(Last Updated on : 13/02/2009)
In the ancient Vedic literature it can be found that there are several references regarding the origin of varnas. The purushasukta of the Rig-veda has made reference regarding the four orders of society. The names of these four orders are given as Brahman, Rajanya, Vaishya and Shudra. They are said to have come from the mouth, the arms, the thigh, and the feet of the creator. Similar, the taittiriya samhita ascribes the origin of those classes to the four limbs of the creator. Amongst these four classes the Brahmanas have been regarded superior because they were created from the mouth. The rajanyas are vigorous because they were created from the arms. Similarly, the Vaishyas and shudras inherit the characteristics of their respective places of origin.
In the Mahabharata, it can be found that the theory of divine origin of varnas has been given a very important place. According to Mahabharata, Brahmins were created from the mouth of the creator while kshatryas were created from his arms. The vaishyas were created from his thigh and the shudra from his feet as well. These four orders of society have been referred as Varna. Similarly, according to manu-smiriti the four orders of society were created from the four limbs of the creator. These varnas have been assigned different duties and occupations. According to the Geeta the four-fold order is based on quality and action.