Hinduism is a complex religion with no one founder or specific creed, and it is the religion of around 83% of South Indians, 11% are Moslems and 5% Christians.

Hinduism is actually more than a religion; it is a way of life. Hindus are born into their religion and caste position and everything they do in life is preparing them for their next life. If they are born into a low position they believe they need to work hard and behave well if they are to have a better position in their next life. There are five major caste groups, each with a clear set of rules of conduct in all aspects of life. At the top are the Brahmins, the priests and ruling class, and at the bottom are the Harijans (also called Untouchables, Dalits and now ‘Scheduled Castes’) who perform all the menial jobs, such as cleaning the streets. ‘Harijan’ was a term applied by Gandhi meaning ‘Children of God’. Some ‘scheduled castes’ in K.V.Kuppam have converted to Christianity.

A person’s diet is usually linked to religion and caste: Hindus don’t eat beef just as Muslims don’t eat pork. Within Hinduism caste is crucial: Brahmins are vegan, lower castes eat meat and eggs and some scheduled castes eat beef. Behind this there is an enormous body of lore. Brahmins are traditionally priests; therefore they do little physical work and need less energy. So the scriptures prescribe ‘Sattvik’ food: things like rice, milk, green vegetables and sweet potatoes. Lower castes traditionally do manual work so eat ‘Rajasik’ food; potatoes, urad dhal, meat, wine etc. Scheduled castes are actually outside the caste system, so have no prescribed food.

Wherever you go in South India you find religion: symbols, attitudes, rituals and stories. Its influence on Indian daily life cannot be overestimated. Names around K.V. Kuppam are just as much influenced. Just as ‘Church Road’ is a very common street name in Britain, one of the roads in K.V.Kuppam is ‘Perumal Coil Street’. ‘Perumal’ is a god and ‘Coil’ is a Tamil word for temple. In the past only Brahmins would have lived on ‘Brahmin Street’ and only people from the Reddiar caste on ‘Reddiar Street’. Nowadays these rules are not enforced but the street names remain.

There is, however, still a degree of caste segregation. Many of the weavers live and work in the weavers’ colony. The area has its own temple and is slightly separated from the rest of the village by the railway tracks. There is also a ‘Harijan’ quarter. Traditionally Harijans would have had their own well, temple and shops etc. This enabled higher caste people to avoid contact with them.

Hinduism is part of everyday life for Selvi who prays daily.

Hinduism is part of everyday life for Selvi who prays daily.

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