Newar - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The intercaste relationship, which is hierarchical, is expressed in commensality, marriage, and other behavior as well as in the division of labor. Within a caste, there are socioritual groups categorized as guthi. A guthi is headed by several elders, has a particular name and function, often owns land and other property, and holds feasts, which are hosted in rotation by the members. Some priestly and artisan castes had or have guthis to cover one large area and control members' occupations, marriage, and conflicts. In many other castes, funeral associations control the caste members. They may extend beyond the settlement boundary, depending upon the demographic condition of the caste concerned. Castes tend to live in different quarters or wards ( twā ), which among some castes are given specific names. A quarter usually houses plural lineages, which may form a corporate ritual unit. There are many guthis of restricted membership to carry out rituals among higher castes. Musical groups and voluntary dance or drama groups are widely found both as intra-and intercaste organizations.

Political Organization. The present political system of the kingdom of Nepal is called the panchayat system, under which there are local administrative units called town panchayat and village panchayat with elected heads. Each of the Newar settlements comprises one or more panchayats or is combined with others to form one. In the Rana period, the village head was appointed by the higher authority. One or two higher castes are usually dominant and tend to monopolize village leadership.

Social Control. A sense of conformity is pervasive. Violation of norms sometimes ends in ostracism. Each social group is led by elders who assume their seats according to seniority based on generation and age; but other members who have prestige and ability may emerge as practical leaders. The panchayat system with elections has been gaining legitimacy.

Conflict. In the late Malla period, there were frequent conflicts among the small kingdoms in the valley. Conflicts Between castes often led to the weakening of service relations. The best-remembered one is the prolonged Gubhāju-Udāy conflict, which was brought before the court and even needed the king's intervention. A mechanism to split a group Peacefully is absent in many cases; thus conflict, by creating fissures and splinter groups, helps maintain groups at an optimum size. Traditional social relations have been weakening in many respects recently.


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