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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Aryan Classes

For hundreds of years Aryan priests used the Vedas to give order to their society Following the teachings of the Vedas, the Aryans divided their society into four social classes. Each class, or varna in the Sanskrit language, had a special job to do.

To the people of ancient India, the different social classes worked together like the different parts of the human body. The Brahmans (BRAH*muhnz), who were the priests and scholars, made up the head. The Kshatriyas (KSHAH»tree*uhz), who were the rulers, made up the arms. The Vaisyas (VYSH*yuhz), who were the merchants and professionals, made up the legs. The Sudras (SOOdruhz), who were the laborers and servants, made up the feet.

The Aryans' social classes led to India's caste system. A caste is a group within a social class. A person born into one caste could not become a member of another caste. Caste members worked within their own group and could marry only others from their caste.

Below all the other castes were the untouchables. These people did all the unpleasant jobs in Indian society They picked up garbage, cleaned stables, and handled the dead. Untouchables were thought to be impure. They had to avoid all contact with the rest of society. An untouchable could not even let his or her shadow fall on a person of a higher caste.

Hinduism required people to accept the caste into which they were born. Each person had a place in society and a job to do. Life might be hard, but if people did the work of their caste, there was hope that the next life would be better.

Around the sixth century B.C., a new religion appeared in India. This new religion challenged the rituals and caste system of Hinduism.

What was the ancient Indian caste system?


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