Relative Status of Brahmins Across India in 1931

15 Apr

One of the common misunderstandings about caste in India is that the extent of Brahmin privilege is similar across India. One way we can investigate this is by examining literacy rates across castes. In the 1931 census, the Bombay region was a picture of Brahmin dominance, with the literacy rate of Brahmins 1.7x that of the next caste group (Lohana). In Madras, the dominance is less pronounced, with the literacy rates of Brahmins 1.25x that of the next caste group, Nayars. But if you move to Punjab, the pattern reverses, with Brahmins no longer the most literate caste. The Khatri literacy rate in Punjab is 1.7x that of Brahmins. (See also Bengal, where Brahmins were not the most literate caste.)

Punjab and Sind are also interesting for their small populations of Scheduled Castes, with just 4.5% of the population categorized as such compared to the average of about 14% (Appendix II of Ambedkar’s book on Pakistan). (This is thought to be partly a result of conversions to Sikhism and Islam.)