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Mulk Raj Anand's: Untouchable- Mansi Tejpal
Transcript of Mulk Raj Anand's: Untouchable- Mansi Tejpal
The Ancient Indian Caste System
Mulk Raj Anand
a.k.a-India's "Charles Dickens"
-Born in Peshawar.
-Studied at Khalsa College, Amritsar, before moving to England where he attended University College London as an undergrad.
- PhD Cambridge University, graduating in 1929.
-Fought for Indian Independence.
-A caste system is a process of placing people in occupational groups. Rooted in religion and based on a division of labor, the caste system, among other things, dictates the type of occupations a person can pursue and the social interactions that he/she may have.
-Castes are an aspect of Hindu religion. Other religions in India do not follow this system.
(now more commonly spelled Brahmin): Consist of those engaged in scriptural education and teaching, essential for the continuation of knowledge. Were Priests in Temples.
: Take on all forms of public service, including administration, maintenance of law and order, and defense. The Nobiity consisted of this caste.
: Engage in commercial activities; usually businessmen.
: Work as semi-skilled and unskilled laborers. Farmers; for example.
: Pariahs. Not considered in the Caste System.
-Born into the Kshatriya caste
- Mulk Raj Anand
Mulk Raj Anand’s first novel
, published on 1st May 1935, was welcomed by a few but criticized by many. Several news-papers in London criticized it as ‘a dirty work’. E.M. Forster anticipated such criticism in his preface to Untouchable. He says;
It seems to me indescribably clean and I hesitate for words in which this can be conveyed. Avoiding the rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it
'Untouchable’ is the story of a single day in the life of 18 year old untouchable boy named
, who lives in pre-independence India. Bakha is described as `
and dreams varying from to dressing like a ‘Tommie’ (Englishmen) in ‘fashun’ to playing hockey. However, his limited means and the fact that he
belongs to the lowest caste even amongst untouchables
, force him to beg for food, to often face humiliation, and to be at the mercy of the whims of other, higher caste, Hindus.
The day described in the story is a difficult one for Bakha. Over the course of the day, he is slapped in public for 'polluting' an upper caste Hindu through an accidental touch and has food thrown at him by another person after he
cleans her gutters
. His sister is molested by a priest, he is blamed for an injury received by a young boy following a melee after a hockey match, and he is thrown out of his house by his father.
In the story, Mulk Raj Anand presents two choices, or ways in which Bakha in particular and
untouchables in general can be liberated from the life they are born into:
The first choice is that of Christianity, a religion that does not recognize the caste system. The second comes from the teachings of Gandhi who calls for the freeing of Harijans.
Do you feel that untouchability is still prevalent in India?
Bakha is a precocious boy of 18- humble yet proud, and even attractive, yet none the less he is an outcast in India's caste system: an Untouchable.The sensitive and nuanced portrayal of Bakha as a complex human being with limits and aspirations; he clearly strives to attain a life beyond his station, adopting Western dressing style from the second-hand, discarded motley of British military clothing that he wears. He is shown to be distasteful yet diligent about his work as a sweeper. He is modern, introspective and revolutionary in his ideas. He feels that if poverty is alleviated, they can free themselves from the slavery and discrimination which is deeply rooted in the nation and is inspired by M.K. Gandhi's speeches on the issue.
Bakha's sister Sohini is probably the most important character in the novel because she is the passive sufferer. It is the real picture of the outcaste women.She not only exemplifies caste exploitation but also sex exploitation. She has in her a kind of docile and peaceful bearing.Sohini behaves unlike other outcaste women. She is shown to be intelligent and beautiful but she has not enough clothes to protect her beauty from the hungry eyes of the males. She is patient, devoted and personifies abject humility, yet is against exploitation as she did not keep mum while Pandit Kali Nath tried to harass her. She represents the female youth at the time of independence.
“…They think we are mere dirt, because we clean their dirt.”...
Bakha’s father Lakha is the symbol of passive submission to the exploitation by the high castes. He represents the force of tradition, orthodoxy and conservation. He does not blame the high caste for the exploitation but blames himself for this fate. He believes that his birth in the low caste is the result of their sins committed by him in the previous birth. He does not get angry even when Bakha tells him about Sohini's molestation. Bakha’s thought of retaliation against the established system becomes significant when we compare it with the passive submission of Lakha to it.
Pundit KALI NATH
Pundit Kali Nath is the priest of the temple in the town. This so called custodian of Hindu religion and culture turns out to be an ill- humoured devil. Though he is a priest he lacks the strength of spirituality. His moral weakness is exposed when he tries to seduce a sweeper girl. Through the character of Kali Nath, Anand brings out the underlying hypocrisy of the high caste advocates of the so called morality and culture. It has been a custom in most of the villages of India to convert the low caste girls into ‘Devdasis’. The girls are married to the god but are used by the priests to satisfy their sexual desires. Those who firmly believe that the touch of the outcaste defile them, do not get defiled when they sleep with the untouchable women... What a system!
Several groups are trying to help the Untoucahbles by
about their discriminated lives
These include many Christian groups
They try to
convert people from Hinduism to Christianity
; therefore bringing hope to the Untouchables
The Indian government is also taking steps to help:
With the issue of
, the government attempted to ban the act of Untouchability
Although some people of India still practice it, the
policy for reservation
for the backward classes has also helped in eradication; but many have critisized the govt. for depriving 'the desrving of their rights'
Also many groups are trying to spread
to India as a way to help
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
'Father of the Indian Constitution'
'Chairperson of the Drafting Committee'
"two of the strongest desires that keep me in the flesh are the emancipation of the untouchables and the protection of the cow .when these two desires are fulfilled there is swaraj"
a presentation by...
- M.K. Gandhi
"...here is a man and it seemed to give him a nobility strangely in contrast with, his filthy profession and with the sub- human status to which he was condemned from birth..."
"...the fact that we address God as ''the purifier of polluted souls'', makes it a sin to regard anyone born in hinduism as polluted..."
- M.K. Gandhi
In the Manu dharmasastra (written approximately between 200 BC and 200 AD) the system is developed and manifested in all its ideological strength. Manu states that the four varnas were divinely ordained from the very beginning.
Quoting from the Rig Veda, Manu says that;
"From the mouth of Purusha, the Self-Existent One, came the Brahmans, from his arms came the Kshatriyas, from his thighs came the Vaishyas, and from his feet came the Sudras. According to Manu other castes were the result of miscegenation between members of these four original varnas"
In the years following 200AD the practice of caste and therefore untouchability was intensified and applied to more groups. As a result society was structured on the varna theory.