Located in Southern Asia, India is known for more than its traditional fashions we perceive today. There is more to its mere modern society. India is an ancient city with a very captivating background. From social, religious, to historical aspects, ancient India has been created on a foundation that stands strong in its beliefs. There were countless steps taken in order to instill a value in its large society. History and religion play the most important role in doing so. Having a powerful structure will insure any society of their chance at gaining an advantage in understanding the value of the society’s beliefs. This has allowed the caste system to stamp its position in India’s ancient history. The caste system is a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race. The creation myth is also an important aspect in creating ancient India’s norms. The caste system of 200 C.E. and creation myth of 500 B.C.E goes hand in hand. As we uncover the numerous explanations of why society is in its present condition, we will gain a detailed understanding of its many influences. While referring to the Rig Veda and Aryan influence, it is evident that the Hindu creation myth has helped established society’s caste system.
The influence of Aryans around 1500 B.C.E. in the Indian society influenced the Indian caste system drastically. The Aryans had a system of cosmic and social order. When the Aryans arrived in India they disregarded the local cultures. They began conquering and taking control over regions in north India and at the same time pushed the local people southwards or towards the jungles and mountains in north India. This prompted the society to create a system of class. As the influence of a class system hardened in Ancient India, the idea of varna’s had become so deeply embedded in the Indian mind that its terminology was even used, for the classification of precious commodities.
In correspondence with the Hindu creation myth, Vedas are the basis of understanding the Hindu society. A Veda is any of four canonical collections of hymns, prayers, and liturgical formulas that comprise the earliest Hindu sacred writings. “Around 500 B.C.E Indians began to record their extensive oral religious traditions in what became known as Vedic literature.” The Rig Veda, one of the oldest serves as significance because the Hindu creation myth and caste system can be found in it. Chapter five of the Rig Veda introduces the Varna.
There are four main class levels or Varna’s in the caste system, Brahmans, Kshatrias, Vaishias, and Sundras. According to the religious aspect of the ancient creation myth, each level of class was created from each body part of Purush. In reference to the ancient Hindu book, Purush was the primal man. The body parts of Purush play a significant part in establishing boundaries of the caste system. It is understood that Purush destroyed himself in order to create human society. Each part of the body determined a level class based on its order from the top to the bottom. The Brahmans which were created from Purush’s head were acknowledged as the highest level of the caste system. Following Brahmans were the Kshatrias created from his hands, Vaishias (thighs), and its lowest class, Sundras (feet). As things progressed including the Aryan invasion, ancient India’s system of class became more sophisticated. This is evident in the creation myth of Rig Veda. Lines eleven and twelve of the Rig Veda simply stated, “When they divided Purusha how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet? The Brahman was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya; from his feet the Sudra was produced.”
The Aryan’s distinguished different classes and brought attention to a system known as the caste system. Understanding where you came from and why was now more important than any time before. This prompted the difference in gender and the role it played on levels of class as well. Men were more dominate in the caste system. Women were born into their varna and it could not be changed. “Relations between classes and social groups in later Hinduism were governed by rules of endogamy (marriage was only legitimate within the group).” If a man wanted to marry outside his class he had the option to marry and descend to a lower class but there was no moving of the woman to a higher one. “The natural reproductive role of child-bearing and nursing was at one time thought to be the factor that constrained the “economic” activities of women, being translated, for instance, into restriction to such activities as gathering, rather than hunting.” The Hindu creation myth did provide a basis for a caste system, with this in mind, the conclusion drawn was that, the caste system was not a fair system nor was it moral. The caste system could have easily been thrown out to make ancient India a more prosperous and justified society. Yet, with the impact that the creation myth played on society it was not.
The Hindu creation myth and Aryans worked hand in hand. The Aryans powerful influence impacted the ancient Indian society’s caste system. As stated earlier, with the help of Aryan influence the Hindu creation myth influenced the creation of the caste system. According to this system of class, being a priest, warrior, trader, or laborer determined your status in ancient India. The Brahmans, Kshatrias, Vaishias, and Sundras were more than a mere comparison with Purush’s body parts. Each level also served as a social standing. Brahmans were considered the priest, Kshatrias were warriors, Vaishias (traders), and Sundras serves as laborers. Without the creation myth there would be no beginning to the caste system. The Hindu creation myth serves as the caste systems fundamentals to enriching the society. It has allowed the ancient Indian society to stand in firm belief of its system. Every culture has influenced one another with great impact. The ancient Indian civilization has allowed people to compare and contrast many events that take place in society today. While comparing the significance of things today it also allows one to reflect back to religious aspects of other beliefs. This helps determine how many creation stories are similar.
The legacy of the Ancient Indian civilization is marked in a way by the Hindu Creation Myth. The Hindu Creation myth established society and government in ancient India in a remarkable way. It is apparent that the myth has had the most influence based on many different laws and rules of the civilization. In referencing to the creation myth, as Purush developed a system of social class from the parts of his body, while the Aryan invasion is what prompted the major change is establishing the social system of class. When thinking about the effects of many different influences in ancient societies the question is often proposed, how does or has this effected today’s society? Everything taken place in the past has led up to the norms of today’s society. From ancient civilizations to modern cultural aspects everything has derived from the beginning. The attributes of ancient India can be related to the modern American society today. The American class system, upper, middle and lower class is in close comparison with ancient India’s caste system. Although there are many aspects that differ, the concept is much of the same. Understanding the past of ancient India is a contribution itself. Being knowledgeable about ancient India allows one to put several religious and cultural influences in somewhat of a timeline to better understand why society has led up to where it is today. This again goes back to the point made earlier, from ancient civilizations to modern cultural aspects; everything has derived from the beginning. The explanation of the Hindu Creation myth and its influence on Ancient India’s caste system has been proven remarkable.
 Veda. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/veda (accessed October 7, 2009).
2 Religion and Ethics. 2009. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/stories/s790133.htm (accessed October 7, 2009).
 Basham, A. L, The Wonder That Was India (Great Britain: Williams Clowes and Sons, 1954), 137-138
 WebCT, “Hindu Creation Myth and Caste System,” available from http://cauwebct.cau.edu/webct/urw/lc5122001.tp0/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct
 Griffin, Ralph T.H, “The Rig Veda” available from http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/ralph/workbook/ralprs5b.htm (accessed October 7, 2009)
 Basham, A. L, The Wonder That Was India (Great Britain: Williams Clowes and Sons, 1954), 147
 Kelkar, Govind, and Dev Nathan, Gender and Tribe: Women, Land, and Forest in Jharkhand (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1991), 1