In ancient times, switching between castes was possible.

There are many Kshatriyas who became Brahmin. For example, the elder brother of King Shantanu of Mahabharata became a brahmin. In fact, he became a Rishi. His name was Devapi. Maudgalya Brahmins have Kshatriya ancestors, actually. Also, we all know the famous example of Vishwamitra.

The opposite was also not uncommon. The great King Bharata adopted a Brahmin and made him his successor. Bharata had sons, but he did not think them fit to rule the country. So he did that.

But in Dharmasutras, we do not find any provision for changing caste.


  • Manusmriti 10.65 (not dharmasutra) has a provision. Read my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/39863/20129
    – Adiyarkku
    May 4, 2021 at 17:04
  • What is dharmsutra? Did u mean dharmshastra i.e. Smritis?
    – YDS
    May 4, 2021 at 17:10
  • 4
    Caste change is extremely rare in hindu scriptures. These were the miraculous exceptions, not the norm. "In fact, he became a Rishi." - kshatriyas and vaishyas can become rishis, it's not limited to brahmins. So rishi doesn't mean "brahmin". Cases like Vishwamitra, etc. are exceptional, fantastic cases.
    – Ikshvaku
    May 4, 2021 at 17:18
  • @YDS yes. Manu Smriti etc. May 4, 2021 at 17:19
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    Some rcas of the vedas were even revealed by some vaishyas.
    – Ikshvaku
    May 4, 2021 at 17:19

1 Answer 1

But in Dharmasutras, we do not find any provision for changing caste.


There is a provision to change caste according to many scriptures. But, it needs extreme dedication, which is uncommon.

As you mentioned, there are several people in the scriptures who changed their caste.

Manusmriti also says about the possibility of changing caste but needs extreme austerities.

By the force of austerities and the seed they attain higher or lower rank among men, through birth, cycle after cycle.

[42, 3:Status of the Mixed Castes, 10: Abnormal Social Conditions, Manusmriti]

Although it does not explicitly says that it happens at a single birth, we can notice from Sukra Niti that if the force of austerities, in following special penances, is significant enough then it is possible to change caste in a single lifetime.

Inferiority and superiority depend sometimes on the qualities of the seed, sometimes on the character of the field. But excellence is due to both. Viswamitra Vasistha, Matanga and Narada and others became elevated by special penances not by birth.

[78-81, 4: Social Customs and Institutions, Sukra Niti]

Thus, dharma sastras have provisions to change the caste in a single birth. But it is extremely difficult to implement.

  • So, in single birth caste change is possible according to Sukra Niti, not dharmashastra. Jun 16, 2022 at 15:33
  • Shukranīti also known as Shukranītisara is a part of Dharmasastra and considered as Shukracharya's System of Morals. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shukra-Niti @AmritenduMukhopadhyay
    – hanugm
    Jun 16, 2022 at 15:34
  • As far as I know, sukra niti, Brihaspati niti or more recent treatises like kanika niti or chanakya niti - these are nitishastras. These are not dharmashastras. These are treatises on politics. For example how to deal with enemies, etc. Correct me if I am wrong. Can you please give any reference (not Wikipedia) that nitishastras are part of dharmashastras? Jun 16, 2022 at 16:15
  • @Rickross Can you clarify this?
    – hanugm
    Jun 16, 2022 at 16:31
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    @AmritenduMukhopadhyay Actually, Sukracharya is a dharmasastra kartha and has Usana smriti, so I don't think whatever he writes in his other scriptures conflicts this. And the scripture preface is saying it as 'laws of sukra'. But, I asked for Rickross as he is an expert of smritis.
    – hanugm
    Jun 16, 2022 at 17:41

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