Culture is something that is constituted by a people due to certain social and economic conditions, emphasized Prof. N. Sudhakar Rao, during his talk on “A New Vision of Culture: A study into culture formation through three case studies.”

Prof N. Sudhakar Rao, Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad (UoH), was Listening Post’s second speaker this season. He addressed a gathering of students, staff and faculty in a seminar hall at the Social Sciences Building on 12th August 2014.

Drawing from case studies on Yanadis of Andhra Pradesh, Adi tribes in Arunachal Pradesh and Mannevarlu tribes, Prof. Rao explained how new cultures are born as responses to the social and economic conditions in which people survive.


Speaking about the origin of Donyi-Polo religion, Prof. Rao explained how evangelic Christians and Hindus sought to bring Adi tribes into their respective folds during the early 20th century AD. The Adis, however, had their own way of life and their will to preserve their own identity lead to the institutionalization of Donyi-Polo (means Sun-Moon).

On 28 August 1968, Adi intellectuals met to discuss the institutionalization of tribal religion, along the lines of Christianity and Hinduism. Soon, a religion that had no literature developed a wealth of written material and photographs. Prayer hymns were composed and rituals created. Adi tribals readily took up these practices. Youngsters were oriented towards this religion as sent to spread the word within the tribal communities, with books and photographs supporting their teachings.

Prof. Rao also spoke of the Yanadi tribes that dwelled along Coastal Andhra districts. Abjectly poor, exploited and isolated, the Yanadis were further traumatized as the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 was slapped on them by the British. Forced to face further humiliation and dishonor on being branded criminals, the Yanadis sought refuge in the culture of “Perantalu”.

According to this practice, each Yanadi at the time of birth has a personal God who promises to take care of that individual throughout his / her life. This personal God requires the ward to avoid any situation that causes physical or mental pain. This approach enables Yanadis to walk away from situations that overwhelm them, and move on to adapt and survive.

Enriching his speech with such examples, Prof. N. Sudhakar Rao delivered quite an informative lecture that left the audience with food for thought and walk out a little wiser.

– by Harika Vankadara, student of MA-Communication