The distinctive Indian caste system divides Hindu society into a hierarchy of four varnas, each of which also has a traditional association with particular categories of occupations. This exploratory study examines the interplay between varna and the emergent organised accounting profession in India. Using the earliest available membership list of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) – being 1953, just four years after the organisation’s formation – a comprehensive classification of the caste status of the Hindu membership was undertaken. Among other findings, this revealed a significant over-representation of the Brahman upper caste relative to this caste’s presence in the general population. This Brahman presence is posited as having endowed a status to the accounting occupation that aided the replication in India of the British model of professional organisation. However, it also meant that the formation of the ICAI would predominantly benefit an already privileged social stratum and contribute to perpetuating traditional caste hierarchies within the modern occupation of professional accounting.
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