Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hinduism Prohibits Lower Caste People from Entering Temples


Caste System in India

Today I saw the above pictures on Facebook, shared by some Indian friends. These pictures are from a temple in Himachal Pradesh, an Indian state in the Himalayas. It is a beautiful state and many people do pilgrimages there, to the ‘Land of Lords’, as it is also called. The pictures above are signs which were found at the temple entrance and the dining hall next to the temple. For those who cannot read Hindi, I would like to translate what is written on those two signboards.
“Lower caste people should not enter the dining hall.” and “Lower caste people should not enter the temple.”
This is India’s situation in the 21st century. We are developing, the country is getting more and more modern but the mindset obviously stayed the same.
You may now be outraged about the idea of writing such a sign and prohibiting some people of society of doing their worship in the same temple where others do. What most people would not know however, even if they have travelled to India and have visited temples there, is that this is an unwritten law in all Hindu temples all over India. You may not realize this anywhere, as there will not be any signs but it is simply understood.
Those signs are actually a crime against the law against discrimination of people because of their castes. And this is also one reason why in bigger towns and cities you may as well find people of lower castes entering in temples. A caste is anyway not openly visible, so one would not even notice it. Even if you noticed it, in a bigger city, it would be difficult to do something against that person’s entering. If anybody called out to them, saying “Hey, you are of the lowest caste, you are not allowed here”, it would be a crime and that man or woman might go to police.
In smaller villages however, where everyone knows everyone else, people also know each other’s castes. They know everybody who is allowed to enter the temple and everyone who is not. Lower caste people are well aware of that and stay away from the temple. They know that the whole village would get angry if they did and the higher caste people in the temple would go as far as to kill them for breaking this law.
I have heard higher caste people saying that in scriptures it is written, a lower caste person, who is not allowed to go into the temple and worship there, gets the same amount of good karma only by seeing the tip of the temple from far away. This is the most polite way to prohibit them from entering the temple. They are allowed to clean the outer part of the temple but never to go in. This is Hinduism and it is a big shame for this religion, for the society and the country that this is still alive in people’s minds.
This is one of the reasons why many people of lower castes have converted to Buddhism, a religion in which there is no concept of god. It is horrible that the caste system is still that much alive. You can see the caste system everywhere, whether this is in the arrangement of marriages or the fact that higher caste people don’t want to eat together with lower caste people. I wrote already several times how politicians encourage this system even today and were successful in creating hatred in between castes. I see myself as out of any religion and caste. We have to work against this suppression of others, eat with them at one table and discourage everyone who believes that lower caste people have any less rights or any less dignity than higher caste people.

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