The Caste System of Northern India

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The Caste System in North India The four major Aryan casts were as follows.

Brahmin – (priestly caste)

Brahmin (Brāhmaṇa) is the class of educators, law makers, scholars and preachers of Dharma in Hinduism. It is said to occupy the highest position among the four varnas of India. The English word brahmin is an anglicised form of the Sanskrit word Brāhmana. Brahmins are also called Vipra which means"inspired", or Dvija which means "twice-born".

Brahmins often performed vedic rituals. It is a misconception that Brahmins are only priests. Only a sub sect of brahmins were involved in priestly duties. They also took up various other professions since late vedic ages like doctors, warriors, writers, poets, land owners, ministers, etc. Some parts of India were also ruled by Brahmin Kings.

From Vedic times onwards, Indian Kings acted in close relationship with Brahmins and relied on them as their advisors, the Brahmins became a powerful and influential group in India, and were known for discriminating against 'lower' castes

Kshatriya – (warrior caste)

Kshatriya or Kashtriya meaning warrior is one of the four varnas (social orders) in Hinduism. It traditionally constituted the military and ruling order of the Vedic-Hindu social system outlined by the Vedas, and the Laws of Manu. Kshatriyas used to hold the top rank in ancient Indian society: Rama, Krishna, Siddhartha Gautama, all of the Tirthankaras of Jainism from Parsvanatha to Mahavira were kshatriyas.

Vaishya - (trader caste)

Vaishya, also known as Vaisya, or Vysyas, is one of the four varnas (social order) of Hinduism. According to Vedic tradition, this order primarily comprises of money-lenders, merchants, traders, cattle-herders and artisans. In Hindu beliefs, the duties of a Vaisya, as described by Hindu God Krishna, are krsi (growing food grains), goraksha (cow protection), vanijyam (trade), vaisya karma (work) and svabhavajam (born of his own nature).

The Vaisyas eventually became land-owners, money-lenders and influential traders and are often credited for the evolution of capitalist ideologies in India. Historically, Vaisyas have played a much larger role in Indian affairs apart from trade and commerce. Indian traders were widely credited for the spread of Indian culture to regions as far as Southeast Asia.

Sudra (service caste)

Shudra normally spelt Sudra or Súdra in English, is the lowest Varna in the traditional four-section division in the Hindu caste system. Their assigned and expected role in post-Vedic North India was that of farmers, craftsmen, and labourers.

The Purusha Sukta of Rigvedha

It is mentioned in the purusha-sukta of Rigvedha that Purusha was a gigantic primeval person, from whose body the world and the varnas (socioeconomic classes) are built. He is described as having a thousand heads and a thousand feet. He emanated Viraj, the female creative principle, from which he is reborn in turn before the world was made out of his parts.

 In the sacrifice of Purusha, the Vedic chants were first created. The horses and cows were born, the Brahmins (Learned men) were made from Purusha's mouth, the Kshatriyas (Men with strength) from his arms, the Vaishyas (Men with business acumen)from his thighs, and the Shudras (Men who Work) from his feet. Twice Born (Dvija)

The Brahmin, Kshasthriya along with the vaishya, are of the 'twice born' (dvija) castes of the classical theory (at the time of one’s birth and again when the sacred thread was woven at the coming of age) when the Upananaya ceremony was performed. This ceremony was denied to the Sudra’s who were considered of low birth. Agastiar the sage was said to be the first Brahamana to bring civilization to the South of India. There may have been a migration of Brahamanas to the South along with other Northern castes. It is believed that a large majority of the Dravidian priestly cast from South India assumed Brahamana status around this time and took upon themselves ritualistic roles.


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