Encycl. Rel. And Ethics


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The first great test of the social position of a caste is whether Brahmans will act as its priests, and if so, what their status is in the hierarchical community. A Brahman loses in social estimation if he acts as priest to any but those of "twice-born" rank, but he is not actually degraded for performing the priestly office for castes regarded as clean Sudras. Castes that enjoy the services of good Brahmans may thus at once be separated from those whose Brahmans are degraded. Similarly, those that are ministered to by degraded Brahmans rank higher than those that have no Brahmans at all. Another general criterion is whether the higher castes will take food or water from a man of the caste under consideration. Certain castes are treated as clean in some localities where the higher castes have need of their services, and unclean in others where they are not needed. Ganges water is less easily defiled than ordinary water, and may sometimes be taken when the latter may not. Similarly, food cooked with ghi (clarified butter) may often be taken where food cooked with water is tabu. A great deal depends on whether Brahmans will accept hospitality from a caste, and if so, whether they will eat all kinds of food in their houses, or only food cooked with ghi. The estimation in which the difficult castes are held is indicated by the order in which they are placed at public banquets at which Brahmans are present, and it is also reflected in the attitude of the barbers and washermen. The latter will not wash for the lower castes, nor will the former shave them; there are some, moreover, whom they will shave, but whose fingernails they will not pare; and others, again, whose fingernails they will pare, but not the nails of their toes.1

1Gait, E.A.n/an/an/an/a, "Caste," in (ed. J. Hastings), 3: 236 (By permission).


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Chicago: J. Hastings, ed., "Encycl. Rel. And Ethics," Encycl. Rel. And Ethics in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X4QZX5WFMPPPZDU.

MLA: . "Encycl. Rel. And Ethics." Encycl. Rel. And Ethics, edited by J. Hastings, Vol. 3, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X4QZX5WFMPPPZDU.

Harvard: (ed.), 'Encycl. Rel. And Ethics' in Encycl. Rel. And Ethics. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=X4QZX5WFMPPPZDU.