According to Jones, "Social change is a term used to describe variations in, or
modifications of, any aspect of social processes, social patterns, social
interaction or social organization". The term 'social change by itself does not
suggest anything as far as its direction or value is concerned. Social change
can take different forms and may be accompanied by revolution, adaptation,
accommodation, evolution or progress. The word 'change' symbolizes a variation -
good or bad in a social phenomenon observed over some time.
The Trends And Processes Of Social Change In India Under The Following Heads:
Although the caste system is peculiar to India, social inequality prevails in
all human societies. Wealth, intelligence, power and prestige are not equally
distributed in any social group. Social strata exist universally, and as Sorokin
has remarked, an unstratified society, with real equality of its members, is a
No society, however, remains static. The term 'social mobility is used to refer
to the movement from one stratum of society to another. Societies, where the
rate of social mobility is high, are sometimes referred to as 'open societies,
as opposed to 'closed societies, where such a rate is quite low. Indian society
is generally regarded as falling in the 'closed' category, as the rate of
mobility is quite low.
However, one interesting avenue of upper mobility in
India is what is referred to as 'Sanskritization'. The word 'Sanskritization'
was coined by the late Prof. Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas in his PhD thesis
submitted to Oxford University - which was later published under the title,
"Religion and Society amongst the Coorgs of South India".
Prof. Srinivas used
this term to denote a process whereby people of lower castes collectively try to
adopt and imitate the practices, rituals and beliefs followed by those belonging
to the upper castes or the 'twice-born', to acquire a higher status in society.
Thus, a process of cultural mobility is taking place in the traditional social
system of India.
Prof. Srinivas, who made a detailed study of the Coorgs in Karnataka, found that
persons belonging to lower castes collectively adopted some of the customs,
practices and even the dress codes of the Brahmins and gave up some of their
own, to raise their position in the caste hierarchy. For instance, they gave up
eating meat, drinking liquor and sacrificing animals to their deities and
imitated the Brahmins in matters of food, dress and rituals.
By doing so, they
could stake a claim for a higher position in the caste hierarchy. Typically,
this is a slow process which takes a long time; it could be decades or one full
generation, or sometimes, even a few centuries.
Yogendra Singh has taken the view that Sanskritization is an important component
of the process of socialisation. The emulation by the lower class of the ways of
life of the higher class leads to significant changes in the social behaviour of
the lower castes. For them, it is a process of learning, where they unlearn some
of their previous social habits and learn new modes of social behaviour from the
higher caste groups, regarded as their reference model.
Although the reference group followed by such persons is usually the Brahmins,
it may sometimes be some other dominant caste of the locality. Thus, if the
dominating case of a particular region is Kshatriya, then the Kshatriya model is
emulated. Some tribal groups have been found to emulate the Shudras to become
part of Hindu society.
Sanskritization is, however, not confined to Hindu castes; it exists amongst
non-Hindu tribal and semi-tribal groups also. It is a form of social change
observed in India and other countries like Nepal.
The process of Sanskritization is not confined to particular individuals; rather
it takes place at a group level. It explains changes in the status of a specific
group over some time - sometimes, over two or more centuries.
Sanskritization thus leads to the upward mobility of the caste which is
undergoing the process. However, such mobility may take place even without
Sanskritization, as Sanskritization is only one of the modes of this mobility.
Conversely, Sanskritization may not always result in upward social mobility.
It may also be noted that Sanskritization leads only to positional changes, but
it does not lead to any structural change. In other words. it does not change
the caste system as a whole. Thus, it is not considered a threat to the caste
system deep-rooted in Hindu society.
Societal changes, brought about by the influence of advanced M western
countries, are referred to by sociologists as westernisation. It is a gradual
replacement and transformation of the traditional culture and of the society
concerned, by that of the west. Westernisation is used n to signify the effect
of western societies like the UK, USA, France or Germany, on eastern societies
like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Modernisation is synonymous with Westernisation in cases where underdeveloped
societies use western models to bring about social change in their societies.
However, according to Prof. M.N. Srinivas, v the term Westernisation is
ethically neutral, in that, it does not claim to be a process of social change
that is good or bad for society. Most authors, however, regard modernisation as
a positive and desirable change in any society.
Westernisation in India can be classified into three prominent phases:
pre-British, pre-independence and post-independence westernisation. Before the
British reign, India was a highly traditional society that afforded few
opportunities for social change. Westernisation initiated India's transition
from the extremely rigid and static society that it was, to the dynamic and
flexible society that it is today. Westernisation also facilitated
industrialisation, urbanisation and secularisation in India.
In the pre-independence period, British rule brought with it western influences
that triggered fundamental changes in Indian society. The growth of science and
technology, the advancement of transport and communication, the invention of the
printing press, the institution of an intricate and orderly bureaucratic
structure, the introduction of a new educational and legal system.
establishment of a uniform police service and a new army structure, brought
about a gradual ideological change in the Indian society. Individualism and
humanitarianism were encouraged, leading to social reforms that ended many
social injustices. Religious customs became subject to law and reason. These
factors presented opportunities for accelerated social mobility in British
Post-independence, the western societies of Europe, America and Canada have
greatly influenced social change in India. These changes are evident in almost
all facets of daily life, be it the mode of dressing, hairstyles, music and
dancing preferences, use of slang and abuses or the fast-food (Coke and
According to M.N. Srinivas, the term 'secularisation' implies that what was
previously regarded as religious is now ceasing to be such and the significance
of religion in today's society has drastically diminished Religious customs and
rituals now have to stand the test of logic and reason to survive. The Preamble
to the Indian Constitution declares India to be a secular republic.
nature of the Indian state is enshrined in Articles 27 to 30 of the Constitution
which guarantees the right to freedom of religion. Secularisation has had a
tremendous impact on Indian society. The authority of religion over society has
This is evident from the gradual breakdown of the caste
system, the increase in inter-religious marriages, the abolition of untouchability and the improved status of women. Ideals of equality, fraternity
and brotherhood are now ingrained in society. State-owned educational
institutions and government offices are required to strictly adhere to a secular
The main features of secularisation, as stated by Vidya Bhushan and are as
- Decrease in religious belief:
Secularisation is opposed to blind faith in religion. As secularisation grows,
the customary practices of religious rites decrease and they have to stand the
test of logic and reason to survive. Religious customs and rituals performed at
the time of births, deaths and marriages are slowly losing their value.
Secularisation is therefore marked by a decrease in the influence of religion on
the aspects of social life.
Religion no longer binds the various aspects of social life. Economic,
political, legal and ethical facets of social life exist independently of
religious influences and are subject to their respective principles and
doctrines. Secularisation is therefore characterized by the differentiation or
separation of different aspects of social life such that they exist independent
of religious influences.
Secularisation appeals to the rational side of man. Religious customs are
followed so long as they are in keeping with rationality and reason but not when
they defy logic and plain reasoning.
- Scientific attitude:
Secularisation is often accompanied by a replacement of religious explanations
by scientific explanations. There is therefore a perceptible shift from faith in
religious beliefs to a reliance on scientific theories and explanations.