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
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
Patriarchal society : men enjoy greater status than women .
Unity in diversity : Various Diversities exist in India . But beneath this diversity, there is fundamental unity
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
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
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
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 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 .)
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
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.