Shudra is the fourth Varna, as prescribed in the Purusha Sukta
Purusha sukta
Purusha sukta is hymn 10.90 of the Rigveda, dedicated to the Purusha, the "Cosmic Being". One version of the Suktam has 16 verses, 15 in the meter, and the final one in the meter...

of the Rig veda, which constitutes society into four varnas or Chaturvarna. The other three varnas are Brahmans - priests, Kshatriya
*For the Bollywood film of the same name see Kshatriya Kshatriya or Kashtriya, meaning warrior, is one of the four varnas in Hinduism...

 - those with governing functions, Vaishya
Vaishya is one of the four varnas of the Hindu social order. According to Vedic tradition, this caste primarily comprises merchants, farmers, cattle-herders and artisans.-Duties of Vaishyas:...

 - agriculturalists, cattle rearers and traders. According to this ancient text, the Shudra perform functions of serving the other three varna. The varna system became rigid in the later Vedic
Vedic may refer to:* the Vedas, the oldest preserved Indic texts** Vedic Sanskrit, the language of these texts** Vedic period, during which these texts were produced** Vedic pantheon of gods mentioned in Vedas/vedic period...



Whilst the origins of the other varnas can be traced to Vedic words, the word varna is translated as the Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 word for colour. In the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, it is said that there was initially only one varna, being Brahmana. The other varnas were formed depending on the dominance of the three Guna
' means 'string' or 'a single thread or strand of a cord or twine'. In more abstract uses, it may mean 'a subdivision, species, kind, quality', or an operational principle or tendency....

s — Sattva
In Hindu philosophy, sattva is the most rarefied of the three gunas in Samkhya, sāttvika "pure", rājasika "dim", and tāmasika "dark". Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all guna are indivisible and mutually qualifying...

, Rajas
Rajas ) is, in the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy, one of the three gunas. Of these, rajas, is responsible for motion, energy and preservation...

, and Tamas
Tamas (philosophy)
In the Samkhya school of philosophy, tamas is one of the three gunas , the other two being rajas and sattva or purity). Tamas is the template for inertia or resistance to action...

— in one's self. The varnas were socio-economical roles that people take in a society.

It is also mentioned in the Purusha sukta of the Rig Veda that shudras are said to have emanated from the feet of the Virat Purush (पद्भ्याम् शूद्र् अजायत padbhyām śūdro ajāyata).

Singaya-Nayak inscriptions

An inscription of Singaya-Nayaka (1368 CE) declares that belonging to the fourth varna was a matter of pride:
Another inscription relates how his relative Kapaya-Nayaka, "rescued the Andhra country from the ravages of the Mohammedans".

Further reading

  • "Who were the Shudras", B. R. Ambedkar
  • Shudras in Ancient India, R. Chandra and K.L. Chanchreek. New Delhi, Shree Pub., 2004, ISBN 81-88658-65-0.
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