ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cast(e) on the Hill

‘Divine’ Power, Social Cohesion and Hierarchy in Himachal Pradesh

Caste has often been viewed as a system of hierarchy based on the religious ideology of the Hindus with a common structure across the subcontinent. Based on an extensive empirical study of Himachal Pradesh, this paper shows how caste actively articulates with the given realities of ecology, economy and the local histories of political regimes. Even though inequality and untouchability exist, their structures have specific regional forms. While it documents the everyday practices of faith and their local specificities, the ethnographic accounts presented in the paper also have implications for our understanding of Hinduism in the present-day context.

Initial discussions with Maitreyi B Das helped me frame the research questions. Long interviews with T R Sharma, Chetan Singh and Satish K Sharma enabled me to understand the broader processes of change in the region. Pramod Kumar Zinta and Arvind Sehgal helped with the fieldwork. Winnie Bothe, Sneha Sudha Komath and Bhoomika Joshi read an earlier draft of the paper and offered useful comments. I am grateful to all of them. Usual disclaimers apply.

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