This article puts another perspective on a phenomenon that no-one usually dares to mention without putting on a grimace of horror and uttering shrieks of indignation: Chaturvarna, usually mistranslated as the caste system.
Let me state from the outset that I am a firm believer in the Vedic verse "All men are brothers; no one is big, no one is small. All are equal" (Rig Veda 5.60.5). The four categories of society (varnas) were not originally intended to be hereditary categories. If we look at the matter carefully, they are in fact natural functional groups that exist in all societies. The varnas were originally fluid categories that allowed for mobility between groups.
So before anyone begins fuming about Brahmin tyranny and the "wretched condition of the downtrodden", let me clarify that what I mean is not hereditary caste, but the distinction between four functional groups in society: Brahmin (intellectual and spiritual), Kshatriya (military and administrative), Vaishya (commercial) and Shudra (workers), devoid of any hereditary aspect, which was a much later phenomenon.
Continued @ http://www.hinduvoice.co.uk/Issues/5/varna.htm
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