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Chapter 2: Cultural Change
You have already seen the far-reaching impact of colonialism on our lives. The social reform
movements that emerged in India in the 19th century arose to the challenges that colonial
Indian society faced.
You probably are familiar with what were termed social evils that plagued Indian society.
The well-known issues are that of sati, child marriage, the ban on widow remarriage, and caste discrimination.
It is not that attempts were not made to fight social discrimination in pre-colonial India. They were central to Buddhism, to Bhakti and Sufi movements.
What marked these 19th-century social reform attempts was the modern context and mix of ideas. It was a creative combination of modern ideas of western liberalism and a new look on traditional literature.
Modern social organizations like the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal and Arya Samaj in Punjab were set up.
The All-India Muslim Ladies Conference (Anjuman-E-Khawatn-E-Islam) was founded in 1914. Indian reformers debated not just in public meetings but through public media like newspapers and journals.
Translations of writings of social reformers from one Indian language to another took place. For instance, Vishnu Shastri published a Marathi translation of Vidyasagar’s book in Indu
Prakash in 1868.
New ideas of liberalism and freedom, new ideas of homemaking and marriage, new roles for mothers and daughters, and new ideas of self-conscious pride in culture and tradition emerged.
The value of education became very important. It was seen as very crucial for a nation to become modern but also retain its ancient heritage.
The idea of female education was debated intensely. Significantly, it was the social reformer Jotiba Phule who opened the first school for women in Pune.
Reformers argued that for a society to progress women have to be educated. Some of them
believed that in pre-modern India, women were educated.
Others contested this on the grounds that this was so only of a privileged few. Thus attempts to justify female education were made by recourse to both modern and traditional ideas. They actively debated the meanings
of tradition and modernity.
Jotiba Phule thus recalled the glory of the pre-Aryan age while others like Bal Gangadhar Tilak emphasized the glory of the Aryan period.
In other words, 19th-century reform initiated a period of questioning, reinterpretations, and both intellectual and social growth.
The varied social reform movements did have common themes. Yet there were also significant differences. For some, the concerns were confined to the problems that the upper caste, middle-class women, and men faced.
For others, the injustices suffered by the discriminated castes were central questions. Some social evils had emerged because of a decline of the true spirit of Hinduism.
For others, caste and gender oppression were intrinsic to the religion. Likewise, Muslim social reformers actively debated the meaning of polygamy and purdah.
For example, a resolution against the evils of polygamy was proposed by Jahanara Shah Nawas at the All India Muslim Ladies Conference.
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NCERT Solutions Class 12 Sociology Chapter 2 Cultural Change
1. Write a critical essay on sanskritisation.
Ans. •The term ‘Sanskritisation’ was coined by M.N. Srinivas. It may be defined as the process by which a low caste or tribe or other group takes over the customs, ritual, beliefs, ideology and style of life of a high and, in particular, a ‘twice-born(dwija) caste’.
•Its influence can be seen in language, literature, ideology, music, dance, drama, style of life, and ritual.
•It is primarily a process that takes place in the Hindu space though Srinivas argued that it was visible even in sects and religious groups outside Hinduism.
•It operated differently in different regions. In those areas where a highly Sanskritised caste was dominant, the entire region underwent a certain amount of Sanskritisation. In those areas, where non-sanskritic castes were dominant, it was their influence that was stronger, this can be termed as the process of ‘de- sanskritisation’.
•Srinivas argued that, ‘the sanskritisation of a group has usually the effect of improving its position in the local caste hierarchy. It normally presupposes either an improvement in the economic or political position of the group concerned or a higher group self-consciousness resulting from its contact with a source of the ‘Great Tradition’ of Hinduism such as a pilgrim centre or a monastery or a proselytizing sect.”
•But in India, there are many obstacles to any easy taking over of the customs of the higher caste by the lower. Traditionally, the dominant castes punished those low castes, which was audacious enough to attempt it.
•Sanskritisation refers to a process whereby people want to improve their status through the adoption of names and customs of culturally high-placed groups. The “reference model’ is usually financially better off. In both, the aspiration to be like the higher placed group occurs only when people become wealthier.
Criticisms of Sanskritisation
•It has been criticized for exaggerating social mobility or the scope of lower castes to move up the social ladder. For it leads to no structural change but only positional change of some individuals. Inequality continues to persist though some individuals may be able to improve their position within the unequal structure.
•The ideology of sanskritisation accepts the ways of the upper caste as superior and that of the lower caste as inferior. Thus, the desire to imitate the upper caste is seen as natural and desirable.
•Sanskritisation seems to justify a model that rests on inequality and exclusion. It appears to suggest that to believe in pollution and purity of groups of people is justifiable or all right. Therefore, to be able to look down on some groups of people just as the upper caste looked down on the lower castes, is a mark of privilege.
It shows how such discriminatory ideas become a way of life. Instead of aspiring for an equal society, the exclusion and discrimination seek to give their own meaning to their excluded status. This gives rise to an undemocratic society.
•Since Sanskritisation results in the adoption of upper caste rites and rituals it leads to practices of secluding girls and women, adopting dowry practices instead of bride-price, and practising caste-discrimination against other groups.
•The effect of such a culture is that it erodes characteristics of Dalit culture and society. For example, the very worth of labor that lower castes degraded and rendered shameful. Identities based on the basis of work, crafts, and artisanal ability are regarded as useless.
2. Westernisation is often just about the adoption of western attire and lifestyle. Are there other aspects to being westernized or Is that about modernisation? Discuss.
Ans. • M.N. Srinivas defines westernization as “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, the term subsuming changes occurring at different levels…. technology, institutions, ideology, and values.”
•There were different kinds of westernization:
— One kind refers to the emergence of a westernized sub-cultural pattern through a minority section of Indians who first came in contact with the western culture.
This included the sub-culture of Indian intellectuals who not only adopted many cognitive patterns or ways of thinking but also styles of life and supported its expansion,
— There has been a general spread of western cultural traits such as the use of new technology, dress, food and changes in general.
•Westernisation does involve the imitation of external forms of culture. It does not necessarily mean that people adopt modem values of democracy and equality.
•Apart from western ways of life and thinking, the west influenced Indian art and literature. The painting of the Krishna Menon family in a matrilineal community in Kerala reflects the very typical patrilineal nuclear family of the modern west consisting of the mother, father and children.
•Srinivas suggested that while lower castes’ sought to be Sanskritised the “upper caste’ sought to be westernized. But this generalization is difficult to maintain.
For example, the Thiyyas (by no means considered an upper caste) in Kerala show conscious efforts to westernize. Elite Thiyyas appropriated British culture as a move towards a more cosmopolitan life that criticised caste. Also, western education opens up new opportunities for different groups of people.
•Modernity assumes that local ties and parochial perspectives give way to universal commitments and cosmopolitan attitudes;
•That the truths of utility, calculation, and science take precedence over those of the emotions, the sacred, and the non-rational;
•That the individual rather than the group be the primary unit of society and politics;
•That the associations in which men live and work be based on choice and not birth;
•That mastery rather than fatalism orient their attitude toward the material and human environment;
•That the identity be chosen and achieved, not ascribed and affirmed;
•That work be separated from family, residence, and community in a bureaucratic organization.
It would be simplistic to state that complex combinations are just a mix of tradition and modernity as though tradition and modernity themselves are fixed entities.
Or as though India has or had only one set of traditions. Modernity and tradition are constantly being modified and redefined.
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NCERT Class 12 Sociology Textbook Chapter 2 Cultural Change With Answer PDF Free Download