Chandala

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Chandala is a Sanskrit word for someone who deals with disposal of corpses, and is a Hindu lower caste, traditionally considered to be untouchable.[1][2]

Chandala with a dog meeting Adi Shankara in Varanasi. Details from from the Sringeri Banquet Hall in Toronto, Canada

Classification[edit]

Varna was a hierarchical social order in ancient India, based on the Vedas. Since the Vedic corpus constitute the earliest literary source, it came to be seen as the origin of caste society. In this Brahmanical view of caste, the varnas were created on a particular occasion and have remained virtually unchanged. In the varna ordering of society notions of purity and pollution were central and activities were worked out in this context. Varna divides the society into four groups ordered in a hierarchy, the fifth being Chandala (untouchable) and therefore beyond the pale.[3]

According to an account, the Adi Sankaracharya met a Chandala in Varanasi, with his dogs by his side.[4] A disciples of Sankara asked Chandala to stand aside. The Chandala reponded "O guru ! you preach Advaita Vedanta and yet you make a distinction between man and man. HIs Advaita only preached and not practised? Sankara was surprised to hear the Chandala.

In modern Indian usage, Chandal is a general derogatory slur used to refer to a filthy, mean or low person.[1][5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Viswanath, Rupa (2014). The Pariah Problem: Caste, Religion, and the Social in Modern India. Columbia University Press. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-23116-306-4. 
  2. ^ Jha, Ashok Kumar (2013). Meghadutam. PartridgeIndia. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-48289-494-3. 
  3. ^ Thapar, Romila (2004). Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. University of California Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-52024-225-8. 
  4. ^ Bhaja Govindam of Sri Sankara, A. V. Suryanarayana, 1975, p. 3
  5. ^ Biswas, A. K. (2000). The Namasudras of Bengal: profile of a persecuted people. Blumoon Books. p. viii. Though he is physically almost practically unknown, save and except in Bengal, calling someone a Chandal is the ultimate insult and humiliation of a Hindu anywhere under the sun. 

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