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Kinship, marriage and womanhood among the Nagarattars in South India.

Nishimura, Yuko (1993) Kinship, marriage and womanhood among the Nagarattars in South India. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The aim of this thesis is to explore the caste culture of the Naattukoottai Chettiyars or Nagarattars, a South Indian mercantile caste. Chapter 1 includes a brief history of the Nagarattars and discusses their kinship oriented entrepreneurship. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the Nagarattars' caste and kinship structure in detail and also their system of strict endogamy which serves to preserve wealth within their community. Chapter 4 examines the auspiciousness of the sumangali (married woman), describing the celebration of saandi held on the husband's 60th birthday. Chapter 5 examines the economic transactions of marriage in detail. A unique feature of this community is the three detailed marriage contract forms (murai chittai, moi panam eludal, isai padimaanam). Bilineal property transfer, as practised by the Nagarattars, leaves considerable moveable assets to women. Property transfer to women--especially in the form of money, gold, and saamaan (bridal goods)--as well as the reciprocal gift exchange between the bride's and groom's families, are discussed in detail. Chapter 6 focuses on two aspects of marriage rituals: first, the analysis of auspiciousness in relation to ritual items such as money, lamps, carpets, and the taali (marriage pendant), and second, the status transformation of a woman from a girl to a wife. The final part of the thesis deals with gift exchanges at funerals, and the economic morality of the Nagarattars. It is argued that their unique economic rationality is observable in their strong emphasis on auspiciousness rather than purity, as well as in exchange. All this contrasts with the Brahmanical model of religiosity, since Nagarattar morality strongly stresses the value of worldly economic activity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropology, Cultural
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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