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By Mandeep Joshi
Being born and brought up in a Brahmin family, I was taught to be a devout follower of the ancient Vedic Society. I was intrigued by how each Varna (Caste) would perform their duties willingly as it was their dharma.
This raised the question, what is a Varna or Caste, and what is the Caste system? How does it work?
A Varna or Caste defines the hereditary roots of a newborn, it shows the colour, type, or class of people. It is divided into four categories: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. According to the Vedas; each Varna has a purpose towards their respective societies.
The Brahmin is the seeker of truth and is always in pursuit of knowledge; a Brahmin fulfils the duties of teaching, advisory to the King, etc. The Brahmin male could marry either a Brahmin or a Kshatriya female with her consent. Whereas, a Brahmin female could only marry a Brahmin male; but under certain conditions, she could also marry a Kshatriya male.
Kshatriya is the defender of society. They handled warfare, and the male could marry from any Varna. A female Kshatriya could marry from three Varnas, except for Shudras.
Vaishya is the economic backbone of society. This includes merchants and businessmen. The male can marry either the Kshatriya or Vaishya female or a Shudra female under certain conditions. The female could marry from any Varna except Brahmins.
The Shudras were the labourers, farmers, workers, etc. They were the manpower of society. The male could marry a Shudra or a Vaishya female whereas, the female could marry any Varna except for Brahmins.
But the truth of the Caste System is that each Varna has a specific duty towards society, and each Varna demands a certain level of respect.
During the Vedic period, each Varna performed their duties with utmost humility, and the Shudras were respected as they were financially weak and yet they did their duty with no complaints.
Even if one is born to a certain Caste or Varna, it does not confine one to its Varna.
As children from each Varna would attend the Gurukul, where the Brahmins, being the Gurus, would teach every child the duties of each Varna and would train each child according to his level of skill.
If a Shudra would display the qualities of a Kshatriya or a Brahmin, the child would attain the title of Brahmin or Kshatriya based on his level of skill while graduating from the Gurukul.
The Caste system we know today was the end product of years of pillaging and destruction of ancient buildings like the Somnath Temple, Nalanda University, etc.
With the destruction of past knowledge, dilution of values and practices will likely (or is already) alter(ing) the way the world understands or perceives this ancient system with core principles being used to one's advantage or lost amid our mad rush for power or wealth.