Caste Away

Purushasuktam

 The Purusha Suktam, to quote wikipedia, “gives a description of the spiritual unity of the universe. It presents the nature of Purusha or the cosmic being as both immanent in the manifested world and yet transcendent to it.[2] From this being, the sukta holds, the original creative will (later identified with Brahma, Hiranyagarbha or Prajapati) proceeds which causes the projection the universe in space and time.[3] The Purusha sukta, in the seventh verse, hints at the organic connectedness of the various classes of in the society.”

This is a verse from the Purusha Suktam.
Brahmanoasya mukhamasida bahu rajanyakritah. Uru tadasya yadvaishya padabhyam kshudro ajayat. (Rigveda 10.90.12, Yajurveda.31.11)

Despite other rich spiritually meaningful verses the sukta offers, this particular verse stands out. It seems to have deeply affected the development of Hindu beliefs and traditions as we know today.  The Hindu caste system or the Varnas, have an inseparable association with this verse. The inception of the varna {class} system can be traced back to this innocuous verse from the Vedas. 
 
Literally translated, the verse means, Brahmanas are the mouth of the Purushaha, Kshatriyas his arms, Vaishyas his thighs and Kshudras his feet. 
 
Gross misinterpretation of the Sanskrit verse, could be a probable cause of all contemporary communal feuds.  The Purusha suktam describes and glorifies the “Cosmic Being”. It quantifies and qualifies the physical, metaphysical and spiritual properties of the Purusha. Like in poetry, the opulence of the Purusha are metaphorically and exotically presented.
Since the sentiment is to describe the qualities of the Purusha, let us revisit the verse, with this sentiment. 
Brahmano-asya mukham-aasid
The mouth, more appropriately the quality of speech of the Purushaha is that of all the brahmanas combined. Thus the cosmic being possesses the collective knowledge of all creation.
Bahu rajanyakritah
The arms represent the collective strength of all the warriors. It should be noted that warriors were also called “Bahu balis” the one with strong arms. Thus the Purusha is poetically said to have immeasurable proportions of strength in his arms.
Uru tadasyad-vaishya
 Vaishyas represent, tradesmen, merchants, craftsmen and skilled workers who form the central support system of an economy. Comparable, to the femur (thigh bone), which  is closest to the centre of the body in all vertebrates. It is also the strongest and the largest bone in the body. The Purusha’s thighs are comparable to the combined reliability of support that all the Vaishyas have to offer. 
 
Alternatively it can also signify the sedentary working style of the Vaishyas and might be an allegorical reference to the ones who are seated all the time.  
 
Padavyaam kshudro ajayat
Those who perform hard labor, masons, laborers et al, are the foundation of development of a system. The Purusha’s body is such a system, of which the feet are the foundation. Again an allegorical attempt.  
 
The stratification of the zones of the Purusha’s body are allegorical representation of delegation of responsibilities within a system. It does not dictate or suggest any economic discrimination or social discrimination. Any individual is free to choose any of the four responsibilities, with the implicit urge to fulfill the responsibilities reliably. 

The path to salvation is open to all the four sects of responsibility.  

 

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One thought on “Caste Away

  1. Nice post ! Congratulations !

    The foot is by no means inferior to any other body part.

    It is touched with hands and head in namaskar and dandavata pranaam too.

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