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People & society


People & Society
THE NUMBER OF INVASIONS that took place over the years brought to India a range of people. There were also refuges and migrants as well as traders who settled down to adopt the country as their own. It is, therefore, very difficult to characterise ĎIndianí as a racial type. Dravidian, Aryan, European, Arab, Semite, Negroid, Mongol features all can be representative of India. In their style of dress, cuisine, customs and traditions the inhabitants of this vast geographic entity, emphasize their differences. There are as many as 15 different languages recognised by the Indian constitution and these have over 1600 dialects. This is one of the primary paradoxes of the country: a seemingly closed society that, nonetheless, nurtured diverse peoples and cultures in peaceful coexistance. Perhaps, one reason for this could be found in the nature of society itself.

Handed down from the earliest time, has been the organisation of society into four basic divisions or castes. The Brahmins were priests and men learning; the Ksartriyas rulers and warriors; Vaishyas engaged in trade and commerce and the farmers, peasants and mass of workers were Sudras.

Within this broad spectrum there existed, in practice, hundreds of sub-castes that interacted and conducted business with each other, but remained exclusive. When Mahatama Gandhi persuaded his followers to sweep their own floors and clean their laterines he sounded the death knell of the old Hindu order. Even today, though modern India vehemently opposes it, caste continue to play a major role in daily life, particularly in rural areas where loyalties run high. In the urbane, sophisticated cities, marriage
remains the major bastion and though a greater number young people are choosing their own life partners, most families prefer to make alliances within their own caste.

The family, and in most parts of India this means the patriarchal joint family, supercedes the individual. Almost all languages in the country have a specific name for every relationship, be it paternal, maternal or through marriage, that defines its nature. Thus, there is a specific word that identifies oneís motherís brother as opposed to oneís fatherís brother and the title encapsulates various rights and obligations. Family loyalty is very important and even when circumstances dictate the setting up of a nuclear family unit, it is rarely isolated. Festivals and celebrations are occasions for the extended fam≠ily to get together and renew ties and in times of need it is the family that provides the security.





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