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Braahmanakshatriyavishaam shoodraanaam cha parantapa; Karmaani pravibhaktaani swabhaavaprabhavairgunaih.

Of Brahmanas, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas, as also the Sudras, O Arjuna, the duties are distributed according to the qualities born of their own nature!

Interpretation

Starting from this shloka, the next few shlokas are going to be concentrated around the type of distribution of work among different people living in a society. Lord here talks about four varnas or four types of individuals arising out of the distribution of the work. They are Brahmanas or Brahmins, the Kshatriyas or the warriors, the Vaishyas or the sheths or traders and finally the sudras or the menial job holders. Then Lord goes on to talk about the main criterion for classifying them into these four varnas. Lord says that the duties of each varna are based on the person’s own nature that he is born with but not on the kind of family that he takes birth in.

Extending Interpretation to Mankind’s Life!

One of the most prominent social evils that prevail in India today is the caste system. We do everything according to our caste prescriptions. We socialize and mix with people of our caste, marriages happen within the same caste and even voting and electing their representatives is also based on the caste system. What exactly is this caste? Caste is the varna that we have discussed above. People who belong to a particular occupation are known by their caste. A Brahmin is someone who should be a scholar, a philosopher, a doctor and a wise man who is suited to be the Prime Minister for any kingdom because of his knowledge. So, if you have the inclination to read and master yourself in various subjects you are called as Brahmin.

Suppose a person is interested in ruling, taking decisions and in warfare, he is called as Kshatriya and the ruling class of people in different areas were called Kshatriyas. Then you have the trader community who are called as vaishyas and they are responsible for the trade activity and making the kingdom rich. Apart from this there are people who are engaged in different activities like weaving, pottery, artisans, painters etc who are called as shudras. What is the yard-stick for deciding the caste of a person? Lord Krishna in Gita clearly mentions that it is the interest of the person that should determine his occupation and thus his caste. Suppose if a Brahmin’s son is interested in business activity he can become a vaishya by engaging in trading activity. 

But if you see, this system was abandoned long back and was not practiced even during Lord Krishna’s time. We all know how Karna was ill-treated and barred from competing with Arjuna just because he was not a Kshatriya. Though this caste system was evolved to give freedom for an individual to pursue his interests, slowly it became hereditary. The eldest son of Kshatriya king alone can succeed him as King and son of Brahmin should do the work that a brahmin does and so does the son of a vaishya or a shudra. This is one of the greatest ills that has crept into our system only because of greediness and till the time the caste system is completely thrown out, human dignity and respect for work can never come into Indian ethos.