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Sunday, February 5, 2012

CLRI 3/2 February 2012

Editor's Line

Forced Sanskritisation
In India there has long been a trend of adopting cultural traits of socially upward mobile people. People belonging to lower caste strata, both socially and culturally, adopt traits of the people who belong to the higher caste. They adopt such traits in an effort to emulate the high caste people. By which they shun off those activities which the people of upper caste do not do and think either lowly or degraded. This way they move high up the social ladder. Hence, they change their eating habits: they stop eating meat and fish, some spices and vegetables such as garlic, ginger, onions and so on. They become selective even in wearing clothes, and worship those gods and goddesses whom the people of high caste do. This is a type of imitation of the cultural behavior of the people of high caste. Moreover people have been doing this since a very long time. M N Srinivas has discovered this trend among the low, middle caste Hindus and tribal people while studying the Coorgs community in Karnataka in the 1950s; however this applies to the entire country. Srinivas termed this trend as Sanskritisation.

People who migrate to cities from villages, small towns or other cities start following the customs of the local people in the hope of creating intimacy with them and try to mingle with them gradually. This is more than often an addition to their own culture as remarks Mackim Marriot. At the same time, the local people seem to adopt some of the cultural traits of the immigrants which had traditionally been alien to them or even unheard of in their society. However the adoption of the cultural traits of the immigrants by the local people can be attributed to many other reasons than for social upward mobility such as having come under the contact of the immigrants, some traditions being glamourized through films, TV soaps, women journals and magazines. For example, festivals such as chchat, karvachaoth, bhai duj are now being widely practiced by the people in Maharashtara where these festivals were hardly known or limited to a small number of people.

But all these changes and imitations are self-adoption. People adopt the traits either in an effort to move themselves socially upward or just because they have come under the contact—and no external force. But some elements in the name of protecting culture are forcing people from doing certain things or forcing them to do other certain things. Forcing people to do certain things is a forced sanskritisation. Stopping the celebration of Valentine’s Day, other new festivals in some regions and withdrawing the essay Three Hundred Ramayanas written by A.K. Ramanujan from the History syllabus at the graduation level of Delhi University are examples of forced sanskritisation. Forced sanskritisation is neither desirable in this age nor good. Forced sanskritisation inherits a culture of hatred which leads to a repeat of other sets of forced sanskritisation back in the societies that are under threats which then leads to a number of more examples of forced sanskritisation. Similarly freedom of choice inherits mutual respect which leads to a repeat of unleashing freedom to one and another. It is good that people are left to their choice what they should do or should not.

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Khurshid Alam,
Editor, CLRI, February 2012.

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