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English: The sacred thread of Hinduism. Upanay...

English: The sacred thread of Hinduism. Upanayana is the “sacred thread ceremony”, a rite-of-passage ritual when the sacred thread is received by young boys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not to be confused with the Brahman, which is a Hindu metaphysical concept, Brahmin refers to the highest caste of landowner/priests who in Indian antiquity had exclusive knowledge of the Veda and its right of transmission. In the Indian middle ages, it became possible for some exceptional individuals to covert themselves into becoming Brahmins, although this was rare.

Today Brahmins remain as the so-called upper classes in India and Nepal, wearing the sacred thread of the “twice-born” to separate themselves from the so-called lower classes. Although they are said to be of the scholar class, this usually just means that they go to university. The university, itself, may be good or not so good. However, because Brahmins usually have a bit of money, a privileged social position, and thus more cultural capital than non-Brahmins, they do tend to be more visible in cultural matters.

Contemporary Brahmins are supposed to adhere to strict dietary regulations such as vegetarianism and the avoidance of alcohol. In West Bengal, however, fish is often taken with meals.

Related Posts » Brahmanism, Pierre Bourdieu

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