Practice Question: Write a critique of the structural and functional perspective used by M N Srinivas in the understanding of Indian Society. (10 Marks – 2017 UPSC)
Approaching the question: Introduction; Body mentioning about structural-functionalism of M N Srinivas; book and field view; briefly mention his scholarly studies including sanskritisation; Conclusion
This term was made popular by Indian sociologist M. N. Srinivas in the1950s. Sanskritization is a particular form of social change found in India. It denotes the
process by which caste or tribes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by emulating the rituals and practices of the upper or dominant castes. It is a process similar to passing in sociological terms.
Sanskritisation is not a new phenomenon. It has been a major process of cultural change in Indian history, and it has occurred in every part of the Indian sub-continent. It denotes the process in which the lower castes try to imitate the life-styles of upper castes in their attempt SANSKRITISATION, MODERNISATION AND WESTERNISATION to raise their social status. The process seems to be associated with the role of local “dominant caste”.
M. N. Srinivas defined that “Sanskritization is a process by which a lower caste or tribe or any other group changes its customs, rituals, ideology and way of life in the direction of a
higher or more often twice‐born caste.”
CONCEPTS REVOLVING SANSKRITISATION
1.The whole process is based on ‘relative deprivation’. The society has allotted prestige to the Brahmins, power to the Ksliyatriya and wealth to Vaisyas. The lower caste groups are deprived of all these benefits of the society. So, they want to raise their status.
2. The feeling of inferior complexity compels the lower castes to raise their social status. They adopted the process of Sanskritisation to raise their social position.
3.The concept of Sanskritisation is very closely related with ‘dominant caste’. It helps in the process of cultural transmission.
4. Sanskritisation occurs among those castes who enjoy economic and political powers but have not achieved high ritual ranking.
5. Economic betterment is not a pre-condition for Sanskritisation. It is not necessary that economic improvement leads to Sanskritisation.
6.There are some factors which help to accelerate the process such as desire to move upward, education, leadership, wealth, power in politics etc.
7. Unit of mobility in the process of Sanskritisation must be a group. The upward mobility of an individual or a family is not considered as Sanskritisation.
8. In this process emphasis is given to vertical mobility and not to the horizontal mobility.
IMPACT OF SANSKRITISATION
1. Modern education, Western literature and philosophy of people widened, and as a result the mental horizons and visionary of people changed. They welcomed rationality and other good features of and made good use of liberal, and humanitarian ideas and thoughts.
2. Vedas has been conceived through intellectual contemplation and empirical observation and used Upanishads (speculative interpretation of Vedas or Mythology) for the creation of human imagination.
3. Reformists and their organizations had purely an economic and social thrust. They aimed at establishing a social order based on Vedic teachings and practices. They criticized the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some people with vested interests to entangle the ignorant and poor masses.
4. They laid emphasis on interpreting Vedas in a rational and scientific way.
5. It reduced or removed the gap between the ritual and secular rankings. It also helped upliftment of weaker persons. The lower caste group which successfully got into the seat of secular power also tried to avail of the services of Brahmins especially at the time of observing rituals, worshipping and offering things to God.
1. According to J.F Stall, Sanskritisation as used by Srinivas and other anthropologists is a complex concept or a class of concepts. The term itself seems to be misleading, since its relationship to the term Sanskrit is extremely complicated.
2. Yogendra Singh opines that sanskritisation fails to account for many aspects of cultural change in past and contemporary India as it neglects the non-sanskritic traditions.
3. Sanskritic influence has not been universal to all parts of country. In most of northern India, especially in Punjab, it was the Islamic tradition which provided a basis for cultural imitation.
4.When we try to interpret certain changes that have taken place in the field of social mobility in the light of Sanskritisation, we face certain paradoxes. According to Dr. Srinivas, political and economic forces are normally favourable for Sanskritisation. But the “policy of reservation” a poltico-constitutional attempt to elevate the status of lower caste, and class people, presents here a different picture. Theoretically, the policy of reservation must be supportive of Sanskritisation. But paradoxically it goes against it.
Those who avail of the “reservation benefits” have developed a vested interest in calling themselves “dalits” or Scheduled Caste people. They want to be called so in order to permanently avail of the benefits of reservation.