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Mystery of Fourth Varna…Shudra!

Updated on July 9, 2015

Still, however Varna system of Vedic religion remains an enigma to the scholars as even Vedic literatures too gives conflicting explanations to its origin. As we have seen in the last chapter, except of Purushasukta Varna system doesn’t occur anywhere in Rigveda. The term Shudra, except Purushasukta, is totally unknown to the rest of Rigveda. We have seen that it is proven beyond doubt that the Purushasukta is composition of far later times, when Vedic language was more perfected. So the natural question will arise, how come that all of sudden the term Shudra for people appears in Purushasukta and later Vedic literature?

Without going in details of the stories created to explain for classes or Varna’s, let us focus on a major issue that needs to be taken on anvil.

Aryan invasion theory was considered to be a main reason for creation of fourth Varna and caste system. It was widely assumed that the invading Aryans won over Dasa-Dasyus, aboriginals of India and enforced lowly social status upon them. AIT is debunked long ago and is replaced with the Indo-European Language speakers’ migration theory to explain linguistic similarities across India to Europe.

Even if Invasion or Migration theory is taken as true following points has to be honestly dealt with.

1) Indian subcontinent doesn’t show major influx of foreigners since +7000 BC. Most of the Indian tribes were settled by then with the invention of the agriculture. Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation started to flourish in the same region by collective efforts of same people, as explained by J. M. Kenoyer. This would mean that the aboriginals of India weren’t savage people as Invasion theorists want to imply. Decline of IGC is now unanimously attributed to the climatic changes and its continuity in changed forms is archaeologically also well documented.

2) If we consider migration theory to be true, in waves, migrating people only can enforce their language and culture on the original residents only if they can outnumber the locals. It is roughly estimated that the population of IGC alone (about 12.5 lakh sq. kilometers) was about five millions. They were well cultured people having their own religion to follow. The question would be, without any wars or violent conflicts, the migrating hoards of the so-called Aryans could have enforced their rule upon them? There is no slightest reference in any of the Vedic literature of such conflict. There is not a single archaeological evidence to indicate wars and battles.

3) From IGC (Indus-Ghaggar Civilisation) finds we have fair idea of the religion the people adhered to. Normally invaders try to impose own gods and culture on the subjugated populaces. Religiously speaking, we clearly find that the fourth class, i.e. Shudra was always outside of the Vedic religion and its rituals. There seems no attempt to destroy old faiths, though Vedics detested it. Shaivait or idolatrous faiths have been survived till date. On the contrary, Vedic gods remained only in Vedic literature, never got noteworthy attention of the common people. Rather Vedic people started efforts to assimilate Hindu Gods with Vedic Gods….

4) The question here is pertinent that the people, those could enforce lowly status on the locals, the people who could make the locals life miserable, how could that the Aryans could not eliminate faith of the locals? How come that they never took them to their fold?

5) Fourth Varna is considered to be part of Vedic social order. But was the fourth Varna ever part of the Vedic religion? It was not as evidenced by Vedic literature itself because the Varna had no Vedic rights whatsoever. With this condition, naturally the fourth Varna, considered as part of Vedic social order becomes non-Vedic, of another religion. Had they been part of Vedic social order, they would have some or other religious rights, but it was never a case.

6) We find many contradictory examples from the Vedic literature and known history. According to Vedic doctrine Shudra cannot accumulate wealth or attain any social status. But Sutra literature commands that the Brahmin should not eat in even the domain of Shudra kings! If considered this being true, there were Shudra kings. Satapatha Brahmin informs Shudra Kings were ruling in southern parts of India. Also it is another story of origin of Shudra that they were offspring’s of the Asuras. It clearly shows that the Shudras were the class not related anywhere with the Vedics, having their own independent existence and religious practices. Had it been the case that the Vedic Aryans ruled the sub-continent, there wouldn’t have been any Shudra King!

7) In known history, we are aware that Nanda, Maurya, Satavahana, Yadava and many other dynasties belonged to Shudra class. Had Vedic doctrine be that strict and implemented forcibly or honored by the masses there wouldn’t have been such a case.

8) There also is no known example of Shudras being denied of accumulation of the wealth in practice. Rather most of the landlords belonged to Shudra Varna. The mercantile classes, not designated as Vaishyas, were the wealthy people, conducting nationwide trade, occasionally donating to temples and public works and having good reputations in the royal courts. The donation inscriptions at Buddhist caves to temples clearly points out to this fact.


Two religions: Two systems

We cannot overlook at the fact that there are two distinct religions and hence two different social orders. Whether Vedic religion came to India by mass migration or was spread here with missionary practices by handful of the preachers, a fact remains that the people here were already following idolatrous religion centered on fertility concepts, i.e. Shakti and Shiva or whatever they were being called in ancient times.

It is a fact that the Vedic religion is not idolatrous. It is fire centric, just like Zoroastrian religion. They have a pantheon of the abstract gods to be praised through the offerings in sacred fire.

The ritualistic practices of both the religions stand poles apart. Tarkateertha Laxmanshastri Joshi states, the fire-centric religion of the Aryans was of primordial kind whereas Puja of non-Aryans (non-Vedics) was exaltation of the religious thought.4 Puja, must be noted here, is not at all Vedic term, but Dravidian.

Whenever the Vedic religion came to India, there already existed another religion. There is no slightest indication in the Vedic literature that they had conflicts with the local religion. Rather it seems they adopted the philosophies and local gods including Shiva, though they kept him outside of the Vedic pantheon and rituals.

On backdrop of this, we can conclude as following:

1) Whatever way Vedic religion might have come to India, could not force its social doctrine on the people.

2) They could not change basic religious structure of the people, though they attained a kind of religious supremacy.

3) Fourth Varna, i.e. Shudra, always meant the people those who never were Vedics. They made them pariah in their own rituals for they did not belong to their religion.

5) They laid down restrictions only on those Shudras who were taken into the personal service. Shudras were always majority of the people. It was no surprise that the poor folks sought services wherever they could. Vedic religion was always limited and they needed servants. The need was fulfilled from the non-Vedic Shudra class.

One must not forget here that Shudras have totally different system on which we shall discuss in next chapter.

ly in Vedic literature, never got noteworthy attention of the common people. Rather Vedic people started efforts to assimilate Hindu Gods with Vedic Gods….

4) The question here is pertinent that the people, those could enforce lowly status on the locals, the people who could make the locals life miserable, how could that the Aryans could not eliminate faith of the locals? How come that they never took them to their fold?

5) Fourth Varna is considered to be part of Vedic social order. But was the fourth Varna ever part of the Vedic religion? It was not as evidenced by Vedic literature itself because the Varna had no Vedic rights whatsoever. With this condition, naturally the fourth Varna, considered as part of Vedic social order becomes non-Vedic, of another religion. Had they been part of Vedic social order, they would have some or other religious rights, but it was never a case.

6) We find many contradictory examples from the Vedic literature and known history. According to Vedic doctrine Shudra cannot accumulate wealth or attain any social status. But Sutra literature commands that the Brahmin should not eat in even the domain of Shudra kings! If considered this being true, there were Shudra kings. Satapatha Brahmin informs Shudra Kings were ruling in southern parts of India. Also it is another story of origin of Shudra that they were offspring’s of the Asuras. It clearly shows that the Shudras were the class not related anywhere with the Vedics, having their own independent existence and religious practices. Had it been the case that the Vedic Aryans ruled the sub-continent, there wouldn’t have been any Shudra King!

7) In known history, we are aware that Nanda, Maurya, Satavahana, Yadava and many other dynasties belonged to Shudra class. Had Vedic doctrine be that strict and implemented forcibly or honored by the masses there wouldn’t have been such a case.

8) There also is no known example of Shudras being denied of accumulation of the wealth in practice. Rather most of the landlords belonged to Shudra Varna. The mercantile classes, not designated as Vaishyas, were the wealthy people, conducting nationwide trade, occasionally donating to temples and public works and having good reputations in the royal courts. The donation inscriptions at Buddhist caves to temples clearly points out to this fact.

Having considered above points, though there are many to point out our major misunderstanding about the fourth Varna, we have more to discuss on.

(To be contd.)



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