Brahmins

Posted: 06.07.2005
Updated on: 16.01.2012

Alias

Brahmin, Brāhmana, Brāhmanism, Brāhmans, Brāhmins

A Brahmin (also Brahman; Sanskrit: ब्राह्मण Brāhmaṇa;) is a member of the scholarly class in the Indian subcontinent and belongs to the upper caste society.

  • According to the Manusmṛti, there are four "varnas", or classes:
    • Brahmins (scholars, teachers, fire priests)
    • Kshatriyas (warriors, law enforcers, administrators)
    • Vaishyas (agriculturists, cattle raisers, merchants, bankers)
    • Shudras (artisans, craftsmen and service providers)
  • Brahmins were respected by the society for their self-abnegation and for being the custodians of Dharma (as "one who prays; a devout or religious man; a Brāhman who is well versed in Vedic texts; one versed in sacred knowledge"). They were the ultimate authority over interpretation of Vedic and Puranic spiritual texts like the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita.
  • Due to the diversity in regional religious traditions and the Vedic schools (shakhas), which they belong to, Brahmins, in modern usage of the term, are further divided into various sub-castes. Brahmins traditionally are not temple priests and not all Brahmins are fire priests. Today, very few Brahmins are involved in the priestly duties, with Vedic learning, ascetic and humble living and have sought a variety of occupations and jobs, due to the collapse of the ancient Indian societal structure which supported them through alms and gifts, in recognition of their teaching, scholarship and wisdom.

See: Varna

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