The division of society into four varnas (classes) had its origin in the Rig Vedic period. The current Hindu caste system in India is a complete corruption of the Vedic social work order system, because it’s based on birth (caste from birth) and not based on the attitudes, qualities, and consciousness developed. Religious conversions played a significant part in subsuming large societies into the tenets of humanism and a single large society. The last Varna represents the backbone of a prosperous economy, in which they are revered for their dutiful conduct toward life duties set out for them. Join now. As happened at many different times and places in world history, the conquerors set themselves up as a ruling class. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. Answered Can you explain caste system of vedic period? Massive colonisation, impact of ‘cultural imperialism’ enforced significant alterations on Varna duties. The Vedic period, or Vedic age (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE), is the period in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age of the history of India when the Vedas were composed in the northern Indian subcontinent, between the end of the urban Indus Valley Civilisation and a second urbanisation which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. As per the Vedas, it is the ideal duty of a human to seek freedom from subsequent birth and death and rid oneself of the transmigration of the soul, and this is possible when one follows the duties and principles of one’s respective Varna. Vaishyas started to see themselves as powerful in their ownership of land and subjection of Shudras. The Vedic scriptures do not authorize a caste system which is fixed … There are at least two perspectives for the origins of the caste system in ancient and medieval India, which focus on either ideological factors or on socio-economic factors. Shudras, far from left out or irrelevant, are the base of an economy, a strong support system of a prosperous economic system, provided they remain confined to their life duties and not give in to greed, immoral conduct, and excess self-indulgence. There was the chance of inter-mixture between the Aryan and non-Aryan Vaishyas. By 1000 BC the Vedic Aryans moved East wards towards the more fertile Ganges plain. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. Varnas, in principle, are not lineages, considered as pure and indisputable, but categories, thus inferring the precedence of conduct in determining a Varna instead of birth. 2. Vaishyas are also the twice-born and go to the Brahmins’ ashram to learn the rules of a virtuous life and to refrain from intentional or accidental misconduct. When the Vaishayas were in such a declining state, one can imagine the condition of the Sudras. The Aryans tried to maintain the purity of their descent by introducing the ritual of initiation. 4. In Dwapar and Kali Yugas it was further degraded into caste system. While many citizens practice a diluted version of Varna system, extending its limitations and rigidness to a broader context of Hindu religion, staunch believers still strive and promote the importance of reclaiming the system. This strange social system warrants our study in regard to the origin and development of Ancient Vedic Caste System of India. A Brahmin could kill a Sudra with impunity. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms. The system is seen in the South Indian Tamil literature from the Sangam period, dated to the third to sixth centuries CE. DR. KANA CHATTOPADHYAY. Brahmins became the superior power in the society. An elaborated Varna system with insights and reasoning is found in the Manu Smriti (an ancient legal text from the Vedic Period), and later in various Dharma Shastras. As per Manu Smriti, a Brahmin woman must only marry a Brahmin and no other, but she remains free to choose the man. They performed Upanayana or initiation. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. During this period other religions like Buddhism and Jainism evolved. A critical study of the Rig Veda reveals the following features, of the caste system. They formed a vis’ or the Vaishya class. It is therefore suggested by scholars that in the Rig Vedic period the Aryans were divided into classes instead of castes. Nevertheless, a Shudra woman would not be rejected if the Brahmin consented. Even married Brahmins were called Brahmachari (celibate) by virtue of having intercourse only for reproducing and remaining mentally detached from the act. Lesson Two – The Vedic Period and Caste System 6.24 Analyze the impact of the Aryan invasions. However, anyone from other Varnas could also become a Brahmin after extensive acquisition of knowledge and cultivation of one’s intellect. Brahmins started to feel the authoritarian nature of their occupation and status, because of which arrogance seeped in. The Rigvedic society had a flexible caste system which allowed individuals to change their castes if necessary. The caste system. It was during this period of history that ancient India developed its distinctive caste system. Vaishyas would work in close coordination with the administrators of the kingdom to discuss, implement, and constantly upgrade the living standards by providing profitable economic prospects. As a large Varna populace became difficult to handle, the emergence of Jainism propounded the ideology of one single human Varna and nothing besides. Mixing of castes was also considered a part of the declining interest in Varna system. In the post-Vedic period, the Varna system misinterpreted as a Caste system. They were only entitled to initiate an Aryan. Most studies point out that modern Homo Sapiens developed in Africa some 200,000 years ago. However, Atharva Veda allows Shudras to hear and learn the Vedas by heart, and the Mahabharata, too, supports the inclusion of Shudras in ashrams and their learning the Vedas. He has pointed out that Varna and Sreni divisions became the basis of caste divisions. Thus the four classes developed in the Late Rig Vedic Age. The vedic caste system simply comprises of 4 Varnas – Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Change of caste became difficult though not absolutely impossible. The caste system. Brahmins constitute its mouth, Kshatriyas its arms, Vaishyas its thighs, and Shudras its feet. During the later Vedic period the caste system became very rigid. Cite This Work In the Period of the Sutras there was a general crystallization of caste divisions. The caste system has evidently been more flexible, in terms of appropriate work for Brahmins, than one might expect. There was a real distinction between the Aryans and the aborigines. Caste is a European innovation having no semblance in Vedic culture. Records from the classical and medieval periods in India mention men of the Brahmin class performing work other than carrying out priestly duties or teaching about religion. Jati and Varna are classifications of the traditional Indian Society. Hereditary occupations were converted into hereditary castes. Many kings found it acceptable to reject their Brahmin guru’s advice and hence became self-regulating, taking unrighteous decisions, leading to loss of kingship, territory, and the confidence of the Vaishyas and Shudras. Change of caste was common. Kshatriyas constituted the warrior clan, the kings, rulers of territories, administrators, etc. The first three groups from the top are divas means twice barn. A critical study of the Rig Veda reveals the following features, of the caste system. There was a real distinction between the Aryans and the aborigines. ), Vaishyas (agriculturalists, traders, etc., also called Vysyas), and Shudras (labourers). Please help us create teaching materials on Mesopotamia (including several complete lessons with worksheets, activities, answers, essay questions, and more), which will be free to download for teachers all over the world. Intercepting the Moghul invasion and the near-end sovereignty of multiple Hindu dynasties, British invasion brought with it a fresh worldview based on equality and freedom, incompatible with the Varna system. Many Shudras were also allowed to be agriculturalists, traders, and enter occupations of Vaishyas. Whether the caste system existed in the Vedic age also, cannot be said for certain. The period between 300 CE to 700 CE marked the intersection of multiple religions. The main idea is that such order in a society would lead to contentment, perpetual peace, wilful adherence to law, wilful deterrence from all misconduct, responsible exercise of liberty and freedom, and keeping the fundamental societal trait of ‘shared prosperity’ above all others. 1. 1. Vaishya women, too, supported their husbands in business, cattle rearing, and agriculture, and shared the burden of work. This process, occurring between 700 CE and 1500 CE, continues to this day, as India is now home to a repository of the primary four Varnas and hundreds of sub-Varnas, making the original four Varnas merely ‘umbrella terms’ and perpetually ambiguous. The word “Varna” in Rig Veda denoted colour and not caste. When the Aryans first came to India perhaps they did not know the caste system. They performed the sacrifices and rituals for their clients. Find an answer to your question Can you explain caste system of vedic period? Certain scholars hold that the caste system based on heredity was unknown in the early Vedic period. It was during this period of history that ancient India developed its distinctive caste system. There is no caste system in vedas. Given this liberty, a deviated choice is always assessed for its cascading impact on others. The petty rulers of these tribal kingdoms sank to the class of warriors and nobility. The remaining bulk of the Aryans received protection from the warrior class called the Kshatriyas. Simply select your manager software from the list below and click on download. The Vedas were ancient scriptures, written in the Sanskrit language, which contained hymns, philosophies, and rituals handed down to the priests of the Vedic religion. Ask your question. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. Besides austerities like the Brahmins, they would gain additional knowledge of administration. Cattle rearing was one of the most esteemed occupations of the Vaishyas, as the possession and quality of a kingdom’s cows, elephants, horses, and their upkeep affected the quality of life and the associated prosperity of the citizens. The aborigines who were outside the Aryan race were considered as the Sudras. 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