Explain the difference between varṇa and jāti, and their place in Hinduism.
As both of the Sanskrit word varna and jati are usually translated as “caste”, it has always misleading because they have an important differences behind them. Varna and jati are deeply rooted in Hindu’s daily life, therefore, you cannot talk about Hinduism without mention varna and jati. Commonly, people saying that there are four varnas – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. But what we find today are not only varnas also jatis, there are only four varnas but thousands of jatis. In this essay will explain the difference between varna and jati, and their place in Hinduism.
All Hindu traditions share an underlying respect for Varnashrama Dharma, most of the Hindus adhere to Varnasharma to the best of their ability. The Varnashrama system is based in the Bhagavad-Gita (4.13), as the Bible in India. The Lord Krishna, explains that he created human society with four natural social classes (or varnas), as well as four underlying spiritual orders (or ashramas). This is where the word Varnashrama comes from. (Steven J. Rosen, 2006, p.35) According to the Rig Veda, sacred texts that date back to oral traditions of more than 3,000 years ago, the mighty Phrusha, the Lord has expanded his universal body into the visible universe. By way of metaphor, the Veda tells us that his body divided into four divisions that in the end became known as the varnas: “From his mouth came the priestly class, Brahmins, who tell us about the Lord; from his arm, Kshatriyas, who are the rulers and administrators; from his legs, Vaishya, who are the agriculturists, merchants, or economists came and from his feet, Shurdras, who are the workers, artisans.” (Steve J. Rosen, 2006, p. 40)Each group has a function in supporting the life of society as they are the social body, the system of varna devolved as time wore on, this is the four natural social classes.
Another important thing about the varnas is that the first three, as above, the Brahmins, the Kshartriyas and the Vaishyas, are called “twice born.” Being "twice born" means that you come of age religiously, making you a member of the Vedic religion, eligible to learn Sanskrit, study the Vedas, and perform Vedic rituals, that is only to men and boys. According to Hindu texts, when the twice born come of age, they go into the four ashramas or “spiritual stages of life,” which brings us to the second part of the Varnashrama system. The first ashrama is Brahmacharya, or the stage of the student. The second stage is Grihastha, or the stage of the householder, that is, the life for married, which is placed seriously in Hinduism. The third stage of spiritual stratification is called Vanaprastha, the stage of retirement. In old age one traditionally enters the fourth stage of Sannyasa, or that of the wandering ascetic, now considered the spiritual master of society, which is the most respected of all the ashramas. The ashramas here is described as represent a four-tiered system in which one is first a student, then gets married, and later retires and prepares for death. The unique about the Hindu scriptures is that here one finds direction and models of behaviour suitable to each of the four ashramas, and these help one to gradually advance in terms of spiritual evolution. In fact presents a structured methodology for achieving rightness on the path of spirituality, which is divided the rules of society in a two-fold way: according to varna and according to ashrama. ( Steven J. Rosen, 2006,p. 44-45)
Even though varnasharma has got an important place in Hindu’s society, but the Hindu everyday living is not much about the four varnas. In fact that the guiding factor in every situation is dharma, which means that men applies to problems of social and moral behaviour the understanding of his duty or responsibility as a member of a particular group in a particular situation. As the countless exclusive social groupings that...
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Marriott, McKim. “Varṇa and Jāti,” The Hindu World, edited by Sushil Mittal & Gene Thursby, 357-382. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Rosen, Steven. “Dharma and the Hindu Social System” Essential Hinduism, foreword by Graham M. Schweig, 33-48. An important of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc, 2006
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