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This is the first of two programmes about the work of Tom Selwyn, a social anthropologist working in the village of Singhara in central India. The programme was filmed in Singhara and gives an anth...ropologist's interpretation of caste ideology in the village. In Tom Selwyn's view the caste system rests on twin ideas of purity and pollution; people whose traditional occupations are thought of as impure are low in the hierarchy and vice versa. Caste is best understood by looking at people at the extreme ends of the hierarchy. This view is explored in the course of the programme which shows high caste, ritually pure Brahmins, officiating at a marriage ceremony. It shows lower castes, barbers, potters, washer-men and others, carrying out traditional occupations and participating in ritual activity. There is also an interview with a leather worker on why he thinks he's untouchable.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: D207, An introduction to sociology
Item code: D207; 15
First transmission date: 12-07-1981
Published: 1981
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:21
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Producer: Claire Falkner
Contributors: Tom Selwyn; Graeme Salaman
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Anthropology; Caste; India; Sociology
Footage description: Shots of arid countryside around the Indian village of Singhara. Graeme Salaman describes the village and Tom Selwyn's work there. Shots of women in the village with children, the potter at work and a Brahmin praying. In a voiceover Tom Selwyn discusses the connection between the religious hierarchy and occupations. He then describes the five main caste categories and the sub-castes which are associated with traditional occupations. Shots of men, women and animals washing and drinking by the river. Tom Selwyn discusses the ideas of purity and pollution which are central to the religious and symbolic basis of the caste system. Shots of fireworks marking the climax of a marriage ceremony. The arrival of the bridegroom and ritual ceremonies outside of the bride's house. Tom Selwyn discusses the role of the Brahmin priests (Pandits) in the conduct of the ceremony. He argues that they act as mutual mediators between the two families and help to create an auspicious union between the two families by leading them safely through a period of transition and change of status. Shots of Pandits drawing a magic shape on the ground. Tom Selwyn describes the significance of this altar-like space and talks about the idea of auspiciousness. Shots of the bride's father consulting the Pandit to discover if the marriage will be a good one and to obtain the best date for the ceremony. At the wedding ceremony the bride is seen seated by the auspicious pattern As the Pandit sings and chants clothes and presents are presented to the bride and her family. The Pandit sprinkles turmeric onto the bride. Tom Selwyn talks about the symbolic significance of the Pandit's actions, he argues that many of his actions help to establish that the sexual union between the couple will be ordered and sanctified by spiritual authority. The bride throws rice onto the pattern in a fertility ceremony again controlled by the Pandits. A member of the barber class brings water for the wedding. The programme now considers the roles and functions of the castes within the system. Shots of a barber shaving a child's head. Selwyn argues that the removal of bodily substances, which are thought to be impure, passes impurity onto those who are linked with their removal. Selwyn talks to a local Brahmin about the origins of the caste system. Castes were created by God to provide services. Shots of a washerwoman collecting soiled sheets from a house, where a child has been born, and washing them at the river. Women clean the house with earth and cow dung to remove the pollution associated with childbirth. Shots of the shoemaker at work and his family outside their house. Tom Selwyn talks to the shoemaker about his position as an untouchable. Another untouchable, the potter, is shown at work. Tom Selwyn discusses some of the analytic problems of understanding the reasons for the potter's lowly position. Shots of the potter's house and another potter working. Shots of members of the basket maker's family. These people belong to the Domer caste. Tom Selwyn discusses their position in the hierarchy. Shots of Domer musicians at the wedding ceremony. Shots of the Pandit anointing the bride and bridegroom, and symbolically binding them together. Finally Tom Selwyn discusses the last ritual of the ceremony performed by a female member of the barber caste.
Production number: FOUD092E
Videofinder number: 44
Available to public: no