This book is an outcome of a research on the historico-social processes that underscored the origin, development and the dynamics of a particular folk religious phenomenon called Cutalaimatan Cult, as practiced by different social groups including the Brahmins in tirunelveli, India.
By making use of Niklas Luhmann’s distinction between ‘function’ and ‘performance’, the book unravels the ritual power of the cult both in its function and performance. The function of ritual power consists in its effectiveness to tackle the exigencies of human existence, while its performance empowers the social actors across the caste hierarchy: for subalterns to interrogate inequality, to negotiate power with the dominant groups, and to assert, display and safeguard their newly acquired socio-economic statuses; and for non-subalterns to obtain supernatural protection for their material wealth and to consolidate their position of power and domination.
In attempting to understand the question the question of social mobility associated with the cult, the research exposes the inadequacy of the theory of ‘sanskritisation’ and proposes a new concept called as Peri-centralisation. While sanskritisation is marked by the uni-directional upward mobility of the lower castes towards the socio-cultural universe of the higher castes, peri-centralisation is characterized by the multi-directional iterative mobility of different social segments within the caste hierarchy. Delving into various facets of the socio-economic reality of the phenomenon, the work nuances on new shades of meaning about the old theoretical questions such as ‘religion and development’, ‘continuity and change’, ‘culture and modernity’.