Kulikov L. I. Notes on some traces of the caste system in the Maldives

Leonid I. KULIKOV — Researcher, Ghent University, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy (Belgium, Ghent)
E-mail: kulikovli@googlemail.comLeonid.Kulikov@UGent.be


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УДК 39:316.343(54)
DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2019-4(6)-75-89 


ABSTRACT. This paper deals with the social stratification of Maldivian society. The aim of the paper is to give an overview of the basic facts that presumably betray the more complex structure of the Maldivian society in the past. Special attention is paid to the origin and evolution of social groups ((quasi-)castes, or status groups) and traces of castes that could have existed earlier, in a number of domains — in particular, in anthropological features and language system. It is argued that in the Maldives one can find indisputable traces of a more complex system of social stratification (caste system). The best-preserved status groups, presumably representing traces of lower castes, include the girāvarus (probably descendants of the non-Indo-Aryan people who inhabited the Maldives before the arrival of Indo-Aryans) and rāveris (coconut palm-sap tappers, also possibly descendants of the pre-Aryan aboriginal population). Furthermore, the traditional Maldivian elite, which has a complex structure (reflect- ed, in particular, in the intricate system of honorific degrees in Maldivian language), probably represents traces of higher castes. Earlier descriptions of the Maldives pro- vide evidence for the fact that a few centuries ago the Maldivian society preserved more traces of castes than nowadays. The same applies to the social structure of Min- icoy, now part of India. It is demonstrated that, although the middle castes mainly disappeared, the upper and lower levels of the caste hierarchy show more resistance to the erosion of the caste structure.


KEYWORDS: Maldives, Maldivian language (Dhivehi), Minicoy, social stratification, caste, status group, low caste, nobility, social elite, honorific forms, erosion of caste structure



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