Practice Question: Write a note on G S Ghurye’s Indological perspective of understanding Indian Society. (2018)

Approach: Introduction; Body including Ghurye’s contribution to Indology, his methodology and works, analysis of his works in brief; Conclusion

Indology is known as the science of Indian Society. The Indological perspective claims to
understand Indian Society through the concepts, theories and frameworks that are closely associated with Indian Civilization. It made a claim that Indian Society is unique in structure, function and dynamics and cannot be associated with the European Society. Indology relies on book view and culture and denounces rigorous empirical investigation.

Indology demands inter-disciplinary, multi- disciplinary and cross disciplinary approach.
Indology is also older than Sociology. It is antique in its origin owing its origin to 1784 by Sir William Jones of Calcutta. It was in the year 1987 that Sir William Jones founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal where he introduced the two departments of Sanskrit and Indology. It is the beginning of Indology in India, which has been followed by several other scholars.

Ghurye stands as the commander in the Indian Sociological frontiers. He has often been acclaimed as the ‘father of Indian Sociology’. Ghurye was the first scholar, who had built up the entire first generation of Indian Sociologists in Post- independence period, almost single handedly. Ghurye backs the credits of being the founders of Indian Sociological Society and the Sociological Bulletin. Ghurye is often accredited as “Theoritical Pluralist” because he tried to study Indian Society and culture through multiple methods.

In describing Ghurye, two approaches may be approximated. First, one may divide the entire range of Ghurye’s writing into a number of broad themes and analyze each of these items showing how Ghurye discussed the institutions and processes. His major writings have been arranged thematically. Thus caste, tribes, family and kinship, culture and civilization, religious institution, social tensions etc have been separately analyzed in the body of this unit. Secondly, the question whether Ghurye’s writings can be divided into different phases is also relevant here. The question is important because Ghurye was a prolific writer and had written for more than sixty years.

The various writings of Ghurye include:
1.Caste and Race in India (1932)
2. Indian Sadhus (1953)
3. Bharatnatyam and it’s costume (1958)
4.Family and Kinship in Indo-European culture (1955)
5. Social tensions in India (1968)

He fails to recognize the rise of modern India and the contribution of Islamic and British rulers. Town planning, architecture, new administration and technology by both made India altogether different from what it was during Vedic and non-Vedic period. If sociology is a science thensociologists must have to honor the fact rather than ideology. In Ghurye’s sociology ideology predominates over the fact and that is a tragedy for Indian sociology.
A.R. Desai writes that, studying India from the lens of culture provides us no space to
understand the real India that lives within inequality, diversity, dialectic and exploitation. Therefore one has to come out of the bondage of Ghurye’s sociology to understand real India and the challenges and problems associated. In a nutshell, one can advocate that Ghurye’s sociology is romanticizing India what it is not. Therefore there is a need for Indian sociology to change its goalpost from book view to Field Approach.

Louis Dumont, the French sociologist, is regarded as an Indologist. Dumont used enthnographic detail in this study and applied holistic approach. He also learnt Sanskrit. The 1950 view point ofcourse for the usefulness of a village as a unit of study persisted and, as late as in 1947, Dumont was looked down and criticized for “underrating the significance of the village as a principal unit of social organization by asserting factors of social organization in India, so is village”. Presence of castes everywhere, he had said in 1995,was a token of the cultural unity and distinctiveness of India. The fruit of this pedagogic-cum-research endeavour was his magnum opus, Homo Hierarchies.

The chief elements of his methodology are:
1. Ideology and structure
2. Dialectic transformational relationship and comparision
3. Indological and structuralist approach
4. Congnitive historical approach

As stated at the outset, Dumont’s main areas of interest are social anthropology and Indology. He has written on wide range of subjects such as Hinduism, caste, kinship, and social and political movements in India. His major works are as follows:
1- La Tarasque(1951)
2- One sous-caste de Inde du sud: Organization sociale et religion des pramalai kallar(1957)
4- Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications (1966, 1970)
5- Religion, Politics and History in India: Collected Papers in Indian Sociology (1970)
6- Homo aequalis (1977)

Dumont’s work is based on traditional Indian Texts. Consequently, the features of the caste system, as projected by Dumont, seem to be unchanging. In reality, the caste system has changed in various ways during a period of time. Dumont also seems to characterize Indian Society as almost stagnant, since he emphasizes the integrative function of caste system. Dumont has been criticized on the ground that he is always concerned with the system integration and system maintenance than with change or conflict. Even Dumont was criticized for his ideas on Purity and pollution, as they are not universal.

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