The Nagarathar community (which originated from Tamilnadu, India), follows elaborate rites of passage. Various elements of material culture such as sacred objects, ritual implements, ethnic jewellery, food, festive decorations, traditional attire, ceremonial music and songs play a vital role during the performance of these ceremonies. Material objects are primarily products of human action, though objects produced by nature can also play an important role in understanding the material culture of rituals. For example, the coin is a product of human action. The leaves and stalk of a banana tree are not, but, they exude symbolism and take on meaning for humans if used as a ritual object, ethnic decoration or as a platter to serve God food. Similarly objects have multiple functions. A coin is used primarily in economic transactions. However it also has a symbolic value, when tied in a red cloth along with a piece of turmeric as in the pudumai rite of Nagarathars. The ritual objects create and maintain the sanctity of ritual space and performance, religious ritualistic ambience and decorum and the ethnic identity of its members. They also serve as a mechanism for cohesion among family or community members.
The engineering and operational modalities of ritual objects are governed by several factors and rules of protocol. The creation of ritual objects is guided by auspicious time frame according to Tamil ritual calendar. Different rituals objects are to be handled only by certain designated people, depending on gender, kin affiliation etc. Ritual things also impose behavioural restrictions on the wearer/bearer/keeper and associated immediate kin members. Many of the ritual objects have undergone transformations due to modernization, acculturation, migration and changing economic status of the Nagarathars.
This paper thus deals with the socio-cultural dynamics of material objects in select rites of passage in the Nagarathar community.
|Keywords:||Hindu Rituals, Objects, Material Culture, Rites of Passage, Nagarathar Community|
Associate Dean - Research & Lecturer, Department of Sociology, MOP Vaishnav College for Women, University of Madras, Chennai, Tamil nadu, India
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