Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caste and Realized, Systems and Siva--The Destroyer, If'n Ya Didn't Know

Kali, righteous wrathful bisatch who kills thousands of demons with one swath of her blade. She is Hara's consort (er, one form of Great Goddess who happens to be Siva's woman)

(Two Seikh warriors--dunno why I put this picture here, except that it kinda looks cool . . .)

Often when I talk highly of the traditions of India in conversations--specifically, in my intentions at least, with reference to certain specific tantric perspectives--I am often taken to task to justify the caste system.

Though I do not always mention that Saivism is generally opposed to--and various Sivite groups have historically and often revolted against--the falsely measured controls of the caste system, I usually do mention the ideal of the caste system is that reincarnation, or rebirth after death in cycles of samsara, actually works justly and according to the perfect harmony of the universe, with perfectly measured dharma, etc. Still, for the record, if I am beholden to a tradition in India--the mother and father land of so many dispersed traditions--it would be to Saivism and tantra and thus in tune with a bunch not so cozy with castigation and prejudice.

One group of tantricas called the kaulikas with little violence seized power from the high caste, and inverted norms by treating the high born as if untouchables, with no repurcussions. This revolt, and others like this fomented by various wild and crazy naked forest dwellers, was a non-violent overthrow of the "powers that be." The high caste folks were made to realize they were indeed beholden to even the supposedly "lowest-born" of society.

This carnivalesque inversion turned their version of ritualized "carnivale days" into the rule of the day during this group's visible prominence centuries ago. The previously high holies got a taste of thier own medicine, as those they would once have been expected to shun were shunning them, those who they would not touch now eschewing the touch of the brahmins, high-born brought low.

Imagine the egalitarianism of Mardi Gras more than respresenting or symbolically playing out the inversions of rich and poor, revered and reviled in previously held socio-economic orderings. Imagine everyday normative social hierarchies reversed, and taking hold in the other weeks of the year. This is what the kaulikas accomplished, to the degree that high caste officials had to consult the kaulikas before official actions, and were bound by the kaulikas censure. High born to some degree in subserviance to the poor.

This is more the "Hindu" tradition I'm diggin' than the one arbitrarily limits social mobility by anachronistic castes--yeah, I s'pose I'd be a dilettante revolutionary there too.


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