We all want purity

On the 1st of January, 2 temples in Gollirahatti village in Karnataka were shut down after a Dalit had entered the village.

The reason?

Purification rituals needed to be done before the temple could be opened again.

Wait. What?

The Flawed logic of the system

Why does the upper caste care so much about caste?

They want to keep themselves “pure.”

How, according to them, does caste perform this function?

A person becomes impure when he comes into physical contact with impure elements or tasks. Certain bodily functions (such as waste from the body) and certain parts of life (such as a death in the family) result in temporarily polluting the body. While the ritual washing (bathing) could help one regain purity if one had limited exposure to impurity, one had to avoid highly impure tasks and objects. These include things like cremating the dead, cleaning the toilet, or even eating meat.

Caste seeks to keep the upper caste person in India “pure” by delegating impure tasks, objects and impure diets to impurity specialists. Thus, this community of specialists lives in a permanent state of impurity to which people they serve enter temporarily. One can see that the “religious division of labour goes hand in hand with the permanent attribution to certain professions of a certain level of impurity.” (H.H. p49) The cremation specialists live in a permanent state of impurity and they serve others who become impure temporarily. Often, their diet would include meat which makes one impure or unclean.

The upper caste Hindu had to maintain his purity by avoiding not just the impure tasks and objects, but also the impure people. One had to avoid marrying “impure people”, one had to avoid eating with “impure people,” and one even had to avoid being seen by “impure people” while one was eating.

The loss of “pure” space

On the 9th of January, a few Dalits and activists entered the temple premises under police protection.

State power is today used to destroy the segregation of spaces into pure and impure spaces. How did this come about?

The answer is the constitution of India. With the adoption of the Indian constitution, traditional society lost its sacred walled-off space.

The Indian Constitution operates on the assumption that all human beings are equal and have equal worth. This is an idea derived from Christianity — a philosophy foreign to our soil. And thus, the constitution outlaws the segregation of society based on caste lines.

With the loss of spaces segregated for purity, maintaining purity by marrying within one’s own caste is the only avenue left. Thus, it is often defended all the more militantly.

We all care about purity

The truth is that we all care about purity. Traditional society sought purity by assigning purity values to objects and tasks, and then by delegating impure tasks to impurity specialists. Modern society might seek purity through meditation, yoga, diet ‘cleanses’, digital ‘detox’, or any of the numerous other ways out there.

We all feel impure.

Because we are impure.

Blood cleanse

The Pharisees of Jesus’s day were equally concerned about purity. They thought eating food without the ritual wash made one unclean. They thought eating food with tax collectors and sinners made one unclean.

Jesus said that it is not what goes into a person that made a person unclean. Eating meat or touching a corpse did not make one unclean. It is what comes out of a person that makes one unclean. The source of impurity is not objects, tasks or food. The source of our impurity is our heart.

Purification has to be inside out.

The lasting solution will not be found in the flawed logic of the caste system. It will not be found in the skin-deep measures of meditation, diet or digital detox.

The solution to our impurity can only be found in the blood of Jesus, who died for us. Only Jesus can purify us, by transforming our inner person — by creating a new heart within us.

Freedom from impurity

This purity we receive frees us from our bondage to systems that promise purity but ultimately oppress us.

And so we don’t worry about the caste of the person we marry. We don’t worry about whether a task or work would make us impure. We don’t worry about meat making us impure. We have received purity. We received a permanent purity by grace through faith. And we can live out this freedom without fear.

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One response to “We all want purity”

  1. […] In fact, this exclusion is not just a thing of the past. In fact, just this year on the first of January, a village in Karnataka shut down two of its temples and conducted purification rituals merely because a Dalit person had walked by the street. Click here to read the article I wrote in response to the incident. […]

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