Indian Culture: Indian Social Structure: Customs and Traditions

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In India, various kinds of people inhabiting with diverse customs and traditions. There is diversity in Indian Culture and people acquire multiple identities based on region, language, religion, etc.

Indian Social Structure

Indian Social Structure

  • Tribe is earliest identifiable ethnic cum social organization such as Munda, Bhil, Gaddi, Santhal, Garo, Mizo, Naga, etc. All these tribes are grouped together in a Schedule of the Constitution and are known as Schedule Tribes.

  • In a tribe all members are related to each other, equal status , all members believe that they have common ancestor, equal access to the resources, the sense of private property is least, and social differentiation exists only on the basis of age and sex.

  • A clan is exogamous whereas tribe is endogamous.

  • The Varna system during the Vedic period has divided the society into Brahmans, kshatriya, Vaishya and shudras which based, particularly on occupation. Lower class tends to be exploited by the people of higher class as it follows a rigid pattern of hierarchy. Varna system changed when new groups such as the Shakas, kushanas, Parthians and Indo-Greek people arrived in India.

  • In South India during the medieval times Shudras were divided into pure(sat) and impure (asat) categories .The caste system has its regional variations .In modern times the caste system acquired some new features such as the idea of “Surnames”.

  • Untouchability is the concept of purity and pollution in Indian Society which is reflected best in the formation of a category known as “Untouchables”. Untouchability has its roots in the last phase of Vedic period and became a separate category in the age of Buddha . They were considered as the fifth Varna and were called as Chanadala . They used to live at the outskirts of the villages because they were not allowed to reside in the main settlement.

  • Slavery in India was different in form and essence from the Greek and Roman Slavery . The Arthashastra states that a man could be a Slave by birth, by voluntarily selling himself, by being captured in a war or as a result of a judicial punishment . The Sultans of Delhi kept a large number of slaves for example Malik Kafur who became the commander-in-chief of Alauddin Khilji .

  • Purusharthas’ mean aims of life which is divided into four “ashramas” or stages of life and there are prescribed “samskaras” or rites that need to be performed. So, in a way these three concepts are interlinked. There are four aims of “dharma”(right conduct) ; ‘artha’(pursuits through which livelihood is earned), ‘kama’ (worldly desires) and ‘moksha’ (salvation). Ashrama first stage is known as ‘Brahmacharya’ in which one gets education, learns to discipline his will and emotions , practice ideals of plain living and high thinking and therefore this stage prepares the individual to take the responsibilities of household. The ‘Grihastha Ashrama’ is the next stage in which one practices artha and kama with the dharma ; marriage, bears children, earn the living and support his family and his duties towards the Society. Post this, he enters the ‘vanaprastha ashrama’ in which he leaves the family and retires to the forest to practice detachment from all worldly affairs. Breaching all bonds with the Society he lives for the attainment ‘moksha’ . However, this scheme was ideal and not the real situation as not most men passed through these various stages of in the form laid down.

  • Jajmani system is an important institution that developed in the early medieval period and continued till modern times in the rural society ; a relationship between the groups of dominant peasant castes on the one hand and service/artisan castes on the other. Leather workers, barbers, priests, Smith and other labourer class worked for the high castes and were paid in the form of a land allotment. This system breaked up under the influence of monetization, urbanization and industrialisation.

  • Family is the primary unit of the Society in which members are bound together by common ancestors and their bond gave a sense of social security to its members. Joint family is the traditional Indian family in which two or more generations live under one or different roofs having a common hearth . It is patriarchal and patrilineal. In towns a large no of nuclear families exist which consists of wife husband and the children. The Muslim ,Christian and Parsis families have their own set of personal laws-based religion. The Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh ,Jain are governed by the codified Hindu Act of 1995-56.

  • There I progressive decline in history of women in India. During Vedic period , even under patriarchy women participated in war ,composed hymns, marriage by Choice. In later Vedic phase there, status were degraded to that of shudras , were not entitled to property, no Vedic knowledge were open to them. Women of upper castes were allowed to get education. Practices such as sati, child marriage, no widow marriage and others were prevalent. However, with expansion of colonialism in India influence of modern ideas set process of change for the upliftment of the status of women in society by efforts of Ram Mohan Roy , Radhakanta Das, Bhawani Charan Banerjee. The practice of sati was banned. In 1856 first widow remarriage took place.

  • Tribe is a term used for communities that are very old , live in relative isolation, social ,economic and educational conditions are not that developed, cultural ethos (language, institution, beliefs and customs) is different from other section of society. Tribes are termed as the fourth world. India is divided into seven zones based on the diversity of tribal population (North, North-Eastern, Central ,Southern , Eastern, Western, Ireland ). In India three most important tribes are the Gonds ,Bhills and the Santhals.

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