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Vaishya is one of the four varnas of the Hindu social order not to be confused with Veshya (a harlot) though sounds similar in pronunciation, mostly nowadays to avoid the confusion people have shortened the term to just Vaish. The vaishyas are the third highest of the four varna or categories into which Hindu society is traditionally divided, ranking above the Shudras but below Kshatriya's and still below the highest of all castes the Bramhins. Vaishyas includes many distinct castes of similar ranking, traditionally traders or moneylenders or farmers and cowherds. Vaishyas are also accorded Dvija status below Kshtriyas and Bramhins with entitlement to wear the a sacred thread (yagyopavit). The Shudra's aren't allowed the sacred thread and aren't accorded the Dwija status differentiating them from the other three castes as per the caste hierarchy.
Hindu religious texts assigned Vaishyas to traditional roles in agriculture and cattle-rearing, but over time they came to be landowners, traders and money-lenders. Therefore making it their responsibility to provide sustenance for those of higher class, since they were of lower class. The Vaishyas, along with members of the Brahmin and Kshatriya varnas, claim dvija status ("twice born", a second or spiritual birth) after sacrament of initiation as in Hindu theology. Indian traders were widely credited for the spread of Indian culture to regions as far as southeast Asia.
Historically, Vaishyas have been involved in roles other than their traditional pastoralism, trade and commerce. According to historian Ram Sharan Sharma, the Gupta Empire was a Vaishya dynasty that "may have appeared as a reaction against oppressive rulers".
The Vaishya community consist of several jāti or subcastes, including but not limited to the Agrahari, Agrawals, Barnwals, Gahois, Kasuadhans, mathur Vaishya, Nagartha's, Moothan's, Balija's, the Vaishya Vanis of Konkan and Goa, the Modh of the west and many such castes and sub castes all consider themselves to be Vaishya's who are initiated by Bramhin priests..
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