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The Subtle Casteism In Upper-Caste Marriage Ceremonies That We Overlook

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Casteism is often only highlighted in the news when it involves overt discrimination or violence. Small everyday casteist treatment is often overlooked. Upper-caste marriage ceremonies are places where this caste-based discrimination is often seen.

We consistently hear of caste-based violence and discrimination in the news. Dalits are stopped from riding a horse in their marriages. Dalits are murdered for falling in love with a Savarna by vigilante groups who claim to save our culture. A Dalit couple face violence when they enter a temple. We see cases of honour killing of girls because of intercaste love. Events like these are in the news every day.

 

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Somehow everyone is aware of this form of casteism. But the very casteism you wouldn’t ever give a thought to is more subtle. The first and foremost point here; there is no such thing as Caste Perspective. Caste is the objective reality of India.

Invitations Based On Caste

In the so-called upper-caste marriages, casteism is at its peak. Upper-caste people invite everyone except Dalits in their marriage. Dalits live in the ghettos of the village. So, they don’t have any connection with upper-caste people. They are not invited because they are “untouchables” for them. But they invite so-called lower caste people for their household work during marriages.

A lower caste woman and her husband are invited to do the chores. They are invited because they come below in the Brahmanical thought of hierarchy. They are invited because of their caste. Also, in the Baraat, one or two lower caste men join the journey to carry the luggage.

The Practice Of Commensality

Commensality refers to the practice of eating together. Upper-caste people continuously claim that casteism doesn’t exist. During marriage ceremonies, they exercise the act of feeding the guest from their village. Firstly, they start with Brahmins. Then they invite other upper-caste groups. At last, so-called lower caste people come.

After they eat, there is someone there to lift their Jutha plate. Here comes the role of these lower caste people who were invited to do the household work. They lift their Jutha plate and throw it in the jungle. The most discriminatory act happens when these so-called lower castes finish eating their plate. Who lifts their Jutha plate? No one is there. So they have to lift their own plates.

In the name of cooperation, you can see the layers of casteism exist here.

Casteism On The Dance Floor

groom on horse
Groom on a horse during Baraat. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In the marriage ceremony, a ritual happens where the Baraati has to dance till they reach the bride’s home. In this whole enjoying ritual of upper-caste people, there should be some fun or attractive element.

You will see some people put fancy lights on their heads and walk slowly with the dancing groups. Upper-caste people put lights on people’s heads because they want a fancy element in the wedding ceremony video.

Those people who put the fancy lights on their heads are from marginalised communities. They are paid to do this. But this is exploitation. They were and are historically and socially excluded from society. As a result, they don’t have many options to earn a livelihood. So they end up being the “fun element” of so-called upper-caste people.

But upper-caste people never acknowledge that caste exists here too. When you discuss this, they say, “Bro, why do you bring caste into everything?” 

“Bro, because you never acknowledge your caste privileges.”

Have you ever seen a Savarna put a light on their head in the Baraat of a so-called lower caste person? Do you want your parents to lift the Jutha plates in a Dalit marriage?

As an excuse, some privileged people say that this is the story of villages; these things only happen in the village, not in the town. The question which should be asked here is where do these people in towns come from? From the village, right? So do you think they forget the casteist culture?

Where There Are UC People, There Is Casteism

Let me take some extreme examples. Surely, you have heard from many NRI families that they want a bahu from their own culture. Many NRI boys may also have the same wish. And what is our culture? We promote endogamy — marriage within our group. What’s our group? Of course, it’s based on caste.

So, when we say we make relations within our own groups, we implicitly show how casteist we are.

In the movie The Namesake, a second-generation Indian-American boy has to marry within his own Bengali culture because his parents want him to. So he does. Although, the marriage doesn’t work. But you see the pressure of continuing that casteist cultural practice. These parents are elite, too. And this is not in the village. Even not in any Indian city.

As Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar rightly put in his book Annihilation of caste, nothing eradicates caste and casteism except intercaste marriages.

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