For India’s [women] ‘untouchables,’ a rare moment of inclusion

WNN World News Portal – Christian Science Monitor (originally published on February 21)

Dipping in the Ganges river during the Maha Kumbh festival in Allahabad, India
Indian Hindu devotees offer prayers as they take holy dips in the Sangam, the confluence of the Hindu holy rivers of Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, at the Maha Kumbh festival in Allahabad, India, Thursday. Image: Christian Science Monitor/Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

New Delhi: Hindus believe a dip in the waters where the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati rivers meet during India’s Kumbh Mela Hindu religious festival cleanses them of their past sins, giving them a clean slate and helping them attain salvation.

When a group of about 100 women from lowest rank of society, dalits – formerly known as “untouchables” or “manual scavengers” – took a bath at the sacred site, of itself an extremely rare if not unheard of event for members of their community, they came out of the water proclaiming that their low status as “untouchable” had been dissolved.

Dalits are known as one of the most discriminated against people in India, generally prohibited from even touching members of higher castes. They are not generally allowed to perform most Hindu rituals, including the Kumbh dip. . .

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