The Path – September 1894



In an article somewhat curiously termed "The Red Rajputs" published in the October number of the Asiatic Quarterly, the following passage is quoted from the Mahabharata:

The color of Brahmans is white; of the Kshattryas red; of the Vaishyas yellow; of the Shudras black.

The above does not mean that the Brahmans were white like the Europeans, the Kshattryas copper-colored like the Red Indians, the Vaishyas yellow like the Jews, and the Shudras black like the negroes. The four castes could not differ so much in color for the simple reason that long before the Mahabharatic period intermarriages were common and the offspring admitted into that caste, generally or broadly speaking, to which the father belonged.

"Ajam ekam lohita Shukta Krishnam" say our Shastras about Prakriti, the root of the physical or material universe. "The unborn one is red, white, and black, for the gunas (attributes) composing it", called sattwa, rajas, and tamas, correspond to those colors thus:

Sattwa, white color, shining, wisdom, light;
Rajas, red color, reflecting energy, motion;
Tamas, black color, covering ignorance, darkness.

They correspond to many other things, as may be found in the Puranas, but the above will do for the present. Now in the Brahmans Sattwa-gunam or quality predominates, in the Kshattryas rajas, in the Shudras tamas. The color yellow in our Shastras corresponds to gross matter, and the Vaishyas were engaged in worldly pursuits. The Brahman represents the wisdom of the nation, the Kshattryas the energy of it, the Vaishyas its material prosperity, and the Shudras obedience and order.

As said in the Bhagavad-Gita, anger and desire are the result of rajogunam, and the Inner Man becomes red when they predominate. Thus in the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata quoted in the article but not correctly translated: —

This manifested Universe is all Brahm, it was originally created by Brahma, the color was due to Karma; those twice born who forsaking their own dharma (or law and duty) became fond of kamic enjoyments, sharp, prone to answer, hasty and red-limbed, fell into Kshattryaship.

Varna means color as well as caste; the one is the cause of the other; the skin may be as white as snow, but if rajo-gunam be dominant the Inner Man will be red. Even now our astrologers say of what varna the babe is, no matter whether it is fair or dark, no matter of what caste it may be, according to the positions of the planets at the time of birth. Such varna refers to the Inner Man and not to his physical envelope.


In the following I will try to show the distribution of colors from the beginning.

The foregoing will further show that the colors spoken of cannot be the color of the skin. For a Western man who tries to materialize everything and thinks himself liberal-minded and scientific if he can but rise above the pigmy conception of Biblical creation said to have begun a few thousand years back, it is very difficult to perceive that the real meaning of passages in the Shastras can often be learnt after you begin to live a real Hindu life, after you learn to meditate long and intensely, after you have a growing faith in our Shastras. Love them and they will repay your patience and labor; study hurriedly, partially, and materialize the teachings, and you will find them self-contradictory, ridiculous, absurd, and what not. Make your choice, for it is said, "The Sun suffers not in splendor if all the blind unanimously say that there is no Sun".

The Path