India offers astounding variety in virtually every aspect of social life. Diversities of ethnic, linguistic, regional, economic, religious, class, and caste groups crosscut Indian society, which is also permeated with immense urban-rural differences and gender distinctions. Differences between north India and south India are particularly significant, especially in systems of kinship and marriage. Indian society is multifaceted to an extent perhaps unknown in any other of the world’s great civilizations—it is more like an area as varied as Europe than any other single nation-state.
Adding further variety to contemporary Indian culture are rapidly occurring changes affecting various regions and socioeconomic groups in disparate ways. Yet, amid the complexities of Indian life, widely accepted cultural themes enhance social harmony and order.
The notion of accommodation and assimilation has been the key feature of Indian society. Since ancient times, India has accommodated different elements of society without letting them lose their separate identity as Jawaharlal Lal Nehru writes in The Discovery of India-Indian Society and Culture “is like some ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously”.
In course of time, India has evolved its own culture which is eclectic, externally receptive and heterogeneous.
The essence of Indian society lies in harbouring diverse and distinct identities, ethnicities, languages, religions and culinary preferences. History stands witness to the fact that the societies that have struggled to hold differences were shattered in such an attempt.
Themes in Indian Society
2. Purity and Pollution
3. Social Interdependence
Do you Know?
Indian society succeeded and is unique in various peculiarities:
A Cosmic Vision: The framework of Indian culture places human beings in the centre of the universe, as a divine creation-which celebrates Individuality and differences of opinion in the society.
Sense of Harmony: Indian philosophy and culture tries to achieve an innate harmony and order in the society.
Tolerance: In India, tolerance and liberalism is found for all religions, castes, communities, etc. Indian society accepted and respected Shaka, Huna, Scythians, Muslim, Christian, Jews and Zoroastrians. Rulers like Ashoka, Akbar have patronized various religions and ensured that there is peaceful co-existence of religions.
Continuity and Stability: The light of ancient Indian culture life is yet glowing. Many invasions occurred, many rulers changed, many laws were passed but even today, the traditional institutions, religion, epics, literature, philosophy, traditions, etc. are alive.
Adaptability: Adaptability is the process of changing according to time, place and period. Indian society has shown fluidity and has adjusted itself with changing times.
Caste System and Hierarchy: Indian Society has evolved systems of social stratification, which in the past helped in accommodating outsiders, but concomitantly it has also been the reason for discrimination and prejudice.
Unity in diversity: Despite inherent difference Indian society celebrates unity in diversity which reflects in modern India’s founding principles and constitutional ideals.
India remains a diverse country, a bewildering mosaic of communities of all kinds; our peculiar societal genius is to fashion a form of coexistence where diversity can flourish and find its place. Principle of Sarva Dharma Sambhava (equal respect for all religions) is rooted in India’s tradition and culture.
Family and Kinship
1. Family Ideals
2. Family Authority and Harmony
Veiling and the Seclusion of Women
Caste and Class
1. Varna, Caste, and Other Divisions
Village Structure and Unity
1. Urban Life
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