Article Title

Travelling Through Caste


With its peculiar caste system, India is considered the most stratified of all known societies in human history. This system is ‘peculiar’ as it divides human beings into higher and lower castes and this division is backed by certain religious sanctions based on the sociological concepts of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’. While the higher caste is associated with ‘purity’, the lower caste is associated with ‘pollution’. The people of the lower castes are not allowed to undertake religious journeys and yet are expected to enable the pilgrimages of the higher castes by playing the role of laborers. Radical Bhakti saint-poets like Kabir, Chokamela, Tukaram and Ravidas, among others, pointed out the futility of undertaking pilgrimages. Instead of purifying the body so that the soul can go to heaven, they urged people to listen to their inner self and build an inclusive society based on equality and social justice. My paper focuses on Indian pilgrimages as seen through the lens of caste narratives. I address the relationship between caste and religion, with a specific focus on the roles undertaken by the lower castes when the higher castes undertake pilgrimages. I raise the question of the possibility of studying the idea of pilgrimage without caste references.



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