(49) Caste and Varna in Hinduism
In ancient India society was based upon the varna (class) in which people were classified into four classes(varna) with relation to their aptitude and vocation.
Four orders of society were recognized based upon the four duties of human beings and established society accordingly. These four groups were the Brahmins, the priests or spiritual class; the Kshatriya, the nobility or ruling class; the Vaishya, the merchants and farmers; and the Shudras or servants.
These four orders of society were called "varna", which has two meanings; first it means "color"; and second it means a "veil". As color it does not refer to the color of the skin of people, but to the qualities or energies of human nature. As a veil it shows the four different ways in which the Divine Self is hidden in human beings.
In ancient India, these divisions were not based on birth but based on qualifications. According to the Bhagavad Gita this Aryan family system broke down in India over three thousand years ago at the time of Krishna. Hence after three thousand years this system of determining natural aptitude has degenerated into the caste system which resembles it now only in form.