Bhambhi “Little Kings” in the Economy of Bhat Praise-Singing
This chapter describes Bhat relationships to the ritualized village patron-client “gift” economy found throughout northern India called jajmani. It is shown that the Bhats’ skill as bards, and their perspectives on caste relations more generally, emerge from the manner in which this social economy places value on exchanges between patrons and clients. In particular, this chapter explores Bhat understandings of virtue, and thus also of caste hierarchy, through a consideration of Bhat praise- and insult-poems which celebrate gifting and generosity. It is argued that views of caste emphasizing the importance of patronage and kingship — as opposed to purity, pollution, and priesthood — better explain Bhat relations to the Indian institution of caste.
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