Traditional Social System of India
Through the ages, India has been very well known throughout the world for its strong social bonds. We have for long been the envy of several far-off countries for this very tradition of social bonds.
When we consider society, the first tier we have to consider and look upon, is the smallest unit of a society, i.e. the family. In India, the family was the nucleus of the social structure. This included more often than not, at least three generations of a family living together, under one roof, and sharing all that came their way together. These three generations were the grandparents, the parents, and the children of the family, and this constituted the much talked of a joint family of India. This system prevailed in India very successfully and was a topic for the world to talk about. This single large joint family was as though a grand fete always and there was much fun and frolic all the time for the family. However, this system also had its inherent flaws as, all members had to adjust a lot to each other at each step, and the liberty of an individual was as though choked. Absolute obedience had to be given by all members to the eldest, whether they liked it or not. This must-have even been torture at times especially when we see it all, keeping in mind the attitudes of freedom and adjustment today. However, this system inspite of all its defects had great inbuilt advantages for all the members. In times of stress, there was never any loneliness as the family was always together. This advantage can be understood in the context of life today when we in trouble are absolutely alone to face the stress and strain, as there is no one in whom we can confide, as the concept of the joint family of Indian tradition has now given way to the single unit family.
Next to the family comes the hierarchy of the social building, the society itself. What is society? This is just the conglomeration of a number of families. This again in the tradition of India presented a wonderful oneness of pattern. People could count on friends and relatives, and other members of the family in times of need. This has also been destroyed in the present scenario, as, at least in big cities and towns, even next-door neighbors do not know each other, and they do not care to meet each other or help each other.
The social fabric of the India of traditions was a remarkably well-knit system, with all people for all others in the family or in the community. This has been curiously exchanged for an absolutely opposite system evolved by the influence of the West.
The next item of the tradition of the Indian social system is the much-talked-about Caste System. This was a system of obvious occupation being handed over from one generation to the next. This was the origin of the Caste System as children always followed the traditional occupation of the father. This was the system as it was meant to be and see what an ugly shape of separations it has taken today. Though even today, is it not true that the sons usually follow the occupation of the father, this is because they find it easier, and they are adept at all its methodologies. The son of a farmer becomes a farmer, the son of a judge studies law; the son of an actor becomes an actor, what is wrong in this scheme of things? This is just an extension of the original caste system into the 20th, Century and beyond. Thus we see that the traditional social system of India was a very well-knit, well-organized system that brought closeness among all its members.
Another important tradition of Indian society that we cannot leave out of our purview is the famous Dowry System. This was a very well thought system for the well-being of daughters in a family. This system was the giving of some jewels and other household goods and cash to the daughter at her wedding. This was very sensible at that point in time, because in the past, girls were not educated, and would not be able to fend for themselves in the event of a tragedy. So, this money given to her at the wedding held her in good stead in times of emergency. Besides, the girls had no right in the father’s property, so, in this way, the parents would be able to give her some part of their assets as her share in their property.
The system as envisaged at that time was very appropriate in the scheme of things at that time. However, now, the same dowry system has become a convenient tool in the hands of the boy and his family to earn a dowry, and pester the girl continuously for more and more, throughout her life. Not only this, if more dowry is not forthcoming the girl is even killed.
Thus we see that the traditional social system was woven neatly in a compact and well-considered system which is now giving way under the weight of the infiltration of the customs of the West and so-called modern living. By and by all the pillars of the traditional social system of India are giving way to a newly founded modern and western system of social upbringing and living. Joint Families have given way to small nuclear families, and the very concept of a large family is altogether blown to the winds. The neat and well-organized Caste System has taken an ugly shape due to the ugly designs of people at the helm of affairs in India for the last 50 years. This genuine caste system has been distorted and mutilated to a point of no return.
It would be nice at this juncture, to retrospect at what our society was, and what it has become now in the so-called progressing country that India is becoming. If we see with an open eye and an open mind and compare the society that was and the society that is, it may help us now to mend our ways before it is too late and the loss is well nigh complete.