Place of Shudras in Vedas

Place of Shudras in the Vedas

A commonly held perception regarding Vedas is their prejudice against Shudras. Vedas are accused of being Brahminical texts designed to subdue the Shudras. They are considered to be the source of caste-based discrimination that is touted as the primary characteristic of Hinduism/ Sanatan Dharma or Vedic Dharma. The entire pro-Dalit movement also has its foundation on this baseless notion.

Unfortunately, nothing could be far from truth and we will provide evidence from Vedas and related texts to establish the following:

a. The meaning of four Varnas and Shudra in particular is completely different from what the Macaulay inspired intellectuals would want us to believe.

b. There is absolutely no element of birth-based discrimination or denial of opportunity for any human being in Vedic way of life.

c. If there is one text that provides evidence of highest level of meritocracy and equal-opportunity, it is the Vedas. Even the most contemporary texts on human rights cannot come closer.

Before we begin our journey of solving the caste-puzzle through Vedas, let us start with certain worship mantras from Vedas that mention Shudras:

Yajurved 18.48:
O Lord! Provide enlightenment/ compassion to our Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. Provide me also with the same enlightenment so that I can see the truth.

Yajurved 20.17:
Whatever crime we have committed against my village, forest or committee; whatever crime we have committed through our organs, whatever crime we have committed against Shudras and Vaishyas, whatever crime we have done in matters of Dharma, kindly forgive us relieve us from the tendency of the same.

Yajurved 26.2:
The way I gave this knowledge of Vedas for benefit of all humans, similarly you all also propagate the same for benefit of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Shudras, Vaishyas, Women and even most downtrodden. The scholars and the wealthy people should ensure that they not deviate from this message of mine.

Atharvaved 19.32.8:
O Lord! May I be loved by everyone – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Shudra or Vaishya. May I be admired by everyone.

Atharvaved 19.62.1:
May all noble people admire me. May kings and Kshatriyas admire me. May all look at me with admiration. May the Shudras and Vaishyas admire me.

It is clear from these mantras that a Vedic person:
– seeks to be forgiven for crimes against all including Shudras
– seeks to propagate Vedas to all including Shudras
– considers all Varnas – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra to be equal and respects them equally.

Thus it is clear that as per Vedas, Shudras deserve the same respect as other Varnas and as per Vedic prayer, Shudras are accorded great esteem.

It is also interesting that in all of these mantras, the word Shudra comes before Vaishya. So one cannot counter-argue that Shudras are given last mention or least preference.

These are sufficient evidence to conclude that Shudra, as per Vedas, imply something quite different from a caste or community that has to be discriminated against. 

May the truth prevail!



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  • I always suspected if the present caste system is truly part of Hinduism. Hinduism thought us about Karma, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Women Rights through Aimsa & many other topics on non-violence. No other religion guides its followers to extreme extend of non-violence. Then I wondered how the hell did we create the Sudras as low caste community? Definitely something when wrong somewhere through the passage of time.

    Now its clear, the Vedas the NEVER said anyone on earth is born into a Varna. He only grows into a Varna through education, training etc. I also read somewhere that as a working system we are all part&parcel of huge human-like God-figure. The Brahmin are part of the head, Shudras form part of the legs etc. Isn’t that a great idea? With my working principles I am part of this God. Just as I will take care of every part of my body equally so that my body functions properly, I will do my work carefully so that the God I am part of all works functions well. This we see clearly in the functioning of Termite nest, bee-hives etc.

    • You are right, Vedas never taught discrimintaion. According to genetics of current Indian populace, there was intermixing of breeds, but some 2000-2500 yrs few people decided to preserve racial purity of Aryans by making caste system and made manusmriti as parcel and package of Hinduism

  • The Bhagawad Gita very clearly states that ” Chaturvarna Maya srushtam, Guna karma Vibhaga cha” The four varnas are created mainly for the smooth funtioning of the society, based on one’s gunas (character/ qualities) and Karma (action) NOT on birth!

  • There are some people who say brahmins are from the head and Sudras from the feet of God, still the feet holds a higher place as we prostrate to the feet of Lord. For a person who sees only the body might look like feet are the lower portion of the body but in reality one has to see God from feet to top..If we are part of God’s body, how does it matter which part it is..We are all part of God.. Every part in the body is equally valuable. Read ch 18 Verse 42 to know who really a brahmin is. All men/women are equal. People who think they are brahmin are full of ignorance about scriptures, may he be a temple priest or anyone who thinks he/she is a brahmin.

  • Also read Ch 4 verse 13..of Bhagvad Gita, clearly explain who the brahmin is. One who has realized brahman. One who sees brahman in every BODY. To be honest there maybe one or two brahmin as of today in India. Brahmin is definitely NOT connected to birth..Scriptures everywhere consistently been saying, all men are equal. No one is superior to anyone else.

  • well… by merely naming a segment of society as brahman or shudra, etc, irrespective of the “logical” explanation that books tend to give, it always boils down to the preference of the reader or in this case, the believer.

    If the vedas say that no one is born into any specific caste & it is their virtues or knowledge or character (God knows how it is even practical for one set of humans to decide & determine another set of human’s character!!), then is it possible for a Shudra to “convert” into Brahmanism, without being born a brahmin?

    It is no irony that India is ranked no.1 as the most materialistic country; no.1 as the country with the most racial discrimination; and the only country that practices caste system.

    Ancient Roman, Greek & Mesopotamian civilizations also had a very clear & distinct social structure, that enabled the smooth ot necessary functioning of societies. But these were not linked with any god-driven scriptures or books. It went largely by personal or contributed efforts.

    • Really? What about slavery in America, what caused French revolution? What about Holocaust? to name just a few. We human beings, everywhere, if not questioned and not held accountable would discriminate and manipulate things to justify our acts. Don’t blame a religion for that without knowing all the facts.

    • Hindus do not have caste system, Europeans do. Hence they translated varna as caste. In Islam, Arab Muslim is superior than any other Muslim and Islam has Shias, Sunni, Qureshi, Sufi, ISIS, Al-Qaida, Wahabi etc. Christianity has 150 different type of churches and they had a bloody history of fight amongst churches. Use of “caste” word in Indian context is most stupidity (or cunningness) in scholarly and academic world.

      • Stop blaming others for our problems already. Caste system has been in place since times of mahabharat.Europeans used it to invade. Even today Indians are among most rascist people on earth

        • Caste system or one social structure or another is prevalent globally but in India it is manipulated politically. Stop your self-bashing and learn to read history and do some research on others as well.

          • I agree with you that Rascism is global issue & its manipulated in India for political gains. I am not self-bashing, I believe that we can find solution to a problem, when we recognize it.

            By the way I have researched about history, Genetics, Scriptures(Manusmriti) and also experienced rascism here in Maharashtra myself.

  • Understanding the vedas in proper and true sense is a very difficult task. Vedas, whether composed by God Himself or by godlike sages, had to be explained by great scholars called rushis. If we get the wrong notion that one varna is lower than the other and so by birth a person is of higher or lower varna, we have not yet understood vedas in spite of so many commentaries. A person who has developed the ability to perform the duties of a brahmana is a brahmana; a person who has the ability to undertake administration of a state, protect and defend, is a kshatriya; a person who can take care of economy of society is a vaisya; a person who can assist these persons and do certain other tough tasks by actual use of physical power and skill is a sudra. It does not matter into a family of which varna he was born. I believe this is one proper interpretation of our varna system.

    • Western countries all have “castes”, British Raj had “castes”, today they all have more castes than in India. They have unionized these castes in the west verses in today’s India people are exploited for political gain using the caste name but real skills of people, traditional “kulavrutti” talented families with special skills like weaving, shilpakala etc are lost forever.

  • If there is no chathur varna, why the people are categorized into different groups for so long? When is this started? If one gets his Varna by his actions, then who is going to decide that? These are mixed up with man made additions during the course of time for their own benefits. Any idea where is the original manuscript for vedas? . Sun is being pulled up by a chariot as per books, may be science is not yet advanced to prove it. And Rahu is swallowing the moon day by day as per the books. Very well, how long we can fool ourselves, Kids are laughing at us if these stories are told to them.

    • This is a precise and a clear descrition of the highly misunderstood Varna system. Power mongers are the ones who hijacked the Sanatana Dharma and introduced new practices which became ugly and dangerous customs and traditions. It is unfortunate that most Sanatanis don’t find the time to read the Gita. It takes about 4 hours to complete reading 700 verses in English or in any other language it is translated into.

      Bhagavan Krishna is the personification of the entire universe or system:

      तत्रैकस्थं जगत्कृत्स्नं प्रविभक्तमनेकधा |
      अपश्यद्देवदेवस्य शरीरे पाण्डवस्तदा || ११ १३ ||
      tatraikastham jagatkritsnam pravibhakta manekadhaa
      apashyad devadevasya shareere paandavastadaa (Gita 11:13)

      “There, at that time, in one place, Arjuna could see the entire universe with its multifarious divisions all to be united in the body of the Supreme Bhagavan Krishna.”

      The Sanatana Dharma is the one and only scientific Dharma. The entire system is Krishna or God. People have the freedom to personify the System they way they want. There is neither heaven nor hell. The soul never dies : nainam chindanti shastraani
      nainam dahati paavakah
      na chainam kledayan tyaapo
      na shoshayati maarutah (Gita 2:23)

      The soul attains Moksha when the Karmic account is clear. There are no punishments and no rewards. People reap what they sow. There is no one watching us every moment and there is no judgement day. Being a good and useful member of this large System is all that is needed to settle past karma, live a good life and to continue a smooth ride towards Moksha. Which other ‘religion’ ever says that? The others have been created for power just as the ‘Caste System’ among Sanatanis. But unfortunately what can one do when people not only choose to belong to but also fight to belong to Backward Communities??!! They hold the entire nation to ransom and destroy public property just because they want to be called ‘Backward or Lower communities’! So who is responsible for this? Is it Sanatana Dharma itself? Or is the mere mortals that falsely represent their own communities as well as the Sanatana Dharma? Anyone can change his or her Guna and belong to the Varna of their choice! ‘Ahimsa paramo Dharma’ – Non-Violence is the highest form of Dharma. Himsa or violence need not mean physical harm. It can also mean verbal and mental harm. I personally know some people who changed their Varnas (castes) and all this happened during the current Janma of mine.

      People conveniently overlook the ‘Gunakarma vibhagashaha’ part of Verse 13 of Chapter 14 of the SBG.
      chaathur varnyam mayaa srshtam
      guna karma vibhaagashaha
      thasya karthaaram apimaam
      viddhya karthaara mavyayam (Gita 4:13)

      Children born into the same family have their own individual nature, traits and mentality. They have different ‘Gunas’ – That’s it ‘Gunas’ or ‘nature’ (of a person). It is the ‘Guna’ or nature of a person that categorises him or her in a particular Varna.

      This is for @indian sanskriti – Dear Sir/ Madam, have you heard of the term metaphorisation ? You could probably tell your kids that metaphors are lavishly used in the Scriptures of Sanatana Dharma to communicate morals, values and ideas. Try telling them this and they will not laugh at you anymore but they will be proud of their highly intellectual, logical, rational and scientific Sanatana Dharma. The most important thing would be stop believing, thinking or saying that all religions preach without studying. By the way do YOU actually believe that ‘Sun is being pulled up by a chariot’ ?! You need not ‘fool yourself’ but maybe you could consider going through the Gita with an open mind and try to understand the message and the teachings in it. One need not be a Rocket Scientist to figure out that customs and traditions are man made and that a few people who lived during different periods created all that to suit their own megalomaniacal pursuits.

      Jai Shri Krishna

  • There is no caste system in Sanatana Dharma. We have Jati and Varna. Jati is “community” and Varna is “by birth”. Diving deeper, Varna is “by Karma”. One’s birth is determined by Karma. If one looks at one’s astrological profile, there is a characteristic for each nakshatra known as Varna. This predominant characteristic defines the mental make-up of the individual based on the star energies they absorb at the moment that Prana (life force) entered their bodies, at the moment of the first breath is taken at birth. This determines the predominate mental constitution of the individual. Also, the time spent in the mother’s womb has much to do with this — if sattvic food is taken during these critical development periods, the Karma of the baby will be to experience a Sattvic state of mind. Brahamana means one who is predominantly Sattvic, and therefore ideally suited for the pursuit of Knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge requires Shantham (Peaceful disposition), Dyhanam (Meditative Repose and Introspective Capability), and Jnanam (Knowledge of the Shastras). A Kshatriya is one whose mind is ideally suited for Administration and the upholding of Dharma and propagation of Justice for all. A Kshatriya’s primary mode is to always seek out ways to ensure justice for all, and they have a characteristic nobility — the kind of people who will sacrifice themselves for a greater good of society. A Vaishya will likewise have the predisposition towards equity and business tactics; they will be ideal treasurers and administrators of the economy. A Shudra is predisposed towards service; in the Indian system of thinking, service is considered the highest of all, as it requires one who is relatively ego less. The proper dharma in terms of food habits, living habits, and spiritual habits have been prescribed for EACH of these Varnas to maximize their ability to LEVERAGE their INNATE mental qualities to achieve the state of Godhood, which is promised to ALL. That is the real Sanatana Dharma, and it is eternal and true as the name implies. Jati refers to the community one is born into. If one is born into a community, one lives within that community among LIKE MINDED individuals such that one’s SVA-DHARMA is not negatively impacted by CONFUSION. THUS, the need to structure a society where each JATI was free to practice and follow its own set of beliefs, values, education, and training in their own unique way, such that it facilitated, not hampered, the spiritual progress of the individual. One may be a Brahmana by Jati, and a Shudra by Varna, which means one lives as in service of other Brahmanas as their natural tendency. One may be a Shudra by Jati, and a Brahmana by mental tendency, which means one would lead the community in terms of teaching, knowledge, and so on. If one is a Brahmana by birth, with a Kshatriya by varna, one will be similar in disposition to Parashurama. Likewise, if one is Kshatriya by birth, and Brahamana by mental disposition, one behaves more like Vishwamitra. Ultimately, it is a combination of your physical community (Jati) and your karmic state (Varna) that determines a Human beings basic nature and dharma. Without knowing this, you fail to perform the dharma of your jati-varna, and thereby lose qualification to attain spiritual progress, and in turn you will contribute to the ruination of society. We see this in the west, where politicians who have a Vaishya (by varna) enter the arena of politics and administration, which causes corruption at the highest level. If a person is motivated solely by economics, then putting them as the head of state will lead to corruption. Whereas, if a person is solely motivated by Justice, then putting them as the head of state, will lead to dharmic society.

  • The corresponding kind of Bhakti exhibited by each of the 4 varnas will be similar.

    A Brahmana will worship god through their intellect. Hence, they are associated with the HEAD of Narayana.

    A Kshatriya will worship god through their actions, through justice, and righteous war against evil doers. Hence, they are associated with the HANDS/HEART/CHEST of Narayana.

    A Vaishya will worship god through their wealth, through economic dispensation, through their activities and rituals (consider, how many people do “Lakshmi Puja” in their homes, and Satyanarayana Vrathas, etc.) Hence, they are associated with the middle portion of Narayana.

    A Shudra will worship god through SELF SURRENDER (BHAKTHI). Hence, they are associated with the Holy Feet of Narayan.

    Idiotic empire building morons flipped the logic upside down — why? Because, they were not FIT to interpret and read the Vedas. This was the very reason they were prohibited from reading the Vedas, as people who do not wear the sacred thread. Each of the Varnas wears a sacred thread with varying number of threads and knots. That sacred thread means one who is fit to study the Vedas; because they would interpret the Vedas correctly, through a sanctioned and qualified Guru, who himself was a Brahmana of the highest order (typically, a Rishi). Without an unbiased, clean, pure mind, the Vedas can be distorted into exactly how they are being distorted today by non practitioners.

    This is Kali Yuga, and these are the effects, unfortunately.

  • The predominant DHARMAs of the 4 Varnas are as follows:

    Brahmana – Knowledge Transfer (Teaching, Advisory, etc.)

    Kshatriya – Fighting Righteous Wars for Upholding Dharma (of the other Varnas), Law, Justice

    Vaishya – Charitable Acts, Upholding the Economy, Ensuring society’s economic well being

    Shudra – Self Surrender, Bhakthi, Service

    These are the NATURAL DHARMAs of these Varnas. They are NATURAL because when these individual engage in these acts, their innate peace is not disturbed, and in fact, these activities ENHANCE their innate GOOD QUALITIES through the performance of these DHARMAS.

    Dharma were not prescribed to oppress people, but to EMPOWER them to live their NATURAL lives to achieve SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, NATURALLY, without STRESS.

    If you follow the wrong DHARMA for your VARNA, you will feel STRESS, because the job is not NATURAL to you. This is why Krishna warns that even if you are perfect in the Dharma of Others, you should still perform duties per your own Dharma, to avoid fearful (and less significantly, stressful) consequences of your actions. To live PEACEFULLY and HAPPILY.

  • It is because of this LACK of a proper SYSTEMATIC approach that people in the west, and now everywhere globally, are dissatisfied because they can’t see “life’s true purpose” and they waste time and life in trivial pursuits that distract them from their spiritual progress. Further, they dream to become something that is not natural to them, wasting their true potential where they could have shined.

    For instance, Everyone wants to be a winner on American Idol, but not everyone can actually Sing well. That is just an example. People are self-delusional and wrongly interpret their own strengths and weaknesses. This system was calculated in such a way to avoid such a thing. If you look into your own astrology, you can see your own mental predispositions and how well your nakshatra predicts your own innate nature and energy. These in turn give you great evidence as to what you should DO with your life.

    Forget using Astrological calculations for predictive purposes because that is too complicated and far fetched; rather just use it for the sake of finding out WHO AM I, WHAT ARE MY INNATE mental characteristics and predispositions and HOW CAN I BEST ALIGN MYSELF to the REAL WORLD to be SUCCESSFUL, PEACEFUL, and HAPPY?

    The misuse of our ancient techniques, has led to grand abuses of the system and all the confusion of today.

  • When Arjuna had famously spoken words of despondency in carrying out his duty as a Kshatriya, Krishna STRONGLY admonished him with very piercing words:

    “Kshudram Hrudaya Dhaurbhalyam… Ekhtvotishta Paranthaapa”

    You who are the scorcher of Foes (to Dharma) are now allowing this weakness of the heart to justify your ill-conceived logic of self-surrendering in the battle-field as if you are a sannyasin??? Here, Arjuna was masking his escapist tendency to avoid his royal duty, which is shameful for one who is known as a great Kshatriya. This is what is meant by confusion of Jati-Varna — Arjuna’s conflicted mindset with regards to his duty as a warrior of Dharma. He was overcome by the weakness of the heart of Shudras (compassion for others, self surrender for others) and allowing it to cloud his judgement in regards to his Duty. The Shudra qualities are noble from a spiritual perspective, for a Shudra to pursue (ahimsa, compassion, etc.); but a Kshatriya should not violate Kshatriya Dharma in a critical moment to pursue a life of self surrender, or society would face downfall.

    In this context, the self-surrendering meekness of the Noble Shudra is the wrong attitude in the midst of a righteous battle for Dharma. That is why a Shudra is not sent to do battle — because they will preach ahimsa in the wrong moment. Today, much of society behaves exactly like this — feeling sorry for the others, without demanding equality in any international relationship. This is why Hindus have a tendency to over-compensate and over-justify outsiders actions, while belittling their own. This disgraceful confusion of Hindu duty which prevents one from protecting Hindu Dharma first and foremost. Here, Krishna strongly admonishes such an escapist attitude to life and one’s natural duties, which will lead to the downfall of society. Here, a Kshatriya is warranted, whose primary concern is Justice. Krishna sarcastically even goes on to remark “you speak words of wisdom like a great man…” to jolt Arjuna out of his weakness. He furthers utters words that to a Kshatriya such words that cast doubt on his nobility which would sting any true Kshatriya, to remind Arjuna who he is, what his basic nature is. To a Kshatriyas, nobility is greater than life, and insults are met with proper measure. By reminding him who he is, he reminds him of his basic duty to fight for what is right, irrespective of whom he is fighting.

  • My only question ..in the millions of Hindus across the world how many people know the Vedas ?..even in ancient era no one followed the Vedas and implemented those teachings, if it was there would’nt been caste discrimination in first place.interpretations of Vedas are different from one person to another. people were and now follow the rituals blindly and forgot the real essence. Ancient Vedas also has the teachings for the new era,Knowledge is not only for particular caste and creed..if one controls it he will perish soon. Now in the internet era knowledge is abundant.. Our responsibility( this generation) has the key to channel the right knowledge irrespective to various religions in the world. The major deaths till date happened not due to diseases.. it has happened in the name of religion. caste and discrimination. Make this world a intellectual place.

  • No one is born into a varna. One earns one’s varna. I learn from a friend who returned from a visit to Bali Island that any one there can change varna in tune with one’s profession.

  • Meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘shudra’ is one who emthasises for others pain

    So every human has to be a ‘shudra’ first… so that he can be considered as a human being

    Secondly, jathi and varna are 2 different things…. vedic period mentions only the varna system… varna means ‘color’ not of the skin…but of the mind….

    Its just a beautiful diversification of human race on the basis of psycho analysis of human mind (satva, raja, tama)

  • Shudras were not required to wear the sacred thread because by their actions that is service to others they are completely pure. Others wore it to control their thoughts. To purify their thoughts. But a real shudra has only pure thoughts. This is the same as sannyasis not performing agni puja

  • This is a mischief by western travellers and conquerers from the beginning.
    Especially during the Mogul and more so during the British rule.

  • But vedas has its own limitations. It cannot be learnt and recited by Sudras and women. To overcome this, Divya prabhandam, Azhwar’s outpourings in Tamil, came into picture.

  • Indeed Vedas did not contain racial discrimination. Atleast not to the level of racial discrimination from last 2000yrs. Its only from last 2000-2500yrs when Manusmriti came into existence, admixture stopped, racial discrimination started and social & economic abuse started by Aryan races. Same can be verified with scientifc evidence

  • The system of Varnas is not a system of caste. It is a system whereby an individual’s natural tendencies and preferences are identified. This system of identification of an individual’s native Varna enables a more streamlined education for that individual. For example, it spares the merchant from a surfeit of scriptural and military learning when other subjects are more suited to his life path. Same applies to Kshatriyas, Brahmins and Shudras. Also, the Varna system is NOT hereditary (nor was it ever intended to be – it is this corruption that is the main cause for criticising the Varna system).

    I recall at least three places in the Mahabharata where this is discussed:

    There is a conversation between between Dronacharya and his son regarding this matter (Drona was a Brahmin who became a Kshatria).

    Also another occasion is where Kripacharya, a Kshatriya, later took up the duties of a Brahmin.

    Most notably, in the chapter called Yaksha Parva, Yuddhishtara is deluded into believing his brothers are dead, by his father in the form of a yaksha. The yaksha asks Yuddhishtara nearly a hundred questions, one of which is: (this is not verbatim as I’m relying on my memory) What makes a Brahmin, is it birth? is it learning? (etc). Yuddhistara replies that it is not birth that makes a Brahmin (and goes on to elucidate). The yaksha reveals his true form saying that he is most pleased with his son being able to answer all of these questions correctly.

    Also, come to think of it – the great being responsible for first uttering the Gayatri Mantra – the great Brahmarshi Vishwamitra was once a Kshatriya named Vishwarath.

  • “Janmana Jayate Sudra, Sanskarat Dwija Uchchate, Veda Pathat Bhabet Bipra, Brahma Janati Sa Brahmana.” ( A man is born as Sudra, after reformation / purification he becomes Dwija, if he can read the Veda, i.e., if he attains true knowledge he becomes Bipra and when he knows the Almighty properly he becomes Brahmin ). This verse clearly clarifies who would be Brahmin and who would be Sudra. As per Hindu Dharma no body would fall in any class ( Caste ) by birth. Classification by birth has been created by the so called brahmins for their greediness.

  • A question . In Mahabharat ha (I may not have read the original Jaya by Vyasa but some translations) Karna,Drona and ashwathama are blamed because they did not follow varna dharma which states that drona and ashwathama born as bramhins cannot rule but they did. Karna son of charioteer ruled anga kingdom and was blamed that he did not follow varna dharma. We may think that this was a prejudice developed by the time of Mahabharata but what raises my curiosity is that Lord Krishna himself in multiple instances blamed these people for not following varna dharma. Any insights into this are appreciated.