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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Kanni-Mangala" : a microcosm of Coorg identity toward an alternative interpretation and analysis of the Coorg marriage ceremony Owsanecki, Peter Franz


Srinivas, who has written the only anthropological monograph on the Coorgs of South India, proposes that they are "sanskritized", that is, that they adopted Hindu concepts and beliefs in order to raise their religious and social status to that of the Kshatriya-Varna. Conceptualizing the marriage ceremony as a "microcosm" of Coorg identity, this thesis argues for their "multiple" reality in which aspects of a distinct ethnic identity are combined with a limited set of adopted ideological notions from Hinduism. Based on the structurally opposed concepts of "Sanskritization" and "ethnic identity" the Coorg marriage ceremony is analyzed according to four "symbolic complexes" (cosmic connections, warrior/ruler attitudes, farmer/householder symbolism and expressions of kin-relations) which, in turn, are seen as replications of the make-up of Coorg social structure. It is argued that Coorg religious symbolism displays a mix between two abstract notions of order: that of "respect", defining culture-specific expressions of socio-religious actions and that of "purity", used as a means to visualize ritual and with it, societal status with respect to outside Hindu communities. Further, this thesis argues that symbolic representations of power and authority outweigh those which deal with religious notions, thus emphasizing the specific "character" of Coorg social identity,as a group of warriors and landowners who attach more importance to the maintenance and perpetuation of their intra-cultural ritual and social solidarity than to aspects of integration within the Hindu fold. However, the Coorgs adopted a limited number of Hindu concepts and beliefs in order to enhance their politico-economic possibilities with regard to socio-religious status and material wealth. As a consequence, they developed a "dualistic" identity which allows them to operate on an extended, bilateral level of understanding. The thesis concludes with some remarks on the applicability of interpreting the socio-cultural reality of Coorgs from a "Hindu-centric" point of view and argues for the necessity of alternative approaches toward the study of non-mainstream Hindu societies.

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