Indian Culture, which is one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world with varied languages, customs, beliefs, ideas, taboos, codes, instructions, works of art, architecture, rituals, ceremonies etc. India’s cultural history of several thousands years old and it shows a continuity and subtle change with strong thread of continuity, epitomised in the assimilative power of culture and unique display of ‘unity in diversity’. With the conquest of European powers and subsequent British rule in India has had a profound effect of western culture on Indian society. Western culture has made its presence in various forms.
Westernization is defined as incorporation of the norms, values and culture of the west into our culture. It has greatly affected our traditions, customs, our family and our respect and love for others. The concept of joint families is fastly decreasing everyone wants to remain aloof from others and has given rise to single families. Marriages are fast breaking down & our tolerance and patience has given the answer.
Sociological definition of westernization
M.N.Srinivas defines westernization as “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, the term subsuming changes occuing at different levels say technology, institutions, ideology and values”.
Various impacts of western culture on Indian society
- There were different kinds of westernization. one kind refers to emergence of a westernized sub-cultural pattern through a minority sections of Indians who first came in contact with western culture.
- This included the sub-culture of Indian intellectuals who not only adopted many cognitive patterns, or ways of thinking , life styles, but also supported its expansion.
- This impact of Westernization was mainly in urban areas. But some villages are more westernized than urban areas.
Westernisation vs Modernisation
- Westernization is not the same as modernization. Modernization refers to changes in culture under the impact of technology, communications etc. And all western countries are not modern.
- Indeed Japan has become modernized but by retaining its own culture. But, in India modernisation has been generally through Westernization.
Characteristics of Westernization
- Morally neutral. Many good things and bad things have come from the West.
- Westernization is a wide , complex and multi-level concept. It includes all changes consequent upon Western technology and Science. It is complex since it has had a varying impact on different sections
- It was not consciously integrated into India but has come through mostly through direct contact.
Consequences of western culture on Indian society
- Affected caste, joint family,marriage and other social structures.
- Introduced new institutions like press, christian missionaries etc.
- Modern values like humanism, egalitarianism, secularism have entered Indian value systems. Our criminal law has been reformed. Evil customs like sati ended , Untouchability abolished.
- Concept of welfare state was introduced and thus Governmental activities on welfare measures have expanded.
- Far reaching reforms in Hindu society through social reform movements like the Brahmo samaj etc. under inspiration from the Western educated middle class in India.
- Many political and cultural movements emerged like movement for eradication of caste
- Spread of mass education. Emergence of a educated middle class as the vanguard of the freedom movement.
Agents of Westernization
- British rule – The establishment of British rule brought about deep and far reaching changes in the economic, political, educational and cultural spheres in India. It offered some new avenues of social mobility to the scheduled castes, e.g., new economic opportunities, education, westernisation, conversion to Christianity and politicisation.
- Indians employed in government offices or converts to Christianity.
- Those educated in modern schools and colleges. Some of them launched great movements like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Tagore, Sir Syed Ahmad etc.
- Those who went to England for study or medical treatment.
- Those who lived in port towns.
- The tolerant spirit of Indians was largely responsible for the spread of Westernisation.
- There was no whole sale but only selective Westernisation. Old styles continued side by side. There was also a movement to preserve Indian values.(eg. The Arya Samaj)
Influence of western culture on Indian society
Influence of western culture on Caste
- We find that the traditional social organisation exemplified by the caste system has undergone several changes yet continues to exist in Indian society performing some old and some new functions.
- During the last few decades, as a result of the forces of modernisation, the ideology of caste has become less pervasive in an individual’s day to day life.
- Caste rituals have become increasingly a personal affair, rather than public due to changed circumstances of living, forces of industrialisation, and urbanisation. Place of residence and food habits are influenced more by an individual’s workplace and occupation than by his or her caste or religion.
- Industrialisation and factory system broke down caste barriers to a large extent.
- Urbanisation made many castes live together.
- Transport broke down caste restrictions.
Impact of English education
- Changes in dress and food habits
- Supply of water through pipes – you cannot ask the caste of the person who sends water down the pipes.
- Impact on untouchability
Impact on women
- Educational advance of women
- Entry of women into all occupations
- Social reformers also helped liberation of women
- Discarding pardah.
Impact on social structure
- Career open to talent and no longer based on caste
- Money and wealth regarded important
- Decline of rituals
Impact on marriage
- Marriage came to be regarded a contract and not entirely a sacrament
Influence on culture
- English words came to be used commonly – Daddy, mummy, cutting the cake culture; contrast the Indian custom of lighting a lamp with the western habit of blowing out the candle light.
- Western gadgets freely used ; Television, washing machine etc
Impact of western literature on Indian literature, religion
- Art – cinema, western dance, musical instruments, modern art
- Religion – decline of superstition, ritualism
- Rise is scientific belief
Influence of western culture on Tribes
- The Westernisation of tribals had begun during the Bristish colonial rule when they first came in contact with them.
- Not all tribes were subjected to the efforts of modernisation. There were many which continued to survive in their traditional modes till India’s Independence.
- The fate of traditional material culture and styles of tribes were to be ‘preserved’ as museum specimens.
- Attempts were made to synthesise the customary and the modern laws. In all these efforts, the focus was on modernising the tribals.
The changes in the style of life have followed two trends. They are
Changes in relation to the political system
- The political system, which developed during the British rule, gave increasing opportunities for political articulation to the people of India, especially those who acquired western education.
- This facility was taken advantage of by the backward classes. The advent of Independence and the introduction of adult franchise and more recently Panchayati Raj institutions have increased the access to power, especially political power, to the backward classes.
- Such access led to a shift from Sanskritisation to competition for positions of higher bureaucratic and political power.
Social Mobility through Westernisation
The upwardly mobile untouchable castes adopted the life-style implied in Westernisation. This was facilitated by the prevalence of various non-Sanskritic traditions among them—such as, eating meat and drinking alcohol.
- Sociology: Society in India by IGNOU
- Sociology : The Study of Society by IGNOU
Western Impact on Indian Culture.
How to tackle the growing influence.
Indian Culture, which is one of the oldest & richest cultures, is now under serious threat as western culture is making its strong base in India and slowly and gradually wiping out the Indian culture. It had already made its presence in Metro’s & now slowly heading towards other parts of India.
Westernization has greatly affected our traditions, customs, our family and our respect and love for others. The concept of joint families is fading fast, and everyone wants to remain aloof. Now nobody is interested in other’s affairs and only cares for himself which is totally contradictory to our Indian culture that teaches us to be a part and parcel of the society, sharing each other’s Joys and sorrows. All our rich values and traditions are slowly dying down, Western Culture is taking its place. People are blindly following it without knowing the consequences.
Westernization has given rise to single families. Marriages are breaking & our tolerance and patience has exhausted. The most affected are our new blooms, which have yet to sprout.
They find themselves stressed and isolated in this new atmosphere, since there is no one to take care of them. They no more get the care and love of their Grandparents. They find themselves in crutches to be taken care by others. It is very unfortunate that the new sprouts remain untouched and cut off from our great moral values and sanskaaras. In today’s Scenario both husband & wife are working. There is no one at home to look after them and to cultivate the sanskaaras in them since our elders who use to give these sanskaaras to their grand children are no longer with them. In many cases it is not deliberate but in majority of cases the children prefer to remain away from their parents which is very unfortunate.
There’s no harm in taking good things from the west, but this does not mean that we should become slave to their culture, and misrepresent our identity. It is understandable that India is a growing country, so it is necessary of knowing all the cultures and their traditions. To some extent it is fine, but it is wrong to pretend and behave like Westerners and discard our own culture. We have to preserve our identity.
It is shocking to see that Indians are forgetting their culture. On the contrary
westerners are looking towards Indian spirituality for solving their personal, social and national problems. They are coming to India to find peace through Yoga and Meditation. India has earned a good name in the field of Yoga and Meditation abroad. Our gurus are giving teachings to westerners how to relax & how to keep themselves fit and away from diseases.
It is very unfortunate that today’s generation has very little knowledge about their culture, traditions and roots. This is not their fault but the fault of their parents who do not enlighten them about their roots, rich cultural and heritage. Contradictory to it, Parents feel proud in giving their children western Sanskaras, and they are brought up in western atmosphere. Thus, they are kept miles away from Indian culture.
There is no harm in giving knowledge of other cultures and traditions as Indians have made their presence in every part of world, but it is necessary that they should have knowledge of their own culture, traditions and language. We should also take care that our new sprouts are well versed with Indian culture and its values. It is the responsibility of parents to cultivate our rich culture and heritage in their children.
No doubt the western culture is versatile and teaches self-dependence, but this does not mean that we should forget our culture and blindly follow the westerners. We should always feel proud that we, the Indians have such a rich cultural heritage which is very rare and should be carried forward and cultivated in the minds of our New blooms who are going to be our future.