Max-Jean Zins, ” Kitchen and policy in India. The political culinary Kayasthes, a caste of scribes ” , French Review of political science, 1998, n° 3, pp. 409-436.
Three kitchens, three “kitchen world” in the sense in which Fernand Braudel speaks of the world-economy for the Mediterranean, that is to say, ” universe in itself “, stand side by side in India. The first and most important is hindu. It is something of India itself, it crystallizes and summarizes. She has the time depth of more than three millennia. The second, more recent but also very significant, as rich with centuries of history, is muslim. In the North of India, she arrives in power, in 1526, with a king driven out of central Asia, Babur, who laid the foundations of the second Empire, the largest of India : the mughal Empire. Finally, the third is british, that is to say, in essence european.
The caste of scribes, Kayasthes serves as the nodal point of reflection to the Max-Jean Zins to analyze “transactional and tensions in the political-gastric induced by the shock of the kitchens of hindu and muslim” The word kitchen is here understood in its broadest rich as possible, since they are considered to food preparation, cooking (both from the point of view of its mode and its place, the kitchen itself) and the table manners.
The thesis of the article is the following : the Kayasthes developed at the contact of the muslims, the taste of cuisine is syncretic, which mark the rise of the national independence movement. “This kitchen could become an idiom policy contributing to strengthening the role and place of Kayasthes in the new ethos of contemporary India “. The Kayasthes are located at the intersection of the worlds cultural hindu and a muslim, and their caste is going to be conduct to develop the beginnings of a policy culinary syncretic.
The Kayasthes, located as the other to the interface of hindu and muslim cultures, are also placed in a particular position relative to the high caste of their community ; it is this double characteristic which is at the origin of their political function syncretic, that explicit their kitchen. Originally, indeed, the Kayasthes are a caste of service, row in the last varna of the Shudras. Forming a caste of scribes, Kayasthes do not, therefore, represent less of a low caste. This is not, it seems, that at a period relatively recent that they share in the benefits value inherent in their intellectual function and their knowledge. Without a doubt, they were formerly held in subordination by the Brahmins in ancient times. With the development of the great directors, mughal, and then british, the Kayasthes will, however, find ways to put the service, and the know-how intellectual, in the service of their social ascent, as in the field of representations of the hindu community than in muslim community.
The Kayasthes will tend to ” sanskritiser “, that is to say, to claim a spot higher in the social scale, and symbolic of the castes, when they can, they will pretend to be part of the caste of Kshatryas, as if the honor of discovering the power of political-administrative had a negative impact on the condition of caste, and make them go in the ranks of the ” warriors “. The second tactic consists of a process described by the author of” ashrafisation “. The contact of the princes and potentates mughals in which they become committed to the scriptures or to the label, and then, by extension, the “officials” and ” senior officials “, shall adopt conduct and social behaviour worldly enabling them to benefit from the advantages of symbolic related to their job or their tasks and induced by their proximity with the power of the muslim State. Everything happens therefore as if the Kayasthes were involved in a double process of” ennoblement ” : on the one hand vis-à-vis their own hindu community, on the other hand vis-à-vis the muslim community.
On the one hand, by professional need and mimicry of behavior with the muslim sovereign, the closeness of Courts and authorities mughal encourages Kayasthes, some of which thrive particularly the wearing of the tunic sherwani and the use of the water pipe, to adopt some culinary manners of the muslim. It can be seen in the way in which they develop their taste for the kebab. We also note that in some culinary preparations involving the use of garlic, meat stuffed, offal (liver or kidneys) or ko/ta non-vegetarian, adorning, for example, eggs. It is observed in their attraction to sweet desserts of muslim origin, such as jalebis, a kind of fried doughnuts presented in the form of a spiral that is found in Turkey, Iran and throughout the Middle East. We note, finally, in the appeal that the restaurants non-vegetarian, represent, for many Kayasthes.
On the other hand, the recovery of the culinary practices of the political power of dominant taps on the book a little bit of the aura of this power, and this in the context of the political culture of mughal marked by the importance of the myth of the incorporation as a symbolic mode of exercise of power. The kitchen mogul breaks with the principles of the cooking and the eating hindus. The prestige of certain dishes, including confectionery, is enhanced by a very thin layer of silver paper, which adorns, without consequence for the taste, but sparkling and pleasing to the eye. The roasted fowl and game, symbols of hunting, strength and power, are very much appreciated. In short, this new kitchen, which is part of the authority of his masters, is to reflect. The Kayasthes, by adopting some of its practices, point to the importance of their new political and social status. It is done all the more easily that they are led, by the nature of their occupations, to live more in urban areas than in the countryside, the anonymity and the relative cosmopolitanism of the cities, reducing the visibility of the filth that represent the exceptions made to cook and eat hindus.
Max-Jean Zins perceives a difference gender important in the adoption by the Kayasthes of this syncretism culinary. The women in India, ” the main custodians of the culinary tradition “, they seem to be comparatively more conservastrices than their husbands. Less in touch with the urban world, placed under the dependence of his mother-in-law, the wife is careful to maintain family traditions-hindu, all the more so “spontaneously” that his access to the muslim culture remains more limited than that of her husband ; and, unlike him, she does not speak or bed generally Persian. It compensates for, by the observance of the rules of the kitchen of the orthodox, the driving fairly erratically her husband on the plan of cooking. By doing this, it exerts a constant function from call to order or anchor of the family in the world of values, the hindu.
The author gives the kitchen Kayasthe a function of secularism in modern India. Their eating habits, ” are at the heart of the problem lay in the new indian State in gestation “. The Kayasthes, are able to exercise a lead role in the definition and implementation of new ideas of modern India. Through their occupations inherited from their distant past of the scribes, and they occupy a strategic place in the development of the policy independent india.
Boasting for most of a level of education and knowledge significantly higher than the vast majority of the people, have the independence of an influence in the social and political life of their countries important, they contribute to shaping the ideas of the urban world. Therefore, their cultural behaviour, in this case food, can only play a leading role in the national political life. Their syncretism culinary reports to the attention of the public and of political elites. It serves to illustrate a policy as much as to serve as a reference. It also helps to give the Kayasthes the feeling of belonging to the one body, prestigious, elite politico-administrative in charge of implementing the great policy nehruiste of the post-war period. Number of Kayasthes comment on their cuisine during private conversations and I did not hesitate to point with pride to their relatives or their muslim friends, their taste for the culinary preparations, indo-Persian, a symbol in their eyes the spirit of openness and tolerance.