According to Hindu mythology there are 5 classes of warrior excellence.
Rathi: A warrior capable of attacking 5,000 warriors simultaneously.
Atirathi: A warrior capable of contending with 12 Rathi class warriors or 60,000
Maharathi’s: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Atirathi class warriors or 720,000
Atimaharathi’s: A warrior capable of fighting 12 Maharathi warriors simultaneously
Mahamaharathi’s: A warrior capable of fighting 24 Atimaharathi’s simultaneously
Famous Rathis in hindu mythology are
1. Somadatta – Father of Bhurishrava
2. Shakuni – Kaurava’s maternal uncle and a master mind behind Kurukshetra war.
3. Shishupala – Shri Krishna’s cousin
4. Vrishasena – Son of Karna
Famous Atirathis in Hindu mythology are
1. Shalya – The fourth commander-in-chief of the Kaurava alliance
2. Kripacharya – Teacher and family priest of Kuru dynasty.
3. Yuyutsu – The only son of Dhritarashtra who survived the Kurukshetra war.
4. Drishtadyumna – Commander of the Pandava army during the Kurukshetra War
5. Ghatotkacha – Son of Bhima
6. Angada – Most feared warrior in Ramayana, He was son of Bali and Tara and nephew of Sugriva.
7. Duryodhana, Jayadhradha, Dusassana, Vikarna, all 97 brothers of Duryodhana, Yudhishtir, Bhima, Nakula, Sahadeva
Famous Maharathis from Hindu mythology are:
1. Parshurama – Sixth incarnation of Lord vishnu.
2. Lord Rama – King of Ayodhya
3. Kumbhakarna -Brother of Ravana
4. Lakshmana – Brother of Lord Rama
5. Ravana – King of Lanka
6. Arjuna – He is the third of the five Pandava brothers
7. Lava & Kusha – Sons of lord Rama
8. Hanuman, Sugriva, Jambavan, Vali, Bhishma, Drona, Ashwatthama, Abhimanyu, Lord Krishna, Balrama, Lord Narasimha.
Famous Atimaharathis from Hindu mythology are:
1. Indrajeet – Son of Ravana
Famous Mahamaharathis from Hindu mythology are:
1. Lord Brahma – The creator
2. Vishnu – The preserver
3. Shiva – The destroyer
4. Durga – The warrior goddess
5. Ganesha & kartikeya – Sons of Shiva and Parvati
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Jarasandha (Sanskrit: जरासंध) was A badass villain from Hindu Mythology. He was the king of Magadha. He was the son of a Vedic king named Brihadratha. He was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva. But he is generally held in negative light owing to his enmity with the Yadava clan in the Mahabaratha.
Brihadratha was the king of Magadha. His wives were the twin princesses of Benares. While he led a content life and was a famed king, he was unable to have children for a very long time. Frustrated over his inability to have children, he retreated to the forest and eventually ended up serving a sage named Chandakaushika. The sage took pity on him and on finding the actual cause for his sorrow, gave him a fruit and told him to give it to his wife who in turn will soon become pregnant. But the sage did not know that he had two wives. Not wishing to displease either wife, Brihadratha cut the fruit in half and gave it to both of them. Soon both the wives became pregnant and gave birth to two halves of a human body. These two lifeless halves were very horrifying to view. So, Brihadratha ordered these to be thrown in the forest. A demoness (Rakshasi) named “Jara” (orBarmata) found these two pieces and held each of these in her two palms. Incidentally when she brought both of her palms together,the two pieces joined together giving rise to a living child. The Child cried loudly which created panic for Jara. Not having the heart to eat a living child, the demoness gave it to the king and explained him all that happened. The father named the boy as Jarasandha (literally meaning “joined by Jara”).
Chandakaushika arrived at the court and saw the child. He prophesied to Brihadratha that his son will be specially gifted and would be a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
In India, descendants of Jarasandh still exist and use Joriya (which means piece of flesh named after their ancestor, “jarasandha”) as their suffix while naming themselves.
Jarasandha became a famed and powerful king, extending his empire far and wide. He prevailed over many kings, and was crowned emperor of Magadha. Even while Jarasandha’s power continued to grow, he had concerns over his future & that of the empires, as he had no heirs. Therefore, on the advice of his close friend kingBanasura, Jarasandh decided to get his two daughters ‘Asti and Prapti’ married to the heir apparent of Mathura, Kansa. Jarasandha had also lent his army and his personal advise to Kansa to create a coup d’état in Mathura.
When Krishna killed Kansa in Mathura, Jarasandha become enraged because of Krishna and the entire Yadavas clan on seeing his two daughters being widowed. So, Jarasandha attacked Mathura repeatedly. He attacked Mathura 17 times. Sensing danger over the repeated attack on Mathura by Jarasandha, Krishna relocated his capital city to Dwaraka. Dwaraka was an island and it was not possible for anyone to attack it at all. Hence, Jarasandha could not attack the Yadavas anymore.
Yudhisthira was planning to make a Rajasuya yagna or Ashwamedha Yagna in order to become the emperor. Krishnaconvinced him that Jarasandha was the only obstacle to oppose Yudhisthira from becoming an emperor. Jarasandha raidedMathura (Krishna’s ancestral capital) and got defeated by Krishna every time. At one stage to avoid unnecessary loss of lives, Krishna moved his capital to Dwaraka, in one stroke. Since Dwaraka was an island city guarded heavily by Yadava Army, Jarasandha was not able to invadeDwaraka anymore. To attain the capacity to invade Dwaraka, Jarasandha planned to conduct a Yagna to please Lord Shiva. For this Yagna, He had imprisoned 95 kings and was in need of 5 more kings, after which he was planning to perform the Yagna, sacrificing all the 100 kings. Jarasandha thought that this Yagna will make him win the powerful Yadava Army.
The kings captured by Jarasandha wrote a secret missive to Krishna to rescue them from Jarasandha. Krishna, not wanting to go for an all out war with Jarasandha to rescue the captured kings, in order to avoid a major loss of lives, devised a plan to eliminate Jarasandha. Krishna advised Yudhisthira that Jarasandha was a major obstacle and must be killed before Yudhisthira starts performing the Rajasuya yagna. Krishna planned a clever scheme to eliminate Jarasandha by making Bheemawrestle with the Jarasandha in a dual fight, who killed Jarasandha after a fierce battle (Dwandwa yudha), which lasted for 27 days.
Like Karna, Jarasandha was also very good in giving charity donations. After performing his Shiva pooja, he used to give whatever the Brahmins asked for. On one such occasion Krishna, Arjuna and Bheema in the guise of Brahmins met Jarasandha. Krishna asked Jarasandha to choose any one of them for a wrestling match. Jarasandha chose Bheema, the strongman, to wrestle. Both of them fought for 27 days. Bheema did not know how to defeat Jarasandha. So, he sought the help of Krishna. Krishna knew the secret by which Jarasandha could be killed. Since, Jarasandha was brought to life when the two lifeless halves joined together, conversely, he can be killed only when these his body was torn into two halves and find a way as how these two don’t merge. Krishna took a stick, he broke it into two and threw them in both directions. Bheema got the hint. He tore Jarasandha’s body into two and threw the pieces in two directions. But, these two pieces came together and Jarasandha was able to attack Bheema again. Bheema got tired after several such futile attempts. He again sought the help of Krishna. This time, Lord Krishna took a stick, broke it into two and threw the left piece on right side and the right piece on the left side. Bheema precisely followed the same. Now, he tore Jarasandha’s body into two and threw them in opposite directions. Thus, Jarasandha was killed as the two pieces could not merge into one.
It didn’t develop in one shot and evolved over time by merging many different social groups. The caste system is not a well-defined entity, but an amorphous grouping of people with different origins that all got mixed over time.
Humans, like many other mammals, live in various social groups. We often build a web of relationship known as the Kinship. Initially we were all in small bands or tribes & we were not in close contact with other groups. As we kept coming together to form more complex societies, some wanted to organize & formalize the group.
Band – Bands are the smallest units. It is an informal group of a few dozen people who work together. It might not have a leader.
Clan – This is a slightly more matured group with a belief in a common origin & descent. In India, this roughly translates to Gotra. For instance, my family believes that we are descent of the 3 saints of Viswamitra-Ahamarshana-Koushika. Such clans were in most ancient human societies. The clans formed a strong kinship & bonding among themselves. Also, most clans thought of others in the clan as brothers/sisters & thus would not marry within the clan. The Khaps in Haryana take to this the extreme & can even give death sentences to those who marry within the clan.
Tribe – Mulitiple clans can come together to form a tribe & tribes can often be quite well structured. They can have their own leaders & build common cultural practices. In many ancient societies, people married within the same tribe. In short, you marry out of a clan and within a tribe. In India, this roughly corresponds to Jati.
Nations – Tribes formed even bigger groups named the nation. For instance, in the Battle of the Ten Kings the tribal groups formed the nation of Bhāratas that won over the confederation of 10 tribes in north India. Thus, we call our nation Bharat.
Division of labour – As we started forming civilizations, we also found it quite useful to divide work. Thus, some would produce milk, some would farm, others would weave etc. Like in other civilizations, India had this division of labor too. These divisions then got superimposed over the much older clan & tribal divisions.
Some of the tribes/jatis are as big as most nations. For instance, the peasant caste of Jats numbers about 83 million people – a little bigger than Germany & Mongolia combined. Other castes like Yadavs, Minas and Rajputs also have millions of people have built a formidable political force.
Building Social Hierarchies
Almost all societies eventually turned into building hierarchies in a pyramid system. The tribes had no ranking system before this & somehow people felt that there needs to be a rank. Such rankings are somewhat present in our mind always.
For instance, if you ask a kid to rank the professions of plumber, soldier, doctor and shopkeeper in terms of attractiveness/usefulness, he/she might instinctively say doctor > soldier > shopkeeper > plumber. We have some universal notions of the relative worth of different professions & this bias reflected in the social hierarchy.
Around 3500 years ago, the various tribes that were creating the Rig Veda was grappling with a way to organize all the different systems – since there were 100s of tribal groups & occupation groups. Rig Veda did it this way.
Brahmins (with all the different clans who were in priest related occupations) Kshatriyas (the warriors) Vaishyas (merchants) Shudras (workers)
Such a pyramid organization was not unique to the Rig Vedis. Plenty of societies around the world had stratified their society. Europe had Estates of the realm.
Egypt had 8 levels with more fine grained.
Japan also had 8.
Mesopotamia had 6.
While north India had a more formalized social stratification systems, south India didn’t get as formalized. It turned out to be quite binary – brahmins and non-brahmins. Only recently many jatis like Reddys, Thevars and Lingayats started grappling with where they fit into the varna system.
In short, there was no single system and people often made up the rules on the go. Many also used obscure texts like a 2000 year old Manu Smriti to define their position in the outdated hierarchy.
There are two major elements which were used for caste classifications
1. Varna – the mental state of an individual
2. Jati – the social segregation of an individual based on profession.
Jati is a derivative of Varna but the reverse is not true. Varna is supreme, Jati is just an indicator of the profession of a family branch, it has nothing to do with Karma. Varna is Karma, Jati is just a social classification which evolved later. Varna is more of a state of mind.
What is Varna?
Varna is simply the mental state of a subject. Varna is the “Why?”
A person of Shudra Varna always follows whatever is given. He never questions, he never argues, he never thinks on his own, he just “obeys” the master (Karta). He doesn’t see the big picture and is always keen on following.
Hanuman is of Shudra varna. He never questions Ram. He just does whatever is said. That is it. He can kill the whole Lanka army alone but he never does it. When his mother asked “Why?” he said – Because nobody told me to do so.
A person of Vaishya varna is a conditional follower which means, he will follow his master only on a given condition. He will not take initiative, but when ordered to do something, he will evaluate the orders and carry out actions only if it fits the condition.
Sugriva is of Vaishya varna. He agrees to help Ram only if Ram helps him first. If Ram did not kill Vali, Sugriva would’t have given his army to Ram.
Kshatriya Varna is someone who leads but again has conditions attached to why he is leading. He leads just for the sake of leading, not upholding the cause of leadership. He carries out action because he is more into the “Power” and “Glory” and not for the action alone.
Ravana and Duryodhana, both belong to Kshatriya varna. They are conditional leaders. Ravana leads just for the sake of preserving his ego and avenging the insult of Surpnakha. Duryodhana leads just for the sake of his personal enmity and abandons the greater cause of the kingdom. They are both “Conditional leaders”.
Brahmana varna is someone who lives for the greater objective and his leadership or action is focussed on “Dharma” and not personal goals. Rama and Krishna are both Unconditional leaders, who go above and beyond the call of duty to accomplish Dharma and attain the bigger goal. Rama abandons his Kingdom for his father, abandons his wife for the kingdom. Krishna is sharp focussed on establishing his goal and introduces “Adharmik principles” to restore Dharma. This is unconditional leadership, do whatever it takes to meet the end result and establish Dharma.
How Varna Shifts in One’s Life
When a man grows up, he is mostly of Shudra varna, unconditionally following whatever is told by parents, teachers and others.
Then he graduates to Vaishya varna wherein, he follows only when a condition is met (I want to do enginerring only if …..).
Then he graduates to Khastriya Varna wherein he takes up Karma just for the sake of Karma alone, without knowing what he is doing (a job or some trade to make ends meet).
Finally he is able to realize his true worth and do things he really wants to do in life (Brahmana varna).
Is Varna related to Birth?
No. Not at all.
A person of lowerly caste may very well be of “Brahmana” varna while a person of “higher” caste may be of Shudra varna.
Example – Consider a person from shudra Jati, who cleans people’s toilets. He is extremely devoted to his duty and performs every task with utmost perfection. He is an unconditional leader and his mission in life is to clean every single toilet in his area. So although he is “Shudra” by Jati, he is of “Brahmana” varna.
Example – Consider a person who is from “Brahmana” jati. He is a professor in a reputed institute but never performs his duty well. He just comes, gives lectures and notes, takes exams and passes every student. He is not concerned about the knowledge his students are getting, he is just following some “System”.
So despite being from the “Brahmana” jati, he is of “Shudra varna” – unconditional follower. He will simply do whatever is told to him, without caring about the consequences.
How Jati Comes from Varna? >> Behavior of the mind
Jati was introduced so that a person of specific Varna gets the profession he is most suited for. It is not the other way around.
A person of “Brahmana” varna was given a “Jati” of “Brahmana” so that society benefits from his behavior. An unconditional leader is best suited in institutes, so that people can learn from someone who knows the bigger objective and is determined to achieve it.
A person of “Khastriya” varna was given a “Jati” of “Khatriya” so that society benefits from that behavior. A conditional leader is better suited for administrative tasks, kingship, ruler..who can lead and protect the nation from foreigners and be advised by unconditional leaders (“brahmanas”)
A person of “Vaishya” varna was given a “Jati” of “Vaishya” so that societry benefits from the behavior. A conditional follower is better suited for trade and commerce and can help build the economy faster and provide goods and services, since he is more keen on “Following” the system.
A person of “Shudra” varna was given a “Jati” of “Shudra” so that society benefits from the behavior. An unconditional follower is better suited in the service of others and hence the person of “Shudra” varna is better utilized as clerks, officers and other day to day “Jobs”.
Alas, for the human race tweaked this concept and started abusing it. They abused it to that extent that now it is the exact opposite. A person with great thought and vision but born into a lower caste family is mostly neglected while a person born into a “Brahmin” family but no character or vision is given respect.
This is what Kaliyug has done to the vedic system of segregating talent in the society.