Dvija (Sanskrit for "twice-born") is a male member of the first three varnas in Brahmanical Hindu society: the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, and the Vaishyas are included in the Dvija category. The ancient Asvalayana sutra indicates that a non-dvija child may also be inducted into the Dvija category, if he wishes to pursue the duties associated with these varnas.
The meaning of the two births
"Dvija" means "twice-born": the first birth is physical, while the second birth is a 'spiritual' one. The second 'birth' occurs when one uptakes fulfilling a role in society, at the time of Upanayanam initiation ceremony. For example, a Brahmin is initiated into the ultimate pursuit of life Brahmopadesam (Preaching/Advising in the matter of the nature of Brahman, the ultimate reality). Traditionally, a Kshtraiya would start learning the use of arms, while a Vaishya would start a trade apprenticeship.
Only the Dvijas were allowed to perform certain sacred rites and rituals in the traditional Brahmanical society. Dvija Bandhu is the term for a person born to Dvija parents but not formally initiated into the Dvija fold (i.e. someone for whom no sacred thread ceremony was performed). Like the women and the lower castes (the Shudras), the Dvija Bandhus were not eligible for any rites except the marriage rites.
In the traditional Hindu society, a Dvija person was expected to follow the duties as outlined in the Hindu texts, depending on which stage of life (ashrama) the person is in. This concept says that a Dvija person is to undergo four stages of life: first, as a student Brahmacharya; then, as a householder Grihastha; then, he shall live in retirement Vanaprastha; and finally, as an ascetic Sanyasi. The Manusmriti goes into some detail, regarding what is expected of an individual during each stage.
The Brahmanical centres of learning were open to all the Dvija castes, although they attracted mainly the Brahmin students.
- Julia Leslie (2003). Authority and Meaning in Indian Religions: Hinduism and the Case of Vālmīki. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7546-3431-7. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- David Bruce Hughes (Gaurahari Dāsānudās Bābājī). Śrī Vedānta-sūtra, Adhyāya 1. David Bruce Hughes. p. 210. GGKEY:CT0AC58L125. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- Romila Thapar (1 January 1978). Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations. Orient Blackswan. p. 126. ISBN 978-81-250-0808-8. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
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