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anth142summary3 - Opler Reading Summary North Indian Themes...

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Opler Reading Summary North Indian Themes – Caste and Untouchability NORTH INDIAN THEMES 1. Cultural Fission The “whole” breaks into smaller units—ex. There are 4 varna (broad social division of society), the presence of numerous castes, and the further separation of the castes into subcastes Divisiveness is a constant threat Religion is not untouched by this theme “The segments that result from Indian fission are differentiated but are not alienated from one another. Additively they comprise a recognized whole even though they are no longer an organic unity……This ability to maintain common characteristics in spite of separation and to represent related goals in spite of differentiation is probably what Indians mean when they speak of ‘unity in diversity’.” 2. The Themes of Hierarchy and Dharma The varna, castes, and subcastes are not only distinct, they are graded Dharma = a strong concern for duty or right action Dharma involves one’s duties as a Hindu and is therefore often defined as the very essence of religion 3. Concern Over Ritual Purity There is a constant fear of “pollution” Untouchability = the polluting influence of the touch or presence of the low caste person on the highborn Certain periods and situations are polluting- ex. A period after death Every place of worship, whether it be a family shrine or a temple, must be purified before ritual can begin 4. Primacy of the Male Principle In Indian philosophical thought, the highest manifestation of spirituality – perfect serenity
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