We know that there are four Varna(वर्ण) called Brahmin, kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. I found words/terms like Jati(जाति) and Jnati(ज्ञाति) are also used to convey similar meanings. One another related term is Kula(कुल).

I want to know the difference and relation among these Sanskrit words or terms. i.e. what do each terms refer to and how are they different and/or related to each other?

  • You can add in Caste as well in your question. Feb 2, 2017 at 9:41
  • related: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/157/70 Feb 2, 2017 at 9:42
  • asking about Varna & Jati is ok..but "Jnati" means relative..In bengali too we use that word often..So u may remove that from ur question..
    – Rickross
    Feb 2, 2017 at 10:36
  • @VineetMenon Caste is an English word. I want to know only about Sanskrit words which I mentioned in questions.
    – Pandya
    Feb 2, 2017 at 12:20
  • @Pandya, I asked you to include Caste is because many people confuse the three things or have misinformation about the three. I mentioned it for posterity, not because of you. :) Feb 3, 2017 at 6:49

2 Answers 2


In Manu Smriti, and other similar scriptures, both the words - Varna and Jati - are used to mean the same thing.

There are many verses in the text which will prove my point.

First of all, see the following verse which defines which are the four Varnas:


ब्राह्मणः क्षत्रियो वैश्यस्त्रयो वर्णा द्विजातयः ।
चतुर्थ एकजातिस्तु शूद्रो नास्ति तु पञ्चमः ॥ ४ ॥

brāhmaṇaḥ kṣatriyo vaiśyastrayo varṇā dvijātayaḥ |
caturtha ekajātistu śūdro nāsti tu pañcamaḥ || 4 ||

The Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya are the three twice-born castes; the fourth is the one caste, Śūdra; there is no fifth.—(4)

And, now see the verses given below which mention the same Varnas as Jatis.


देशधर्मान्जातिधर्मान् कुलधर्मांश्च शाश्वतान् ।
पाषण्डगणधर्मांश्च शास्त्रेऽस्मिन्नुक्तवान् मनुः ॥ ११८ ॥

deśadharmānjātidharmān kuladharmāṃśca śāśvatān |
pāṣaṇḍagaṇadharmāṃśca śāstre'sminnuktavān manuḥ || 118 ||

The eternal laws op countries, duties op castes and laws of dynasties,—also the laws relating to heretics and to guilds,—all this manu has expounded in these Institutes.—(118)

Here the word Jati-dharman is found and Manu Smriti is well-known to give laws for the four castes (or Varnas like Brahmins etc). So, Jati and Varna mean the same thing.


जातिमात्रोपजीवी वा कामं स्याद् ब्राह्मणब्रुवः ।
धर्मप्रवक्ता नृपतेर्न शूद्रः कथं चन ?? ॥ २० ॥

jātimātropajīvī vā kāmaṃ syād brāhmaṇabruvaḥ |
dharmapravaktā nṛpaterna śūdraḥ kathaṃ cana ?? || 20 ||

Even a so-called Brāhmaṇa, who makes a living by his caste only, may, at pleasure be the propounder of the Law for the king,—but not a Śūdra under any circumtsances.—(20)

Few more verses which have the word Jati in them are given below.

8.273. He who through arrogance makes false statements regarding the learning (of a caste-fellow), his country, his caste (jati), or the rites by which his body was sanctified, shall be compelled to pay a fine of two hundred (panas).

10.11. From a Kshatriya by the daughter of a Brahmana is born (a son called) according to his caste (jati) a Suta; from a Vaisya by females of the royal and the Brahmana (castes) spring a Magadha and a Vaideha

10.26. The Suta, the Vaidehaka, the Kandala, that lowest of mortals, the Magadha, he of the Kshattri caste (jati), and the Ayogava,

It is also well known that by doing certain forbidden acts people loose their castes.

For example, a Brahmin by doing certain things (like eating forbidden foods or by selling forbidden items) becomes a Kshatriya, a Kshatriya a Vaishya etc..

So, here there is loss of Varna to be precise. But this loss is called as Jati-bhramsa and not Varna-bhramsa. This further proves the point that Jati and Varna are basically the same as per the text.

ब्राह्मणस्य रुजः कृत्वा घ्रातिरघ्रेयमद्ययोः ।
जैह्म्यं च मैथुनं पुंसि जातिभ्रंशकरं स्मृतम् ॥ ६७ ॥

brāhmaṇasya rujaḥ kṛtvā ghrātiraghreyamadyayoḥ |
jaihmyaṃ ca maithunaṃ puṃsi jātibhraṃśakaraṃ smṛtam || 67 ||

Causing pain to a Brāhmaṇa,—smelling at things that should not be smelt, or at wine,—cheating—and sexual intercourse with a man,—all this is declared to lead to loss of caste.—(66)


  • Good Answer.Upvoted. Pl. check the second line of sloka 20 (sanskrit part).
    – user17294
    Apr 21, 2019 at 8:24
  • @commonman Where is the mistake? cana/chana?
    – Rickross
    Apr 21, 2019 at 14:55
  • Yes added that now @commonman
    – Rickross
    Apr 21, 2019 at 15:10

According to Sanskritdictionary.com, the word, one meaning of 'JAti' is:

जातिः f. [जन्-क्तिन्] : A caste, tribe or class (of men); अरे मूढ जात्या चेदवध्यो$हं एषा सा जातिः परित्यक्ता Ve.3; (the primary castes of the Hindus are only four :-- ब्राह्मण, क्षत्रिय, वैश्य and शूद्र.

And One meaning of 'VarNa' is :

वर्णः [वर्ण्-अच् Uṇ.3.1] : A class of men, tribe, caste (especially applied to the four principal castes, ब्राह्मण, क्षत्रिय, वैश्य and शूद्र; वर्णानामानुपूर्व्येण Vārt; न कश्चिद्वर्णानामपथमपकृष्टो$पि भजते Ś.5. 1; R.5.19.

So both have identical meanings as per the dictionary.

As has been pointed out elsewhere in other posts, Arjuna mentions in the Gita that the 'VarNa-sankaras' ruin the family because they are not entitled for the 'Pitri-karma'-s (1/40-43)

1.40 From the ruin of the family are totally destroyed the traditional rites and duties of the family. When rites and duties are destroyed, vice overpowers the entire family also.

1.41 O Krsna, when vice predominates, the women of the family become corrupt. O descendent of the Vrsnis, when women become corrupted, it results in the intermingling of castes.

1.42 And the intermingling in the family leads the ruiners of the family verily into hell. The forefathers of these fall down (into hell) because of being deprived of the offerings of rice-balls and water.

1.43 Due to these misdeeds of the ruiners of the family, which cause intermingling of castes, the traditional rites and duties of the castes and families become destroyed.

Sri Krishna also mentions that the 'Varna-sankara'-s ruin the world (3/24):

3.24 These worlds will be ruined if I do not perform action. And I shall become the agent of intermingling (of castes), and shall be destroying these beings.

Unless Varna is determined by birth, these opinions of Arjuna and Krishna lose meaning.

Sri Krishna also uses the term 'PApa-yoni'(Gita,9/32) which is again an indicator of His relating Varna to birth.

So it seems that according to the Sanatana Dharma, the two words 'Varna' and 'JAti' have identical meaning.

I will be happy to get corrected by authentic sources.

I have not emphasised on Jnati and Kula hitherto as their meanings are straightforward.

The words 'Jnati' means 'relatives' and 'Kula' means to 'family' as opposed to castes.

Some dictionary-meanings of 'Jnati' are:

ज्ञातिः [ज्ञा-क्तिच्] 1 A paternal relation, a father, brother &c.; agnate relatives collectively. -2 A kinsman or kindred in general. -3 A distant kinsman who is not entitled to the oblations offered to deceased ancestors. -4 A father. -Comp. -कर्मन् n., -कार्यम् the duty of a kinsman. -चेलम् A low-born person; विभिन्न- कर्माशयवाक् कुले नो मा ज्ञातिचेलं भुवि कस्यचिद् भूत् । Bk.12.78. -प्रायः A meal for kinsmen (Mar. जातिभोजन); प्रक्षाल्य हस्ता- वाचम्य ज्ञातिप्रायं प्रकल्पयेत् Ms.3.264. -भावः kin, relationship. -भेदः dissension among relatives. -विद् a. one who has or makes near relatives. etc

Some dictionary-meanings of 'Kula' are:

कुलम् 1 A race, family; निदानमिक्ष्वाकुकुलस्य संततेः R.3.1. -2 The residence of a family, a seat, house, an abode; ददर्श धीमान्स कपिः कुलानि Rām.5.5.1; वसन्नृषि- कुलेषु सः R.12.25. -3 A high or noble family, noble descent; कुले जन्म Pt.5.2; कुलशीलसमन्वितः Ms.7.54,62; so कुलजा, कुलकन्यका &c. -4 A herd, troop, flock; collection, multitude; मृगकुलं रोमन्थमभ्यस्यतु Ś.2.6; U.2.9; अलिकुलसंकुल Gīt.1; Śi.9.71; so गो˚, कृमि˚, महिषी˚ &c. -5 A lot, gang. band (in a bad sense). -6 A country. -7 The body. -8 The front or fore part. -9 A tribe, caste, community. -1 A blue stone. -लः The head of a guild or corporation. etc.

  • Can you please tell me what is "jnati" which you wrote at the end? Because it's जाति (jaati) not jnati as far as I know
    – user6981
    Apr 20, 2019 at 20:45

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