The concept ‘Sanskritization’ was first introduced by Prof. M.N. Srinivas in his book “Religion and society among the coorgs of South India” to describe the cultural mobility in the traditional caste structure of Indian society.
MN Srinivas defeined “Sanskritization is a process by which a lower caste or tribe or any other group changes its customs, rituals, ideology and way of life in the direction of a higher or more often twice-born caste.”
Characteristics of Sanskritization:
1. In the Indian society, social status of an individual is fixed on the basis of caste hierarchy. There are many lower castes who suffer from economic, religious or social disabilities, so in order to improve the their social status/raise their social status in the caste hierarchy, lower castes adopt/imitate the cultural patterns and life style of the higher castes.
2. In some societies the lower caste people followed not only the customs of the Brahmins (Top on Social Hierarchy) but also the customs of the locally dominant castes like Kshatriyas and Vaisyas to raise their status.
3. Provides Social mobility of lower caste in traditional caste system. Only trying to change the social status and not the social structure in itself.
4. Sanskritization process also followed by the tribal communities.
5. It also given space to De-sanskritization. In some instances, higher castes are imitating the behaviour pattern of lower caste, and for example Brahmins have started taking meat and liquor. This process is called De-sanskritization.
Three Models of Sanskritization
1. Cultural Model: – Castes have been assigned high or low status according to cultural characteristics of Hindu Social Organisation. Intimating the standards of sacredness and purity, accepting behaviour and code of highness and purity as described in religious texts.
2. Varna Model: –In the Varna system the highest status is given to that of a Brahmins followed by Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra. The lower castes coping the ideals and life style of the superior castes. Emulating the life style or ideals of a Varna on the basis of honour and superiority enjoyed by that class is called Varna model of sanskritization.
3. Local Model: In every country, some castes are considered to be more respectful than others on account of their economic power. These caste may be called the “master caste” or the “dominant caste”. So the lower caste copies the life style of the local dominant caste in order to improve their status.
Effects of Sanskritization:
1. Social Mobility in closed social structure — lower castes/tribal people can elevate their social status and get higher status in caste hierarchy.
2. Lower caste people have given up un-cleaned occupation to raise their economic status because clean trades are a symbol of social light.
3. Sanskritization in religious field: Lower caste also go to their temple regularly and perform Arti and Bhajan. They have left prohibited food and un-cleaned occupation. Even they have specialised in performing ceremonies like Brahmins.
4. Sanskritization in living patterns:- Lower caste people has adopted better living condtions, similar to dominant castes or Brahmins.
By Ashish Kumar