Karam’s Kismet: “What is a Chura?”
Query from a reader. “I am on chapter 5. What is a Chura?”
Chura is a caste in Punjab whose traditional occupation is sweeping. They sweep courtyards, barns, roads etc. They are largely followers of Sikhism and secondly Christianity. A large number had converted to the Muslim faith during the Mughal Period. They are treated as untouchables or Dalits as they occupy the lowest rung of traditional Hindu religious heirarchy.
The Hindus consider them to be born “inherently polluted”.
Maintenance of “purity” is especially important for upper castes in the Hindu religion and if an upper caste were to accept food or drink prepared by members of the untouchable castes, they would become “polluted”.
If a Brahmin were to accept food or drink from a sweeper, he would immediately become polluted and socially rejected from his caste fellows. He and his relatives would also not be considered eligible marriage partners by other Brahmins.
Churas are also known as Bhangis, Balmikis and Mazhabis.
Thankfully attitudes are less rigid in modern urban India but can remain backward in the rural areas.
A recent article in the New York Times credits the spread of capitalism in an economically improving India as an escape from the curse of casteism. It tells the story of an untouchable who managed to learn welding and his privately owned company repairs ocean oil-rigs. Last year it generated revenues exceeding a 100 million dollars. Something to be celebrated and saluted!