Modern Hindu cults such as Arya Samaj, or certain sections of ISKCON, and polemists such as Rajiv Malhotra promulgate the view that Varna system is a classification of vocation based on qualities and has nothing to do with ones’ birth. In fact, bizarrely, they also accuse Britishers of creating rigid varna system or caste system. On the other hand, orthodox and mainstream Hindu representatives such as Shankarachyara of Kanchi or Shankarachyara of Puri clearly refutes such views and establishes that varna system is by birth marshalling evidence from Hindu scriptures. Equally interesting is that the fact that these orthodox and reputed spokespersons of Hinduism blame British era for weakening the traditional varna or caste sytem.  In this three-part series, Jerry Thomas weighs the arguments and points that without any iota of doubt varna system is by birth. Part 1 examines whether is any merit in the argument of those who argue that varna is by occupation. Part 2 raises an important question as to whether varna is justifiable even if it not by birth. Part 3 looks at the evidence of varna by birth.


We have seen in Part 1 that those who argue that varna is not by birth has no solid arguments. We have also seen in Part 2 that even if varna is not by birth, it is still unjustifiable. In this third part, we are going to look at the arguments of those who say that varna is by birth.

Contemporary scholars who argue for varna system by birth are orthodox representatives and well acceptable spokespersons for Hinduism.

Let us begin by Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Mahaswamiji, 68th Jagadguru Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. Here is the extract from his write up on this question and interested readers can read the entire article of Swamiji as provide below. In this article, he also adduces the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi.

Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji,


Instead of speaking about the subject myself, I will cite the views of Gandhiji who is much respected by the reformists: “The Gita does talk of varna being according to guna and karma, but guna and karma are inherited by birth.” So the fact that Krsna Paramatman’s practice is not at variance with his doctrine is confirmed by Gandhiji. Modernists should not twist and distort the Vedas and sastras and the pronouncements of Krsna Paramatman to suit their own contentions.

Krsna is usually imperative in his utterances. “I speak, you listen,” such is his manner. But when he speaks of people and their duties, he does not inpose himself saying “I speak thus”, but instead he points to what is laid down in the sastras to be the authority. During Krsna’s own time the various castes were divided according to birth: we learn this, without any room for doubt, from the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and the Visnu Purana. I mention this because some research scholars today are likely to put forward the view that caste based on birth evolved after the time of Krsna. The epic and the Puranas mentioned above declare categorically that during the age of Sri Krsna Paramatman the sastras dealing with varnasrama were the authority for dharma. It was at such a time, when an individual’s vocation was determined by birth, that the Lord declared in clear terms :

Yah sastra -vidhim utsrjya vartate kama-karatah

Na sa siddhim avapnoti na sukham na param gatim

Tasmacchastram pramanam te karyakaryavyavasthitau

Jnatva sastravidhan oktam karma kartum iha’rhasi

-Bhagavadgita, 16. 23 & 24.

Who so forsakes the injunctions of the sastras and lives according to his own desires does not obtain liberation, finds no happiness. (The Sastras determine your work, what is right and what is wrong. You must know the way shown by the sastras and pursue the work – vocation – according to them.)

Sri Krsna establishes that an individual owes his caste to his birth. There should not be the slightest doubt about it.

“Hindu Dharma” is a book which contains English translation of certain invaluable and engrossing speeches of Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji (at various times during the years 1907 to 1994).

Here Swamiji is putting forward two powerful arguments –

Argument 1: guna and karma are acquired by past lives. If so, even if one cites Gita 4:13, it is no way refuting the varna by birth.

Argument 2: Sree Krishna himself appeals to shastra in the matters related to Varna system and hence Sree Krishna’s teaching can no way contradict shastras which clearly teach varna by birth.

Let us examine Argument 1 which is guna and karma are acquired by past lives. If so, even if one cites Gita 4:13, it is no way refuting the varna by birth.

We will have to examine how one acquires guna and karma. If it is based on past life, varna is based on birth. Let us look at Gita. Gita speaks about it in Gita 13:20 -22.

Gita 13:20 -22

Gita 13: 20

prakrtim purusam caiva

viddhy anadi ubhav api

vikarams ca gunams caiva

viddhi prakrti-sambhavan


prakrtim—material nature; purusam—living entities; ca—also; eva—certainly; viddhi—must know; anadi—without beginning; ubhau—both; api—also; vikaran—transformation; ca—also; gunan—three modes of nature; ca—also; eva—certainly; viddhi—know; prakrti—material nature; sambhavan—produced of.


Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature.

GITA 13: 21 –



hetuh prakrtir ucyate

purusah sukha-duhkhanam

bhoktrtve hetur ucyate


karya—effect; karana—cause; kartrtve—in the matter of creation; hetuh—instrument; prakrtih—material nature; ucyate—is said to be; purusah—the living entities; sukha—happiness; duhkhanam—of distresses; bhoktrtve—in enjoyment; hetuh—instrument; ucyate—is said to be.


Nature is said to be the cause of all material activities and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.


The different manifestations of body and senses among the living entities are due to material nature. There are 8,400,000 different species of life, and these varieties are the creation of the material nature. They arise from the different sensual pleasures of the living entity, who thus desires to live in this body or that. When he is put into different bodies, he enjoys different kinds of happiness and distress. His material happiness and distress are due to his body, and not to himself as he is. In his original state there is no doubt of enjoyment; therefore that is his real state. Because of the desire to lord it over material nature, he is in the material world. In the spiritual world there is no such thing. The spiritual world is pure, but in the material world everyone is struggling hard to acquire victims who present different pleasures to the body. It might be more clear to state that this body is the effect of the senses. The senses are instruments for gratifying desire. Now, the sum total-body and instrument senses-are offered by material nature, and, as will be clear in the next verse, the living entity is blessed or damned with circumstances according to his past desire and activity. According to one’s desires and activities, material nature places one in various residential quarters. The being himself is the cause of his attaining such residential quarters and his attendant enjoyment or suffering. Once placed in some particular kind of body, he comes under the control of nature because the body, being matter, acts according to the laws of nature. At that time, the living entity has no power to change that law. Suppose an entity is put into the body of a dog. As soon as he is put into the body of a dog, he must act like a dog. He cannot act otherwise. And if the living entity is put into the body of a hog, then he is forced to eat stool and act like a hog. Similarly, if the living entity is put into the body of a demigod, he must act according to his body. This is the law of nature. But in all circumstances, the Supersoul is with the individual soul. That is explained in the Vedas as follows: dva suparna sayuja sakhaya. The Supreme Lord is so kind upon the living entity that He always accompanies the individual soul and in all circumstances is present as the Supersoul or Paramatma.

Gita 13: 22

purusah prakrti-stho hi

bhunkte prakrti-jan gunan

karanam guna-sango ‘sya



purusah—the living entity; prakrti-sthah—being situated in the material energy; hi—certainly; bhunkte—enjoys; prakrti-jan—produced by the material nature; gunan—modes of nature; karanam—cause; guna-sangah—association with the modes of nature; asya—of the living entity; sat-asat—good and bad; yoni—species of life; janmasu—birth.


The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil amongst various species.


This verse is very important for an understanding of how the living entities transmigrate from one body to another. It is explained in the Second Chapter that the living entity is transmigrating from one body to another just as one changes dress. This change of dress is due to his attachment to material existence. As long as he is captivated by this false manifestation, he has to continue transmigrating from one body to another. Due to his desire to lord it over material nature, he is put into such undesirable circumstances. Under the influence of material desire, the entity is born sometimes as a demigod, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a beast, as a bird, as a worm, as an aquatic, as a saintly man, as a bug. This is going on. And in all cases the living entity thinks himself to be the master of his circumstances, yet he is under the influence of material nature.

Note, what Srila Prabhupada wrote “as will be clear in the next verse, the living entity is blessed or damned with circumstances according to his past desire and activity.”

It is not Srila Prabhupada, other commentators have said the same:

Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya: Nimbaditya, Kesava Kasmiri’s Commentary

The supposition that the atma or immortal soul is said to be the cause of experiencing pleasure and pain is erroneous and untenable because the atma is completely spiritual and the epitome of knowledge. Although the intrinsic nature of the atma is immutable and eternally blissful, Lord Krishna clarifies here that when the jiva or embodied being is engrossed in experiencing objects of material nature from the three gunas being the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance; then various modification arise due to the karma or reactions to the actions which are performed and is the definitive cause of the jiva being born in exalted or degraded wombs in any of the 8 million 400 thousand different species that exist throughout the material creation. The exalted wombs such as those born of the demi-gods are attuned in the mode of goodness. The degraded wombs such as those born of the demons are attuned to the qualities of ignorance. The mixed wombs of exalted and degraded such as those born of humans are attuned to the qualities of activity and passion. The higher being the Vaisnava’s and Brahmanas and the lower being the sudras the lower class and below them the degraded are the mleechas or the meateaters and the candalas or the uncleansed. The animals regardless of intelligence are attuned to the instincts of their species in the mode of nescience. The consequence of experiencing any of these wombs is due solely to the jiva continuously attempting to exploit and enjoy material nature and the subsequent karma derived from such activities. The most powerful cause is the mental attachment anticipating the pleasure of enjoying the sense objects of touch and taste and form etc. and the incessant manoeuvres for achieving such desires. Thus the atma residing within the jiva who is bewildered and beguiled by material nature is subjected to transmigration perpetually in the wombs of higher and lower species performing activities which accrues karma and is incessantly born and reborn indefinitely. The conclusion is that the atma experiences a demotion by the cycles of birth and death and until renunciation and detachment arises and the desire for material enjoyment is abandoned and the heart is made pure by bhakti or pure, exclusive devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of his Vedically authorised incarnations, the atma will not be able to be realised by the jiva and achieve freedom from samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Varnas are categorized as per gunas and gunas are acquired from past life and birth is as per gunas.  If so varnas are by birth.

Ramanjua Acharya was explicit on this.

Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya: Ramanuja, Ramanuja’s Commentary (Commentaries on Gita 18: 41  (

The word svabhava means one’s inherent nature. This inherent nature arises from samskaras or past impressions and karma or reactions from past actions and is the root cause of determining birth as a Brahmin. The three gunas or modes of material nature arising from prakriti or the material substratum pervading all existence are determined by karma and samskaras as well.

Hence, Gita 4:13 is now way denying the varna by birth.

Moreover, Shankarachyara of Govardhan Math, Puri explains this clearly. Once can watch it here.

Further, other verses in Gita agrees with this. It is to be noted that Gita 9: 32 specifically calls women, vaisyas and sudras as of lower birth or born of sinful wombs.

Gita 9: 32

mam hi partha vyapasritya

ye ‘pi syuh papa-yonayah

striyo vaisyas tatha sudras

te ‘pi yanti param gatim


mam-unto Me; hi-certainly; partha-O son of Prtha; vyapasritya-particularly taking shelter; ye-anyone; api-also; syuh-becomes; papa-yonayah—born of a lower family; striyah—women; vaisyah—mercantile people; tatha—also; sudrah—lower class men; te api—even they; yanti—go; param—supreme; gatim—destination.


O son of Prtha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaisyas [merchants], as well as sudras [workers]-can approach the supreme destination.


It is clearly declared here by the Supreme Lord that in devotional service there is no distinction between the lower or higher classes of people. In the material conception of life, there are such divisions, but for a person engaged in transcendental devotional service to the Lord, there are not. Everyone is eligible for the supreme destination. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that even the lowest, who are called candalas (dog-eaters), can be elevated by association with a pure devotee. Therefore devotional service and guidance of a pure devotee are so strong that there is no discrimination between the lower and higher classes of men; anyone can take to it. The most simple man taking center of the pure devotee can be purified by proper guidance. According to the different modes of material nature, men are classified in the mode of goodness (brahmanas), the mode of passion (ksatriyas, or administrators), the mixed modes of passion and ignorance (vaisyas, or merchants), and the mode of ignorance (sudras, or workers). Those lower than them are called candalas, and they are born in sinful families. Generally, those who are born in sinful families are not accepted by the higher classes. But the process of devotional service and the pure devotee of the Supreme God are so strong that all the lower classes can attain the highest perfection of life. This is possible only when one takes center of Krsna. One has to take center completely of Krsna. Then one can become much greater than great jnanis and yogis.

If Gita 4: 13 does not deny varna by birth and in fact gunas are acquired from past life, then varna is by birth as Gita clearly teaches.

However, let us also examine the second argument of Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji.

Argument 2: Sree Krishna himself appeals to shastra in the matters related to Varna system and hence Sree Krishna’s teaching can no way contradict shastras which clearly teach varna by birth.

Here again, Sri Nischalananda Saraswati, Shankarcharya of Puri adds to Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji said about Dharma Shastra.

Of the Dharma Shastras, Manusmriti has a special importance. We will begin by looking at  Sri Nischalananda Saraswati, Shankarcharya of Puri said.

Manusmriti 2:36-39 (Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha)

Manusmriti 2: 36 – In the eighth year from conception one should perform the initiation of the Brāhmaṇa; of the king in the eleventh year from conception; and of the Vaiśya in the twelfth.—(36)

Manusmriti 2: 37 – For the Brāhmaṇa desirous of Brahmic glory, it should be done in the fifth year; for the ‘King’ desirous of power, in the sixth; and for the Vaiśya desirous of business, in the eighth.—(37)

Manusmriti 2:38 – For the Brāhmaṇa the Sāvitrī does not lapse till the sixteenth year; for the Kṣatriya till the twenty-second year; and for the Vaiśya till the twenty-fourth year.—(38)

Manusmriti 2: 39  Beyond this, all these three, not having received the sacrament at the proper time, become excluded from Sāvitrī (initiation), and thereby come to be known as ‘Vrātyas’ (apostates), despised by all good men.—(39)

As Sri Nischalananda Saraswati, Shankarcharya of Puri asked what is the meaning of saying that from the eight year from conception one should perform the initiation of Brahmin, eleventh year kshatriya, and twelfth year vaiysa. It is not that if you do initiation at the age of eight, you will become a brahmin and neither can be that by the age of eight, you can find who is a scholar or not.

Again, for a Brahmin desiring Brahmic glory, it should be done at the age of five. This can only mean what Sri Nischalananda Saraswati, Shankarcharya of Puri said, that the child was a brahmin at the time of birth or kshatriya at the time of birth.

Similarly, in Manusmriti 2:38 -and 39, we are told about the upper limit of initiation:

Manusmriti 2:38 – For the Brāhmaṇa the Sāvitrī does not lapse till the sixteenth year; for the Kṣatriya till the twenty-second year; and for the Vaiśya till the twenty-fourth year.—(38)

Manusmriti 2: 39  Beyond this, all these three, not having received the sacrament at the proper time, become excluded from Sāvitrī (initiation), and thereby come to be known as ‘Vrātyas’ (apostates), despised by all good men.—(39)

If it was only by vocation, one should be able to change the vocation at any age. Why not?

Let us remember Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji said that Sri Krishna himself subjects himself under the scriptures.

Gita 16: 23-24 (Translation by Narayana Gosvami)

yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya varttate kāma-cārataḥ |

na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṃ na parāṃ gatim || 23 ||

yaḥ–who; śāstra-vidhim–the codes of scripture; utsṛjya–puts aside; varttate–behaving; kāma-cārataḥ–by the influence of desire; na–nor; saḥ–he; siddhim–perfection; avāpnoti na–neither attains; sukham–happiness; na–nor; parām–the supreme; gatim–destination.

He who discards the injunctions of scripture and acts according to his whimsical desires, attains neither perfection, happiness, nor the supreme destination.

tasmāc chāstraṃ pramāṇaṃ te kāryākārya-vyavasthitau |
jñātvā śāstra-vidhānoktaṃ karma kartum ihārhasi || 24 ||

tasmāt–therefore; śāstram–scripture; pramāṇam–authority; te–your; kārya–what should be done; akārya–what should not be done; vyavasthitau–in ascertaining; jñātvā–by knowing; śāstra–of the Vedic scriptures;vidhāna–in the precepts; uktam–what is spoken; karma–your work; kartum–perform; iha–in this world; arhasi–you should.

Therefore, scripture is the authority regarding proper and improper activity. Being aware of the instructions of the scripture concerning the performance of your prescribed duties, simply be an instrument.

If anyone doubts if the above initiation age specifications are only mentioned in Manusmriti, let them read commentary of Medhatithi and comparative notes from other Dharma Shastras provided by the eminent scholar Ganganatha Jha.

Manusmriti 2: 36 (Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha) Source:

garbhāṣṭame’bde kurvīta brāhmaṇasyaupanāyanam |

garbhādekādaśe rājño garbhāt tu dvādaśe viśaḥ || 36 ||

In the eighth year from conception one should perform the initiation of the Brāhmaṇa; of the king in the eleventh year from conception; and of the Vaiśya in the twelfth.—(36)

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

Counting from the year that one spends in the mother’s womb, when the child reaches the eighth year;—the term ‘garbha’ stands for the year spent in the womb; this indication being due to the presence of the term ‘year,’ ‘abda’; certainly the ‘year’ could never be the ‘eighth’ from ‘garbha,’ if this latter were taken in its direct sense;—in this year one should perform the Initiation of the Brāhmaṇa.

The term ‘aupanāyanam’ stands for ‘upamyanam,’ the ‘aṇ’ affix having the reflexive sense; and the lengthening of the vowel in the latter term (‘nayanam’) being in accordance with (Pāṇini 6.3.198); or the lengthening of the vowels of both terms (‘upa’ and ‘nayanam’) may be regarded as a Vedic anomaly.

‘Upanayana,’ ‘Initiation,’ is the name of a sacrament described in the Gṛhyasūtras and well-known to Vedic scholars, its other name is ‘Mauñjī-bandha,’ ‘Girdle-Investiture.’ That ceremony in which the child is taken over to—made over to—(upanīyate)—the teacher, for the purposes of teaching—and not for any such other purpose as the building of a Avail, or the making of a mat—is what is called ‘Upanayana.’ It is the name of a particular sacramental rite.

‘Of the King in the eleventh year from conception’;—for the Kṣatṭriya the ceremony should be performed in the eleventh year ‘from conception,’—i.e., ‘beginning from conception,’ or ‘after conception.’

The term ‘king’ ‘rājan’ (in ‘rājñaḥ’) should he taken as standing for the Kṣatriya caste; and does not necessarily mean one who is a duly anointed king; firstly because such is the sense in which the word is generally used in books; secondly because in the present context it occurs along with the terms ‘Brāhmaṇa’ and the rest (which are all denotative of castes); and thirdly because we find the term ‘Kṣatriya’ used in the rules that follow regarding the details of the ceremony; e.g., it is raid that ‘the girdle of the Kṣatriya should consist of the bow-string’ (below, Verse 12). It is true that the term ‘king’ is sometimes used in the sense of the ‘rulers’ of ‘countries,’ and as such applied to Vaiśyas and other castes also; but such usage is purely figurative and indirect. And the figurative meaning of a word can be accepted only when the original direct meaning is found inapplicable. That the term ‘king’ in the text stands for the Kṣatriya is shown by the following words of the author of the Gṛhya-sutra—‘One should initiate the Brāhmaṇa in the eighth year, the Kṣatriya in the eleventh and the Vaiśya in the twefth.’ It is on this understanding that the revered Pāṇini derives the word ‘rājya’ (‘Kingship’) from the word ‘rājan’ (King), explaining it as ‘the function the King,’ and hence used in the ordinary sense of ‘lord of country’ [ i.e., the ‘function of ruling a country’ really belongs to the Kṣatriya caste, and when persons of other castes arc called ‘King’ their title is based upon their doing ‘the work of the King’].

Of the Vaiśya, the ceremony should be performed in the twelfth year from conception.—(86)

Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Hemādri (Pariśeṣa, p. 745);—in Gadādharapaddhati (Kālasāra, p. 220), which explains that “Upanayana is to be derived as ‘Nayanam evanāyanam’ and then the prefix ‘Upa’ added;—in Saṃskāramayūkha (p. 32);—and in Smṛticandrikā (Saṃskāra, p. 68), which adds that in the case of the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya also the years are to be counted from the one spent in the womb.

It has been quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 17); and in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 446).

Vīramitrodaya (Saṃskāra, p. 344) explains the reason for the eighth, eleventh and twelfth years being regarded as the best for the Brāhmaṇa, the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya respectively. The Gāyatrī mantra is sacred for the Brāhmaṇa and its foot contains eight syllables; the Triṣtup for the Kṣatriya contains a foot of eleven syllables, and the Jagati for the Vaiśya has a foot of twelve syllables.

Comparative notes by various authors

Gautama-Dharmasūtra, 1-7, 8, 13.—‘For the Brāhmaṇa, the Upanayana daring the eighth year;—for the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya, during the eleventh and twelfth years, respectively.’

Gautama (Aparārka, p. 32).—‘Initiation during the eighth, fifth or ninth year; the eighth year from conception is the time fixed for all, the ninth or the fifth only for those with distinct motives.’

Baudhāyana-Dharmasūtra, 2.8-10.—‘The years in this connection being computed from conception,—the Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should be performed during the eighth year;—three years after the eighth, of the Kṣatriya;—and after one more year, of the Vaiśya.’

Vaśiṣṭha-Smṛti, 11.44.—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should be done during the eighth year from conception, of the Kṣatriya during the eleventh year from conception, and of the Vaiśya during the twelfth year from conception.’ Viṣṇu, 27.15-17.—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa during the eighth year from conception; of the Kṣatriya during the eleventh year from conception; of the Vaiśnava during the twelfth year from conception.’

Yājñavalkya, 1.14.—‘The Brāhmaṇa’s Upanayana?s?? be performed either during the eighth year from conception, or during the eighth year (from birth); the Kṣatriya’s during the eleventh year; the Vaiśya’s during the twelfth year; according to some, it is to be done in accordance with the practice prevailing in the family.’

Āśvalāyana – Gṛhyasūtrā, 1.19.1-4.—‘The Brāhmaṇa’s, Upanayana should be done during the eighth year, or during the eighth year from conception; the Kṣatriya’s during the eleventh year; the Vaiśya’s during the twelfth year.’

Pāraskara-Gṛhyasūtrā, 1-2.1-3.—‘The Brāhmaṇa’s Upanayana should be performed during the eighth vear, or during the eighth year from conception; the Kṣatriya’s during the eleventh year; the Vaiśya’s during the twelfth year.’

Gobhila-Gṛhyasūtrā, 1.10.1-3.—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should be done during the eighth year from conception; of the Kṣatriya, during the eleventh year; of the Vaiśya, during the twelfth year.’

Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 1.19.—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should be done during the spring, of the Kṣatriya during the summer, and of the Vaiśya, during the autumn. Of the Brāhmaṇa during the eighth year from conception, of the Kṣatriya, during the twelfth year from conception.’

Śruti (Vīramitrodaya, Saṃskāra, p. 339).—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should he performed when he is eight years old.’

Āśvalāyana-Smṛti (Do., p. 340).—‘The Brāhmaṇa should acquire the ‘twice-born’ state during the eighth year from conception, or during the eighth, or the tenth year; the Kṣatriya during the eleventh year: and the Vaiśya during the twelfth year.

Nārada (Do., p. 31-1).—‘For the Brāhmaṇa, the Upanayana should be performed during the eighth year, either from conception or from birth; for Kṣatriyas, during the eleventh year, and for Vaiśyas during the twelfth year.’

Paiṭhīnasi (Do., p. 310).—‘The Upanayana of the Brāhmaṇa should he performed during the fifth year from conception or during the eighth year from conception; of the Kṣatriya during the eleventh year from conception; of the Vaiśya, during the twelfth year.’

Laugākṣi (Do., p. 311′.—‘The Brāhmaṇa’s Upanayana during the seventh year; of the Kṣatriya during the ninth year, and of the Vaiśya, during the eleventh year.’

Budha (Aparārka, p. 31).—‘The Brāhmaṇa should get himself initiated in his eighth year from conception, during the spring.’

Shannaka (Do.).—‘One should initiate the Brāhmaṇa in his eighth year, or in his eighth year from conception; the Kṣattnya in the eleventh and the Vaiśya in the twelfth year.

While this argument without any ambiguity establishes that varna is by birth, let us also look at other injunctions of Smriti writers on Varna system.

It can be seen that from birth to death, which includes naming of the child, hair cutting, marriage, death, the discrimination of varna is clearly established. If it was only a vocation, how can one name a child as per varna, why should one marry as per varna and what is the relevance of death rites as per varna?

  • Question on Naming: If One Varna is By Occupation, How Can One Name a Child as Per Brahmin or Why Should a Shudra Name by Contemptible?

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti Chapter  2: Section X – The ‘Naming Ceremony’ (nāmadheya): 31 – The name of the Brāhmaṇa should be auspicious, that of the Kṣatriya connected with power, that of the Vaiśya associated with wealth; while that of the Śūdra contemptible.—(31)

Manusmriti Chapter  2: Section X – The ‘Naming Ceremony’ (nāmadheya): 32 – The name of the Brāhmaṇa should be expressive of ‘peace,’ that of the Kṣatriya, of ‘protection’; that ot the Vaiśya, of ‘prosperity,’ and that of the Śūdra, of ‘submissiveness.’—(32)

If varna is only an occupation, how can anyone name children as per Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra names?

And moreover even if one argues against all logic that varna is as per occupation, why should shudra name be contemptible? What is so contemptible in manual labour?

  • Question on Tonsure (cūḍākarma)? If varna is by occupation, How will you know by the age of one or three if the child is a twice born or shudra?

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 2:35 – In view or the injunctions or the Veda, the Tonsure-ceremony of all twice-born children should be performed, according to law, in the first year or the third.—(35)

How can one know which varna is a child by the first or third year if varna is not by birth?

It appears that Puri Shankaracharya and Kanchi Shankaracharya are right and likes of Rajiv Malhotra are wrong.

  • Question on Hair Clipping: What is the relevance of hair clipping if varna is not discrimination of people but only a classification of occupation?

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 2:65 –  The sacrament of Keśānta is ordained for the Brāhmaṇa in his sixteenth year; for the Kṣatriya in his twenty-second year, and for the Vaiśya two years later.—(65)

What is the relevance of hair clipping if it is only a job and not segregation of people?

  • Question on Salutation: If varna is only for classification and not a discrimination based on birth, why should salutation be different for different varnas?

Let us see what Manusmriti has to say on this subject.

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti  2.127 – Having met a Brāhmaṇa, one should ask him his “welfare,” a Kṣatriya his “freedom from distemper,” a Vaiśya his “prosperity,” and a Shudra his “freedom from disease.”—(127)

If varna is not discrimination against labourers but only a division of labour, why would the salutation be different. Varna is a segregation and discrimination against people.

  • Question on Marriage: If Varna is only about occupation, why forbid inter varna marriages, for example between Brahmins and Shudras?

It must be noted here that in Gita, one of the main concerns of Arjuna was that if his cousins all die in war, there would be varṇa-saṅkaraḥ or intervarna marriages. If varna is only an occupational classification, why should anyone have a concern of people marrying with different occupations?

Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, Translation by  Narayana Gosvami

Gita 1: 40 – adharmābhibhavāt kṛṣṇa praduṣyanti kula-striyaḥ |
strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya jāyate varṇa-saṅkaraḥ || 40 ||

adharmairreligion; abhibhavātdue to having become predominant; kṛṣṇaO Kṛṣṇa; praduṣyantiare polluted; kula-striyaḥladies of the family; strīṣuwhen the womanhood; duṣṭāsubecome corrupted; vārṣṇeyaO descendent of Vṛṣṇi; jāyateare born; varṇa-saṅkaraḥindiscriminate intermingling of the castes (brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra) resulting in uncared for progeny.

Kṛṣṇa, when a dynasty is overpowered by irreligion, the women of that dynasty become degraded. O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, when women become degraded and unchaste, the result is unwanted progeny.

This concern arises due to the injunctions of dharma shastras. Let us read that in Manusmriti along with other references provided by Ganganatha Jha.

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 3: 13 – For the Śūdra, the Śūdra girl. alone has been ordained to be the wife; for the Vaiśya, she as also the girl of his own caste; for the Kṣatriya, those two as also the girl of his own caste; and for the Brāhmaṇa those three as also the girl of his own caste—(13).

Manusmriti 3: 14 – Under no circumstance whatsoever has a Śūdra wife been ordained for the Brāhmaṇa and the Kṣatriya,—even though these be placed in peril.—(14)

Manusmriti 3:15 – Twice-born men, marrying, through infatuation, a girl of the low caste, quickly reduce their families, along with their offspring, to the position of the Śūdra.—(15).

Manusmriti 3: 16 – One who marries a Śūdra girl becomes an outcaste,—according to atri and to the son of Utathya; according to Śaunaka, by the birth of a son; and according to Bhṛgu, by having children from her (alone).—(16).

Manusmriti 3:17 – Having placed a Śūdrā woman on his bed, the Brāhmaṇa goes to perdition; and having begotten a son by her, he falls from Brāhmaṇahood itself.—(17).

Manusmriti 3: 18 If the rites performed by one in honour of deities, Pitṛs and Guests are dominated by her (his Śūdra wife), then the Pitṛs and the Gods do not eat of them; and the man does not go to heaven.—(18)

Manusmriti 3: 19 – There is ho expiation for him who has drunk the moisture of the mouth of a Śūdra woman, who has been tainted by her breath, and who has begotten children on her.—(19).

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya) and Comparative Notes by Ganganatha Jha

This prohibition pertains to all times.

Even if a Śūdra girl happens to be married, the rites, herein mentioned, should not be performed in a manner by which she might dominate them. That is to say, the Śūdra wife is not entitled to participate in the husband’s religious acts, in the manner in which wives of the three higher castes arc.

Since she is a ‘wife,’ it might be thought that she is so entitled; and it is in view of the possibility of such notion being entertained that we have the present prohibition. The meaning thus is that when one is going to spend his wealth over some religious act, he need not seek her consent, in the way he seeks that of his wives of the twice-born castes; in other cases, however—such as the expenses incurred for seeking prosperity and obtaining pleasure,—she is not to be disregarded. That she should be employed, like a servant, during the performance of Śrāḍdha, &c., is not prohibited; e.g., there would be no harm if she were to thresh corn and so forth; but she should not be made to serve food and do such other acts.

‘Rites in honour of deities’ are (1) the Daśa-pūrnamāsa and other sacrifices, and (2) the feeding of Brāhmaṇas in honour of Deities, as already explained by us under 2.180.

‘Rites in honour of Pitṛs’—i.e., Śrāddhas and offering of water-libations.

‘Rites in honour of guests’—i.e., the reception and feeding of guests, and offering them water for washing their feet, and so forth.

“The prohibition here put forth is already implied by the rule that wives of one’s own caste should not be superseded by other wives.”

Not so; because the rule speaks of the wife of the same caste being actually present. Hence people might he led. to argue as follows—“If the wife of the Brāhmaṇa’s own caste happens to be in her courses, or absent, then his Śūdra wife may preside over the rites, just like his Kṣatriya and Vaiśya wives; further, the prohibition contained in the rule referred to pertains, not to her title to preside, but simply to the act of examining the clarified butter and so forth, which are done by the wife in accordance with the rule that the clarified butter used at sacrifices should be such as has been examined by the wife; and, as the rule simply mentions the general name ‘wife,’ it may be taken to mean that the act may be done by any wife that has been obtained.”

And it is with a view to prevent this being done,—and of wives of different castes doing the said acts in the same way in which they are done by any one wife from among several wives of the same caste,—that we have the present prohibition.

The ‘domination,’ by the wife is due to her being entitled to the act.

‘The deities and the Pitṛs do not eat of it;’—this means that the acts become futile.

‘He does not go to heaven;’—i.e., if the guest takes food, the householder fails to attain Heaven, which he would attain as the result of his having fed his guests. ‘Heaven’ here stands for all those rewards that have been described as proceeding from the ‘honouring of guests,’ and it is a reference to all that has been said under 3. 106.—(18).

Vaśiṣṭha (1. 27).—‘By doing this, degradation of family is certain, and after death, fall from heaven.’

Vaśiṣṭha (14. 5).—‘The Devas eat not in the house of the Brāhmaṇa-husband of a Śūdra wife.’

Yājñavalkya (1. 56).—‘The view that has been held, that the Twice-born may take a Śūdra wife,—this I do not accept; because the man himself is born in his wife.’

Śaṅkha (4. 9).—‘By the twice-born, the Śūdra girl shall not be made a wife, even in times of distress; there is no salvation for him as born of her. Those twice-born persons among whose Sapiṇḍa descendants, a Śūdra-born person comes in,—all become Śūdras themselves, even though they may have attained heaven. For these reasons, he shall always avoid the taking of a Śūdra wife.’

Viṣṇu (26. 26).—(Reproduces Manu 15.)

Viṣṇu (26. 25).—‘For the twice-born person, a Śūdra wife can never serve any religious purpose; she may be taken sometimes only for the purpose of pleasure.’

Viṣṇu (46. 7).—(Reproduces Manu 18)

Baudhāyana (2. 1. 41).—‘Begetting children on a Śūdra wife, etc., etc……. lead to degradation.’

Vṛddha Yama (3. 13).—‘If the Brāhmaṇa, infatuated with pride, marries a low-caste wife, he commits the sin of Brāhmaṇa-killing day after day’ [then it reproduces Manu 19].

Yama (Vīramitrodaya-Saṃskāra, p. 750).—‘If the Brāhmaṇa has intercourse with a Śūdra woman, he remains impure for three days; if he begets a child on her, he falls off from Brāhmaṇa-hood.’

Hārīta (Do.).—‘The Brāhmaṇa having recourse to ṭhe Śūdra woman immediately goes downward; if he has a child by her, he becomes fallen.’

Hārīta (Do., p. 751).—‘There is a doubt as to whether or not the Brāhmaṇa becomes degraded by begetting children on wives of lower castes. There can be no such in regard to Kṣatriya or Vaiśya wives. But he who begets a child on the Śūdra certainly becomes degraded.’

Uśanas (Do., p. 751).—‘There may be expiation for the wine-drinker, or even for the Brāhmaṇa-murderer; there is none for one who has begotten a child on a Śūdra wife……… Some people say that the Brāhmaṇa-husband of a Śūdra girl becomes degraded; according to others, he does not become degraded, because of the assertion that the Brāhmaṇa may have four wives in due order of the four castes.’

Bhaviṣya-purāṇa (Do.).—‘Atri became degraded by leading a Śūdra girl to the altar; Utathya became degraded by begetting a son on the Śūdra; Śaunaka became a Śūdra by having a grandson born from a Śūdra; similarly Bhṛgu and others also became degraded.’

Brahma-purāṇa (Do., p. 752).—‘The Brāhmaṇa shall never marry the Kṣatriya, the Vaiśya or the Śūdra girl; but after having married a Brāhmaṇa-girl, he may afterwards marry the others, but only under certain circumstances.’

Mahābhārata (Āśvamedhika-Parāśaramādhava, p. 495).—‘When the semen falls into the womb of the Śūdra woman, it gives out a loud wail of grief saying “I am, fallen into an ordure-pit; this man, blinded by sinful lust, is casting me downwards, may he himself quickly fall down into the lowest state;”—having thus cursed the man, it falls down.’

Mahābhārata (Anuśāsana-Parāśaramādhava, p. 496).—‘The good do not commend the begetting of children on a Śūdra wife; some people have declared that even for purposes of enjoyment, one shall not have recourse to a Śūdra girl.’

Smṛtyantara (Do., p. 496).—‘The marrying of a girl of a different caste……… should be avoided during the Kali age.’


  • Question on Property : If varna is only about occupation, why should shudras be denied property?

If varna is only about occupation, why should shudras be denied property and how can Brahmin take away the property of Shudra if it is only an occupation?

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi,  by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 8: Section XLVIII – Laws relating to Civic Misdemeanours

But a Śūdra, whether bought or unbought, he shall make to do servile work; since it is for doing servile work for the Brāhmaṇa that he has been created by the self-born one.—(413)

Even though set free by the master, the Śūdra is not released from service; since that is innate in him, and who can release him from it?—(414)

There are seven kinds of slaves—(1) captured under a banner, (2) slave on food, (3) born in the house, (4) bought, (5) presented, (6) hereditary, and (7) slave by punishment.—(415)

The wive, the son and the slave,—these three are declared to have no property; whatever they acquire is the property of him to whom they belong.—(416)

The Brāhmaṇa may confidently have recourse to seizing the goods of the Śūdra; as the latter has no property, and his property is meant to be seized by the master.—(417)

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya) on Manusmriti 8:417:

In this connection some people assert that what is stated hero is in reference to the Śūdra who has volunteered, through religious motives, to be a slave.

This however is not right; as there is nothing to show that it refers to any particular case. Hence what is meant is that the Brāhmaṇa may take the wealth of the Śūdra who is the slave of all.

Confidently’—without hesitation. He should never have any such doubt as to how he can seize the Śūdra’s goods, such seizing being forbidden. Since there is no property that really belongs to the Śūdra. Specially because in such cases the master is not deprived of his possession; since the Śūdra acquires property only for the purpose that his master may make use of it. Hence the Brāhmaṇa should seize the goods ‘confidently.’ Even where it is presented by the Śūdra, he should use it as if it had been in his own house.

It is only when there is actual need that this can be right. Hence it is only when the Brāhmaṇa has no property of his own that he incurs no sin by seizing the goods of his Śūdra-slave.—(417)


  • Question on Death : If Varna is only for occupational classification, why should there be separate directions for shudra’s dead body to be carried and why should there be prohibition on shudra to carry the dead body of a Brahmin.

Even in death, varna clutches does not leave you alone. Often it is said that death is the leveller of all. However, vedic sages such as Manu disagree and they brought discriminatory methods even in death.

For example, Manusmriti 5:91 says in which direction a shudra should be carried. Why should there be separate directions for shudra and others if varna is only an occupation.

Similarly, Manusmriti 5:103 says a shudra should not carry the dead body of a Brahmin as it is detrimental for Brahmin to reach heaven. If varna is only a classification of job and not discrimination of people, and if someone’s father was a brahmin and son a shudra, should the son be allowed to touch the dead body of the father? Of course, if varna is only a classification of an occupation, then this instruction becomes senseless. However, if varna is by birth, then this instruction is clear but vile.

One can read the following verses from Manusmriti along with commentary of Medhatithi.

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi,  by Ganganatha Jha on Manusmriti 5:91

Manusmriti 5:91 One should carry the dead śūdra by the southern gate of the city; but the twice-born persons by the western, northern and eastern gates respectively—(91).

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The term ‘City’ stands for the village &c. also.

This rule applies to those places where there are several gates; the advice pertaining to such persons as may be capable of following it.

The Śūdra has been mentioned first, because it is an inauspicious subject. And this reversal of the order indicates that the term ‘respectively’ indicates that the Vaiśya should be carried by the western, the Kṣatriya by the northern and the Brāhmaṇa by the Eastern gate.—(914)

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi,  by Ganganatha Jha on Manusmriti 5:103

Manusmriti 5:103 One should not have a dead Brāhmaṇa carried by a Śūdra, while his own people are there. For it would be an oblation into fire, defiled by the touch of the Śūdra, and as such not conducive to heaven.—(l 03).

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

‘Have carried’—have taken out.

‘While his own people are there’—i.e., men of the same caste. The use of the term ‘oblation into fire’ implies that the body should not also be burnt by the Śūdra.

The specification of the ‘Brāhmaṇa’ is not emphasised; for the Kṣatriya and the Vaiśya also the Śūdra’s touch is defiling; hence what the supplementary statement indicates is that the prohibition applies to the case of these two also.—(103).

Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

(Verse 104 of others.)

According to Nārāyaṇa this rule is meant for Brāhmaṇas only; but Medhātithi says that the ‘vipra’ is mentioned only by way of illustration; the rule applies to all the three higher castes.

This verse is quoted in Mitākṣarā (on 3.20);—in Parāśaramādhava (Ācāra, p. 634), which reproduces the remark made in Mitākṣarā that the phrase ‘sveṣu tiṣṭhatsu’ is superfluous, in view of the assertion (in the second half) that the touching of the body by the lower castes is ‘asvargya,’ which would imply that the body should not be so touched, irrespective of the presence or absence of the dead person’s ‘own people’;—and in Śuddhimayūkha (p. 17).

It is quoted in Madanapārijāta (p. 395), which also adds the same remark;—and in Hāralatā (p. 120) which says —‘sveṣu tiṣṭhatsu’ means that if possible the dead body of a Brāhmaṇa should be carried by Brāhmaṇas alone, in the absence of Brāhmaṇas by Kṣatriyas, even by Vaiśyas in the absence of Kṣatriyas, and by Śūdras only when there are no Vaiśyas—‘asvargyā,’ this also refers to cases where twice-born persons are available.

Comparative notes by various authors

Viṣṇu (19.1).—‘One must not cause a dead member of a twice-born caste to be carried by a Śūdra; nor a Śūdra by a twice-born person.’

Yama (Parāśaramādhava, p. 634).—‘When a sacrificer dies, the Śūdra shall not carry his dead body; that dead person for whom the Śūdra carries fire, grass or wood, remains a ghost for ever and becomes defiled by sin.’

As one can see from birth to death, varna system is prevalent, which makes it clear that this has nothing to do with division of labour but discrimination of people based on birth. If there is still doubt,

If one has still any doubts, then it can be cleared through manusmriti itself where it exalts the very birth of brahmin as a god of this world and instructing to respect him irrespective of his education and occupation.

  • Brahmin by birth should be honoured as deity in the world irrespective of his education and occupation.

If varna system is by occupation, then one can become a Brahmin or Shudra only by education and occupation. However, that is not what Dharma Shastras teach. It teaches that a Brahmin ought to be respected even if he is unlearned and even if he does menial jobs, which settles the matter that varna is by birth.

Brahmin, while learning is commendable, he is still respected even if he is unlearned

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 1: Section LIX – Superiority of the Brāhmaṇa, 97-98

Among Brāhmaṇas, the learned are the best, among the learned, those with firm convictions, among the men with firm convictions, those that act up to them; and among the actors, those that know Brahman.—(97).

The very genesis of the Brāhmaṇa is the eternal incarnation of Virtue; for he is born for the sake of Virtue; and this (birth) leads to the state of Brahman. (98).

Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

The peculiarity of the Brāhmaṇa endowed with the qualities of learning and the like having been described, some people might be led to ill-treat the mere Brāhmaṇa by birth; hence with a view to prevent this, the author has added this verse.

‘The very genesis’—i.e., irrespective of his qualities, his mere birth, the mere ‘Brāhmaṇa caste’—‘is the eternal incar nation’—body—‘of Virtue.’

‘Born for the sake of virtue,’—when the Brāhmaṇa has been duly initiated with the rites of initiation, this is what constitutes his ‘being horn for the sake of Virtue’; and ‘this birth leads to the state of Brahman’; on abandoning the ‘body of Virtue’, the Brāhmaṇa becomes the partaker of Supreme Bliss.—says the Śruti. (98).

Learned or Unlearned or a Doing a Menial Job, Brahmin is Superior

Hindu sage Manu removes any doubt as to whether varna is by birth or not through the following verses in chapter 9, which are self-explanatory.

Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi, by Ganganatha Jha

Manusmriti 9: Section XLI – The Treatment of Brāhmaṇas; 317

avidvāṃścaiva vidvāṃśca brāhmaṇo daivataṃ mahat |
praṇītaścāpraṇītaśca yathā’gnirdaivataṃ mahat || 317 ||

Learned or unlearned, the Brāhmaṇa is a great divinity; just as consecrated or unconsecrated, the fire is a great divinity.—(317)

śmaśāneṣvapi tejasvī pāvako naiva duṣyati |
hūyamānaśca yajñeṣu bhūya evābhivardhate || 318 ||
evaṃ yadyapyaniṣṭeṣu vartante sarvakarmasu |
sarvathā brāhmaṇāḥ pūjyāḥ paramaṃ daivataṃ hi tat || 319 ||

Even though in the cremation-ground, the brilliant fire is not defiled, and it flourishes again when libations are poured unto it at sacrifices.—(318)

Similarly even though they betake themselves to all sorts of undesirable acts, yet Brāhmaṇas should be honoured in every way; for they are the greatest divinity.—(319)

  • Job: If Varna is about occupation, why would Sree Krishna instruct Arjuna that one should do the job of his varna even it is imperfect than to do another job perfectly?

Sree Krishna instruction to do your own occupation even if it is imperfect than to do another  occupation perfectly makes no sense if varna is decided by skill and occupation. You must choose the occupation that you can do perfectly than be in an occupation that you cant do perfectly. Let us read that portion.

Gita 18: 47-48 ( Translation by Narayana Gosvami)

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt svanuṣṭhitāt |

svabhāva-niyataṃ karma kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam || 47 ||

śreyān–better; svadharmaḥ–one’s own occupational duty; viguṇaḥ–imperfectly performed; para-dharmāt–than another’s duty; su-anuṣṭhitāt–very nicely performed; svabhāva-niyatam–regulated by one’s own nature; karma–work; kurvan–by performing; na āpnoti–does not incur; kilbiṣam–sin.

It is more beneficial to perform one’s own occupational duty (sva-dharma), even though imperfectly, than to perfectly execute the duty of another (para-dharma). By performing work according to his nature, a man incurs no sin.

saha-jaṃ karma kaunteya sa-doṣam api na tyajet |
sarvārambhā hi doṣeṇa dhūmenāgnir ivāvṛtāḥ || 48 ||

saha-jamborn of one’s nature; karmathe prescribed work; kaunteyaO son of Kuntī; sa-doṣamcovered by fault; apieven though; na tyajetone should not give up; sarva-ārambhāḥall endeavours; hibecause;doṣeṇaby fault; dhūmenaby smoke; agniḥfire; ivalike; avṛtāḥcovered.

O son of Kuntī, one should not abandon the work that scripture prescribes according to one’s nature, even if that work has some defect. All undertakings are covered by some fault, just as fire is covered by smoke.

If not, we may ask why did Drona Acharya insist on the cruellest condition on Ekalavya in Mahabharata?  It makes only sense in the light of varna by birth. Let us read that portion.

Mahabharata Book 1: Sambhava Parva SECTION CXXXIV  (Translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli)

‘Vaisampayana continued, ‘On hearing these words, Drona reflected for a moment, and resolving upon the course of action he should follow, took Arjuna with him and went unto the Nishada prince. And he beheld Ekalavya with body besmeared with filth, matted locks (on head), clad in rags, bearing a bow in hand and ceaselessly shooting arrows therefrom. And when Ekalavya saw Drona approaching towards him, he went a few steps forward, and touched his feet and prostrated himself on the ground. And the son of the Nishada king worshipping Drona, duly represented himself as his pupil, and clasping his hands in reverence stood before him (awaiting his commands). Then Drona, O king, addressed Ekalavya, saying, ‘If, O hero, thou art really my pupil, give me then my fees.’ On hearing these words, Ekalavya was very much gratified, and said in reply, ‘O illustrious preceptor, what shall I give? Command me; for there is nothing, O foremost of all persons conversant with the Vedas, that I may not give unto my preceptor.’ Drona answered, ‘O Ekalavya, if thou art really intent on making me a gift, I should like then to have the thumb of thy right hand.’

“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing these cruel words of Drona, who had asked of him his thumb as tuition-fee, Ekalavya, ever devoted to truth and desirous also of keeping his promise, with a cheerful face and an unafflicted heart cut off without ado his thumb, and gave it unto Drona. After this, when the Nishada prince began once more to shoot with the help of his remaining fingers, he found, O king, that he had lost his former lightness of hand. And at this Arjuna became happy, the fever (of jealousy) having left him.

It is in this context that Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji, 68th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, advised that it is a lesser sin to abandon the entire varna system than to teach varna system and say you can do any change varna. Since we have seen that cumulative evidence unambiguously establishes varna by birth, I will conclude this article with the quote of Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji. You can read the entire article in the link below. I am quoting only one of the two reasons.

Doing the job of another varna is a greater sin. (

Organisations like the Arya Samaj have accepted the right of all to learn the Vedas and perform sacrifices. Here and there a Subramanya Bharati or someone like him imparts Brahmopadesa to a Pancama. The reformists ask why the Vedas cannot be made common to all.

This is not acceptable in the least. I am a representative and spokesman of the sastras. It is my duty to state that this (making Vedic dharma common to all castes) is not permitted by the sages who created the sastras and assigned the duties special to each caste. They (the sages) were known for their spirit of sacrifices and impartiality and they had no interest other than the happiness of mankind.

A man sins in two ways. If he forsakes his hereditary karma, he commits one kind of sin-such a man is called a “karma-bhrasta”. But if he forsakes his karma and takes up the karma of another (that is if he practices the religious customs and duties of another caste) he becomes a “karmantara-pravista”. According to the sastras he is guilty of a greater offence than the karma-bhrasta.

Why? There are two reasons.

An individual who forsakes his karma because he believes that varna dharma itself is meaningless may be said to act out of conviction and he may be said to be obeying his conscience. In his action we may find some justification. But, in the matter of the sastras, the question is not one of conscience. The question is: what about the man opts for the customs and rites of others? He does so because he believes that the customs and rites to which he is born are not as good those of the latter. To think that one vocation or one type of work is inferior to another, or superior to it, is not in keeping with modern ideas of socialism and the principle of dignity of labour. At the same time, it is not also in accord with the sastras. The karma-bhrasta who discards all varna dharma believes that the sages created a system not suitable to the times. He does not, however, think that they were partial to some castes. But not so the karmantara-pravista who thinks that the sages were partial. He chooses another man’s dharma because he believes that it is better for his inner advancement than his hereditary calling and dharma. His action implies that the sages practised deception by creation the division of varnas. So his offence is greater.

It is true that Brahmins have gone astray. But what is the meaning of creating a new class of Brahmins? It amounts to saying, “He (the Brahmin) has forsaken his dharma. Now I will take it over.” To take up another man’s dharma, apart from forsaking one’s own dharma is a grave offence, worse than nearly giving up one’s own dharma. I have stated repeatedly that all karma has only one purpose, that of destroying one’s ego-sense, ahamkara. What is the foundation of varna dharma? It is one’s willingness to follow the vocation and dharma that belong to one by hereditary without any consideration of one’s likes and dislikes.