By P.T. Bopanna
Ever since Sudha Murthy, chairperson of Infosys Foundation, made a statement that she carried her own spoon when she went out because she was concerned if the same spoon had been used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, the news has been trending on social media.
In the past few days, I have been researching on the matter. Finally, I got my answer – it has something to do with ‘ritual pollution’ which is practised by Hindu upper castes, especially Brahmins.
In an article published by Cambridge University Press, scholar Edward B. Harper, an expert on South Asian studies, has observed as follows:
“Beliefs about ritual purity and ritual impurity form some of the most all-pervasive themes in Hindu culture. They are the basis of “orthoprax” Brahmanism in that only a ritually pure individual may approach the higher gods.
“One of the important rationales for caste separatism (their refusal to intermarry, eat with one another, or touch one another) is that some castes are more ritually pure than others, and that impurity may be transmitted from one caste to another through these acts.”
In the normal course, I would not have bothered much about personal preferences and idiosyncrasies of individuals.
But ritual pollution is something taken for granted by the upper castes. However, lower castes are the ones who are affected by such irrational beliefs.
Ritual pollution has seriously affected the Kodava community (Coorgs) who live in the Kodagu district of Karnataka. Ever since the Kodavas got influenced by Modi’s militant Hindutva ideology preached mainly through WhatsApp, most of the members of the community have been following Brahminical practices, at the cost of their time honoured rituals of ancestor and nature worship. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Hindutva ideology has killed the soul of Kodavame (Kodava way of life).
For instance, normally the Kodava festival of Keil Poldu (arms worship) and the Hindu festival of Ganesha Chaturthi fall around the same time in September. Of late, most Kodava homes have stopped celebrating the arms festival because they do not want to prepare pork curry, the signature dish of the festival, due to ritual pollution concerns.
This article is not targeted at Sudha Murthy, who came out in a big way to help people affected by landslides in Kodagu a few years ago.
The religious practices of Kodavas are contained in the book Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus? by journalist P.T. Bopanna. The paperback copy of the book is available on Amazon: