Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma in India


Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos, which together defines the duties and vocations of different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies. These principles still maintain inter-relationship of various sections of Indian society and contribute to its growth as a whole. It gives it a distinct character and prepares an atmosphere for their coexistence – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.  

Principle of Varna – Principle of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, ensuring its continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It organized orderly performance of various basic functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It 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 aptitudes, instincts and qualities.  

Ranking of different sections was done according to social relevance of their work, real contribution of their activities for social subsistence and amount of purity, discipline and training required to perform their duties well. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of social units were the main features of Varna system. Observance of restrictions for self-discipline, clearly defined rights and duties and specialization were its important traits. Doctrine of Dharma and Karma provided legitimacy to it and prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society. 

Principle of Dharma – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, Indian value system has evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In this system, sacrifice is regarded more important than success, and renunciation as the crowning achievement. 

There was a common Dharma, which was applicable to all. It was nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.  

The principles of Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enabled different groups to act cooperatively and regulated the behavior of its component members within the society. It provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.  

Dharma also specified duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. In order to maintain a smooth relationship of its people with nature and society, Dharma prescribed a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities was based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin was not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.  

Separate rules of conduct were aimed to inspire every one to perform sincerely one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual . It inspired people to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.  

Molding ones life according to Dharma was not an easy task. It required tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.  

Principle of Karma –  

Doctrine of Karma made the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to a common man. It gave hope and inspired people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances, but to keep on making efforts to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely, which would ultimately strengthen their character and improve social position.  

It offered an explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. According to it everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s own doings. Therefore it is not proper to blame others for one’s own failures, miseries, or being revengeful. Such an attitude had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian value system kept on adapting itself to changing times. 

Doctrines of Dharma and Karma filled the Indian community with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. It helped the people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes in the past. It guided people to lead a disciplined life – to do one’s own work assigned to him/her by the society and not to interfere in other’s work. It taught people that Work is Worship. All types of work were worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. A work was not so much valued for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. It gave the feeling to all, that each one was an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Society itself had assigned everybody a specific task to do; therefore, each person earned a rightful place in the society.  

Knowledge was supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation. 

Ever since an average Indian has lost faith in these principles, (s)he has also lost faith not only in her/his fellow beings, but also in herself/himself. Almost all persons are heading towards indiscipline, violence and chase of sheer materialism/consumerism based on ruthless competition. 


December 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |


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