Cultural Change

Cultural Change


Westernisation is often meant just about adoption of western attire and life style. Are there other aspects to bring about westernisation? Or is that about modernisation? Discuss.


(i) Meaning and definition of Westernistion: M. N. Srinivas defines westernisation as “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, the term subsuming changes occurring at different, insitutions, ideology and values”.

(ii) Different Types of Westernisation:

(a) Ways of Thinking: One kind refers to the emergence of a westernised sub-cultural pattern through a minority section 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, and styles of life, but supported its expansion. Many of the early 19th century reformers were of this kind.

(b) Ways of living: There were, therefore, small sections of people who adopted western life styles or were affected by western ways of thinking. Apart from this there has been also the general spread of Western cultural traits, such as the use of new technology, dress, food, and changes in the habits and styles of people in general. Across the country a very wide section of middle class homes have a television set, a fridge, some kinds of sofaset, a dining table and chair in the living room.

(iii) Merely Imitation of culture but not following the latest thoughts: Westernisation does involve the imitation of external forms of culture. It does not necessarily mean that people adopt modern values of democracy and equality.

(iv) Impact on Indian Art: Apart from ways of life and thinking the west influenced Indian art and literature. Artists like Ravi Varma, Abanindranath Tagore, Chandu Menon and Bankimchandra Chattopadhya were all grappling with the colonial encounter. The box below captures the many ways that style, technique and the very theme of an artist like Ravi Varma were shaped by western and idigenous traditions. It discusses the portrait of a family in a matrilineal community of Kerala but one that signficantly resembles the very typical patrilineal nuclear family of the modern west consisting of father, mother and children.

(v) Westernisation and different groups of caste l.e., lower caste group and upper caste group: Srinivas suggested that while ‘lower castes’ sought to be Sanskritised, ‘upper castes’ sought to be Westernised. In a diverse country like India this generalisation is difficult to maintain. For instance, studies of Thiyyas (by no means considered ‘upper caste’) in Kerala show conscious efforts to westernise. Elite Thiyyas appropriated British culture as a move towards a more cosmopolitan life that criticised caste.

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M. Imp.

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