the meaning of varNa

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue May 25 02:29:56 UTC 1999

Dear Sri Ruzca,

The original discussion dealt with the relationship between caste and color.
So appropos your citation, the equation

Sudra = Black skin color

would hold only if the following equations also hold good

1. Sudra = Dasa
2. Dasa = Black skin color

Since we are not sure of any of the two equations above is correct, let us
adopt a position of indifference, i.e. assume a 50-50 probability. Them, by
laws of mathematical probaility, the possibility that the equation
Sudra = Black skin color

holds true is 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25 i.e. 25%

It is well known that the Rigveda hardly dwells upon the Varna Dharma. You
too have done good in using the word 'Suggest'. To me, the Mantra as whole
has the metaphorical sense as the primary meaning, because the literal one
is  impossible. In any case, the equation

Secret = Black/dark

would appear natural when one starts with the premise that Dasas are
black.There hardly seems to be anything natural about this correlation to
warrant such a drastic/definitive conclusion.

I feel that the word 'gu'hA'kaH' is used here in the same sense as the word
'Hiranya' in the mantra

'Hiranyavarnam harinim suvarna raja...." which is in the Sri Sukta, and
occurs in the 5th Mandala of the Ashvalayana Shakha of Rigveda (and appended
as a Khila to the vulgate Sakala, Baskala and the Samkhayana Sakhas of the
Rigveda.) Here too, the mantra does not denote a golden or a white skin, but
rather gives a sense of 'prosperity', treasure and wealth etc.



----Original Message Follows----
From: Ferenc Ruzsa <f_ruzsa at ISIS.ELTE.HU>
Subject: Re: the meaning of varNa
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 16:42:36 +0200

Dear Vishal,

 > The word Varna has indeed been used for 'skin color' ... However, that
 > still does not prove that when used for caste, it denotes 'skin color'.
Sure, it does not prove - it just makes it possible. And at places I have a
feeling that the most natural way of understanding varNa is that it at least
includes a hint at skin colour. E.g. in RV. II. 12, 4 b:
[i'ndro] dA'saM va'rNaM a'dharaM gu'hA'kaH
[Indra] made the varNa of the dAsas lower and hidden
the hidden varNa seems to suggest a 'not apparent' (not bright, i.e. dark)

Yours, Ferenc

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