The Culture Of India Essay Research Paper — страница 2

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is such a pervasive influence in India that Potter (1989) says: The daily life of a Hindu villager involves frequent reminders of traditional norms (p. 338). The Hindu system has also affected behavior because the belief in karma and reincarnation has supported the Indian caste system, in which it is understood that different classes of people have distinctly different roles in life. There is even more diversity in Indian language than there is in the country s religion. Hindi is the official language of the nation; however, as Mehta (1993) points out, it is understood by only forty per cent or, at most, fifty per cent of the population (p. 459). In addition to Hindi, there are fourteen officially recognized regional languages, two hundred and fifty major dialects, and thousands

of minor languages and dialects, and many of these are completely unrelated to one another (Mehta, 1993, pp. 458-459). Throughout India s history, there have been efforts among intellectuals and scholars to develop a common pan-Indian religious or political language (Pandian, 1995, p. 28). Over the course of time, the official national language has changed from Sanskrit to Persian to English to Hindi. Although it seems like a positive thing to try to develop an official language for the nation as a whole, this effort has also resulted in enforcing the social divisions of the Indian people. Pandian (1995) notes that the people of India are required to know how to speak Hindi fluently if they are to obtain successful jobs. As Pandian further notes, this has created an unfair

advantage for the 40 percent or so of the total population that consists of native Hindi speakers (p. 34). The social roles of the Indian culture are strongly impacted by the traditional caste system. According to this system, there are four main classes, ranked hierarchically: the priests, the warriors, the merchants and artists, and the servants. In addition to these four major groupings, there are also numerous smaller occupational class groupings, known as jatis. In the words of Madan (1989), castes and families are the building blocks of Hindu society, and an overwhelming majority of the Hindus of South Asia, particularly those living in the rural areas, identify themselves in terms of their jati or caste (p. 364). As a general rule, people never leave the caste they are

born into. They tend to marry within the same caste, and sons tend to adopt the occupations of their fathers. Despite the prevalence of the caste system in Indian culture, however, Pandian (1995) points out that the system is more complex than it appears on the surface. Thus, anthropological studies of Indian village communities have shown the existence of multiple labels of caste identity and multiple levels of caste ranking (p. 209). There are also controversial views regarding gender roles in India. According to Azad (1996), working women in India are subject to oppression, poverty and poor health, and they basically live in an environment of powerlessness (p. 220). Indeed, Indian women must contend with such things as arranged marriages, female infanticide and wife abuse,

among many other things. On the other hand, Seymour (1999) argues that respect is also given to women in India, especially when they undertake the role of motherhood. This sense of honor is enhanced by the religious beliefs of Hinduism, in which female deities are seen as being the source of power for the male deities. Because of the high status of motherhood and the belief in powerful goddesses, Seymour (1999) says female power and authority is real in both secular and sacred contexts (p. 281). Seymour further claims that there have been signs of change in recent years in terms of gender relationships in India. She reports, for example, that recent studies have shown an increasing number of Indian women taking post marital residence in nuclear households where they can be

independent of in-laws and have a more intimate relationship with their husbands (p. 289). Seymour also emphasizes that the restrictions of Indian culture do not only affect women, but the nation s men as well. Because of caste and religious obligations, men also have a series of roles and life stages through which they must move, and they are also expected to control their personal desires for the sake of the collective whole (Seymour, 1999, p. 280). After attaining independence from colonization, India, within a span of 50 years emerged as one of the fastest developing economies in the world. Ranking as the seventh largest country in area and second in population. She is also the largest democracy in the world. She is the world’s second largest producer of rice, world s