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Social Institutions Continuity And Change Class 12 Sociology NCERT
Class 12 Sociology students should refer to the following NCERT Book chapter Social Institutions Continuity And Change in standard 12. This NCERT Book for Grade 12 Sociology will be very useful for exams and help you to score good marks
Social Institutions Continuity And Change NCERT Class 12
Like any Indian, you already know that ‘caste’ is the name of an ancient social institution that has been part of Indian history and culture for thousands of years. But like any Indian living in the twenty-first century, you also know that something called ‘caste’ is definitely a part of Indian society today. To what extent are these two ‘castes’ – the one that is supposed to be part of India’s past, and the one that is part of its present – the same thing? This is the question that we will try to answer in this section.
CASTE IN THE PAST
Caste is an institution uniquely associated with the Indian sub-continent. While social arrangements producing similar effects have existed in other parts of the world, the exact form has not been found elsewhere. Although it is an institution characteristic of Hindu society, caste has spread to the major non-Hindu communities of the Indian sub-continent. This is specially true of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. As is well-known, the English word ‘caste’ is actually a borrowing from the Portuguese casta, meaning pure breed. The word refers to a broad institutional arrangement that in Indian languages (beginning with the ancient Sanskrit) is referred to by two distinct terms, varna and jati. Varna, literally ‘colour’, is the name given to a four-fold division of society into brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra, though this excludes a significant section of the population composed of the ‘outcastes’, foreigners, slaves, conquered peoples and others, sometimes refered to as the panchamas or fifth category. Jati is a generic term referring to species or kinds of anything, ranging from inanimate objects to plants, animals and human beings. Jati is the word most commonly used to refer to the institution of caste in Indian languages, though it is interesting to ote that, increasingly, Indian language speakers are beginning to use the English word ‘caste’. The precise relationship between varna and jati has been the subject of much speculation and debate among scholars. The most common interpretation is to treat varna as a broad all-India aggregative classification, while jati is taken to be a regional or local sub-classification involving a much more complex system consisting of hundreds or even thousands of castes and sub-castes.
This means that while the four varna classification is common to all of India, the jati hierarchy has more local classifications that vary from region to region. Opinions also differ on the exact age of the caste system. It is generally agreed, though, that the four varna classification is roughly three thousand years old. However, the ‘caste system’ stood for different things in different time periods, so that it is misleading to think of the same system continuing for three thousand years. In its earliest phase, in the late Vedic period roughly between 900 — 500 BC, the caste system was really a varna system and consisted of only four major divisions. These divisions were not very elaborate or very rigid, and they were not determined bybirth. Movement across the categories seems to have been not only possible but quite common. It is only in the post-Vedic period that caste became the rigid institution that is familiar to us from well known definitions. The most commonly cited defining features of caste are the following:
1. Caste is determined by birth – a child is “born into” the caste of its parents. Caste is never a matter of choice. One can never change one’s caste, leave it, or choose not to join it, although there are instances where a person may be expelled from their caste.
2. Membership in a caste involves strict rules about marriage. Caste groups are “endogamous”, i.e. marriage is restricted to members of the group.
3. Caste membership also involves rules about food and food-sharing. What kinds of food may or may not be eaten is prescribed and who one may share food with is also specified.
4. Caste involves a system consisting of many castes arranged in a hierarchy of rank and status. In theory, every person has a caste, and every caste has a specified place in the hierarchy of all castes. While the hierarchical position of many castes, particularly in the middle ranks, may vary from region to region, there is always a hierarchy.
5. Castes also involve sub-divisions within themselves, i.e., castes almost always have sub-castes and sometimes sub-castes may also have subsub- castes. This is referred to as a segmental organisation.
6. Castes were traditionally linked to occupations. A person born into a caste could only practice the occupation associated with that caste, so that occupations were hereditary, i.e. passed on from generation togeneration. On the other hand, a particular occupation could only be pursued by the caste associated with it –members of other castes could not enter the occupation.
1. What is the role of the ideas of separation and hierarchy in the caste system?
2. What are some of the rules that the caste system imposes?
3. What changes did colonialism bring about in the caste system?
4. In what sense has caste become relatively ‘invisible’ for the urban upper castes?
5. How have tribes been classified in India?
6. What evidence would you offer against the view that ‘tribes are primitive communities living isolated lives untouched by civilisation’?
7. What are the factors behind the assertion of tribal identities today?
8. What are some of the different forms that the family can take?
9. In what ways can changes in social structure lead to changes in the family structure?
10. Explain the difference between matriliny and matriarchy.
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