Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rise of Patriarchal Society - iv

In my previous post on the same topic I mentioned that exclusive female rights over clan temples in my caste is a thing of past. Now, only males control the affairs. This phenomenon I interpreted as a natural outcome of family outgrowing and becoming a community itself. In my opinion, in a community structure, religious sphere would be controlled by males because of lack of female bonding at that level. But it appears my example may not be the most suitable one. Nevertheless, the whole context may be of some interest.

As I mentioned before, the taravadu/illam (the concept is similar to mUlasthAna concept of Tuluva-s, check Ravi Mundkur's posts) shrines were exclusive right of females belonging to certain illam/bari (clan). No male members were allowed inside the shrine(along with females of other illam-s).

The present situation is exactly the opposite. This change happened in the last century. It was brought about by an event called Ashtamangala Prashna.

Ashtamangala Prashna:
This is a type of Astrology mostly practiced in Malayalam and Tulu regions. The tradition resembles oracle astrology. The questions(prazna) related to various problems would be answered by Astrologers with the help of eight (aSTa) auspicious (maMgaLa) articles viz.,lamp, mirror, gold, milk, curd, fruit, books and white cloth.

In one such Ashtamangala Prashna it was found that gods were not happy with female centered shrines. Therefore, there should be a complete change in the shrine management. Not only males must officiate the rituals inside the shrine females must not even enter it. Of course, the chief astrologer, a Namboothiri, who had this divination had firmly established his divine aura by another prediction.

The Namboothiri felt that there was some dOSa (wrong) with the lamp. People around checked the lamp and couldn't find anything. In the end, it was observed there was a single strand of hair sticking to the lamp. Even today people talk about that lamp event.

The Taboo Replacement
It is unclear whether the lamp gimmick was constructed to overcome any opposition. That Namboothiri could predict something was wrong because of a hair,however, people there couldn't find anything wrong in the fact that their centuries old tradition has been turned upside down.

First of all, the change in the tradition required replacement of a taboo. The taboo of men entering the shrine. This taboo is exactly opposite to patrilineal Namboothiri taboo. But why didn't for so many centuries Namboothiri-s try to enforce their taboo?

Probably, until 20th century Brahmins were not really bothered about "little tradition(non Sanskritic/Vedic)" of other castes. Also, there is a caste of astrologers (non-brahmin), Kaniyan, also matrilineal, that probably involved in these cases in the past. Anyway, it is interesting to see that a matrilineal taboo has been replaced by a patrilineal taboo(of barring females from shrines).

It appears the change from matriliny to patriarchy not only killed matrilineal taboos, in its place it established patrilineal taboos. It looks like a logical development. In my opinion, the change from matriliny to partiarchy need not be a gradual process spanning over several centuries. A quick transition by establishing patrilineal taboos in place of matrilineal ones could be achieved in a single generation.