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As per the dharmasAstrAs, a vrAtya is defined as one who has (or is descended from one who has) failed to be initiated at the proper time or who has ignored chanting of the Gayatri for over three generations. HH Kanchi Periyava has attested to this below.:

"There is no such hope for a Brahmin in whose family Gayatri has not been chanted for three generations. A member of such a family ceases altogether to be a Brahmin and cannot be made one again. He is just a "Brahmana- bandhu", a kin or a friend of Brahmins. The same rule applies to Ksatriyas and Vaisyas with regard to the Gayatri mantra; they become "ksatriya-bandhus" and "Vaisya-bandhus" respectively."

Similarly, note the following in the Manu Smriti:

laśunaṃ gṛñjanaṃ caiva palāṇḍuṃ kavakāni ca | abhakṣyāṇi dvijātīnāmamedhyaprabhavāni ca ||

Garlic, leeks and onions, mushrooms and (all plants), springing from impure (substances), are unfit to be eaten by twice-born men.

chatrākaṃ viḍvarāhaṃ ca laśunaṃ grāmakukkuṭam | palāṇḍuṃ gṛñjanaṃ caiva matyā jagdhvā pated dvijaḥ ||

A twice-born man who knowingly eats mushrooms, a village-pig, garlic, a village-cock, onions, or leeks, will become an outcast.

At present, there are jAthis, or communities who have been simply continuing the upanayana right before marriage (i.e., after the proper age), who have not chanted the gayatri or practiced sandhyavandana daily for over 3 generations and eat impermissible substances such as those listed above or meat (include that of a village cock) which has not been offered to the pitris, devathAs,etc. I have provided examples and references of such instances below.:

a) The rAzus of Andhra "do not hestitate to eat poultry, something a true Kshatriya would never do" (British Gazetteer, 19th century). Also, all three of the four clans that rAzus descend from described themselves as "sUdrAs" historically. See the following reference for example: "The Kotas belonged to Dhananjaya gotra. Kota chiefs ruled Kammanadu with Dharanikota as capital. Kota Kings belonged to the Shudra varna. After they became the rulers, they came to be recognized as Kshatriyas." In fact, the upanayana of rAzus do NOT follow the proper vedic rituals.:

"Upanayanam (thread ceremony) are performed. But, instead of Vēdic chants, the purōhit recites (pouranik) slōkas specially prepared for non-Brāhman castes" (Madras Census Report, 1901).

b) Similarly, the Komatis had no evidence of upanayana prior to the 18th century where they "fought for the right." This is attested to by their own caste elders below.:

http://aryavysyasangam.com/view2.php.

The niyOgis (rightly) campaigned against this as the Komatis were at best vrAtyas and had no tradition of upanayana samskAra. In fact, their initial upanayanAs were Telugu and later pouranik in origin. Now, they too, follow the "vaishya" vedic upanayanam, which is against scriptural injunction.

c) The Kerala Varmas of the illustrious Travancore dynasty were recorded to have performed the hiranyagarbhA ritual (first by ThirunAl Marthanda Varma). It was only then that he professed a Kshatriya lineage. However, this jAthi maintains dietary restrictions and does not partake in forbidden substances, such as unclean meat, leeks, onions, etc AFAIK. Here is the reference to it.:

https://historicalleys.blogspot.com/2022/11/hiranyagarbha-elevation-of-royal-caste.html

d) The Ramanuja Dasa Kshatriya Vanniyas, known as Rajula Balija, or Dasa Bannajiga "are pure vegetarians...who wear the sacred thread", "do not accept food from anyone besides Sri Vaishnava Brahmins. They have gOtras such as Angirasa, Kashyapa, Janaka, etc" (Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Edgar Thurnston) (Madras Census Report, 1901). There apparently are some who still observe the upanayana samskAra as professed by ex-MLA Annayagari Sai Prathap.:

"...I was told to forgo my jandhyam (yagnopaveetham) by him [YS Rajasekhar Reddy] even though I belonged to the Rajula Balija. [Translated from Telugu]."

The women "observe gOsha" and the men wear the "sacred thread as they claim descent from some royal family" (Castes and Tribes of Southern India- Edgar Thurnston). Even if their claim of royal descent from erstwhile Jain Kings who were converted by RamanujAchArya is true- Once a jAthi becomes Jain/Buddhist for over three generations (and gives up the upanayana), they cannot be considered full dwijAs for the same reasons. There is no evidence that they performed the vrAtyastOma. Besides this fact, this jAthi must have admixture with the current sUdra "balija" clans and CANNOT be considered as full dwijAs, just as the rAzus, komatis,etc.

e) MarAthA KshatriyAs: This clan did not perform the upanayana until the 17th century as referenced here: "It seems that some Brahmins were prepared to perform Shivaji's coronation but with non-Vedic, i.e., with Pauranic rites as is done in the case of Shudras. [Unfortunate] incidents induced Shivaji to call Nischalpuri back and through him and his Brahmins, Shivaji performed afresh the ceremony of ascending the throne, not with Vedic rites, but Tantrik or magical. There are some Vedic mantras from Sama Veda as recited; but the ceremony was not Vedic" (Shivaji the Founder of Maratha Swaraj). Such non-Vedic upanayanas were described in AgamAs, such as the kAmika Agama, among others, but Chatrapathi Sivaji and his jAthi cannot be considered as dwijAs as the ritual is to be purAnik in nature.

Ref.:https://www.himalayanacademy.com/saivite-scriptures/kamika-agama-uttara-pada/

My question is.:

  1. Leaving aside the sath BrAhmanas of today (of whom there are those who can still trace pure descent, timely vEdic samskAras and ingestion of proper diet), would most of the jAthis professing to be "KshatriyAs" or "Vaishyas" pretty much be considered vrAtyas at best (and given the same rights as sUdrAs)? DwijAs also must have had no admixture with other varnAs. Thereby, even if there WERE some who followed the samskAras at proper times, it is inevitable that they have alliances with others in their jAthis who are considered to be vrAtyas or outcaste for the above reasons.According to the dharma sAstrAs, the progeny from such unions cannot be considered proper dwijAs.

  2. Luckily, the sath Brahmanas have been protecting their dharma somewhat and must be encouraged to do so. But for the rest- is their duty to support and serve the brAhmanAs, given that they are most definitely vrAtyas. Given the injunction that fallen dwijas are to be viewed as outcastes, should they be counted as ShUdrAs or panchamAs for ritual purposes?

  3. Should the priests who officiate in/upcoming generations of such jAthis who participate in such upanayanas stop? Or can they continue as the upanayanas are not entirely Vedic anyway (e.g., that of the rAzus, kOmatIs, Chatrapathi Sivaji as given above, etc)

This could also be why vYAsa maharshi declares "sUdra sAduhu" and why SudrAs are allowed to perform certain penances in Kali Yuga...since mostly everyone is a SudrA today. It must also be noted that sUdratva is not a hindrance to mOksha, so I am NOT looking for the "varna is not by birth but character" fallacy. That has been debunked several times. Please back up your answer with references from scripture or authorized heads/leaders of Sanathana Dharma.

Note.: I mean no offense to anyone belonging to the aforementioned jAthis. This question is purely to understand the implications of sAstra in today's context and rituals; examples with references were provided to better frame the question.

May the Vedic Dharma and everyone in BhAratha flourish.

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What you described is the natural way of things to occur in the Kaliyuga

ब्रह्मक्षत्रविशः शूद्रा जात्याचारविवर्जिताः । सन्ध्या च यज्ञसूत्रं च भवेल्लुप्तं न संशयः ॥

Translation: (In Kaliyuga), the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas & śūdras will be devoid of their of the customs assigned to their respective castes. Undoubtedly, the practice of sandhyāvandanā & wearing the yajñopavīta will become extinct. [Devībhāgavatapurāṇa:9:8:23]

1. would most of the jAthis professing to be "KshatriyAs" or "Vaishyas" pretty much be considered vrAtyas at best (and given the same rights as sUdrAs)?

Answer: Yes

Throughout South & East India, only 2 castes exist - brāhmaṇa & śūdra. It is only in North India (& to some extent in West India) that an attempt to maintain the fourfold division of varṇa is seen. However, most of the communities that claim kṣatriya & vaiśya status are actually varṇasaṅkaras described in Smṛti texts. Here is an incomplete list of the recorded varṇasaṅkara communities. Manusmṛti states that all varṇasaṅkara groups are to be treated as śūdras.

It might sound harsh but even the kṣatriya status of Rajputs is questionable because the Viṣṇupurāṇa records that Mahāpadma Nanda, who was (probably) the illegitimate child of a kṣatriya king of Magadha through his maidservant/concubine, after usurping power, had exterminated all kṣatriya families.

Even a Tāntrika text like Mahākālasaṃhitā states

गायत्री वेदमाता या ब्राह्मण्यं क्रतवोऽपि च । वेदा व्रतानि धर्मश्च क्रियाश्चाचारसम्भवाः ।। उपवीताभिधेनैव यज्ञसूत्रेण पार्वति । मन्त्रपूर्वकमाबद्धाः स्थिरतां याति नान्यथा ।।

स्कन्धारुढ़ं तथा सूत्रं द्विजातित्वावबोधकं ।। तदभावस्तथा देवि सद्यः शूद्रत्वबोधकः ।

Translation: O Pārvatī ! Gāyatrī who is the mother of the Veda, brāhmaṇya, yajñas, Vedas, holy vows, dharma & deeds which arise out of following the customs (as dictated in the śāstra) remain stable on being bound by the application of mantras into the cord of yajña known as the upavīta & not the otherwise. [Mahākāla saṃhitā:Guhyakālīkhaṇḍa:14:439-440]

O Devī ! Presence of that cord over the shoulder is the signifier of the dvija status. It's absence is the immediate signifier of śūdra status.[Mahākāla saṃhitā:Guhyakālīkhaṇḍa:14:444.02-445.01]

So we can say that all those who claim kṣatriya & vaiśya status without upanayana are indeed vrātyas.

It is heard that certain communities like the Rājputs perform upanayana as a part of the marriage rites. However even that can't be considered enough for claiming dvija status because 1) it is conducted after the scripturally mandated age-limit for upanayana & 2) the bearer doesn't performs sandhyāvandanā even if he retains the upavīta. Devibhagavatapurāṇa clearly states that after receiving the yajñopavīta, if the person fails to observe sandhyāvandanā thrice daily for 3 consecutive days, then he becomes a śūdra in the eyes of the devas & must undergo upanayana again to regain back his status.

However, Mahāmahopadhyāya Pānḍuraṅga Vāmana Kāṇe recorded that Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa disagreed with the opinion that vrātyas can never rise up in caste. His opinion was that if a descendent of vrātya kṣatriya & vrātya vaiśya families performs prāyaścittas like Vrātyaṣṭoma, then that person can regain his varṇa back.

2. But for the rest- is their duty to support and serve the brAhmanAs, given that they are most definitely vrAtyas. Given the injunction that fallen dwijas are to be viewed as outcastes, should they be counted as ShUdrAs or panchamAs for ritual purposes?

Ans. No, they must be treated as śūdras

There is a very big misconception prevalent in North India that śūdras are untouchables. This condition probably arises due to these verses from the Bṛhannāradīyapurāṇa as quoted in a compendium called Tristhalīsetu

यः शूद्रेणार्चितं लिङ्गं विष्णुं वा प्रणमेन्नरः । न तस्य निष्कृतिर्दृष्टा प्रायश्चित्तायुतैरपि ।।....योषिद्भिः पूजितं लिङ्गं विष्णुं वापि नमेत्तु यः । स कोटिकुलसंयुक्त आकल्पं रौरवं वसेत् ।।

The man who bows down before the icons of Śiva & Viṣṇu that have been adorned by śūdras can't be relieved of that sin inspite of performing a thousand prāyaścittas....He who bows down before the icons of Śiva & Viṣṇu that has been adorned by women remains in the hell-pit named Raurava for an entire kalpa with a crore of his ancestors.

The composer of Tristhalīsetu, Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa, grandfather of Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa, was a renowned paṇḍita of Vārāṇasī who acted as the chief priest during the reconsecration of the Kāśī Visvanātha temple that had been constructed by Ṭoḍaramala. He cited these verses to advocate a ban on women & śūdras from entering Hindu temples. This might explain why varṇasaṅkara communities try to distance themselves from their śūdra status. (On a side note, perhaps due to this harsh injunction of Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa, priests in North India refuse to recite the saṃkalpavākya in the name of women.) Luckily, Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭa's views were countered by Mitra Miśra, a paṇḍita from Gwalior who was the sabhapaṇḍita of Mahārāja Virasiṁhadeva of Bundelakhaṇḍa. He argued that the abovementioned verses of the Bṛhannāradīyapurāṇa apply only to those communities which are addicted to drinking alcohol.

Now regarding the religious entitlements of śūdras

Raghunandana states in the Śūdrakṛtyavicāraṇatattva section of his compendium Smṛtitattva (quoting from the Dakṣasmṛti according to Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa)

आर्षक्रमेण सर्वत्र शूद्राः वाजसनेयिनः । अस्माच्छूद्रः स्वयं कर्म यजुर्वेदीवत्कारयेत् ।।

Translation: According to the ṛṣis, śūdras everywhere by default, fall under the Vājasaneyī branch (of the Śuklayajurveda), so a śūdra should get his rites done similar to how Yajurvedīs conduct.

Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa, taking a much softer stance than his grandfather, writes in his Śūdradharmatattvaprakāśa, quoting the opinion of Śūlapāṇi

शुद्रकर्तृकदानश्राद्धादौ अर्थप्रकाशनार्थं सर्वत्र विप्रेण मन्त्रपाठः कार्य ।

Translation: In rites like donation & śrāddha performed by śūdras, recital of the (Vaidika) mantra by the brāhmaṇa (who is officiating as the priest) to reveal its meaning is to be done.

Analysing the dictates of various scriptures using the principles of Mimāṃsā, Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa gives the following conclusion

शूद्राणां विहितनिषिद्धाश्च धर्माः शूद्रसमानानामनुपनीतद्विजस्त्रीकुण्डगोलकसङ्करजात्यादिनामपि ज्ञेयाः

The does & don't s prescribed for the śūdra (in the śāstra) is known to be applied for those considered on par with śūdras, namely boys from dvija family who haven't undergone upanayana, women, kuṇḍas (offspring born out of extramarital sex conducted by a married woman), golakas (offspring born out of extramarital sex conducted by a widow) & varṇasaṅkaras.

Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa then states

ग्रहयज्ञमहादानपूर्तश्राद्धादिविधयः फलकामित्वाच्छ्रवणविधिसिद्धविद्यत्वाच्च चतुर्वर्णपरा इति शूद्रस्यापि तेष्वधिकारः न म्लेच्छादीनां विद्याक्षेपाभावात् ।

The śūdra is entitled to perform holy acts like grahayajña, mahādāna (like donating a thousand cows, tulāpuruṣadāna which is colloquially known as tulābhāra etc), pūrtakarma (like planting trees, digging wells & reservoirs, constructing rest-houses etc) & śrāddha with the aim of obtaining merit (arising out of such holy acts) because he is entitled to receive (religious knowledge apart from the Veda from the brāhmaṇas) through the ears (elucidated in previous sections), but not so for those who are outside the caturvarṇa system (i.e apostates like Buddhists, Jains & Sikhs) & the mlecchas due to their lack of the right to receive knowledge.

3. Should the priests who officiate in/upcoming generations of such jAthis who participate in such upanayanas stop? Or can they continue as the upanayanas are not entirely Vedic anyway

Ans. It depends on the priest concerned.

We no longer live in an era where the activities of the people can be regulated by issuing a vyavasthāpatra (Hindu version of fatwa). And the tendency to violate scriptural dictates is a natural characteristic of Kaliyuga.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Regarding the last question, allow me to rephrase: Is there sin incured by the priest who conducts such upanayanas according to sastra? Likewise, is there sin incured by the families who continue to do these namesake rituals but are Vratyas? In your opinion, why do the puranas and dharma sAstras predict "evil kshatriyas who rule the land by the end of Kali Yuga" if they knew that just within 5000 years, there wouldn't even be any kshatriyas or vaisyas? We still have over 300k years to go and there are already no kshatriyas or vaisyas left.
    – Krishna
    Oct 2, 2023 at 20:04
  • I agree with the Rajput fact but did not want to comment on it earlier. So how are brahmanAs supposed to recite the vEdAs or perform yajnAs without having to pour molten lead in a sUdra's ear? I.e., is there an injunction in the Śūdradharmatattvaprakāśa allowing for sUdras to listen the mantras in kali yugA? Many vrAtya and sUdra families now have traditional pancha sUkthas playing from Youtube,etc daily. Are they all to stop doing so or punish themselves?
    – Krishna
    Oct 2, 2023 at 20:12
  • Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa stated that the rules applicable for śūdra is also applicable for women. This means that women would also be entitled to receive the same punishment as śūdras for hearing the Veda. This is turn implies that the Vedamantras can't be recited in the presence of women. But this is impossible in Vaidika rites which require presence of women, most notably in marriage & other saṁskāras like garbhādhāna, simantonnaya etc. So if women can be allowed to hear Vedamantras at those times, it can be argued that śūdras can be also be allowed to hear Vedamantras recited during rituals.
    – অনু
    Oct 3, 2023 at 10:44
  • Regarding listening to Vedamantras in Youtube, that is a completely separate domain. It is better that you ask it as a separate question.
    – অনু
    Oct 3, 2023 at 10:47
  • 'not hearing veda mantras' need not be taken LITERALLY. the point is they should not hear and THEN go on to memorize/repeat it, figure out its meaning by themselves, misleading others by translating, or injecting personal opinions. if they don't do any of that, then it's ok if they just 'hear' it. it's like reciting vedas to a wall. it can't do any damage. regarding youtube etc. - see my comments under this post
    – ram
    Oct 4, 2023 at 21:11

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