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Eclipse of Old Sanctions

Rama Mehta

By Anand Chakravarti
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1975, 234, 50.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Contradiction and Change by Anand Chakravarti is the outcome of intensive field work in Devisar, a multi-caste village in Rajasthan. The book is of interest to the serious student of sociology. This is not a light book to be pursued by those who are interested in getting a glimpse of the process of the changing patterns of Indian society. Anand Chakravarti within the limited framework of his study has, with great care and insight, shown the role that modern institutions play in a traditional ritualistic society. He has, furthermore, shown that because old sanctions are being eclipsed there is no dramatic change of the system. There is a period when traditional etiquette coexists with modern institutions. This is in spite of secular authority being backed by the police and governmental agencies. Through case histories, he has convincingly shown that villagers make their own equations with the police and thus compromise to some extent their work ethics. The main reforms that affected the villagers were land reforms, adult franchise and democratic decentralization. This affected leadership roles, overthrowing Rajput supremacy. The relations of superordination and subordination based on Rajput dominance gave way to the people deciding in what caste coalition lay their interests.  In this multi-caste village of Devisar the dominance of the Rajputs was indisputable and even when govern­ment formally deprived the Bhomias of their lands in 1954 and distributed it to the people, the villagers continued to pay ritualistic respect to them and main­tained their traditional hierarchical status. The book through empirical data shows that traditional attitudes continue but gradually weaken as the cultivator and the villager realizes his power in the political processes of the village. This again is a process in which economic self-interest plays an important part. The book deals with the other castes and their historical role in relation to the Bhomias. Each subor­dinate caste served the Bhomias because they control­led the land. But the authority of the Bhomias depended on their economic prosperity too. Many of them, due to bad management of their lands or inherited debts, were forced to borrow money from the lower castes. This changed their inter-personal relationship with them in private though publicly they maintained the form of caste superiority. The upward mobility of a lower caste due to economic strength is shown in the case of the Dhobi caste. Due to the dominant role of the Bhomias ...

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