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.
Traders are different. Brāhmaṇs and Rājpūts possess clearly defined and stable social identities in relation to the sacrifice. Brāhmaṇs both perform the rite and, as sages, transcend it. Kṣatriyas—in Rajasthan, the Rājpūts—sponsor the rite (or its symbolic equivalent) and protect it and the social order with which it is associated. But in keeping with the contradictory and ‘slippery’ nature of their relationship with other groups, the position of traders vis-à-vis the sacrifice presents interesting complexities. These complexities reflect marginal aspects of trader identity within the wider social order. Moreover, there are systemic variations in the way the relationship between traders and the sacrificial social order is imaged, and these represent what we might call variant subcultures of social identity. Although each caste ...