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.
If traders bear a culturally distinctive identity as a class, this is even truer of the Jains as a subclass of traders. In their case, too, social identity is constructed from images of violence and its control, but the Jains pursue these themes more intensely than the Hindus and push them in a somewhat different direction. The result is a distinctive subculture of identity, one that also possesses its own internal variations. The Jains’ relationship with violence is even more deeply negative than that of the Hindu traders. The energy of this negativity not only propels them into a non-violent social identity, but into an identity that is, in significant ways, external to the surrounding sacrificial-social order. In consonance with the socio-historical ...