Alchemies of Violence: Myths of Identity and the Life of Trade in Western India
The several trading castes known generically as `Marwaris` are among the most powerful and wealthy groups in India. While they have spread throughout India and beyond, their homeland is Rajasthan. This absorbing book explores their origin myths and the manner in which these myths construct and express their social identities.
Lawrence Babb draws attention to the special problems of self-definition faced by these groups and shows how myth engages these problems by using a distinctive symbolism drawn from the Vedic rite of sacrifice. According, to the author, origin myths utilize sacrifice as a master metaphor for creative power and social order. At a broader level, this book deals with three interrelated themes: the nature of India`s caste system; the special character and specific place of trading castes in Indian society; and the role of myth as a repository of socially important knowledge. A unique feature of this book is that it is based mainly on the literature published by caste and religious associations supplemented by oral material.