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Of Muslim Rajputs


Reema Bhatia

KINSHIP AND RITUALS AMONG THE MEO OF NORTHERN INDIA: LOCATING SIBLING RELATIONSHIP
By Raymond Jamous
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 198, Rs. 545.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 2 February 2005

The monograph under review is the last of the series titled ‘French Studies in South Asian Culture and Society’. Nora Scott has translated the book from the French. The data for the book is based on fieldwork conducted among the Meo in October 1982—July 1983 and December 1985. The Meo are a part of the Rajput group of the Mewat region. They claim descent from one of the five great agnatic groups of the Rajputs and allege to have converted from Hinduism to Islam many centuries ago. “The Meo are set apart from the other Rajput groups by the organization of the Mewat region into pal (territories connected with a patrilineal clan) and got (patrilineal clans), and by their being members of the Muslim faith” (p. 177).   “…The Meo are not Muslims and Rajputs; they are Muslim Rajputs…” (p. 33). The truth of this statement is reflected in the impact of Hinduism in many aspects of their daily and ritual life. They believe themselves to be Kshatriya Rajputs. Their place in the network of jajmani relationships in the village is well established. They follow Islamic as well as Hindu traditions in their daily and ritual lives.   Jamous presents the view that the distinction between consanguine and affines is not always as sharp, as has been presented in the case of the Dravidian and North Indian kinship systems by thinkers like Dumont. He introduces the term metasiblings, to express the lack of absolute distinction between consanguines (relatives through blood) and affines (relatives through marriage) among the Meo in North India. Metasiblings are all consanguines and affines of the ego’s (person from whom the kinship relationships are reckoned) generation, who are in kinship terminology referred to as brothers and/or sisters. The concept of metasibling is used for both consanguineous and affinal siblings in the ego’s generation. The principle of metasiblingship transcends the distinction between consanguines and affines.   The starting point of analysis for Jamous is the relationship that marriage creates between two brothers-in-law or two sisters-in-law. He analyses the use of the term ‘bhai’ and ‘bahin’ in the ego’s generation by using a basic cell, of the ego and a person to whom the ego is related by marriage.   At the most general level the two terms are used without distinction of generation or age, the distinction is only one of gender. It does not distinguish between those whom you can marry ...


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