As per what I have read and learnt, In the Purusha Suktam of the Yajur Veda the following lines appear:

brAhmano asya mukhamAseet | bAhoo rAjanya: krta: | ooru tadasya yad vaishya | padbhyAm shoodro ajAyata |

(asya) His (mukham) mouth (Aseet) became (brAhmaNa:)the Brahmin, (bAhoo) his arms (krta:) were made (rAjanya:) Kings. (yad) what were (asya ooru) his thighs, (tad) they weremade into (vaishya:) the merchants, (padbhyAm) and from his feet (shoodro) were the servants (ajAyata) born.

Can someone give me a better source for the reality of the caste system in India? Were the castes to be only associated with the professions of the individual or were they to be carried forth as a heritage with the lineage?

Edits to factor in my opinion on naming of the castes, which have off late taken up a myopic, perverse and prejudiced meaning:

Though I do not concur with the usage of the words "Brahmin", "Kings", "Merchants" and "Servants", I have pasted it as it was from my source. I prefer using the words "Margadarshi","Rakhshak","Sanchaalak" and "Paalak".

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    You may have a look at this: are Varna and caste same?. Also note that shudra doesn’t mean servant (as someone who pays and is like a domestic help). Servant must be understood as someone who serves i.e. gives services such as hair cutting, shoe making, pottery, etc. He must give these services or serve in the upper caste in this manner. – Archit Dec 11 '20 at 18:44
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    Thanks for letting me know. I am aware of who are categorised are shudras. Just so you know, even film actors, singers, directors and artists who appeal to our creative sensibilities and entertain us, also belong to the varna of 'shudras'. This is only for those who read this page and are carried away by the notion of shudras being the serving men/women, paid poorly and living humbly-in reference to your "hair cutting, shoe making, pottery". It is perfectly right. Just that no reader must limit his/her ideas to just that. – Krishan Dec 16 '20 at 8:22
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    This is only an attempt to go beyond our preconceived notions and break those flimsy barriers that have been erected in our minds by all the thrusting from our milieu and all that is carried forward by our genetic material. – Krishan Dec 16 '20 at 8:24
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    Yes yes thank you I’m aware of dancers and entertainers being shudras too :). You mean going beyond the western mindset. – Archit Dec 16 '20 at 9:47
  • Rather I would say, breaking the predominant oriental mindset. Don't know why you call it 'western'. But that too needs a sound thrashing. Imagine if dark Africans had gone around colonizing the world. Black supremacists would have ruled the world. Indian mothers would have been ready to be in gestation for even 18 months if that would guarantee a dark child ;) Sorry!Drifted away. Whatever we may say, the shudras being at the bottom of a so-called 'hierarchy' of Varnas has got mixed up so inextricably with our blood, I still feel a stingy sensation when I say "SHOODRAAS". Ugh! Hate my blood. – Krishan Dec 16 '20 at 10:24

The following verse (Sanskrit: Sloka) from Srimad Bhagvad-Gita (Chapter 4 - Sloka 13) is most authentic and adequate reference to be quoted

Sanskrit Verse:

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः । तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ॥ ४-१३॥

English Transliteration of each syllable with meaning:

chātuḥ-varṇyam — the four categories of occupations; mayā—by me; sṛiṣhṭam—were created; guṇa—of quality; karma—and activities; vibhāgaśhaḥ—according to divisions; tasya—of that; kartāram—the creator; api—although; mām—me; viddhi—know; akartāram—non-doer; avyayam—unchangeable

Meaning In English:

The four categories of occupations were created by me according to people’s qualities and activities. Although I am the creator of this system, know me to be the non-doer and eternal.

After quoting above...let me summarize on both of these words (varna and jati)...and their correct interpretation.

Varna - indicative of set of personality traits, and skills and competencies - which also shapes - what would be the ideal role, responsibilities, and possible contribution(s) of an individual as the small unit in the society.

So there are 4 varnas:

  1. Brahmans - Learning, Teaching, propagation of knowledge (either directly acquired or received from earlier generations) in the society, application of intellectual and creative skills for good of individual, and society.

  2. Vaishya - member of business community. Anyone whose purpose of life is mostly focused on creating and acquiring the wealth.

  3. Kshatriya - member of society having great physical and mental capabilities, which are needed to protect the society (to ensure internal and external security of society / state). In English, nearest word to explain this role would be - a warrior or administrator. Therefore, in present context, the Kshtriyas are those who are either into public administration, or in security forces.

  4. Shudra - members of society having one or more technical, professional skills. These skills MUST enable the member to ensure that she / he earns her / his livelihood - by using these earned skil(s).

So what is Jati?

It's an indicative of "what skill set, an individual possess to earn their livelihood to sustain themselves and their family.

Please note that these varnas do NOT have any hierarchy - among themselves. Therefore, I try to company two different varnas - and try to proof or evaluate which is better than other - then basically what I am trying to do is - "to compare an apple with orange"! Which itself is illogical.

And since no varna is higher or lower than other varnas in principle. Last but not least - none of these varna are inferior with other varnas are inferior in ANY WAY.

  • A very good answer, but can you explain a li'l bit more on 'Jati'. Like a big paragraph with examples from real life would do. – Krishan Dec 18 '20 at 11:20

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