Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Classification of society by ancient Greek Philosophers and Varna system

The great ancient Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle dreamt of an “Ideal society”. Plato divided his ideal society into four specific groups according to the attitude and aptitude of its people, assigned jobs accordingly and did their ranking in following order –

  • Philosopher Kings” – People having intellectual acumen were supposed to do all intellectual work and to set norms for whole of society.

  • Army men” – People having warrior skills were to be kept in this group and held responsible to protect nation and its people from outside invasions and maintain peace and harmony within country-state.

  • Business Community” – People doing all kinds of transactions were to be kept in this group, and

  • Slaves” – People who were unable to do the above mentioned jobs or conquered people were supposed to do menial works.

In their ideal state, all people were supposed to belong to one group or the other, not on basis of birth, but on basis of their capabilities, attitude and aptitude.

What Greek philosiphers dreamt at that time, ancient India practised that in real life. Varna system was quite similar to Plato’s ideals.

Doctrine of ‘Varna’

Many intellectuals and social reformers regard Varna system, in its purest form, as one of the most scientific social systems ever evolved anywhere in the world. The principle of Varna was based on the assumption, that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, they should be assigned duties according to their natural instincts and qualities. Just like ancient greek philosopher’s dream society, in real life ancient Indian society was divided into four groups according to their natural instincts and qualities –

Brahman – Meaning all pervading and consciousness – The people having flair for learning and possessing intellectual and spiritual qualities, who could keep themselves away from ignorance, illusions and lust, were put in this category of Brahmans. They were debarred from indulging in the pleasures of material world. Their duty was learning, pursuit of knowledge and setting norms for common man, so that whole society could benefit from their knowledge.

Kshatriya – People having warrior skills and men of action were put in this group. Their duty was to protect the people from internal disorders and external aggressions.

Vaishyas People having business acumen were included in this category. They were engaged in production, business, trade and commerce.

Shudras – People advised to do menial jobs and work under the guidance of any of the above three Varnas. They were either the people unable to do the above three tasks or the conquered ones. Mostly people belonging to this category were supposed to be incapable of maintaining self-discipline and contributing to the society directly without any guidance.

People, who fell outside caste system were anti-social elements, adivasis and foreigners, because they did not subscribe to rules and values of the caste system. Groups of lower-caste individuals could seek to elevate the status of their caste by attempting to emulate the practices of higher castes.

August 12, 2008 - Posted by | Social and political values and systems |


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