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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The Orientalist conceptions on pre-colonial social formations in India as static are reviewed. New studies argue that social mobility occurs in the context of caste-oriented structures. Based on epigraphic and literary sources and kulapurāna (caste myths) concerning the community of oil producers of medieval times known by the caste name Teliki, this paper shows trends for upward mobility from śūdra varna to ksatriya varna. In the case of the peasant-warrior communities (sat śūdras), brāhmins and, in tribal communities, the temples/sectarian leaders acted as the legitimisers. For the Telikis, however, an asat śūdra community, political powers facilitated the process of upward mobility. By observing certain symbolic actions, which are ritually accepted as pure and high, the Telikis tried to sustain their identity.

Les conceptions orientalistes qui présentent les structures sociales pré-coloniales en Inde comme des formations immuables sont actuellement révisées. De nouvelles études avancent que la mobilité sociale existe dans le contexte de structures de caste. Fondé sur l'exploitation de sources épigraphiques, littéraires et des kulapurāna (les mythes de caste) portant sur la communauté des producteurs d'huile au Moyen Age connue sous le nom de caste Teliki, cet article met en lumière des tendances vers une amélioration du rang social du śūdra varna au ksatriya varna. Dans le cas des communautés de paysans-guerriers (sat śūdras), les brahmanes et dans celui des communautés tribales, les temples/les dirigeants sectaires assuraient la légitimité. Toutefois, dans le cas des Telikis, une communauté asat/śūdra, les pouvoirs politiques facilitaient un processus d'ascension sociale. De plus, les Telikis, en observant certains actes symboliques considérés rituellement comme purs et élevés, tentaient de maintenir leur identité.


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