Salient features of Indian Society

Salient features of Indian Society


This article deals with ‘Salient features of Indian Society.’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here



What is Society ?

First of all , question arises – What is Society?

  • Society can be defined as network of social relationships due to interaction between it’s members .
  • There are 4 attributes of any society
        • Definite territory : there should be definite geographical territory
        • Progeny : Source of membership through reproduction
        • Composite Culture
        • Independence : It cant be sub entity of larger entity
  • India is state with multiple societies / nations in it . Indian society is amalgamation of many societies
        • India is one State but multiple nations
        • Sri Lanka is one State with two nations
        • Japan is single State with single nation
        • Korea is two States with one nation


  • Change in society can be studied wrt following
      • Endogenous Changes : From within the system  like Buddhism, Jainism, Bhakti etc
      • Exogenous Changes : From outside the system like  Islam, Christianity, British Rule , Globalisation etc


Salient features of Indian Society

Salient features of Indian Society are as follows

Salient features of Indian Society
Salient features of Indian Society
  • Patriarchal society : men enjoy greater status than women .
  • Unity in diversity : Various Diversities exist in India . But beneath this diversity, there is fundamental unity
  • Caste System
  • Joint Family
  • Marriage : Mostly monogamy is practiced , but at some places polygamy is also practiced



# Caste System

Refer separate Chapter – dealt specifically



# Joint Family

A family in which

  • People live together with all family members up to 2nd generation
  • Members  have no individual identity,
  • Decision making power lie exclusively with the eldest male member of the family

is called a joint family.


Importance of Joint family is understood by the Indians since time immemorial.



What constitutes jointness in the family

  • Common residence
  • Commensality (inter dining)
  • Common ownership of property
  • Rights and obligations
  • Ritual bonds  : Periodic Propitiation of dead ancestors
  • Blood relations (filial (father-son) and fraternal (between siblings)) are more important than marriage (conjugal) relations



Advantage of Joint Families

  • Social insurance
  • Division of work: Workload either domestic or business divided
  • sharing resources with the cousins and sisters =>  minimize the expenses on their child.
  • Development offeeling of camaraderie between cousins.
  • Social Security: weaker members of the family — such as the elders or children — are taken care off by  other members.
  • Joint Families are more disciplined because head of the big family becomes virtually its patriarch
  • Women members can work too => grandparents and other members are there to look after children.
  • Agency of social control => members don’t indulge in antisocial activities



Disadvantages of Joint Family

  • Creates parasites who love to feed on other’s income.
  • Low status of woman : blood relations are more important than conjugal relations
  • Prostitution of personality : Children forced not to show real personality but behave according to expectations of others
  • Arena of contradiction and conflict
  • Agent of cultural reproduction : Obsolete  values eg patriarchy are not changed .
  • High fertility rate
  • Encroachment on privacy



From Joint Families to Nuclear Families

But despite its many advantages , silent changes have been taking place => old joint family system have been disintegrating and  nuclear families are coming up



      • Migration : Post LPG Reforms, people migrating towards cosmopolitans for jobs
      • Spread of female education : educated girl cant reconcile with husband’s mother &  force to set up independent establishment
      • Disparity in the income of brothers – brother with decent income usually separates
      • Influence of urbanization  : Various sociologists have revealed that the city life is more favorable to small nuclear families than to big joint families.
      • Western value system : Individualistic values have been inculcated




We are moving towards Functional Joint Family

  • Many Sociologists are of the view that we are not moving towards nuclear family but  Functional Joint Family .
  • IP Desai (Sociologist) => Functional Joint family is  family where although the members of family are living separately,  individual gives importance to fulfillment of obligation towards kin especially parents.   
  • Although person lives in city but he keeps on sending money to parents

Side Topic – Female Headed Households

Generally in Indian Society, households are Male headed . But there are some situations when household is headed by Females

  • When men migrate to urban areas, women have to plough and manage the agricultural fields. Ie FEMINISATION OF AGRICULTURAL WORKFORCE or Feminisation of labour
  • Widowhood too might create such familial arrangement.
  • Man remarried and stop sending remittance to  wife


# Marriage Systems

Marriage has a large variety of forms



Polygamy vs Monogamy

  • Monogamy restricts the individual to one spouse at a time.
        • man can have only one wife
        • woman can have only one husband.


  • Polygamy denotes marriage to more than one mate at one time
  • It takes various forms
Polygyny One husband with two or more wives
  • One wife with two or more husbands
  • Usually where economic conditions are harsh, polyandry may be one response of society, as single male cannot support a wife and children.

Even where polygamy is permitted, in actual practice, monogamy is more widely prevalent.




Endogamy vs Exogamy

  • Endogamy requires an individual to marry within a culturally defined group . Eg: caste.
  • Exogamy requires the individual to marry outside of his/her own group.


In India, village exogamy is practiced in certain parts of north India. Village exogamy ensured that daughters were married into families from villages far away from home. This arrangement ensured smooth transition and adjustment of the bride into the affinal home without interference of her kinsmen. The geographical distance plus the unequal relationship in the patrilineal system ensured that married daughters did not get to see their parents too often.




# Patriarchy

  • Patriarchy is social system in which woman is suppressed by men
  • It is not a constant concept since the nature of subjugation of woman varies  => Brahmanical Patriarchy, Tribal Patriarchy and Dalit Patriarchy etc are different from each other




Question : In what ways , gender stereotyping impacts the social position of woman.

      • Domestic division of labour : Woman  take care of household
      • Pink Collared Jobs
      • Glass ceiling :  Stereotype that women are emotional ( than rational) & not promoted to higher management posts
      • Violence against women : Mainly because women are considered weak .






Structures of Patriarchy

  • Family : first lessons of Patriarchy are learned in a family
  • Patriarchal construction of the Knowledge System ( media , education institution etc .)
  • Symbolism
  • Religion : Patriarchy is legitimised by religion . Eg : Manu Smriti
  • Caste System : Caste purity needs controlling the sexuality of woman




Question UPSC : How is patriarchy impacting the position of middle class working woman

  • Main point => Dual Burden /Second Shift
  • Glass Ceiling Effect : Not promoted to higher positions
  • Workplace Violence including sexual violence
  • Wage Gap : Women paid lesser for same work


# Cultural Lag

  • Term Cultural Lag was coined  by famous sociologist W.F. Ogburn .
  • Every group has two type of values
        • Core Value
        • Peripheral Values
  • Whenever change comes at peripheral values, it is accepted by the group.
  • But when change comes at Core Values, it is not easily accepted

=> This will create  anxiety because in such situation group is neither traditional nor fully modern


Eg : People have accepted educating the girl child but they have not given up Patriarchal Mindset 



NCERT Topic : Impact of colonisation  on Indian Society

History is full of examples of annexation . But, there is  difference between empires of pre-capitalist and  capitalist times.


      • Change in land ownership – Impacted the old agrarian ties . Eg : In Permanent Settlement , Zamindars were made sole proprietors with no rights even to Khudkashts


      • Forest Laws & Tribals => Tribals were exploited and their rights on minor produce taken away


      • Criminalisation of Tribes via Criminal Tribes act


      • Policy of Divide and Rule : Colonialists divided  Indian society based on Religion.


      • Forced Movement of Population on large scale : Eg :
        • Workers from Bihar & Jharkhand moved to Assam to work on  tea plantations.
        • Indentured labourers send to   Africa and Americas


      • Deindustrialisation & Ruralisation : led to movement of artisans to agriculture


      • Exoteric Secular knowledge : Brahmin monopoly over education ended + Dalits also got access to knowledge


    • English replaced Persian as official language => Muslims suffered and Hindus who adapted to change rapidly increased their share in government jobs.






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