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Varnashrama in Hinduism
Offered by




r Major Categories
o Implications

Professor M. Emdadul Haq
Department of GCE 4 October 2A11


r Caste system in Bengal r Conclusion

North South University


. Varna means different shades of texture or color, o The term "caste" is derived from the Poftuguese term " castd' & refers to the multiple strata of Indian society wherein occupation was largely hereditary. r "Caste" provide a sense of kinship within the Hindu society, identity for an occupation/ & some degree of reciprocity between *'castes" as skills & products were exchanged,

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Origins of Varnashrama
r Difficult to trace out when
caste system entered into the life of Hindus, r The system didnt exist in the Vedic era, but came up later as the

Origins of Varnashrama
r Spread of Arya culture led to the
classification of different groups with particular occupations as distinct jatis. r Aryanisation of the subcontinent led to the varna division into a hierarchical order. o Gradual absorption of outsiders within the cultural fold of the caste system. o Absorption of non-vaidika people to the lower stratum. r Gradually turned into an extreme form,

Aryanization of society,

r It was the basis of the Aryan society.

Aryans were divided into three social 1. Priests (Purohita),
2" Warriors or aristocracyr & 3" Commoners.

Origins of Varnashrama
r The idea of varna is traceable in the Rig

Origins of Varnashrama
r Afticulation of Varnashrama is found in the Bhagavad-Gita, commonly known as the Bible of India. r Lord Krishna explains that he created human society with four natural social classes (or varnas), ?s well as four underlying spiritual orders or ashramas. r These social & spiritual divisions allow for the effective application of eternal
religious principles.

. By way of metaphor, the Veda tells that


Lord Krishna's body was divided into the four divisions: r "From his mouth came the priestly class, who tell us about the Lord; from his arms, the rulers & administrators; the agriculturists came from his legs & the workers from his feet"" o Individuals naturally fit into one of these occupational divisions, based on their oualifications & work.

Origins of Varnashrama
attempt to classify new occupational groups & communities to the older varna system, o Non-vaidika peoples in cities of the Gangetic basin, some of them of rural or tribal backgroutrd, were put into the category of working class people, r With the increase in the number of peoples, there was an increase in the kinds of jobs & occupations held by this diverse population.
o Brahmanic

Origins of Varnashrama
r Occupation become increasingly matter of bifth (JatD.
o Many occupations

that were passed on from father to son, had become increasingly a matter of birth (ia7f1. r The jatis classified in the brahmanic literature eventually came to be known as "'caste"" r It became increasingly rigid, & social mobility & intermarriage vvere discouraged, if not forbidden,

r Intellectuals

o Politicians, administrators, warriors & rulers. o Powedul of physique & might & are the custodians of state. e Duty to protect the Hindu dharma & the
people, o Courage is a virtue of the Kshatriyas/warriors. o Chivalrous, knightly type, & ?re generally

or priestly people at the top of the social hierarchy.

o Believed to be the embodiment of e Regarded as teachers & judges or even gods on earth" o Will to acquire knowledge, wisdom & faith. e Thoughtful & inclined toward study" . Responds to goodness & is gentle & clean. o Ritualistic Brahmins explained dharma in their own way"

r r

inclined with "this worldly" life, Main focus is on 'action' or getting things done, with honor, virtue, & integrity. Characteristically noble, except when passion runs out.



Vaisya r Farmers, merchants, o( economists' r Merchants those prefer business of all

o Manual workers, aftisans & craftsman. o 'No superior qualities'as compared to other upper castes. o Physically strong, hard working & belong to the lowest stratum of social order" o Vision is limited, feels good when work hard. o Born assistant, does not posses original ideas. r Life revolves around physical work & immediate bodily pleasures. o Prefers routine work rather than innovative

with wealth & gold & strive for material gains. r His life revolves around money & his motivation is security & prosperity' o Embodying a mixture of passion & ignorance, r Focus on economic stability' & it is difficult for him to see beyond that.
o Deal


o Others, not belonging to any of the castes

All Hindu traditions have respect for Varnashrama as paft of Dharma. r The socio-religious system set in India's distant past. r Most Hindus adhere to it to the best of

were considered outcastes or untouchables. o Higher caste people wouldn't touch the casteless.

o Refraining them from letting their shadows fall on the person or path of the upper
o They would be contaminated & would need to

their ability"
o Others deemphasize

through cleansing rituals' o Legitimating unsociability in the name of maintaining brahmanical ritual purity'

it & even rebel against it. e All acknowledge that it is founded in their theological heritage.

o Hereditary & permanent. o Hierarchy is determined on



the basis of different varnas exhibit in their character & actions. o The levels of the social hierarchy is fixed & clearly defined, r In Hindu political thought religion was the supreme force that held society together. o The set rules imposed by one's karma (act) was eternal & unchangeable.

r Varna represent mental temper or Gunas that are of three kinds: o Sattava resides among the white
o Rajas

Brahmirs, or red/brown color is pr6Aominani among the business or merchant people & . Tamas or black color among the workers, o By the differential of mental quality & c6lor, physical action@s determined. o Social position of individuals is ascribed



r Varnashrama is the Nitya Dharma. r "Eternal Duty", er the essential function
of the soul, Hindu social system works in conjunction with deeper spiritual realities, i.e., service to God. r According to Hindu traditions one's personal duty based on distinctive inclination & body type. o The privileged maintain it as result of karma from past actions"
o Preserve

ritual purity & social position in the face of urban pluralism, r For the lower casts, it meant denial of access to oppoftunities that are available to the " vaidikd' elites. o For "untouchables" it would mean living outside the area of the cities where the "twice-born" lived. r No access to social & religious opportunities that are available to the






r All the Jatis have their distinct Varna, which is specified by a particular Karma'
s Karma division wholeheartedly is regarded as Dharma,

r Ancient writers of dharmasutras & Smrti systematized the practice & custom of caste & tried to confine the whole of Indian society within the four divisions'

r Associated with the reincarnatiolt - that Hindus are born again after death. r Hinduism suggests that people's behavior in their previous life will decide the caste they are born into after

r Brahmins made

people believe that the social position or caste they are born into is god-given. r People generally accept their ascribed caste position.



Caste system in Bengal


o Racial discrimination in colonial South Africa' o Plato's Republicdemonstrates "the ldeal Stater" categorizing society into three classes-Gold, Silver, & Copper. r Plato elaborates that, on top, there are philosopher-kings, who rulel below them are the warriorsp and, finallyr w€ have the merchants and the workers, whom Plato combines into one category. o This categorlzation comparable to Indian caste system.

Epigraphic evidence suggests that prior to the establishment of Arya Brahmanical state, caste patterns & their religious customs & culture were by no means acknowledged in Bengal. r During the Gupta period the Brahmins stafted to come from North India to Bengal to settle here" e Their dominance was established by the patronage of ruling dynasties & wealthy people.


Caste sYstem in Bengal


Caste system in Bengal contd.


Many Brahmins obtained land to settle permanently & their temples were built


r Brahmins

for worshiPing' had honor & dominance in every field of the Pala state & society
(750- 1150).

Under Palas, caste system was liberal & flexibleo but with the Senas it became inflexible and rigidlY defined" o sena rulers put emphasis on the rigidity of the Hindu caste sYstem.

r Buddhist Pala state remained the

upholder & defendant of the Brahmanical social sYstem. r They made many land endowments to the Brahmins & Brahmanical temples"

With Sena rule, the worshiP of Brahmanical Gods & Goddesses & their religious practices spread throughout

Buddhism & Jainism emerged in the 6th century BC as a Protest against the caste system' r The system was finally encountered by the *g"litarian approach pursued by Islam, e Hindered Progress of societY preventing those with talents from rising in occuPation. r Mahatma Gandhi called untouchables as'Horizon",


Dr. Ambetkar became the framer of

Indian Constitution.
The place of Dalits in the Indian

c Despite repeated legislation against caste discrimination, it is still very much a part of Indian life. r Higher caste Hindus have been known to brutally attack Gandhi's Harijans or "people of God""

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