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Historical Perspective of Indian Society UPSC |Part-1 | Cultural Setting | Geography of India

 The population is comprised of society and each society has different classes and communities. Communities are governed and regulated by social institutions and social relationships.

Classes and communities are categorized on the basis of ;

  • Age Boundaries such as Young and old
  • Regional Boundaries such as Southern and Northern Indian Society
  • Economic Boundaries such as lower, middle, and upper class
  • Religious boundaries such as Hindu, Muslim
  • Caste Boundaries such as Brahmin and Non-Brahmin

The following are the three major social institutions that are central to Indian society:

  • Caste
  • Tribal
  • Family

Caste and Caste System:

Although caste is a unique feature of Indian society social arrangements with similar effects also exist in other parts of the world.

Caste has also spread to major non-Hindu communities in Indian subcontinent, especially in Muslim, Christian, and Sikh.

For example, separate graveyards, churches,  and mosques exist across the country.

Caste in past and present is different, we will discuss both;

Caste in the Past:

The first oldest literature that mentioned the caste system is Rig Veda, three communities groups mentioned that are:

  • Brahmana ( Priest)
  • Kshetra ( King and Ruler)
  • Vis ( Common people)

Later Chaturvana system came up in the Vedic period that has four classes:

  • Brahmana
  • Kshatriya
  • Vaisya
  • Sudra

The relationship between the varna and caste is debatable, still, we can generalize that Varna is a broad category of Indian society and Jati or caste is a regional or local sub-classification. Jati is much more complex because it comprises thousands of caste, sub-caste, and sub-sub-caste.

Four Varna system is three thousand years old. caste system changes over time, which mislead what was earlier.

In Earlier Phase-Later Vedic Period; 900 -500 BC;

The following are the characteristics:

  • Four Varna; only four major divisions of Indian Society
  • This division is not elaborated or very rigid
  • They were not determined by birth.

The following are the characteristics:
  • Caste becomes rigid and decided by birth. The following are the characteristics:
  • Caste is determined by birth:
  • The child is born to a parent caste. One can never change or can leave one caste. But in some cases, people may be expelled from their caste.
  • Within caste involves strict rules about marriage and marriage is restricted to member groups only.
  • Food types are also prescribed, what kind of food may or may not be eaten?
  • Caste has subdivision and sub-sub-caste
  • Traditionally, occupation is associated with a particular caste, they inherit and pass from generation to generation.
  • Some caste benefitted from these systems and some became endless labor
  • Hierarchy of caste based on Purity and pollution.
  • The caste that has ritual purity has high status, while less pure or impure has low status.
  • Defeated in war assigned as low caste status.

Caste in Colonisation time:

Initially, the British administration did surveys and get an understanding of the complexities of caste, and an effort was made to govern the country effectively.

  • Colonial rules uniformed all of India for the first time and modernization and capitalist society started
  • Economical, political, and administrative unification of India under colonial rules
  • Colonial also gave its own enemy that is nationalism
  • Colonial and western education systems gave birth to the middle class and the rediscovery of tradition stated
  • Solidified emergence of communities at the national and local level
  • Urban middle class leads freedom struggle of nations

In 1881; the Population census started

In 1901; a Population census was conducted and pieces of information were collected about the caste and social hierarchy of caste.

  • The huge impact of the social perception of caste.
  • Many castes claimed higher status on the social scale and also gave historical and scripture evidence to support

Government of India Act 1935, legal recognition of Scheduled caste ( untouchable ) and Schedule tribes.

Post Independence perspective of Indian Society:

The government also do not reform radically but rather extended many reservation facilities to OBC, SC, and ST, Minority communities for government jobs and schemes.

Tribal Communities;

Tribal means very old, they are the oldest inhabitants of subcontinents.

The following are the characteristics:

  • Tribal communities did not practice religions in written forms.
  • Did not have political forms
  • No sharp class division
  • Did not have caste

Classification of Tribal societies:

  • Permanent characteristics
  • Acquired characteristics

Permanent characteristics:

  • 85 % of the tribal population live in "Middle India, stretching from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west to West Bengal and Orissa.
  • Heart of tribal in Madya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Maharastra, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • 11 % of the tribal population live in northern states with a high tribal population share
  • 3 % of the rest in India

Based on Language:

There are four categories: 

  • Indo Aryan 
  • Dravidian
  • Austric
  • Tibeto Burman

Based on the Physical racial terms;

  • Negrito
  • Austroloid
  • Mangoloid
  • Aryan
  • Dravidian

The biggest Tribes having not less than 10 lakh population are:

  • Gonds
  • Bhil
  • Santhal
  • Bodos
  • Mundas

The total tribal population comprises 8.2 % of the Indian population. 

Acquired Characteristics:

Two main characteristics:

  • Mode of Livelihood
  • Extend of incorporation into Hindu society

Mode of livelihood:

  • Fishermen
  • Food gatherers
  • Hunter
  • Shifting Cultivator
  • Peasant
  • Industrial worker

Family and Kinship:

  • Each one of Born into Family
  • Kinship is comprised of compassion, Sacrifiesc, and care
  • Family can be the male headers or women headers.
  • The northeastern state has generally female header society as male migrates
  • Family can be nuclear or Joint family.

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