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CASTE SYSTEM

By England, Ouch and Kylie


OVERVIEW AND HISTORY

• Divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups that dictates their lifestyle

• Birth into a particular caste is said to be influenced by karma

• Dates back to 1200BCE


• There are 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes in India, each falling under
the four basic varnas:

Brahmins – Priests
Kshatryas – Warriors
Vaishyas – Traders
Shudras – Laborer

• Members of a high caste enjoy more wealth and opportunities while


members of a low caste perform menial jobs.
CONT.

• Outside of the caste system are the Untouchables. Groups are characterised
under the title of Untouchability if:’
(1) taking life for a living - for example, fishermen,
(2) killing or disposing of dead cattle or working with their hides for a living,
(3) pursuing activities that brought the participant into contact with emissions of
the human body, such as faeces, urine and sweat - sweepers and washermen
(4) eating the flesh of cattle or of domestic pigs and chickens
• They were segregated in settlements outside the town or village boundary.
They were forbidden entry to many temples, to most schools, and to wells
from which higher castes drew water. Their touch was seen as seriously
polluting to people of higher caste.
• Ghandi tried to raise their status with symbolic gestures with Untouchables
• There is not much mobility in the caste system
RELEVANCE IN INDIA TODAY

• Although The God of Small Things takes place in 1969, the caste system is still
present in 21st century India, particularly, in rural areas
• 250 million Untouchables
• Caste discrimination is still greatly alive despite being outlawed since 1950
• Most of 115 million child labourers and 300 million people in India are
Untouchables
• Government programs and quotas have attempted to raise the living standards of
these Untouchables by reserving places in the legislature, government jobs, and
schools. This has caused increases in caste violence
• Untouchables have also become a strong and organized political force who refer to
themselves as Dalits
• “It’s the defining consideration in all Indian politics, in all Indian marriages… The
lines are blurring. India exists in several centuries simultaneously. So there are those
of us like me, or people that I know for instance, to whom it means nothing… It’s a
very strange situation where there’s sort of a gap between… sometimes it’s urban
and rural, but it’s really a time warp”. – Arundhati Roy
IN THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS

• The author uses Velutha to show the Caste System and the injustice that it
causes.
• The system is accepted by the majority of the characters in the novel, even
those who suffer because of it.
• Ammu, Estha, Rahel and Velutha are the only people who actively refuse to
conform to the system.
• Even though Velutha is acknowlegded as being competent and very capable, he
doesn't have the same rights as everyone else because of his birth.
• Christianity claimed to be free of the Caste System, but in reality it wasn't.
ACCEPTANCE OF THE SYSTEM

“Perhaps it was just a lack of hesitation. An “Vellya Paapen began to cry. Half of him
wept. Tears welled up in his real eye and
unwarranted assurance. In the way he shone on his black cheek. With his other
walked. The way he held his head. The quiet eye he stared stonily ahead. An old
way he offered suggestions without being Paravan, who had seen the Walking
Backwards days, torn between Loyalty
asked. Or the quiet way in which he and Love.
disregarded suggestions without appearing
Then the Terror took hold of him and
to rebel” shook the words out of him. He told
Mammachi what he had seen. The
story of the little boat that crossed the
river night after night, and who was in it.
--> Vellya Paapen about Velutha The story of a man and woman, standing
together in the moonlight. Skin to skin.”
• "Perhaps Ammu, Estha and Rahel were
the worst transgressors. They all broke
the rules. They all crossed into forbidden
territory. They all tampered with laws
that lay down who should be loved and
how. And how much”
PLZ