What is the concept of Westernization and Explanation

Westernization introduction

Sociology in India bears the imprint of western sociology, but differ in the evaluation of the impact of western sociology. Sociology emerged in western society out of a socio-historical background which had its origins in the enlightenment period. However, westernization a term emerged in the Indian context, when India was a colony of the British empire.when India was going through a transitional phase ( from being a colony to independent state), there was occurrence of many events, which resulted in westernization.

westernization meaning


M.N SRINIVAS a pioneer in Indian sociology has used the term sanskritization to explain westernization. According to M.N SRINIVAS when a low caste was able to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism and adopting the brahminical  way of life has been called as sanskritization. In  short ,  sanskritization enables a caste to obtain a higher position in hierarchy. It is in reference with Hindu society according to which caste is the structural basis of the society. The  caste occupying the top positions in the hierarchy are more sanskritized than the castes in lower and middle positions. The lower castes always wanted to rise upwards in the hierarchy and wanted to be more sanskritized .

The occupations, various items of diet and customs in the caste system were also segregated , for example, occupations such as butchery ,tanning, herding swine, handling toddy puts a caste into a lower position. Those cases which offer blood sacrifices were considered lower. Language, clothing, cooking, jewellery and the way of life of Brahmins spread eventually and gradually to the entire society and Brahmins emerged as a dominant caste. The non- Brahmanical castes not only adopts Brahmanical rituals but also Brahmanical institutions with the reference of marriage and women. Brahmins used to marry their girls before puberty. A Brahmin widow was required to shave her head, shed all her jewelry and sex life was denied to her.

Among Hindus there was preference of virginity in brides, whereas the institutions of low castes were more liberal than those of Brahmins, post-puberty marriages do occur, widow does not have to shave their heads, both divorce and widow remarriage was permitted and practised but when one rises above in case they had to adopt brahmanical marriage and sex codes which results from harshness towards women.


Sanskritization also leads to exposure of new ideas, values, and knowledge which are found in sacred and secular Sanskrit literature. The spread of Sanskrit literature, stories and texts increased under British rule. With the coming of British and western technology, such as railways, press radio, plane there was increased the spread of literacy and aided sanskritization. In another sense, there was a deep contrast between sanskritization and westernization. During the 19th century British found in Indian institutions practices such as slavery, human sacrifices, sati, female infanticide, and used all powers to fight against the institutions which they considered barbarous.

So, westernization came to be known as a process through which certain changes were made. Slowly , initially it created  a sense of confusion among  many Indians as according to them only upper caste (Brahmins) had  a right to knowledge, observance in diet(vegetarian) practice teetotalism and was viewed as an ideal caste to sanskritization but here Britishers who ate beef and pork ,drank liquor, possessed economic and political power have access of technology, scientific knowledge, and a great literature. Combination of everything and thus acquire a dominant position.

While westernization was increasingly spreading, Brahmins found some aspects of westernization, such as British diet, dress, freedom from pollution difficult to accept.British rule widened the gap between the priests and other people because it provided with numerous opportunities to acquire wealth and power. British rule increased and brought western education as a central figure and a product of westernization in India. Aggressive priests (Brahmin) who once obtained a higher or dominant position found themselves nowhere in the society. Worse was to follow when priests themselves started becoming westernized, they started using electric lights, radio, water taps in houses, began riding cycles. They started sending their sons to western type schools


Westernization brought a number of changes in the Brahmins. Changes in the appearance of the dress- western type shoes and dresses.There were certain changes in the diet of Brahmins, being vegetarians it included certain other vegetables such as onion, garlic which were earlier forbidden. Many started eating raw eggs for health reason and consumed medicines which they know were made of organs of animals.

Changes in occupation- Brahmins took new job related to trade, many enlisted themselves in the army. Earlier they disregarded the profession of  Doctor because it was related to the handling of a corpse and dealing with people ( untouchables) but later on many adopted this profession.

Westernization brought social change in India which resulted in a change in culture. It brought western influences to the Indian society. Sanskritization was an essential groundwork for westernization in India

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Tanya is an excellent team player with strong cognitive skills. She has a keen interest in sociology and is a passionate writer. Currently pursuing a Ph.D., she is a strong believer in righteous acts and good deeds.