Text and Context in Dialogue

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Caste in Nepal

One of the most complex problems facing workers among Hindu peoples is that of caste. This issue of Voice of Bhakti is devoted entirely to discussing this pressing topic. Though caste no longer has any legal basis in Nepal, no-one in his right mind would suggest that the institution of caste is dead. But how vital is it? And what is caste anyway? Is it simply a form of social stratification like the class system in Britain? Is it a system of exploitation and slavery? Is caste a religious phenomenon that we would expect to be abandoned on transfer of allegiance to Christ? What does the Bible have to say to those living in a caste-based society?

For the first time this issue of Voice of Bhakti is written entirely by people with extensive Nepal experience. It is not that Indians do not have anything useful to write on this subject. Caste is alive in India as much as it is here. But the modern manifestation of caste in India is one that has been transposed to a different key than it has been in Nepal. The constitutional and legal framework south of the border has thrown up very different political and economic issues for modern Indians with quotas and reservations making a huge impact on the market place. Till now we have not experienced anything of this in Nepal although it may yet come; the Dalit and indigenous peoples movements are still in their infancy.

In our lead article we make a quick traverse over the literature on caste and then attempt to make some missiological observations. It is a pleasure to publish a response to this article by Peter McDowell. Then follows a review of Bal Krishna Sharma's The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism and its Relevance in the Present Context by John Pettit and trust that it will encourage further writing on this vital topic that is not set to go away anytime soon. We finish with H.L. Richard with some practical tips on ministry among Hindus.

Letters to the editor: Voice of Bhakti welcomes interaction with its readers.

bhakti. bhakti, nom. devotion, love, loyalty