Aspects of Caste in South India, Ceylon, and North-West Pakistan

By E. R. Leach | Go to book overview
occur, nor are there ever fights between two wards of the same caste within a single village. The violent conflicts that do occur are of two main types.
(1) There can be faction fights between two factions of the same ward -- that is between members of the same caste in the same ward. In such cases members of other castes get drawn into the battle because of a client-patron relationship with some of the principals.
(2) Disputes may originate in a Vellāla rebuking a Palla or other Untouchable labourer who is not his own client. In such cases a Vellāla patron of the low-caste labourer will come to his support. The dispute may then develop into a faction fight with the two Vellalas leading rival mixed-caste factions. Obligations between patron and client normally override considerations of caste solidarity. Gross sexual offences such as that entailed in a Palla man's having sex relations with a Vellāla woman may indeed produce a complete polarization of hostilities along caste lines. But even here the antagonism does not go beyond the ward. In such a case we may find all the Vellālas in one ward attacking all the Pallas in another ward, but the neighbouring wards of the same villages will not become involved.

In short, in Jaffna, the focus of local solidarity sentiment is to be found in the residence group of the caste -- that is the ward -- not in the village as a whole. By contrast, in Tanjore, tension is greatest between villages and between castes of the same village. This appears to confirm the view that the effect on the Jaffna system of many cross-cutting ties is to reduce the level of tension both between villages and between castes, but that this has the effect of increasing social tension within the local residence unit.


NOTES
1
The fieldwork on which this essay is based was financed by the Anthony Wilkin Studentship, a grant from the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a grant from Clare College, Cambridge, and a grant from the Ministry of Education under the Further Education and Training Act. The analysis of the material was financed by the William Wyse Studentship of Trinity College, Cambridge. One year was spent in Chirruppiddi village, and six months further south in the Kilinochchi colony.
2
In India too the dominant caste is often the most numerous. Caste statistics for Sinhalese Ceylon are lacking but in Kandyan areas the Goyigama (who are the dominant caste in the same sense as are the Jaffna Vellāla) are certainly the most numerous group (see Bryce Ryan 1953).
3
These figures and some other details are derived from a questionnaire distributed to all village headmen in the Jaffna peninsula, excluding Jaffna town. It was a total survey, not a random sample. The return was 84.5 % complete by population covered and 90.0% complete by the number of villages covered. No other data are available, as no questions have been asked about caste in censuses subsequent to the Census of 1832.
4
This is exclusive of such temples as celebrate their festivals on an expensive scale with many musicians and dancing-girls. Elaborate festivals of this sort attract large crowds from many miles away; some young men travel many miles night after night to see the girls and listen to the music.

-77-

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