Varna was a hierarchical social order in ancient India, based on the
Vedas. Since the Vedic corpus constitute the earliest literary source, it came to be seen as the origin of caste society. In this
Brahmanical view of caste, the varnas were created on a particular occasion and have remained virtually unchanged. In the varna ordering of society notions of purity and pollution were central and activities were worked out in this context. Varna divides the society into four groups ordered in a hierarchy, the fifth being Chandala (untouchable) and therefore beyond the pale.
In modern Indian usage, Chandal is a general derogatory slur used to refer to a filthy, mean or low person.