M.N Srinivas full name Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas. He was born in 1916 in Mysore and passed away in 1999 in Bangalore. He was one of the best Indian sociologists. He was a Brahmin. His studies are prominent in the area of caste and its other classifications, sanskritization and many other topics which revolve around caste itself.
He acquired his knowledge and doctorate in sociology in the University of Bombay. In the late forties, Srinivas went to the University of Oxford for his further studies. There he played a significant role and started bringing up ideas for sociology.
Srinivas’s perspective was different from another sociologist as he did not want to rely on a western textbook to study about his own country people. So, therefore, he himself participated and started with observation and fieldwork. Somewhere in 1940-42, He did a vast field work on Coorgs. He further talks about the unity and interaction among different castes present in Coorgs. Caste he covered was Brahmins, Kaniyas, Bannas and Panikas. He also discusses in villages we can see many independent castes.
Most of the years Srinivas only concentrated on studying caste and religion. He covered all the dimensions of the caste and religion prevailing in the society. He came up with the terms dominant castes, westernization, secularization and sanskritization. This all was the impact and outcome of the caste system.
Srinivas being from Brahmin caste which was believed to be superior he never hesitated to choose caste system as his main area of interest. He presented number studies how caste has its role everywhere be it be village or cities.
To make people understand the concept of society he categorized these concepts into two
(i) book view (ii) field view
Now when we talk about book view. Srinivas always said what is given in book might be good as a reference but completely believing it won’t be useful. He gave more importance to field perspective. According to books all the caste elements, religion, kinship, geographical areas formulate Indian society’s foundation.
Srinivas always believed to know Indian society and its different aspects one has to go in the field use his own mind and observation and share what he or she has experienced. He said to study Indian society start with visiting different regions. Study that region and their functions. This is how you can know the nativity of those regions of Indian society.
He also emphasized the importance to mathematical and statistical studies. Many rely on practical analyzes rather on mathematical as it seems to be difficult to follow. He stuck to the notion of local bounded sites which were best seen his paper on the topic like dominant caste and joint family conflicts which he himself observed in rural south India. His uniques style of researching and best works were provided by him due to his unique sense of methodology. Many of his writing served as the reference to many other sociologists or researchers who were also determined to study caste in India.
He was awarded and honored by different institutions. The University of Bombay, the government of France and Royal anthropological institute placed several awards on his hand. President of India awarded him Padma Bhushan. He was also seen as one of the foreigner member in British academy and American Academy of Arts and Science.
Writing and inspiration:
Srinivas was greatly influenced by Radcliffe Brown an English social Anthropologist and by his idea of structure. Radcliffe was also his teacher when he was studying at the Oxford.
Srinivas was firmly determined to study religion, caste, and social changes. He studied every aspect of Indian society and its relationship with one another. Let it be different tribes, castes, peasants, and sections etc. His writing is of great efforts and done in the field in south India.
Some of his writings are listed below:
- 1942, Marriage and Family in Mysore
- 1952, Religion and Society among Coorgs of South India
- 1955, India’s villages
- 1962, Caste in Modern India and Other Essays
- 1966, Social Change in Modern India
- 1976, the Remembered Village
- 1980 India: Social structure and much more. If we will talk about the nature of Srinivas writing it is believed to be interdisciplinary.
We would discuss briefly on few topics which were of great importance to Srinivas:
- Social changes are occurring from the evolution of society but when we talk about Indian society there are certain social changes which have gained much popularity. Concepts like Sanskritization, Westernization, and Secularization etc are an example of social changes.
- Sanskritization is as the process in Hinduism in which the low caste Hindu person or group tries to acquire values, ideologies, and rituals of higher caste Hindu. Westernization in India when the culture of West is gaining more importance than the culture of India. Indian people borrowing the culture of West is said to be the process of Westernization.
- Secularization in India is a process in which all the religion existing in India will be treated as equal and neutral. These are some of the social changes which Srinivas emphasized on.
- View on Religion, caste and its impact: He emphasized on many topics related to religion and village. How religion plays an important role to formulate Indian society. Religion, therefore, carries caste system which again produces subdivision of these castes. He later discusses how these castes affect different caste groups differently. Each caste carries its position in society and treated on the basis of those ranks. He further talks about how these caste differences bring out more difference among people differences like occupational differences, a hierarchy in society, the system of pure and impure, caste panchayats and assemblies.
- Dominant caste: according to Srinivas any caste that has three main powers of numerical strength, political power, and economic power is said to be a dominant caste.
Now he arises a new concept of dominant caste it does not talks about how castes are ranked in society. If only concerns with if one has numerical strength, political power and economic power irrespective of whether he belongs to low or high caste.
We can see this when Srinivas talks about the village of Rampura in Mysore. There he witnesses that there were several castes each holding different positions. It consisted of Brahmins, peasants, and untouchables. But here peasants were stronger and dominant than Brahmins as many peasants had land were numerically stronger and had political power. That is why in this sense Srinivas said caste that was traditionally ranked below but having political and economic power proved them as dominant caste in the village.
Criticism Srinivas Faced:
Many have criticized him by saying he has at times eliminated religious minorities from his research during promoting the concept of Sanskritization.
In his studies, we can see he has focused on Indian traditions like caste and village which revolve around Hinduism trough this we can see he was using no secular concept. He focused more on upper caste or we can say, elite groups.
Many concepts of social change were introduced by M.N Srinivas such as sanskritization and westernization. These two processes cannot be studied individually. One needs to study both the concepts to acquire full knowledge. He introduced the concept of sanskritization when he was still studying in Oxford and the concept of westernization was put up in 1956. In which he shares how westernization has impacted on the Indian culture and gradually it’s sweeping away the Indian culture over western.
The concepts which were introduced by Srinivas were not completely unique as they might be having the same concept from Aryanization or Brahminization by Lyall and Risley as said by Mukherjee.
M.N Srinivas importantly focused on fieldwork rather completely falling for bookish knowledge. He was one of the popular first generation sociologists in India. He discusses all the complex functions in Indian society with ease. He shares his point of view on topics such as caste, religion, traditional villages and their impacts on Indian society.