was also marked by the beginning of the
Varna System and Social Division
During the Rig Vedic period, castes were not founded separately on the basis
of birth, but a person used to choose it at his own will. This is clear from
several instances. In the mandala IX of the Rig Veda, a poet exclaims: ‘I am a
reciter of hymns. My father is a physician and my mother grinds (com) with
stones. We desire to obtain wealth in various actions.’ In the mandala III the
same poet wistfully asks Indra: ‘O, Indra! fond of soma, would you make me
the protector of people or would you make me a king. Would you make me a
sage that has drunk of soma, would you impart to me endless wealth.’ This
shows that the same man could be a rishi or a noble or a king. There were no
definite restrictions on inter-marriages between the different classes of the
Aryan race. Mixed marriages were known for instance, the marriage between
Yayati, a Kshatriya king and Devayani, the daughter of a Brahmin.
    The term varna literally means colour. Though the colour of the skin
played a considerable role in the rise of social divisions, it was mainly due to
the conquest of indigenous inhabitants by the Aryans. The dasas are
described as avrata (not obeying the ordinances of the gods), akratu (who
perform no sacrifices), mridhravachah (whose speech is indistinct) and
anasah (snub-nosed). The dasas conquered by the Aryans were gradually
transformed into the Sudras.
    Initially the tribal society (Rig Vedic) was divided into three groups—
warriors, priests and the commoners—on the basis of occupation. The fourth
division, viz. Sudras, appeared towards the end of the Rig Vedic period only
as mentioned in the l0th mandala of the Rig Veda. The Purushasukta in this
book clearly mentions the four-fold division of the society. The Brahmin, the
Kshatriya, the Vaishya, and the Sudra are said to have sprung from the face,
arms, thighs and feet of the supreme Purusha respectively. In the
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Mahabharata and the Manu Smriti also, the
origin of the caste system has been repeated in a similar manner. Even in the
Purushasukta where the words Brahmin, Rajanya, Vaishya and Sudra occur,
the word varna is not used. The word ‘Brahmin’ occurs several times in the
Rig Veda, but it was not used in the sense of the caste. The word ‘Rajanya’
occurs only in the Purushasukta, but at other places of the Rig Veda