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What do the Vedas say about caste? For the purpose of this question you can take a broad approach of the definition of caste.

Like if it is called varna in vedas, then I want to know what the vedas say about varna.

I'm trying to compose a list of quotations about varna or caste.

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Here are three quotes in the Vedic Samhitas:

ब्रा॒ह्म॒णो॑ऽस्य॒ मुख॑मासीद्बा॒हू रा॑ज॒न्यः॑ कृ॒तः ।

ऊ॒रू तद॑स्य॒ यद्वैश्यः॑ प॒द्भ्यां शू॒द्रो अ॑जायत ॥ १०.०९०.१२

The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudras was produced. ~Rig Veda 10.90.12 translated by R. Griffiths

Yajur Veda 26.2 translated by Devi Chand:

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 18.48 translated by Devi Chand:

O God grant love to our holy priests, set love in our ruling chiefs. Grant love to the Vaishyas and Shudras; give out of Thy unbounded store of love, love unto me!


Let me add that the caste system as seen in certain Smritis is not seen in the Vedic Samhitas.

If then with all the documents before us, we ask the question, does caste as we find it in Manu and at the present day, form part of the most ancient religious teaching of the Vedas? We can answer with a decided No. ~Max Mueller in Chips from a German Work-shop

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  • Do you know how Devi Chand translates Rig Veda 10.90.12? – sv. Feb 17 '18 at 17:46
  • I don't know if Devi Chand translated Rig Veda. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 18 '18 at 13:32
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Here are some verses from the Taittiriya Samhita of the Krishna Yajur Veda that talk about caste:

1.8.3:

The wrong to Çudra [Shudra] or Aryan

2.5.10:

In the case of a Rajanya let him repeat the Trcas thrice three other sorts of men are there besides the warrior, the Brahman, Vaishya and Shudra; verily he makes them obedient to him.

4.3.10:

They praised with nineteen, the Shudra and the Arya were created.

5.7.6:

Grant us brilliance in our Brahmans, Place brilliance in our princes, Brilliance in Vaishyas and Shudras.

6.4.8:

Therefore it is drawn for Mitra and Varuna together; therefore with a king as helper they slay a king, with a Vaishya a Vaishya, with a Shudra a Shudra.

7.1.1:

From his feet he meted out the Ekavinça Stoma. After it the Anustubh metre was created, the Vairaja Saman, of men the Shudra, of cattle the horse. Therefore the two, the horse and the Shudra, are dependent on others. Therefore the Shudra is not fit for the sacrifice, for he was not created after any gods. Therefore they depend on their feet, for they were created from the feet.

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First of all, Krishna Yajurveda is mixed with the Brahmana portion. Purusha Sukta is talking about the creation of 4 Varnas obviously not humans because we came with Manu and the Saptrishis. Rig Veda 9.63 says:

इन्द्रं वर्धन्तो अप्तुर: कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम् । अपघ्नन्तो अराव्णः ॥

This is a prayer to make all humans Aryas. So when Krishna Yajurveda is making a distinction between Shudra & Arya it means bad people and noble people. Of course, birth is as per karma but this is a very clear message from the Veda itself that Varna can be changed! Now if we see Upanishads or Brahmanas we almost always get the same picture. Look at Chandogya Upanishad talks about the initiation story of another Upanishad's author:

Gautama asked him, ‘O Somya, what is your lineage?’ Satyakāma said: ‘Sir, I do not know what my lineage is. When I asked my mother, she said to me: “I was very busy serving many people when I was young, and I had you. As this was the situation, I know nothing about your lineage. My name is Jabālā, and your name is Satyakāma.” So, sir, I am Satyakāma Jābāla’. Gautama said to him: ‘No non-brāhmin could speak like this.

So the son of a highly impure shudra woman and unknown man was declared Brahmin. Now look at the story of Vedic author Vatsa found in Tandya Brahmana 14.6.6, Jaiminiya Brahmana 3.234:

The two sons of Kanva, Medhatithi and Trioka, contended about the sacred lore (brahman). They said : ' Come, let us cross the flaming fire'. They crossed the flaming fire. Tris'oka crossed over it (unharmed), but of the other it scorched the eye-lashes. Ho (Trisoka) said to him (to Medhatithi) : ' I have vanquished thee '. ' No ', said he, 'thou art the son of an Asura-mother ; even the deities have not wished to touch thee'. Then, they (said): 'Come, let us cross the water'. They crossed the flowing Rathaspa. Tris'oka crossed over it (unharmed), but of the other the rims of his cart were moistened by the water of the Rathaspa (translation uncertain, text corrupted !). He (TriSoka) said to him (to Medhatithi): 'I have vanquished thee'.

let us walk according to the rite through fire (to decide) which of us two is the better brahmin

Agni preferred Shudra's son. Shudra's son was a superior Brahmin compared to birth-Brahmin. Another example from the Brahmanas is in Kausitaki Brāhmana 12.3 and Aitareya Brāhmana 8.19

"You are the son of a female slave. We will not eat with you" (dāsya vai tvam putro si na vayam tvaya saha bhaksayisyama iti). Kavasa became angry and ran away. He recited a hymn of praise to Sarasvati, who then followed after him: sarasvatim etena suktena tustava tam heyam iyaya. Realizing what had happened, the surprised seers hurried to him to express their reverence: "0 seer, homage be to you. Do not harm us. You indeed are the best of us...

Saraswati considers a Shudra's son superior to all birth-Brahmins combined at being a Brahmin. The birth-Brahmins also accept they are inferior to him. He authored a part of Rig Veda. There are 108 canonical Upanishads as per Muktika Upanishad. One of them is Vajrasuchika Upanishad which says

It is said that a Brahmana is so because of his caste. This is not acceptable because there are diverse communities in the world... ...Among these many have attained the highest rank, despite of their lower birth and given proof of their wisdom. Therefore a Brahmana is not so because of his community.

Self-explanatory. I have given examples from 7 Vedic texts against caste.

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  • "Purusha Sukta is talking about the creation of 4 Varnas obviously not humans" - varnas of whom if not humans? – sv. Jun 28 at 16:56
  • Varnas in general. For example Sun is kshatriya varna but his son Saturn is of shudra varna. – R. Kaushik Jun 28 at 17:36
  • Gods have varnas too? Who are the Brahmin and Vaishya gods? So the Shudra gods serve the upper caste gods? – sv. Jun 28 at 19:00
  • Of course yes, and not just Gods. There is nothing like caste. Shukra is Brahmin. His daughter married a kshatriya. Budh is vaishya. – R. Kaushik Jun 28 at 19:51

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