Transfer of Ritual in a Local Tradition: Some Observations
This essay is concerned with the question of what happens when a ritual performed within a local tradition is transferred to another setting within the same tradition. It focuses on one type of ritual held in honour of a local goddess and compares the variants within it. I have relied mainly on ethnographical and textual materials as my sources, and sought to turn to account the anthropological insights formulated by Don Handelman in his study of ritual dynamics. I do not, then, aim at suggesting a new line of approach but rather at examining and proving the applicability of parameters set by Handelman to the material collected by me in the southernmost parts of Tamil Nadu, South India. I shall demonstrate by means of the tools at hand how the ritual performed individually by different social groups differs in its inner logic and complexity, in conspicuous agreement with each group’s socio-cultural outlook and needs outside the ritual; and in the end draw a tentative conclusion, namely that we witness two main categories of ritual design which can be correlated with the two traditional (emic) divisions of the Tamil social order to which the social groups belong.