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The Four Varnas

 In early societies the varna system provided security for the functioning of society. There seems to have been a natural division of labor based on people's inborn abilities and propensities. Hinduism saw society as falling into four divisions:

  • Brahmanas: The intellectual type who followed the principles of simple living and high thinking and took upon themselves the acquisition and distribution of knowledge and wisdom.
  • Kshatriyas: Those who were physically strong and tough chose to dedicate their life to the protection of society from external aggression and the maintenance of internal law and order. They are the ones who took to arms.
  • Vaishyas: A large majority of people engaged themselves in economic pursuits, in the acquisition of wealth and goods.
  • Shudra: They were content to supply manual labor for all the other three sections of society.

 

The varna system, however, changed from its original intent, as society grew, into a caste system with heredity as the working principle. This system has produced many sociological problems, even though something of a varna system remains in all societies. Allied to the caste system is the blot of untouchability that is slowly being removed from society.

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