Untouchable village III by Mira John
Untouchable village III by Mira John via Flickr

Traditionally, the so-called “untouchables” are the social outcasts in Hindu India.

Untouchables have been marginalized to the extent of not belonging even to the lowest (Sudras) of the four recognized castes.

Still loathed by many as ritually impure, untouchables are considered outsiders and physical contact is often avoided by members of higher castes.

Mohatma Gandhi decried this state of affairs, calling the untouchables harijans (“the children of God”). Likewise many bhakti (devotional) saints, like the Bauls of West Bengal, protest through song and openly affiliate with and embrace the so-called untouchables within their inner circle.

English: A school of untouchables near Bangalo...
A school of untouchables near Bangalore, by Lady Ottoline Morrell (died 1938). See source website for additional information. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contemporary India attitudes are evolving toward a more enlightened, inclusive view but caste-based discrimination persists, just as class-based discrimination is alive and unwell in most corners of the word.

The practice of untouchability was made illegal by the Constitution of India in 1950 and the former untouchables, being a mixed population, now call themselves Dalit.

Related Posts » Brahmin, Caste System, Kshatriya, Sudra, Vaisna


  1. Sri Ramanuja who founded the Itengar Brahmins in the South 9n the 1-th century,
    was also a social reformer. He inter-dined with low caste Hindus and called Harijans Tiru-Kulathars, of holy birth,
    All the 12 Alvars of Iyengars were not Brhamins and composed great Tamil poetry, called,
    Nalayira-Prabhandam, considered the Tamil Veda.


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