Feb 10, 2022
Prachi Patankar was born and raised in rural India. She comes from a working-class and lower-caste family. Her parents and grandparents fought for worker’s rights, women’s rights, gender justice, and more. You may know Prachi for her writing and activism, and she’s here to discuss the spiritual and political history of India and its relationship with yoga.
Many different spiritual and religious traditions existed in India for centuries. What we know today as Hinduism was known as Brahmanism in the first millennium B.C. This community organized its people into an occupational-based categorization system, or caste, with the intent of creating an ideal social structure.
Prachi discusses what a caste hierarchy is and how it entrenches injustices within the communities that are not part of the dominant caste. To go against the caste is to go against religion, and we discuss what happens when the worlds of spirituality and politics are mixed. The larger philosophy is further complicated by colonialism and the digital world of the modern age. For example, the yoga sutras we can easily find on YouTube are still not available to the lower castes in India.
Caste systems have remained in India for millennia in different forms under different leaders. It’s essential to our yoga practice to acknowledge this practice and speak critically of our own participation in it. A critical analysis does not demonize your yoga practice or foster Hinduphobia in the yoga community, but it will inspire a conversation that allows you to see where and how you can foster social justice.
To learn more about the intersection of caste systems and yoga, Prachi recommends
Annihilation of Caste by B.R. Ambedkar. His invitation to deliver this speech was revoked due to how controversial it was at the time. She also recommends Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule, 19th-century activists. Learn more in A Gardener in the Wasteland by Srividya Natarajan.
If you would like to get involved, visit Equality Labs for more information on how to help.
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