Varna, Varṇā, Varṇa: 50 definitions


Varna means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, the history of ancient India, Marathi, Hindi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

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In Hinduism

Ayurveda (science of life)

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

Varṇa (वर्ण) is a Sanskrit technical term, translating to the “color” of a plant. It is used throughout Ayurvedic literature such as the Suśruta-saṃhitā and the Caraka-saṃhitā.

Source: Ayurveda glossary of terms

Varṇa (वर्ण):—1. Colour 2. Complexion; an action attributed to Agni Mahabhuta

Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Dharmashastra (religious law)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “colour”, as in, a visible trait or charecteristic of a human being. When a King (rājan) is investigating a suit in the court, he is to closely watch the variations (ākāra) of the subject. For the colour (varṇa) of a person, this means monitoring for sudden changes of complexion etc. The term is used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti.

Source: Sacred Texts: The Grihya Sutras, Part 2 (SBE30)

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “colour” or “caste”.—The four castes, with the Śūdra as the fourth, are mentioned once in the Ṛg-veda, X, 90, 12. The opposition between Āryas and Śūdras occurs in the Atharva-veda, XIX, 62, &c., and in most of the Brāhmaṇas. In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa we read of the four castes, Brāhmaṇa, Rājanya, Vaiśya, and Śūdra, and we are told that none of them vomits the Soma.

Source: Shodhganga: The saurapurana - a critical study (dharma)

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the “four castes” of ancient India, according to the 10th century Saurapurāṇa: one of the various Upapurāṇas depicting Śaivism.—In ancient India the society was divided into four principal castes, namely Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra; and the dharmaśāstras employ the term varṇa to designate these castes. Though the word varṇa literally means “colour”, it can’t be held that the four castes mentioned in the Sūtra literature were distinguished from each other by the colour of their skin.

Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

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Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

1) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “pitch of vowels”. According to the Nāṭyaśāstra, it is part of the ‘vocal representation’ (vācika), which is used in communicating the meaning of the drama and calling forth the sentiment (rasa).

2) Varṇa (वर्ण) is a Sanskrit word referring to the four castes (e.g., Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra). Acording to the Nāṭyaśāstra 1.82-88, when Brahmā, Indra and all other gods went to inspect the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa) designed by Viśvakarmā, he assigned different deities for the protection of the playhouse itself, as well as for the objects relating to dramatic performance (prayoga).

As such, Brahmā assigned Varṇa (as deities) to the pillars (stambha). The protection of the playhouse was enacted because of the jealous Vighnas (malevolent spirits), who began to create terror for the actors.

3) Varṇa (वर्ण, “color”).—There are original (natural) colors, according to Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 23.

The four colors are:

  1. sita (white),
  2. nīla (blue),
  3. pīta (yellow),
  4. rakta (red).

Besides these, there are also many derivative and minor colors (upavarṇa).

4) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the production of notes in a particular way, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 29. The varṇas are used to make up the alaṃkāras (embellishments) of a song.

There are four varṇas defined:

  1. ārohin (ascending),
  2. avarohin (descending),
  3. sthāyin (lit. ‘staying’; monotonic),
  4. saṃcārin (lit. ‘moving together’; mixed).

According to the Nāṭyaśāstra, “these four varṇas having clearly defined aspects, are taken (lit. born of) from the human (lit. physical) voice and they relate to the quality of the three voice registers (sthāna). When a regular (lit. having a characteristic) song (pada) adds at least two varṇas to it, then the varṇas give rise to sentiments (rasa)”.

Source: Google Books: Studies in the Nāṭyaśāstra

Varṇa (वर्ण, “accent”).—Abhinava explains that they are svaradharmas, i.e., ‘qualities of sound’. They are so called because they make clear the special meaning. They are udātta (acute), anudātta (grave), svarita (circumflex) and kampita (quivering). Svarita and udātta are to be used in the Comic and the Erotic; udātta and kampita in the Heroic, the Furious and the Marvellous; and anudātta, svarita, and kampita in the Pathetic, the Odious and the Terrifble.

Source: The Nāṭyaśāstra: the Origin of the Ancient Indian Poetics

The four kinds of pronunciation (varṇa) were divided into the high (udātta), low (anudātta), melodic (svarita) and vibrant (kampita) ones.

Natyashastra book cover
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Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (shastra) of performing arts, (natya—theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing Dramatic plays (nataka), construction and performance of Theater, and Poetic works (kavya).

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Source: Wisdom Library: Varāha-purāṇa

Varṇā (वर्णा).—One of the seven major rivers in Kuśadvīpa, according to the Varāhapurāṇa chapter 87. It is also known by the name Vibhāvarī. Kuśadvīpa is one of the seven islands (dvīpa), ruled over by Vapuṣmān, one of the ten sons of Priyavrata, son of Svāyambhuva Manu, who was created by Brahmā, who was in turn created by Nārāyaṇa, the unknowable all-pervasive primordial being.

The Varāhapurāṇa is categorised as a Mahāpurāṇa, and was originally composed of 24,000 metrical verses, possibly originating from before the 10th century. It is composed of two parts and Sūta is the main narrator.

Source: Puranic Encyclopedia

Varṇa (वर्ण).—Caste. The four castes of Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra and the eleven castes produced by the intermingling of these four castes, only these are taken into account when we speak of Varṇa. To understand about the four castes of Brāhmaṇa, Kṣatriya, Vaiśya and Śūdra, see under Cāturvarṇya.

To know about the eleven mixed castes that originated from the four castes, see under Ekādaśasaṅkara Varṇas.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

1a) Varṇa (वर्ण).—A Sudharmāna god.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 1. 60.

1b) The origin of, from the limbs of Nārāyaṇa;1 of Music; four-fold of Gītaka; sthāyivarṇa, prasaṃcāri, avarohaṇam, ārohaṇa; every varṇa has one of four alamkārassthāpani, kramarejina, pramāda and apramāda.2

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 6. 77.
  • 2) Ib. 87. 6, 8-9.
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

Source: Google Books: Manthanabhairavatantram

1) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “great phonemic energies”, according to the Bhairavīstotra in the Śrīmatottara-tantra, an expansion of the Kubjikāmatatantra: the earliest popular and most authoritative Tantra of the Kubjikā cult.—Accordingly, “Victory! Victory (to you) O goddess (bhagavatī)! [...] Victory to you who have merged the entire universe into a single vibrant state of oneness filling (thereby every) discontinuity! (You are) beautiful with the necklace that (hangs from your) neck made of the pearls of the great phonemic energies (varṇa)! You who are in the centre of the great wheel of the Six Yoginīs and the great group of six! [...]”.

2) Varṇa (वर्ण) (= Vārāṇasī) is the name of a sacred site, and one of the places visited by the Goddess on her pilgrimage, according to Tantric texts such as the Kubjikāmata-tantra, the earliest popular and most authoritative Tantra of the Kubjikā cult.—Accordingly, “[The Goddess] went to Devīkoṭa, (arriving there) in a moment, and with a powerful look (āloka) (it became a sacred site. Then she went to) Aṭṭahāsa, (so called) because she laughed (there) loudly. (Then she went to) Kolāgiri, Ujjenī, Prayāga, Varṇā (i.e. Vārāṇasī), Viraja, Ekāmra and other (places) and (then on to) another universe”.

The Śrīmatottara says that: “(The goddess) conceived the sacred fields (kṣetra) by means of the mantras of the fields”. However, the goddesses who are said to reside there are not, it seems at first sight, the eight Mothers. There they are as follows: 1) Prayāga—Khecarī, 2) Varuṇā (Vārāṇasī)—Ātmī, 3) Kollāpura—Somā, 4) Aṭṭahāsā—Vahni, 5) Jayantikā—Calinī, 6) Caritrā—Bhānumatyā, 7) Ekāmraka—Mahi, and 8) Devikoṭṭa—Sukṛtā.

3) Varṇa (वर्ण) (Cf. Samāveśa) refers to “letters” according to Abhinava’s Tantrāloka (verse 1.167-170), while quoting his Mālinīvijayottaratantra (verse 2.21-23).—Accordingly, “The three (ways in which impurity is eradicated) was taught by the Supreme Lord in the Mālinīvijayottaratantra in the course of explaining (the forms) of penetration (into the supreme state) (samāveśa). [...] That penetration which takes place by virtue of the utterance of mantra (uccāra), bodily postures (karaṇa), meditation (dhyāna), the letters (varṇa) and the formation of supports (sthānakalpanā) is appropriately said to pertain to the individual soul (āṇava). [...]”.

Source: JSTOR: Tāntric Dīkṣā by Surya Kanta

Varṇa (वर्ण) or Varṇādhvā refers to one of the six adhvans being purified during the Kriyāvatī-dīkṣā: an important Śākta ritual described Śāradātilaka-tantra, chapters III-V.—“... Looking with the divine eye he transfers the caitanya of his disciple into himself and unites it with that of his own, thereby effecting a purification of the six adhvans namely: kalā, tattva, bhavana, varṇa, pada, and mantra”.

The word adhvā means ‘path’, and when the above six adhvans (viz. varṇa) are purified they lead to Brahman-experience. Dīkṣā is one of the most important rituals of the Śāktas and so called because it imparts divine knowledge and destroys evil.

The varṇas are the mātṛkā letters.

Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Kavya (poetry)

Source: Shodhganga: The Kavyamimamsa of Rajasekhara

Varṇā (वर्णा) is the name a locality mentioned in Rājaśekhara’s 10th-century Kāvyamīmāṃsā.—In the Kāvyamīmāṃsā, Rājaśekhara described it is the river in south India, its source being the Sahya mountain. It is also identified either with the river Kṛṣnā or Beṇā, which is the branch of the Kṛṣnā or rises from the Western Ghats.

Kavya book cover
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Kavya (काव्य, kavya) refers to Sanskrit poetry, a popular ancient Indian tradition of literature. There have been many Sanskrit poets over the ages, hailing from ancient India and beyond. This topic includes mahakavya, or ‘epic poetry’ and natya, or ‘dramatic poetry’.

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Source: Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar

Varṇa (वर्ण).—Phonemic unit: a letter The term was in use in ancient times and found used generally in the masculine gender, but occasionally in the neuter gender too; e. g. उपदिष्टा इमे वर्णाः (upadiṣṭā ime varṇāḥ) M. Bh. Ahnika 1. also मा कदाचिदवर्णे भूत् (mā kadācidavarṇe bhūt) M. Bh. on Siva Sutras 3, 4.

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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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Chandas (prosody, study of Sanskrit metres)

Source: Shodhganga: a concise history of Sanskrit Chanda literature

Varṇa (वर्ण).—The Classical metres are divided into three types viz. 1. vṛtta or varṇa, 2. mātrā or jāti 3. gadya. The metres (chandas) which are calculated through letters are called as varṇa type, and the mātrā type is calculated by syllabic instances. The gadya type of metres are not accepted by all prosodicians, but authorities like Gaṅgādāsa, Candraśekhara, Raghunātha and Gopīnātha advocate for this metre.

Chandas book cover
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Chandas (छन्दस्) refers to Sanskrit prosody and represents one of the six Vedangas (auxiliary disciplines belonging to the study of the Vedas). The science of prosody (chandas-shastra) focusses on the study of the poetic meters such as the commonly known twenty-six metres mentioned by Pingalas.

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Rasashastra (chemistry and alchemy)

Source: Indian Journal of History of Science, 31(4), 1996: Mūṣāvijñāna

Varṇa (वर्ण) or Varṇamūṣā refers to an “dyeing crucible” and is a type of mūṣā (crucible) used for smelting metals.—Varṇa-mūṣā was again a special kind of crucible which was made of red-coloured earth, juices of red-medicinal herbs such as Mañjiṣṭha (Rubia cordifolio, Linn.), flower of Kusumbha (Carthamus tictorus, Linn.), lac, essences of cochineal and earthworms. This crucible acquired a red colour and bestowed excellent colour to the calx of mercury or other metals, which were roasted in it. Also see Rasaratnasamuccaya 10.17.

Rasashastra book cover
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Rasashastra (रसशास्त्र, rasaśāstra) is an important branch of Ayurveda, specialising in chemical interactions with herbs, metals and minerals. Some texts combine yogic and tantric practices with various alchemical operations. The ultimate goal of Rasashastra is not only to preserve and prolong life, but also to bestow wealth upon humankind.

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Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

Source: Wisdom Library: Brihat Samhita by Varahamihira

1) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the “colour” (of the eclipsed lunar disc), according to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā (chapter 2), an encyclopedic Sanskrit work written by Varāhamihira mainly focusing on the science of ancient Indian astronomy astronomy (Jyotiṣa).—Accordingly, “We shall now proceed to give a brief description of (the qualifications of) a jyotiṣaka. [...] He must also know the colour [i.e., varṇa] of the eclipsed lunar disc. He must be able to calculate before hand the times of the Moon’s conjunction with the planets as well as of planetary conjunctions”.

2) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the “color” (of the sun and planets), according to the Bṛhatsaṃhitā (chapter 2).—Accordingly, “A true Astrologer is also one who has thoroughly mastered the Science of Saṃhitā. It treats of the motions of the sun and planets; of their size, color [i.e., varṇa], rays, brilliancy and shape and changes in the same of their disappearance and re-appearance; of their courses and deviations therefrom; of their retrograde and reretrograde motions; of their conjunction with the stars and of their places among the stars and the like”.

Source: Wikibooks (hi): Sanskrit Technical Terms

Varṇa (वर्ण).—lit., colour. 1. One of the four major divisions of humanity in Hinduism. 2. A way of designating unknown quantities in algebra; different unknowns are referred to by the names of different colours. Note: Varṇa is a Sanskrit technical term used in ancient Indian sciences such as Astronomy, Mathematics and Geometry.

Jyotisha book cover
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Jyotisha (ज्योतिष, jyotiṣa or jyotish) refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents the fifth of the six Vedangas (additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas). Jyotisha concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.

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Vaishnavism (Vaishava dharma)

Source: Pure Bhakti: Bhagavad-gita (4th edition)

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “occupational division, or caste, which is ascertained according to one’s nature”. (cf. Glossary page from Śrīmad-Bhagavad-Gītā).

Source: Pure Bhakti: Bhajana-rahasya - 2nd Edition

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to:—Class, occupational division, caste; the four varṇas are: brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra. (cf. Glossary page from Bhajana-Rahasya).

Source: Pure Bhakti: Arcana-dipika - 3rd Edition

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the “four occupational divisions”, according to the Arcana-dīpikā (manual on deity worship).—It is mentioned in various śāstras that a person belonging to any of the four occupational divisions (varṇas) or four stages of life (āśramas) has the right to become a Vaiṣṇava by accepting the viṣṇu-mantras and then engaging in the worship of Śrī Viṣṇu.

Vaishnavism book cover
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Vaishnava (वैष्णव, vaiṣṇava) or vaishnavism (vaiṣṇavism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshipping Vishnu as the supreme Lord. Similar to the Shaktism and Shaivism traditions, Vaishnavism also developed as an individual movement, famous for its exposition of the dashavatara (‘ten avatars of Vishnu’).

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Ganitashastra (Mathematics and Algebra)

Source: Hindu Mathematics

1) Varṇa (वर्ण) represents the number 4 (four) in the “word-numeral system” (bhūtasaṃkhyā), which was used in Sanskrit texts dealing with astronomy, mathematics, metrics, as well as in the dates of inscriptions and manuscripts in ancient Indian literature.—A system of expressing numbers by means of words arranged as in the place-value notation was developed and perfected in India in the early centuries of the Christian era. In this system the numerals [e.g., 4—varṇa] are expressed by names of things, beings or concepts, which, naturally or in accordance with the teaching of the Śāstras, connote numbers.

2) Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to the “various symbols” in Bījagaṇita (“algebra” or ‘science of calculation’), according to Gaṇita-śāstra, ancient Indian mathematics and astronomy.—The Hindu name for the science of algebra is bījagaṇita. Bīja means “element” or “analysis” and gaṇita “the science of calculation”. Thus bījagaṇita literally means “the science of calculation with elements” or “the science of analytical calculation”.

According to Bhāskara II in the Līlāvatī: “Analysis (bīja) is certainly the innate intellect assisted by the various symbols (varṇa), which, for the instruction of duller intellects, has been expounded by the ancient sages who enlighten mathematicians as the sun irradiates the lotus; that has now taken the name algebra (bījagaṇita). [...] Neither does analysis consist in symbols, nor are there different kinds of analyses; sagacity alone is analysis, for wide is imagination. [...] Algebra (bījagaṇita) is similar to arithmetic (pāṭīgaṇita) in respect of rules (of fundamental operations) but appears as if it were indeterminate. It is not indeterminate to the intelligent; it is certainly not sixfold, but manifold”.

3) Varṇa (वर्ण) or “colour” refers to the “symbols of unknowns”, according to the principles of Bījagaṇita.—Āryabhaṭa I (499) very probably used coloured shots to represent unknowns. Brahmagupta (628) in the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta mentions varṇa as the symbols of unknowns. As he has not attempted in any way to explain this method of symbolism, it appears that the method was already very familiar. Now, the Sanskrit word varṇa means “colour” as well as “letters of the alphabet”, so that, in later times, the unknowns are generally represented by letters of the alphabet or by means of various colours such as kālaka (black), nīlaka (blue), etc.

Ganitashastra book cover
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Ganitashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, gaṇitaśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science of mathematics, algebra, number theory, arithmetic, etc. Closely allied with astronomy, both were commonly taught and studied in universities, even since the 1st millennium BCE. Ganita-shastra also includes ritualistic math-books such as the Shulba-sutras.

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Shilpashastra (iconography)

Source: Singhi Jain Series: Ratnaprabha-suri’s Kuvalayamala-katha (arts)

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to one of the qualities of good painting, according to the Citrasūtra, as mentioned by Uddyotanasūri in his 8th-century Kuvalayamālā (a Prakrit Campū, similar to Kāvya poetry).—[...] In the Citrasūtra, rekhā, varṇa, vartanā and bhūṣaṇa are mentioned as four qualities of a good painting. A motif of a princess of a Citrapata was popular in medieval literature and also found in the Tilakamañjarī.

Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

Source: ORA: Amanaska (king of all yogas): A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation by Jason Birch

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “one’s caste-class”, according to the Sarvajñānottara verse 20.34-39.—Accordingly, while discussing the culmination of detachment (for the process of attaining the no-mind state): “Having abandoned those feelings connected with his region, caste, his caste-class (varṇa) and religious disciplines, the wise should meditate on his own [inner] state. Abandoning all such feelings as ‘this is [my] mantra’, ‘this is [my] deity’, ‘this is [my] meditation’ [or] ‘this is [my] austerity’, he should meditate on his own [inner] state. [...]”.

Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Hinduism

Varṇā (वर्णा)—One of the five Apsarās (beautiful heavenly dancing girls) who were sent by Indra to break the severe austerity of a saintly person called Acyuta ṛṣi.

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

According to the ancient texts men are classified into four classes or Varnas -

  1. Brahmanas (scholars/priests),
  2. Kshatriyas (kings/warriors),
  3. Vaishyas (artisans/merchants)
  4. and Shudras (peasants/workers).

Generally, it is permitted that a higher caste man marry a lower caste woman, with the children of that marriage attaining the caste of the father. The marriage of a higher caste man with a lower caste woman was deprecated, with the children of that marriage being outside the proper caste system, and having a lower status in society. Specifically, the children born of the union of a Brahmana woman with a Kshatriya man were known as Sutas.

In addition to the four castes and the mixture of these castes, in latter days, people engaged in certain debased callings (such as those who tan animal hides), were considered totally out of the caste system, and even regarded as untouchable. They would be frequently referred to us Chandalas, although this appellation is also applied to those who have committed grievous sins.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Varṇa (वर्ण): Means - colour, Varna refers to the four naturally existing classes of society as given in the Hindu scriptures: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra.

Source: India Facts: Exploring the World of Varna

Varṇa (वर्ण), the system of classification of society into different groups, has been a topic of much controversy, debate, and deliberation. The numerous studies on varṇa fill up whole bookshelves and deal with humongous details. However, we will explore the subject from a broader perspective, using as references our foundational texts and ancient works of literature.

In general, varṇa is a four-fold classification of society, based on attitude and aptitude. The texts of grammar tell us that the word varṇa comes from the root vṛ-varaṇe, ‘to choose.’ According to semantic etymology, the word varṇa comes from vṛṇoteḥ, ‘choosing.’ This suggests that the word initially referred to a self-selection, just like in modern times we choose a career path of our preference.

The four varṇas are:

  1. brāhmaṇa,
  2. kṣatriya,
  3. vaiśya,
  4. and śūdra.

In addition, there are several sub-groups that arose from the inter-mingling of the varṇas.

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: A Study and Translation of the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “(that which has) color”, according to the Gaganagañjaparipṛcchā: the eighth chapter of the Mahāsaṃnipāta (a collection of Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtras).—Accordingly, “Then, the Lord went on to speak these verses: ‘[...] (44) Action (karma), which is neither created (akṛta) nor imagined (acintya) and which is thus not discriminated (akalpita), does not have any form (rūpa) or color (varṇa) such as red, blue, and yellow. [...]’”.

Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: 84000: Sampuṭodbhava Tantra (Emergence from Sampuṭa)

Varṇā (वर्णा) refers to one of the primary thirty-two energy-channels in the body, according to the Sampuṭodbhavatantra chapter 1.—Accordingly, “[Vajragarbha asked, ‘What subtle energy channels are in the body?’]—The Blessed One said, ‘There are one hundred and twenty of them, corresponding to the divisions within the four cakras. The chief ones, those with bodhicitta as their innate nature, are thirty-two in number. They are: [i.e., Varṇā] [...]’.”.

Source: Brill: Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions (tantric Buddhism)

Varṇa (वर्ण) refers to “colours”, according to the Nāmamantrārthāvalokinī by Vilāsavajra, which is a commentary on the Nāmasaṃgīti.—Accordingly, [while describing Ādibuddha]—“[...] [The Ādibuddha] has five faces. [...] [His five faces] have five [different] colours (pañcan-varṇa-upeta): dark blue for the east [and forward-facing face], yellow for the south, red for the west, [and] green for the north. On the top, he has a white face, the face of [the deity] Paramāśva. [...]”.

Tibetan Buddhism book cover
context information

Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

Varṇa (वर्ण, “class”) or Varṇamātsarya refers to “selfishness regarding class” and represents one of the “five selfishnesses” (mātsarya) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 78). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (e.g., varṇa). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 2: the Category of the living

Varṇa (वर्ण, “colour”) refers to the object of cakṣu (eye/sight), which represents one of the “five sense-organs” (pañcendriya), according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 2.19. Cognition which results by seeing the object of knowledge is called colour (varṇa). How many types of colour are there? They are five namely while, blue, yellow, red and black. What is form of eye sense organ? It is of the form of lentil (masūra-dāla).

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 5: The category of the non-living

Varṇa (वर्ण, “colour”) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 5.23.—“The forms of matter (pudgala) are characterized by touch (sparśa), taste (rasa), smell (gandha) and colour (varṇa)”. What is the meaning of colour (varṇa)? What is seen by the eyes as different is colour. How many types of colour are there? There are five types of colour namely blue, black, yellow, red and white.

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 8: Bondage of karmas

Varṇa (वर्ण, “color”) refers to “color karma” and represents one of the various kinds of Nāma, or “physique-making (karmas)”, which represents one of the eight types of Prakṛti-bandha (species bondage): one of the four kinds of bondage (bandha) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra chapter 8. What is meant by colour (varṇa) body-making karma? The karmas rise of which gives the colour attributes to the body are called colour body-making karma.

There are five types of colour (varṇa) body-making karmas namely:

  1. black (kṛṣṇa),
  2. blue (nīla),
  3. yellow (pīta),
  4. red (rakta),
  5. white (śukla).
General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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India history and geography

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Indian Epigraphical Glossary

Varṇa.—(IE 7-1-2), ‘four’. (Select Inscriptions, p. 187, text line 6), same as varṇanā, a description or list. Note: varṇa is defined in the “Indian epigraphical glossary” as it can be found on ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit, Prakrit or Dravidian languages.

Source: Singhi Jain Series: Ratnaprabha-suri’s Kuvalayamala-katha (history)

Varṇa (वर्ण) or Varṇaka refers to “gold”, according to the Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara, as mentioned in the “A Cultural note on the Kuvalayamala of Uddyotanasuri” by the late Dr. V. s. Agrawala.—(Cf. Jaccasuvaṇṇa) In the pre-Muslim period, the highest purity was of sixteen degree, and such gold was called ṣoḍaśa-varṇaka (Kāvyamīmāṃsā of Rājaśekhara, Saka 1900, chapter 17) which must have been the jacca-suvaṇṇa of Uddyotanasūri. We also find reference to ṣoḍaśa-varṇa gold in the Mānasollāsa from which was derived the Hindi word solaha-vānī which in Rajasthani became solamo-sono referred to as solen in the Jñāneśvarī (1290 A.D.).—(Cf. The highest purity of gold in India, The Journal of the Numesmatic Society of India, Vol. 16, pp. 270-74). This seems same as the śṛṅgī-kanaka mentioned in the Kādambarī.

India history book cover
context information

The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as mythology, zoology, royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

varṇa (वर्ण).—m S A color, hue, tint. 2 A class, order, tribe, caste. 3 A letter of the alphabet. 4 The color of gold upon the touchstone (as indicating its quality). 5 In arithmetic. A co-efficient.

--- OR ---

varṇa (वर्ण).—m (Popular corruption of vraṇa) An ulcer.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English

varṇa (वर्ण).—m A colour. A class. A letter of the alphabet. A co-efficient.

context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit dictionary

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Varṇa (वर्ण).—[varṇ-ac Uṇādi-sūtra 3.1]

1) A colour, hue; अन्तःशुद्धस्त्वमपि भविता वर्णमात्रेण कृष्णः (antaḥśuddhastvamapi bhavitā varṇamātreṇa kṛṣṇaḥ) Meghadūta 51.

2) A paint, dye, paint-colour; see वर्ण् (varṇ) (1).

3) Colour, complexion, beauty; विविक्तवर्णाभरणा सुखश्रुतिः (viviktavarṇābharaṇā sukhaśrutiḥ) Kirātārjunīya 14.3; त्वय्यादातुं जलमवनते शार्ङ्गिणो वर्णचौरे (tvayyādātuṃ jalamavanate śārṅgiṇo varṇacaure) Meghadūta 48; R.8.42.

4) Look, countenance; मध्यस्थवर्ण इव दृश्यते (madhyasthavarṇa iva dṛśyate) Madhyamavyāyoga 1; किं त्वं शङ्कितवर्ण इव (kiṃ tvaṃ śaṅkitavarṇa iva) Chārudatta 4; अवदातिका परशङ्कितवर्णेव दृश्यते (avadātikā paraśaṅkitavarṇeva dṛśyate) Pratimā 1.

5) A class of men, tribe, caste (especially applied to the four principal castes, brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya and śūdra); वर्णानामानुपूर्व्येण (varṇānāmānupūrvyeṇa) Vārt; न कश्चिद्वर्णानामपथमपकृष्टोऽपि भजते (na kaścidvarṇānāmapathamapakṛṣṭo'pi bhajate) Ś.5. 1; R.5.19.

6) A class, race, tribe, kind, species; as in सवर्णम् अक्षरम् (savarṇam akṣaram); ब्रह्मणा पूर्वसृष्टं हि कर्मभिर्वर्णतां गतम् (brahmaṇā pūrvasṛṣṭaṃ hi karmabhirvarṇatāṃ gatam) Mahābhārata (Bombay) 12. 188.1.

7) (a) A letter, character, sound; न मे वर्ण- विचारक्षमा दृष्टिः (na me varṇa- vicārakṣamā dṛṣṭiḥ) V.5; Kirātārjunīya 14.3. (b) A word, syllable; S. D.9.

8) Fame, glory, celebrity, renown; राजा प्रजा- रञ्जनलब्धवर्णः (rājā prajā- rañjanalabdhavarṇaḥ) R.6.21.

9) A good quality, merit, virtue; त्रिवर्णा वर्णिताऽस्माभिः किं भूयः श्रोतुमिच्छसि (trivarṇā varṇitā'smābhiḥ kiṃ bhūyaḥ śrotumicchasi) Bhāgavata 11.3.16.

1) Praise; स्वगुणोच्चगिरो मुनिव्रताः परवर्णग्रहणेष्वसाधवः (svaguṇoccagiro munivratāḥ paravarṇagrahaṇeṣvasādhavaḥ) Śiśupālavadha 16. 29.

11) Dress, decoration.

12) Outward appearance, form, figure.

13) A cloak, mantle.

14) A covering, lid.

15) The order or arrangement of a subject in a song (gītakrama); अभिध्यायन्वर्णरतिप्रमोदानतिदीर्घे जीविते को रमेत (abhidhyāyanvarṇaratipramodānatidīrghe jīvite ko rameta) Kaṭh.1.28; उपात्तवर्णे चरिते पिनाकिनः (upāttavarṇe carite pinākinaḥ) Kumārasambhava 5.56 'celebrated in song, made the subject of a song.'

16) The housings of an elephant.

17) A quality, property; जङ्गमानामसंख्येयाः स्थावराणां च जातयः । तेषां विविधवर्णानां कुतो वर्णविनिश्चयः (jaṅgamānāmasaṃkhyeyāḥ sthāvarāṇāṃ ca jātayaḥ | teṣāṃ vividhavarṇānāṃ kuto varṇaviniścayaḥ) || Mahābhārata (Bombay) 12.188.9.

18) A religious observance.

19) An unknown quantity.

2) The number 'one'.

21) Application of perfumed unguents to the body.

22) Gold.

23) A musical mode.

-rṇā Cajanus Indicus (Mar. tūra).

-rṇam 1 Saffron.

2) A coloured unguent or perfume.

Derivable forms: varṇaḥ (वर्णः).

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Shabda-Sagara Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Varṇa (वर्ण).—m.

(-rṇaḥ) 1. A tribe, a class, a caste, an order. 2. Colour, hue, tint. 3. Coloured cloth thrown over the back of an elephant, an elephant’s housings. 4. Quality, property. 5. Fame, celebrity. 6. Praise. 7. Gold. 8. Religious observance. 9. The order or arrangement of a song or poem. 10. A musical mode. 11. Staining the body with coloured unguents. 12. Beauty, lustre. 13. Theatrical dress or embellishment. 14. A cloak. mn.

(-rṇaḥ-rṇaṃ) 1. Perfume for the person. 2. A letter of the alphabet. 3. Form, figure. 4. Sort, kind. 5. Touch, the purity of gold, as ascertained by its streak on the touch-stone. 6. In arithmetic, a co-efficient. n.

(-rṇaṃ) Saffron. f.

(-rṇā) A leguminous shrub, (Cytisus cajan.) E. varṇ to paint, &c., aff. ac or ghañ; or vṛ to cover or screen, Unadi aff. nak .

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Benfey Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Varṇa (वर्ण).—i. e. vṛ + na, I. m. 1. Colour, [Hitopadeśa] iii. [distich] 33. 2. Staining the body with coloured unguents. 3. Coloured cloth thrown over the back of an elephant. 4. Gold. 5. Beauty. 6. Theatrical dress or embellishment. 7. Quality, property. 8. Fame. 9. Praise. 10. A musical mode, [Pañcatantra] v. [distich] 44. 11. The arrangement of a poem. 12. A caste, [Mānavadharmaśāstra] 1, 91; [Hitopadeśa] pr. 46, M.M. (hīna-, adj. One of a low caste); caste and colour at once, [Rājataraṅgiṇī] 5, 377; class, tribe, kind. 13. Religious observance. Ii. m. and n. 1. Perfume for the person. 2. Form, figure. 3. Sort, kind. 4. A letter of the alphabet, Bhāṣāp. 163; [Vikramorvaśī, (ed. Bollensen.)] 78, 10. 5. A syllable, Śrut. 19. 6. The purity of gold, as ascertained by its streak on the touch-stone. Iii. n. Saffron.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Varṇa (वर्ण).—[masculine] cover, lid; outside, external appearance, colour, dye, paint, complexion; sort, kind, character, sort of men i.e. caste; letter, sound, vowel, syllable, word; praise, glory.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Varṇa (वर्ण):—[from varṇ] a m. (or n. [gana] ardharcādi, [probably] [from] √1. vṛ; ifc. f(ā). ) a covering, cloak, mantle, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

2) [v.s. ...] a cover, lid, [Yājñavalkya iii, 99]

3) [v.s. ...] outward appearance, exterior, form, figure, shape, colour, [Ṛg-veda] etc. etc.

4) [v.s. ...] colour of the face, ([especially]) good colour or complexion, lustre, beauty, [Manu-smṛti; Mahābhārata] etc.

5) [v.s. ...] colour, tint, dye, pigment (for painting or writing), [Mahābhārata; Kāvya literature] etc.

6) [v.s. ...] colour = race, species, kind, sort, character, nature, quality, property (applied to persons and things), [Ṛg-veda] etc. etc.

7) [v.s. ...] class of men, tribe, order, caste ([probably] from contrast of colour between the dark aboriginal tribes and their fair conquerors; in [Ṛg-veda] [especially] applied to the Āryas and the Dāsas; but more properly applicable to the four principal classes described in Manu’s code, viz. Brāhmans, Kṣatriyas, Vaiśyas, and Śūdras; the more modern word for ‘caste’ being jāti; cf. [Indian Wisdom, by Sir M. Monier-Williams 210 n. 1]), [ib.]

8) [v.s. ...] a letter, sound, vowel, syllable, word, [Brāhmaṇa; Prātiśākhya] etc.

9) [v.s. ...] a musical sound or note (also applied to the voice of animals), [Mahābhārata; Rāmāyaṇa; Pañcatantra]

10) [v.s. ...] the order or arrangement of a song or poem, [Horace H. Wilson]

11) [v.s. ...] praise, commendation, renown, glory, [Mṛcchakaṭikā; Kumāra-sambhava; Rājataraṅgiṇī]

12) [v.s. ...] (in [algebra]) an unknown magnitude or quantity

13) [v.s. ...] (in [arithmetic]) the figure, ‘one’

14) [v.s. ...] ([according to] to some) a co-efficient

15) [v.s. ...] a kind of measure, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.] (cf. -tāla)

16) [v.s. ...] gold, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

17) [v.s. ...] a religious observance, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

18) [v.s. ...] one who wards off, expeller, [Sāyaṇa on Ṛg-veda i, 104, 2]

19) Varṇā (वर्णा):—[from varṇa > varṇ] f. Cajanus Indicus, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

20) Varṇa (वर्ण):—[from varṇ] b n. saffron, [cf. Lexicographers, esp. such as amarasiṃha, halāyudha, hemacandra, etc.]

21) [v.s. ...] cf. [according to] to some, [Slavonic or Slavonian] vranŭ, ‘black’, ‘a crow’; [Lithuanian] vārnas, ‘a crow.’

22) Vārṇa (वार्ण):—mfn. ([from] varṇa) relating to a sound or letter (in gram.)

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Yates Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Varṇa (वर्ण):—(ka) varṇayati 10. a. To colour, paint; praise; direct; spread; pound; shine; to make an effort.

2) (rṇaḥ) 1. m. A colour; tribe; caste; elephant’s housings; quality; fame; praise; gold; staining; beauty. m. n. Perfume; a letter of the alphabet; form; sort. f. A leguminous shrub.

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary (S)

Varṇa (वर्ण) in the Sanskrit language is related to the Prakrit word: Vaṇṇa.

[Sanskrit to German]

Varna in German

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Hindi dictionary

Source: DDSA: A practical Hindi-English dictionary

1) Varna in Hindi refers in English to:—(v) to select or choose; (ind) otherwise, or else..—varna (वरना) is alternatively transliterated as Varanā.

2) Varṇa (वर्ण) [Also spelled varn]:—(nm) a caste; colour; dye (used for colouring or writing); a letter of the alphabet; -[krama] colour scheme, spectrum; classification; alphabetical order; ~[kramamāpī] spectrometer; ~[kramalekhī] spectrograph; ~[krama-vijñāna] spectroscopy; ~[kramānusāra] in alphabetical order; ~[kramikī] spectroscopy; [dūṣaṇa] tarnish; -[dharma] the duty or profession of a particular caste; [bheda] caste/colour discrimination/distinction; ~[maṃḍala] chromosphere; ~[mālā] the alphabet; ~[rekhā] streak; -[vikāra] the transformation of one alphabet or sound into another; -[vicāra] orthography; -[vinyāsa] spelling; -[viparyaya] metathesis, transposition of letters; -[vibhāga/vibhājana] division of the Hindu community into four classes; -[vyavasthā] the caste system; ~[saṃkara] cross-breed, hybrid; ~[saṃkaratā] panmixia; hybridism; -[saṃsarga] intercaste union; ~[hīna] casteless; colourless; etiolated; ~[hīnatā] castelessness; colourlessness; etiolation.

3) Varna in Hindi refers in English to:—(v) to sacrifice (on someone); to dedicate; to make an offering of..—varna (वारना) is alternatively transliterated as Vāranā.

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Kannada-English dictionary

Source: Alar: Kannada-English corpus

Varṇa (ವರ್ಣ):—

1) [noun] the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object, usu. determined visually by measurement of hue, saturation, and brightness of the reflected light; colour.

2) [noun] a coloured substance.

3) [noun] the brightness or attractiveness of the body complexion.

4) [noun] any of the four social divisions, the brāhmaṇa, Kṣhatriya, vaiśya, and śudra of Hindu society.

5) [noun] a letter or alphabet of any language.

6) [noun] fame; glory; renown.

7) [noun] good character, trait; meritorious behaviour.

8) [noun] praise; extolment; adulation.

9) [noun] a set of outer clothes for some purpose or occasion; constumes.

10) [noun] form; structure; shape.

11) [noun] a cover; a veil.

12) [noun] a decorative cloth spread over the back and sides of an elephant.

13) [noun] any of the features that make something what it is; a characteristic element; a quality.

14) [noun] the act of perfuming the body.

15) [noun] gold.

16) [noun] the dried, aromatic stigmas of the plant Crocus sativus of Iridaceae family, used in flavoring and colouring foods, and formerly in medicine; saffron powder.

17) [noun] the quality of being attractive; attractiveness; beauty.

18) [noun] a religious vow.

19) [noun] (said of a singer of the classical music) the mood, intense interest, prevailing at a particular point of time.

20) [noun] a lyrical poem set to a local prosodic metre.

21) [noun] (math.) a symbol for the number one.

22) [noun] a smallest basic unit of sound (consisting of one or more syllables); a phoneme.

23) [noun] (Dvaita phil.) one of the twenty basic substance of the universe.

context information

Kannada is a Dravidian language (as opposed to the Indo-European language family) mainly spoken in the southwestern region of India.

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