While puppy videos are usually a whole lof of fun, a particular video of a puppy being welcomed into an NRI family's home while family members performed aarti has led to a debate about casteist practices on social media in India.
In the viral video, a woman can be seen bringing a puppy into a home and dipping its feet in red alta (paint) before imprinting its paw marks on a sheet of paper. The puppy is then held up Simba style by the woman while another performs arti on the little puppy. the little pup is then allowed to wander into the house on its own.
The ritual mimics one that is often seen in Hindu weddings when a new bride is made to step into alta before entering her husband's home for the first time. The scene has been popularised and romanticised through various Indian film and song sequences and is a popular part of Desi wedding culture.
Originally shared on TikTok by Shreyagid, the video has garnered over 4.7 million views in 24 hours.
While the initial reactions to the videos ranged from joy to surprise, the post soon started attracting attention for all the wrong reasons. Twitter user Thaiyaan who is known to be vocal about his anti-caste views took to the comments and called the video an attempt to "whitewash Brahmanical rituals" as something "cute".
Don't underestimate these casteist bigots promoting these practices, it's all part of the larger agenda, basically to whitewash the brahmanical rituals as something 'cute' and 'holy' customs.— Thaiyaan (@thaiyaan) September 15, 2020
The post reminded netizens of Chunchu Nair, the upper-caste cat whose obituary caused a stir last year in December after it went viral on Twitter. The "Nair cat", as the feline went on to be known, belonged to a Kerala family and led to widespread debate about the anthropomorphisation of caste.
Reminds me of that Kerala family adding Nair to their as a cat's last name— (@sopranoxs) September 15, 2020
Bramanization 1000000000000000000000000000000 https://t.co/gBB5rf6IYw— Bêyøñder (@Beyonder_Dk00) September 15, 2020
The discussion drifted to casteism and colourism, the latter being a product of the former in case of India, was also evident in the adoption of pets.
my mom said black is bad luck and we took in a white lab lmao— (@sopranoxs) September 15, 2020
Similar things happen.. Even black cats are not adopted..See this guy he is so cute pic.twitter.com/1MqATqZ7Hg— Naveen (@nAruToUzumak95) September 15, 2020
Indian journalists and influencers also joined the discussion. Journalist Naomi Barton referred to the "ostensibly harmless and cute" practice as a marker of endemic casteism and a reminder of the "edifice on which Brahmanism is built".
This is, ostensibly harmless and cute but says a lot about how the entire edifice on which Brahmanism is built is a construct, given how this is now a Hindu Upper Caste... Golden Retriever? Also it is 2020. Get rescued dog, and don't contribute to awful puppy mills. https://t.co/KYRDBdNPeI— Naomi Barton (@therealnaomib) September 15, 2020
Andre Borges and others also shared the video.
♀️ the poor puppy looks petrified. Just give him a bone to chew on for god’s sake!— Ira Dugal (@dugalira) September 15, 2020
There were others, however, who felt that the video did not really reflect casteism as much as how extra families can be sometimes when it comes to their pets. Many also pointed out that Brahmins were not the only ones who practiced the "grihapravesh" ritual.
A lot of people consider dogs as family members and it’s a harmless thing to do frankly. I don’t see why this is problematic at all. To each his own. Am sure they will take very good care of the puppy since they are clearly most excited to have him/her— Rohini Singh (@rohini_sgh) September 15, 2020
This has the same energy as cats with Prayer Mats pic.twitter.com/9c9gUwFh2E— Sian R ✨ (@_Sian_Roberts) September 15, 2020
While the dog in the video has a caste or not is yet to be ascertained, Barton and Borges have since been under fire from bigoted trolls attacking them for their comments with offensive terms like "rice bags".
This isn't the first time that Brahmanical casteism has been a talking point on social media. Recently, Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy faced a lot of flak from anti-caste activists after she that Brahminism was not just about Brahmins.