Made Snana is a century-old ritual in India where low-caste Hindus roll in the leftover food from the meals of higher caste Brahmins. It is believed to be cure of such things as skin disorders and fulfillment of wishes, but a group of religious leaders have called for a ban on the practice. That has prompted violent attacks from those insisting on the continuation of the ritual.
Hundreds of people roll around in the leftovers of Brahmins meals each year. The leftovers are laid on the ground in plantain leaves for lower caste Hindus. The obvious message of the subordination of the lower caste does not appear to deter those of long to roll in food waste of the higher ranked Hindus.
Last month, anti-Snana activist KS Shivaramu was assaulted by supporters of the ritual. Bharatiya Janata Party official and senior minister VS Acharya – a Brahmin – defends the ritual. Below is a video of a fact-finder being assaulted by devotees of the ritual:
The question is whether the government should ban consensual religious rituals that the majority find offensive. I find this ritual one of the most grotesque displays that I have witnessed in the name of religion. However, free exercise means that, so long as a practice is consensual, adults should be allowed to follow their faiths. There are many demeaning acts that I find offensive in other religions. The question is whether rituals furthering stereotypes or castes can be banned on that basis alone.
29 thoughts on “Hindus Protest Move To End Ritual Of Low Caste Indians Rolling In The Leftover Food Of Higher Caste Indians”
Thanks for the explanation of the caste system. Also love the “flesh eating” description of Catholicism.
I think this shows why it is so important to encourage evidence-based thinking. Those who participate in this practice do so because they believe it yields genuine benefits. But not only do many of them have poor or absent evidence (anecdotal evidence seems the dominant norm here), but many find the very notion of demanding evidence offensive. This insulation of religious or cultural practices from evidence is sometime pernicious, and sometimes merely sad..
Wow I did not expect anyone to respond. (Sorry this ended up being longer than I imagined)
Angrymanspeaks, no worries about any offense. It would take one more effort than its worth to offend me. I’ll attempt to answer both you and commoner based on my own limited knowledge of the matter.
I am an American through and through. I was born in NY from parents who immigrated from India. However, I constantly strive to strike a balance between Indian and American cultures. So, I completely understand the Western view on topics such as the Caste System and I can most definitely understand how one would see it in an entirely negative light.
The Caste System has 4 divisions: Bhramin (Sage/priest), Kshatriya (Warriors/Kings/Protectors), Vaishyas (Tradesmen) and Shudras (Laborers). The purpose for the creation of this system, dating back very far into Indian history, was simple – a division of societal tasks. Primitive man did not have the interdependence required to function on a societal level. So, to increase overall efficiency, tasks were divided into these four groups (Although a separate discussion entirely, one could classify most, if not all, of the occupations today into these same four categories. Its merely an exercise in drawing a box around a group of people and labeling them).
The four groups played an equally important role in society. Everyone’s voice was heard equally when it came to political matters. As one group could not function without the other, society naturally functioned properly. A son born in a carpenter household would grow up and learn carpentry from his father. Now the problem most people have with this is the lack of choice as we have today (Its only unfortunate that 50% of my high school friends “chose” to drop out of college and do nothing…again different discussion). However, switching groups was not prohibited. It was definitely frowned upon. But a Bhramin with a penchant for war and the mental and physical requirement to partake in it was surely able to “switch over”. This, however, did not happen all too frequently, as it was just more convenient that everyone stuck to what they were a part of for the sake of efficiency.
But, thats when the inherent corruptive nature of man that I mentioned above began to play a role. Even today, if I get my shoes shined at an airport, something about the entire setup makes me feel bigger and better than the person doing the work. The inherent inferiority/superiority that exists in society works not too well with the inherent inferiority/superiority that exists in man. Predictably, the Khatriyas who ruled the land felt that they were worth more than the street cleaners and farmers. This slowly but inevitably led to oppression of entire castes as a whole. A few generations later this became the norm. Instead of considering everyone their own, Bhramins fell in line with this oppression and began their own mystical transgressions (e.g. Untouchables as referred to by commoner. If a Bhramin touches an untouchable, he has to shower immediately). So begins the rise of the Caste system that is seen today.
Many great people since then have stood to restore the balance that once existed between the castes. One recent famous person is Mahatma Gandhi. He addressed the problem of untouchability specifically by becoming one with them, despite being a wealthy lawyer.
The horse-feces seen in this article angers me just as much as it confuses and annoys you. My only plea to you is to not assume that this is a representation, even in part, of Indian culture. I hope what I typed above helps, even if only slightly.
Fria, Karma is definitely intertwined in this, but only to the extent that it provides false justification for the morons in control and their unfortunate followers. So you’re right that the low caste members in this story will use Karma to subdue any desire to uplift themselves. But this is not a problem of the Karmic value system itself, but of the oppression instilled in the minds of the caste members throughout India.
Thank you for your explanation since it puts things into perspective. I’ve been playing your role to an extent on this blog for awhile. Being among the few outward Jews here (no implication that there are any inward Jews here) it sometimes fall to me to try to explain the cultural religious nuances of Judaism. I am equally unsuited for this role, but have enough knowledge to at least give a hit at explaining things.
Like most Americans I know little of Indian Culture. However, I have done some reading, including the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Ghita and got some superficial ideas. I do know that many scientists think Indian culture is far older and more sophisticated than it is given credit for being by Western Culture. I appreciate your stopping by and illuminating our discussion, please come again and often.
While many religious practices, such as this one, may seem to be primitive and demeaning to the educated and privileged masses one needs to understand that Western thought and reasoning is the polar opposite of many eastern rituals. The caste system and such practices survive because the very people who are affected by it, more often than not, resist change or abolition. Indians believe in Karma – that the conditions of their life as it is, is a consequence of their past actions – and so based on this unwavering belief, religious Indians often refuse and resist change, even those changes that would be beneficial and better their status or living conditions. This resistance is rooted in the concept that God ordained for them to suffer through such hardships in order to balance out whatever karmic debt they may have accumulated in their past lives. To resist their predicament would be, in essence, to go against God. Now, while a large majority of the Indian population is moving away from such karmic belief, a vast number fervently hold onto the concept of Karma. To a westerner, with a different value system, it may seem ridiculous to voluntarily and happily undergo such demeaning rituals, but to an Indian who believes in Karma – it seems a fair price to pay for past transgressions.
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