The author of the blog post What's your Varna quotient? uses a certain definition of varṇa:

The generic definition of the term 'Varna' comes from 'Vriyate Iti Varnaha' implying that one can choose the group and occupation based on your innate tendencies. "Just as a wooden toy elephant cannot be real elephant, and a stuffed deer cannot be a real deer, so, without studying scriptures and the Vedas and the development of intellect, a Braahmana by birth cannot be considered a Braahmana" says the Manu Smriti [2.157]. A hymn from the Rig Veda goes to the extent of saying, "No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to prosperity."

What is the source of this explanation/etymology? Is it taken from Hindu scripture or one of the Sanskrit dictionaries?


1 Answer 1


Yes, that etymology is based on Nirukta 2.3.4 of Yaska:

वर्णः वृणोतेः ।
varNaH vRRiNoteH

According to Unadi Sutras:

3-10 कॄवॄजॄसिद्रुपन्यनिस्वपिभ्यो नित् ॥
3.10 kRRIvRRIjRRIsidrupanyanisvapibhyo nita

Which stats Vriyat Iti Varna See page no. 101 of UnadiVriti.

In his commentary called Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika, Swami Dayananda Saraswati has cited Nirukta 2.3 and given following the commentary in the VarnAsharma section. (you can read it from here - page no. 183

वर्णो वृणोतेरिति निरुक्तप्रामाण्याद्वरणीया वरीतुमर्हाः गुणकर्माणि च दृष्ट्वा यथायोग्यं व्रियन्ते ये ते वर्णाः ।। १ ।।
varNo vRRiNoteriti niruktaprAmANyAdvaraNIyA varItumarhAH guNakarmANi cha dRRiShTvA yathAyogyaM vriyante ye te varNAH || 1 ||

The means... While defining Varna, "Varnam Vrinate Iti" from Nirukta is proof. Adhikara (rites) should be given to person according to or on the basis of his Guna.

  • Add transliteration for Devanagari. Many can't read it. Here the main verses are in Devanagari. Also please don't use half hearted transliteration like putting A in the middle and leaving everything else. People understand it as typo. Sep 1, 2018 at 17:46
  • @Sarvabhouma Yes, actually I didn't have time to update the answer after adding. Will consider to revise it
    – Pandya
    Sep 1, 2018 at 18:00
  • is there a difference between 'on the basis of his Guna', and 'on the basis of his Guna alone' ?
    – ram
    Sep 2, 2018 at 2:21

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