Brahmanas of South India
|Author:||DR. NAGENDRA RAO|
|Other Details||9.00 X 6.00 inch|
This book Brahmanas of South India attempts to present the critical analysis of traditional historical literature pertaining to significant caste groups, brahmanas of South Western India. The work employs historical, sociological and anthropological methodology of critique of traditional brahmanical literature. The study is based on analysis of two literary Sources, Gramapaddhati, and Sahyadri Khanda. This study of literature is corroborated by the extensive fieldwork undertaken in thirty-two brahmanical villages which at present belong to Karnataka and Kerala. The work asserts the presence of strong historical tradition among the people of South India in the pre modern period. This opus attempts to demonstrate the value of caste Puranas to reconstruct the social history of a region.
Dr. Nagendra Rao is working as Lecturer in History, Goa University, from 1996. He secured First Rank with Gold Medal in M.A. In M.Phil he secured First Class with distinction. His M.Phil dissertation was entitled The Historical Tradition of South Kanara and the Brahmanical Groups: A Study of Gramapaddhati and Sahyadri Khanda. He completed his Ph.D. in 2002. His Ph.D. thesis is entitled. Craft Production and Trade in South Kanara: A.D. 1000-1763. His research articles have been published in reputed reviewed national and international journals and edited books. Dr. Rao specializes in history of ancient India, social and economic history of medieval India.
It is with immense pleasure, and a certain amount of pride, that I present this book by Dr. Nagendra E. Rao to the world of scholarship. I may have to start by dispelling certain misgivings about the subject matter of the book. A book on the history of the Brahmanical groups in South Kanara is likely to raise the question whether it is about a particular caste group. and a limited geographical area. The answer is both "yes" and "no", Dr. Rao does deal with the Brahmanical groups; and his primary concern is geographically limited to the southern parts of coastal Karnataka. However, the study he has undertaken does open out into something more than that, taking up questions related to the social function of historical tradition, patterns of group migrations and settlement, types of domination and its linkages with forces and relations of production, the role of ideology in it and the memories - whether remembered or legislated of group experience cherished by sections of society. Hence I believe. that a word or two, bringing out this transcendental character of this book on a small caste within a limited geographical area, may not be out of place.
Historiography of coastal Karnataka cannot quite boast that it has grown beyond the elementary levels. The giant strides that historiography has taken in recent years in India have left this part of the country largely unaffected. In fact, many primary "facts" remain to be ascertained; many documents pertaining to the past await publication, let alone interpretation and generalization. When, in the nineteenth century, historical writing on "modem" lines began in this region, the pioneering attempts were to find out the historicity or otherwise of legends, of which there were many. Thus, scholars tried hard to historicise the weightless stories that floated in an air of fancy stories about Parasurama, Mayuravarman, Bhutala Pandya and others thus trying to concoct a strange mixture of two traditions with entirely different functions. The colonial masters, who were convinced that "the master knew better", dismissed what is available in the indigenous tradition as legend, superstition and nonsense. Their mission to create a new knowledge, which would suit the regime of power that they presided over, demanded such a rejection: it was in fact a precondition for it. They had their willing ally in the missionaries, primarily of the Basel Mission, who studied not only the cults and practices and the oral literature associated with it in the region but also characterized them as so much of devil worship and folk tradition, obviously implying that the "natives" were less than their masters who had a "standard" religion, a book and a literate literature. The Utilitarian and Evangelical agendas of the two coalesced only too well. It was this that was carried forward in the manuals and Gazetteers, which pronounced the official version of the history of this region.
This work attempts to study the traditional chronicles of South Kanara and see how these traditions were utilised by brahmanical groups to justify their already superior social position and status. The traditional histories of South Western India, Gramapaddhati and Sahyadri Khanda are authored by brahmanas who made use of a particular version of history which benefited their own community. The traditions are utilized to uphold the caste status of brahmanas in the region. Both the chronicles, Gramapaddhati and Sahyadri Khanda, speak about the tradition of Parasurama creating the land on the west coast and donating it to brahmanas. These two works speak also about the arrival of various. brahmanical groups into the region. Thus, these texts noticed the migration of different brahmanical groups into South Kanara. The emphasis given to brahmanical details in the chronicles, the level of sense of history expressed in these traditions, the link maintained between Parasurama srişti or creation and the ownership of land claimed by brahmanas are highlighted in this monograph.
A study of the contents of Gramapaddhati shows the importance given by its authors to certain events. The events are narrated in the form of episodes without giving importance to chronological accuracy. This exhibits the feature of a traditional history of a region and the traditional chronicles on the west coast maintained some link with the history of the region. In the case of South Western India, the traditional histories, Grampaddhati and Sahyadri Khanda, reveal the sense of history of their authors, thus proving the existence of a historical tradition in this region. These authors provided certain pieces of information which can be compared with the evidences from other sources available to us such as epigraph and the continuing traditions of families. The present work proposes to make an attempt by searching for evidences for the family names and the villages which are mentioned in different versions of Gramapaddhati. The author, through the fieldwork, has been able to confirm the identity of villages, most of which continue to exist even today.
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