Veda Vyasa is a legendary Hindu sage, whose very name is synonymous to Hindus with knowledge. According to traditional Hindu accounts, he lived at the end of the Treta Yuga and early Kali Yuga (the date for the beginning of the Kali Yuga is 3102BC).
Veda Vyasa is accredited with compiling the Vedas and writing the Brahma Sutras, which are one of the three great authoritative Hindu philosophical texts. He was also the recorder/writer of the earliest form of the Mahabharata (which was originally called the ‘Jaya’). The followers of Veda Vyasa (the Vyasas or ‘compilers’) carried out the compilation of the Puranas.
His birthday is celebrated as ‘Guru Purnima’ – one of the most sacred days in the Hindu calendar, which is the day when teachers are honored. A popular saying about Veda Vyasa goes: ‘Vyasocchishtasam jagat sarvam’ meaning that so great was the learning of Rishi Veda Vyasa, that even his voluminous writings represent only the periphery of his knowledge. Virtually every Hindu sampradaya (order) traces their lineage to him, and wherever knowledge is propagated and respected is called a Vyaspeeth – Vyasa’s throne.
Yet had Veda Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas, lived in the later degenerate and perverted age of Hindu society, he may well have been considered an untouchable and not even allowed to touch the Vedas!
His mother (Satyavati) used to sell fish to make a living, and in many parts of Hindu society in its later period of caste insanity this would have made him an untouchable. Yet Vyasa is considered by all Hindus to be the very epitome of wisdom!
This is just one of many examples (another being Valmiki – author of the Ramayana) that shows that the terrible caste rigidity of Hindu society that we have seen at some points in our past, and which still persists today in some parts, was definitely not originally the state of things, and certainly does not represent the true spirit of Hinduism.
Related article: An alternative look at the “caste system”