Caste System is a menace. Untouchability is a crime against humanity. Let us accept the problem first. And the only solution to this is equal education and opportunities to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Thankfully, that is happening to a large extent in India, people are entering comfortable economic zones through education, hard work and availability of equal opportunities.
But how did this is all start? A matter of fact is all societies and cultures and civilizations around the world have had in the past some sort of discrimination against different categories of people, and it is present even today across the globe.
We have white supremacy, the world has seen apartheid, European countries had this class segregation, and so on. So it is a universal problem across human societies, albeit with different names and forms. But the origins of caste system in India have a peculiar background.
Varna System of social order
The unique case in India is though that it emerged from a system that was actually meant to do the exact opposite. The Varna system. Varna is not color as some people think. It is about social order.
In the Vedic India, the original system that was introduced to maintain social order was this Varna system. In this system, every person was classified as belonging to a varna depending on his occupation or role in the society.
Brahmins were scholars, teachers, researchers, learned persons, experts, knowledgeable persons. Kshatriyas played the defensive role as warriors, soldiers, kings and rulers. Vaishyas conducted the business, while Shudras provided all other social services.
So Brahmin varna had knowledge power, Kshatriya had political power, Vaishya had economic power, and Shudra had none.
But, no varna was considered inferior or superior. Varna was not an attribute obtained by birth, but by education and occupation. The Gurukul system that were the schools of those days, identified the best varna for each student depending on his/her interests and passion. A son of a Brahmin, if he was unable to complete his education would end up as a Shudra. A son of a Shudra, if he could complete his education with great skills would become a Brahmin.
It was said that by birth (Janma) every body is a shudra, and one has to work hard, study (do Karma) to become a Brahmin. This is similar to what we teach our kids today, that to become intelligent one has to study a lot, burn the midnight oil, else you will fail. Shudra was simply the person who has not had any education or lacks knowledge of any kind.
In fact, Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya were called a Dvija (twice born), where the second birth was the one they got after successfully completing their education.
Those who could not complete their education became Shudra. Since they had no knowledge or expertise, they entered the working class, but were not discriminated as a caste, nor was it determined by birth.
Vidura was the son of a servant woman, but became a Brahmin, a minister in the royal court.
People were free to switch their Varna as well, just like how people are free today to switch fields of their occupation. So Vishwamitra who was a Kshatriya became a Brahmin.
People also sometimes belonged to multiple varnas – a knowledgeable person who was also a warrior – was both Brahmin as well as Kshatriya at the same time – like Ravana. Very few know that Ravana was an expert in the vedas, was the composer of Shiva Tandava Stotram.
This was not to say that there was no discrimination of any kind in ancient India when Varna system was being practiced. There have been always instances of influential people discriminating against the down trodden in all societies and cultures and in all times. But, Varna system never did that, not was it meant to do that.
How was the caste system in India born?
Over a period of time, the Varna system became embedded into families. Just like the way today many business families exist where the family business is passed down across generations, and children take over their parent’s business, similarly in those days, a doctor’s son became a doctor, royal families continued to be kshatriya, businesses were passed down for generations and so on. There continued to be exceptions as well, where children were not interested in their family business and choose a different path of their own.
So a mindset evolved where, there used to be instances of people being mocked because of the social status of their parent’s occupation. Karna in Mahabharata was called Suta Putra. Note that he was not called a Suta, which means it was still not a caste system decided by birth. It was the beginning of the mindset that was getting into a notion like, how the Son of a Suta (a Kshatriya who is a charioteer) can learn archery (learnt by warrior Kshatriya)?
And just like today, such attempts to discriminate against a person were opposed by right minded people in those days as well. Krishna himself was laughed at as being a cow herder. Krishna is a reformer who fights against the menace that had started creeping into the society. He rebels against existing blind faith. The incident of Govardhana hill is a classic example of Krishna’s attempt to get the society rid of meaningless rituals.
So, it is not as if everything was all right in the past, and things got worse only in recent history. But the fact is Varna system was not a caste system. Unfortunately, it got converted into one in later era. When? But before that let us look at a similar system – the Jati system.
Jati – a general classification system
In the ancient India, there was a system that was developed to classify everything – Jaati – using different attributes, one of which was also birth. So, we had Vruskha jaati (trees), animals born via eggs (Andaja), mammals (Pindaja) and similarly humans were classified into Manava jaati – mankind. So jaati is not a caste, it is a general categorization or classification of all entities and beings based on some attribute. A thing may belong to multiple jaati at the same time, so can a person.
So there were further jati classifications among humans based on their tribes, communities, languages, occupations and clans. So a person speaking Gujarati, whose profession is business, and place of origin is Kutch – belonged to 3 jatis or classifications.
So while Varna was education and role based classification, jaati was birth attribute classification, where the attribute could also be occupation as well. But, it never meant that a person from a specific jaati cannot belong to a specific Varna. In fact, no ancient texts talk about any kind of relationship between Varna and Jati, jati was a general scientific attribute based classification, not restricted to humans alone, while Varna was a classification of humans based on their role in the society – education and occupation.
Census – The Birth of Caste in Colonial India
Caste is not a word of Indian origin, meaning it has no similar meaning words in Indian languages. Caste has its origin in the world Casta – a system of race classification created by Spanish elites in Hispanic America based on the idea of purity of blood. So it has nothing to do with Jati (general attribute based classification) or Varna (human specific education and social role based classification).
Jati was any attribute like linguistic, regional, religious, geographical, etc. Sonar jaati (professional origins), Bangla jati (linguistic origins), Christian jati (religious origins), tribal jaati (geographical origins) and so on.
The British colonial rulers of India conducted nation wide census 1881 for the first time. There was also earlier localized attempts of census by British before that as well. The aim was to classify people based on age, gender, religion and caste. Yes caste!! The British wanted to classify India on lines similar to what existed in Europe, the class system – where people were classified based on their social status – upper, middle and lower.
But to their astonishment, they found that the Indian society was a much more complex one. If they tried varna, there were people who belonged to more than one varna. So they focused on Jaati. But even that was not homogeneous due to the very nature of it being a mere classification system based on different kinds of origin of a person. A person could belong to multiple jaatis at the same time due to the profession of his jaati, due to its geographical origins, due to his religious affiliations, due to his linguistic origins and so on.
But the British wanted a person to be identified with a single jati, for ease of classification. So people were forced to identify themselves with any one single jati. Thus a beautiful system of classification that identified a person with multiple different kinds of origins was reduced into a narrow caste based definition by this first census of India conducted during the colonial rule. In fact, the initial efforts at census ended up with lot of confusion as people tried to identify themselves with multiple jaati when asked about their origin.
The caste based classification in the census was termed in the British parliament as:
"not satisfactory, owing partly to the intrinsic difﬁculties of the subject, and partly to the absence of a uniform plan of classiﬁcation, each writer adopting that which seemed to him best suitedfor the purpose"
The very purpose of the census seemed failed. In fact, this is how the British described how a person responded to a question about his caste in the census:
"a ‘marhatta’ when he is a Kunbi of the Marhatta nation; that he is by ‘occupation’ a carpenter when he is a cultivator of the carpenter caste; that he is by ‘religion’ a Brahmin, when he is a Brahmin by caste"
The aim of the census was to classify the people of India on the lines of upper class, middle class and lower, but it was soon found that no such classification was possible based on the lineage of that person. Instead, a complex web of jati was found.
The census commissioner then observed that while “Castes can only be classiﬁed on the basis of social precedence. No scheme of classiﬁcation can be framed for the whole of India”. In other words, he was admitting that no caste system exists in India!“
So, in the later censuses, the surveyors were given further refined definitions that forced the people into identifying with one single jati. That is occupation became a caste, tribes became a caste, geographical origins became a caste, even varnas became a caste!
Thus, the jati and varna based classifications finally evolved into caste system of India during the colonial rule. As colonial rule progressed, people began to identify themselves with the caste they were allotted in the census, because the government based classification is what enabled to avail government provided facilities. Thus every person became more and more strongly linked to his/her caste.
This is not to say that there was no discrimination against the poor, down trodden, people in India before that. There definitely was. But the association of a person with a specific caste meant, classification of the society into upper caste and lower castes, and so individual oppression turned into group oppression with people supporting others in their caste.
This does not either mean that British intentionally created the caste system in India either. The intention of the census was to create a simple one to one classification of people for the ease of administration. Unfortunately, no such classification existed, and so the British ended up creating one, and in the process a highly organized discriminatory caste system was born in India.
Solution to the menace of Caste System
The only practical solution I see to get rid the society of this caste system is to undo what the British did. The government should stop asking people about their caste. Instead, equal opportunities should be provided to all, and any benefits to the downtrodden should be provided purely based on their economic status.
Education system and schools should focus on educating children about the demerits of discrimination. Law against caste based discrimination by any person or organization should be strictly implemented.
Once people talk less about caste, once everybody realizes that no political mileage can be taken by invoking caste – the caste system will die its natural death.
Census in Colonial India and the Birth of Caste
1. Could you please throw light on as to from when actually this caste system came into existence or started as a practice in INDIA (HINDUSTAN)…. can we only blame britishers for this ???
Since i guess it was there at the time of Dwapar yuga (Sut putra…) or Treta yuga (Shabri…)
2. Also, how exactly was india and rest of world before mughals (babar) eneterdd in india
I know these are not easy ones… but if you have any idea…
Sure Sainath, will write a detailed post on this sometime.
British glorify this from either side to have an advantage of divided society. Especially can say after Peshwa became ruler in India- as Peshwa are brhamin then this gap was so widen in society. Which further used by British -divide and rule. This cast system will remain in all society for all time – like – now we can say new Cast system – Upper Class, Middle Class and Lower class. :-)
Blackman and others you might wish to review the epic poem dramatized as Mahabharata, which is there in many languages subtitled, and all episodes (over 90), my hopes is thast this will bring clarity to your efforts.
As an Indigenous African American woman, jyotisha and educator of these mysteries, I point you in the direction of knowing the transcendental before trying to do anything about the existant fractions of any race, creed, culture, nation or political orientation. They all have their life out of the tree of ignorance and need to control others before learning to control themselves. Therefore blind leads blind and mankind becomes impotent, woman kind become degraded and while many and most suffer a few profit beyond their wildest dreams.
As I mentioned earlier this country is full of shudras rather mlechhas who are given to ignorance and detest upliftment.
The vedic society and the continuation of that were highly refined, organised human races while today are the chaotic dismembered population of cattle (in their comparision). Most socieities are expected to be like that until this transformation occurs like in some weatern societies (but not all of them!)
The moment a person is born, he assumes a “varna” regardless of his family name, surname, family’s occupation, father’s status and occupation! the probability of a brahmna born in a brahmin family will be o an average nearly only 8% while it would depend on the place and country too.
Now shudra, vaishya, brahman, kshatriya are oversimplification cos there can be atleast 144 varnas but in reality there are billions of varna or traits!!!
earlier socieities only chose four! but even then they were much wise and prudent to actually know the meanings!
This system was only a mean for organisation! everyon must work according to his qualities. these are four basic qualities and rest are permuation n combination of these four. I would like to add a few more like beside this classification varnrahit and dwivarni, tryavarni. means there are are people who can become any of these; and there are people who can have two or three traits at the same time. now, we got to b careful, this number is very small and not everyone can think themselves to be everything!
All varnas are equal, all are desirable, all are valuable, all need attention. Now, even amongst a warrior, a merchantile and a physical workers the wise\teacher\preacher\intelligent\gyani\guru will be taken as supreme!
Why? because, the knowledge is supremest right, also only the seer\guru\pandit\brahman know the truest fact and only he must be believed in case of any doubt, while all other people can dilute the ideals and ved words due to their professions! Thats why, a brahmin has been asked to not indulge in any other profession because there must be someone to seek knowledge too beside other professions which are equal necessary, but all this can adulterate a brahmin and divert him so, the gram\village\rajya\state\country must give patronage to vidwan\pandit\brahman!!
Now who’s brahmin? One who is primarily a scholar, has qualities of either a studnt or guru or both, has merits to indulge in studies and research and when he reachs the pinnacle of knowledge that is knowing about the param parmeshwar or “brahm” itself ie. the essnce of all living and nonliving, manifested or non-manifested matter. then only one will become a “brahmin” and this is only probable one in billion or may be none in many billion people!!!!
who’s pandit? anyone who’s expert or knowledgeable in one field\ subject.
A cow will beget a cow and a crow a crow but a human can beget any of four (andthe multiple) varna!! because with time the consciouness traverses from lower basic one to highest consciousness ie. the cerebral or the uppermost chakra!
A pandit can also be pandit of grasses, textiles, medicine, warfare or even severage\drainage system!! a kshatriya can defend not only his country but a soakpit or may be a canal too. A shudra can be working in his field as farmer, in mines or cleaning your excrements from drainage system.
can we stay alive without food, fire and cleanliness?
We cannot, never.
So all varnas are equal!!
We are the foolish offsprings of sooo great ancestors that we have made a mess of our selves.
We first name a thing good and start believing that its good; when actually after experiencing we can call a thing as good. Isnt that?
We require all our brothers in their respective fields based on their qualitis.
How would we’d do that? By laying strict and secure systems of evaluation which we dont have. objective evaluations than subjectified corrupted systems that give rise to coruption and other havocs!
having said that, what are we going to do to not perish further from this ignorance? Although this is a race which is not brahmin\pamdit or gyani\intelligent it will not get it. That’s why people today love to be called backwards, want privileges all free and in grant!
this is soon going to be rectified by a natural justice, wait for it!!
But still, we can work to enlighten all our countrymen. This is required.
because, in this country 5% people are doing all the things, 95% of people not doing things that they can, even if they do they are not doing the right thing!
so we are living like again the barbarians but more so agonizingly when we had such evolved ancestors!
Just like you need a doctor for your ailments all must consult a pandit (by karma and kaushalya= performance and expertise) for any confusion, but first such pandits must be unearthed and that is only possible by testing them with strict exams! ‘pandit’s have been trying making their unworthy (woerthy o other job) children pandit and others have been following them. this is ruckus!
can we see, why Indian cities are so hell dirty because we hate “shudras” and demean the karma. If we require pandits, we also require shudra, both jobs are different, qualities are diffrently reevered but not the person!! all persons are essencially equal until they prove otherwise.
Even my this comment can be taken wrongly. We must only put- faith; give job;trust a person or offer rewards after one has shown the right qualities. if you dont know go to a wise, real vidwan, gyani or jyotishi. [yes. this is it!]
Today it needs researchers and the real pandits like gurudev here to work more on this and propagate and the govt and pilicy makers utilize the knowledge in Ved for the welfare of every bhartiya.
And it also needs “US” to come together and share.
Caste is by profession[karma and gyan] which covers qualities,nature,birth etc.So every caste is equal in status and opportunities .We have misunderstood,misinterpreted knowingly and unknowingly due to our selfishness and superiority or ignorance .So UNO and govts and societies should deal accordingly.Equal castes and equal opportunities and services.
Very true. Calling varna system as caste system is similar to calling modern differentiation between IIT graduates and daily wages labourers as caste system.
awesome article gurudev…
Feel very sad that people here have misinterpreted the meaning of “”caste system”” and gather information about it from sources who want to use it for their own selfish interests.
I feel very strongly about it as I am a brahmin (Iyengar) by birth and my entire life has been shattered by this as my family wants to forcibly marry a guy from the same caste even though i like someone else :(
I have been undergoing this for 10 long years…and i still wait for the day they realize that caste system is nothing to do with birth but to do with the deeds or the knowledge gathered. I dont think I have the strength left to continue this with my family at the same time don’t want to hurt them…just leading a terrible terrible life…hope i hang on to my life till it becomes too late and i decide one day to just end it all…. (sigh)
I live in India. I believe in caste by birth. I think the absence in society today of actual kshatriyas, actual brahmins, actual sudras and actual vaisyas leads to formations of political groups in place of the castes. The representative democrasy system of national governance ensures the sustenance and flourishing of the political formations. I should know. A brahmin by birth, I am anything but a brahmin.
Yes Black Man, you are absolutely right. People have been misguided for ages in the name of caste system. And certain vested interests want this system to continue even today for their own politicial/ideological purposes.
Only proper education and information can eliminate the notion of caste system.
Varanashrama is all about calling doctor a doctor, merchant a merchant, labourer a labourer! It has nothing to do with either the skin color or the birth of the person, its all about one’s profession.
Yes will definitely list more resources as and when I find them. Thank you very much for your nice, wise thoughtful comments :)
Few info about diff. btwn brahmin and Kshatriya.
1. Vedas were taught to one and all in Gurukul.
Ref 1: Kuchela(Brahmin), Krishna (Kshatriya by Birth but Yadav(merchant??? -Vaishya ) as he was adopted and brought up by Nanda & Yashoda)
Ref 2: Ashwatthama – Son of Dronacharya (Brahmin), Kauravas & Pandavas (Kshatryiyas)
2. Kshatriya must use Vedas to protect & rule the nation as per Dharma but Cannot teach
Ref: All most all Kshatriyas mentioned in sacred books
Exception 1: Vishwamitra- born Kshatriya was Guru for Ram & Lakshman. But he is one among Saptarshi and wanted to challenge Dhasharata’s Kulaguru Vasashta Muni as he was his arch rival.
3. Only Brahmins have the Authotity to teach Vedas but cannot rule the nation
Exception 1: Parashurama – Brahmin by Birth , Kshatriya by practice. But still he was a teacher by profession. Ref: He was teacher to Karna who was in disguise.
Exception 2: Kautilya/Chanakya – Author of Artashastra
Due to his oath to bring Chandragupta to throne and dethrone Nada’s he had to get into politics. But once Chandragupta attained the capability rule on his own, Kautilya returned back to his profession-teaching though he could earned enormous wealth, land and fame if he had continued to be in politics.
Exception 3: Vidhyaranya & Vijayanagara Dyanstry
Young brahmin student who rescued hindu lady carried in palaquin being attached by Mlecchas. When questioned by all on why brahmin to be defensive – the act of kshatriya against brahmin dharma, it was mentioned that the boy protected lady who is equivalent to motherly figure-A Goddess- which is duty of every individual. Same boy was none other than Vidhyaranya Ace architech/builder Vijayanagara Dynasty. He continued his profession as teacher even when kingdom was flourishing.
This has been very pleasing to read. I’m actually in the process of writing a book on this topic, which will be the doctorial thesis…which ever comes first.
Anyhow, I’m interested because I’m a African American Vaishnava in the Madhava Sampradaya. This is my life. Having some compassion has made me think about how I can help some ppl of background. I’m seeing how so called lower caste indians (Dalits) have been seeking guidance in Black Power movements that were so successful in the 60’s.
What is sad to see is that they are teaming together and saying that Brahminical culture is the cause of Dalit oppression. See publications by V.T. Rajshekar (Dalit, the black untouchables of India). The find shelter in British Colonial brainswashing tactics like the Aryan Invasion theory to support their ideas. Stating that Varna is based on the color of the skin they criticizing and trying sympathizers around the world. Ignoring the fact that Sukadeva Goswami, Vysasdeva, Arjuna, Prahlad, Indra, Krsna (of course) and many of the great leader of the Puranas and other vedic literatures are said to have jet black skin…they were in know way known as sudras but were described as have “”arya”” qualities with skin being darker than most have seen today.
For me true brahminical is the essence of being human. Compassion, humility, self-control, austerity, using your intellect for the betterment of mankind, and training yourself and teaching others what will benefit them to the highest degree…this is Brahminical. Something that any respectable man should strive to be. Anyway I’m rambling. Keep up the good work. Please list more sources that could assist me in my writing. We have a duty to preserve the idea of a true brahmana.
To put it more precisely Braahman is the one who understands Brahma (universe).
Adding to Muthukaruppan’s explanation,
Braahman is one who is close (or closer) to Brahman (the Godhead)
Has Becky converted to Hindu already? No sign of him/her!
see when you are saying brahmin.there are further subgroups within brahmins itself for example in north:-
Pancha-Gauda Brahmins futher classified into:-
1) Saraswat, 2) Kanyakubja, 3) Gau?a brahmins, 4) Utkala Brahmin, and 5) Maithil Brahmin
and the south indian as Pancha Dravida Brahmins further classified into:-
1)iyer, 2)iyengar, 3)namboothiris, 4)madhva, 5)vaidika
first in this discussion i have seen brahmins classified as one.but there are many brahmins within itself.we should know why these sub brahmin classes first came into order before finalizing that a brahmin is not one denoted by birth.
and you said ved vyasa was not a brahmin.he was a rishi.he was born to matsyagandhi and the great rishi parashara later born as varahimihira the astrologer.do it does not mean by birth that he is a non brahmin
and ravan is a brahmin and who said that he is evil.he actually got the gift of non ageing by his sincere devotion to lord siva.but because he wanted to die siva proclaimed “”parastri haranam ravana maranam””(if you steal another mans wife you will die)so he did not kidnap sita with a meaning of lust he had to otherwise he will not age and will not progress spiritually according to his wife’s opinion.ravana was actually a good person.and vishvamitra is a kshatriya brahmin.a kshtriya brahmin need not be kshatriya alone example parashurama is a kshtriya brahmin.
i am of viswamitra gotra does it mean i am not a brahmin or forget me all those people my father his father and his his his father are not brahmins.i think we must focus some more on this.
Very well written and explained in detail !
Added a lot more life to the discussion :)
May I add to this discussion the following thoughts based on my understanding of an extensive and diverse range of wriing by authentic (but not pseudo-scholarly) sources ? Of course Gurudev is quite right when he asserts that Caste has no basis in the Vedas. Since this subject has been one of some special interest for study based on numerous useful sources, I offer to write my thoughts::
Caste system is rooted in tribal practices, which is to say, it DOES exist all over the world. And nontribals may have here and there imbibed some nice features from it. Maybe one must turn to some branch of sociology to know more about caste systems in various regions of the world.
In India, the Vedic religion has recognized only FOUR DIVISIONS – under the VARNA SYSTEM – which are “”determined”” by birth, which shoud not be taken to mean heredity. At the out, when this “”inviolable, and eternally and universally true”” system is faithfully propagated and understood, everyone will accept its validity,
This sytem is impartial and unbiassed toward all, and absolutely just but wants you to convince its validity by testing against faithful actual experience. Under it, in birth, a person is born as a blend – harmonious fusion – of Saatvika, Taamasika and Raajasika. Satvika means that in the genes are embedded the vitals for love of peace and self-reflection that can enable one through the principle of ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ which may be liberally approximated to the Western “”Know Thyself”” [for the world especially the animate and more especially the human, section of it, is YOUR own self’s projection which with further study can be modified or “”edited”” as it were. Thought and sentiments are dictated by Satvika]. Rajasika means lot of going round and vigorous action without, in a manner of speaking, a protracted mental preoccupation with it or even emotional strings attached to it. Tamasika implies an almost nonconcern for premeditation, grabbing of an opportunity especially for sensory satisfactions merely as it presents itself. The Varna into which one is born is not automatic, since it must be developed through self-discipline with a set of Samskaras (refining processes) that are specific to that Varna, and the Varna is in accordance with inborn abilities and natural preferences.
Now, at the outset no single individual is exclusively of the Satvik or the Rajasik, or of the Tamasik type. The Vedic wisdom gives the most authentic account of the Four Varnas – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra – which is the essence of cumulative wisdom of Rishis (seers with specialy developed powers of perception through extraordinary periods of penance and contemplation on a supreme being behind all our existence.)
A Brahman is anyone, regardless of family of birth, if he is born with a dominant “”colour”” of creative mental and spiritual inclinations, but even he is just a Sudra, given to sensory pleasures until and unless his inborn, dominantly Satvik nature is refined through Upanayana and Vedic learning and also testing circumstnces in society where he must demonstrate his spiritual orientation through his spiritual outlook of society, which should be above self-interest considerations. The Vedas are the best means of learning the prescribed discipline for the Brahmana in tune with his natural bent of mind.
A Kshatriya is one in whose nature the Rajasik component is predominant, with the Satvik and Tamasik ingredients being, in a manner of speaking, about a third of his nature. He will be ideal for protecting law and order and defense of religious (or orderly) behaviour of society. Even he will have a propensity toward being a Sudra, thrilling in manual jobs just for money and pleasure, unless he is put through a course of discipline laid down for his kind of temperamental make up, such as military exercises, killing restricted to enemies of the social order.
The Vaishya individual is best suited for commercial and industrial specialization of work To orient this towrd social interets, without exploiting them to his selfish advantage – without making undue profits or sellng of harmful products and services or by adopting deceptive methds to sell his goods. Thus even though he is a mixture of 50% Satvik+ Rajasik, and 50% Tamasik, the Varna discipline of the Vaishya has enough teachings to make him serve the above ends, so that the Vaishyas, as a community, become an important pillar of the society.
The other pillar of the society is the Sudra. He has no specific Vedic disciplines, but he must serve as required by the other two communities – supplying his manual skills and energies to meet the manual needs of the other three communities. He is expectected not to resort to strikes or actions based on any vengeful feelings against his employer or competitor in his field. That is his Vedic Dharma.
Whether one chooses to be a Brahmana or Kshatriya, or a Vaishya, through proper training and educational discipline, it must be in tune with his nature. It is at this point where some controversies have been raging from time to time, since Varna system was sought to be viewed like the caste system where one’s birth (meaning heredity or family line of occupation) automatically decided his caste. That was against the grains of the Varna system since castes without proper discipline in tune with one’s nature (resulting from Karma of previous births) would not lead to the best of social good.
The only element of heredity, in this system, is that if a Brahman (by nature and discipline combination) begets a child that child is not necessarily a Brahmana. It should be helped with the suitable environment and opportunities by the Brahman father to become. In actual practice, a Vaishya, for instance, may desire that his child “”must”” also become a Vaishya himself. Such desire is tenable according to the Vedas, only if the child’s intrinsic aptitutdes/mental make up are of Vaishya orientation by nature. Or else, the artificially made Vaishya-son is likely to become a cheater indulging in unfair practices, doing away with competitors instead of competing with them on the basis of better technology or better management, or better products and services considered a package (price + quality + terms of payment and delivery and after-sales services, whichever are applicable).
The Varnas were actually an attempt to integrate the various castes, which were a hangover of some bygone past of primitive societies, into four manageable and socially purposeful classes, in due consideration of the individuals’ nature.
It was during the Colonialist era (for about two centuries)in India, that the traditional Brahmins who had very high spiritual power tilll then, commanding society’s respect in various ways, began to be the most preferred for jobs under the British government. Such spiritual power of the Brahmins was acquired because of the most rigorous discipline which is demanded according to the Vedas. One of the componens of this discipline was that the Brahman MUST NOT acquire wealth and large properties, but only receive the minimum for his sustenance from the rest of the society who were only too keen to go to his protection in the interests of his spiritual advisory service to the entire society. When the British took the concomitant powers of the Brahmin’s intellect, and rewarded him with high positions and low, with overriding preference visavis the others (Non-Brahmans), he became corrupted, and lost his spiritual power. He also gave up the study of the Vedas’almost totally embracing the materialistic education afforded by Macaulay’s Western-oriented training of his mind. The various Brahmanical samskaras became merely symbolic of a glorious past of which he was no longer worthy, since he began to run after jobs of any description, even writing accounts or advising antisocial elements like smugglers, tax-evaders, and legally advocating the cases for criminals – all for the sake of fame, money.
The Varna system, let us be honest, therefore is far from being pursued in letter and spirit any longer. There is thus the resulting turmoil, discontent, mutual distrust, and other undesirabble features of individuals and society in India. India has very considerably slipped from being a potential teacher of the world, not just since the beginning of the Colonialist era, but perhaps even since the days of the Buddha when he revolted against the corruption of the Varnas.
So, does all the above make the Vedic wisdom of the Varna system a dangerous system not worthy of commendation for society’s welfare and progress ? Quite the contrary.
With suitable modifications, it can, and should, be strengthened. Is it not commonsense to understand that no society, whether the entire mankind, or just a country’s population, can ever hope to thrive in the sense of prosperity and peace for all if all its members want to run after money without an emphasis on the production and distribution and protection of it and never failing to subordinate material comforts to real satisfactions which can only be spiritual if they are to be permanent ?
Some of the profoundest thinkers of the West [yes, we need to cite their encomiums for the Vedic systems if at all anyone will care a damn to pay attention to us! ] have, after deep study of the Vedic thoughts and emotions, clearly concluded that the Indian society patterned on Vedic wisdom could certainly be used for the uplift of mankind. All Western-developed systems such as capitalism, communism, and so on, will not stand the test of theoretical scrutiny, for universality or tangibility of application to mankind, so where is the quetion of their practical acceptability ? In other words the non-Vedic systems can only go on for a short while but perish after a while.
You could have made it easy for others to read your comments by NOT using capital letters everywhere.
If I were really wrong, even normal case letters would have been fine :)
Anyways, I said things like “”VALMIKE NOT BRAHMIN BY BIRTH”” etc, just to drive home the point I was making. THe point being that there was no caste system in ancient India which decided who a person was based on his/her birth.
For instance, Valmiki is considered to be a Brahmin. Ravana is considered to be a kshatriya. How would have this been possible if caste system existed? Because Valmiki was not born to brahmin parents, Ravana was indeed born to brahmin parents! Which means caste system did not exist. Got it?
So where is the contradiction?
Its actually irritating to read entire sentences capital letters. It looks like spam. Please post in normal case in the future. You can still make a point. You dont need capital letters to support your claims, if there is really some stuff in your claims. ALL CAPS IS FROM SATAN :)
You are asking where yugas came from. Well, they are mentioned in the vedas. And what is this genetic findings all about? What has genetic findings to do with universal time scales? Please go and read what the famous astrophysicists, cosmologists, physicists like Einstein, Oppenheimer, Carl sagan etc had to say about these Yuga time scales, vedic texts etc. I hope you agree that they are true scientists atleast!
And what has sai baba to do with all this?? Hinduism is the only religion where a normal human being is given an opportunity to be raised to the level of a God, by his good deeds. If you cant understand it, its not my problem
Unlike other religions where things like Da Vinci Code are not to be questioned, we allow questions. Which is why we are debating on both millions of years of timescale of treta yuga as well as astronomical dating of Rama’s time. That is called having an ‘Open Mind’
Who said all this nonsense to you that “”one person came from head of Brahma”” etc? Read the actual text with a knowledge of Sanskrit. Knowledge comes out from the head, and so scholars are represented by head. Muscle power originates from the arms, and so Kshatriyas/warriors are symbolized by arms, etc.
And what is this line “”FROM WHERE YOU COLLECT ALL THESE LIES””. People only collect truth, to lie we dont have to collect it. Lies are not facts and are created not collected :)
And what about these things? Bible says that the world was created in 7 days! Is that science? Which scientific theory supports that? Who created satan?
you are contradicting man ,when you are saying there is no such thing to be called superior by birth . then why you are still dragging those words ,that KRISHNA NOT BRAHMIN BY BIRTH VALMIKE NOT BRAHMIN BY BIRTH AND RAVANA BRAHMIN BY BIRTH ,WHEN THERE IS NO SUCH THINGS ARE EXSISTING ACCORDING TO YOUR ARTICLE DONT BLUFF TOO MUCH. SUDDENLY YOU ARE SAYIN THAT THERE ARE FOUR YUGAS AND EACH YUGAS CONSISTING OF 15 LAKS YEARS .HOW IT COME FOR YOU BLUFF LIKE THIS .HAVE U HAD ANY SCIENTIFIC ,ARCHEOLOGIC AND GENETIC FINDINGS SUPPORTIING THEM . SUDDENLY YOU CALL SOME PERVETED PERSON AS SAI BABA AN REINCARNATION OF A;L SUPREME GODS OF HINDUISM. SCIENCE SAYS ITS FROM THE MONKEY THE HUMAN BEING DEVELOPED YOU SAY ONE PERSON CAME FROM HEAD OF BRAHMA AND OTHER ONE FROM ARMS AND NEXT ONE FROM STOMACH AND OTHER ONE FROM LEGS .THEN WHAT IS THE USE OF REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM . ONE TIME YOU SAY THAT RAMA BORN 15 LAKS BEFORE IN THE THRETHYA YUGA OTHER TIME YOU SAY THAT THE AGE OF RAMA IS AROUND FIVE THOSAND YEARS ACCORDING TO SCIENTISTS .FROM WHERE YOU COLLECT ALL THESE LIES .YO KNOW SATAN IS THE FATHER OF LIES HE USING U AS A TOOL TO MAKE ALL JIS LIES AS A TRUTH . YOU ARE LYING ON HIS HANDS
It was the greedy and half educated, biased people who over a period of time converted this into a caste system to preserve their self interests.
Its like after 50 years somebody trying to prove that ‘Congress party actually is not meant only for the representatives of the Nehru family’ :)
Of course the original congress party was like the original classification of people based on their skills in the vedas.
But later it has become like caste system, where only successor of Nehru family becomes the head of the party ;)
I guess i got my answer, this sloka was written by Kalhana in a Sanskrit book. It is not a vedic text as i had understood earlier. Sorry for the confusion.
Anyways i would like to hear your thoughts on how we over the years have shifted our focus to castes and created sub division among them.
also is there any significance to madisar(the way of wearing sari amongst brahmins) ??
I need some clarification, i learnt from this blog that Brahmin, means Superior by knowledge and it does not refer to any caste as such.
Can you kindly tell me the meaning of the sloka below:
??????????? ?????? ???????? ?????????????,
????????????? ?????? ???????? ?????????????? ||
????????? ??????????? ???? ????????????,
???????? ??? ?????? ???????????????????? ||
If brahmin was not a caste, which i want to believe in, then why is there 2 category’s of brahmin, as tanslated in some site of the sloka above.
Any knowledge on this would be appreciated. If there is a categorization, what s the need for it?
Just a mention about Ghandarva vivaha,
Yes, God permits Ghandarva Vivaha only if it is pure love. Pure love nothing but God himself. In this case, couple have to face lot of troubles to make marriage successful. Only souce for them to get bound is mere mutual trust in all situations. We can see how Shakuntala was cursed and struggled to get back to husband’s palace.
Close associates- Nadi pandits-Ayurveda doctors explain how match making had taken care of psychological, physical, spiritual well being of progeny not just the couple. This would also avoid moral insecurity for the couple from their respecitive families. A good progeny for healthy, economically strong society. Added to that marriage is not just marriage of couple , it is the union of two families.
So Manushya vivaha is well suitable especially in Kaliyuga with already existing complications.
Source : The Origin of Human Past
ISBN : 81-7276-153-8
Bhavan’s Book University
As Explained by V. Lakshmikantham – an internationally well-known professor of mathematics at the Florida Insitute of Technology in Melbourne, Florids, USA. He is recognized as an authority, as well as the founder and developer of many research areas, of the broad scientific field of nonlinear analysis. He initiating, publicizing and popularizing several areas of nonlinear analysis as is evidenced by his numerous books.
Thanks to my Sanskrit teacher. He searched this book and gave me to study further about : understanding human origin and timeline, Vedas usage, how britishers classified indian traditional chronology with precise dates of prehistoric events with the support of astronomical as “”myth”” and vedic literature including astronomical works branded by them as “”incomprehensible nonsense””.
Back to Caste system-
A section from 11 th chapter on Aryans and Dravidians
The European Vedic scholars used racial ideas to explain the Vedas. It was pointed out that the caste system in India was originally defined by color, which is how scholars translated the Sanskrit terma Varna, the basis of caste. In vedic thought, according to them, the Brahamins are said to be white, the Kshatriyas red, the Vaisyas yellow and the Sudras black. Hence the Brahmins were deemed to have been originally the white Aryans and the Dravidians the dard Sudras enslaved by the Aryans. But one should remember that the colors of the different classes refer only to the gunas (qualities) of each class, which represents different energetic types of human beings. White is the color of purity (Satva Guana), dark that of impurity(Tamo guna), red the color of action(Rajo guna), and yellow the color of trade and agriculture (a mixture of Raja and Tamo gunas). Turning these spiritual distinctions in to racial characteristics was a cruel and perverted distortion. Indeed, one must ask where are the red and yellow races in India?
Many more points are mentioned. wish had more time to include.
sports person was a kshatriya.
To add to what ursri said, inter caste marriages were not banned though, and these usually used to be love marriages that were termed as Gandharva Vivaha. It was also said that when the two hearts fell in love prior to marriage, there was no need to match the astrological charts of the bride and the groom. In other words love transcends everything else.
For a Gandharva Vivaha matching astrological charts was not required.
Here are some views from learned person.
In this Kaliyuga, Manu mentioned about varnashrama.
One more point to consider is even animals can be categorized by any of the 4 varna by their behavior itself.
The genes that carried to offspring?s would influence them to pursue family occupation/skills faster than others.
As in one of the post how hybrid seeds cannot reproduce, same way he mentioned that inter caste marriage should be discouraged. This would avoid unwanted/ neglected children of such marriage by society and becoming bane/criminal. The main purpose would be to ensure all community has unique occupations which are interdependent so that every one can live in harmony with equal respect and no competition (just opposite of stiff competition that we are facing today).
More over today, the occupation is solely based on money, power aquisition by individual. But as on those days the set up was such a way that each village/city had a good plan. The location of each interdepended occupation communities was planned closer to each other. This definitely reduced transit cost and easy avialability of resource. In nutshell the lively hood, financial independence, legal autonomy (one can recall village panchayat here) was in macro ie., village-state inturn kingdom level rather than individualistic. Thus confirming statement “”Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavanthu””.
where does a sport person stand in above 4 vernas….???
and are all the 4 vernas equal in status…mean no 1 verna is superior than other ????
As explained in current post’s “”Bhagavata clearly says in 7.11.35 that”” onwards
.. baby is recognised by its parents child.
Baby is recognised by its parents child.
Paandavaaha- all five pandavas
Kaunteya- 5 pandavas some times even karana
this means even if a child is born in a brahman family as per vedas he is not considered brahman????….then what is that baby considered as in vedas???
Awesome Article dude…
It is the teacher who decides on that.
When a student graduates from gurukul (school), the guru (teacher) ensures that the student is armed with all the basic knowledge.
when does a person is said as brahman…i mean who decides whethere a person has got 2nd birth in the same birth or not?….how knowledge of a person is judged to call him as a brahman ??? is anything mentioned in vedas
It can be done for anyone who wants to pursue knowledge, and the one who pursues knowledge becomes a brahmin.
The categorization was required to create expertise in subjects and fields which spans over generations so that the knowledge accumulates.
In companies like GE for instance when a person is about to retire in a year or so, he/she wont be given any more new work, but instead he will start documenting all his expertise learnt till date and start sharing his expertise with his junior colleagues, so that the knowledge is put to sufficient use even after the empoyee retires!! So it was a similar concept in the vedas, that when generations together do the same work then the expertise will be passed on from parents to children and will add on and accumulate over time. But there was no compulsion that a brahmin’s son cant become a kshatriya or that a Sudra’s son cant become a Brahmin.
Saying vedas preached caste system is like saying, in the modern world we dont allow a watchman’ s son to become an engineer :)
The Vedas have with absolute clarity pointed out the natural categorization of mankind as Brahmana (intellectual-spiritual), Kshatriya (physical defence oriented for proecting nations/territories), Vaishya (industrial-commercial) and Sudras (loyal, manually inclined).
I am also unable to understand the need of above categorization by vedas or devas…?????
this means brahmin or brahaman is a varna as per vedic texts…..can the ritual of hair cutting ceremony be done for any one…maye he be of any caste ????….since it is always said that the above ritual is only conducted in brahamins….Please clarify ???
[…] I was browsing digg.com when I came upon a delightful article on how the ancient Vedic texts mention nothing of caste that one is born into. I thought this would […]
Very interesting, this provides the beginning for the process discussed in Nicholas Dirks book, “”Castes of Mind…”” and commonly known in those who study British colonial history. What we know as the Caste system is not from ancient South Asia but rather a product of the colonial system…It’s funny how people look at some cultures as being stagnant or backwards, yet anyone who studies cultures knows they are always dynamic. Colonialism and war are two catalysts that have been known to cause immense cultural change for both parties involved and the caste system is one of the results.
Thanks for the crash course in Vedic texts as I had not known much about them.
Gurudev, Keep up your highly spirited writiing. The feeling along with the logic that pours out in a young man’s thoughts is of immortal value and can never be sullied by impassioned nonsense of peevish opponents. Re: the caste system, your views are very, very true. But alas, it is a great pity to see how sham democracy practised virtually bby all Indian politicians is wreaking havoc with the most glorious civilization and culture of India. The amount of missionary as well as pseudo-scholarly mischief that is actively engaged in getting away with their selfish goals is getting to be too much. Unless young men, such as yourself, mobilize together and bring about a revolution based on positive propaganda, it is going to be difficult to defeat these self-seeking, evil forces.
The Vedas have with absolute clarity pointed out the natural categorization of mankind as Brahmana (intellectual-spiritual), Kshatriya (physical defence oriented for proecting nations/territories), Vaishya (industrial-commercial) and Sudras (loyal, manually inclined). This is the Universal and Eternal rule based on inborn qualities – Sattvic, Rajaics, and Tamasic – of a man. They are inborn but not hereditary, mind you, and hence the Vedic proposition is absolutely scientific. Each individual’s nature is the resultant of the curious interactions of genes inheried from innumerable male-female combinations on the maternal and paternal sides – and the simple word to describe this pre-destined pattern is KARMA.
Karma’s external influences can be controlled through education and training but at times of utmost testing and trial, the true nature of the person will reveal itself. Thus this proposition of Varna-Karma is logically easy to see as Universally and Eternally valid and unassailable. The caste “”system”” is rooted in tribal practices, and this is prevalent all over the world. It is utter nonsense to highlight it as though it is true of only India or Hinduism is the height of absurdity.
Communists may like to content hemselves with an artificial labour-capitalist division, and the other theoreticians with other planks But the Vedic truth is the simplest and the tuest basis, which, therefore, is said to be Divine-designed. The socalled “”distortions”” of caste system in India do not really represent such an evil as is made out to be. Why should it bother anyone, if an individual, at his/her free will, wants to follow criteria in selecting their life-partners, or living by a way of life of their own as long as it does not infringe the others’ lives?
The gene bank principle is scientific, but impractical, and eugenics can more easily be misused han used properly. In this respect, individuals belonging to caste groups should be free to follow their practices purely for choosing occupations, eating habits, etc. as per their own preferences.
Caste does NOT have any deeper significance. But the point is that some form of casteism is prevalent universally, to an extent larger or smaller, but only idle sociological scientists and practitoners can afford to waste their time and energies on this front.
Thank you But, wait, before ending this message, the Varna categorization is, like, the division of numbers in rational-irrational, positive-negative, and other ways, just a notional one, and is no less, or no more, true and useful than the latter. THANK YOU.
This post reminds me of a story about Sri Loknath Brahmachari, a saint from Bengal who is said to have lived well beyond his two hundredth year. It is said that he claimed, “”there are only three brahmans now on earth””. One was he himself, the second person was a saint in the himalayas (whose name I have forgotten) and the third was a person called Gafur in Mecca.
This could be simply be a story . . . but I do believe that becoming a true brahman has nothing to do with a persons birth. Yours was a nice post to remind us of that.
Yes, Upanayana is the process where the second birth starts. After upanayana ceremony the teaching of vedas to that child starts. But mere upanayana is not enough to make a person brahmin. It is just a right step in the right direction.
Upanayana does start the process of second birth, but it does not guarantee continuity in that second birth, unless one continues to adhere to the principles of knowledge.
Bhagavatam clearly says in 7.9.10
vipr?d dvis?ad?-gun?a-yut?d aravinda-n?bha-
p?d?ravinda-vimukh?c chvapacam? varis?t?ham
which means “”If a person who has become a brahmin moves away from his brahminical duties, then he is no more a Brahmin””
Great Works Guru (refering to other articles too). Congrats!!!
One clarification about the term Dvija. I have the same understanding as you mentioned ie, second birth is after acquiring knowledge (Like after getting Brahmopadesham during upanayana w.r.t. brahmins). However, in Bhagavatam, it is defined as;
“”Those who have been reformed by the garbhadhana ceremony and other
prescribed reformatory methods, performed with Vedic mantras and without interruption, and who have been approved by Lord Brahma, are dvijas, or twice-born. Such brahmanas, ksatriyas and vaisyas, purified by their family traditions and by their behavior, should worship the Lord, study
the Vedas and give charity.””
Thanks for the information. This is indeed something that is not clear to people who live far from India