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Govind Sadashiv Ghurye

Development of Perspective and Govind Sadashiv Ghurye Method in Sociological was born on 12 Study December 1893 in a Drawing on his initial Brahman Malavan family training as a in the West Cost of India. Sanskritist Ghurye He became interested in attempted a fruitful the study of social synthesis of Indological institutions from his and sociological study of the Manusmirti perspectives. This and went to Cambridge to constitutes his most study anthropology and enduring contribution sociology. to Indian sociology. On his return from Govind Sadashiv Ghurye Indeed, Ghurye helped Cambridge, Ghurye continued his research in the National the emergence of Sociology as a distinct Library in Calcutta for about a year. discipline in India from its early In 1924 he was appointed Reader and beginnings in Indology and descriptive Head of the Department of Sociology ethnology. His own classic study of in the Bombay University. After a caste and race in India moved the focus decade, Ghurye became Professor. of sociological study from a Under his leadership Mumbai reconstruction of a social institution became the leading centr e for (viz., caste) from Sanskrit texts to a research in sociology. When he retired study of how it functioned in at the age of 65, he was named the contemporary social reality. Ghuryes first Pr ofessor Emeritus of the conception of the sociology of India University of Bombay. He died at the included the study of modern, medieval age of 90, on 28 December 1984. and ancient India, as well as rural Ghurye remained intellectually urban and tribal India. There is now agile till he breathed his last. an increasing realization of the value Life Sketch



of combining the sociologicalanthropological approach, on the one hand, and the historicaltextual, on the other. Ghuryes Sociological Writings Ghuryes writings, however, show a central theme, which binds his writings in a thread. It is his conviction of the presence of an overall cultural unity of the Indian population, more particularly Hindu population. This unity became manifest in the process of acculturation with the advent of the Vedic Aryans. This process of acculturation has been going on from north to south, from east to west. It has provided unity to the country and has helped to keep together people who had heterogeneous racial and cultural background. Brahamanical ideas and values performed the central role in the past. Today, the idea of integrated nation state of independent India would per form the role. Ghurye tried to explore the nature of this process. Critics, however, point out that Ghurye did not pay adequate attention to the problems of uneasy co-existence of religions of Indian and non-Indian origins in India and to the problems of Brahmanical supremacy. Professionalisation of Sociology in India Ghurye played a key-role in the professionalisation of Sociology in India. Ghurye founded the Indian

Sociological Society in 1952 and started its bi-annual jour nal Sociological Bulletin. These served as an effective forum for interaction and exchange of views among the Indian sociologists and anthropologists. The annual conferences organised first by the All Indian Sociological Conference and then by the Indian Sociological Society played a catalytic r ole in the professionalisation of the discipline. Ghuryes Views about Indian Society Ghurye made a sustained effort to move away from the colonial legacy of sociology. He rejected the atomistic and static framework of colonial sociology and anthropology. Instead, he sought to focus attention on the larger issues and problems affecting Indian society as well as on the processes of its change and transformation. One may differ from his analyses and interpretations. However, his serious intellectual commitment and abiding national interest cannot be denied. He was against occultism and obscurantism. Ghurye was a rationalist in his academic pursuits as well as in his personal life. According to him, culture constitutes the core element of society and its evolution. Culture relates to the realm of values. It is a matter of individual attainment of excellence and creativity. Ghurye had a strong faith in the power of human being to preserve the best of their old culture, while creating from his own spirit a new culture.



Caste and Kinship G.S. Ghuryes work, Caste and Race in India (1932) skilfully combined historical, anthropological and sociological approaches. He was concerned with the historical origin of caste and as its geographical spread. He also tried to examine its contemporary features including changes in it because of the impact of British rule. In the later editions of the book he noted how it underwent changes in independent India. He recorded insightfully the persisting, changing, and the emerging features of this complicated system. As a rationalist, he was firmly opposed to the caste system. He was hopeful that it would weaken in the urban environment and among groups receiving modern education. However, he also regretfully noted the growth of caste patriotism or caste consciousness and the transformation of caste into a community or ethnic group. In subsequent editions of his book, Ghurye fully developed such themes as the role of the caste in politics. Ghurye studied caste system from a historical, comparative and integrative perspective. Later on, he made a comparative study of kinship in Indo-European cultures. Through the comparative study of caste and kinship, Ghurye emphasised two important points: (i) The kin and caste networks of India had parallels in some other societies also. (ii) The kinship and caste in India served in the past as integrative frameworks. The evolution of Indian

society was based on the integration of diverse racial and ethnic groups through these networks. Notably, Ghurye demonstrated, through textual evidence, the dynamism of the caste system. The caste system had not remained static. Thus, on the basis of the ancient texts, Ghurye showed that in the early centuries of the Christian era the vaishyas were reduced to the position of the sudras and the sudras were elevated to the vaishyas. Ghurye examined the caste system from both cultural and structural points of view. The Hindu society was governed by the ideal pattern of caste. The caste system has got the following six structural features. (i) Segmental Division Ghurye sees castes as social groupings or segments the membership of which is acquired and fixed by birth. The segmental division of society refers to its division or compartmentalisation into a number of segments or castes, each of which has a life of its own. Each caste provides a centre of its own regarding rules, regulations, standards of morality and justice. (ii) Hierarchy The castes or segments are arranged in terms of a hierarchy. Hierarchy is a scheme, which arranges castes in terms of higher or superior and lower or inferior positions in relation to each other. The relative ranking of particular caste groups differed from one place to another. But, everywhere, the Brahmans, were placed at the top and



the untouchables were kept at the bottom of the hierarchy. (iii) Principles of Purity and Pollution The above two attributes reflect the separation or distance between castes. This fact of separation is reinforced by the principles of purity and pollution. The principles of purity and pollution find their expression in the codes regulating the acceptance of food or drink from other castes. In practice, most castes seem to take no objection to kachcha food or food cooked with water from a Brahman. Higher castes take only pucca food or food cooked in butter from lower castes. But nobody could take food or water from an untouchable, whose touch even is polluting. (iv) Civil and Religious Disabilities and Privileges of Different Sections A result of the hierarchical division of society is that rights and obligations are unequally shared by different sections of the society. The ritual status of a caste vis--vis the Brahmans and the nature of occupation are the crucial determinants of the nature of these disabilities. The speech, dress and custom of the high castes could not be copied by the lower castes as by doing so they would go against the governing rule of the society. (v) Lack of Choice of Occupation Every caste or a group of allied castes was associated with a hereditary occupation. Since distinction was made between clean and unclean and therefore, between pure and impure occupations, the hereditary occupation

a caste reflected its status in society. For example, the Brahmans were engaged in priesthood, while the lower castes took up occupations such as those of barber, washer man and cobbler. The untouchable castes would be doing the most unclean jobs. There have, of course, been instances of changeover by one caste from one occupation to another. Occupational differentiation has led to the birth of many sub castes. But the profession of priesthood and literary activities had remained the sole preserve of the Brahmans. (vi) Restrictions on Marriage Inter -marriage between castes was prohibited. Hence individuals married within their own caste grouping, i.e. they practised endogamy. Every caste was segmented into smaller subdivisions or sub-castes and these were the units of endogamy. According to Ghurye, endogamy is the key factor behind the caste system. Fission of Castes into Sub Castes Ghurye stresses endogamy as the most important feature of the caste system. Any effective unit of the caste hierarchy is marked by endogamy. Every caste had in the past segmented into smaller sub-divisions or sub castes. Each of these sub castes practised endogamy. Ghurye illustrates the point with the case of the vanias or banias belonging to the vaishya rank. It is divided into various sub castes such as Shrimali, Porwal and Modh. The Modh sub caste, like the Shrimalis and Porwals, is



further subdivided into the endogamous sub castes of Bisa and Dasa. The Modh Bisas are further subdivided into Bisa desavals of Ahmedabad and Bisa desavals of Surat, and these two groupings or subsub-castes do not intermarry. Connecting Caste with Kinship Ghurye mentions also the role of hypergamy in promoting limited mobility within the caste system. In Gujarat and Rajasthan there are instances where rulers or Rajas have married tribal women. It has, thus, contributed to the unity of the Indian society through the institution of caste. Caste is linked with kinship through caste endogamy and also gotra exogamy. Gotra has been treated as a thoroughly exogamous unit by the Brahmans and later by the nonBrahmins. The basic notion here is that all the members of a gotra are related to one another, through blood, i.e., they have a rishi or sage as their common ancestor. Therefore, marriage between two persons of the same gotra will lead to incestuous relationship. It will lead the lineages of the gotra to near extinction. Ghuryes detailed study, Two Brahmanical Institutions Gotra and Gharana, proves this notion to be untenable and preposterous. In India descent has not always been traced to blood ties. The lineages were often based on spiritual descent from sages of the past. Thus, from the eugenic standpoint, gotra exogamy is an artificial restriction on the choice of

marriage partners. It is totally unscientific. The fact that gotra survives even today with very few exceptions shows the role and tyrannical power of certain ideas and beliefs in human behaviour and social process. Caste and Politics Ghurye felt alarmed with the increasing caste-patriotism or attachment to ones own caste in modern India. It would be a source of potential danger to the unity of the Indian nation. The British rule in India brought about three types of changes: (1) Legal and institutional changes recognising the equal rights of individuals before the law, (2) technological changes, and (3) occupational changes. They affected the working of the caste system but they did not lead to its dissolution. The British rulers were, according to Ghurye, never seriously interested in destroying the social and economic bases of the caste system. They did not even try to abolish untouchability, which was a positive curse. Rather, they used the caste divisions to form a sense of distrust and suspicion among various sections of the Indian population. Both India under the British and Independent India, witnessed (1) proliferation of caste associations, (2) increase in the number of caste journals, and (3) growth in the number of caste-based trusts. They along with kinship ties have heightened caste consciousness. They prevent the birth of a real community and nationality feeling of the Indians. Ghurye was afraid that the caste sentiment would be



exploited by the political leaders to serve their goal of capturing and retaining power. His fear has not been found totally unfounded. Ghurye appreciated the spirit behind the movement of the depressed classes for reservation in political arena and in jobs. He also advocated that the untouchable castes should be given special educational facilities. Education would enable them to better their social-economic position. But he, however, objected to the continuation of reservation facilities for the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Classes for an indefinite time. Tribes Tribes constitute an important part of the Indian population. Ghurye noted with anxiety that some anthropologists and British administrators advocated a policy of isolation for the tribals. They asserted that the separate identity of the tribal should be maintained at any cost. They mentioned several reasons for it. First, the tribals were different from the non-tribals or Hindus.They were the original inhabitants of the country. They are, unlike the Hindus, animists. They are different from the Hindus on linguistic grounds also. Their contact with the Hindus had been harmful for the culture and economy of the tribals. The tribals lost their land and other resources to the cunning and exploitative non-tribals. Ghurye contested the above points with a heap of historical data and instances from the contemporary scenario. Ghurye referred to the long process of Hinduisation of the tribes of

India in different parts of India. Some tribes had been integrated with the Hindu society. Some others remained loosely integrated. Many others like the tribes living in the recesses of hills and the depths of forests were barely touched by Hinduism. They were the imperfectly integrated classes of Hindu society. The tribes, therefore, according to Ghurye were backward Hindus. The tribes embraced the Hindu social order mainly for two reasons. The first one was the economic motivation. As the tribals adopted the Hindu religion, they could come out of the narrow confines of their tribal crafts of a rudimentary nature. They then adopted specialised types of occupation, which were in demand in society. The second reason lay in the catholicity of caste system to the tribal beliefs and rituals. Ghurye, however, admitted that the gullible tribals fell a prey to the deceit of the non-tribals or Hindu moneylenders and land grabbers. But, it was the result mainly of the fault of the British system of revenue and justice. Also, the policy of the British Government in relation to the forests caused hardship for the tribals. But, the poor non-tribals too equally suffered the damages done by these policies. The system of exploitation that operates in society does not make any distinction between the tribal and the non-tribal. The Social Significance of Religion Ghurye made original contribution to the study of Indian religious beliefs and practices. He wrote six books (1) Indian



Sadhus (1953), (2) Gods and Men (1962), (3) Religious Consciousness (1965), (4) Indian Acculturation (1977), (5) Vedic India (1979) and (6) The Legacy of Ramayana (1979) to certify the role of religion in society. Ghurye delineates five foundations of culture. They are (i) Religious consciousness, (ii) Conscience, (iii) Justice, (iv) Free pursuit of knowledge, and (v) Toleration. Religious consciousness as a value manifested itself at the dawn of history. The Sadhus in Indian Tradition Ghurye made a notable departure from his co-professionals in making a study of the ascetics and sadhus of India. His Indian Sadhus (1953 & 1964) is an excellent sociography of the various sects and religious centres established by the great Vedantic philosopher Sankaracharya and other notable religious figures. In this work Ghurye highlighted the paradoxical nature of renunciation in India. A sadhu or sannyasin is supposed to be detached from all caste, norms and social conventions, etc. He is outside the pale of society. Yet, strikingly enough, since the time of Sankaracharya the Hindu society has more or less been guided by the sadhus. These sadhus are not the lonely hermits. Most of them belong to monastic orders, which have distinctive traditions. The monastic organisation in India was a product of Hinduism and Buddhism. The rise of Buddhism and Jainism marked the decline of individual ascetics like Viswamitra. Indian sadhus have acted as the arbiters of religious disputes,

patronised learning of scriptures and the sacred lore and even defended religion against external attacks. Urban and Rural Sociology Ghurye did not entertain the pessimistic view that urban or metropolitan growth resulted in depersonalisation of men and women. For him, the large city with its big complexes of higher education, research, judiciary, health services, and print and entertainment media is a cradle of innovations that ultimately serve cultural growth. The function of the city is to per form a culturally integrative role, to act as a point of focus and the centre of radiation of the major tenets of the age. Any large city or metropolis with an organic link with the life of the people of its region can perform this role. Any urban planner must, according to Ghurye, tackle the problems of (1) Lack of sufficient supply of drinking water, (2) Human congestion, (3) Traffic congestion, (4) Regulation of Public vehicles, (5) Insufficiency of railway transport in cities like Mumbai, (6) Erosion of trees, (7) Sound pollution (8) Indiscriminate tree felling, and (9) Plight of the pedestrians. Ghurye was a staunch advocate of urbanisation. He, however, remained preoccupied for life with the idea of rurbanisation securing the advantages of urban life simultaneously with natures greenery. Urbanisation in India was not a simple function of industrialisation. A large city or metropolis also functioned as the centre of culture of the territory



encompassing it. This organic link between the urban centres and the villages was ignored during the British rule. Towns and cities started functioning as centres for producing industrial goods and for marketing industrial products made in India or in the U.K. to the rural masses. The Expanding Horizon of Sociology Ghurye went on exploring newer domains of socio-cultural life in India and the world. An important field was literature and society. Ghurye became one of the first Indian Sociologists to have utilised literature in sociological studies. Ghurye with his profound

knowledge of Sanskrit literature, extensively quoted from the Vedas, Shastras, epics, and poetry of Kalidasa or Bhavabhuti to shed light on the social and cultural life of India. He made use of the literature in vernacular, e.g., Marathi, and cited from the literature of modern writers like Bankimchandra Chatterjee as well. Ghuryes knowledge was encyclopaedic. His method was eclectic. The research and writings of Ghurye and his pupils opened new vistas of sociological inquiry in India. For a thorough understanding of Indias ancient tradition and its linkage with todays India, Ghuryes contribution must be followed carefully.

GLOSSARY ACCULTURATION. It is the process whereby two or more cultures come in contact with one another so that they affect one another in various ways. ANIMIST. One who attributes living soul to natural phenomena. ECLECTIC. Borrowing freely from various sources. ENDOGAMY. Practice of marriage in ones own caste group. ETHNOLOGY. A descriptive account of social life and culture based on detailed observations of what people actually do. EXOGAMY. Practice of marriage prohibiting marriage in ones own gotra and effecting ones marriage outside ones own group. FISSION. Splitting; (division of a cell into new cells) division of a caste into two or more sub-castes. IDOLATROUS. Worshipping idols. INDOLOGICAL. Interpretation of Indian social phenomena on the basis of ideas depicted in Hindu Texts like Dharamshastras, Arthashastra, etc.



EXERCISES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Who founded Indian Sociological Society and when? Write down Ghuryes views about caste and kinship. Explain the structural features of caste given by Ghurye. Write down four lines on restrictions on marriage in caste system. Write Ghuryes views on caste and politics. Discuss Ghuryes view on tribes. What was the significance of religion according to Ghurye? Write down Ghuryes views about rural and urban areas.

SUGGESTED READINGS 1. Oommen T.K. and Mukherji,P.N., Indian Sociology: Reflections & Introspections, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1986. 2. Pramanick, S.K. Sociology of G.S. Ghurye, Rawat Publications, Jaipur 1994. 3. Venugopal, C.N., Ghuryes Ideology of Normative Hinduism : An Appraisal, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi, 1992. 4. Venugopal, C.N., Religion and Indian Society: A Sociological Perspective, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi, 1998.