the meaning of varNa

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun May 23 22:21:04 UTC 1999

Respected Mr. Ruzca,

The word Varna has indeed been used for 'skin color' not only in Sanskrit
but also in several Indian vernaculars. For instance, it is used in this
sense in the following line of the famous Hindi Hymn 'Hanuman
Chalisa'--"Kanchan varan keshari nandan"

However, that still does not prove that when used for caste, it denotes
'skin color'. As is well known, the same word can have two opposite meanings
in two different contexts and depending on how it is derived. Consider these
two examples:

1. The word Vrsshala ordinarily means 'cruel' or 'lowly' but it could also
mean 'benevolent'. For an example of the letter, refer to the
'Mudrarakshasa' wherein Chanakya addresses Chadragupta Maurya by this term.
The contexts clearly shows that the second meaning is implied.

2. The word 'Asura' can be split up as:
  Asura = Asu + ra
  Asura = A + Sura
The meanings are quite opposite and the correct way of dissolving the word
is decided by the Vedic accent there.



----Original Message Follows----
From: Ferenc Ruzsa <f_ruzsa at ISIS.ELTE.HU>
Subject: the meaning of varNa
Date: Sun, 23 May 1999 13:06:44 +0200


if varNa was never used for the colour of (human) skin - what is the proper
sanskrit word for 'skin colour'?

Regards, Ferenc

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