classified into two categories—the Suryavamsi (Sun Family) and the
Chandravamsi (Moon-Family), both having as their common ancestor the
hermaphrodite son of Manu, the primeval man.
    It is evident from the above discussion that, of the three dvija castes, the
Brahmin is the most easily identifiable as a concrete social group. The
Kshatriyas as the khattiyas of Buddhist literature had a distinct identity at the
time of the Buddha, but later their actual identity becomes vague. The same is
true of the last of the dvija castes, the Vaishyas. Although theoretically
widely known, it is difficult to find groups which actually recognise
themselves as Vaishyas. Nevertheless, there is a large range of castes and
occupations which could be included within the theoretical functions of the
Vaishya caste.
    Thus the examination of the changes in the social structure of ancient
India involves primarily a consideration of the factors which led to the
evolution of a varna based society. But the theoretical model of the varna
system could not be rigidly enforced in practice, since it would require a
static society for proper functioning.
Meaning and Scope
The asramas are four life stages with a graduated course of duties calculated
to lead an individual, step by step, towards a realisation of the supreme
spiritual ideal. They are stages through which, by intensive exertion and
effort of the body and the mind, by acts of religious exercise and austerity, by
self-denial and self-discipline, one may bring one’s whole self under
    The first stage is that of the brahmacharin (the student) who has to study
the Vedas so that he may be acquainted with the high standard of spiritual
perfection that it should be the ambition of his life to reach, and to pass
through a course of rigorous discipline; chastity and continence are specially
associated with the brahmacharin.
                                    of the grihastha or householder, the mainstay
    The next stage of life is that