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How Ramnami Sect In Chhattisgarh Fights India's Brutal Caste System By Tattooing Ram's Name

Ramnamis

How Ramnami Sect In Chhattisgarh Fights India's Brutal Caste System By Tattooing Ram's Name

A central Indian community marks its devotion to Ram by tattooing his name all over their bodies as a protest against caste oppression. But their youth are abandoning the tradition as it impedes their social acceptance.

India ink: Ramnamis crossing the narrow bridge that connects Chandli Deeh village Photo: Suresh K. Pandey

They begin their day singing bhajans to Lord Rama. Then, they read stanzas of Ram­cha­ritmanas, the 16th-century epic poem on the exploits of Ram by Tulsidas. They sit in groups, reciting the many names of their god, and sometimes they dance in circles, wearing a shawl with Ram’s name printed on it.

They are all from the Ramnami Samaj, a community in Chhattisgarh that found a unique way of subverting India’s brutal caste system, by tattooing Ram’s name on their bodies and faces, including their eyelids.

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