Village Artisans, Landed Elites, and the State

Nandita Prasad Sahai

in Politics of Patronage and Protest

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780195678963
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199081660 | DOI:
Village Artisans, Landed Elites, and the State

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In an effort to re-examine stereotypical representations of ‘a continually suffering toiling class’ of artisans and an extractive state, this chapter investigates the complex grid of rights and obligations between the Jodhpur state and its artisans during the reign of Maharaja Vijai Singh (1750s-1770s). The author discusses artisanal strategies of survival in a harsh desert landscape which made for fluctuations in demand for their crafted goods. The author goes on to describe the Birat system of patronage between the elite and the artisan. The chapter also describes how, to avoid market over-saturation, rural artisans worked to establish trade monopolies and disallow caste-fellows to migrate or immigrants to settle in their village. Money lending and debt are also discussed, as also some instances of debt leading to bonded labour when artisans were forced to become halis and valis. The author concludes by discussing opportunities and instances of artisanal rebellion and protest (through petitions and the ultimate threat of mass emigration away from the village) when wajib considerations were violated.

Keywords: caste hierarchy; landowning artisans; artisanal survival strategies; landed elites; Birat System; trade monopolies; Maharaja Vijai Singh; halis; Wajib

Chapter.  24870 words. 

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