Knowing Your PlaceThe ancient capital of the Kathmandu Valley is an earthy composition of ornate brickwork and wood filigreed temples built by the Newar tribe. In Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square; the relief carvings on the golden Suun Dhoka Gate, and stone images of the eighteen-armed Ugrachandi, elephant-headed Ganesha, and hawk-billed Garuda transport you back to an mythic era when India was the jewel of Asia.
The Hindu caste system was once a pragmatic attempt to provide a stable social structure to an unruly population of wild, war-like nomads, and overcome those problems inherent in a primitive environment. But, like all human “solutions,” those who come out on top can afford to view it as a panacea.
“In our community, there is very little crime,” says Gopal—a Brahmin, of course—with condescending pride. “Not like in your country. That is because we are a very religious people. We believe our lives are governed by the gods. So everything is already worked out for us, you see? We do not have to worry about who we will marry, or how many children we will have, because the gods will take care of that. If we have lots of money it is because the gods will us to have it. If we are poor, or of a low caste, it is also because of the gods. We always have someone to thank—or someone to blame. So, no problem! Everyone knows his place.”