The Mahabharata Home
"Yudhishthira said, 'Through inducements offered by wealth, or through mere lust, or through ignorance of the true order of birth (of both males and females), or through folly, intermixture happens of the several order What, O grandsire, are the duties of persons that are born in the mixed classes and what are the acts laid down for them? Do thou discourse to me on this!'
"Bhishma said, 'In the beginning, the Lord of all creatures created the four orders and laid down their respective acts or duties, for the sake of
sacrifice. 1 The Brahmana may take four wives, one from each of the four orders. In two of them (viz., the wife taken from his own order and that taken from the one next below), he takes birth himself (the children begotten upon them being regarded as invested with the same status as his own). Those sons, however, that are begotten by him on the two spouses that belong to the next two orders (viz., Vaisya and Sudra), are inferior, their status being determined not by that of their father but by that of their mothers. The son that is begotten by a Brahmana upon a Sudra wife is called Parasara, implying one born of a corpse, for the Sudra woman's body is as inauspicious as a corpse. He should serve the persons of his (father's) race. Indeed, it is not proper for him to give up the duty of service that has been laid down for him. Adopting all means in his power, he should uphold the burden of his family. Even if he happens to be elder in age, he should still dutifully serve the other children of his father who may be younger to him in years, and bestow upon them whatever he may succeed in earning. A Kshatriya may take three wives. In two of them (viz., the one taken from his own order and the other that is taken from the order immediately below), he takes birth himself (so that those children are invested with the status of his own order). His third wife being of the Sudra order is regarded as very inferior. The son that he begets upon her comes to be called as an Ugra. The Vaisya may take two spouses. In both of them (viz., the one taken from his own order, and the other from the lowest of the four pure orders), he takes birth himself (so that those children become invested with the status of his own order). The Sudra can take only one wife, viz., she that is taken from his own order. The son begotten by him upon her becomes a Sudra. A son that takes birth under circumstances other than those mentioned above, comes to be looked upon as a very inferior one If a person of a lower order begets a son upon a woman of a superior order, such a son is regarded as outside the pale of the four pure orders. Indeed, such a son becomes on object of censure with the four principal orders. If a Kshatriya begets a son upon a Brahmana woman, such a son, without being included in any of the four pure orders, comes to be regarded as a Suta The duties of a Suta are all connected with the reciting of eulogies and encomiums of kings and other great men. The son begotten by a Vaisya upon a woman of the Brahmana order comes to be regarded as a Vaidehaka. The duties assigned to him are the charge of bars and bolts for protecting the privacy of women of respectable households. Such sons have no cleansing rites laid down for them. 2 If a Sudra unites with a woman belonging to the foremost of the four orders, the son that is begotten is called a Chandala. Endued with a fierce disposition, he must live in the outskirts of cities and towns and the duty assigned to him is that of the public executioner. Such sons are
always regarded as wretches of their race. These, O foremost of intelligent persons, are the offspring of intermixed orders. The son begotten by a Vaisya upon a Kshatriya woman becomes a Vandi or Magadha. The duties assigned to him are eloquent recitations of praise. The son begotten through transgression, by a Sudra upon a Kshatriya women, becomes a Nishada and the duties assigned to him have reference to the catching of fish. If a Sudra happens to have intercourse with a Vaisya woman, the son begotten upon her comes to be called Ayogava. The duty assigned to such a person are those of a Takshan (carpenter). They that are Brahmanas should never accept gifts from such a person. They are not entitled to possess any kind of wealth. Persons belonging to the mixed castes beget upon spouses taken from their own castes children invested with the status that is their own. When they beget children in women taken from castes that are inferior to theirs, such children become inferior to their fathers, for they become invested with the status that belongs to their mothers Thus as regards the four pure orders, persons beget children invested with their own status upon spouses taken from their own orders as also upon them that are taken from the orders immediately below their own. When, however, offspring are begotten upon other spouses, they come to be regarded as invested with a status that is, principally, outside the pale of the four pure orders. When such children beget sons in women taken from their own classes, those sons take the status of their sires. It is only when they take spouse from castes other than their own, that the children they beget become invested with inferior status. As an example of this it may be said that a Sudra begets upon a woman belonging to the most superior order a son that is outside the pale of the four orders (for such a son comes to be regarded as a Chandala who is much inferior). The son that is outside the pale of the four orders by uniting with women belonging to the four principal orders, begets offspring that are further degraded in point of status. From those outside the pale of the four orders and those again that are further outside that pale, children multiply in consequence of the union of persons with women of classes superior to their own. In this way, from persons of inferior status classes spring up, altogether fifteen in number, that are equally low or still lower in status. It is only from sexual union of women with persons who should not have such union with them that mixed classes spring up. Among the classes that are thus outside the pale of the four principal or pure orders, children are begotten upon women belonging to the class called Sairindhri by men of the class called Magadha. The occupation of such offspring is the adornment of the bodies of kinds and others. They are well-acquainted with the preparation of unguents, the making of wreaths, and the manufacture of articles used for the decoration of the person. Though free by the status that attaches to them by birth, they should yet lead a life of service. From the union of Magadhas of a certain class with women of the caste called Sairindhri, there springs up another caste called
[paragraph continues] Ayogava. Their occupation consists in the making of nets (for catching fish and fowl and animals of the chase). Vaidehas, by uniting themselves with women of the Sairindhri caste, beget children called Maireyakas whose occupation consists in the manufacture of wines and spirits. From the Nishadas spring a caste called Madgura and another known by the name of Dasas whose occupation consists in plying boats. From the Chandala springs a race called Swapaka whose occupation consists in keeping guard over the dead. The women of the Magadhi caste, by union with these four castes of wicked dispositions produce four others who live by practising deceit. These are Mansa, Swadukara, Kshaudra, and Saugandha. From the Vaideha springs up a cruel and sinful caste that lives by practising deception. From the Nishadas again springs up the Madranabha caste whose members are seen to ride on cars drawn by asses. From the Chandalas springs up the caste called Pukkasa whose members are seen to eat the flesh of asses, horses and elephants. These cover themselves with the garments obtained by stripping human corpses. They are again seen to eat from broken earthenware 1. These three castes of very low status are born of women of the Ayogava caste (by fathers taken from different castes). The caste called Kshudra springs from the Vaidehaka. The caste called Andhra which takes up its residence in the outskirts of towns and cities, also springs up (from the Vaidehakas). Then again the Charmakara, uniting himself with a woman of Nishada caste, begets the class called Karavara. From the Chandala again springs up the caste known by the name of Pandusaupaka whose occupation consists in making baskets and other things with cleft bamboos. From the union of the Nishada with a woman of the Vaidehi caste springs one who is called by the name of Ahindaka. The Chandala begets upon a Saupaka woman, a son that does not differ from the Chandala in status or occupation. A Nishada woman, by union with a Chandala, brings forth a son who lives in the outskirts of villages and towns. Indeed, the members of such a caste live in crematoria and are regarded by the very lowest orders as incapable of being numbered among them. Thus to these mixed castes spring up from improper and sinful union of fathers and mothers belonging to different castes. Whether they live in concealment or openly, they should be known by their occupations. The duties have been laid down in the scriptures for only the four principal orders. As regards the others the scriptures are entirely silent. Among all the orders, the members of those castes that have no duties assigned to them by the scriptures, need have no fears as to what they do (to earn their livelihood). Persons unaccustomed to the performance or for whom sacrifices have not been laid down, and who are deprived of the company and the instructions of the righteous whether numbered among the four principal orders or out of their pale, by uniting themselves with women of other castes, led
not by considerations of righteousness but by uncontrolled lust, cause numerous mixed castes to come into existence whose occupations and abodes depend on the circumstances connected with the irregular unions to which they owe their origin. Having recourse to spots where four roads meet, or crematoria, or hills and mountains, or forests and trees, they build their habitations there. The ornaments they wear are made of iron. Living in such places openly, they betake themselves to their own occupations to earn their livelihood. They may be seen to live in this way, adorning their persons with ornaments and employed in the task of manufacturing diverse kinds of domestic and other utensils. Without doubt, by assisting kine and Brahmanas, and practising the virtues of abstention from cruelty, compassion, truthfulness of speech, and forgiveness, and, if need be, by preserving others by laying down their very lives, persons of the mixed castes may achieve success. I have no doubt, O chief of men, that these virtues become the causes of their success. He that is possessed of intelligence, should, taking everything into consideration, beget offspring according to the ordinances of the scriptures, upon woman that have been declared proper or fit for him. A son begotten upon a women belonging to a degraded caste, instead of rescuing the sire, brings him to grief even as a heavy weight brings to grief a swimmer desirous of crossing water. Whether a man happens to be possessed of learning or not, lust and wrath are natural attributes of humanity in this world. Women, therefore, may always be seen to drag men into the wrong path. This natural disposition of women is such that man's contact with her is productive of misery to him. Hence, men possessed of wisdom do not suffer themselves to be excessively attached to women.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'There are men who belong to the mixed castes, and who are of very impure birth. Though presenting the features of respectability, they are in reality disrespectable. In consequence of these external aspects we may not be able to know the truth about their birth. Are there any signs, O grandsire, by which the truth may be known about the origin of such men?"
31:1 i.e., each order was created for performing sacrifices. The Sudra is competent to perform sacrifice. Only his sacrifice should be by serving the three other orders.
31:2 For them there is no investiture with the sacred-thread.
33:1 Broken earthenpots are always cast off. They are some times utilised by persons of the lower orders.
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