The oldest known passage which mentions the Varna system is the 90th hymn of the 10th book called Purusha Sukta (Hymn to Purusha). Another text, the Satapatha Brahmana, which is considered equal to the Vedas, also confirms the Varna order. The Varna system or caste order is a rather unpleasant characteristic of the Hindu society; it will not be an exaggeration if we call it the eighth wonder of the world. This system is not international but has roots in India itself. There is an urgent necessity to shed light on how this inhumane system came into practice amongst the Hindus, which played a decisive role in its disintegration.
The Vedic Aryans are supposed to be the founding fathers of Hindu culture and civilization. It is important, therefore, to find out whether the Varna system was prevalent among them, and if yes, in which form? The Vedas are the most ancient scriptures of the Hindus and the mantras of the Purush Sukta are considered the foundations of the gigantic and strong Varna system.
The Rig Veda (10/90/11-12) states how many kinds did Prajapati visualize the human society in the form of a Purush? Who is the mouth of that Purush? Who are his two arms? Who are his two thighs and his two feet? And the answer is “The Brahmins are the mouth of this Purush, the Kshatriyas are his arms, the Vaishyas are his thighs and the Shudras are his feet.
This Purush Sukta is also found in the Yajur Veda (31/10-11) and the Atharva Veda (19/6/6). The Purush Suktas of these three Vedas are similar in content.
Manusmriti (1/31) says, “Having desire for public growth, Prajapati created Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras from his mouth, arms, thighs and feet respectively.”
Varna System and classification of society:
According to Hindu scriptures Varna system is the creation of God. The vedic mantra in which this theory of chaturvarna is propounded is found in the Prursh Sukta of Rigveda’s 10th mandal. The occupation of the people and inter-caste marriages and feasting were permitted amongst all the four Varnas.
The Brahmins were entrusted with the work of learning and teaching. They were, it is believed, the authors of the Vedic mantras. The Kshatriyas were entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and the defence of the country from outside invasion. Business, agriculture and animal husbandry were the occupations entrusted to the Vaishyas. The Shudras were to serve all the three upper classes. In this system greater emphasis was placed on the duties of the people instead of their rights. Women were not divided into Varnas. The Brahmins were permitted to marry women of all the four Varnas. The Kshatriyas were given the right to marry women of their own Varna and those of Vaishyas and Shudras. The Vaishyas were permitted to marry the women of their varna and Shudra Varnas. But Shudras could marry only the women of their own Varna. Thus Brahmins were accorded innumerable privileges and immunities but Shudras were not even considered as human.
Whatsoever the primitive form of the Varna system, in the course of time it gave way to a society with birth privileges in which special emphasis was placed on the superiority of the Brahmins and the inferiority of the Shudras.
Even Brahmin Granthas are full of derogatory references about Shudras:
- The Brahmins were created from the gods while the Shudras from the devils. -Taitariya Brahmin (1/2/6/7)
- The Shudras are made to serve others. They have no lights of their own. –Panchvish Brahmin (6/1/1).
- One should not speak to the Shudras. – Panchvish Brahmin (6/1/11).
- One should not speak to Shudra while performing a yagna and no yagna should be performed in the presence of a Shudra. Somras(an intoxicating juice drunk at sacrifices) should not be offered to a Shudra. –Shatpath Brahmin (3-1-1-10 and 14-1-31)
- A Shudra is made to serve others. He has no rights of his own. –Aitareya Brahmin (2-29-4)
Dalit a Sin: In Bhagwat Gita Shri Krishna calls both the Vasishya and Shudras Paapyoni, which means one who is born of a sin. “O Arjuna! Even a woman, vaishya and shudra, who are born of a sin, attain salvation if they seek refuge in me” –Gita, 9/32
Shudra was equaled to a dog. And one who served a Shudra was also equaled to a dog. –Mahabharata, Anushasan Parva, 9/35.
Shudra is compared to a crow and a dog. He is believed to have born from sin. –Shatpath Brahmin (13/2/28)
These Hindu scriptures divides the nation and communities for their personal gains, and it is followed by the present educated generation in this era also. Another point to discuss and think here is Sri Ram [of Ramayana] was backed by Hanuman and his army of monkeys. As Sri Ram was Bhramin those who supported him was not human but animals (monkeys). Even now, the Brahmin community behaves with lower caste people as though they are animals (monkeys) who are supporting them. They help and make them happy with small gifts and bounties but never give them equal rights. Lets struggle for equal rights, justice and bring back the people from the slavery of humans.
(This is the first article in the series India and Dalits)