Heritage and the Politics of Culture
State and religion are traditional agencies that define social status of different caste communities in Indian society. Tribal communities, historically, co-exist with the caste system, both having limited but significant interactions. Social status of tribal communities depends not only State and religion but also on the land-holding relations. There exists a tribe-caste continuum in which primitive tribal groups represent one end and the Brahmins, the Hindu religious elite, the other. Religion in India can be further broadly classified as religion of the scripture and popular religion. Some festivals in India represent both, the religion of the scripture and popular religion. Kumbha Mela and Medaram Jatra are two grand festivals, involving over ten million people and having contrasting characteristics. While the Kumbha Mela represents the ‘Great’ Hindu tradition having both the sanctions of the scriptures and people, Medaram Jatra is a grand and popular tribal tradition but not a ‘great’ one as it does not involve the urban religious elites or their scriptures. However, both these festivals offer opportunities to the ‘little’ tribal communities to express their claims, specially the geopolitical ones. The present study is based on the study of the two aforesaid grand festivals not just as events, but as historical, social traditions having their own ‘habitus’ and ‘doxa’ and involving geopolitical claims of the tribal communties. While the tribal communities struggling with the the issue displacement put forth their claims within the Kumbha Mela framework, the Medaram Jatra represnts the claims of a community assimilated culturally as cultivators.