Patron/Client Relationships in Comparison

First of all, it is important to ask to what extent “earth people” (matia) like the Gangre can be described as a “dominant caste.” They are far more numerous than all other groups, hold the largest share of the fields, and have an intermediate status between the herders and potters on the one hand and the Dombo on the other. They do not have a monopoly on political power, however; at village assemblies, all groups have the opportunity to articulate their views, even if the matia’s numerical dominance is important in the furtherance of their interests. Due to their education and external contacts, the Dombo - or some of them - are rather more appropriately considered politically influential. For the present, it can be said that the Gangre and the matia of other villages fulfill most of Sri- nivas's criteria.

The terms jajman, kamin, saanta, sevaka, and the rest are either unknown to the Desia or not used in this context. The dominant group is most often called roit; I am unaware of any term for the clients as a whole. The number of client groups in the Gadaba villages is far smaller than in the cases described above and in most others familiar to me from the literature.[1] The Gadaba make most of the items used in daily life themselves, from wood or bamboo, and carry out most tasks themselves or with labor help from Gadaba neighbors. Nonetheless, they rely on the pots produced by the Kumar, the ironwares produced by the smiths, and the music produced by the Dombo. The functions of the herders are often assumed by individual Gadaba houses when no or too few Goudo live in the village. Except for the Goudo, all other clients provide goods and services that are ritually significant, among other things. Clay pots are a prerequisite for preparing tsoru, iron is needed to banish malicious spirits

(duma daini), the barik acquires the sacrificial animals and collects money and rice, and the moira attract the gods’ attention with their music. None of the client groups serve the Gadaba as sacrificers, however, as the purohit serve their patrons in Kangra and coastal Odisha.[2] [3] The village sacrificers - the pujari and randan - are recruited from the dominant group and are not clients. Other ritual specialists (dissari, gunia) called on to determine auspicious times, for healing, or for life-cycle rituals do not receive pholoi, as a general rule, and may belong to a wide variety of jati. Nonetheless, I have not observed Dombo specialists being called on for these services. This is also true of the one permanent relationship of this kind, between Gudapada and the “great” astrologer (boro dissari), a Rona from a neighboring village.^6 He determines the times for and in part the actors in the village festivals, and in times of danger (bipod), he also functions as a sac- rificer, together with the pujari. Once a year, the Gangre hold a feast for him in his village, and he receives twenty rupees from the barik (i. e., from the village) for his services. The other ritual specialists (Gadaba and other Desia) are summoned on an individual basis; no permanent relationships exist, and they are compensated by those who hire them with raw or cooked food, liquor, and money. In the context of the life-cycle rituals, these prestations, which the midwife also receives, are called dokino (Desia of dakshina). The distinction between temporary and permanent, individual and collective relationships points the way to the central characteristics of the patron/client relationships and the types of prestations.

The relationships between Rajputs and Brahmans are ideally located at the clan level; in practice, “sub-clans” or households are permanently linked to one another. This collective and permanent relationship is a manifestation of the significance of the jajman/purohit relationship and is in contrast to the other relationships with the lower-status service castes, which are easier to dissolve and exist in any case between households. Among the Gadaba, relationships exist between households on the one hand, as in the cases of the herders and smiths, and between the village and its clients on the other. The potter (Kumar) serves the village as a whole, including the Dombo, the Goudo, and the smith, and he receives pholoi from the village as a whole (matam). The barik receives pholoi from every house (gulai ga) and sari kadi from the village as a whole (matam). In general, all clients ideally serve the village, independent of whether particular houses currently require their services or not.[4] With regard to the duration of patron/client relationships, no clear distinctions can be drawn among the Gada- ba’s various clients, and although all service relationships are hereditary as a matter of principle, they can be easily dissolved. The relationships with the herders, the potter, and the smith are established for a year, and the bank can be replaced in November if necessary. It is generally also conceivable that the smith or the Goudo could leave the village in the event of an extended dispute and settle elsewhere. If we consider the groups as a whole, the relationship between matia and Dombo appears as the most stable and enduring, as can also be seen in the narrative about the settling of the village recounted above. The Dombo were the first “latecomers,” and tsorubai relationships exist with no other client groups.

The clients of the Gadaba villages are contrasted to the “earth people” as a block, and status differences among the clients are irrelevant at the village level against the background of the dominant opposition of matia vs. upria, especially evident in ritual contexts like hundi sitlani, as briefly sketched above. Herders possess a clearly higher general or regional status than the Dombo, but at the sacrifices at the shrines, both are set on the same level from the Gadaba perspective, and both receive meat from the rump of the sacrificial animals and are excluded from the matia’s tsoru, as is also true of the matia’s affines. The patron/ client relationships are thus not hierarchically structured in the same way as in the examples from Kangra and coastal Odisha. Structurally, the matia’s position in the village is similar to the ritual centrality of the Gujar in Uttar Pradesh, as described by Raheja (1990). Unlike the Khandayat and the Rajputs, this dominant caste gives dan gifts to all its clients, not just the Brahmans, and thereby distributes their inauspiciousness to all castes (and bride-takers) conceived of as “other.” From the perspective of dan transactions, Brahmans and Dom are placed in the same position vis-a-vis the givers, despite the difference in their degree of ritual purity.

If we turn our attention to the prestations, it is notable first of all that all clients of the Gadaba villages except for the boro dissari receive a share of the harvest as pholoi, not just some groups. Pholoi is comparable to the gadi kalothi in Kangra and the barshika/bartana in coastal Odisha, and these prestations are described by both authors as “payment.” Dan gifts are entirely absent in the Ga- daba villages, on the other hand, and the idea of transferring inauspiciousness to other groups with a gift is non-existent there. The comparison between Gujar and Gadaba is thus based only on both groups’ structural position within their villages, not on the type of prestations and their implications. The only client of the village who does not receive pholoi, as mentioned, is the boro dissari, who is given a feast and money each year. Individual relationships with dissari, gunia, or gurumai do not pertain to the context of village relationships discussed here. Alongside the pholoi for the clients, all people resident within the village territory - whether they explicitly provide services to the village or not - can visit the threshing floors and receive a basket of grain in exchange for nominal countergifts.

A clear difference between the Gadaba situation and the ethnographic data presented by Lerche (1993) and Parry (1979), and by Raheja (1990) as well, lies in the role of the clients as givers of gifts. In the villages of the Khandayat, Rajputs, and Gujar, the jajman appear to receive no gifts, and the clients alone have the right or the obligation to receive. Among the Gadaba, in contrast, all pholoi recipients who live in the village have the obligation to show respect (manti) to the “earth people” and the earth goddess by contributing sacrificial animals or other gifts to the sacrifice for the village goddess. In this context, it is not the entire village - all the houses in equal shares - that finances the sacrifice, but rather the village’s service providers who supply the means. This includes the naik, even though he does not receive pholoi. However, the fact that the animals are financed by the clients does not change anything about the manner in which the meat is distributed or the unambiguous hierarchy between matia and upria.

The giving of pholoi, manti, and piai - and sari kadi as well - are not part of a ritual, but they are part of the festivals (porbo) and related to the sacrifices for the village gods, since these sacrifices are the prerequisite for the harvest and so for pholoi. The system of gift exchange within the village can be understood only in relation to the ritual context and the Gadaba’s status as “earth people” and sacrificers. Having thus considered the individual aspects of the relationships and prestations and compared them to other ethnographic examples, I now turn to this central aspect of the village rituals and take up again Dumont’s thesis, with the consequence that the level of ideas and of the whole now comes to the forefront.

The value-idea of ritual purity, which according to Dumont (1980) structures the ideology of the varna and the caste system, is not relevant among the Gadaba (cf. Pfeffer 1997a). It is precisely the “poles” of the caste system, which in Dumont’s view most clearly articulate the ideology of purity - the Brahmans and the Untouchables - that are absent in the highland system. Taking this into account, the Gadaba cannot be seen as a dominant caste, since they need neither the services of the Brahmans to maintain or bring about ritual purity, nor those of the lower castes to remove ritual impurity. The “earth people” themselves have the highest or most senior ritual status, and the fact that they themselves butcher and eat their dead cattle is not in contradiction to this, since suddha (ritual purity) and asuddha (ritual impurity) are not categories of reference. Likewise absent is the separation between the values of status (ritual purity) and power that Dumont finds in the caste system, expressed in the opposition between Brahmans and Kshatriya - or purohit and jajman, dharma and artha. If Pocock (1962) is correct that this relationship is at the heart of jajmani relationships, this term cannot be used to describe the relations between the “earth people” and their clients.

However, it is worthwhile to return to Dumont’s definition in order to characterize these relationships between the village and its clients more precisely, since the system of prestations and counter-prestations manifests an “orientation towards the whole” and is both “religious” and “hierarchical.” The relationships between the different groups are crystallized in the collective sacrifices, which are equally an expression and a cause of the village hierarchy. Pholoi and manti gifts are oriented toward the sacrifices, at the center of which stand the “earth people” in their relationship to the village goddess, maintained through tsoru commensality. The position of the “earth people” in the whole (the village) as sacrificers and consanguines of the gods constitutes their superior or senior status vis-a-vis all others. This hierarchy is articulated in multiple ways through food (tsoru/lakka’*, head/rump), distance from the shrine (near/far), and order of eating (first/after).

Political (legitimate) violence, the equivalent of the kingly quality of artha, has no place in the institutions of the Gadaba; they manage without a monopoly of force.[5] No wielder of power - no jajman or sacrificial patron - is contrasted to the sacrificer’s ritual status: “No estate of intellectual ritualists is opposed to the holders of secular power or segregated from the general peasant community” (Pfeffer 1997a, 11). The “earth people” are the sacrificers, and the village as a whole profits from their relationship to the earth. Within the group of dignitaries, the ritual functions of the sacrificer (pujari/sisa) and cook (randan/kirsani) are contrasted to the non-ritual, secular functions of the naik (and the bank), but this opposition does not correspond to the priest/king relationship, since the group of the sacrificers (Sisa) simultaneously provides the most senior secular leader.

The naik is no more a king of the village than the “earth people” are kings of the village as a group. He plays a complementary role to the pujari/randari in ritual and otherwise represents the village to the outside world, probably more so in the days of the raja than today. The clients pay respect to the earth goddess and her sacrificers with their manti gifts, but not to the “earth people” as a central political power. This power is located outside Gadaba society, in the raja (king) or the sorkar (government) and their institutions, like the military and the police. From the Gadaba perspective, however, even the raja in Nandapur or Jeypore is less a potentate than a sacrificial patron who guarantees the earth goddess’s benevolence (something neglected by the modern government, according to my previously mentioned informant), and the Gadaba therefore paid respect to the king with their visits at Dasara, although whether in the same form as the Juang or the Dongria Kond must remain an open question.

Through their relationships to the king and his representatives, the Gadaba are - if only marginally - part of a larger political and administrative domain; the clients’ specialization and division of labor link the Gadaba economically to the region beyond the village. They sell the excess produce of their land to the Dombo, and the latter sell it at the weekly markets to traders from the urban centers. Conversely, the barik brings the necessary sacrificial animals into the village. This function is especially visible in his duty to provide the head of cattle for a certain ritual (bag puja) in the rainy season and to be compensated by the whole village in return. Pfeffer (1997a, 9ff) has stressed this role of the Dombo as middlemen: “Without their clients, the economy as well as the philosophy of the tribals would collapse” (10). His thesis that all types of external contact, trade, and work for others are seen by the Adivasi as polluting and that the Dombo’s impure status derives precisely from this activity as middlemen and boundary crossers cannot be confirmed for the Gadaba. It is true that very few Gadaba engage in trade and that they are dependent on the Dombo in this regard, but those few who do trade - for example, a Gadaba from Gudapada regularly sells tobacco at the weekly market - do not become polluted as a result.[6] The Gadaba who have worked for decades in the tea gardens of Assam also do not become ritually impure by doing so, and the groups of men who set out in search of wage labor in February or March each year do not perform any purification rituals upon their return. The Dombo and in particular the barik are the important middlemen, as I have also described with regard to the transformation or oscillation between part and whole within the village: the bank summons all the kutum and houses (gulai ga) and so brings the assembly of the whole (matam) into being. Pollution does not result from these crossings of internal and external boundaries.

A decisive difference from the jajmani relationships between castes ultimately consists in the fact that the cohesion of a local caste system is based on the interdependence of elements engaged in the division of labor, their organic solidarity in Durkheim’s sense. Parry (1979) describes the permanent asymmetrical relationships between Rajputs and Brahmans, which link clan groups over generations, as well as the ongoing unequal exchange between zamindar and kamin. Asymmetrical structures oriented to a center guarantee stability in peasant societies (Pfeffer 2002b). The Gadaba social order, in contrast, is based primarily on symmetrical exchange between segments that are in principle of equal status (if we leave exchange with the gods aside for the moment), and it is in this reciprocity - ideally endless and perhaps also timeless - that the society’s stability and continuity consist.

Having focused in this section on the organic ties among the groups within a single village, I will discuss these symmetrical and “horizontal” relationships between agnatic and affinal groups from different villages in the following section.

  • [1] Cf. for example the studies in Marriott (1955).
  • [2] The old Goudo, who participates in some village sacrifices (the bolani jatra), is an exception. His involvement in this ritual, which is considered a mansik (vow) for the village, isprobably the consequence of his activity as an astrologer (dissari).
  • [3] As a rule, the boro dissari are recruited from other villages and other jati, but not alwaysfrom a higher-status group, as in the case of the Rona. The boro dissari of the Gadaba village ofGorihanjar, for example, is a Joria, with junior status relative to the Gadaba.
  • [4] This kind of a bond between clients and the village as a whole can be found in variousparts of India and is known in the literature as the baluta system (Fuller 1989, 36f).
  • [5] The absence of a monopoly on violence is considered a characteristic of tribal organization(cf. Pfeffer 2000, 2002a, 2002b; Sahlins 1968).
  • [6] Unlike the Hindu immigrants from the plains, the Gadaba do not view a visit to the marketas at all polluting, any more than a drinking bout (cf. Strumpell 2001, 2007). The word for ritualimpurity (sutok) and the corresponding rituals are significant only in the context of life-cyclerituals and the harvest.
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