photo of people standing in front of ganesha statue

Important caste facts you should know

Caste’s biggest secrets

Caste facts: Many non-Hindu societies consider that Hindu teachings are discriminatory because they discriminate – distinguishing a person’s social status based on caste, but in fact no one in Hindu literature calls the term “caste”. Then why do people label Hindus with the term “caste”? Here’s the explanation:

Understanding caste

Caste is a European term for grouping society between nobility and slaves. Caste comes from Spanish and Portuguese (caste) which means race, descent, or tribe. (https:// wikipedia.org)

Caste in the Vedas

The term caste is used by Europeans to group indian society when the country is being colonized by European nations. The term caste is successfully applied in the country, this is because in the tradition of india’s majority Hindu society that also applies Vedic Teachings called Varna (profession / occupation). While there is not a single literature or Vedic book that mentions the term caste. But in its development the term caste became more popular than the term Varna.

Rigveda Purusha Sukta

The earliest application to formal classification into four social classes (without using the term varna) appears at the end of rigvedic Purusha Sukta (RV 10.90.11-12), which has a Brahman class is its mouth, its King (not Kshatriya), Waisya and Sudra form mouths, arms, thighs and legs at purusha sacrifices, respectively:

Rv. 10. 90.11: When they divided Purusa, how many portions did they make?
What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and legs?

Rv. 10. 90.12: Brahmin is his mouth, from both arms his King is made.
His thighs became Waisya, from his legs sudra was produced.

Caste

Bhagawad Gita

Bhagavad Gita develops the profession, duties and qualities of different varna members called Color Chess (Varna).

Bhagawad Gita 18:40

“There is no entity on earth, nor in heaven among the Deva, who has none of these three Guna, born of Prakriti. From Brâhmanas and Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, as well as Sudras, tasks are shared according to Guna who was born of their own nature.”

Bhagawad Gita 18:41

“brāhmaṇa – scholars, educators, pastors, and so on; the kṣatriya – practitioners, defenders of the state and nation; vaiśya – entrepreneurs; and śūdra – workers, laborers, all work according to their obligations and follow their nature”

Chapter 18:42 – 18:44 describes the division of chess colors according to the type of work.

“Control of the mind and senses, simplicity, chastity, patience, and also honesty, knowledge, realization, belief in the afterlife – this is the duty of the Brāhmanas, born of (their own) nature. Prowess, courage, fortitude, dexterity, and also not running away from battle, generosity and sovereignty are the duties of the Knights, born of (their own) nature. Agriculture, livestock rearing and trade are the duties of the Vaishya, born of (their own) nature); and the action consisting of service is the duty of the Sudra, born of (their own) nature”

Bhagawad Gita Chapter 18:46


“Supreme Perfection is attained by a person who fulfills his obligations according to his nature or potential, with a spirit of filial piety to Him Hyang is the Origin of all beings, and encompasses the universe.”

Bhagawad Gita Chapter 18:47


“Work according to nature or self-potential, even if it feels imperfect – actually better and nobler than work that is not in accordance with nature and self-potential, even though it seems perfect.”

The most important point explained in the verse is that everyone can achieve the highest perfection when he has fulfilled his obligations in accordance with his nature or potential. Not limited to whether he is a brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya or sudra, there is no difference/limit to one’s right and obligation to choose the path to perfection. It also dismisses people’s contention that Vedics are only for certain people.

In the Vedic scriptures “Varna” is divided into four groups:

  • Brahmin: is a person’s profession/occupation as a clergy or schoolteacher or spiritual advisor of the kingdom/state.
  • Kshatriya: are people who are in the government of the kingdom / state (King, minister or soldiers) duty to protect the country from the threat of war or enemies.
  • Vaisha: is the profession of a person who works in a state business entity with the main task of driving the country’s economy including entrepreneurs, merchants or traders.
  • Shudra: is a person’s profession as a servant or a manual worker.

Along with the development of the times the terms caste and Varna seem to look the same even though the origin of this term actually comes from different regions, regions or countries.

Caste and Varna differences

The term caste comes from european missionaries who were used to distinguish or limit the deliberations of their families/relatives and descendants between noble groups, businessmen and slaves. Caste is closely related to genealogy or heredity. While the term Varna is found in Vedic books such as the Bhagawad Gita which aims to group people based on the nature, use, profession / occupation chosen based on ability and has nothing to do with heredity or genealogy.

For example: a child born to a Brahmin family, cannot later be referred to as a Brahmin if he turns out to choose to become a merchant (Vaishya) or become a soldier (Kshatriya) or if the child chooses to be a servant (Shudra).

Why did the Vedas teach Varna?

The purpose of the Vedas is to teach Varna certainly for the well-being and peace of a country. Meaning?? Imagine if in a country there is only kshatrya then who will run the economy? Who will do the construction work? Who will be the teacher or teacher? This means that each of these groups embraces each other so that the system can run well for the prosperity of a country. This is the main purpose of the Vedic teachings on Varna.

Caste in Balinese culture

If we trace the history of ancient Bali the term new caste appeared when Majapahit ruled Bali around the 14th century. The term was called Tri Wangsa, this system was brought by the Majapahit people who later settled in Bali. Triwangsa is three social groups of people who have a personal relationship with the kings of Majapahit, both politically and genealogically, such as the spiritual teachers (Brahmins), warriors / servants of the King (ksatrya), businessmen / traders (Vaisha) while the 4th group is called sudrawangsa (sudra) which is a group outside triwangsa or people mostly indigenous balinese,
which is then referred to as jabawangsa.

The sudrawangsa group is placed at the lowest layer, with political, social, and even cultural matters that are very limited compared to those obtained by the
faction. This difference in rights often gives birth to disputes between the sudrawangsa and triwangsa groups. Disputes between the sudrawangsa and triwangsa groups developed into caste conflicts.

According to Henk Schulte Nordholt – Bali an Open Fortress 1995-2005, “the failure of the Mengwi kingdom to rebuild Majapahit, became the starting point of the increasingly strict separation between the triwangsa and sudrawangsa groups in Bali”. This caste debate or conflict has actually existed since ancient times. I Gusti Ngurah Bagus in his book: Caste Opposition in a New Form in Balinese Society, argues; Caste conflicts can be traced back to before dutch colonial rule, but hidden in fairy tales, mites, and other mystical works. The conflict in a real form took place in 1910, occurring in Karangasem and in 1911 in the village of Beng, Gianyar.

Are Varna and caste the same?

In the course of his there is a misunderstanding in the application of Varna where Varna is synonymous with caste. Varna and caste are actually very different in terms of the concept of teachings. People who are so proud to be born from a family of knights or brahmins may be afraid of losing their title if later their descendants must be servants so called sudra and have to do menial work this raises the idea of defending his title by doing big lies and agreeing to the term caste. Then what do you think?

See more articles