In Buddhism, the word "jāti" is doctrinally very important. The fully enlightened Arhat Buddhists declare upon enlightenment: "Jati has ended".

In Hinduism, "jati" is said to have the following meaning:

Jati, also spelled jat, caste, in Hindu society. The term is derived from the Sanskrit jāta, “born” or “brought into existence,” and indicates a form of existence determined by birth. In Indian philosophy, jati (genus) describes any group of things that have generic characteristics in common. Sociologically, jati has come to be used universally to indicate a caste group among Hindus.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Jāti (in Devanagari: जाति, Bengali: জাতি, Telugu:జాతి, Kannada:ಜಾತಿ, Malayalam: ജാതി, Tamil:ஜாதி, literally "birth") is a group of clans, tribes, communities, and sub-communities, and religions in India. Each Jāti typically has an association with a traditional job function or tribe. Religious beliefs (e.g. Sri Vaishnavism or Veera Shaivism) or linguistic groupings may define some Jātis. A person's surname typically reflects a community (Jāti) association: thus Gandhi = perfume seller, Dhobi = washerman, Srivastava = military scribe, etc


A few years ago, I read a blog on the internet by an Indian scholar about "varna" & "jati"; in which the scholar said the origins of the word "jati" were not clear. I commented on the blog "jati" is contained extensively in the Buddhist Pali suttas but the scholar did not reply to me. I currently am unable to locate this blog.

My question is: "Is the word &/or notion of "jāti" found in the Vedas, which pre-date the Buddha?"


1 Answer 1


The jatis are NOT mentioned in the Vedas, but only the Varna’s, and that too, only once, in the Purusha Suktam, which is a hymn in the Rig Veda, and is again repeated in the Shukla Yajurveda. Today Purusha Suktam is generally understood to be a Yajurvedic Purusha Suktam. In the twelfth verse of the same:

brāhmaṇosya mukhamāsīt |
bāhū rājanyaḥ kṛtaḥ |
ūrū tadasya yadvaiśyaḥ |
padbhyāgṃ śūdro ajāyataḥ ||

The ‘brāhmaṇa’ was His mouth, the ‘kṣatriya’ was made of His arms, then His two thighs became the ‘vaiśya’, from His feet the ‘śūdra’ was born.

It is to be noted that in this verse, the word ‘rājanyaḥ’ meaning royalty, refers to the Kśatriyas.

  • 2
    Thank you for your answer, Hayagreev. However, it appears the word "jati" is not found in the verse. Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 10:34
  • Yes, the exact word ‘jati’ is not found anywhere in the Vedas. But the title of your question states ‘notion of jati’. That is why I had posted this answer.
    – user15963
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 10:35
  • Thank you very much. Your reply still probably answered my question. Sorry if my question was not clear. I edited the question. What about "ajāyataḥ" found above? What does this mean? It appears similar to jāyati (Pali) or "jAyate" (Sanskrit). Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 10:40
  • 1
    Purushasuktam talks about Varna not jati.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 10:53
  • @TheDestroyer Oh yes! I think I confused that! Thank you for correcting me!!
    – user15963
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 12:28

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