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

By E. R. Leach | Go to book overview

We have been concerned with the flexibility of caste principles in the spheres of endogamy and ritual status. In doing so, I have drawn attention to irregularities of practice which contrast with what Professor Lévi-Strauss has called 'the conscious model' of social structure ( 1953: 526), the core principles of caste distinction. These irregularities are significant, for the resolution of contradiction itself demonstrates the power of caste concepts.

I have shown (a) how cross-caste unions did not affect caste boundaries which were re-established in every case; (b) how changes in ritual status were 'validated' by recourse to traditional 'identification marks' which reaffirmed the values inherent in them.

It does not seem to me likely, then, that there will be any early abandonment of caste principles, even under conditions of improved physical mobility and urbanization. [14]


NOTES
1
In these respects, as in his garments, the Buddhist monk imitates the behaviour of a Hindu sannyasi (cf. Carstairs 1957: 101-2; Coplestone 1892: 456-7; Zimmer 1946: 162 n.).
2
One pāla of land is the area sown with one pāla basket of rice seed. It is a variable area of round about half an acre.
3
(This is not the universal opinion. Elsewhere in Ceylon a Goyigama villager remarked 'There must always be caste, for at festivals we need drummers and if there were no Tom-tom Beaters who would do the drumming?' E. R.L. Ed.)
4
A typical vasagama would be, for example, Senanayaka Seneviratne Herat Mudiyansā Iā gē Welakona Watte Gedara Banda: that is, Banda of the House (Gedara) of Welakonawatte descended from Knight (Mudiānse) S. S. Herat (see Pieris 1956. 172; Tambiah 1958: 24).
In the Maritime Provinces the status of the Kardāa is very high. They claim Kshatriya descent. In the interior, where the Goyigama predominate, they are not accorded the same respect.
6
This use of needs to be clearly distinguished from the Low Country Sinhalese ' name' to which Ryan ( 1953) refers rather frequently.
7
The normal word for wife is simply 'woman' (gānē); pavula is more polite, and the politest is 'lady' (hāmine).
8
Expressed in the phrases -- yanni enni ne; kanni bonni ne; sambanda ne (lit. no going and coming; no eating and drinking; no marriage). More directly, they may say, nākam kādēla (kinship is broken).
9
In all cases known to me the husband is rich and the girl's parents benefit from the association. They may even receive some money, but such pseudo-bridewealth payments are always kept secret, for it would be said that the woman has been prostituted' for material gain.
10
These are in the Nuwara Eliya Kachcheri. I was allowed access to them by the kind permission of Mr B. F. Perera, C.C.S., then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
11
In the Registers of 1857-61 eight aristocratic houses own, between them, 196 pāla of paddy; twenty-one ordinary Goyigama families own 188-5 Pāla; those of low rank own only 35 pāla. Le Mesurier ( 1898: 266 ff.) provides both land and population figures. He gives an average land holding for 'Terutenne' as a whole,

-111-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors to This Issue vi
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction: What Should We Mean by Caste? 1
  • Notes 10
  • Caste in a Tanjore Village 11
  • Notes 60
  • Caste in Jaffna 61
  • Notes 77
  • The Flexibility Of Caste Principles in A Kandyan Community 78
  • Notes 111
  • The System Of Social Stratification in Swat, North Pakistan 113
  • Notes 146
  • Bibliography 147
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