This study shows how myths construct and express the social identities of a community. Focusing on Rajasthan, it describes how myths here mostly centre around the theme of violence and its rejection. The social persona of the trading groups are created around this and hence issues of violence and its control emerge as the symbolic key to trader social identity in this cultural context.
Analyzing what myths have to say about traders, the author examines the nature of caste in general, as well as the specific place of trading castes in Indian society. Moreover he looks at the problems of the social identity of traders. By studying myths, the book shows how Indian trading groups have dealt with these problems by using symbolic material provided by their specific social and cultural milieu.
Finally the author looks at the role of myth itself as a repository of socially important knowledge.
An extraordinary confluence of myth, social identity, violence, and non-violence is our subject. The venue is India, and our focus is a cluster of western Indian communities whose social function and raison d'être are trade and business. At the book's core are origin myths, a type of myth long known to students of culture to be a canvas on which social groups depict their identity. The violence in the equation is the violence of the martial life of warriers and of sacrificial rituals that ratify such a life. Our story is about how the origin myths of non-violent traders employ the theme of martial violence and its rejection as a way of contracting collective identities—identities that are, in their wider regional and civilisational context, ...