The Hindu Caste System And The Ritual Idiom
The Hindu caste system has registered for long an engrossing and abiding interest of the Oriental and the Occidental scholars alike, whence has proceeded an enormous body of literature on the different aspects of this complex phenomenon. But the literature on the Hindu caste system vis-à-vis ritual idiom is relatively scanty and sketchy. Dr. Saraf?s study offers a systematic and scholarly exposition in this regard. It throws a flood of light on the varna-jati phenomenon by focusing sharply on the emergence and crystallization of varna and jati as the structural principles and highlighting the dynamics of social mobility through the processes of upward evolution (jatyutkarsa) and downward devolution (jatyapakasa) of the person born out of inter-varna unions. Like Ketkar, Hocart, Bougle, Steevenson and others, Dr. Saraf treats the ritual phenomenon as central/pivotal to the Hindu caste system and proceeds to delinerate the contours of the ritual idiom and its relevance to the caste system. Toeing the line with Leach, the ?Prolegomena? of his book discusses the ritual idiom as a sociological category while the rest of the chapters spotlight the caste system and the ritual idiom as an ethnographic category with a view to spelling out their historical moorings and their cosmological perspective, their role as it gets enacted in the rhythm of their role as it gets enacted in the rhythm of daily life as well as life cycle. Treating the ritual idiom as a triad comprising sets of polar opposite categories of cognition ? purity/pollution, auspiciousness/inauspiciousness and spiritual merit/spiritual demerit, the author highlights its import in both individual as well as societal contexts. Although inspired by Srinivas? Religion and Society Among the Coorgs of South India, the present work marks a departure from Srinivas, classic monograph in that it is a scripture-based study that stands at the veritable ?point of confluence of sociology (anthropology) and Indology?, thereby exemplifying the dumont-dictum and reviving the classical research style in anthropology. As such, it is expected to register an enthusiastic and welcoming response from both social scientists and Indologists all the world over.
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