This analysis of Indian society is the most comprehensive study that has been done in recent times. It brings together the result of modern social research to reveal the regular patterns that underlie social relation throughout the country; it also outlines some of the principal social and regional variations. Professor Mandelbaum views social relations in India as system and parts of systems and shows that Indian society has not been static or stagnant as is often asserted but has been continually adapting mainly on the basis of certain deep lying psychological and social themes.
Volume one opens with the concepts of social system and of caste of order and then defines the major component of Indian society. Family and kinship relation are next discussed with particular attention to the relevance of family relations in the larger society. These chapters note the cultural effects of kinship network and the psychological effects of the tensions inherent in family relations.
Hierarchical ranking is central to relations among people of different castes group or jatis; the next section of this volume explains how jati ranking ate made on the basis of both ritual criteria and secular criteria. Hierarchy is significant within a jati as well as among jatis. The chapters on jati organization describe how the members of a jati maintain their group and suggest why opposition within a jati commonly arise.
Volume two deals mainly with social change. The opening chapter examine the villages as a social entity in the context of the changing larger entities of state and civilization. Two kinds of social change, recurrent and systemic are considered. Recurrent changes have come about through social mobility through religious movement and through the absorption of ribal peoples. The final chapters summarize the discussion of psychological forces and social processes in Indian society and appraise the trends of modern social changes.
David G. Mandelbaum is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley. His first field research in India was in 1937 and he has returned to do field studies a number of times since them.
The idea of this work began soon after I started my first field research in India in 1937. Like other students of the people of India I was struck by the great diversity among them and yet I could sense the common qualities of society and civilization which they shared. These shared qualities have been noted by many earlier writers but their observation lacked the detailed information available in modern field studies and were not guided by the concepts developed in recent years in cultural social anthropology and in other social sciences. It seemed to me that a new general frame for understanding the Indian people and their society was possible such a frame was clearly needed in order to understand particular groups and to grasp the trends of social change.
My military service in India Ceylon and Burma in 1943-45 brought me to a wide variety of places and considerably enlarged my knowledge of south Asian people. A period of field work in Indian in 1949-50 again stimulated me to thinking about the common ground of Indian social relations. In 1957-58 a fellowship at the center for advanced study in the behavioral science enabled me to begin writing a general account of Indian society. A brief stay in India in 1958-59 gave me additional data for the analysis I had under way. The draft manuscripts of this phase of the work were read by several colleagues and fiend Cora DuBois comments were particularly useful. These appraisals were encouraging but convinced me that in certain matters I needed to develop a different approach and a new set of concepts. For several year I turned to other projects and meanwhile tried to work out ideas that would help bring together in an orderly way the large body of data on Indian society data that were rapidly being increased and immeasurably improved by the generation of fine anthropologists both Indian and non Indian who began their field studies in India after national independence.
In 1963-641 was senior fellow In New Delhi of the American school of Indian studies and was able then to give more attention to this project. This work has taken a long time to complete not only because of the size of the task and because of personal vicissitudes but also because some of the key concepts were developed as the work progressed. As these new ideas took shape parts of what had already been written had to be recast.
Many of my colleagues at Berkeley have been helpful particularly murray B. Emeneau (companion in my firs field experience in India) and Gerald D. Berreman. I have mulled over the nature of Indian society with anthropologists of several academic generations when they were student; among those from whose knowledge I have continued to benefit are Alan Beals Henry Orenstein and Surajit Sinha. Fellow anthropologists in India have been helpful over many years. I owe special thanks to M.N. Srinivas N.K. Bose and Mrs. Irawati Karve.
Support for the present work has come from several source including the Guggenheim foundation the center for advanced study in the Behavioral science the American institute of Indian studies the committee on research and the center for south Asian studies of the university of California Berkeley. To them I express my grateful appreciation among the administrative officers whose efficient skills facilitated my work I am especially obliged to D. D. Karve and P. R. Mehendiratta of the American institute of Indian studies and to Ralph tyler and preston Cutler of the center for advanced study in the Behavioral science. I am indebted to Mrs. Anne Brower editor for the department of Anthropology at Berkeley for her editorial aid her find perception and patience. Hundreds of villagers have helped me toward some understanding of the people of India. Two who were among my first guides and friends were the late K. Sulli of Kollimalai village and M.N. Thesingh of Horanelli village both in the Nilgiris district to my family go the deepest thanks of all.
Three was an observant Greek ambassador in India about 300 B.C., Megasthenes whose account of the country and its people gives us our first general view of India as seen by a visitor. Megasthenes took note of the special way in which Indian society was organized. He observed that special way in which Indian society was organized. He observed that the people divided themselves into a number of occupationally specialized groups that a person could marry only within his own group and that no one could change affiliation from one group to another (McCrindle 1877, pp. 85, 212, 1901, p.55; R. C. Majumdar 1960, pp. 224-226, 236-238, 263-268).
Many other Voyagers to India after megasthenes remarked upon this distinctive social order. It regulated a large part of public and private behavior; it was a most important concern of the people of the land. If seemed both familiar and quite unfamiliar to a visitor. It was familiar in that like tended to marry like elsewhere sons commonly followed their father occupation in the voyager’s homeland; a hierarchy of society and privileges of rank were not strange to anyone. What did strike observers as unfamiliar was the rigor of these social divisions the bases on which the division were made and the thoroughgoing way in which they were applied to all aspects of life.
Because this kind of social order has been a central interest for a great civilization and a huge population much has been written about Indian society. Both Indian and non-Indian writers have used the term caste originally from the Portuguese for the prevalent social order in India as well as the component groups within that order. The very bulk of the literature has discouraged a good many readers who have sought a general understanding of Indian society. Some have been confused by the large tomes packed with details but devoid of clarifying concepts. Those writings that are more lucid and cogent generally cover only a limited part of the subject without making much attempt to trace how various part are fitted together. A good many readers plunged into detailed descriptions of caste practices come away with the feeling that Indian society is complex and inchoate beyond the hoped of comprehension.
Indian society is indeed complex but not necessarily beyond reasonable understanding provides that the fundamental uniformities of caste behavior are grasped. Nor is it inchoate villagers use and manipulate their social organization in regular ways. They generally have no great difficulty in understanding the social arrangements of villages other than their own. One way of getting at the basic regularities society is to look at that society and at its various component as a system. Such a view directs attention to the component groups because the function and definition of any group depends in large part on the relations of its members with members of other groups. Each person act in more than one social role; he can take a number of different position within his social system. The roles he is taught to assume and how he fulfills them often involve choice strain conflict decision. The regular outcome of recurrent conflict and decision is also integral to the social system.
In taking this perspective the student of society does more than observe the actors as though through the invisible fourth wall of a stage set. He must understand their actions in their own terms and incorporate the importance of their outlook and feeling into his larger view of their social system. In that larger view it is possible to distinguish between the repetitive dynamic that is inherent in any social system and those changes that alter the nature of a whole system.
The Concepts of social system and of caste order
A social system consist of a set of groups whose members together perform certain functions that they do not accomplish as separate groups. The groups are thus interdependent and they are interdependent in a particular arrangement. That is to say the participants in each group act in regular anticipated ways toward members of the other groups and toward the external environment when some participants do not carry out the kind of interchange that other in the system anticipate the others respond in regular ways of counter change to restore some systemic regularity to their relation.
The boundaries of a social system are therefore defined by the limits of interchange and counterchange among participant members and groups. The participant awareness that they are interacting in regular ways is usually an important factor in the maintenance of any social system but the description and analysis of a social system is primarily the analyst formulation of the regularities in the participant actions.
The members of a single family and their relations with each other can be viewed as comprising a system of social relations in themselves. However the social scientists focus is on a wider scale and so we have tried to formulate not only those systemic regularities that occur within and among the families of a particular place and social level but also those that we can discern among most village families in India.
In addition to family system Indian villagers typically maintain lineages the endogamous groups called Jatis and village communities all of which may usefully be described and analyzed as systems. When a system of lineage organization is discussed the component families are treated as subsystems of a lineage. Lineages can in turn be viewed as subsystems of a jati. People of different jatis commonly work together (and sometimes compete) in their village in this sense jatis may be seen as component groups of the system of village as component parts of region or of administrative units which in turn can be taken as subsystems within the whole society of the people of India.
However no living society certainly not a vast and complex one actually work as smoothly and rationally as an abstracted flow chart might. An individual fulfills many roles in various systems. There are myriad interrelations among the roles and systems in which any one person takes part. What is attempted here is to sort out several of the principal institutions of India society notably family, Jati, and Village to understand them both as systems and as subsystems of the larger society to indicate some regularities among a person role in various subsystems and to formulate the social changes that people in India have made and are now making.
This conception of social system is an underlying premise of the analysis but each part of analysis is not closely structured after the definition of system in each part component groups (or individuals) are noted as are common patterns of interchange and characteristic ways of counterchange but not necessarily in that order or in any complete way mainly because adequate data on each subject are not yet available for such regular procedures.
There is a further examination of the concept of social system in Appendix I together with a discussion of the concept of social stratification as it pertains to an understanding of caste organization in India.
The kind of social system that is called a cast system involves a special quality in the order of interdependence. It is a quality of pervasive inequality among the component groups. Inequality in privilege and reward in dominance and subordination is in one sense a universal characteristic of human society. Adults are not the equals of children. Each sex has its own spheres of privilege and dominance and privilege as against other groups; that is most societies are stratified to some degree either in the ranking of functioning group or in class attributions. The terms stratification emphasizes this hierarchical arrangement.
Human societies can be placed along a continuum of stratification. Some are very little stratified. For example two tribal groups mentioned later the chenchu and the paliyan live by hunting and gathering the people in these groups are so scattered and their social organization is so simple that there is little possibility for stratification. More stratified are those societies in which people sort themselves into classes groupings differentiated in privilege but relatively open to recruits. Beyond such societies at the other extreme of the stratification range are those societies in which people groups themselves into more sharply defined more rigid and pervasive division. These are caste orders.
Though Indian caste society has often been depicted as a static social order in reality the people of India have kept adjusting their social order systems and at times have made fundamental changes in them. All social systems are used with some flexibility if only because people have to cope with the dynamic of the seasonal round and of the life cycle. The biological stages of the human life cycle induce a cycle of family growth division and reconstitution in India will be discussed in the chapters on family relations.
Another kind of repetitive change involves shifts in rank positions. Such shifts typically begin when lower groups become strong enough to challenge their superiors. They meet opposition and some are quelled but other succeed in raising their rank. In so doing they revise the previous order of precedence thought not the structure of the local order. Yet another recurrent process in India has typically been started when the followers of a religious leader form a sect; at first they deny certain features of the existing social system but in time they deny certain features of the existing social system but in time they become reabsorbed into that system. Tribal but in time they become reabsorbed into that system.
In addition to these recurrent changes there have also been systemic changes. The earliest literary sources in India the Vedas reflect a system of relatively open classes in which people carried on a culture and society that were basically different from those of later time though the later form were developed out of the earlier ones. G. S. Ghurye outlines four periods of social development. The Vedic period, which in his estimate ended about was succeeded by period in which the trend toward a thoroughgoing caste structure had began. (Megasthenes observed Indian society in this second period.) during the third period a number of features of classic caste society became crystallized. Them about the tenth or eleventh century the system was developed that remained in operation with considerable consistency for about a thousand years (Ghurye 1961, pp.42-111).
Within the past century the people of India have been strongly affected by the worldwide tides of change. The extent to which the technological and social political innovations are bringing about systemic changes are noted throughout much of the following discussion and are reviewed in the final chapters.
The Nature of the Evidence
Social change whether on a grand systemic scale or within a recurrent local cycle flows from the choices decisions and dilemmas faced by individual men and women. Our study tries to include the individual perspective his understanding and motivations. To attempt to do this for so large a part of the world population and for so complex a civilization some writers have remarked is to undertake a task of doubtful feasibility. Denzil Ibbetson began his extensive account of Punjab groups for the 1881 census with the statement that the only thing he knew about caste groups was that knew nothing and the he was not quite sure of that (1916, p.I). In the opening passed passages of his book social change in modern India professor srnivals writers I am acutely aware of the difficulties and hazards involved in making statement claiming to hold good for Hindu all over India” (1966, p.2).
Still it is task worth trying and one that has been made more feasible by the advances in research data and ideas during recent decades. Yet despite the notable improvement in research information there remains the question of how adequate that information is as a basis for the generalization that are drawn from it here. One answer is that through only a relatively few of more than half a million Indian villages have been studied or even surveyed there are studies and surveys from all the major part of the country and the evidence so far seems to be consistent with the principles of social action that are formulated here. Moreover the villagers among whom anthropologists and other social scientists have lived and from whom they have learned are aware of similarities and differences within their society; they can tell about those they see and their generalization can be tested against wider evidence. The generalizations presented here will be tested and undoubtedly revised as more data become available and sharper concepts are proved or modified before it is formulated. The formulations given in this study are offered more as working hypotheses to help grasp the nature of Indian society than as final facts about its composition. A biologist once used the folklore motif of the magic well to described the study of bees. It is also apt for the study of the people of India the more one draws up the more there is to draw.
Greater use is made of recent works by trained observers both Indian and non-Indian than of the older writing by the older the classic tradition or by official and travelers. Much of the older thought and evidence has been absorbed into the newer studies and although some of the older accounts are still useful for social as well as historical analyses the newer studies are generally much better based. Yet good as the modern observers often are they have observed certain aspects of India life relatively little. There are few studies of social relations in towns and cities. The emphasis here is on villagers not only because the bulk of India people are villagers but also because we have so few good studs of town and city life. Although the roots of adult behavior and of personality lie in the common experiences of childhood there are as yet only are based on close observation and informed research design.
In addition there is a paucity of usable statistical data on significant matters. Outlines of behavior and patters can be drawn but most question of variation within a range and of distribution and deviation await more and better quantitative data. The present state of the evidence permits statements that something often or characteristically occurs when the present state of out inquiry requires additional information about how often and under what circumstances. Some good statistical data are available and have been used; what was counted in what manner and for what purpose. So the case ensamples given here illustrate general conditions and concepts. They exemplify some part of the general range of behavior that is outlined they do not necessarily indicate a mean or mode within that range.
The scope, the time, the Focus
Village society is the principal subject of this study. More than four-fifth of India people are counted as villagers. Traditional urban society in India seem to have been basically similar to village substance of reality. Analytical truth is rarely a good mirror for emotional truth and the subject of caste relation in Indian is a matter of profound feeling of many.
In the opening sentence of a perceptive article on caste patterns surajit Sinha writes Social reformers and political leaders in India tend to regard the caste system as a major stumbling block to national integration economic development and the moral regeneration of nation Sinha does not contest the moral issues involved but takes his first task to be that of showing the principles of interaction among caste groups. This is a commendable approach both for those who study India society and for those who want to improve it. It is most useful to have a clear understanding of what caste relations really entail in order to have a firm basis for evaluations and for programs of reform.
That understanding has been notably advanced in recent years by the work of both Indian and non-Indian scholars. Professor M.N. Srnivas has discussed the advantages and disadvantage of studying one won society. There are comparable benefits and drawbacks in studying a society other than one own. In the stud of Indian society there has happily been fruitful cooperation between both Kinds of research workers. All students of Indian society have gained from the earlier work of scholars of various countries among them J.N. Bhattacharya L.K. Anantakrishna Iyer (Ayyar) and G.S. Shurye of Indian C. Bougle and Emile Senart of France; max weber of Germany; L.S.S. O’Malley and J.H. Hutton of England each of these men has contributed to our knowledge from his particular perspective. Taken together their works and those of similarly able observe have enable us to view the Indian scene from our present point of vantage.
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