Caste System

Published on May 31st, 2022 | by Madhudvisa dasa


The real Indian Caste System — Varnasrama Dharma

The purpose of the Varnasrama social system is to provide a structure which allows people to work according to their natural tendencies and to organize society so that everyone, regardless of their position, makes spiritual advancement.

People can only work with a cooperative spirit if there is a central point. Over the years proponents of many different political ideologies have tried to unite society by providing such a central point, however, these attempts have all ultimately failed.

Generally people work for their own pleasure and this is sometimes extended to working for the family, the nation or even the whole world. Because the aims and aspirations of the members of society are so varied it is practically impossible to achieve a peaceful situation as everyone is working to fulfill his own personal goals.

The only universal central point around which everyone can work is God. He provides an absolute, eternal center for all our activities. If we try to make something else the central point the resulting society is doomed to fail.

The Varnasrama system recognizes there are many different types of people who may not be spiritually inclined. The society is organized under the direction of qualified brahmanas and is divided into four occupational and four spiritual divisions in such a way that everyone is serving God simply by performing their occupational duties. As the entire society is arranged to please God, anyone working within the society also pleases God.



The Structure of Varnasrama Society

The practical application of the Varnasrama system is to divide the society according to four occupational and four spiritual orders of life.

The Varnasrama system recognizes the natural talents and abilities of each person and provides work according to a persons qualities. There are four qualities of work, the brahmanas are the intellectual and priestly class, the ksatriyas are the government, the military and the administrative classes, the vaisyas are farmers and businessmen, and the sudras are workers.

There are also four spiritual divisions, brahmacary, student life, grhastha, married life, vanaprasta, retired life and sunnyasa, renounced life. If this system is properly implemented under the direction of qualified brahmanas the result will be peace and prosperity throughout the world.

The Corrupt Indian “Caste” System

The Varnasrama social divisions are based on qualities and work. If someone has the qualities of a brahmana and if they work as a brahmana they are accepted as a qualified brahmana. This system should not be confused with the corrupt “caste” system of India.

In India people claim to be brahmanas simply because they are born in a brahmana family even though they do not possess the qualifications or qualities of a brahmana and in most cases they are not working as brahmanas either..

The result of the corruption of the original system has been the destruction of the entire social structure in India and the “caste” system is now being used by the rich to exploit and oppress the poor.

Divisions According to Qualification

In Varnasrama society all members are equally important. An analogy comparing the social body to the human body is given to explain this. The brahmanas are the head of the body as they possess the intelligence and give directions to the other parts of the body. The ksatriyas are likened to the arms of the body as their business as administrators and the military is to protect the social body from threats from outside (attacks from enemies) and disruption from within. (Thieves and rogues).

The vaisyas are likened to the stomach. The stomach provides energy to the body. The vaisyas, as the productive class, are the farmers and businessman who produce and distribute food to the social body. The vaisyas are also responsible for protecting the cows.

The sudras are likened to the legs as they provide the manual labor required by the social body.

We look after our whole body. It is not that we attend to problems affecting the head and neglect problems in the legs. The body works as a coordinated unit and a problem anywhere in the body causes a disruption to the proper functioning of the whole body and is therefore immediately attended to.

The social body should work as a coordinated unit with different members of the society acting in their respective positions as brahmanas, ksatriyas, vaisyas and sudras according to their qualities. The result will be a happy, peaceful and efficient society.

  • The Brahmanas

    Although all members of the social body are important, as the brahmanas are the intelligent class directing society by giving guidance and advice to the king or government (ksatriyas), it is vital that they be properly qualified.

    If the head of society is not functioning properly the whole social body is in trouble.

    All over the world we are seeing misguided governments make the lives of their citizens hell, simply because they have no qualified brahmanas to give them advice.

    The whole planet has become very unfortunate and disturbed due to such unqualified leadership.

    The brahmana’s position is that of an unpaid adviser to the king or government. The business of the brahmana is to understand the Vedic Scriptures and be expert in applying them in different places and at different times.

    The Vedic system doesn’t require the creation of any new rules or legislation The perfect laws have been given by Manu, the father of mankind in the Manu Samhita, and the qualified brahmana simply implements these timeless laws. There is no need for imperfect man made laws.

    The qualities of a brahmana are given in the Bhagavad-gita as peacefulness, self control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness and all of these qualities must be actually manifest before someone can be accepted as a brahmana.

    • Giving Charity to the Brahmanas

      On special days such as the birth of a child, marriage and other auspicious occasions it is customary for the ksatriyas and vaisyas to give in charity to the brahmanas. The ksatriya king is wealthy because in return for giving the citizens protection he levies taxes. The vaisya farmers and businessmen are wealthy because of their farming and trading activity. The brahmana takes whatever small amount is required to maintain himself and his family and he distributes the rest of the charity he receives for the benefit of thepeople in general.

      Because the brahmana is intelligent and an expert in spiritual matters he can understand how best to distribute charity. It is for this reason in Vedic society charity is given to the brahmanas. It is not very intelligent to give charity to unqualified persons, for they will simply squander it. For example if you give a drunkard money, it will be used for purchasing alcohol, not food. Such charity is charity in the mode of ignorance and is not very auspicious.


  • The ksatriyas

    The ksatriyas take the positions of king or politicians and the military.They administer society according to the directions and advice of the brahmanas.

    Their qualities are given in the Bhagavad-gita as heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership.

    • The Perfect King

      A good ksatriya king is strong and just, he acts according to the advice of the brahmanas, he is loved by the law abiding citizens and feared as death personified by the thieves and rogues.

      In a country ruled by a qualified ksatriya king the citizens are protected and thus they develop good qualities and are peaceful and happy. Because the king is strong and honest the citizens have no fear of being disturbed by thieves and rogues or by attacks from invading armies. They also have no fear of being plundered by unfair or exorbitant taxation or dishonest government officers, as such a strong king will quickly correct any corruption within his own ministry.

      The lives of many saintly kings are described in Srimad Bhagavatam and we recommend those interested m hearing more about the the qualities and activities of such great souls study the Srimad Bhagavatam..

    • The Problem With Modern Government

      In modern governments we find many politicians and government officers who are simply interested in a good salary and a comfortable life. They achieve this for themselves and their colleagues by levying exorbitant taxes and creating an ineffectual and bureaucratic top heavy government.

      The citizens under the rule of such an unqualified government are most unfortunate. They are not protected from thieves and rogues from within the country. Instead they are exploited by the governments taxation system. Excessive taxation is levied to maintain the ineffectual top heavy bureaucratic system. No one can be happy in such a difficult position

    • Selection of Members of the Government

      Unless a person has the qualities of a ksatriya he should not be given the position of king, president, prime minister, minister or a military man.

      If the men in these positions do not have the qualities of a ksatriya (heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership) then the government becomes unworkable and the society suffers due to lack of protection.

      Currently, all over the world, the people in general are suffering because the governments of the world are full of unqualified persons who have no idea of the process of creating a fair society and maintaining law and order.


  • The vaisyas

    The vaisyas are responsible principally for the production food and the protection of the cows. It is the duty of the brahmanas to understand the Vedic Scriptures and give guidance to the ksatriya government and military who, in turn give directions to the vaisyas and the sudras.

    The qualities of a vaisya are given in the Bhagavad-gita as farming, cow protection and business and they work to provide the society with the required food, clothing and other goods.

  • The sudras

    The sudras have little intelligence and must therefore be engaged in the service of one of the other three classes.

    Their occupation is to perform manual labor, give service and to engage in arts and craftsmanship.

    The sudras are unable to support themselves independently therefore they must take shelter of an employer who can direct and provide for them.

    It is described in this age of Kali almost everyone is a sudra. We can actually see society is now so degraded that practically everyone must work as a sudra by serving an employer.

    Only the sudras take such employment, the brahmanas simply depend on God and this way they get everything required. They receive charity from members of the other divisions of society. The ksatriya has some land and collects taxes from the citizens and the vaisya makes some money by trading farm produce and doing business. Only the sudras depend on someone else for their maintenance.

    If proper education is provided then the sudras who have the capacity to learn can be elevated to higher positions in the social structure.

    A society of sudras means a society of chaos as sudras don’t have the intelligence to organize society, therefore, there is great need to train qualified brahmanas to reestablish the “head” of the social body. If this is done there is certainly hope for the future

About the Author

My first contact with a Hare Krishna was a most merciful Mataji in Oxford Street, London who sold me a "Higher Taste" cook book in 1984 while I was on holidays there. I started seriously reading Srila Prabhupada's books in Australia 1985 and by 1986 Srila Prabhupada had convinced me "Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead" and "we should surrender to Krishna." I joined the Hare Krishnas in Perth, Western Australia in 1986. Since then I have been chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, reading and distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and preaching as much as I can. That's my life and full-time occupation now really. I like it more than anything I've ever experienced before. Srila Prabhupada's books are so amazing... Even after reading them all many times they're still fresh and new. They are truly transcendental! That's it really. Now I'm just hankering to once again see the world chant Hare Krishna, dance and feast and float away in the ecstasy of Lord Caitanya's Sankirtana movement as it did in Srila Prabhupada's physical presence. Let the whole world drown in the ecstatic flood of love of Krishna!

19 Responses to The real Indian Caste System — Varnasrama Dharma

  1. sudarshan jagtap says:

    The (why varna and why not the will / intention / freedom of choice )Varnasrama system (how does it) recognizes there are (how and who decides)many different types of people who may not be (which) spiritually inclined. The society is organized under (whose) the direction of qualified (priests only privileged ones? ) brahmanas and is divided into four occupational and four spiritual divisions in such a way that everyone is serving (why need to serve) God simply by performing their occupational duties (oh! god wow, nice connection with occupation so they don’t need to pay). As the (which and where) entire society is arranged to please God, anyone working within the society also pleases God ( seriously! god is not kind enough but needs to be pleased?).

    There are just very basic few questions…see many other countries are functional without this system and are alive and pleasing themselves happily. it means the given solution is not universal, just that make believing someone else’s ambitious plan on paper!

    If everyone is compared on the physical strength level, the disabled ones do not have place in this system.

    Welcome to 21st century! Be your own light, chalk out your own path! That’s the power of being individual! it is guaranteed under the constitution of India. Thanks to those set of wise leaders who saved the future of India.

    • Varnasram system is everywhere, in every country.

      In every country there are four classes of men. There are the intellectuals, the administrators, the farmers and businessmen, and the workers. So people automatically, in every country, work according to their natural propensities in one of these four occupational duties.

  2. Hemchand Tularam says:

    Hare Krishna Team ISKCON!!! This is an excellent piece of work!!! Identifying problems and giving the recommended solutions to a better, and peaceful God Conscious lifestyle for the entire world… I do hope some and/or all the leaders and/or the future leaders can read this article of nectar… The Supreme Lord is so great that you can feel His present, everywhere… Again, great work!!! God Bless. Om Tat Sat

  3. Yogita says:

    Division based on caste results in reservation in India 🙁

    Can’t we treat everyone equal?

    • Anand Dwivedi says:

      Questions is our basic needs are equal but in our abilities and qualities are we equal……like you can’t expect someone who has managerial qualities to be working as a labour so they are not equal you see any way how ever respecting the soul within is different thingroups we are not even discussing that.

      • Yes. People are absolutely not equal on the bodily platform. One man is very intelligent and physically not very strong and another may be very physically strong and not very intelligent. They are not equal. Only a fool would say that people are equal. Everyone is different from the material point of view and everyone needs to be engaged in service, work, according to their abilities. But on the spiritual platform we are all equal. The soul is equal. And everyone has an equal opportunity to advance in spiritual life. But from the material point of view you can not make the people equal.

  4. Prakash Paudel says:

    First of all, thank you very much for the best-explained article about caste system. People (other than sanatan dharmi) blame that the Hindus rather the Hindu-Brahmins have created aartificial deep trench of castism. Ok You have explained it well in terms of quality of works as a base of differentiating a caste.
    I have one question and one suggestion if you don’t take it otherwise:
    Some people explain the Dharma as ‘Good Deed’ and Sanatana as ‘carried over’ (forward) from the (ancient) past. It means Sanatana Dharma is not very rigid and hard but flexible to fit the mankind as per time. In other words (mathematically) it is a function of time (Kaal), social level of development (Yuga) and overall level of knowledge (Jyan). I do not want to overtake the profound knowledge of yours but simply want to accept the simple formula for the very illiterate and poor society being attacked and dragged by the bidharmis to the darkness. Is it totally misleading then?
    You have explained the caste system under the Flag of India. Do you mean it is a character of India (Indian territory). Or you also mean it as a part of whole sanatani (followers). I think Indians and Sanatanis are not same though they share a lot. (All the Indians are not following Sanatan Dharma and all the followers of Sanati Dharma are not Indians). Please provide us Your wise view as before.

    • Hare Krishna

      “Sanatana Dharma” does not mean “good deed carried over” at all. Sanatana means eternal, perminant, unchanging, unchangable. There is no way to change the meaning of sanatana to something that is changeable… And dharma does not mean actually religion as it is generally translated. It means duty or occupation. So sanatana dharma refers to the eternal occupation, that is the best definition. And the eternal occupation of everyone is to serve Krishna. So this is the real meaning of sanatana dharma.

      I have explained the caste system under the Indian flag because this article is primarily about the current bogus and corrupt Indian caste system. So this corrupt caste system only exists in India. But the principle of sanatana dharma is universal. It is everywhere, all over the universe, all over the creation. And Varnasrama-dhama, the division of the society into four orders of life — (brahmacary (student), grhastha (married life), vanaprastha (retired life) and sannyasa (renounced life) — is universal and is applicable everywhere. It has nothing to do with India. It is for everywhere.

      So the current corrupt caste system is certainly a product of India but sanatana dharma and varnasrama dharma are universal principles applicable everywhere.

      Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

      Madhudvisa dasa

  5. Amaro says:

    How to know what occupation Krishna wants me to do?

    • Krishna wants you to surrender to Him and serve Him.

    • Amaro says:

      Krishna says “Prescribed duties should never be renounced”. How to know my prescribed duty?

      • You need to find out from a bona fide Spriitual Master. Read Srila Prabhupada’s books. He will let you know.

        Actually everyone’s prescribed duty is to surrender to Krishna and serve him but the exact individual details you need a bona fide spiritual master to guide you…

        • Sanjiv Pillai says:

          Hare Krishna
          Dear Sir, how do I find a bonafide spiritual master? I am currently in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. Over the last few weeks I consider myself most fortunate and blessed to have read through Srila Prabhupada’s Gita (still only halfway through though). It has indeed given me a sense of purpose and meaning in life and answered my questions.

          Having some sort of spiritual inclination, I have immediately latched on to the teachings here and have immediately started following the instructions of totally giving up on the sense gratification elements like meat, intoxication etc (though I was always doing this occasionally anyways).

          I also think and chant Krishna’s songs, especially Maha Mantra everyday starting from early morning.

          I would like to plan my next trip to India in such a way that I can meet a bonafide spiritual master and associate with Krishna devotees. I am originally from Kerala but parents are in Mumbai. I want my 5 year old daughter as well (who is with me in Jersey) to make the most and have an upbringing possibly going to a Gurukul etc.

          I would be most grateful if you could advise.

          Thank you
          Hare Krishna

          • Hare Krishna Sanjiv

            You have found your bona-fide spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, by reading his Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

            So you have to know this. That Prabhupada is living in his books and is quite prepared to accept you as his disciple and guide you and answer all your questions. It is up to you to keep reading Prabhupada’s books and keep applying the instructions you will find Srila Prabhupada giving to you as you read his books in your life.

            The way we make advancement in spiritual life is by hearing from a pure devotee of Krishna, so when you read Prabhupada’s books you are hearing from a pure devotee of Krishna and advancing in spiritual life. So continue this process and don’t worry, you have found your spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

            Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!

            Madhudvisa dasa

          • Sanjiv Pillai says:

            Thank you very much sir. Hare Krishna.

  6. jay says:

    Haribol could you please tell me the origin of Varnasrama Dharma was it the Treta age it began or the Dvarpa yuga could you direct me to an approiate site that explains the origin thankyou

  7. Chandrasekharan Menon says:

    OM Namo Narayanaya

    As said in the article, in Kali yuga if all are Sudras, where do we go and look for Real Brahmanas? I feel everything is a cycle as our earth itself is a circle rotating by itself going around the Sun in a rotation (cycle) thus the weather pattern is following one after the other each year. In olden days Great Kings ruled the country well, looked after the needs of the people. They lost their kingdom when the kings became selfish. The current system of Democracy is very good provided it is practised strictly as per the definition “of the people, by the people, for the people”. But what we see is not a true Democracy. I have the following script to prove which one is good?

    “We saw that in the end none of man’s forms of government work either very well or for very long. Yet most democratic leaders believe that the spread of their form of government —democracy— is crucial to solving the world’s problems and bringing freedom, abundance and happiness to all.
    Is this true?
    The following shows the pattern of how democracies deteriorate. This astonishing quote, usually attributed to Alexander Tyler (circa late 1700s), pertains to the fall of the Athenian republic but applies to the ailing democracies of this modern age:
    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public [treasury]. From that moment, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the [treasury], with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.”
    If true, this means modern democracies will soon return to bondage. While all governments of men promise “pie in the sky,” they are filled with graft, corruption, immorality and every form of deception. ”

    My personal comment is perhaps after the present Kali Yuga, those who survive may enter the Sathya Yuga where all people will be truthful to themselves and to the rest
    Om Namo Narayanaya

    • Hare Krishna Chandershakaran

      Thank you very much for the very thoughtful comments, I appreciate it very much.

      You are correct in assuming that democracy can not stay for very long. This system of government will lead to a totalitarian system of government and the US is heading down that part very fast.

      In this short article I was speaking a little about the Vedic system for government and for the smooth running of society with the society ruled by saintly kings guided by qualified brahmanas. We can see in the history of India that this style of government can be maintained so long as there are qualified kings and qualified brahmanas to guide them. It is not flawed like the system of “democracy.” The perfect example of this type of government was shown by Lord Rama and even today in India the people are still hankering for “Rama Raja,” a King like Lord Rama.

      “Democracy” is a dream only. The idea as you have said it to have the government “of the people by the people and for the people.” This means, in the ideal democratic system, a government will be elected by the people composed of whoever gets the most votes from the general public. And as you have pointed out the people are sudras and they will naturally vote for the candidates who promise to give them the most money.

      So this is the basic, fundamental flaw in the whole idea of democracy. The flaw is that it depends completely on the assumption that whoever the people choose by popular vote will be qualified to govern the people.

      But the people in general have no idea at all what sort of qualities are needed in a ruler, and they will simply vote for the one who promises to give them the most sense gratification, the most money.

      However the Vedic Varnashram system of government requires a qualified king who rules according to the advice given to him by qualified brahmanas. And right now we can not find any qualified brahmanas for the advisers or ksatriyas for the king. So what is necessary at this point of time is to train at least a small number of men as first-class brahmanas. That is the most important thing, the real need at this difficult moment in human history.

      The brahmanas are supposed to be the head of the society, the ksatriyas the arms, the vaisyas the stomach, and the sucra’s the legs. All the different members of the society are important and a society can not function properly if any of these four divisions is not functioning properly, just like the body can not function properly if any of it’s components, the head, the arms, the stomach or the legs, are not functioning properly, the society can not function if any one of the four groups is not doing its work properly.

      Still, nothing can go on at all without the head of the body, in that sense you can say the head is most important. Similarly in society unless there is a proper qualified first-class brahminically qualified group of men to give advice to the King or the government, then the society is a “headless” body. There is no direction, no hope.

      So the bottom line is that this brahminical class of men has to be created and that is the mission of Srila Prabhupada and the reason he created this “International Society for Krishna Consciousness.” It is for creating a class of first-class men, real brahmanas. So that is our mission.

      There is no point in waiting around until satya yuga. That is not for a long time. Well over 200,000 years and we don’t want to stay and rot in the material world for 200,000 years life after life, just waiting for satya-yuga.

      We are in a special time now. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was on this planet only five hundred years ago and His appearance ushered in a “Golden Age,” in this Kali Yuga. It may not seem like it at the moment but because of Lord Caitanya’s mercy and Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we have access to the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha mantra which is amazingly powerful, even in this Kali-Yuga. The sankirtan, the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, can counteract all the negative aspects of this Kali-Yuga and usher in a golden age, now we do not have to wait for the Satya Yuga. It requires a dedicated group of devotees, a real International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a society composed of members who are all completely dedicated to performing Sankirtan. The Sankirtan can transform this Kali Yuga into a Satya Yuga, so we need a Sankirtan Movement. That is the great need at the moment and my humble attempt with this website and all the projects we are involved in is to help rebuild Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtan movement… That is the answer, not waiting for Satya Yuga…

      Thank you for the very interesting comment.

  8. Nayna Patel says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It explains well.
    Hare Krishna!!

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