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Standing, Hilary (1976) Munda religion and social structure. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The thesis is concerned with the Mundas, a 600,000 strong tribe living on the Chotanagpur plateau in South Bihar, India. An attempt is made to explore and correlate linkages between certain religious and social changes found to be taking place among this group of people. A substantial body of ethnographic literature about the Mundas exists in the writings of colonial servants and foreign missionaries. This provides a point of departure and a baseline for assessing some of the many subsequent changes undergone by this group of cultivators who are traditionally organized into a segmentary lineage society and who are outside the Hindu caste system both ritually and economically. The changes in social organization discussed here include the protective tenancy legislation enacted by the British in 1908 to prevent further alienation of tribal land to outsiders, the growing shortage of virgin land and its effect on lineage organization and village life, the growth of marketing and monetary structures, missions and education, and the increased cultural 'nationalism' of tribal people in Chotanagpur. These changes are linked with changes in religious organization, and particularly the decline in significance of the village priest (pahan) and the observances traditionally associated with village life and which are tied in with the cycles of wet and dry rice cultivation. The importance of village medicine men and diviners is analysed and placed in the context of the search for explanations of new problems and of old problems for which existing explanations lack credibility. Religion is seen as a charter of meaning as well as a reflector of social and economic changes and constraints. It is a product of history, and particular attention is paid, in this analysis, to the role of historical memory and traditions in shaping present ideologies.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:09

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