of a partial Subliming Event, but also as in that they remained in contact with those they left behind; this was attributed to the caste systen's culture of simultaneous unity and division.[1]


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