Monday, October 19, 2009


This photo taken in the Orchha railway station in 2007 is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, notice how clean the floor is. This is because in India there are sweepers everywhere. These are people from the scheduled (lower) castes whose job is to sweep the streets and other public places. You will see them busy in the early morning before many people are up and about. Within the last ten years or so, the government has taken measures to reserve a proportion of the jobs in the country for such people in order to free them from caste restrictions as to their employment. Although the caste system was made illegal under British rule and also in the 1950 constitution of India, it remains strong in the attitudes of the people.

The photo is also noteworthy because of the way the bull is allowed to wander freely within the railway station. No one except perhaps a recently arrived tourist would find it remarkable that he is here, because Hindus consider cows to be sacred and therefore to be protected. They are seen everywhere, even on the busiest roads where attempts to avoid hitting them can be a serious traffic hazard. It is thought that cows originally gained their status because their milk was essential to life, and bulls because they were, and still are, an essential beast of burden. Sadly, when their useful life is over, people no longer feed these animals, and they are forced to forage for food. You will see them in and around piles of garbage which seem to collect on the side of the road in every town.

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