The caste system,as widely spoken of - did it have its origin from the Vedas ?
The caste system has been abused and misunderstood.The original concept of caste system was different.
The Purusha Suktam,a vedic chant which finds place in all four Vedas ( Rig,Sama,Yajur and Atharva ) expounds on the caste system.
Video above : Purusha Suktam chanting in Puttaparthi
The Purusha Suktam is a very famous veda mantra which is chanted in Yagyas and pujas.In this hymn, God is personified as a person ( Purusha ) .The Godly attributes are reduced to a human nature so as to express the glory of this supreme energy we call as God.
For instance,this suktam describes God as possessing infinite heads and limbs.This is not to be taken literally as it describes how every head is His.God is present in everyone.In this manner,this hymn glorifies God in many ways as a person.
At one point,the caste system is related to the Purusha ( God) .
BraamhaNo sya mukhamaasiit
- The thinkers ( bramhaNo ) represent the head ( mukham) of the Supreme Person as they symbolize the power of thought and discrimination of Purusha.
Baahuu raajanyaH kRitah
- The rulers or soldiers ( raajanyaH ) represent the Purusha's hands ( baahuu ) as they symbolize the power of protection and preservation of the Purusha.
Uru tadasya yad-vaishyaH
- The businessman ( vaishyaH ) represent His thighs ( uru) or the power of acquisition and distribution.
Padbhyagm shudro ajaayata
- The workers ( shudro ) represent the feet ( padhyaagm) or the power of support and the movement of the Purusha.
What the Purusha Suktam explains is that
Brahmin - the priestly class - those established in higher knowledge and wisdom,emerged from the head of the God.
Kshatriya - the warrior class- those who are predominantly courageous ,physically and strong,emerged from the shoulders ( hands ) of God
Vaishya - the business class- efficient in the art of commerce , emerged from the thighs of God
Shudra - the labour class - those who are active and engaged in physical labour - emerged from the feet of God.
Can there be a body without a head ? Can there be a body without the feet ? Can there be a body without the hands ?
So,all the castes are compared to the limbs of the same body - the body of God.This holy and profoundly significant Varna Organisation fell into the hands of unintelligent and selfish men with restricted outlook and narrow ideals ; they expounded it in writing as their fancy dictated.Thereby,they brought about great harm to the world.
The original design of the caste system was based on the temperament,profession,vocation,avocation and attitude to life of individuals.All were considered equally important.
Caste is the Cosmic Person Himself,manifesting as human society.It is the visible form of the Lord,charming in every limb.
When the Vedas say that the Shudras emerged from the feet,it does not mean that they are discriminated.Feet is used as it illustrates the power of support and movement contributed to the society.
This was wrongly propagated by certain groups to discriminate and tarnish the truth of the Vedas.
What is the relevance of Purusha Suktam for modern society ?
- Man is the limb of society
- Society is the limb of the nation
- The nation is the limb of Divinity
So, man and God are related.Part of God is nature ,part of nature is society and part of society is man.So,man,society,nature and God are interlinked,interconnected,inter-dependent and inter-related.This relationship is very well explained in the Purusha Suktam
The Purusha Suktam further explains and expounds on the mind, god realisation,nature and other truths of the cosmos or existence.
You may learn the Purusha Suktam and chant this powerful hymn to experience these deep vedic truths.Link attached below :
English translation ( meaning ) :-
lyric PDF and audio ( downloadable ) - scroll to find :-
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