Book Reviews / Non-Fiction

Review of ‘Religious Renunciation of a Pastoral People’ by Vinay Kumar Srivastava

V K Srivastava

My Rating (****)

This is a well-written book. The book is about the religious renouncers of a pastoral community of Rajasthan (western India) known as Raikas. While Raikas of Gujarat (where they call themselves Rabari) have received a more sustained interest in the academic world, Raikas of Rajasthan have never been the subject of a detailed ethnographic account. In addition, there are very few studies which deal with the religious world of the pastoral communities. This book is, therefore, an important contribution to the study of the Pastoral world.

Srivastava deals with many important issues which generally tend to be ignored. These include the sociological background of the renouncer, the relationship he has with his renounced community, or whether the renouncer becomes a part of the people’s sacred world or not. This helps the reader to understand different stages in which renouncers progressively distance themselves from the world of housholders.

Dumont in his works on Indian sociology has emphasised on the concept of purity. However, he fails to recognise the existence of individualism and egalitarian values in Indian society. His views were mainly based on the Brahmanical view of society, which is bound to prevail when one is overly committed to Brahmanical sources. Additionally, as this work by Srivastava shows, the cultural tradition of a caste is inextricably bound to its living patterns and history; and one may come across in a multi-caste village several contesting, perspectives on the same issues, such as hierarchy, values and ideology.

The only blemish of this work can be the negligence of the role of Raika renouncers in animal related matters. As a pastoral community, the Raika renouncers may have been a vital component of the animal world. While glimpses of their role in animal related matters have been given, the same could have been dealt in a detailed manner. Such a work has yet to be performed. And for that I will cut one star.

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