By Sandeep Datta
New Delhi, Jan.24 : The international conference-Rethinking Religion in India-held in the capital has turned out to be a major confluence of individuals who wish to observe and understand India from Indian and non-native viewpoint.
On the final day, during Parallel Paper session III on Caste system and Indian religion, three speakers Rajaram Hegde, A.Shanmukha and Dunkin Jalki from South India presented their research papers which generated deep interest and confluence at the conference.
"Scholars say that there is caste system in India, it is a part of Hinduism and is based on the Vedic texts, Brahminical priesthood and Varna system. Our field work demonstrates that no such things characterize our present society," said Rajaram Hegde, representing research work of 70 villages from 20 districts of Karnataka, on Fictitious Connections: Caste system and Hinduism.
"Whatever theories we have today about practice of unctouchability do not clear clear understanding about what this practice is all about. The so far available theories do not give any solution for the practice of untouchability," said A.Shanmukha, while presenting his research paper on The Practice of Untouchability and Hinduism.
"Classical theory assumes as there is religion called Hinduism which generates social system called caste system which compels the people to practice untouchability. But in the field work it was not evident that people are practicing untouchabilty by following Hindu religions," Shanmukha, added.
Dunkin Jalki presented his paper on Stereotyped stories and their Action Consequences
On Wednesday, during a Parallel Paper session II on Caste system and Indian religion, four speakers-Sumio Morijiri, John Zavos, Claudia Pereria and Ullo Valk-presented their research papers before the audience.
Sumio Morijiri, a visiting Professor Department of Kannada, Mangalore University, presented paper on Rethinking Animism in India and Japan, a comparative perspective. He said: "Jaati also exists in Japan, it is what me, my father and grandfather have been doing as profession from one generation to generation."
Ullo Valk, a professor of the Department of Estonian and Comparitive Folklore, Universtiy of Tartu (Estonia) presented his paper on Caste Division in Religious Narratives of Tamil Nadu.
Having done his research in Tamil Nadu's Athipakkam and Kalleri Villages, with the native Dr.S.Lourdusamy as research fellow who died last month, Ullo Valk informed: "We were working on the local narratives or stories/legends that are related to local deities. We observed that the topic of caste divisions and caste identities emerged in the stories. The caste system exists in the local customs, beliefs and folklores related to the local deities."
Claudia Pereria, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University Institute for Social Sciences, Labour Studies and Technologies (Lisbon, Portugal), presented her paper on Religion and Caste: The Christian and Hindu Gaudde of Goa.
Her paper analysed the relationship between Hindus and Christians in a village of Goa and the reciprocal social and political classifications, attempting to understand their dynamics as part of plural India under transformation. Her focus was on Gaudde, who are at the bottom of the social system and who show an interesting sociological duality.
John Zavos, a lecturer in South Asian Studies in the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of Manchaster, U.K was in the Chair.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday during a separate parallel paper session, speaker Marianne Keppens, a Doctoral Researcher at Ghent University, Belgium, presented her paper on Indians are Aryans, so what?. Rajaram Hegde was present as a respondent while Martin Farek was in the chair.
Speaking on the old debate on the Aryan invasion; whether Aryans came from outside or they always existed in India, Marianne said: "There has been a long debate questioning the theory that says Sanskrit speaking Aryan people invaded India around 1500 B.C. What if the problem with the Aryan invasion theory doesn't lie in the geographical origin of the Indo-Aryan languages or certain aspects of Indian culture but in the absence of evidence for the existence of an Aryan people and culture?."
Marianne questioned through her paper that what would be the implications for the understanding of Indian culture if it turns out that there has been never been an Aryan people?
In the international conference on Rethinking Religion in India (January 21-24), includes overall nine Parallel Paper sessions on the four themes-Evolutionary explanations of religion, Indians are Aryans, so What?, The caste system and Indian religion, Colonialism and religion in India.