Mark Twain visited India in  and described it in his travelogue Following the Equator with both revulsion and attraction before concluding that India was the only foreign land he dreamed about or longed to see again.
For many Indologists, these social ills have literally come to define India — and have become almost the exclusive focus of their writings on India. During the colonial period, it served the interests of the British and their European cohorts to exaggerate the democratic character of their own societies while diminishing any socially redeeming features of society in India and other colonized nations.
Social divisions and inequities were a convenient tool in the arsenal of the colonizers. On the one hand, tremendous tactical gains could be achieved by playing off one community against the other. Strong elements of such colonial imagery continue to dominate the landscape of Western Indology.
A liberal, dynamic West embracing universal human values is posed against an History of social relations in india and unchanging East clinging to odious social values and customs.
Many historians and social activists appear to have tacitly accepted the notion that caste divisions in society are a uniquely Indian feature and that Indian society has been largely unchanged since the writing of the Manusmriti which provides formal sanction to such social inequities.
But caste-like divisions are neither uniquely Indian nor has Indian society been as socially stagnant as commonly believed. In all non-egalitarian societies where wealth and political power were unequally distributed, some form of social inequity appeared and often meant hereditary privileges for the elite and legally or socially sanctioned discrimination against those considered lower down in the social hierarchy.
In fact, caste-like divisions are to be found in the history of most nations — whether in the American continent, or in Africa, Europe or elsewhere in Asia. In some societies, caste-like divisions were relatively simple, in others more complex.
For instance, in Eastern Africa some agricultural societies were divided between land-owning and landless tribes or clans that eventually took on caste-like characteristics. Priests and warriors enjoyed special privileges in the 15th C. Aztec society of Mexico as did the Samurais warrior nobles and priests of medieval Japan.
Amongst the most stratified of the ancient civilizations was the Roman Civilization where in addition to state-sanctioned slavery, there were all manner of caste-like inequities coded into law.
Discrimination against the artisans was also commonplace throughout Europe, and as late as the 19th century — artisans in Germany had to go through a separate court system to seek legal redress.
They were not permitted to appeal to courts that dealt with the affairs of the nobility and the landed gentry. A common pattern that seems to emerge from a study of several such ancient and medieval societies is that priests and warriors typically formed an elite class in most medieval societies and social privileges varied according to social rank; in settled agriculture based societies, this was usually closely related to ownership of land.
For instance, we find no evidence of caste-like discrimination in societies where land was collectively owned and jointly cultivated, or where goods and services were exchanged within the village on the basis of barter, and there was no premium assigned to any particular type of work.
All services and all forms of human labor were valued equally. Such village communes may have once existed throughout India and some appear to have survived until quite recently — especially in the hills, such as in parts of Himachal and the North East, including Assam and Tripurabut also in Orissa and parts of Central India.
In such societies, we also see little evidence of gender discrimination. In India, caste and gender discrimination appear to become more pronounced with the advent of hereditary and authoritarian ruling dynasties, a powerful state bureaucracy, the growth of selective property rights, and the domination of Brahmins over the rural poor in agrahara villages.
But this process was neither linear nor always irreversible. As old ruling dynasties were overthrown, previously existing caste equations and caste hierarchies were also challenged and modified.
In many parts of India this process may have taken several centuries to crystallize and caste rigidity may be a much more recent phenomenon than has been commonly portrayed.
The impression that caste divisions were always strictly enforced, or that there were no challenges to caste rigidity does not seem to square with a dispassionate examination of the Indian historical record.
It should also be emphasized that caste-distinctions were not the only way, or even the most egregious way in which social inequities manifested themselves in older societies. In ancient Greece and Rome, the institution of slavery was at least as cruel a practice, if not worse.
Levels and degree of caste discrimination in India have varied with time and there has been both upward and downward mobility of castes and social groups. Going by the strictures outlined in the Manusmriti, one might conclude that caste distinctions were set in stone, rigidly enforced and the possibilities of caste mobility completely circumscribed.
But a closer examination of the historical record suggests otherwise. Already in the Upanishadic period there were tensions between Brahmins and Kshatriyas, and there are explicit parables in the Upanishadic texts illustrating how an enlightened Kshatriya was able to exceed a Brahmin in spiritual wisdom and philosophical knowledge.
In the Mahabharatha, there are references to a Brahmin warrior suggesting that caste categories were not entirely inflexible. There is also criticism of parasitism amongst Brahmins in some of the texts from the Upanishadic period, and social commentators emphasized how those who reneged on their social obligations were undeserving of their caste privileges.
This is an important point because it suggests that there was an implied social contract that involved both privileges and social obligations. The monarch might have enjoyed immense power and prestige, and exacted numerous rights over the common people, but also had the obligation to defend the people — to protect them from invaders, to dispense justice in an unprejudiced manner and assist in the development and preservation of irrigation facilities and roads.
Failure to meet such expectations could and did lead to revolts, and dynasties rose and fell within a matter of few generations. Challenges to Brahminical hegemony and caste-rigidity In the Upanishads, there is also recognition that conceptions of god could be quite varied, that Brahminical rituals were not essential to spiritual release, and that individuals might choose different deities or methods of worship.
This ecumenical outlook facilitated the growth of alternative viewpoints not only in the realm of religious practice but also on norms of how society ought to be structured. Social challenges to absolute monarchical rule and the immense power of the priestly class probably led to a crescendo during the Buddhist period when Brahmin hegemony received challenges from several quarters — from radical atheists such as the Lokayatas, from Jain agnostics, and heterodox Hindus and Buddhists who wanted to reconstruct society on a less discriminatory and more humane basis.
This is borne out by how so many ruling clans arose from a non-Kshatriya and also non-Brahmin background.1 HISTORY AND SOCIAL BACKGROUND India is a country in South Asia.
It is the seventh-largest country by area; the country is divided in twenty-eight states and seven union territories. It has a population of billion people and is the most populous democracy in the world.
Department of History and Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Ruhuna is pleased to organize an International Workshop and Lecture Series on Recent Advances in Indian History and Archaeology and Sri Lanka- South India Relations on 5th and 6th September History of India India is a land of ancient civilization.
India's social, economic, and cultural configurations are the products of a long process of regional rutadeltambor.com history begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans.
These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic age. Hinduism arose in the Vedic period. The United States has maintained cool relations with India because of its refusal to join the west during the Cold War, its pursuit of a non-alignment foreign policy and for its tight controls on American investment and business enterprise in India.
No aspect of Indian history has excited more controversy than India 's history of social relations. Western indologists and Western-influenced Indian intellectuals have seized upon caste divisions, untouchability, religious obscurantism, and practices of dowry and sati as distinctive evidence of .
History of Social Relations in India Caste and gender equations in Indian history No aspect of Indian history has excited more controversy than India’s history of social relations. Western indologists and Western-influenced Indian intellectuals have seized upon caste divisions, untouchability, religious obscurantism, and practices of dowry.