How the lower castes in India live and do
The truth about the untouchable

How there were they untouchable?

How there were they untouchable?

Photo: Adnan Abidi / Reuters

How there were they untouchable?
Under the most widespread version are descendants of representatives of the tribes living in India before Aryan intrusion. In the traditional Aryan system of a society consisting from four варн – Brahmans (clerics), Ksatries (soldiers), Vaishyas (dealers and handicraftsmen) and Sudra (hired workers) – Dalits have appeared in the very bottom, more low Sudra which also were descendants before-Arians inhabitants of India. Thus in India, the version which has arisen still in the XIX century according to which untouchable are descendants of children expelled in woods which were born from the communication of the man-Shudry and the woman from Brahmans is extended.

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In the most ancient Indian literary monument «Rigveda» (it is made in 1700-1100 BC) it is said, that Brahmans has occurred from lips before -human Purusha, Kshatriyas – from hands, Vaishyas – from hips, Sudras – from a foot. For untouchable places in this picture of the world are not present. Definitively варновая the system was issued in an interval between VII century BC and II century AD

It is considered, that untouchable can profane people from the higher Varn, therefore their houses and village were under construction detached. System of ritual restrictions at untouchable not less strict, than at Brahmans, though restrictions absolutely others. Untouchable it was forbidden to come into restaurants and temples, to carry umbrellas and footwear, to go in shirts and sunglasses, but it was thus authorized to eat meat – that strict vegetarian -Brahmans did not presume.

Are they called so in India “untouchables”?
Now this word has almost gone out of use, it is considered offensive. The most widespread name untouchable – Dalits, “oppressed”, or “oppressed”. Earlier there was still the word «Harijans» – «children of the God» which tried to enter into use Mahatma Gandi. But it has not got accustomed: Dalits have considered, that it is so offensive, as well as “untouchable”.

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How many Dalits in India and how many at them castes?
Approximately 170 million persons – 16,6 percent of all populations. A question with the number of castes very difficult as Indians almost do not use a “caste” word, preferring more indistinct concept «Djati», including not only castes in a habitual sense, but also clans and communities which frequently are difficult for ranking as this or that варне. Besides frequently the border between caste and sub-caste is very indistinct. With confidence, it is possible to assert only, that it is a question of hundreds of Djati.

Dalits till now live in penury? How social status is connected with the economic?
In general the lowest castes really considerably are poorer. The basic part of the Indian poor men Dalit. The literacy Average level on the country makes 75 percent, among Dalits – hardly it is more 30. Almost half of the children Dalits on the statistician throw schools because of humiliations to which they there are exposed. Dalits make the basic part of the unemployed; and in that who is employed, as a rule, pay less, than to representatives of the higher castes.

Dhavari - slums in Mumbai where from the end of XIX century live Dalits

Dhavari – slums in Mumbai where from the end of XIX century live Dalits

Dhavari – slums in Mumbai where from the end of XIX century live Dalits the Photo: A.Savin / Wikipedia

Though there are exceptions: in India, it is about 30 Dalits -millionaires. Certainly, against 170 million poor men and beggars are a drop in the sea, but they the life prove, that it is possible to become successful, and being Dalit. As a rule, it is really outstanding people: Ashok Khade from a caste Chamar (tanners), the son of the illiterate poor man-shoemaker, worked as the docker in the afternoon, and read textbooks at night to receive the diploma of the engineer, and slept thus under a ladder in the street, as it did not have not enough money for renting a room. Now its company turns transactions in cost in a hundred million dollars. It is a typical history of success Dalit, some kind of dreamboat for millions made destitute.

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Whether tried untouchable to lift revolt sometime?
As far as we know – is not present. Before the colonization of India, this thought hardly, in general, could arise in heads: during that time exile from a caste was equated to physical death. After colonization social borders began to be washed away gradually, and after finding of independence by India mutiny for Dalits has lost since – it had been given all conditions to reach objects in view political by.

That has how much strongly eaten in consciousness Dalits humility, it is possible to illustrate with an example that resulted from the Russian researchers by Felix and Eugenia Yurlov. The party «Bahujan Samah», representing interests of the lowest castes, arranged for Dalit special training camp in which they studied «to overcome century fear and fear in the face of high-caste Hindus». Among exercises was, for example, such: the stuffed animal high-caste the Hindu with mustaches and tilack (point) on a forehead was established. Dalit it was necessary, having overcome shyness to approach to a stuffed animal, to cut off at it scissors mustaches and to erase tilack.

Whether it is possible to be pulled out from the untouchable?
It is possible, though and it is hard. The most simple way – religion change. The person passing in Buddhism, Islam or Christianity, technically drops out of the exclusive system. For the first time, Dalits have started to pass in appreciable quantities in Buddhism at the end of the XIX century. Mass references are connected with the name of the known fighter for the rights Dalit doctor Ambedkar who has addressed in the Buddhism together with a half-million of the untouchable. Last such mass ceremony has passed in Mumbai in 2007 – then simultaneously Buddhists became at once 50 thousand persons.

Many Dalits live in slums on suburbs of megacities

Many Dalits live in slums on suburbs of megacities

Many Dalits live in slums on suburbs of megacities of the Photo: Bernat Armangue / AP

Dalits prefer to address in Buddhism. First, to this religion the Indian nationalist’s concern better, than Islam and Christianity as it is one of the traditional Indian religions. Secondly, among Moslems and Christians own exclusive division, let and not so obviously expressed, as among Hindus in due course was generated.

Whether and it is possible to replace a caste, remained Hinduist?
Here there are two variants: the first – any semi-lawful or illegal methods. For example, many surnames testifying to an accessory to this or that caste, differ one-two letters. It is enough to corrupt or charm slightly the clerk in a government agency – and, voila, you already a member of other castes, and sometimes and Varnes. It is better to make, of course, such tricks or in a city, or combining with moving to other districts where around there are no thousand the fellow’s villager knowing still your grandfather.

The second variant – procedure «Ghar Vapasi», is literally «welcome home». This program is realized radical Hinduist by the organizations and the reference in Hinduism Indians of other religions sets as the purpose. In this case, the person becomes, for example, the Christian, then strews head ashes, declaring about the desire to make «Ghar Vapasi», – and everything, it again индуист. If this trick is done outside of the native village always it is possible to declare, that you belong to another caste.

Another question – what for all it to do. The exclusive certificate will not ask at employment or at an input in the restaurant. To India, throughout the last century, there is demolition of the exclusive system under the influence of modernization and globalization processes. The relation to the stranger is under construction on the basis of its behavior. The only thing that can bring, is a surname which is connected with a caste (Gandhi – dealers, Deshpande – Brahmans, Achari – carpenters, Gupta – Vaishya, Singhs – Kshatrias) more often. But now, when any interested person can replace a surname, all became much easier.

And to replace varna, not changing a caste?
There is a chance, that your caste will undergo to process sanscritization. In Russian it is called «vertical mobility of castes»: if this or that caste adopts traditions and customs of other, higher caste under the status, there is a chance, that sooner or later it will be recognized as a member of higher varna. For example, the lowest caste starts to practice the vegetarianism peculiar Brahmans, to put on as Brahmans, to carry a sacred thread on a wrist and in general to position itself as Brahmans, is not excluded, that it sooner or later will start to concern as to Brahmans.

The woman from untouchable, 1968

The woman from untouchable, 1968

The woman from untouchable, 1968 of the Photo: Three Lions / Getty Images

However, vertical mobility is peculiar basically to castes of the higher Varnes. Dalits it was not possible to Any of castes to pass hidden line yet, separating them from four Varnes, and to become at least Sudras. But times vary.

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In general, being Hinduist, you are not obliged to declare an accessory to any caste. It can be and non-caste Hinduist – your right.

What basically to change a caste?
It all depends on in what party to change – upwards or downwards. The increase of the exclusive status means, that other people for whom the caste is significant, will concern you with big respect. Status fall, especially to level Dalit castes, will give you a number of real advantages, therefore it is a lot of representatives of higher castes try to register in Dalits.

The matter is that in modern India the power conducts a ruthless struggle against exclusive discrimination. According to the constitution, any discrimination on an exclusive basis is forbidden, and for a question on caste at employment it is necessary even to pay the penalty.

But in the country, the mechanism of positive discrimination operates. A number of castes and tribes are entered in the list «the registered tribes and castes» (SC/ST). Representatives of these castes possess certain privileges which prove to be true exclusive certificates. For Dalits reserve places on civil service and in parliament, their children accept free of charge (or for half of the payment) in schools, for them places at institutes are allocated. To put it briefly, there is a quota system for Dalits.

It is difficult to tell, it is good or it is bad. To the author of these lines met Dalits, capable to give odds to any Brahmans on I.Q. and the general development, – it quotas have helped to rise from bottoms and to get an education. On the other hand, it was necessary to see Dalits, going downstream (at first on quotas in the institute, then on the same quotas on civil service), not the interested as anything and do not wish to work. To dismiss them it is impossible, so their future is provided until the old age and quite a good pension. Many in India criticize a quota system, many protect.

That is Dalits can be politicians?
Still as can. For example, Cocheril Raman Narayanan, who was the president of India with 1997 for 2002, was Dalit. One more example – Majjavati Prabhu Das, known also like the Iron lady Majjavati holding a post of the main minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh to an extent in a total of eight years.

Cocheril Raman Narayanan with his wife

Cocheril Raman Narayanan with his wife

Cocheril Raman Narayanan with his wife Фото: Rudi Blaha / AP

Whether the number of Dalits in all states of India is identical?
No, it varies and is rather considerable. Most of all Dalits live in the state of Uttar Pradesh (20,5 percent from all Dalits in India), on the second place West Bengal (10,7 percent). Thus in percentage terms to the general population leadership holds Punjab about 31,9 percent, behind it there is Himachal Pradesh about 25,2 percent.

Map Mumbai India

Map Mumbai India


As whom can work Dalits?

Theoretically everybody – from the president to the cleaner of toilets. Many Dalits act in a film, work as photo models. In cities where exclusive borders are washed away, restrictions do not exist in general; in villages where ancient traditions are strong, Dalits still are engaged in “dirty” work: scraping of the fallen animals, digging of tombs, prostitution and so on.

How the social status of the person which marries/leaves in marriage for the untouchable will change?
If this person himself from untouchable, in any way. If it belongs to the higher caste it means custom infringement. Further, it all depends on that, how much his family adheres to unwritten traditions. Business can reach exile from the house, rupture with native and even «honor murders». If a family and friends look at things more progressively the social status remains former.

Suva Lal, the shoemaker-Dalit in New-Delhi

Suva Lal, the shoemaker-Dalit in New-Delhi

Suva Lal, the shoemaker-Dalit in New-Delhi Foto: John Moore / AP

If as a result of interexclusive marriage the child is born, to what caste it will be attributed?
Traditionally in India, the child wrote down on the lowest caste. Now it is considered, that the child inherits a caste of the father, except for the state of Kerala where under the local legislation the caste of the mother is inherited. It is theoretically possible and in other states, but in each separate case dares through the court.

The history which has occurred in 2012 is characteristic: then the man-Kshatriya married the woman from a tribe Nayak. The boy has written down as Kshatriya, but then his mother through court has achieved that the child has copied in Nyack that it could take advantage of the bonuses given to restrained tribes.

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India, a brief description of the country from Russian


If I, being in India the tourist, touch to Dalit, whether I can to shake hands then Brahman?

Foreigners in индуизме and without that are considered dirty as are out of the exclusive system, therefore can touch everybody and what for it is necessary, in any way itself thus not profaning. If practicing Brahman will decide to communicate to you he, all the same, should spend clarification rituals so you before that pressed a hand Dalit or not – in effect, it is indifferent.

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