Monday, May 19, 2014

The Mistaken Identity of Chathurvarnya

I hear a lot of talk about Hindutva these days especially after BJP won the Indian elections. But I feel sorry for those who have made Hinduism a religion where it was supposed to be a Sanatana Dharma or a way of life. This is what man does to a social system. He bends it to his benefits. How much do we know about the people who were civilized near the river Indus or about the Indus Valley Civilization? Are they not the people to be rightly referred to as Hindu? We talk about the river Saraswathi. But does that river, mentioned in The Rig Veda exist anymore. We talk about the Vedas, but how much do we take pains to understand what is said in that or decipher the codes like Bhoothasankhya in them, which reveals loads of information, mathematical and scientific formulae and technical information. 

Let me give you a small example of where we have gone wrong in our thoughts. The classic example would be a suktam or a collection of verses written in praise of the omnipresent. The suktam set in anushtup chandas which is the meter in which it should be recited and describes the Purusha or the omnipresent as we would understand.

We talk about the chathurvarnya or the caste system in the society, or that’s what we understand of it. In Purusha Suktam there is a reference to an Adipurusha. It will be our mistake to understand the slokas literally which will start of giving the look of the Adipurusha in the weirdest of the possible ways. 

sahasrasheershad purushaha| sahasraksha sahasrapaad |
sa bhumim vishwato vrutwa athyathishtaddashangulam ||

The Omnipresent one has countless heads, eyes, and limbs
He stands in all His majesty pervading the entire Universe and extends by 10 

A man with a countless or thousand heads, thousands or innumerable limbs, who spreads around the world from the earth to the skies and a 10 inches more (The literal meaning). Is it not a way the people who wrote it or formulated it to talk about the society who lives far and wide in the world? Thousands of people living on the earth (remember the population was less in those times). 

The suktam goes on to describe that the purusha is the past present and future, which would be the indication to the existence of the society in the past, present and future. The seasons offered to his sacrifice or yagna. The society grows with every season and utilizing the nature. That could be the meaning hidden in those lines. 

In the next few lines the suktam refers to something more. The five senses of perception, the five senses of action, the five circulatory systems, the mind, intellect, awareness, ego, Dharma and Adharma became the 21 offerings into the sacred fire. (Three sets of seven offerings - refer to the power of seven in my previous blog). Then there are explanations which might be the indications to how the society worked towards domestication of animals, birds, agriculture and gaining of knowledge.

Again coming back to the power of seven, the next few words indicate the formation or creation of meters for writing verses. From the Yagna emerged the different meters (the seven meters are gayatri, trishtup, brhatee, pankti, ushnuk, anushtup and jagati.) 

The Purusha sukta, in the seventh verse, hints at the organic connectedness of the various classes of society.

Bharahmanosya mukhamaseet
Bahurajanya kruthaha
Urutadasyayad vaishyaha
Padbiaghum shudro ajayatha

We misunderstand these verses by taking the literal meaning and we assume the face of the purusha gave birth to the Brahmins, the shoulders to kings, the thighs to merchants or business men and the feet to the shudras or the working class. But these words meant something much deeper. The face of the society should be the learned people and Brahman was not a caste but the educators. The society is better off with the wise leading all. The communications come from them. They see what is happening. They hear the vows of the people. Hence the head of the society should be the intelligent.

The head rests on the shoulders or they are to indicate taking the burden of holding the society or governance to be exact. This lies with the khsthriyas or the raja maharaja - The rulers. They are lead by the face of the society and they form the governing body. They drive the society in the direction as instructed or advised by the intelligentsia.

The thighs or the driving force which takes the society forward are the merchants or businessmen. The vaishyas are the movement and they run the society forward. Then comes the support of the whole body or the society - the working class. The Sudras are the feet which help the merchants, rulers and the intelligentsia forward with basic support.

Now think of any one of these divisions as standalone entities. That’s impossible and it’s clear. Hence these words mean no stratification or division of labour, but the guidelines to a better society. The interconnected nature of the society and what should be the activities for a civilized society are the hidden meanings of these words. 

I recently read a groups discussion on the net which actually make fun of these words and scorn by saying that these are biased thoughts. But if these are biased thoughts then how would a society survive. Why do we call them civilized? We have lost the essence of civilization and messed up the whole structure by sheer misunderstanding of the right guidelines passed on to us.

The suktam also has a line

tathä lokägm akalpayan || 
Thus the entire world was created or it meant thus a civilized society was formed.

We slowly have deteriorated to lesser beings and less civilized. We tend to forget the knowledge and see what can be used for one’s own benefit. Remember as we talk about Bharatha varsha or India in the scriptures, we were talking about the world itself as there was only one island and one sea in the beginning as per plate tectonics. Let’s try and learn more and understand more. Let’s spread the wisdom and remove the darkness of ignorance

asathoma sat gamaya
tamasoma jyothirgamaya
mruthyorma amrutham gamaya
om shanthi santhi santhi:

Let the untruth be banished by the truth; Let the darkness be removed by light; Let the immortality prevail over mortal nature or in other words let the wisdom outlive us and be passed on to the future generations making the knowledge imperishable. And thus let there be peace, peace and peace. The peace of mind, body and soul.

Please do think and embellish this knowledge and pass it on ... we are the torch bearers.


  1. Have read a similar explanation before....People within the Religion should read this and understand before spreading the word to others.....I would love to read something similar on other religions too.....:-)

    1. Thanks Anzil and spread the good word...

    2. Appreciate you are being the part of spreading the right. :-)