Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A. Introducing Indian Society:

A. Introducing Indian Society:

(i) Perspectives on the study of Indian society:

(a) Indology (GS. Ghurye).

The development of sociology in India owes deeply to the contributions made by the Orientalists, such as Sir William Jones, Henry Maine, Alfred Lyell, Max Mueller and others. These scholars studied the rich ancient cultural and philosophical tradition of India. It is for these reasons that

they are known as the Indologists. Indology is the study of India and its culture.

Sir William Jones established the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1787. Here he introduced the study of Sanskrit and Indology. One of the main tasks of this society was the publication of a journal devoted to anthropological and indological interests such as study of Sanskrit, comparative jurisprudence, comparative mythology, etc. Scholars like Max Muller learnt Sanskrit and helped in the translations of ancient epics and literature which had been long forgotten by the Indian people.

Govind Sadashiv Ghurye was born on 12th Dec. 1893 in a small town called Malvan on the west coast of India. Malvan is some two-hundred miles away from Mumbai. He belonged to a fairly prosperous Brahmin family, which owned shops and other property. He was named after his grandfather who died the same year when he was born. His family was very religious and well known in that region for piety.

Due to loss in business and the death of his grandfather G.S. Ghurye’s father had to take up a job. His job proved to be very lucky for the family. Ghurye was one of four children of his parents. He had an elder brother whom he admired very much, another brother and a sister. He joined school in Malvan. In 1905 his “thread ceremony” was performed. At this time he had completed his fifth standard examination and joined an English school. His mother tongue was Marathi and his

early schooling was also in Marathi. But knowledge of Sanskrit was there in the family. His grandfather knew Sanskrit. He too, started learning Sanskrit. The religious atmosphere of the family and its reputation for piety and learning had a deep influence on G.S. Ghurye. He grew up learning

English and received modern education but his roots in Hindu culture and tradition were very deep.

He was sent by his mother to complete his matriculation from Junagad in Gujarat. Here his eldest brother was already studying. He became a student of the Bahauddin College in 1912. Here he became very proficient in Sanskrit. He joined Bombay university which used to have an entrance

exam then. He cleared this examination with twenty other boys. There were no girls at that time but later a Christian girl joined their class. He had obtained first position in his college. In the university he secured fourth position. His brother was teaching physics at the university when Sadashiva

joined it. G.S. Ghurye was a very hard working student and in spite of the short phases of illness he managed to do very well in his studies.

In 1916 when G.S. Ghurye had completed his B.A. examination and stood first in it, he was married to a girl of a fairly rich family of Vengurla (Maharashtra), of his own sub-caste. His parents named his wife Rukmini after the marriage as per the practice amongst the Maharashtrians. But Ghurye reverted back to calling her Sajubai, which was her original name when they established their own household in 1923. He was against the practice of changing the personal name of a girl after marriage. He was also against the traditional practice of tattooing the skin because he

considered it barbaric. For his B.A. result he received the Bhau Daji Prize, named after the great Indologist Bhau Daji Lad who was one of the first physicians of Mumbai, trained in the western system of medium. G.S. Ghurye had secured seventy four per cent marks in Sanskrit in his college.

Sadashiv was appointed a Fellow of the college and completed his M.A. degree. The languages he chose in his M.A. course were English, Sanskrit and later he took Pali. He also did a course which was newly introduced in the university on comparative philology. He got first class in M.A. also.

He was awarded the Chancellor’s Gold Medal, a top most honour in the whole university. His success was unique in the history of the university because nobody before him had ever got first class in M.A. with Sanskrit. He later applied for a scholarship to go abroad for studies in sociology,

which the Bombay university had advertised earlier. He was asked to meet Prof. Patrick Geddes of sociology in Bombay university. During his interactions with Prof. Geddes he wrote an essay on “Bombay as an Urban Centre” which was highly appreciated by Geddes. This enabled Ghurye

to get the foreign study scholarship.

Ghurye went to England by ship. He became a student of L.T. Hobhouse. Besides many other people, he met Dr. A.C. Haddon who was the world famous ethnologist studying preliterate cultures. It was Haddon who introduced Ghurey to Dr. W.H.R. Rivers whose influence on Ghurey was

considerable. Rivers was at the pinnacle of his intellectual glory and was founder of the Cambridge School of Psychology. Rivers later came to India and studied a polyandrous tribe called the Todas of the Nilgiri Hills. Ghurye wrote several articles in sociology at this time and got them published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and in the journal, Anthropos. He wrote his most important work, Caste and Race in India, during the 1930s. He was awarded the degree of Ph.D. from Cambridge university. He came back to India after W.H.R. Rivers’ death.

He worked in Calcutta for 7 months on a scholarship which he received from Bombay University. Then he and K.P. Chattopadhya of Calcutta University got appointments as Readers in Sociology at Bombay university, in 1924. He got this appointment due to the great respect and recognition

given to him by the late Dr. W.H.R. Rivers. G.S. Ghurye joined the Bombay Asiatic Society as a member in the same year. He guided several students under him. Some of his students are now famous sociologists. They made significant contributions to the growth of sociology and social anthropology in India.

G.S. Ghurye was made a Professor of Sociology in 1934, ten years after he joined the Bombay university as a Reader and the Head of the Department of Sociology. He was elected the President of the anthropological section of the Indian Science Congress in 1934. In the same year he was elected as the nominee of the Royal Asiatic Society by the Managing Committee of its Bombay branch. In 1942 he became the President of the Bombay Anthropological Society and continued to hold

this position till 1948. He wrote several books and articles and his knowledge of Sanskrit enabled him to study the religious scriptures in the context of Indian society. He studied castes and tribes, rural-urbanisation, about the Indian Sadhus, about Indian costumes and so on. During his life

time he won several top honours accorded to any intellectual in India. He became not only a nationally but internationally known sociologist of India. He died in the year 1984.

(b) Structural functionalism (M N Srinivas).

M. N. Srinivas

Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas (1916-1999) was a world-renowned Indian sociologist. He is mostly known for his work on caste and caste systems, social stratification and Sanskritisation in southern India. Srinivas' contribution to the disciplines of sociology and social anthropology and to public life in India was unique. It was his capacity to break out of the strong mould in which (the mostly North American university oriented) area studies had been shaped after the end of the Second World War on the one hand, and to experiment with the disciplinary grounding of social anthropology and sociology on the other, which marked his originality as a social scientist.

It may be important to point out that it was the conjuncture between Sanskritic scholarship and the strategic concerns of the Western bloc in the aftermath of the Second World War which had largely shaped South Asian area studies in the United States. During the colonial era, the Brahmins or Pandits were acknowledged as important interlocutors of Hindu laws and customs to the British colonial administration. The colonial assumptions about an unchanging Indian society led to the curious assemblage of Sanskrit studies with contemporary issues in most South Asian departments in the U.S. and elsewhere. It was strongly believed that an Indian sociology must lie at the conjunction of Indology and sociology.

Srinivas' scholarship was to challenge that dominant paradigm for understanding Indian society and would in the process, usher newer intellectual frameworks for understanding Hindu society. His views on the importance of caste in the electoral processes in India are well known. While some have interpreted this to attest to the enduring structural principles of social stratification of Indian society, for Srinivas these symbolized the dynamic changes that were taking place as democracy spread and electoral politics became a resource in the local world of village society.

By inclination he was not given to utopian constructions - his ideas about justice, equality and eradication of poverty were rooted in his experiences on the ground. His integrity in the face of demands that his sociology should take into account the new and radical aspirations was one of the most moving aspects of his writing. Through use of terms such as "sanskritisation", "dominant caste", "vertical (inter-caste) and horizontal (intra-caste) solidarities", Srinivas sought to capture the fluid and dynamic essence of caste as a social institution.

As part of his methodological practice, Srinivas strongly advocated ethnographic research based on fieldwork, but his concept of fieldwork was tied to the notion of locally bounded sites. Thus some of his best papers, such as the paper on dominant caste and one on a joint family dispute, were largely inspired from his direct participation (and as a participant observer) in rural life in south India. He wrote several papers on the themes of national integration, issues of gender, new technologies, etc. It is really surprising as to why he did not theorize on the methodological implications of writing on these issues which go beyond the village and its institutions. His methodology and findings have been used and emulated by successive researchers who have studied caste in India.

Important Books by M.N Srinivas

Marriage and Family in Mysore (1942)

Religion and Society Among the Coorgs of South India (1952)

Caste in Modern India (1962), Asia Publishing House

The Remembered Village (1976)

Indian Society through Personal Writings (1998)

Village, Caste, Gender and Method (1998)

Social Change in Modern India

The Dominant Caste and Other Essays (ed.)

Dimensions of Social Change in India

(c) Marxist sociology (A R Desai).

A.R Desai was born on April 16, 1915 at Nadiad in Gujarat and died in 1994 at Baroda. He consistently advocated and applied dialectical-historical model in his sociological studies. He closely studied the works of Marx and Engels and the writings of Trotsky. He may be regarded as one of the pioneers in introducing the modern Marxist approach to empirical investigations involving bibliographical and field research. He rejects any interpretations of tradition with reference to religion, rituals and festivities. It is essentially a secular phenomenon. He finds it in family, village and other social institutions. He also does not find the origin of tradition in western culture. He considers that the emerging contradictions in the Indian process of social transformation arise mainly from the growing nexus among the capitalist bourgeoisie, the rural petty-bourgeoisie and a state apparatus all drawn from similar social roots.

Main writings of A.R Desai

A. R Desai has written in Marxist perspective to understand the diverse aspects of Indian social reality. The main works are:

The social background of Indian nationalism

Rural sociology in India

Slums and urbanization in India

State and society in India

Peasant struggle in India

Rural India in transition

India’s path of development Desai also developed the field of political sociology in 1960s.He studied Indian society from Marxian perspective and also used history fruitfully.

(ii) Impact of colonial rule on Indian society

The coming of British into India was an event which had far-reaching consequences for Indian society. The age-old traditions began to decline due to new social and economic forces. The classical languages such as Sanskrit and Persian declined and English became the official language.

The traditional handicrafts in Indian country-side fell into decay as they were unable to withstand the competition of machine-made textiles and other goods brought by the British to the Indian markets from Manchester, Lancashire, Sheffield and London. The Indian villages were not able to

continue as viable economic units under the colonial rule. The British brought important changes in India by the introduction of railways, posts and telegraphs which facilitated communication between

groups. Further, administrative and judicial services were extended to many parts of the subcontinent. Thus, India entered the modern stage. The schools, colleges and universities were started by the British rulers. Missionaries and Indian voluntary organisations also took steps to spread modern education in India.

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