(Sample Material) IAS Mains Sociology (Optional) Study Kit "Historical Moorings Of Indian Society"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains Sociology Study Kit

Subject: Sociology (Optional)

Topic: Historical Moorings Of Indian Society

Traditional Hindu Social Organisation: As the title itself suggests the traditional Hindu social organisation was primarily governed-by religion i.e. Hindu Dharma. The social relations were defined in terms of religious obligations. Although a centralised organisation like the ‘Church’ was absent, various means were used of enforce religious values and norms. One of the central pillars of Hindu social organisation has been V aura Ashrama Vyayastha.

An interesting feature of Varna-Ashrama Vyavatha is that a person’s life was viewed at two levels. At one level, a person is rented as an individual having interests and, goals different from those of the groups at large. At another level, a person was from those of the groups at large. At another level, a person was treated essentially as a member of the group having rights and treated essentially as a member of the group having rights and obligations vis-a-vis the group. This feature is evident from the norms governing Ashrarnas i.e. life-cycle stages and the associated Purusharthas i.e., the goal-orientations.

The first Ashram is Brahmacharay which constitutes the learning stage. Here, m individual is to be trained directly under the personal supervision of a learned Guru to enable him to fulfill his obligations in the-later Ashramas. The next Ashrama is the Grihastha Ashrama An individual is ritually initiated into this through the Vivah ceremony (literacy meaning to carry away the bride). This Ashrama enables an individual to pursue the Purusharathas of Kama. Arr. and Dharma Kama enjoins upon the individual the duty to perpetuate his Kula i.e., the familial groups. Also it allows him to seek personal, sexual gratification. Pursuit of Arrha enjoins upon him the duty to work for earning his livelihood. Dharma refers to duty of the individual to fulfill various religious and social obligations like performing Yajna and repayment of Rias like Daiva Rings Rings Rings and Pitra Rings.

Thus unlike Brahamcharya, during Grihastha Ashrama, besides seeking personal gratification, an individual is primarily obliged is fulfill his obligations as a productive member of the society.
The Ashrma that comes next is Vanaprastha This is again to be a preparatory stage in which an individual is enjoined to gradually distance himself from his familial group and prepare himself for the next Ashrama i.e., Sanyasa During Vanaprashta, the only purushartha to be sought is Dharma which essentially involves performance of Yajnas.

Finally, an individual is enjoined to take to Sanyasa which involves total detachment form the social life. The only purshartha that be must seek is Moksha-the pursuit of salvation from the cycle of rebirth. Thus, in the Sanyasa stage an individual ceases to be a member of the society and is to concern himself purely with the goal viz., seeking Moksha.

While Ashrama Vyasvastha concerns the organisation of individual life, Varna Vyavastha refers to the organisation of social life into four hereditary, occupational groups, the fifth group falling outside the ambit of V auras.

However the Varna-Ashrama Vyavastha presents only a textual view of Hindu Social life, which was never fully replicated in reality.

Social Cultural Dynamics Though the Ages: Dynamics means motion of a body or matter. Socii-Cultural dynamics would mean the changes in tire ‘Social’ nod ‘Cultural’ attributes-of a society. Though in reality these two attributes are inseparable like the two sides of a coin but for analytic convenience they can be treated separately.

Social here refers of the structural aspects i.e., it emphasis on the nature of patterned interactions actually obtaining ‘within and ‘among’ various types of groups that exist in the society. Some examples of such groups being family, caste, economic organisation and the distribution of power and dominance.

‘Cultural’ aspects refer to the collectively shared values, ideas and symbols that are associated with these groups and the patterns of social interaction existing therein. Some of the examples being the values of inequality or hierarchy conveyed through the idea of purity-pollution, the idea of unity or holism meaning that different parts arc united in one body social, the fatalistic belief in the ideas of rebirth add various themes conveyed through literatures of different periods.

Socio-Cultural dynamics if a universal process. All societies at all times are subject to this process of change. At the same time, it is a highly complex phenomenon. To facilitate understanding, the changes in the above mentioned aspects can be further divided into two categories. The criterion being, where the forces bringing about change are located.

The changes may be termed Endogenous (orthogenetic), if the forces emanate from within the social structure, for example; rise of Buddhism. Alternately, they may be. termed Exogenous (Heterogenetic), if they have resulted due to forces impinging on society from without. (Changes due to Islamic conquest are an example of this type).

Indian society, being no exception, has also been subject to this complex process. Subsequent discussion on Socoi-Cultural dynamics in Indian Society shall focus on two aspects: (A) What has been the content of change?. (B) Flow these changes came about? Here we shall probe into the nature of forces which triggered these changes.

(A) Taking Aryan society of Vedic times as the point of departure we can have an overview of these changes in demographic, familial, stratification, economic and political spheres. They constitute various substructures of Indian society. Thus, these changes are to be termed as structural changes. They have been both endogenous and exogenous in nature.

i) Demography: Indian society has been continuously subject to demographic changes both due to influx of foreigners as well as due to the internal growth of population. Aryans themselves being outsiders were followed by other settlers like Greeks, Sakas, Kushans, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Afghans. Finally came the British initially as merchants and traders but later stayed on as the colonial rulers. Although, numerically they constitute an insignificant minority but their presence has far reaching consequences. Mere influx of population is not a structural change but it has structured consequences. Firstly, such influx involved frequent wars which brought about changes at social and political levies. Secondly, assimilation of these groups in Indian society led to transformation of die simplistic Varna based stratification system as would be shown in the following passage.

ii) Stratification: The earlier occupation based hierarchy of varnas gave way to a highly complex and variable hierarchy of jatis. Jatis are localised endogamous groups arranged hierarchal. Though they do have occupational linkage there has been no uniformity, at all India level either in occupations or in their positions in the rank order. The exceptions being the Brahmans and the untouchable who have always been at the top and bottom of the ritual hierarchy based on the secular attributes also acquired significance and the trend has been towards increasing importance in day to day life of secular hierarchy over ritual hierarchy. For example the rich landlords in villages play a dominant role in communal affairs as compared to poorer but ritually superior jatis. However hereditary nature of lain membership rendered the hierarchy very rigid permitting only limited mobility. This has been an important reason for the conversion of low ranking Jatis to more egalitarian religions like Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Traditionally these jatis have been performing multiple functions. They aced as occupational interest groups as well as extended kin groups. However in the post British period there had been considerable changes in their functions due to modernisation.

But it seems that the Sates are here to stay mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, they continue to perform their connubial functions. Secondly, they have adapted themselves to the noel of associative type of interest groups helping their members to secure benefits of modernisation.

iii) Family: Not much is known about the nature of family system in early Vedic period but definitely towards (lie later Vedic period the joint family system had come to be established. It constituted the basic household unit of the village corrununity at least among the landholding upper cases. Although nuclear households did exist among the lower castes this was mainly due to the negative reasons i.e. absence of landed property and spirit of joint ness very much prevailed upon these nuclear households.

Tire structural features of joint family (both due patrilineal and the matrilineal) have been: a joint ownership of property b. authority being in the basis of age and sex i.e. elder members exercising authority over the younger ones and the male members having greater authority than the female ones c.- Sex based division of labour whereby women being confine to domestic spheres while outside matters being the exclusive concern of men. such a joint family constituted a world by itself and performed numerous functions viz economic religious educational, recreational etc: There exists a consensus among sociologists that the above mentioned attributes of joint family remained note or less unchanged till quite recent times. Only of late the joint family in India has started to disintegrate and nuclear households are proliferating. Even some tendency towards nuclearity is also to be witnessed. but by and large, the joint family sentiment still remains and influences the inter-personal relations.

iv. ECONOMY: Indian society during early Vedic time had a seminomadic or pastoral type of economy. Toward die later Vedic rimes, settled agricultural communities came in to existence. During the post-Vedic period with the availability of agricultural surplus, cade and commerce developed under the regulation of guilds. These guilds not only helped in-promotion of trade mid craft but also exercised control through guild laws and even interfered in the personal lives of guild members. Later overseas trade developed and trade contacts were established with the romans and with central and South East Asia. However, with the decline of guptas, Trade and commerce also declined only to be revived during Mughal times. This was the period when numerous crabs developed to meet the luxury and military needs of the ruling class. Finally, under the British rule a new transformation came about in he Indian economy. However, there was a silver lining too. For the first time, Indian was exposed to the forces of modernisation. During this contact, Indian economy did under go modernising change, though to a limited extent and an uneven manner. Only, after independence a deliberate and sustained effort has been made to develop modern national economy.

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