INTRODUCTIONThe Jaffna peninsula is the northernmost part of Ceylon. An arid limestone-
coral formation, it has little or no surface water except during the monsoon
season, but there is reasonably abundant well-water. Rice is grown, irrigated
only by rainfall, while there is extensive garden cultivation (including tobacco,
onions, and chillies as cash crops) irrigated from wells. There are also large
palmyra plantations and a smaller area of coconut palms; these of course
need no irrigation. Apart from the manufacture of Jaffna cigars, a number
of garages, one cement factory, and a coconut-oil mill, there is virtually no
industry. Jaffna is not, however, an area out of touch with the rest of the
world; it is highly literate and has a substantial export of educated manpower
to the rest of Ceylon and, until vev recently, to Malaya.Historically Jaffna has connexions both to the south, with Sinhalese
Buddhist Ceylon, and to the north, with Tamil Hindu India. Today language,
culture and religion are predominantly Hindu, but this has not always been
so; the struggle, both military and cultural, has swayed back and forth across
north Ceylon for upwards of two millennia. Not surprisingly, Jaffna is in
some respects an interstitial area. Since the aim of this publication is to explore
variations on the theme of caste, and caste is ordinarily an institution defined
by reference to the Indian sub-continent, my contribution will be one which
looks northward to compare and contrast the Jaffna system with that of
South India, and in particular with the caste system of Tanjore, which lies
only twenty-eight miles away across the Palk Strait. This does not imply that
I consider everything in Jaffna culture to have an exclusively Indian Tamil
origin. Whatever may be the current of today's cultural drift towards an
increasing separation of Tamil and Sinhalese culture and social organization,
it is reading history backwards to suppose that a sharp cleavage has always
JAFFNA'S SEVERAL SYSTEMS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATIONTo clarify what I mean by caste in the Jaffna context it is sufficient to state
that Jaffna society has the following characteristics which can be considered
typical for most Hindu systems.
|(1) There are a number of named endogamous strata.|
|(2) There is a concept of pollution.|
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon, and North-West Pakistan.
Contributors: E. R. Leach - Editor.
Publisher: University Press.
Place of publication: Cambridge.
Publication year: 1962.
Page number: 61.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may
not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.