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Shudra is the fourth varna, as prescribed in the Purusha Sukta of the Rig veda, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism. This text defines society as comprising four groups, sometimes also called chaturvarna, of which the other three are Brahmins (priests), Kshatriya (those with governing functions) and Vaishya (agriculturalists, cattle rearers and traders). According to this ancient text, the Shudra perform functions of serving the other three varna.
Ambedkar, a polymath and a Dalit (untouchable) activist, believed that there were initially only three varnas: the Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya, and that the Shudras were the Kshatriyas who were denied the Upanayana, an initiation ritual, by the Brahmins. He said that "Owing to the denial of the Upanayana, the Shudras who were Kshatriyas became socially degraded, fell below the rank of the Vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth varna."
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- Naval, T. R. (2001). Law of prevention of atrocities on the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes. Concept Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 9788170228851.
- Ambedkar, B.R. (1970). Who were the Shudras. Bombay: Thackers. p. xiv.
- Chandra, R.; Chanchreek, K. L. (2004). Shudras in Ancient India. New Delhi: Shree Pub. ISBN 81-88658-65-0.
- Sharma, Ram Sharan (1990). Śūdras in Ancient India: A Social History of the Lower Order Down to Circa A.D. 600 (Third ed.). Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 9788120807068.
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