A review of the varna and caste systems is important to the student of ancient Indian polity. The varna and caste affected the status of the citizens and their duties as members of the body politic. From the commencement of the Brahmanic Period until recently, the position of a man in relation to society, and his duties, both public and private, depended largely upon the his caste, than upon his individual capacity and character.
The duties of the different castes are thus defined by Manu :
Duties of the Brahmanas, teaching, studying, offering sacrifices, officiating at sacrifices, charity and acceptance of gifts ;
of the Kshatriyas, protection of the people, charity, performing sacrifices, study,
of the Vaisyas, cattle-rearing, agriculture, charity, performance of sacrifices, study, trade and
of the Sudras,various services under the guidance of the three orders. To this list Chanakya adds agriculture, arts, and crafts as the occupations of the Sudras ; and Vishnu mentions all industrial arts (sarva-silpani) as being within their province.
In the court of the king, brahmanas were the councillors of the king, and the chief officers of state, both executive and judicial. " To them," says Megasthenes, " belong the highest posts of government, the tribunals of justice, and the general administration of public affairs."
The Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas were the two most important classes in the early Indian society. They undertook the task of regulating vaishyas and sudras who are engaged in varta. Varta is the activity for living or subsistence.