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O Adi shankaracharya and Acharya Ramanuja commenting on Brahmasutras said

  • Sudras are not allowed to study or hear any Vedas.
  • If a sudra studies or hears Vedas he should be punished.
  • Reading or Hearing about Vedic knowledge will destroy ignorance.

    QUESTION :
  • Are Sudras allowed to read scriptures other than Vedas ?

  • Why they are not allowed to study them ?

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Are sudras allowed to read scriptures other than Vedas ?

Yes they are allowed to read and hear some Scriptures like the Puranas,Itihasas etc.

From Devi Bhagavatam:

18-24. At every Manvantara, in each Dvâpara Yuga, Veda Vyâsa expounds the Purânas duly to preserve the religion. Veda Vyâsa is no other person than Visnu Himself; He, in the form of Veda Vyâsa, divides the (one) Veda into four parts, in every Dvâpara Yuga, for the good of the world. The Brahmânas of the Kali age are shortlived and their intellect (Buddhi) is not sharp; they cannot realise the meaning after studying the Vedas; knowing this in every Dvâpara Yuga Bhagavân expounds the holy Purâna Samhitas. The more so because women, S’udras, and the lower Dvijas are not entitled to hear the Vedas; for their good, the Purânas have been composed

And the reason why they are not allowed to read or hear the Vedas is because they don't wear the Sacred thread.

The Sacred thread ceremony is done only for the men belonging to the first 3 castes but neither for the Sudras nor for the women.

Before reading the Vedas an "initiation" is needed which the Sudras are not entitled to have.

Manu Smriti 10.126. A Sudra cannot commit an offence, causing loss of caste (pataka), and he is not worthy to receive the sacraments; he has no right to (fulfil) the sacred law (of the Aryans, yet) there is no prohibition against (his fulfilling certain portions of) the law.

10.127. (Sudras) who are desirous to gain merit, and know (their) duty, commit no sin, but gain praise, if they imitate the practice of virtuous men without reciting sacred texts.

However,having posted all this,let me clarify that i'm not quite in support of determining caste by birth or by samskara.

Because,in Brahma Purana even Parama Shiva says:

Na yonirnaapi samskaaro na Shrutirnacha santatih, Kaaranaani Dwijasttvasya vrutthamevatu vidheeyatey

It is not by birth, samskara, knowledge of Vedas and by the Offspring that a person possesses, but Brahmanatwa is a decisive factor merely on one’s own behavior, conduct and actions!

But determining caste by Gunas only is also no doubt a complicated and somewhat impractical process.

  • Can you provide the exact verse reference from Brahma Purana? – SMJoe Apr 7 '17 at 6:01
  • 1
    @SMJoe i found the verse on this page.. The verse is highlighted so u'll find it easily. – Rickross Apr 7 '17 at 12:33
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I am supplementing the answer given by defining the term Sudra.

These teachings are not to be imparted to persons who are wicked, haughty, barbarous, foul in conduct, hypocritical, given to sensuous indulgences, interested exclusively in their worldly concerns, who are without devotion to Me or who persecute My devotees.

Srimad Bhagavata Purnana III.32.39-40

Srimad Bhagavatam emphasizes conduct as the reason for not teaching the Vedas to a person and not last name based Sudra.

What is curious is that Vedas themselves deny such a thing (i.e. Vedas are not for Sudras)!

I do hereby address this salutary speech for the benefit of humanity, for the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Sudras, the Vaishas, the kinfolk and the men of the lowest position in society.

Yajur Veda 26.2 translated by Devi Chand

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The advice by Gautama 12:4 quoted by both Ramanuja and Shankara in the Brahmasutras (apashudra-adhikarana) that a Sudra who hears the Vedas chanted should have his ears filled with molten lac was never actually ever carried out - it was just hyperbole.

It was the custom from before Ramanuja and Shankara (over 1500 years ago) to chant the Vedas in the streets during the temple procession when the deity was taken out on a palanquin. All varnas attended the festivals and the majority were Sudras - so an enormous amount of lac would be required to fill all their ears!!

From the Īśvara Saṁhita.

The procession through the streets is to be accompanied by Vedic chanting

Catur vedamayod-ghoṣaiḥ stotra ghoṣa samanvitaiḥ || I.S. 10:363

Festivals should include all four varnas and the Vedas & Prabandhas are to be recited in front of them (I.S. 11: 237, 252)

Adhyayanotsava (Iśvara Saṁhitā 12:228 – 250)

A pavilion is set up either in the outer courtyard of the temple or even beyond the main Gopuram. The deity is taken in procession and then seated in the pavilion to receive worship in front of all the devotees -Then the Vedas, Agamas, Itihasas and Puranas and Prabandhas are all chanted in front of devotees of all castes.

So the actual recorded practice gives the lie to the nasty verse of Gautama.

  • 1
    This looks like commentary and doesn't answer the two questions 1) Are Sudras allowed to read scriptures other than Vedas? 2) Why they are not allowed to study them? – sv. Jul 9 at 16:41
  • Vedas may have recommended restricted Pandits' audition to guard them from improper sonorous expression (uchharana) and not necessarily to altogether deny audition to the Shudras. – Narasimham Jul 10 at 4:18
  • A fresh and new perspective. We forget the practical aspects whenever this type of questions are asked. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Jul 11 at 6:19
  • Sudras can study any scripture they want in today's world - everything is available on the internet. – Pandit Rami Sivan Jul 15 at 7:50

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