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.

Sages and Warriors

Sages and warriors

Social theory comes in multiple flavours. The problem of why and how social things are as they are has presented itself to men and women everywhere, not just to academicians or professional intellectuals, and academic social theory is but one member of a very large family. Indeed, interpretations of society's mysteries are probably as varied as the ethnographic map itself. A society's workings can be imaged mechanistically, organically, spiritually, and surely in many other ways. This chapter introduces a type of social theory that explains social things ritualistically. Its explanatory principle is the metaphor of ritual sacrifice.1

We shall explore this way of looking at society in two stages. We begin by examining the ancient Vedic rite of sacrifice and its ...

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