(Last Updated on : 28/01/2009)
Sudra was the last of the four sections in the Indian Varna System. Sudras, in the Later Vedic Age, referred to those people who were laborers. This word has evolved from Sanskrit "shuchAt dravanam" meaning a person who is in pain or mourning. The word can also be found in Rig Veda. According to this text the Sudras have originated from the feet of Lord Brahma. The origins of the Sudras render the class with an importance of its own. Foot or the base is crucial for a society. Thus according to the Vedas they form the base of Indian society. This is the reason why the farmers, potters, cobblers and vendors belonged to this community.
The Sudras did any kind of work that the other three upper classes denied to do. They served the society in a way no other community could. They formed the support system of the ancient Indian society. In the Aryan society the Sudras were considered as Dasas. They were primarily the Aborigines and probably spoke in Dravidian language. If such ideas are indeed true then the Sudras can be considered as the descendants of creators of Indus Valley Civilization. In accordance to another theory the Dasa, Dasyus or Pani were Iranic. By "Dahyu" the Iranians meant tribe, province and district. Hence this suggests that the Dasas were merely a tribe. The ancient texts of India simply assume that the Sudras are part of society and no mentions of any such conquests are to be found.
The concept of Untouchability came into existence at a much later stage. The Later Vedic age was known for its social flexibility. Hence, Sudras in ancient India were not barred from entering temples or denied participation in social ceremonies. However, with the evolution of the caste system the position of the Sudras deteriorated. The practice of untouchability came into existence and they were treated as social outcasts in the Indian society. What began merely as social stratification gradually led to the division of the Indian society on the basis of caste.