Brahmin (also called Brahman; from Sanskrit brāhmaṇa ब्राह्मण) is a name used to designate a member of one of the four varnas (castes) in the traditional Hindu society of Nepal and India.

Traditionally Brahmins were the name given to persons who had attained the highest spiritual knowledge (brahmavidya)and who adhered to different branches (shakhas) of Vedas. This was described to be a difficult path of discipline of body, mind, and intellect. Irrespective of their birth or class, people who dedicated to such an austere life were recognized as brahmins. An example of this definition of Brahmin, that a person becomes a brahmin, rather than being born as one, is the story of Sage Vishwamitra, who was a warrior, who became a brahmin after attaining brahmavidya, and composed the Gayatri mantra.

The Smritis conferred upon the Brahmins the position of being the highest of the four Varnas. The priestly class is expected to practice self-abnegation and play the role of being the custodians of Dharma (as a Brāhman who is well versed in Vedic texts). The fee paid to the Brahmana for performance of a sacrifice was considered as a return for the duties of the priest. Hopkins, Religions of India (p.192) states: “As to the fees, the rules are precise, and the propounders of them are unblushing. The priest performs the sacrifice for the fee alone, and it must consist of valuable garments, kine, horses, or gold; – when each is to be given is carefully stated. Gold is coveted most, for ‘this is immortality, the seed of Agni’”



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