Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Varna system 3: Caste coding : Mahabharat Era

Few of the questions on Varna system of Mahabharat age is raised and answered here ….

Q:- In the ancient days, there used to be unique caste system with color codifications for each class. Can you explain the basis of this codification?
A:- ‘Before, I go into details, let me first tell you about Varna. Varna literally means “color”. It refers to the distinct qualities (guna) that the four functional classes possess in their hearts and minds.

There are four different varnas for human beings – white, red, yellow & black.

White (Sattva = truthful) represents the quality of purity, love, faith and detachment. Those belonging to this Varna seek true knowledge and often possess a spiritual temperament. Those that belong to this Varna, belong to the Brahman class.

Red (rajas = energetic) represents the quality of action, will, aggression and energy. Those belonging to this Varna seek honor, power and status and exist in people with martial and political temperament. Those that belong to this Varna belong to the Kshatriya class.

Yellow (rajas) represents the same quality as the red color but those in this quality seek communication, interchange, trade and business instead. This color exists in those of commercial temperament. They make up the Vaishya class.

Black (tamas = inert, solid) represents ignorance and inertia. Those belonging to this color are dependent on the others for motivation and seek nothing. They make up the Shudra class.

Q:- But this Varna system is like discrimination – All humans are equal, is it not?
A:- ‘Varna also means “veil”. It shows the four different ways in which the Divine self is hidden in human beings. By this, it refers to the ways in which his four body parts make up the four classes, depending on the nature or values that the human holds. The Brahmans hold spiritual and intellectual values and are in charge of teaching Vedic Sanskrit, and thus represent the lord’s head.

The Kshatriyas are the warriors who protect their kingdoms and thus represent the lord’s arms. The Vaishyasare the farmers and merchants in the production nature and represent the almighty’s belly, while the Shudras are the laborers who perform manual labour and thus symbolize his legs’. In the Mahabharat era, the division of Varnas was only for practice of occupation and no such divisive thinking entered their day to day living. A perfect harmony amongst the people prevailed as one could observe from ancient scriptures.

All the five fingers are of different lengths, but when all fingers are together, the strength is more and no one finger can claim supremacy over the other. Much in the same way, though different Varnas existed in the society, all the people lived together, happily. There was a perfect display of unity in diversity and co-existence of diverging competencies.

More questions and answers on Varna system to follow …..

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