Vedas and Castes

Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam,

Shrunvantu vishnve amrutsya putraha” – Rigveda 10-13-1

” Make the world a noble place for the entire human race,
for everyone is a divine child ”

Would you imagine that these are the same words that came from a script that propagandized the caste system? I had the same question in mind. So I read through quite a few books and articles of the Vedic transition into India.

As we know by now, Vedas were not prevalent in India until the entry of the Aryans from central Asia. The Rigvedic people came to the Indian subcontinent not as warriors but as priests.They won over the country not through the power of swords (which some historians want us to believe) but through their superior skills in debate and magical ritualism. This got them loyal patronage from the local kings. With the support of the kings, the Aryans made their way through the continent – they intertwined themselves with the local traditions and customs to gain trust in the eyes of the locals. Soon they gained political and regional power in the country.

The Aryans did not bring the caste system with them. They believed in a flexible and an open system in which members could change their vocations by their wish. But as they encountered hostile tribes and competitive traditions, they adopted a caste system to preserve their identity as a group , to preserve racial purity and family lineage. Thus, raising the possibility of a non-vedic character to the caste system.

It is also understood that caste system was not addressed in the Rig Veda – the oldest piece of literature ever written in the human race.Purusha saktha (later added to the Rigveda), and the following vedas mentions the prevalence of the caste system in the society.

The Purusha Sakta explains the creation of the caste system , from the different parts of the ‘Purusha’ – the Cosmic Soul.
1. Brahmins- the Mouth
2. Kshatriya- the Arms
3. Vaisyas- the Thighs
4. Sudras- the Feet

Metophorically, it would mean that the Brahmins would learn the knowledge of the Vedas; they had to serve by performing the rituals and learning the divine knowledge. The Kshatriyas were to protect the country against the enemies. The Vaishyas would tend to the cattle or cultivate the lands. The Sudras would help the above classes to get work done. All the classes apart from the Sudras were expected to learn from the Vedas. Since the Sudras didn’t have a need to implement the Vedas directly , they were exempted from learning the Vedas.

It seems that the two greatest epics favored the higher motto of hinduism – Equality ,brotherhood and prosperity.

1. All of the 10 Avatars of Vishnu were not brahmins. In fact only Vamana was a true representation of a Brahmin.
2. Parashurama was a Brahmin by birth and warrior by profession
3. Vishwamitra was a warrior by birth and bend towards priesthood.
4. Parashar , the law giver was a Chandala (lower grade within the Sudra caste)
5. Vashishtar was born to a prostitue.
6. Valmiki, the great author was born to a mere fishwerwoman.
7. The Nanadas , Chandragupta Mauryas’ did not practice Vedism.

and the examples of an open system and its acceptance can keep going on…

While on the one hand the epics reflected the motto of brotherhood and equality so much , on the other hand it tried to preserve the incompetent and less talented individuals within the elite club from the talented low-caste people in the name of Dharma. Ekalavya, as you may recall is a perfect such example.

Many believe that the closeness of the Brahmins and Kshatriyas to the Kings helped them gain respect and indirect power on the society. Thus, encouraging them to look down upon the other classes and shun them. Subsequently, through the influences of different kings and foreigners, the classes became more prominent and hierarchical.

In one way this would seem like a remarkable classification to have social order. In another way, a perfect loop hole to break apart the society.

My conclusion to this is that even Vedas – a pure system that gave equality the highest regard, was forced to be mend due to the influences from the society. While it is natural to follow traditions to preserve the character of the tribe, it is important to throw away things that pose a threat. Caste system may have well worked many billion years back, but it certainly is a misfit in the present generation. It is time for us to uncover the absolute law of the world from our Vedas (if at all you persist on following the Vedas) and bring back equality and justice right in place!



  || krinvanto vishwam aryam || « Santhoshi's blog wrote @

[…] that still exists in India. Caste system has been followed in India for many decades.(refer to Vedas and Caste post) No tradition is valid until it is present in the Vedas. The vedas, excluding the Rigveda, […]

  canadiandesi wrote @

I once heard a very interesting lecture by Swami Chinmayananda regarding the caste system. It was never meant to segregate people into different groups, but rather, simply a recognition of how society functions, and the type of roles people tend to take. Over time, the system became bastardized, to the extent where certain castes would take advantage over others.

Santhoshi, this is an excellent post, and I am glad you brought it up. To be honest though, the system is thousands of years old, and it will take time to change. It is only in the past century that recognition of its evils has come, and I am sure that as India develops, and people become more and more educated it will become a thing of the past.

  Santhoshi wrote @

As i mentioned in my subsequent blog, I do realize its an age old tradition which will not change soon. But we must clean the hose some day! and it’s the educated class that holds on to the caste system even more. So more education doesn’t solve the problem. Some serious actualization and awareness can only heal this. Willingness to change the attitude for progress. Change in attitude will lead to India advancing further. We cannot wait for India to advance and then clean up this mess. It’s time for some serious revolution! and at least youngsters must take this in our shoulders and change the older ones in n around us… 😀

[…] Vedic religion dates back before Hinduism, however it does not include a caste system. The Nazi swastika is said to have been adapted from a familiar symbol in the religion. The […]

[…] Vedic religion dates back before Hinduism, however it does not include a caste system. The Nazi swastika is said to have been adapted from a familiar symbol in the religion. The […]

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