Over the past few decades, various communities across the country have been striving to gain Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe status buoyed by the concomitant benefits that such a tag would secure for these caste and tribal groups. While such negotiations are part of India’s social realpolitik and symbolise the success of its deep democracy, one may draw a link between the establishment of a gurupeetha or math to the community’s demand for ST status. Other communities in Karnataka too have used the institution of the math to further their political agendas.
This linkage will be familiar to people who have closely followed the distinctive development of various caste maths, or mathas, in Karnataka, even by groups that did not have such a tradition or culture. On the face of it, the maths are established to entrench a caste’s spiritual practices and provide a locus for worship, but scholars have also pointed out that they have become spaces to astutely further the community’s interests. Thus, the math and the guru who heads it are often enmeshed in the pursuit of power and in negotiating on behalf of the community with the State.
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