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

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The Village in a Static Mould

The Village in a Static Mould G K Lieten Around the Plough: Socio-Economic Context of Agricultural Farming in an Indian Village by S B Chakrabarti; Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta, 1986; pp 203, IN his novel The Puppets' Tale, Manik Bandyopadhyay writes of the deterministic pattern of life in a pre-independence Bengal village. He makes Sashi, the freshly returned ayurvedic doctor, wonder "how closely attuned the minds of all these people were, how devoid of individuality and originality they were and how alike they all thought. They had identical feelings, identical notions of humour and identical sets of fears and superstitions and they all measured up to identical standards of meanness and generosity!' The moral order of the villages, or as S B Chakrabarti calls it, the culture behind agriculture, has been a running theme in anthropological studies. As an anthropologist, he has drawn a detailed picture of the agricultural operations and the concomitant social and cultural parameters in one particular village in the Burdhwan district in West Bengal The main body of the book is preceded by a short but clear description of the social geography of the village. Whereas the brahmins, muslims, tambuli, sadgope and kayastha communities represent only 44 per cent of the 561 households, they own 95 per cent of the land. The santhals, bagdis, bauds and dules, who are as numerous, own only 0.63 per cent of the land. At least, this was the picture prevailing in 1972-73 when the author conducted his field work. His data thus confirm the prevalence of a binary opposition between the bhadralok landowners of the upper castes and the chotalok labourers of tribal and low caste origin. The quantitative figures may have changed in the meantime, the author concedes in his preface, but "by and large, the qualitative aspects seem to hold good even today".

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