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Pattern of Ritual Friendship in Tribal India

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
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There are in tribal India two broad types of ritualised friendships: serious and non-serious. In comparison to non-serious friendships, serious ones are more commonly formed between adults, whether male or female, then between adolescents; they are usually more enduring; they are more commonly entered into by males than by females and are almost always between members of the same sex; they have specific, non-metaphoric terminology; they are highly valued socially and are considered as important as kin ties; they are reinforced by the social ties; they are established between two groups of kin. Serious ritual friendships suggest in their ritual and behaviour an analogy to marriage. Serious friendships may be characterised as enduring and dependable. They involve two persons in obligations, trust, confidence and respect. Non-serious friendships may be characterised as more romantic and light in emotional tone and less stressful of the obligations involved. They suggest in emotional tone an analogy to a love affair. Turning from certain generalizations based on the scanty material available for tribal India to certain universal propositions, it is further suggested that both the unisexual and cross-sexual friendships are less intense on a society that encourages heterosexual relations from childhood on. The following characteristics may be suggested as basic to all friendship relations: 1. it is voluntary; 2. it is dyadic; 3. there are reciprocal obligations, 4. there is mutual affect (phrased variously as confidence, reciprocity, exclusiveness etc.). For ritual friendships, certain additional characteristics should be added : 1. it is between non-kin; 2. it is socially highly valued; 3. it is given symbolic formulation (in ceremonies, in terminology, etc.). Finally, on the continuum from the most elaborate type of ritual friendships to the most incidental kind of voluntary, dyadic relationship in which reciprocal obligations and mutual affect operate, it may be possible to establish a series of reference points that may have universal application whether or not any one society has given them formal recognition.

Affiliations: 1: University of Agra


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