Death Rituals and Practices (The Hill Saora Tribe of Odisha)
|Subodha Kumar Mohanty
|B.R. Publishing Corporation
|10.00 X 6.50 inch
Subodha Kumar Mohanty (1959) obtained M.A. degree in Anthropology in 1982 and Ph.D in Anthropology, from PG Department of Anthropogy, Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. He is a highly qualified scholar in Anthropology and also received L.L.B. in 1988 and B.Lib.Sc. in 1991 from Utkal University. He has also successfully completed In-Service Museum Training Course in Museum Studies in 1990 from the India Museum Kolkotta. His areas of interest covers the tribal religion, mortuary rituals and paractices as well as ethnographical studies particularly among the Particularly Veneral Tribal Groups (PVTGS) of Odisha. He is serving in the Post-Graduate Deparment of Anthropogy since 1986 and is actively involved in defferent research activities of the department. and museums studies. He has authored two books, authored articles in four edited books and a number of articles on different aspects of Social Anthropology through Field Research in State and National level journals. He is also Life Member of different Anthropology related Bodies of Odisha as well as of India.
Dr.Subodha Kumar Mohanty is to be congratulated for publishing the book titled Death Rituals and Practices: The Hill Saora Tribe of Odisha, originally submitted as a doctoral thesis to the Post Graduate Department of Anthropology of Utkal University, Odisha, India under my guidance.
The book has empirical, theoretical and methodological significance, for according to Mohanty." In traditional societies, people attach utmost importance to observance of death rites. The dead is never forgotten. In other words, the dead continue to remain in the memory of the kinsmen, the community, and the society at large. Study of the culture of death is therefore as important empirically as it is from a theoretical point of view. It helps one realise that death is not a simple phenomenon, neither are death rites and practices. People can afford to be casual towards birth and marriage practices, but they cannot afford to take death practices casually. In many primitive societies of Odisha people call death observances badabaha, meaning 'big marriage’. People would like to invite as many kinsmen and neighbours as possible. Overspending on such occasions leads them to incur debt. Borrowing and mortgaging follow in succession, often leaving succeeding generations caught in a debt-trap. Such a phenomenon is all too common in primitive societies. However people do not seem to mind this sorry state of affairs."
Mohanty's main contribution to the cross-cultural theory of death rituals and practices can be considered in the light of the following hypotheses:
a. Death is a fact of life. It signifies a transition but never separate from life.
b. The world of the dead and world of the living are in constant communion with each other.
c. Lineage members live together even after death. More particularly, the brothers and sisters are the closest of all kins not only in the living world but also in the world of the dead.
During the last 15 years of my association with field training programmes of the Department of Anthropology, Utkal University, I had the unique opportunity of working with Late Prof. P.K. Das and Prof. P.K. Nayak on socio-biological aspects of different tribal communities of Odisha. While supervising the field training programme of P.G. students of Anthropology in areas inhabited by the Hill Saora, also known as LanjiaSaora, I was fascinated by the life style and cultural practices of the tribe. I had the opportunity of observing the participating in many of the socio-cultural practices of the Saora.
Obervation of rituals associated with death inspired me to undertake research on this anthropology of death rituals. I must confess that I was a little apprehensive about the availability of literature of this subject. Verrier Elwins, "The Religion of an Indian Tribe" led me to study the social and cultural processes underlying death rituals.
Professor P.K. Nayak asked me to collect detailed information on death ritual and use them as an window to view the social structure of Saora society. Studying the elaborate mechanisms of death ritual in any society is a difficult task. This death event is always seen as an sorrowful and inauspicious event. In spite of all hardships I experienced in the field I was able to collect information on death rituals to the best of my ability, thanks to the active support of the Saora. The present work would not have been possible without support and co-operation of my Saora friends. While collecting information on death ritual practices of Saora I observed that the role of the sister in death rituals assumes significance when take the relationship of Lord Jagannath with his sister into account.
Human beings everywhere take care of the dead as well as the living. The dead are not ignored, nor neglected. The individual dies, but his social persona continues to remain alive for good. The kinsmen of the dead observe death rites and follow practices in such a way that even if they are aware that they have lost someone, they do not want to miss him/her. The elaborate practices surrounding a death event in most of societies, whether modern or primitive, attest to this view.
In traditional societies, people attach utmost importance to observance of death rites. The dead is never forgotten. In other words, the dead continue to remain in the memory of the kinsmen, the community, and the society at large. The dead are disposed of within the ambit of many an institutional arrangement but not just out to the burial. This is the paradox underlying the cultural understanding of the dead.
Although all human societies observe death ceremonies and several practices are associated with the dead, every society has its own mode of disposal of the dead. Observances of death rituals, which are unique to a society help one understand the cultural mekeup and the social structure of the said society.
Beliefs, worldviews, values and the network of social relationship converge at one point. Only there who have empirically investigated into the elaborate practices associated with death in any primitive society and have observed death ceremonies carefully can describe how the convergence takes place. This conversece which is empirically observable in the primitive world, is no doubt missing in the modern world.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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