Toda - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Toda society is divided into two endogamous and hierarchically ordered subcastes, with differing relationships to the community's sacred dairy cult: one ritually higher subcaste owns the most sacred of the dairies and the other subcaste alone may operate them. Each subcaste is again divided into named exogamous patricians, which own the hamlets, funeral places, and sometimes an isolated dairy site. A patrician has four subdivisions: kwï·r, a Ritual bifurcation; po·llm an economic section, of which there may be more than two; hamlet and family. The two subcastes are also divided into exogamous matriclans, important Descent categories for marital and ritual purposes but lacking corporate unity.

Political Organization. Toda society functions without formal headmen at any level, except the household, where the eldest male is dominant. A caste council makes political decisions affecting the whole community: all adult males may participate, debating each issue until a consensus is reached. Matters concerning one subcaste alone, or one patrician, are debated by the subcaste or patrician council respectively, comprising all adult male members who wish to participate. Because Toda have long recognized the politicoeconomic (but not ritual) dominance of the Badaga, they sometimes ask certain Badaga leaders to participate in their caste council.

Social Control. The household head is responsible for the good behavior of all who live under his roof. Disputes Between households are mediated by the patrician council; unresolved cases may be taken to the subcaste or, finally, caste council. Each patrician oversees its own members, but disputes between patrician members may go to a subcaste or ultimately a caste council for resolution. The subcaste also operates through its subcaste council to regulate its members, with the possibility of taking unresolved issues before the caste council. The caste council has the power to deal with any infringement of social conduct within the community and can fine or excommunicate offenders.

Conflict. The Toda have no weapons of war or martial Institutions. Conflicts, either between individuals or groups, only occasionally provoke physical violence rather than the vitriolic verbal confrontation that is common. The various councils—clan, subcaste, and caste—are quick to intervene, defuse emotions, and argue for compromise.


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