Chapter 5 Indian Sociologists
How did Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sarat Chandra Roy come to practise social anthropology?
The pioneer of social anthropology in India was L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer (1861-1937).
- L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer was asked by the Dewan of Cochin to assist with an ethnographic survey of the state.
- The British government wanted similar surveys done in all the princely states as well as the presidency areas directly under its contorl, Ananthakrishna did this work on a purely voluntary basis.
- L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer was the first self-taught anthropologist to receive national and international recognition as a scholar and an academician.
Practice of Social Anthropology by Sarat Chandra Roy
- Sarat Chandra Roy was deeply interested in tribal society as a by product of his professional need to interpret tribal customs and laws to the court.
- Roy published more than one hundred articles in leading Indian and British academic journals in addition to his famous monographs on the Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias.
- He founded the journal Man in India in 1922, the earliest journal of its kind in India.
What were the main arguments on either side of the debate about how to relate to tribal communities?
- Many British administrator – anthropologists were specially interested in the tribes of India and believed them to be primitive peoples with a distinctive culture far from mainstream of Hinduism.
- They believed that the innocent and simple tribal would suffer exploitation in the society.
- They felt that the state had a duty to protect the tribes and to help them sustain their w^y of life and culture, which were facing constant pressure to assimilate with mainstream of Hindu culture.
- They believed that attempts to preserve tribal cultures were misguided and resulted in maintaining tribals in backward regions.
G.S. Ghurye became the best known exponent of the nationalist view :
- Ghurye-became the best known exponent of the nationalist view. He insisted on characterizing the tribes of India as ‘backward Hindus’ rather than distinct cultural groups.
Main points of differences:
- The differences were how the impact of mainstream culture was evaluated. The protectionist’ believed that assimilation would result in the severe exploitation and cultural extinction of the tribals.
- Ghurye and the nationalists argued that these ill-effects were not specific to tribal cultures, but were common to all the backward and downtrodden sections of Indian society.
Outline the positions of Herbert Risley and G.S. Ghurye on the relationship between race and caste in India.
- Herbert Risley’s view held that human beings can be divided into distinct and separate races on the basis of their physical characteristics such as the circumference of the skull, the length of the nose, or the part of the skull where the brain is located.
- Risley believed that India was a unique ‘laboratory’ for studying the evolution of racial types because caste strictly prohibits intermarriage among different groups, and had done so for centuries.
- Risley’s main argument was that caste must have originated in race because different caste groups seemed to belong to distinct racial types.
- The higher castes approximated Indo-Aryan racial traits while the lower castes seemed to belong to non-Aryan aboriginal, Mongoloid or other racial groups.
- Risley and others suggested that the lower castes were the original aboriginal inhabitants of India. They had been subjugated by an Aryan people who had come from elsewhere and settled in India.
- Ghurye did not disagree with the basic argument put forward by Risley but believed it to be only partially correct.
- He pointed out the problem with using averages along without considering the variation in the distribution of a particular measurements were not very large or systematic.
- ‘Racial purity’ had been preserved due to the prohibition on inter-marriage only in ‘Hindustan proper’ (North India).
Summarise the social anthropological definition of caste.
Social anthropological definition of caste:
- Caste is based on segmental division: Caste is an institution based on segmental division. This means that caste society is divided into a number of closed, mutually exclusive segments or compartments.
- Caste is based on hierarchical division: Caste society is based on hierarchical division. Each caste is strictly unequal to every other caste.
- Caste imposes restriction on social interaction: The institution of caste necessarily imposes restrictions on social interaction, specially the sharing of food.
- Institution of untouchability: In the institution of untouchability even the touch of people of particular castes is thought to be polluting.
- Differential rights and duties for different castes: Following the principles of hierarchy and restricted social interaction, caste also involves differential rights and duties of different castes.
- Restriction on the choice of occupation: Caste restricts the choice of occupation, which, like caste itself, is decided by birth and is hereditary.
- It Imposes strict restrictions on marriage: Caste involves strict restrictions on marriage. Caste ‘endogamy’, or marriage only within the caste, is often accompanied by rules about ‘exogamy7, or whom one may not marry.
What does D.P. Mukerji mean by a ‘living tradition’? Why did he insist that Indian sociologists be rooted in this tradition?
- According to D.P. Mukerji, this is a tradition which maintains links with the past by retaining something from it, and at the same time incorporates new things.
- A living tradition thus includes some old elements but also some new ones.
- What D.P. Mukerji insisted Indian sociologists should be rooted in living tradition to get a better and more concrete sense of what this means.
The Indian sociologists can know better the following subjects:
- Games played by children of your age groups (boys/girls),
- Ways in which a popular festival is celebrated, etc.
- First duty of an Indian sociologist is to study and to know the social traditions of India. For Mr. Mukerji, this study of tradition was not oriented only towards the past, but also included sensitivity to change.
- What D.P. Mukerji has written is not enough for Indian sociologists. He must be an Indian first, i.e., he is to share in the folk-ways to mores, customs and traditions, for the purpose of understanding his social system and what lies beneath it and beyond it.
- D.P. Mukerji argued that Indian culture and society are not individualistic in the western sense.
- Indian social system is basically oriented towards group, sect or caste-action, not voluntaristic individual action.
What are the specificities of Indian culture and society, and how do they affect the pattern of change?
- D.P. Mukerji felt that the crucially distinguished feature of India was its social system.
- According to him, in India these three aspects were less developed in dimension in comparison to the west.
- Indian culture and society are not individualistic in the western sense but they are having group pattern.
- D.P. Mukerji believes that Indian society and culture do not favour only to have link with the past but it favours and believes in the process of adaptation.
- D.P. believed, class conflict had been “smoothed and covered by caste traditions” in the Indian context, where new class relations had not yet emerged very sharply.
- D.P. Mukerji believed in Indian tradition, namely, sruti, smriti and anubhava. Of these the last anubhava or personal experience is the revolutionary principle.
- The most important principle of change in Indian society was generalised anubhava, or the collective experience of groups.
The high traditions were centered in smriti and sruti, but they were periodically
challenged by the collective experience of groups and sects, as for example, in the Bhakti movement.
- According to D.P. Mukerji, the Indian context is not one where discursive reason (buddhi-vichar) is the dominant force for change, anubhava and prem (experience and love) have been historically superior as agents of change.
- Conflict and rebellion in Indian context have tended to work through collective experiences.
What is a welfare state? Why is A.R. Desai critical of the claims made on its behalf?
- A welfare state is that which looks after the welfare of the people concerned with different aspects i.e., political, economic, social, religious, cultural, developmental, etc. of the people.
- The modem capitalist state was one of the significant themes that interested A.R. Desai.
Desai identifies the following unique features of the welfare state:
- A welfare state is a positive state. This means that unlike the ‘laissez faire’ of classical liberal political theory, the welfare state does not seek to do only the minimum necessary to maintain law and order.
- A welfare state involves a mixed economy. A ‘mixed economy’ means an economy where both private capitalist enterprises and state or public owned enterprises co-exist.
- A welfare state does not seek to eliminate the capitalist market, nor does it prevent public investement in industry and other fields. By and large, the state sector concentrates on basic goods and social infrastructure, while private industry dominates the consumer goods sector.
Desai then goes on to suggest some test criteria against which the performance of the welfare state can be measured. These are :
- Freedom from poverty, discrimination and security for all: The welfare state ensures freedom from poverty, social discrimination and security for all its citizens.
- Equality of income: The welfare state removes inequalities of income through measures to redistribute income from the rich to the poor, and by preventing the concentration of wealth.
- Preference to real needs of community: The welfare state transforms the economy in such a way that the capitalist profit motive is made subservient to the real needs of the community.
- Stable development: The welfare state ensures stable development free from the cycle of economic booms and depressions.
- Employment: It provides employment for all.
What arguments were given for and against the village as a subject of sociological research by M. N. Srinivas and Louis Dumont?
- M.N. Srinivas favoured to take Indian villages as a subject of sociological research because village society remained a life long focus of interest for him.
- His writings were of two types. First of all, there were ethnographic accounts of fieldwork done in villages or discussions of such accounts.
- A second kind of writing includes historical and conceptual discussions about the Indian village as a unit of social analysis.
- Srinivas believed that the village was a relevant social entity. Historical evidence showed that villages had served as a unifying identity and that village unity was quite significant in rural social life.
- Srinivas criticised the British administrator anthropoligists who had put forward a picture of the Indian village as unchanging, self-sufficient, “little republics”.
- Villages were never self-sufficient, and had been involved in various kinds of economic, social and political relationship.
What is the significance of village studies in the history of Indian sociology? What role did M.N. Srinivas play in promoting village studies?
- India is a country of villages.
- More than 65 percent people reside in rural area of India.
- Village studies are important if we want to challenge the incomplete and wrong, factual and informative knowledge of western sociologists who had done their research work keeping in view the imperial interest, ideologies and policies of the British government.
- M.N. Srinivas produces a significance body of work on Indian society and certain issues related with rural life in India.
- The Indian village and village society remained a life long focus of interest for Srinivas.
- Srinivas helped, encouraged and coordinated a major collective effort at producing detailed ethnographic accounts of village society during the 1950s and 1960s.
Very Short Answer Type Questions
Mention Ghurye’s contribution to sociology.
Ghurye is considered as founder of institutionalised sociology in India.
- He created a generation of first class sociologist through his guidance.
- His contribution in the field of castes, races, marriages, family and kinship system, rural urbanisation, demography, sociology of religion is most significant. Obviously, he was deeply interested in castes and races from the beginning.
What does D.P. Mukerji mean by Purusha?
According to D.P. Mukerji, the concept of Purusha is not different from society and an individual and neither is this concept under control of Purusha group mind. Mr. Mukerji was of the view that Purusha is an active actor who fulfills his responsibilities by establishing contact with other persons.
What is living tradition, according to D.P. Mukerji ?
According to D.P. Mukerji, living tradition is a tradition which maintains links with the past by retaining something from it, and at the same time incorporates new things.
Short Answer Type Questions
Differentiate between the rural and the urban society.
Rural society: They are usually small in size, having a low density of population. The dominant occupation is agriculture or agriculture related activities. There is a rigidity in the caste system. Lifestyle is simple, closeness is emphasized, dependence on religion is dominant. People are god-fearing and more nature dependent. They have a similar culture despite the differences in religious following. They are informal and take part in each other’s work as their own e.g. harvesting, sowing etc.
Urban society: They are usually large in size, having a high density of population. The population is hetrogenous, cosmopolitan, having people from different cultures. They follow various occupations out of which agriculture is the least popular. Lifestyle is complex, formality dominates. Caste system seemingly does not exist. The neighbours do not maintain social relations and exhibit a disinterested approach.
What does Ghurye think about rural community and urban community?
Ghurye was in favour of urban development. Ghurye was of the view that raw material and other goods produced in rural areas must be used for urban development. According to him, following problems exist in urban areas :
- Insufficient drinking water
- Human congestion
- Traffic congestion
- Indiscriminate tree felling
- Sound or noise pollution.
Long Answer Type Questions
Discuss the views expressed by Ghurye on the tribes.
Ghurye emphasized that some anothropologists and the British administrators advocated a policy of isolation for the tribes. They mentioned many causes for it such as: First, the tribals were different from the non-tribals or Hindus.
Secondly, tribals were the original inhabitants of the country.
Thirdly, they are unlike the Hindus, animists.
Fourthly, the tribals are different from the Hindus on linguistic grounds also.
Fifthly, tribal’s contact with the non-tribals had been harmful for the culture and economy of the tribals.
Ghurye referred to the long process of Hinduization of the tribes of India in different parts of the country. Some tribes had been integrated with the Hindu society. Some others remained loosely integrated. The tribes living in the hilly regions and the depths of forests were barely touched by the Hinduism. They were the imperfectly integrated classes of Hindus.
The tribes embraced the Hindu social order mainly for following causes :
- The first reason was the economic motivation. They adopted specialized types of occupation which were in demand in the society.
The second reason lies in the Catholicity of caste system to the tribal belief and rituals.
Ghurye emphasized that the policy of the British Government in relation to forests caused hardship for the tribals.
Explain the structural features of caste given by Ghurye.
The caste system has got the following six structural characteristics :
Segmental Division: Govind Sadashiv Ghurye sees caste as social grouping or segments; the membership of which is obtained and fixed by birth.
Caste provides its own centre regarding rules, regulations, standards of morality and justice.
- Hierarchy: The castes or segments are arranged in terms of hierarchy. The Brahmans were placed at the top and the untouchables were kept at the bottom of the hierarchy.
- Principles of Purity and Pollution: The above described two features (attributes) reflect the separation or distance between castes. This fact of separation is reinforced by the principles of purity and pollution that find their expression in the codes, regulating the acceptance of food or drink from other castes.
Civil and Religious Disabilities and Privileges of different Sections:
A result of the hierarchical division of society is that rights and obligations are unequally shared by different sections of the society.
Lack of Choice of Occupation:
Every group or caste was associated with a hereditary occupation. Distinction between pure and impure occupations, the hereditary occupation of a caste reflected its status in society.
Restrictions on Marriage:
Inter-caste marriage was prohibited.
What was D.P. Mukerji’s view about traditions and modernity?
D.P. Mukerji’s view about traditions:
D.P. Mukerji asserts that traditions do change. These principles of change are recognized in Indian tradition:
It is anubhava or personal experience, which is the revolutionary principle.
- The experience of prem or love and sahaj or spontaneity of these saints and their followers was noticeable also in Sufis among the Muslims.
Our country has definitely preserved many values (some good and other bad also). The point, however, is that of utilizing the forces which are foreign to Indian traditions, e.g.
- bureaucratic rule, etc.
D.P. Mukerji’s views about modernity:
- D.P. Mukerji does not worship tradition. His idea of “full man” or “well balanced personality” calls for a blend of moral fervor and aesthetic and intellectual sensibility with the sense of history and rationality.
- D.P. Mukerji believed that “the knowledge of tradition shows the way to break them with the least social cost.”
- According to D.P. Mukerji, a dialectical process of conflict and synthesis, must be given a push by the conserved energies of the class structure of Indian society.
Discuss the features of the caste system as stated by G.S.Ghurye.
According to Ghurye, the caste system has the following features:
- Segmental division: This refers to the division of society into compartments, segments or castes. They have a set of rules, regulations, standards of morality and justice for each caste.
- ‘Hierarchy: Hierarchy is a scheme, which arranges castes in terms of higher, or Superior and lower or inferior in relation to each other.
- Principles of purity and pollution: The principles of purity and pollution find their expression in the codes regulating the acceptance of food or drink from other castes.
- Civil and religious disabilities and privileges of different sections: The ritual status of a caste; their rights and obligations are the crucial determinants of the nature of these disabilities.
- Lack of choice of occupation: Every caste is associated with a hereditary occupation. As distinction is made between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ and therefore between ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ occupations; the hereditary occupation of a caste reflected its status in society.
- Restrictions on marriage: Inter-marriage between castes was prohibited. Individuals were allowed to marry within their castes only i.e. they practised endogamy.
Discuss the factors that brought about social changes in society.
Some of the factors are internal to the society whereas some are external.
1. Environment: It sets limits to the social change and may bring very rapid change in society. Difficult environmental conditions make slow the development of an advanced technology. In suitable environmental conditions, they grow and develop faster. If there are unfavourable environmental conditions, a society may remain backward. Isolated societies remain underdeveloped whereas well communicated societies develop rapidly. Natural disasters like flood, cyclone, drought force people to move from place to place, thus bringing social change in their lives.
2. Population: Change in the size of population brings about change in the economic life of the people and other aspects of life. Decrease in population may solve some social problems, decrease unemployment, whereas increase will do to the contrary. Industrialised nations need to maintain a balance between the size of the population and natural resources.
3. Technology: Social change is more rapid in technologically developed societies. In traditional societies, changes are very slow. Complexity in social structure grows along with advancement of technology. Due to advancement of technology, simple division of labour of the traditional societies has changed into complex form of division of labour. This has helped in the development of occupational specialisation. However, this has divided the population into a number of groups.
4. Values and Beliefs: On one hand, new social values and beliefs can bring about
social change, whereas they may also cause resistance to it. Changes in values and beliefs take a long time to be realized. When changes occur in society, they are noticed only partially.
5. Diffusion: Diffusion is an important mechanism of social change. Borrowing of cultural traits from an advanced society by a backward society is a normal process. This brings about social change. The backward societies change very rapidly and become modem by borrowing advanced technologies from the advanced societies. Non material traits like religion, ideology, beliefs and values change very slowly.