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caṇḍāla


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The name given to the caste of ‘fierce’ ‘untouchables’, said by Manusmṛti to originate from the union of brahmin women and śūdra men, and thought to be the lowest and most impure group in society. In theory at least, it was their responsibility to undertake the highly polluting task of laying out corpses and carrying them to the cremation ground. The term is often used as a generic term for a member of any untouchable caste, i.e. a person or group lying outside the varṇa system altogether, and considered by those above them in the hierarchy to be maximally polluting.

Subjects: Hinduism.


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