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By Swami Harshananda

Classification of Varṇas

The ancient scriptures have divided the society into four varṇas or groups viz.:

  1. Brāhmaṇas
  2. Kṣattriyas
  3. Vaiśyas
  4. Śudras

Duties of People of Different Varṇas

This division was based upon the allocation of duties and responsibilities as per their nature and nurture.[1] It can be delineated as belows:

  • The brāhmaṇas were the custodians of knowledge. They had to learn and teach, not only spiritual wisdom, but also other branches of sciences, and arts. They were priests, preceptors and preachers. Being the custodians of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of the race, they had to guide the rulers of the land, expound and administer laws and also assist in carrying out the legislative policies.
  • The kṣattriyas governed the State and performed its executive functions. It was their duty as custodians of social power, to protect the society from external aggression and maintain internal law and order.
  • The vaiśyas generated and wielded economic power through agriculture, trade, dairy-farming and manufacture of goods.
  • The śudras who were not capable of independent judgement or initiative on an adequate scale, merely assisted in the discharge of essential functions by contributing manual labor.

In national calamities or emergencies change of work was permitted.


  1. Bhagavadgitā 18.41-44
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore