https://hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/19101/19211 This answer says that Shudras should serve other orders as menial by "massaging" and obeying their "wishes".

Another section of Mahabharata says The Creator intended the Sudra to become the servant of the other three orders. For this, the service of the three other classes is the duty of Sudra. A Sudra should never amass wealth, lest, by his wealth, he makes the members of the three superior classes obedient to him. By this he would incur sin. Torn clothes which are no longer fit for wear, should be given away by the regenerate classes unto the Sudra.A Sudra cannot have any wealth that is his own. Whatever he possesses belongs lawfully to his master (https://en.krishnakosh.org/krishna/Mahabharata_Santi_Parva_Chapter_60:2)

So as per Mahabharata Shudras were created as servants of 3 Varnas and can't earn wealth, cant learn Vedas and only become "Menial Workers" of Brahmanas? And they are to be given poor torn clothes which everyone discards ? So isn't this violation of basic human ethics?

  • 6
    It takes just 1% logic, to see how discriminating these guidelines are. Be in no doubt about what Swami Vivekananda says: "these verses have been written by men of corrupted conscience (limited intelligence)" to subject a certain kind of people to their whims. Now, these men are not the original rishis who wrote the original scriptures, but modern pretentious rishis who in this deriding age of Kaliyuga must have corrupted the scriptures and interpolated them with all sorts of atrocities against the marginalized to suit them as per their own agendas , fantasies and vile tendencies.
    – Vivikta
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 3:30
  • 4
    Read this answer. The OP cites these verses in several of their answers and for good. AND Yes, some people will always defend them, no matter what. That's beacause the MAyA of the Lord is so strong that these people are tricked into thinking that they're defending dharma when in reality it's the opposite. However, it must be remembered: "Apologetic defense and explanations for the obviously wrong and discriminating things and acts (found in all these interpolated texts) only brings down the glory of our great SanAtan Dharma".
    – Vivikta
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 4:24
  • 1
    What’s the question? You want to know whether a Shudra can earn money or you want to know whether or as per title-Why Mahabharata says Shudra can’t earn money ?
    – Adiyarkku
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 4:28
  • 1
    I want to know why is Mahabharata saying like that. You already quoted one verse from Purana saying they can earn money @Archit Commented May 31, 2021 at 4:31
  • 1
    That's my personal opinion of what Swamiji meant when he says "men of limited intelligence". However, I have read something very similar by some another acharya somewhere too, I'll try to find that one.
    – Vivikta
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 4:34

2 Answers 2


I am answering this question based on occupational(karmic) perspective of Varna at society level only.

It is well-known that a person cannot survive without doing a karma. Everyone needs to do some karma and every person does karma. Observe the following words of Krishna

With regard to the topic at hand, the Brahmanas have held opinions of various kinds. Some say that success in the world to come depends upon work. Some declare that action should be shunned and that salvation is attainable by knowledge. The Brahmanas say--that though one may have a knowledge of eatable things, yet his hunger will not be appeased unless he actually eats. Those branches of knowledge that help the doing of work, bear fruit, but not other kinds, for the fruit of work is of ocular demonstration. A thirsty person drinks water, and by that act his thirst is allayed. This result proceeds, no doubt, from work. Therein lies the efficacy of work. If anyone thinks that something else is better than work, I deem, his work and his words are meaningless. In the other world, it is by virtue of work that the gods flourish. It is by work that the wind blows.

[Section 29, Udyoga Parva, The Mahabharata]

It is thus evident that, karma is necessary for the existence, as well as for the well-being, of an individual. It applies to the society as well.

The contribution of karma(work) to society is of four kinds. It is a classification of karma, at broad level, needed for smooth run of the society. They are

  1. Intellectual
  2. Administration
  3. Trading
  4. Physical

Society cannot run in an organized manner if any kind of contribution is lacking. Thus, each kind of karma needs some humans to perform it. Thus, the Varna system is useful in maintaing the karmic structure of the society.

According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

[13, 4, Bhagavad Gita]

The names of Varnas based on the work are Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras respectively.

The Varna of a person is assigned due to the behaviour and activities of the jiva inside the person only. And hence Krishna told that he is a non-doer. It is the responsibility of the Varna to contribute its kind of karma to society. Every kind of karma is important to society.

Now, why do scriptures ask them not to gather wealth?

The kind of karma contributed by the Shudras is physical in nature. There is no need for them to gather wealth. It is the responsibility of other varnas to provide the required wealth to shudras. If a shudra shows interest and starts performing activities for gaining wealth only, the physical contribution by the shudra may start decline. It is same as a Brahmana doing only physical activities with no intellectual contribution to society. It is a discourageable phenomenon. Observe the following lines by Vamana

O King, controller of the entire universe, although you are very munificent and are able to give Me as much land as I want, I do not want anything from you that is unnecessary. If a learned brāhmaṇa takes charity from others only according to his needs, he does not become entangled in sinful activities.

[17, 19, 8, Srimad-Bhagavatam]

Thus, a person should always be interested in gaining all the resources needed for enhancing or implementing karmas of one's own Varna only. If any resource, that is not needed by one's own varna and if gaining of such resources causes the person to distract from one's own responsibility, then it is always discouraged for any varna.

There are many and similar restrictions for sanyasi, guru and (other three) Varnas also. All the restrictions are based on the occupation of the person. If no such restrictions are present, the person neglects his occupational responsibilities and thus affects the society in a wrong way.

  • Anyone who earns a salary in lieu of services provided automatically qualifies as a Shudra. So where's the question of him not earning money?
    – Siv
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 18:20
  • 1
    @Siv Are you saying about modern times?
    – hanugm
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 23:39

This is because of scripture injunction. As per Manusmriti 10.129

śaktenāpi hi śūdreṇa na kāryo dhanasañcayaḥ | śūdro hi dhanamāsādya brāhmaṇāneva bādhate || 129 ||

Even though he be able, the Śūdra shall not amass wealth; for having acquired wealth, the Śūdra harasses the Brāhmaṇas.—(129)

Medhātithi’s states that

Becoming very rich, they would make the Brāhmaṇas accept gifts from themselves, and the accepting of gifts from the Śūdra has been forbidden for them; hence becoming a party to their doing what is forbidden, he would incur sin.

As far as basic human ethics are concerned, please note that the material pursuits (artha) are encouraged insofar as they are for dharmic goals. So there's nothing inconsistent when scriptures prohibit Shudras from amassing wealth.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .