Chaturvarnyam refers to a social system which was entrenched in India in the past but broken down in the process of evolving a modern democratic society. The word Chaturvarnyam finds reference in Bhagavat Gita as ‘Chaturvarnyam Maya Srustam Guna Karma Vibhagasah’ which translates to mean ‘Chaturvarnyam was created by me (Lord Krishna himself) as per Guna (nature) and Karma (work).
Any social group, be it a nation, an business house, or even a home, requires a leader around which it moves; symbol of authority and power. This power may come from sheer command, position of bestowed authority, money or even a combination of all. Whatever that be, such a leadership is required to get things done and progress. This is responsibility of one of the varnas: Kshatriya; it is symbol of authority and power
Any one who has led a team for a few years would agree that getting a team together in a civilized society to deliver consistently requires more than just power; it comes from moral/spiritual inspiration, ensuring that nott only we progress but we process in the right direction and in the right way. This is responsibility of another varna: Brahmin; it is symbol of knowledge and high moral standards
No wonder Chanakya has said: contented kshatriya and discontented brahmana are bound to perish quickly
Business and mercantile life represents yet another aspect of social existence, and that is responsibility of another varna: Vaisya. It represents the bulk of social interaction, and is symbol of business, trade and money.
What we rarely pause to appreciate is, for all the comforts we enjoy, someone somewhere has worked hard. In any social grouping, no progress can be made only when many people put their heart and soul, and collectively work towards the common goal. This group represents workers, in general, and contribute the majority. By no means, this group is meant to be inferior just as an ordinary citizen is, by no means, inferior to head of state, in a civilized society, so long as both do their duty right. On the contrary, it is duty of other varnas to protect interest of this group. Remember words of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first president of India: “They call me the Prime Minister of India but it would be more appropriate if I were called the first servant of India…”
Unfortunately, Just as many other great ideas, even this was corrupted overtime in the hands of bigots. It corrupted so much so that it was used as a tool for perpetuation of self interest as well as a tool for discrimination. The very fact that it persisted as a foundation for a social structure for centuries, even in a dynamic society like India despite political and cultural invasions of those times, goes to prove strength of the system of Chaturvarnyam.
I believe it makes sense to study Chaturvarnyam in details, stripping it off corrupt practices that came out during its implementation, as we evolve into a modern society, both for world at large and India in particular