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Processes Of Social Change In India

According to Jones, "Social change is a term used to describe variations in, or modifications of, any aspect of social processes, social patterns, social interaction or social organization". The term 'social change by itself does not suggest anything as far as its direction or value is concerned. Social change can take different forms and may be accompanied by revolution, adaptation, accommodation, evolution or progress. The word 'change' symbolizes a variation - good or bad in a social phenomenon observed over some time.

The Trends And Processes Of Social Change In India Under The Following Heads:

  1. Sanskritization
    Although the caste system is peculiar to India, social inequality prevails in all human societies. Wealth, intelligence, power and prestige are not equally distributed in any social group. Social strata exist universally, and as Sorokin has remarked, an unstratified society, with real equality of its members, is a myth.

    No society, however, remains static. The term 'social mobility is used to refer to the movement from one stratum of society to another. Societies, where the rate of social mobility is high, are sometimes referred to as 'open societies, as opposed to 'closed societies, where such a rate is quite low. Indian society is generally regarded as falling in the 'closed' category, as the rate of mobility is quite low.

    However, one interesting avenue of upper mobility in India is what is referred to as 'Sanskritization'. The word 'Sanskritization' was coined by the late Prof. Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas in his PhD thesis submitted to Oxford University - which was later published under the title, "Religion and Society amongst the Coorgs of South India".

    Prof. Srinivas used this term to denote a process whereby people of lower castes collectively try to adopt and imitate the practices, rituals and beliefs followed by those belonging to the upper castes or the 'twice-born', to acquire a higher status in society. Thus, a process of cultural mobility is taking place in the traditional social system of India.

    Prof. Srinivas, who made a detailed study of the Coorgs in Karnataka, found that persons belonging to lower castes collectively adopted some of the customs, practices and even the dress codes of the Brahmins and gave up some of their own, to raise their position in the caste hierarchy. For instance, they gave up eating meat, drinking liquor and sacrificing animals to their deities and imitated the Brahmins in matters of food, dress and rituals.

    By doing so, they could stake a claim for a higher position in the caste hierarchy. Typically, this is a slow process which takes a long time; it could be decades or one full generation, or sometimes, even a few centuries.

    Yogendra Singh has taken the view that Sanskritization is an important component of the process of socialisation. The emulation by the lower class of the ways of life of the higher class leads to significant changes in the social behaviour of the lower castes. For them, it is a process of learning, where they unlearn some of their previous social habits and learn new modes of social behaviour from the higher caste groups, regarded as their reference model.

    Although the reference group followed by such persons is usually the Brahmins, it may sometimes be some other dominant caste of the locality. Thus, if the dominating case of a particular region is Kshatriya, then the Kshatriya model is emulated. Some tribal groups have been found to emulate the Shudras to become part of Hindu society.

    Sanskritization is, however, not confined to Hindu castes; it exists amongst non-Hindu tribal and semi-tribal groups also. It is a form of social change observed in India and other countries like Nepal.

    The process of Sanskritization is not confined to particular individuals; rather it takes place at a group level. It explains changes in the status of a specific group over some time - sometimes, over two or more centuries.

    Sanskritization thus leads to the upward mobility of the caste which is undergoing the process. However, such mobility may take place even without Sanskritization, as Sanskritization is only one of the modes of this mobility. Conversely, Sanskritization may not always result in upward social mobility.

    It may also be noted that Sanskritization leads only to positional changes, but it does not lead to any structural change. In other words. it does not change the caste system as a whole. Thus, it is not considered a threat to the caste system deep-rooted in Hindu society.
  2. Westernization
    Societal changes, brought about by the influence of advanced M western countries, are referred to by sociologists as westernisation. It is a gradual replacement and transformation of the traditional culture and of the society concerned, by that of the west. Westernisation is used n to signify the effect of western societies like the UK, USA, France or Germany, on eastern societies like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

    Modernisation is synonymous with Westernisation in cases where underdeveloped societies use western models to bring about social change in their societies. However, according to Prof. M.N. Srinivas, v the term Westernisation is ethically neutral, in that, it does not claim to be a process of social change that is good or bad for society. Most authors, however, regard modernisation as a positive and desirable change in any society.

    Westernisation in India can be classified into three prominent phases: pre-British, pre-independence and post-independence westernisation. Before the British reign, India was a highly traditional society that afforded few opportunities for social change. Westernisation initiated India's transition from the extremely rigid and static society that it was, to the dynamic and flexible society that it is today. Westernisation also facilitated industrialisation, urbanisation and secularisation in India.

    In the pre-independence period, British rule brought with it western influences that triggered fundamental changes in Indian society. The growth of science and technology, the advancement of transport and communication, the invention of the printing press, the institution of an intricate and orderly bureaucratic structure, the introduction of a new educational and legal system.

    The establishment of a uniform police service and a new army structure, brought about a gradual ideological change in the Indian society. Individualism and humanitarianism were encouraged, leading to social reforms that ended many social injustices. Religious customs became subject to law and reason. These factors presented opportunities for accelerated social mobility in British India.

    Post-independence, the western societies of Europe, America and Canada have greatly influenced social change in India. These changes are evident in almost all facets of daily life, be it the mode of dressing, hairstyles, music and dancing preferences, use of slang and abuses or the fast-food (Coke and McDonald) culture.
  3. Secularization
    According to M.N. Srinivas, the term 'secularisation' implies that what was previously regarded as religious is now ceasing to be such and the significance of religion in today's society has drastically diminished Religious customs and rituals now have to stand the test of logic and reason to survive. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution declares India to be a secular republic.

    The secular nature of the Indian state is enshrined in Articles 27 to 30 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to freedom of religion. Secularisation has had a tremendous impact on Indian society. The authority of religion over society has diminished greatly.

    This is evident from the gradual breakdown of the caste system, the increase in inter-religious marriages, the abolition of untouchability and the improved status of women. Ideals of equality, fraternity and brotherhood are now ingrained in society. State-owned educational institutions and government offices are required to strictly adhere to a secular policy

The main features of secularisation, as stated by Vidya Bhushan and are as follows:

  1. Decrease in religious belief:
    Secularisation is opposed to blind faith in religion. As secularisation grows, the customary practices of religious rites decrease and they have to stand the test of logic and reason to survive. Religious customs and rituals performed at the time of births, deaths and marriages are slowly losing their value. Secularisation is therefore marked by a decrease in the influence of religion on the aspects of social life.
  2. Differentiation:
    Religion no longer binds the various aspects of social life. Economic, political, legal and ethical facets of social life exist independently of religious influences and are subject to their respective principles and doctrines. Secularisation is therefore characterized by the differentiation or separation of different aspects of social life such that they exist independent of religious influences.
  3. Rationality:
    Secularisation appeals to the rational side of man. Religious customs are followed so long as they are in keeping with rationality and reason but not when they defy logic and plain reasoning.
  4. Scientific attitude:
    Secularisation is often accompanied by a replacement of religious explanations by scientific explanations. There is therefore a perceptible shift from faith in religious beliefs to a reliance on scientific theories and explanations.
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