Moral Purity and Persecution in History

By Barrington Moore Jr. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 4
Notes on Purity and Pollution
in Asiatic Civilizations

HINDU CASTE

THE HINDU caste system is a hierarchical ordering of the population into endogamous groups based on a scale with purity at the top and disgust or impurity at the bottom. The Brahmins at the top are the “most pure of men,” while the Untouchables are the least pure. 1

The whole system rests upon its bottom layers, the Untouchables, also known in modern times as Harijans and Scheduled Castes, as well as Outcastes. The plural “layers” is appropriate because by the beginning of the Christian era the Untouchables had created a caste system of their own, including their own outcastes. Later on, every Untouchable group imagined that there was another group lower than itself. 2 In this way a society based on inequality could gain in stability by making it possible for everybody to feel superior to somebody.

The Untouchables were for the most part excluded from the larger Aryan society made up of the twice-born castes: Brahmins (priests), kshatriya (warriors and rulers), and vaisya (merchants). Yet even if excluded and humiliated, the Untouchables were also part of Hindu society insofar as they performed tasks essential to the status of the higher castes.

The Untouchables did the hard and dirty work for the upper castes, and continue this service to a great extent even now. In recent times large numbers have been serving as landless laborers. In pre-British times their main task was the cremation of human corpses. They also served as executioners. 3 Their arduous and repulsive labors enabled the Brahmins to live purely. There is nothing exotic or especially Hindu about this arrangement. The division of labor all over the world displays roughly similar features.

-105-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Moral Purity and Persecution in History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 158

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?