Telugu - Sociopolitical Organization



Andhra Pradesh, one of the largest states in the Republic of India, is led by a chief minister and a governor and has an elected legislature. Its capital is Hyderabad.

Social Organization. The primary organizing principle of Telugu society is hierarchy, based on age, sex, and social group. Each endogamous caste group reckons its relationship to other castes as either one of superiority, equality, or inferiority. While these relative rankings produce a hierarchy, this is in some cases a matter of dispute. To some extent the relative positions are perceived to be achieved on the basis of mutual willingness to engage in various sorts of symbolic Exchanges, especially of food. Caste members do not accept food prepared by a caste they consider to be inferior to their own. In addition, castes maintain distinctive diets—the highest refuses to eat meat, the next level refuses to eat domestic pork or beef, and the lowest eats pork and beef. There are clusters of castes of similar status—such as farmers—that accept each other's food, as well as pairs of similar-status castes—such as the two major former Untouchable castes—that reject each other's food. There is also a group of castes—the Panchabrahma, artisans in gold, brass, iron, and wood—that claim to be higher than the highest Brahmans. But while they refuse food from all other castes, no other castes accept food from them.

Political Organization. The state of Andhra Pradesh is Divided into twenty-one districts ( zilla). Districts were traditionally subdivided into taluks until 1985 when a smaller subdivision, the mandal, was instituted by the Telugu Desam party. The mandai, whose leader is directly elected, serves as a functionary of revenue administration and of government development projects. Towns with taluk headquarters are the seat of courts, police, and government health-care programs. The political culture of democracy among the Telugus is highly developed, with frequent elections for state and national representatives.

Social Control and Conflict. In times of conflict the authority of elder males is respected. A male household head rules on a dispute within his household. Next, an informally constituted group of elder males of the same caste arbitrates difficult disputes within or between families in the caste. Cases involving members of different castes are often referred to higher castes for settlement, in a pattern of ascending courts of appeal. When conflicts begin there is often much commotion and shouting of accusations or grievances. This attracts the participation of bystanders and triggers the process of arbitration.


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