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Sanskritisation in India

Sanskritisation in India

Introduction

  • The concept ‘Sanskritization’ was first introduced by Prof. M.N. Srinivas in his book “Religion and society among the coorgs of South India” to describe the cultural mobility in the traditional caste structure of Indian society.
  • Sanskritization is a process by which scheduled castes, tribes and other low Hindu castes change their way of life, customs and rituals in the direction of upper castes.
  • It is followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than traditionally concealed to the claimant caste by the local community.
  • Such claims are made over a period of time, sometimes a generation or two before they are conceded.

Characteristics of Sanskritization

  • In the Indian society, social status of an individual is fixed on the basis of caste hierarchy. There are many lower castes who suffer from economic, religious or social disabilities, so in order to improve the their social status/raise their social status in the caste hierarchy, lower castes adopt/imitate the cultural patterns and life style of the higher castes.
  • In some societies the lower caste people followed not only the customs of the Brahmins (Top on Social Hierarchy) but also the customs of the locally dominant castes like Kshatriyas and Vaisyas to raise their status.
  • Sanskritization process also followed by the tribal communities.       (Sanskritisation in India )
  • Provides Social mobility of lower caste in traditional caste system. Only trying to change the social status and not the social structure in itself.
  • It also given space to De-sanskritization. In some instances, higher castes are imitating the behaviour pattern of lower caste, and for example Brahmins have started taking meat and liquor. This process is called De-sanskritization.

Three Models of Sanskritization

  • Cultural Model: – Castes have been assigned high or low status according to cultural characteristics of Hindu Social Organisation.  Intimating the standards of sacredness and purity, accepting behaviour and code of highness and purity as described in religious texts.
  • Local Model: In every country, some castes are considered to be more respectful than others on account of their economic power. These caste may be called the “master caste” or the “dominant caste”. So the lower caste copies the life style of the local dominant caste in order to improve their status.
  • Varna Model: –In the Varna system the highest status is given to that of a Brahmins followed by Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra. The lower castes coping the ideals and life style of the superior castes. Emulating the life style or ideals of a Varna on the basis of honour and superiority enjoyed by that class is called Varna model of sanskritization.

Effects of Sanskritization on society

  • Behavioural change: Lower caste adopted other castes living patterns which gave them the liberty to sit and stand before other castes. For example, lower caste people were not keen to keep a clean atmosphere but due to Sanskritization, they started maintaining hygiene. They have left prohibited food. They also keep their houses clean and put on dresses like higher castes.
  • More Equality and Liberty: Some scheduled castes adopted upper-caste names, discovered myths about their origin and changed their traditional occupations. Now they sit along with the higher caste on the cots without any fear or hesitation.   (Sanskritisation in India )
  • Exposure to New ideas: Sanskritisation is not just the adoption of new customs and habits, but also includes exposure to new ideas and values appearing in Sanskrit literature. Some of the most common Sanskritic theological ideas like Karma, dharma, Paap, Maya, Samsara and Moksha, which become common in the talk of people who are Sanskritised.
  • Value Transmission: It helped in socio-economic and cultural value transmission in several groups of society.
  • Societal Up-gradation of lower caste: The low caste individuals are inclined towards Sanskritization because in that way they can elevate their social status and get higher status in the caste hierarchy.
  • Redefined Caste System: Sanskritisation challenged the then prevalent idea that caste was a rigid and unchanging institution. The concept of Sanskritisation addressed the actual complexity and fluidity of caste relations. It brought into academic focus the dynamics of the renegotiation of status by various castes and communities in India.
  • Professional Changes: The lower caste people have given up un-cleaned occupation to raise their economic status because clean trades are a symbol of social light.
  • Reduced Untouchability: Now the situation is that the untouchable practice is almost abolished from society.

Conclusion | Sanskritisation in India 

  • After the independence of the country, the issue of social mobility became more complex and cases of Sanskritization, de-Sanskritization as well as re-Sanskritization were observed.
  • Due to the policy of positive discrimination adopted by the Indian government now an increasing number of groups laid claim to backward status rather than high status.
  • Some of them claim a backward status in state matters and a forward status in society.

(Sanskritisation in India )

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