fluidity of the cesspool

once upon a time, not so long ago, educated hindus found a handy teddy bear in the theory of sanskritization. if a jati can move up the hierarchy by shedding its old, ugly customs and beliefs and adopting sanskritic mores, the caste system can't be so bad, right? it is flexible, allows mobility,. and what if the jatis themselves do not disappear, what's wrong if people still marry within their own jatis..look, these things exist in the west too, like in... (drop the name of an advanced western nation and mention how they still practice a certain kind of social stratification etc., here).

as i said, a handy teddy bear to help you comfort yourself, to ward off any demons that might hound your conscience. that'd help you dismiss any doubts about how would sanskritization promote substantive inclusiveness if you continue to practise caste in everything that you do. people do not flock to medaram to satisfy ancient, atavistic impulses. they go there because they do not feel included, and not just in the scriptural fold but also in the many structures and processes that govern this nation, and state. like i had pointed out here:
* there are 59 scheduled caste communities in andhra pradesh and no aspirant from over 50 of those communities has ever been elected to the state assembly (or council),
* the other backward class communities in the state number 93- no aspirant from over 70 of them has ever been elected to the state assembly (or council)
medaram, with all its superstition, represents the religions of these communities more than prayaga, with all its superstition. and these religions survive the steady onslaught of not just sanskritization, but also westernization, because their adherents haven't moved up. and they haven't moved up because the caste system still is what it always was: a hierarchical structure. which means only a few can occupy the top.

in my last post, i'd hinted that sanskritization did ensure mobility for a few communities across india, but taking into account the general status of the overwhelming majority of the castes broadly categorized as hindus one can clearly see that sanskritization doesn't ensure either mobilty or equality.

i found in this article by m.shahbaz saeed, a pakistani researcher, a useful explanation of how sanskritization worked and still works for the few communities ( 'intermediate castes', or 'middle castes' or 'upper-obcs' ) i'd mentioned in the last paragraph:
As the modern age has infringed on the classic Indian social order, the traditional Indian society has been transformed into the upper national elite living in urban areas, and the rural social elite, comprising both the dominant peasant castes and the upper rural class.The ruling national elites, although they belonged to the upper “dwija” castes, had become detached from their traditional ritual status and functions. They had acquired new interests in the changed (planned) economy, and lifestyles which came through modern education, non-traditional occupations, and a degree of westernization which accompanied this process. The dominant castes of the regional elites still depend more on Sanskritization than on westernization in their pursuit of upward social mobility. But they encourage their new generations to acquire modern, English-medium education and to adopt new professions. Consequently, such communities as Patidars, Marathas, Reddys, Kammas, and their analogues in different regions were identified with “upper castes”, and not with “backward castes”. Acquisition of modern education and interest in the new planned economy enabled them, like the dwija upper castes, to claim for themselves a new social status and identity, i.e., that of the middle class.

At the same time, the caste identities of both these sections of the “middle class” were far from dissolved. They could comfortably own both the upper-caste status and the middle-class identity, as both categories had become concomitant with each other. While the alliance between the upper caste national elite and the dominant caste regional elites remained tenuous in politics, together they continued to function as a new power-group in the larger society. With the formation and functioning of the middle class as a power group in Indian politics, the elite caste fused with class. Now status, rather than caste as such, had acquired a pronounced power dimension. Since the process of converting traditional status into a new power status was restricted only to the upper rungs in the ritual hierarchy, they sought to use that power in establishing their own caste-like hegemony over the rest of society.It is this nexus between the upper traditional status and new power that has inhibited the transformative potentials of both modernization and democracy in India.
medaram would of course be steadily sanskritized, in the near future. over the last one decade, the state government has slowly moved in, to organize the festival better. just like governments elsewhere organize the kumbh etc. would that make the pilgrims hindus?

1 comment:

gaddeswarup said...

I remember some village deities like 'poleramma' etc who did not have equivalents in hinduism. I think some were associated ( to ward off) with diseases like small pox . I do no remember whether there were temples to them. Do you know whether people still 'celebrate' some of them? I vaguely remember DD Kosambi describe the worship some prehistoric deities in Poona region. There is also the theory that there were no temples but only sacred groves ans perhaps mounds and wooden structures before Budhism. It will be interesting to study the continuation of some of these traditions.
By the way, the A.P. Govt.seems to have targets for liquor sales during some of these festivities.

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