09 September, 2012
The World of the Oraon: Their Symbols in Time and Space
By- Abhik Ghosh
In the early 1990s renowned anthropologist Sarat Chandra Roy published his ethnographies on Oraons, one of the numerous tribes in Chotanagpur region. Since then there has been no major work on this tribe, one of the largest in the areas.
The present work begins by using the symbol as a key ingredient in classifying and analyzing criteria used in the cognition of the Oraons. It goes into the detail of symbol formation to show how they are used in everyday contexts. Symbols include aspects of rituals, festivals and knowledge about other spheres of Oraon life. Since the raw material of anthropological studies comes ultimately from the individual, it is the latter who is the focus of this study.
The idea of time, space and boundaries help the Oraons to practice a large variety of medical practices for their curative and other health requirements. Further, the identity of the Oraons as one having a religion is also ambivalent, caused by inclusion-exclusion realities of various kinds operating on them. This makes them include converts to Christianity for certain reasons and also to resent and reject them for others. These ideas further enable them to politically create a pan-community identity as Jharkhandis, creating a demand for a space to be created called Jharkhand, having its own individual culture separate from other states around them. This imagined homeland became a reality recently with the creation of Jharkhand.
This work attempts a major stocktaking of the Oraons nearly a hundred year after Roy’s classic works appeared.
Abhik Ghosh is a Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at Panjab University, Chandigarh. He holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Delhi. He has conducted fieldwork in the Chotanagpur region of Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.
The Valley of Kashmir: The Making and Unmaking of a Composite Culture?
By- Aparna Rao (ed.)
With a Foreword and an Introductory Essay by T.N. Madan
The Valley of Kashmir, long famous around the world for its unparalleled natural scenic beauty also has a rich cultural heritage with religious tolerance and amity among people belonging to different religious faiths as its core. The arrival of Islam in the late fourteenth century and its interaction with an ancient Shaiva tradition resulted in the emergence of a liberal version of the faith. It was a turning point in Kashmir’s history. Popular culture grew rich with folk tale, song, dance and music and with what craftsman could weave, stitch and shape with their nimble fingers.
When self-rule came in 1947, it was overshadowed by armed intervention to secure the accession of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to Pakistan. The dispute over the issue is still unresolved. Within the Valley, years of opportunistic policies pursued by Delhi and corruption and misgovernance by Srinagar proved to be fertile soil for the eruption of a violent, jehadi, secessionist movement around 1980 that drove the Hindu minority into exile, tore apart the composite culture, and resulted in large scale loss of life and property. There are signs visible today that the utter futility of the path of violence, which engendered counter violence, has dawned on some of its votaries.
These and other issues are addressed in this volume by a galaxy of scholars, including Kashmiris, from India, France, Germany, the UK and the USA under the thoughtful editorship of Aparna Rao who, sadly, died before the work could be placed with a publisher. Throughout the preparation of this volume, Rao worked in consultation with Professor T.N. Madan. The result is a book rich in information, insights and interpretations that entitle it to stand alongside Walter Lawrence’s classic work, The Valley of Kashmir (1985), from which its title is borrowed.
Aparna Rao received her doctorate in anthropology from the University of Paris, Sorbonne. At the time of her death in 2005 she was associated with the Department of Anthropology, the University of Cologne (Germany).
T.N. Madan is Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Economic Growth (University of Delhi), Honoray Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London) and Docteur Honoris Causa of the University of Paris, Nanterre.