Some time back I floated, for fun, a questionnaire that asked, “What is your Varna?” The questions were selected from the authentically translated text of Shukra Neeti, a collection of verses that provide direction to the reader in a number of matters. Part-1 of this blog I wrote then can be found here.
Among those Shlokas, there is an interesting description of Varnas. Varna means a class used for structuring the Indian society in the past. In the beginning, the classification was based on the preferences, attitudes and activities of people, and hence the movement across classes was free. Later this structure became rigid as it was linked to one’s birth and family.
Typical description of each Varna included the following examples.
• I seek higher meaning through action and research
• Above all, I protect others and control the evil
• I am an expert in buying and selling
• I don’t do things, but I support those who do
• I am engaged in one work but am suitable for another
There were four statements for each of the five Varnas (Shukracharya adds ‘Mlechchha’ to the classical four). For each statement, the responder chose from a Likert type scale. You can see the questionnaire here. Fill it up if you like.
In all, I received 132 unique responses. There were cases where multiple responses arrived from the same email ID. For the purpose of this analysis, I kept the latest response.
As the responses started gathering, I began to wonder if these scores were also saying anything for the collectivity. Of course, there were some ‘fun’ findings for individuals.
For some, it was clear: “Hey! You have a predominantly Mlechchha orientation with the scores of 20 of Brahman, 15 each for Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, and 35 of Mlechchha! For some other, it was tougher – like, “Hey, you are 16% each of Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya!” If the Varna had a functional definition, but you had three patterns of equal strength, I would say the chances of inaction or feeling of stuck-ness could be far higher than any action from any of these Varnas! Some other people had ties all around them: Brahman and Kshatriya both at 32, and then 12 each of Vaishya, Shudra and Mlechchaa.
So, I don’t know how much fun it really was to receive the scores, but on an aggregate, I have more questions than answers. I’ll show you how.
First of all, see how the total pie is split for all the Varna scores. These are in percentage terms:
This means that if this sample is truly representative of our society, then nearly half of it has the tendencies of Brahman and Kshatriya. The adjectives describing both are:
Brahman values: Seeking higher meaning, being at peace, self-restraint, and forgiveness.
Kshatriya values: Protecting self and others, bravery, control over senses, and adventurous.
The other half is also interesting, with each of the remaining Varna occupying a third of that space. Their values are:
Vaishya: Skilled at and engaged in buying and selling, and love for flora and fauna.
Shudra: Supporting others, being non-reactive and non-volatile, overcoming personal dislikes when it comes to work, and moving things of low value.
Mlechchha: Anomaly between current work and competency, lack of empathy, anger, and aggression.
I guess the Mlechchhas would need therapy. But – for the other two Varnas, I have concerns.
I am happy that we have a lot of seekers and protectors among us, but do we have enough lovers of our environment on which we depend? While we have our eyes on our own goals, do we have enough people who support others? We want to pursue higher ends, but do we have people who will take care of routine, oh-so-boring things? Do we have people who can resist reacting to and ‘giving back’ to others for their perceived or real transgression of fairness and decency? Above all, can we overcome our dislikes and engage in our duty???
Mlechchhas could receive therapeutic help – but it’s time we helped ourselves and valued Shudras and Vaishyas more.