brahman divisions/identity

Frank Conlon conlon at
Sun Jun 8 17:40:50 UTC 1997

S. Krishna asks if I was referring to the dubious authenticity of the
Sahyadri Khanda of the Skanda Purana.  I was.

Peter Claus very perceptively notes the problem of "historical evidence";
and I agree that it is always involving deduction from bits and pieces.
The presence or absence of certain gotras, of certain kuladevatas, and the
like offer some light on the on-going process of social fission and
fusion.  Even affiliations with certain guru-paramparas appear to have
altered over time.  As Burt Stein once observed, however, it seems to be
in noone's interest to effectively document change in a system whose
ideological foundation is changelessness.

On the other hand, I have to appeal to my Sanskritist colleagues for a
view of the Skanda Purana and its various associated texts.  My untutored
sense is that like Skanda himself, the purana is one of many different
faces.   Whatever else one may draw fromthe existence of the Sahyadri
Khanda, it must be comforting to know that its composers were hard at the
task well in advance of the colonial ethnographers who have been endowed
with such agency in "inventing" caste by some recent scholars

Frank Conlon
University of Washington

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