The vast majority of the population in India is of the Hindu religion. One interesting, if that is the right word, aspect of the Hindu religion is the caste system. In all religions and societies there is a kind of rank one way or the other. But in Hinduism, it is a core principle as the religion as such. I’m not any expert of Hinduism, but will try to give a brief introduction here.
In the Hindu religion there are four main castes. The Brahmins, who are priests or teachers, are the top caste. Below them you have the Kshatryia, who are warriors, rulers and landholders. The next caste is the Vaishya, who are mainly businessmen. And the last caste is the Shudras, who are laborers or artisan. Below this you have the casteless, also called the untouchables, or tribal castes. They are mostly doing what is defined as dirty work, like cleaning and such. Within the different casts, you have local communities (sub castes or jatis). In total there are more than 300 such jatis.
According to the legislation in India, the caste system is now illegal and it has been so since 1950. But there is no doubt that it still exists today, and I think that most people are very aware of what caste they do belong to. This is off course something that I haven’t really asked my friends or colleagues about, but I still have that understanding from the conversations I have heard regarding the topic.
How does the caste system affect the everyday life in India? Well, I do think it is one reason why so many people manage to live together without too many problems. People kind of accept that they have a specific position in the hierarchy and will and cannot do things to change this. When this is said, I quickly have to note that people can move up or down in the caste ladder. Bu this will mostly happen in the next life. If you are behaving well in this life, you will have a chance to be reborn at a higher level next time. And if you are aware of that, wouldn’t you really try to behave well? I haven’t seen any science studies on this, but I do seriously believe that this is one of the reasons why most people in India are quite friendly and welcome. They do know that if they don’t behave well, they will maybe have it worse in the next life, while if they do behave well, the next life should be quite well. It is also possible for a whole caste to move up or down in the caste ladder. But this will most often not happen without some resistance from other castes. The other caste will probably feel that “their place” in the hierarchy is threatened.
Some people have asked me if I do see a lot of the caste differences in the everyday life. The most correct answer to that question is probably no. It is difficult to see it, unless you really look for it. But I do understand that it exists by looking around. And the best place to see it is probably in the micro community that is just around the building where I live. It seems quite clear that there is a hierarchy among the people living there. The people who sweep the streets are clearly on the bottom. Not many others speak to them, and they go along and do their job quite quietly. I would then presume that the auto drivers are maybe the next in the hierarchy, while the people who use the autos to go to their business jobs are maybe at a higher level. This is however not obvious to see, but it seems a bit like this on the attitude that the different people do show.
But tomorrow, I think almost the whole India will be one. And the “other one” will be Pakistan, as it is the cricket world cup semi final.
Talk to you soon!