Are there any instances in Śruti scriptures which explicitly support birth-based varna?

Edit: I'm not looking for interpretations, please only cite those references which exactly say that Varna is birth-based i.e dependent upon lineage.


Which Śruti texts explicitly state that varna is based on birth?

There are several Sruti texts that state Varna is based on birth. I've listed a few below:

Chhandogya Upanishad 5.10.7 - Those whose conduct has been good here will shortly get birth such as a Brahmana (brahmana yonim), a kshatriya, or a vaishya. But those whose conduct has been evil will be born in evil births shortly such as the birth of a dog (shva yonim), or as a pig, or a chandala.

The word used is "yonim", and it means birth or womb, and is used to refer to birth as a dog (shva), and pig, and since it's also used along with the names of castes, it must be taken to mean that one is born into those castes just like animals, so it doesn't merely mean being born as a person with Brahmanical qualities. It means being born into the womb (yoni) of a Brahmin, and a person born into such a womb naturally acquires Brahminical qualities due to gene transfer.

Maitrayani Samhita 1.4.1 - We know not if we are brahmins or non-Brahmins. ...Therefore, when recounting our gotra-pravaras, say that the devas are our fathers.

This verse from the Maitrayani shakha of the Krishna Yajur Veda is referred to in Jaimini's Mimamsa Sutras, and commented on by Shabara swami. The sutra reads:

On account of the failings of women, (there can be no certainty regarding one's caste); specially as the son belongs to the progenitor.

Shabara's commentary for the sutra:

The meaning of the eulogistic passage is that even a non-Brahmana would become a Brahmana by the recounting of his pravaras [meaning a non-Brahmana can claim he is a Brahmana by recounting Brahmanical gotra pravaras, and hence it is necessary for the Brahmana to also recount his pravaras, as one can never be sure of one's Brahmanahood]. It is difficult to know if one is really a Brahmana; - and this is what is figuratively spoken of as 'we do not know'; and the difficulty in knowing it for certain is due to the 'failings of women'.

This vedic verse shows that caste is determined by gotra pravaras (ancestral lineages), and hence caste is inherited and based on birth.

If caste was determined by guna or self-identification/self-claiming, like the followers of Vivekananda and reformist Vedantins believe, then this verse would not mention gotra pravaras at all since it wouldn't be relevant.

And another verse is from the Ashwamedha section of the Taittiriya Brahmana, which reads:

‘When a Sudra woman is the mistress of an Arya, she does not seek wealth for prosperity’. Therefore they (the priests) do not bestow royal consecration on the son of a Vaishya woman."

This shows that only kshatriyas by birth are allowed to be consecrated as kings, and not other castes.

The pre-Ramanuja Sri Vaishnava scholar Yamunacharya has stated:

Every man has some Vedic rites for which he is not qualified: the Brahmin is not qualified for the royal consecration, the Kshatriya for the ritual drinking of soma.

So it is proven that the Vedas talk about a birth-based caste system.

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    Question clearly states: "I'm not looking for interpretations" - except for the first reference everything else is just commentary. – sv. Jul 18 '19 at 1:05
  • @sv. What else could this mean: "We know not if we are brahmins or non-Brahmins. ...Therefore, when recounting our gotra-pravaras, say that the devas are our fathers."? OR, one can say that everything is an "interpretation". Even a verse like "Brahmins are the offspring of Brahmins" can be interpreted to mean anything anyone wants to suit their beliefs. What I'm providing are verses that are hard for neo-vedantins to twist these verses any other way than suggesting birth based caste system based on the most logical and natural reading of these verses. – Ikshvaku Jul 18 '19 at 1:07
  • @sv. The verse: "We know not if we are brahmins or non-Brahmins. ...Therefore, when recounting our gotra-pravaras, say that the devas are our fathers." presupposes that caste is based on gotra; aka lineage/ancestry. The speaker of that verse is saying "We don't know our caste because our ancestry can't be determined, so let's just say that the Devas are our fathers", and that's because according to Hinduism, all the castes originate from the Devas. – Ikshvaku Jul 18 '19 at 1:21
  • @Ikshvaku Interesting, Chhandogya Upanishad 5.10.7 doesn't mention Sudra. Does that mean Sudra is only a state of mind as is the case with Raikva who is a kshatriya was called sudra because he is feeling distressed in Chhandogya Upanishad 4.1.3? – Ajay Varma Jul 28 '19 at 15:51
  • @AjayVarma No, it's another caste. That list in the Chhandogya Upanishad is not exhaustive. – Ikshvaku Jul 30 '19 at 13:55

There's nothing in Shruti that supports the claim that Varna is based on birth. I cannot provide any citation as none exist. You might ask why didn't Shruti say anything about the birth based Varna. Well the reason is that Shruti is meant for reasonable human beings. It's sole purpose is to tell us who we are.

Prajnanam Brahma (प्रज्ञानम् ब्रह्म)

Aham Brahma Asmi (अहम् ब्रह्म अस्मि)

Tat Tvam Asi (तत् त्वम् असि)

Ayam Atma Brahma (अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म)

(Veda Mahavakya)

It's not for those who see differences even on basis of birth.

Vasistha in Maharamayan says

Even human compositions are acceptable when they instruct good sense because men are always required to abide by reason. Otherwise, the Vedas should be renounced as unreliable. (Verse 2)

Words that conform to reason are to be received even if spoken by children. Otherwise they are to be rejected as straw even if they are pronounced by the lotus-born Brahma himself. (Verse 3)

(Chapter 18, Book 2)

  • "It's not for those who see differences even on basis of birth" - Maybe you are referring to Upanishads which are the last-part of Sruti that deal with Brahman, The majority of Vedas deal with day-to-day life, rituals, karma etc. all of which require us to see differences. – ram Jan 10 '19 at 2:03
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    Alright see the differences but remember it also says those who associate themselves with perishable ("asat") becomes perishable and those who associate with "sat" becomes imperishable. He goes from death to death who sees multiplicity in It (Kath. Up. 2.1.11) – Lokesh Jan 10 '19 at 3:55
  • Vedas to cater to different classes of people, with Tamas, Rajas & Satva. We cannot force people to only focus on Satva guna and achieve Moksha. Krishna himself mentions it - Trigunya Vishaya Vedaha. If everyone read just the Upanishads, then the world stops revolving, but this Leela has to continue.. – ram Jan 10 '19 at 5:33
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    There is nothing in Sruti, agreed; but your answer doesn't answer the question. – Swami Vishwananda Jan 10 '19 at 6:30
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    @Sarvabhouma The question is "Are there any instances in Śruti scriptures which explicitly support birth-based varna?" I said no. Yes I agree I have provided irrelevant details but you cannot say I haven't answered the question. Also how do I cite citation when none exists? – Lokesh Jan 12 '19 at 9:30

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