Indian Social System (Ram Ahuja) (16-21) (1)

July 22, 2017 | Author: JayamuruganRavichandran | Category: Caste, Dalit, Multiculturalism, Jainism, Religion And Belief
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UNITY IN DIVERSITY The Diversity India is the seventh largest and the second most populous nation of the world occupying 2.4 per cent of the total world area. It contains about 15.0 per cent of the world’s population living in a variety of social, economic, geographical and ecological conditions. It has a long history spanning over five thousand years of human habitation – 3,000 years before Christ and 2,000 years after Christ. It has a cultural heritage handed down by the immigrant Aryans from across the Himalayas, the native Dravidians, and the invading civilizations. Its social, economic and cultural diversities are also reflected in habitat conditions in rural, urban and semi-urban areas. Its total urban population of 217.18 million (1991 census) or even the total population of four metropolis (Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta) exceeds the total population of most of the developing nations. There are settlements with just 1,000 people and also settlements with 10 million people. The Nature of Diversities The diversity runs through various races, religions, castes, tribes, languages, social customs, cultural and sub-cultural beliefs, political philosophies, and ideologies. Broadly speaking, the diversities are found in the following areas: Languages Though the Constitution of India has recognized eighteen major languages (including three languages recognized in August, 1992) but as many as 1,652 languages and dialects are spoken in our country. Broadly, these languages belong to three families of languages: Indo – Aryan, Dravidian, and European. The Indo – Aryan languages include Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Punjabi, Bihari, Rajasthani, Assamese, Sanskrit, Sindhi and Kashmiri languages covering about three fourths of India’s population. The Dravidian languages include Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. The European languages include English, Portuguese, and French. The last two languages are mostly spoken by people in Goa and Pondicherry.

Hindi is the official language of India and English is an associate language. According to 1991 figures, Hindi is spoken by the highest number of people (247.85 million), followed by Telugu (72.08 million), Bengali (71.78 million), Marathi (67.26 million), Tamil (60.60 million), Urdu (46.11 million), Gujarati (41.37 million), Malayalam (35.32 million), Kannada (34.78 million), Oriya (31.79 million), Bhojpuri (23.11 million) and Punjabi (22.41 million). the rest of the languages are spoken by one million to twenty million each. Some states were even created after independence on the language basis, e.g., Punjab was divided in Punjab and Haryana, and Maharashtra was divided in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Some stats like Mizoram and Nagaland were created on cultural basis. Religions Though India has no state religion, yet the state guarantees the freedom of following and practicing all religious faiths. Among the major religions are: Hinduism (practiced, according to 1991 census figures, by 697.4 million people including scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, or 82.6 per cent of the country’s total population), Islam (practiced by 95.8 million people or 11.35 per cent of the country’s population), Christianity (practiced by 20.5 million people 2.43 per cent of the total population), Sikhism (practiced by 16.5 million people or 1.96 per cent of the total population), Buddism (practiced by 5.9 million people on 0.71 per cent of the total population), Jainism (practiced by 4.1 million people or 0.48 per cent of the total population) and others (practiced by 3.5 million people or 0.3 per cent of the total population). Hinduism advocates the doctrines of Karma (doing one’s duties), dharma, rebirth man takes 84,000 births, depending upon good and bad deeds of his life), immortality of soul (soul never dies), renunciation, and moksha (freedom from the cycle of births and deaths). Islam came to India along with the Muslim invasions. It is strictly a monotheistic religion which professes the fatalistic acceptance of Allah’s (God’s) will. It does not believe in idol worship. It considers Prophet Mohammed as the greatest prophet and the Quran as the most sacred book. It prescribes five duties as the primary duties of a devout Muslim: belief in Allah, prayers five times a day, the giving of alms, a month’s fast every year, and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a life time.

Sikhism emerged in the fifteen century. Its founder Guru Nanak and the later nine Gurus who followed him preached against the hypocrisy in religion. The religious symbols of Sikhism are five ‘Ks’: kesh (hair), kangha (comb), kara (bracelet), kirpan (sword), and Kachha (shorts). Christianity came to India through Portuguese occupation of Goal, Daman and Diu in the sixteenth century and later on through the Britishers in the seventeenth century. Castes The castes are hereditary endogamous groups with fixed traditional occupations, observing commensal prohibitions and social restrictions on interaction. It is believed that there are about 3,000 castes in the country. These castes are grouped as upper castes (like Brahmins, Rajputs, Baniyas, Kayasthas, etc.) intermediate castes (like Ahir, Sunar, Kurmi, etc.), and lower castes (like Dhobi, Nai, etc.) There are also untouchable castes (like Chuhra, Bhangi, Raigar, etc.). the castes are linked with the four varnas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisya and Sudra) for determining the status in ritual hierarchy. Tribes Tribe is a community occupying a common geographic area and having a similar language and culture. The total tribal population in India is 52.03 million (1991 census), which comes to 7.8 per cent of the country’s total population. The important tribes are: Santhals, Bhils, Meenas, Gonds, Mundas, Nagas, Khasis, Oraons, Garos, and Hos. About two – thirds of the total tribal population of the country is found in the five states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra. There are three states (Rajasthan, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh) were tribes with more than 20 lakh population are found. There are five states and union territories where tribes constitute 70 to 95 per cent of the total population of the state / territory. These are Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Races / Ethnicity Indian population is polygenetic and is a mixture of various races. According to B. S. Guha, Indian population is derived from six ethnic groups: Negritos, Proto – Australoids, Mongoloids, Mediterraneans or Dravidians, Brachycephals and Nordic Aryans.

The Brach cephalic (broad – headed) Negroids from Africa are the oldest people to have come to India, who are now found among the hill tribes of South India and Andaman Islands where they have retained their language. In terms of numbers, they are no inconsequential. Proto – Australoids or Austics, who are people with medium height, dark complexion, long head, low forehead, thick jaws, small chin and flat nose, are spread over whole of India, particularly Eastern, Central and Southern India, from where they went to Burma, Malaya, etc. These people in fact led the foundation of Indian civilization and settled cultivation producing rice, sugar (from sugarcanes) and vegetables. Their language has survived in the Kol and Munda speech (in East and Central India). Dravidians or Mediterranean includes three sub-types: true Mediterranean, Paleo – Mediterranean and Oriental Mediterranean. They are reputed to have built up the city civilization of the Indus Valley, whose remains have been found at MohenjoDaro and Harappa. The Dravidians must have spread to whole of India. Mongoloids are people with medium height, high cheekbones, sparse hair, oblique height and yellow complexion and are confined to the north – eastern fringes of India in Assam, Nagaland and Mizo hills. Nordic Aryans came from Central Asia between 2,000 and 1,500 B. C. and settled in northern and western Punjab from where they spread to the valley of Ganga and beyond. These Aryans, a pastoral race, encountered the highly civilized Indus Valley people who lived in big towns in brick – structured houses. Negritos intermingled with the incoming Aryans and gradually adopted some of their cultural traits. The Unity Running through various diversities is the thread of basic unity which makes Indian society a big society and the nation as a big nation. M. N. Srinivas (1985:105) IS OF THE OPINION THAT THE UNITY OF India is essentially a religious one. People may worship different deities but the religious scriptures – Puranas, Brahmanas, Epics and the Vedas – knit the numerous heterogeneous groups together into one religious society and give them the sense that their country is sacred. The worshippers may visit different centers of pilgrimage but all have a common goal of “earning religious merit by visiting a sacred place”. People of different

language backgrounds and customs and regions are found in one place of pilgrimage and one shrine with one common object of achieving moksha. India fought for political freedom as one unified entity. After independence, it faced an attack of China and three attacks of Pakistan as one nation. Our economic, social and political philosophies are broadly based on equality, justice, liberty, rationality and secularism. Our laws apply to all people without any discrimination. The Constitution provides guarantee to all people alike. The planning aims at the uplift of all types of weaker sections. The common customs and consensus in social values have preserved our traditional culture. The unity among Hindus is also found in commonly following the prohibitions of the caste system and so forth. Similarly, people may say that they live in a particular region, but the idea of region is contextual. Within one region, there are smaller and more homogenous areas which differ from each other in many ways. A linguistic area thus possesses a Vertical’ unity which is common to all castes living there (from Brahmins to the untouchables), while caste represented a ‘horizontal’ unity which cuts across a linguistic area. A Brahmin in one state say, Uttar Pradesh, may not share values with a local dalit (Bhangi, Pasi, etc.) but he shares some cultural values with Brahmins everywhere in India, from north to south and east to west. Also, people may speak different languages in different regions but they have common languages of English and Hindi to communicate with each other. Hindi has made good progress in the non-Hindi areas and it has come to be accepted as the medium of communication for people in different states. Earlier, English played this role as medium of communication for intellectuals from all parts of India, though it created a barrier between the learned people and the ordinary folk. The concept of a linguistic state and using regional languages as medium of teaching in schools, colleges and universities are the product of independence. But it is doubtful that language differences will create chaos in the society. The caste system also has provided a common cultural ideology to Indians. Though it is true that caste has created inter – caste conflicts and has also created a major social problem of untouchability and has brought a rift between the higher and the untouchable castes, but it is also true that the jajmani system till recently had succeeded in maintaining harmony and co-operation among various castes in the rural areas. A significant change has taken place in the power

relations of different castes in the last few decades. The economic forces and the political and social changes in the last forty–six years have vastly increased the power of the numerically large castes. The leaders of these castes are aware of the strategic position they occupy in the struggle for political power at the local, regional and central levels. It is these castes which take up big issues like uplift of position of weaker sections, untouchability issue, land reforms issue, and so forth. This caste unity, to some extent, becomes crucial in taking up regional and national issues and thus indirectly contributes to the process of nation’s development. Thus, religions, caste and language may create some problems in the society yet the idea of the unity of India has its origin in these three areas. These bind people together closely at different levels. Though it is not being claimed that these three factors will be critically important in integrating the inhabitants of India, but it is being suggested that in the course of time people will come to appreciate the idea that members of every religion, caste and linguistic group are equal as citizens. This would generate tolerance and promote secularism as a value. The ‘divisions’ in the country may be dysfunctional but their values may not necessarily be inconsistent with being a citizen of India. The disappearance of loyalties to these divisions may not be feasible but they need not be perceived and denounced as anti – national. If an individual thinks that he belongs to certain caste, village, regions and religion, he also thinks that he is an Indian and as a citizen, he has certain responsibilities and duties to perform. Such feelings alone maintain unity at a higher level among the individuals and keep the society integrated. Such a concept of unit need not make people afraid of diversities in the society.

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