Ramayana characters are worshipped in India while temples dedicated to the author of the epic is treated ‘untouchable’.
As India celebrates Diwali – the festival of lights, characters from the epic Ramayana are being worshipped everywhere. But temples dedicated to Valmiki, the author of Ramayana, are avoided by caste Hindus because they are seen as temples of the ‘Untouchables.’
Amit Kumar is a Dalit living in India’s Haryana state. He and his fellow community members are Hindus by religion, but are not allowed by the ‘upper’ castes to enter a Hindu temple. The only places where they can worship are the temples of Valmiki who is the author of the epic Ramayana and creator of all the Ramayana characters including Rama and Hanuman. Some of the Dalits like Amit have actually named themselves after Valmiki. However, while the ‘upper’ castes have no problem with worshipping Rama and Hanuman, they treat both the Valmiki community and their Valmiki temple as ‘lowly’ and ‘untouchable’.
According to Amit, this behavior of upper caste is absurd and it makes him and his fellow community members angry to be treated like a lesser human. Says Amit, “On one hand, ‘upper’ castes don’t allow us in a Hindu temple. On the other, they look down upon the only temple that we can enter. I feel caught in a trap of indignity!’
The constitution of India guarantees every citizen the right to practice his faith. But the rights of Dalits like Amit are violated by upper castes every day.
Being an IndiaUnheard correspondent has helped Amit in many ways. Before joining IndiaUnheard Amit felt embarrassed to reveal his caste. But later, as a community correspondent he interacted with his fellow community members more often. This helped him understand his community issues better and also connect with his community well. Now he is no longer shy to say that he is a Valmiki Dalit. So, instead of hiding his real identity, Amit is now making videos where he points out the unethical treatment that Dalits get from ‘upper’ castes. Also, Amit’s role as a community correspondent is helping the entire community realize several things that are wrong, but went unquestioned. For example, ‘upper’ caste neighbors never visited the Valmiki temple in Amit’s neighbourhood, but none in Amit’s community had ever wondered why. It was only during the shooting of this video that his community realized that ‘upper’ castes avoided the temple because they considered it an unclean place.
You can watch all the videos by Amit by clicking here
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