Caste system in India

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Created: 05/19/12
Last Edited: 11/21/12
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Exploration of caste system in India
  • Explorations- Caste system in India

  • Goal: To communicate the existence and functioning of caste system in India through different media and idea explorations

    Audience: Americans, 20+

    Media: Animation + Print + Video + Web

    In today’s times, caste based discriminationis prevalent in two forms- positive and negative. To an American, it soundssimilar to racism in their country. But it is different. The major differencebeing that caste is a religious concept based on occupation and race is basedon color. Caste based discrimination is way too complicated if compared toracism. The confounding nature is because of the role religions and economyplay in encouraging caste discrimination. Comparison between racism and castesystem is a topic that is being discussed globally now a days.

    Avariety of castes exist, the number of which is uncountable. Negativediscrimination exists in rural areas where people need a relief from oppressionand positive discrimination co-exists in cities where there is relatively lessneed of such measures. The result from my research was a series of explorationsin different media like animation, video and web.
  • EXPLORATION 1: Video series (Storyboard)

    Since caste is a complicated topic, I though it would be a good idea to start out by just communicating the basic idea of its existence and the paradox associated with it. I used the analogy of white board, permanent marker and the cleaning elements to document the sequence of events from the introduction of caste system, to its aggressive rise, oppression and its contemporary existence. The parody lies in the fact that the positive discrimination exists in cities where people don't need it as much as the oppressed people in villages where negative discrimination is prominent. This video is meant to communicate the essence of this system rather than any facts.
  • EXPLORATION 2: Motion Graphics (Storyboard)

    This piece communicated the story of caste system, right from its inception to the medieval stage and thus comprised of an overview of the history of the subject in discussion. This piece has been improvised and completed to be a significant part of the thesis project.
  • EXPLORATION 3: Icon design + Storyboard

    With the previous explorations, I realized that the issue of caste system is too complex to talk about in one piece of motion graphics. More work needs to be done in terms of the amount of information to be conveyed, its categorization and visual vernacular. So, I began developing a symbol system to tell the story of caste system in India. While creating the symbol system, I even began editing the information that was to be used . Following is the story. Some of the icons are inspired by the 'Noun project' of AIGA.
  • Caste system originated in Hinduism and had four categories based on occupation- priests, warrior/ nobility, merchants/ traders and farmers. Until, 1 AD, there was mobility in terms of changing caste. After that, the priests assumed power and made the system more rigid.
  • After 1 AD, a new section was introduced outside the caste pyramid. This was the depressed caste called ‘untouchables’ or ’dalits’ who were deprived of all social rights and faced a lot of oppression from all the other castes. With different foreign invasions in the country, the injustice increased.
  • Social reformers in the 19th century realized that the best way to reduce the oppression of untouchables was to educate all in schools irrespective of the caste they belonged to.
  • After India got independence from the British rule, political reforms were introduced around 1950. 25% reservation was introduced for dalits in higher degree education and government job sector. 
  • Around 1970, the dalits felt that they were not completely given the rights they were promised. Inspired by Black Panther party in USA, dalits started a Dalit Panther party with a motive to fight for the rights they deserved.
  • I thus concluded that people in India can be divided into 3 categories, dalits/ outcaste Hindus aware of their rights, dalit/outcaste Hindus not aware of their rights and people belonging to any religion but not Hindu outcastes.
  • The first category fall prey to illiteracy, physical abuse and forced bonded labor.
  • The second category of people avail their reservation rights and do better in life.
  • The third are against the reservation rights, especially in cities.
  • Thus at many occasions and instances, the caste system in India is compared to racism in the US. At the Durban Review conference against racism in 2009, India’s Independent National Human rights raised the question, 'Is casteism the same as racism?' It is an interesting topic to explore as a designer.
  • EXPLORATION 5: Video Series

    Since contemporary existence of the caste system formed a major part of the content, I thought it would be interesting if I could get Indians to talk about its different aspects. This video is a sample of how I perceived all the interviews to be. This video series went on to be an intrinsic part of the thesis project.

  • Flowchart for the Website
  • Wireframe

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