The four Varnas in Indian society were divided on the basis of occupation holded by the people. The ideal occupation that should be held by one is based on the GUNAS of a person.
In Bhagawat Gita’s chapter 4, versus 13 lord Krishna states that the four Varnas were based on their work and their basic nature, it was not related to the birth at all. "chātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛiṣhṭaṁ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśhaḥ tasya kartāram api māṁ viddhyakartāram avyayam" -Lord Krishna
According to the Hindu philosophy Gunas are the basic attributes of a person. They can be defined as qualities of a person. Every person in this world is a mixture of 3 gunas- Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, but their percentage varies in different people. Most often out of all the three gunas one Guna always remains dominant. Varna can fluctuate over time according to change in one’s guna.
SATTVA includes goodness, calmness, intelligence and harmony.
RAJAS includes passion, activeness, excitement and anger.
TAMAS includes ignorance, inertia, non-awareness and laziness.
HOW DIVISION OF VARNA WAS DONE BY ANALYSING ONE’S GUNA?
SHUDRAS: People having Tamas Guna dominant over the other two in one's personality were referred as Shudras. These people like pleasure and materialistic things and due to Sattva guna being less in their personality, they have lesser intelligence. Every work has to be directed to them properly. Due to such qualities they were allocated the work of service providing, workers and helpers.
VAISHYAS: People who were having all the three gunas in almost equal proportion were referred as vaishyas. They are intelligent and enthusiastic, they liked pleasures and materialistic things as well. So accordingly merchants, traders, farmers, money lenders came under it.
KSHATRIYAS: People having Rajas guna dominant in their personality carries Kshatriya Varna. They are passionate, aggressive, fast and risk takers that is why they were regarded as warriors. All the leaders, kings, soldiers came under it.
BRAHMINS: People having Sattva guna dominant in their personality were referred as Brahmins. They were extremely intelligent. As they knew vedas and religion very well their job was to serve as religious leaders, performers of sacrifices, counsellors and teachers.
“Birth is not the cause my friend, It is virtues (guna) which are the cause of auspiciousness.” -Bhagavad Gita
This was an amazing idea to divide the work of people on the basis of their personality and ability as it leads to effectiveness in work. It is somehow like today's Human Resource Management in corporations, Where people are assigned work according to their abilities so that they can work to their full potential.
WHY VARNA CAN NOT BE DETERMINED BY BIRTH?
Varna cannot be decided by birth. It is because any person once born is by default a carrier of Shudra Varna. Why? Because a newborn's gunas are not developed properly. He is unaware about things and needs to be taught everything. These characteristics are of Shudra Varna. That is why in Vedas Shudra Varna is said to be the foundation of each person and other Varnas are termed as ‘Dwija’ means ‘twice born’.
POPULAR THEORY REGARDING THIS SYSTEM
You might have heard about a popular theory that Brahmins were born out of the head of lord Brahma, Kshatriyas from his arms, Vaishyas from his thighs and Shudras from his feet. From this theory as well there is no proper evidence that Verna was decided by birth. According to me each and every part of the body plays an important role in human existence and evolution. We can not imagine the process of human evolution without feet.
WHY VARNA SYSTEM EVOLVED NEGATIVE OVER TIME?
The Varna system got abused by some corrupt people over time for their personal gains. People were tagged with surnames and Verna became a permanent lineage.
Today’s modern societies mixed Varna concept which is Guna based with the Jatti concept which is based on type of tribe or community a person belongs to.
Varna is to be determined by Karma and three gunas. It can not be determined by surname.
When taught properly this system can be used in our lives to enhance productivity. We can evaluate people as per their qualities and assign them tasks accordingly.
All the work done by people is equally important. People who are providing services of cleaning, housekeeping are as important as people doing other jobs for example job in management and bureaucracy. Society could not run without any one of them. So stop the discrimination based on the Varna system or based on what kind of work people do.
(Head Girl) Class XII, humanities
Schiller Institute Sr. Sec. School