This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Symbolic meaning behind the origin of the castes

It is common to refer to organized society as the ‘social body,’ and it is in this same sense that the origin of the caste is described in the Purusha-sukta of the Rig-Veda: ‘of Purusha, the Brahmana as the mouth, the Kshatriya the arms, the Vaishya the thighs; the Shudra was born under his feet.’ This gives the four castes and differentiates them by their functions, which correspond to the essential nature of the beings who belong to them. One should not assume, however, that because there are only four castes that there are only four individual natures. There are as many individual natures as their are individual beings, and the four castes are susceptible to indefinite subdivision. Their primary meaning is hierarchical, and they order the castes accordingly, which is as follows: the Brahmanas represent the spiritual and intellectual authority; the Kshatriyas represent the administrative powers, whether royal, military, or judicial; the Vaishyas represent the economic functions of society, ranging from industries, crafts, agriculture, trade, and finance; finally, the Shudras represent the tasks necessary to material subsistence.

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