possess high spiritual and intellectual qualities, others fighting qualities, still
others producing qualities, and accordingly they are placed in various
categories. The varna system is, therefore, based on natural and inherent
attributes found in the mankind. But to consider natural qualities of human
beings without taking into account the social and material environment in
which they are born and nurtured would be highly improper. Such a theory of
the origin of the varna system obviously serves the interests of those who
want to perpetuate this system.
     The second theory accounts for the origin of the varna system in terms of
the division of labour. It is held that the need for occupational division
leading to more production and economic efficiency gave rise to varnas and
jatis. Though there is some truth in this theory, it completely ignores the
hereditary character of the varna system.
     According to the third theory, the varna system is based on notions of
purity and impurity. The ritual ranking of the varnas and jatis is based on
their relative purity. But the exponents of this theory do not realise that
notions of purity and impurity found in primitive and ancient societies
outside India did not necessarily give rise to the varna system.
     The fourth theory tries to explain the origin of the varna as a legacy from
the aboriginal tribal communities of India. According to it every tribe is
divided into a number of clans, and members of a clan marry within the tribe
but outside the clan. But tribes entered into marriage relations with one
another as a result of war and trade. Insistence on marriage within the varna,
on the other hand, began because of the need of maintaining the privileges of
the upper orders, which automatically barred the lower orders from having
social intercourse with the upper castes.
     According to the fifth theory, which has gained popularity in recent times,
the origin and growth of post-Mauryan the varna system can be better
appreciated if we bear in mind that varna is a form of social differentiation.
Since social differentiation arises out of social conflicts and unequal
distribution of resources and produce, the origin and growth of the varna
cannot be understood without a study of social processes which again are
intimately connected with changes in material life.
Historical Background