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Hindus and Tribals – Quest for Co-Existence

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Item Code: IDD236
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Author: G.N. Dash
Edition: 1998
ISBN: 818692101X
Pages: 154
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.6" X 5.8"
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The complex process of tribal absorption into the Hindu society and the mobility of jatis in the varna scale has been keenly studied by scholars in the past under various labels – 'Sanskritization', 'Brahmanization' and so on; however, there has resulted a tediousness owing to us of the same old trends and methods of research. Hindu and Tribals is a trend-setter in this regard as it studies the workings of this process from fresh perspectives using new methodologies – of inter-disciplinary approach, for instance.

Prof. G.N. Dash, a learned scholar in the field, studies the tribals; absorption into the Hindu society and their upward movement in the jati hierarchy in medieval Orissa at the micro level. The author sheds some new light on the history of the Jagannatha cult by considering folk versions of this tradition. The salient feature of the work is its freshness in approach: its focus is on interaction of the socio-economic, religious and cultural forces and counter-forces unlike traditional historical works which primarily record the political events. Adopting a new methodology, it uses the concepts and tools of social sciences like ethnology to analyse historical data. Setting new trends in Orissan historiography, it emphasizes the traditional account as a source material and seeks to discover the historical background of its evolution rather than its historical background of its historical basis as such. Prof. G.N. Dash emerges with important statements that scholars and historiographers cannot afford to ignore: for instance, the strong possibility of tribal origin of the Sudha Suaras and Daitas (temple servants at Jagannatha shrine).

With an extensive bibliography and index, this work is invaluable for further studies in Orissan historiography. Its well-researched statements and originality in approach would provide researchers fresh material and methods for study and extend young scholars the necessary motivation to adopt new methodological trends in research.

About the Author

Prof. Gaganendra Nath Dash (b. 1940) is a scholar in the field of Orissan studies. A Ph.D. from Utkal University, he has specialized in Oriya language studies and ethnohistory and socio-religious history of Orissa. He has written a number of papers and books on the subject. Presently, he is head of the Department of Linguistics, Berhampur University.


This small monograph is an extended version of a paper the first draft of which was prepared in later 1973 under the title, "The Role of the Priests in the Development of Indradyumna Legend". The type-script of this draft paper was circulated among the members of the Orissa Research Project sponsored by the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, West Germany as a part of the Interdisciplinary Regional Research Programme (DFG), Bonn. The project with members drawn from different disciplines belonging to the universities of Heidelberg and Freiburg in West Germany, and University of Udayapur, Visva-Bharati and Utkal University in India was primarily studying the formation and function of the regional tradition as exemplified in the cult of Jagannatha in Orissa. I had the opportunity to work as a Member (and for some time as the Field Director) of this Project. The preparation of my draft paper can be said to be a direct outcome of another draft paper titled, "Ksatriyaization and Social Change: A Study in Orissa Setting", written and circulated among the members of the Project by Hermann Kulke, a member-colleague in the Project which has subsequently been published. Ruprecht Geib, another member-colleague, was also then engaged in studying the Indradyumna legend thoroughly in order to shed new light on the origin and development of the cult of Jagannatha, which might have been indirectly responsible for attracting my attention to the same traditional account, Later, some of my findings were incorporated in two of my papers on the Evolution of the Priestly Power which were included, along with 23 other papers written by the members of the Project, in the comprehensive volume The Cult of Jagannatha and the Regional Tradition of Orissa (1978) edited by A. Eschmann, H. Kulke and G.C. Tripathi in which most of the major findings of the Project have been published.

In 1979 a much revised and enlarge version of my original draft paper was presented in a seminar held in Bhubaneswar under the auspices of Centre for Advanced Study in History and Culture, Bhubaneswar. Both H. Kulke and Bhabagrahi Misra were shown this revised version and they in turn offered their comments. Still later a further enlarged Oriya version was prepared and published in the literary monthly, the Jhankar in 1981. Between 1984 and 1985 when I was working on a fellowship from the ICHR, New Delhi an improved and further enlarged version was prepared. When I visited Germany 1987-88 on a cultural exchange programme sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), I carried the same with me. There, Prof. H. von Stietencron, Professor of Indology and Comparative Religion, University of Tuebingen and a former member-colleague in the Orissa Research Project was kind enough to go through this rather very long paper and agreed with most of my conclusions. This was a source of great encouragement to me. At Tuebingen I also got the opportunity to collect some more material on the subject at the excellent collection on India in the famous central library of the University of Tuebingen as well as in the Seminar Library of the Department of Indology. After I came back from Germany I decided to publish this already long paper I the form of a small book. The present monograph is the outcome of that decision.

After the manuscript of this monograph was prepared Hermann Kulke, my former colleague in Orissa Research Project and presently Professor, Chair of Asian History, Kiel University, Germany went through the entire manuscript thoroughly and offered his comments while generally appreciating the work. Some of his comments were later utilized I revising the monograph. Among other things he suggested to me the term ksatriyaization which I decided to accept and use but for a different phenomenon. I am grateful to Hermann Kulke for his comments, suggestions and appreciation.


In this small monograph an attempt has been made to study the interaction of the socio-economic, religious, cultural forces and counter-forces unlike the traditional historical works in the field of Orissan historiography and was almost completely unknown prior to conscious and pioneering attempts made in this direction by the members of erstwhile Orissa Research Project in their various publications. This new trend was based on the assumption that it is absolutely necessary to study the inter-play of the socio-economic and religious-cultural forces and counter-forces in order to be able to understand and reconstruct history as sometimes – if not invariably always – the political and even the military events are rooted in the same. In contrast, the earlier trend of recording primarily the political and military events subordinating everything else to that is based on the belief that the social, economic, religious and cultural events are not related to one another; they are subsidiary to the political and military events and perhaps also always sprang from the same source if not completely independent developments. The earlier trend had resulted in the production of a number of papers and books on Orissan history usually adopting a framework in which after political and military events were presented most prominently the social, economic, religious, educational, cultural and administrative (revenue and judiciary etc.) events were grouped together, then arranged chronologically and finally presented in a manner as if these events were completely unrelated, independent developments if not – which is more likely – shown to be somehow rooted in political and military events. As opposed to that, the new trend in turn has set another methodological new rend of using the concepts and methodological tools of other social sciences, especially of ethnology, the analyse and understand the historical data. Though these two new trends created a stir among the scholars, especially the historians of Orissa specifically immediately after the publication of the earlier mentioned The Cult of Jagannatha and the Regional Tradition of Orissa in 1978, they have not been able to make much headway since then due to the adverse reaction of some scholars of traditional school with conservative outlook. The present monograph endeavours to take these new trends only a step forward. If it would be able to induce some future scholars to follow up these new trends I will consider myself amply rewarded.


Besides, this small monograph seeks to set two new trends in the Orissan historiography. Firstly in this work much more weightage has been given to the traditional account as a source material of history than is the practice in the contemporary Orissan scene. (Why and in what circumstances the importance of the traditional accounts as a source material of Orissan history has been minimized has been explained elsewhere in this work). Further, the traditional account has been subjected to a completely novel method of analysis here in order to extract the historical truth – flowing like an undercurrent – out of the same. It has been sought to discover the historical background of the emergence and evolution of the traditional account in contrast to seeking to dig out the historical basis of the same – if any – in order to arrive at the historical truth. That way this little monograph promises to be a trend-setter at least in the context of Orissan historiography (Dr. Ruprect Geib's excellent work on Indradyumna legend though a pioneering work in the field is virtually unknown in Orissa as it is written in German). Of course since the late seventies I have been attaching much more importance to the traditional account as a source material of history and adopting this new method of analyzing the same while reconstructing the socio-religious history of Orissa in my various papers and in my monograph titled, Janasruti Kanci-Kaveri (1979) written in Oriya. Though these have been able to attract the attention of the scholars and other intellectuals of Orissa in general to the importance of the traditional accounts as a source material and to the methodological innovation in analyzing the same, the professional historians, i.e., those who teach history in colleges and universities being generally of conventional and conservative outlook have tended to ignore though not outrightly reject them. (Among only a few exceptions the name of Kailash Chandra Dash is worth mentioning who has shown active interest in them). I now very sincerely hope that his little monograph will be able to induce some young professional historians of Orissa to give the traditional accounts their due, which has been long denied to them as a source material of history and undertake and sharpen the new method employed here to analyse the same which will be a source of immense pleasure to me. With this end in view another unpublished paper of mine with traditional accounts as the major source material has been given at the end as appendix.

Furthermore this monograph seeks to study the tribal absorption into the Hindu society and after that their upward movement in the hierarchy of the jatis in the medieval period at the micro level besides shedding some new light on the history of the cut of Jagannatha. And this phenomenon of tribal absorption-cum-jati mobility manifests a quest for co-existence on the part of Hindus on one hand and in Orissa played a pivotal role proving a common meeting ground How far I have been successful in my attempt is for others to judge.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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