from Winter 2004
I know this is off topic but I have a couple of Hindu stories that my mom had to memorize in the form of poems in school in India. I think this gives insight into how the Hindu’s viewed the poor people in their society or the untouchables.
The first one is very short and is more like a anecdote than a story:
Some background into the story before my mom told it to me is that the untouchables were the only caste that were not allowed inside the temple but worshipped directly outside of it. They came to the temple and prayed and offered whatever they had to the deities that were carved on the outside of the temple. I found this interesting because we can see these deities clearly carved outside of the temple to Vishnu.
So an untouchable came to pray outside of the temple and stood in the corner silently praying to a bare wall and one of the statues inside the temple is said to have turned right around and faced the untouchable praying outside the temple instead of the people of higher caste inside the temple.
The second story she told me is a little longer one, forgive me for the fragments of both the stories, parts may be missing but the main point is still intact!
There as a rich man with a big house and every morning a poor beggar would come to the house. The rich man would feed the beggar everyday but this day the rich man was going to the temple with his family to give a special offering to one of the deities, so when the beggar came to his house he just shooed him away without even stopping to talk to him. That day the man and his family got ready to go to the temple by grooming themselves and cleaning their house. They prepared an ornate offering by putting fresh fruits, fresh flowers, and lots of pearls on a gold tray to sacrifice to the deity.
When the man took the tray of beautiful things to the temple he went to the altar where the deity was and bowed before it. When he looked up the stature of the deity had disappeared and what was left was the poor beggar standing there in its place. The deity had come to the man in the form of a beggar and he had chased him away, disregarding him. The moral of the story: the gods are not only in the temple but present in the poor and in everyday life. This story was told to the higher class people to be good to the poor despite their place in the caste system because the deities don’t care what caste an individual is in.