India is a multi-ethnic society, with a diverse mix of ethnic groups living within its borders. The major ethnic groups in India include Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Mongoloids, and others. These groups have their own distinct cultural practices, customs, and traditions, which contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of India.
India is a complex and diverse society that can be described as ethno-racial, ethno-religious, ethno-regional, and ethno-national.
As an ethnic-racial society, India is composed of different races or ethnic groups that share common physical, cultural, and linguistic traits. India’s population is a mix of various races and ethnicities, including Dravidians, Indo-Aryans, Mongoloids, and others. These different ethnic groups have contributed to India’s rich cultural heritage and diversity.
India is also an ethnoreligious society, with a significant proportion of the population identifying with different religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Religion plays a vital role in Indian society, influencing social practices, customs, and traditions.
As an ethnic-regional society, India is divided into different regions, each with its own distinct cultural practices, traditions, and languages. The country is home to over 22 officially recognized languages and several hundred dialects. The regional diversity of India is reflected in its cuisine, music, dance, and literature.
India can also be described as an ethnonational society, where a sense of national identity is rooted in the country’s diverse cultural heritage. India’s national identity is built on the principles of unity in diversity, where people of different ethnic, religious, and regional backgrounds come together to form a cohesive and inclusive society.
India is a multilingual society, with over 1,600 languages and dialects spoken throughout the country. The major languages spoken in India are Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, and others. The diversity of languages is a testament to the cultural richness and diversity of India.
India is considered a multi-lingual society due to its vast linguistic diversity. India is home to more than 22 official languages, including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Kannada, and Malayalam. Besides, there are over 1600 regional languages and dialects spoken in different parts of the country.
Each of these languages has its own unique grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and script. Moreover, the use of different languages is not limited to specific regions or ethnic groups but is spread across the entire country. People of different ethnicities and religions speak different languages in India.
Language plays a crucial role in shaping India’s cultural and social identity. Each language is associated with its distinct cultural practices, customs, and traditions. People use different languages to express themselves, communicate with others, and participate in various cultural events.
The Indian constitution recognizes this linguistic diversity and has given official status to several regional languages. The government of India also promotes the use of regional languages in education and administration.
India is a multi-class society, with a complex social hierarchy that is based on factors such as caste, religion, and economic status. The Indian caste system has been in place for centuries and has played a significant role in shaping Indian society. While efforts have been made to eliminate caste discrimination, it still persists in some parts of the country.
India is considered a multi-class society due to its diverse socioeconomic strata. The Indian society is stratified based on factors such as wealth, education, occupation, and social status. The social classes in India can be broadly classified into four categories, which are:
- Upper class: This class comprises wealthy and highly educated people who have significant social, economic, and political power. The upper class includes business tycoons, politicians, bureaucrats, and other affluent sections of society.
- Middle class: This class comprises people who have moderate wealth, education, and social status. The middle class includes professionals such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, and teachers, among others.
- Lower class: This class comprises people who have low income, education, and social status. The lower class includes daily wage workers, farmers, laborers, and other marginalized sections of society.
Indian society’s class structure has evolved over time and has been influenced by various factors such as caste, religion, colonialism, and globalization. The government of India has implemented several programs and policies to bridge the gap between different classes and promote social and economic equality.
India is a patriarchal society, with men traditionally holding positions of power and authority in society. Women have long been subjected to discrimination and oppression in various forms, including gender-based violence, limited access to education and employment opportunities, and restricted mobility.
Patriarchy refers to a social system in which men hold primary power and authority, and women are often subjected to subordination and oppression. Unfortunately, patriarchy is a dominant feature of Indian society, where women’s roles and responsibilities are limited, and they often face discrimination and violence.
Patriarchy in India is deeply rooted in its culture and traditions. The social norms, religious beliefs, and customs of Indian society have contributed to the perpetuation of gender inequality. For instance, the practice of dowry, female infanticide, and child marriage are still prevalent in some parts of the country.
Women’s roles in Indian society are primarily associated with domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing. Their participation in the labor force is often limited, and they face various barriers in accessing education and economic opportunities. Women also face discrimination in terms of their political representation and participation.
The patriarchal nature of Indian society has significant consequences for women’s physical and emotional well-being. Women are vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual harassment, and rape. There is also a significant gender pay gap, with women earning less than men for the same work.
Despite these challenges, there have been several efforts to challenge and change patriarchal norms in India. Women’s rights movements, feminist activism, and legal reforms have aimed to promote gender equality and empower women. The Indian government has also implemented various programs and policies to improve women’s access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
Unity In Diversity:
India is often described as a nation with “unity in diversity” due to its diverse mix of cultures, religions, and languages. Despite its diversity, India has managed to maintain a sense of national identity and unity.
Unity in diversity is a salient feature of Indian society, which refers to the idea that despite the diversity of cultures, religions, languages, and traditions, people in India share a sense of national unity and identity. This unity in diversity is reflected in various aspects of Indian society, including:
- Cultural diversity: India is a culturally diverse country, with a rich history of art, music, dance, cuisine, and literature. Each region of India has its own unique cultural traditions and practices, which have been shaped by its history and geography.
- Linguistic diversity: India is a multilingual country, with over 1,600 languages spoken throughout the country. While Hindi is the official language of the government, many states have their own official languages, and people often speak several languages.
- Religious diversity: India is home to many religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Each religion has its own unique practices and traditions, which are respected and celebrated.
- Regional diversity: India is divided into many states, each with its own unique history, culture, and traditions. These regional differences are celebrated through festivals, food, music, and dance.
Despite these differences, India has a strong sense of national identity and unity. This unity in diversity is reflected in the country’s Constitution, which recognizes and respects the diversity of India’s people and culture. The national motto of India, “Unity in Diversity,” reinforces this idea of a shared identity and values, even in the face of diversity. Overall, unity in diversity is a defining feature of Indian society, which reflects the country’s complex and diverse history and culture.
India is home to numerous tribal communities that have their own distinct cultural practices and beliefs. These tribes are often marginalized and face challenges such as poverty, limited access to education and healthcare, and discrimination.
A group of indigenous people with shared ancestry, language, and land, bound by strong familial ties, practicing endogamy, possessing unique customs, rituals, and beliefs, and having a simple social and political organization, as well as common ownership of resources and technology, are commonly referred to as tribes.
As per the 2011 census, there are approximately 705 Scheduled tribes in India, accounting for 6% of the population. However, several castes in India share many of these characteristics, casting doubt on the differentiation between tribes and other castes. Several conceptual efforts have been made to define tribes.
|Bhil||Central and Western India||Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra|
|Gond||Central India||Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana|
|Santhal||Eastern India||West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha|
|Mizo||Northeast India||Mizoram, Assam, Tripura|
|Naga||Northeast India||Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh|
|Todas||Southern India||Tamil Nadu|
|Jarawa||Andaman and Nicobar Islands||Andaman Islands|
Note: The list is exhaustive
The changing economic scenario in tribal regions of India has brought about several changes, both positive and negative. Here are some of the key changes:
- Shifting from subsistence agriculture to cash crops: Many tribal communities have shifted from subsistence agriculture to cash crop cultivation to meet the growing demand for cash in the market. This has led to a rise in income but also increased vulnerability to market fluctuations.
- Industrialization and displacement: The establishment of large-scale industries in tribal regions has resulted in displacement of tribes from their traditional lands, loss of natural resources and disruption of their traditional way of life.
- Migration to urban areas: Many tribal people have migrated to urban areas in search of employment opportunities. This has led to a breakdown of traditional social structures and values, increased poverty, and exploitation in urban areas.
- Education and empowerment: With the spread of education and awareness, many tribal communities have become more aware of their rights and have begun to assert them. This has led to increased empowerment, particularly among women.
- Inequality and exploitation: Despite some positive changes, tribal communities continue to face inequality and exploitation in many areas, particularly in terms of access to education, healthcare, and political power.
India has a complex kinship system that is based on relationships of blood, marriage, and adoption. These relationships are highly valued and play an important role in shaping social and familial relationships.
Kinship is a complex system of relationships that is an integral part of human society. It refers to the social ties created by blood or marriage that form a set of relationships and relatives. Kinship is a universal phenomenon and is present in every human society, although the way in which it is organized may vary.
The kinship system connects individuals and groups and establishes a relationship between them. It creates a network of relationships that are defined by social rules and norms, which guide how people interact with each other. Kinship relationships can be based on blood relationships (consanguineal), or marriage (affinal). For example, a person’s mother is a consanguineal relative, while their spouse is an affinal relative.
Kinship is one of the essential organizing components of society. It helps to establish social structure and hierarchy, define roles and responsibilities, and regulate behavior. In many societies, kinship plays a central role in the distribution of resources, such as property, inheritance, and wealth. It also determines social status and identity, such as caste in Indian society.
The kinship system represents one of the basic social institutions, along with religion, economy, politics, and education. It is a universal feature found across societies, although the specific forms it takes can vary widely. Different societies may have different kinship systems, such as matrilineal, patrilineal, or bilateral systems, each with their own set of rules and customs.
Kinship plays a significant role in the socialization of individuals and the maintenance of group solidarity. It provides a framework for learning social norms, values, and beliefs, and for transmitting cultural knowledge from one generation to the next. Kinship ties also help to promote social cooperation and mutual support, as individuals are expected to help and care for their relatives.
Types of Kinship
|Affinal Kinship||Consanguineal Kinship|
|Refers to the set of relationships formed through marriage.||Refers to the set of relationships formed through blood ties.|
|Examples include relationships between a husband and wife, between a father-in-law and daughter-in-law, and between a mother-in-law and son-in-law.||Examples include relationships between parents and children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.|
|Typically involves creating new relationships with people outside of one’s own biological family.||Typically involves maintaining and strengthening relationships with people within one’s own biological family.|
|Plays a significant role in establishing social ties between families and communities.||Plays a significant role in defining one’s identity, inheritance, and family lineage.|
|In many societies, affinal kinship is given equal importance to consanguineal kinship.||In many societies, consanguineal kinship is given more importance than affinal kinship.|
It’s important to note that the distinction between affinal and consanguineal kinship is not always clear-cut, and there may be some overlap between the two. Additionally, the relative importance of these two types of kinship can vary widely across different cultures and societies.
Marriage is an important social institution in India that has been given great significance in the country’s cultural and religious traditions. It is a union of two individuals and their families, and it carries deep cultural, religious, and social meanings. Here are some key features of marriage as a social institution in India:
- Importance of Family: In India, marriage is seen as a union of not just two individuals but two families. The union of two families is considered important as it helps to maintain social and cultural continuity. The family is seen as a central unit of society, and marriages are often arranged by parents or other family members, with the aim of strengthening social bonds between families.
- Religious Significance: Marriage in India is considered a sacred union between two individuals, with religious rituals and ceremonies often forming an integral part of the marriage ceremony. Different religions in India have their own unique customs and rituals associated with marriage. For instance, Hindu weddings involve elaborate ceremonies that last for several days and include rituals like the exchange of garlands, the tying of the sacred thread, and the seven vows taken by the couple around a holy fire.
- Social Status: Marriage is also seen as a marker of social status in India. In many communities, getting married and starting a family is considered a necessary step towards achieving adulthood and social acceptance. Unmarried individuals, especially women, may face social stigma and discrimination.
- Gender Roles: Traditional gender roles are still prevalent in many Indian marriages, with women often expected to play a submissive role in the household. Men are often seen as the head of the household and are expected to provide for the family financially. However, these gender roles are slowly changing, with more and more women entering the workforce and asserting their independence.
- Changing Attitudes: With the influence of modernization and globalization, attitudes towards marriage in India are slowly changing. More young people are opting for love marriages, which are based on mutual attraction and compatibility rather than arranged marriages. Divorce rates are also on the rise, indicating a shift in attitudes toward marriage and family.
|Structural Changes||Functional Changes|
|Choice of partner is now more based on individual preference rather than family arrangements.||Marriage is now seen as a union of equals, rather than a relationship where one partner dominates the other.|
|Love marriages have become more common, challenging the traditional arranged marriage system.||Marriage is no longer seen as just a means of procreation, but also as a companionship and a partnership between spouses.|
|Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages have increased, breaking down the barriers of caste and religion.||The role of women has evolved from being a submissive homemaker to an equal partner who contributes equally to the household income and decision-making process.|
|The age at which people get married has increased, with more people opting to complete their education and establish their careers before getting married.||Divorce rates have increased, indicating a shift towards individual autonomy and the recognition of the right to exit an unhappy or abusive marriage.|
|Joint families have become less common, with nuclear families becoming more prevalent.||The institution of marriage has become more secular, with people from different religious backgrounds choosing to marry each other.|
Family plays a significant role in Indian society, with the family unit being highly valued and prioritized. Extended families are common in India, and family members often provide emotional and financial support to each other.
Types of Family
|Criteria||Nuclear Family||Joint Family|
|Definition||A family unit consisting of parents and their children||A family unit consisting of parents, children, and extended family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living together|
|Relationship||Immediate family members||Extended family members|
|Authority||Headed by parents||Headed by the eldest member, usually the grandfather or grandmother|
|Decision-making||Mostly by parents||Collective decision-making by family members|
|Support system||Less support system||Strong support system|
|Privacy||High level of privacy||Low level of privacy|
|Division of labor||Shared responsibilities between parents||Shared responsibilities among all family members|
|Economic status||Mostly urban and middle class||Mostly rural and lower middle class|
The Indian family, like any other family system, performs a range of functions that can be broadly classified as primary and secondary functions.
The primary functions of the Indian family are as follows:
- Reproduction and procreation: One of the most fundamental functions of the family is to produce and raise the next generation.
- Socialization: The family is responsible for teaching children the norms, values, and beliefs of their society and helping them develop their personality, skills, and attitudes.
- Economic support: The family provides economic support to its members by pooling resources, sharing income and expenses, and providing for basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter.
- Emotional support: The family provides emotional support to its members by providing a sense of belonging, love, and care.
The secondary functions of the Indian family are as follows:
- Education: In addition to socialization, the family also plays a significant role in educating its members.
- Health care: The family is responsible for providing health care to its members, especially in rural areas where access to medical facilities may be limited.
- Religious and cultural functions: The family transmits religious and cultural values to its members, ensuring the continuity of traditions and customs.
- Recreation and leisure: The family also provides opportunities for recreation and leisure activities, helping to strengthen family bonds and promote socialization.
It is important to note that the functions of the Indian family are not fixed or immutable, and may vary across different regions, social classes, and historical periods.
Changes in the Family System
- Indian family system has changed due to industrialization, education, and urbanization.
- The family has shifted from being a unit of production to a unit of consumption, with fewer members earning a living outside the home.
- Factory employment has given young adults functional independence, weakening the authority of the head of the household.
- Urban living has favoured small nuclear families over big joint families, weakening the joint family pattern.
- Legislative measures like the Child Marriage Restraint Act, of 1929, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, have modified interpersonal relations within the family, the family’s composition, and the stability of the joint family.
- Changes in the age of marriage, freedom in mate selection, and the attitude toward marriage has diminished the religious significance of marriage.
- Western values like individualism, equality, and freedom have exerted a tremendous change on the joint family system in India.
- The changing economic role of women has caused changes in their position in society, especially with respect to men.
- The rise of nuclear families is consistent with rapid urbanization.
Reasons behind the shift in Family structure
There are several reasons that have contributed to the shift from joint families to nuclear families in India:
- Urbanization: With increasing urbanization, people are moving away from their traditional homes in rural areas to cities in search of better employment opportunities. This has led to the breaking up of joint families as members move to different locations.
- Modernization: The influence of western culture and the media has led to a shift in values and lifestyles, leading to a greater emphasis on individualism and independence. This has resulted in a preference for nuclear families as people prioritize their own needs and aspirations.
- Economic factors: The cost of living has increased significantly in urban areas, making it difficult for joint families to sustain themselves financially. Nuclear families are better able to manage their finances and have greater flexibility in terms of employment and education opportunities.
- Women’s empowerment: Women are increasingly seeking education and employment opportunities, and prefer to live independently with their nuclear families rather than in a joint family setting where they may have limited autonomy and decision-making power.
- Generation gap: With the increasing generation gap between elders and youngsters, differences in lifestyle, values, and aspirations often lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. Nuclear families offer greater freedom to individuals to pursue their own goals without interference from elders.
Live-in relationships, which are increasingly prevalent among young people in metropolitan cities in India, have been acknowledged by the law. In 2010, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that living together without marriage between a man and a woman cannot be considered an offense and that living together is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to life and liberty.
A balance between spiritualism and materialism:
India is known for its spiritual traditions and practices, with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism originating in India. At the same time, India has embraced materialism and modernization, with rapid economic growth and urbanization in recent years.
The balance between individualism and collectivism:
India values both individualism and collectivism, with individual freedom and autonomy being highly valued, while at the same time, social and familial responsibilities are also given significant importance.
Co-existence of traditionalism and modernity:
India has managed to strike a balance between traditionalism and modernity, with traditional practices and beliefs coexisting with modern ideas and practices. This has resulted in a unique blend of the old and the new, which is evident in various aspects of Indian society such as music, art, and architecture.
Q1: What are the salient features of Indian society?
A: Salient features of Indian society include its cultural diversity, multi-religious nature, caste system, joint family structure, and a blend of traditional and modern values.
Q2: How do these features impact Indian society?
A: These features influence various aspects of Indian society, including social norms, religious practices, family structures, and the socio-economic fabric of the nation.
Q3: How can the diversity of India be described as a salient feature of Indian society?
A: India is known for its diverse population, comprising various languages, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. This diversity is a defining characteristic of Indian society.
Q4: Why is the diversity of India important?
A: India’s diversity is crucial as it fosters cultural richness, tolerance, and pluralism. It contributes to the country’s unique identity and heritage.
Q5: What are the primary functions of the Indian Red Cross Society?
A: The Indian Red Cross Society primarily engages in humanitarian activities, including disaster relief, blood donation drives, healthcare services, and promoting humanitarian values.
Q6: How does the Indian Red Cross Society carry out its functions?
A: The organization conducts various programs and initiatives, coordinates with volunteers, partners with healthcare institutions, and mobilizes resources to fulfill its functions.
Q7: Why is the diversity of India an important topic for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination?
A: Understanding the diversity of India is essential for aspirants preparing for the UPSC examination as it relates to various subjects, including culture, society, and governance.
Q8: How can I prepare for questions related to the diversity of India in UPSC exams?
A: To prepare for such questions, study relevant portions of the syllabus, read books on Indian culture and society, and stay updated on current affairs to understand India’s diverse aspects.
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