Sociology BA LLB for Sociology Notes

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‘Sanskritization is actually a sociological phenomenon whereby in brief the lower castes take over the practices of Brahmins such as vegetarianism and perform the rituals for the major Hindu divinities’-Krishna B Bhattachan

Sanskritization, Hinduization, and Nepalization took place in Nepal were interconnected and help the development of each other.

The concept ‘Sanskritization’ has been used by various sociologists and anthropologists to study the social change in caste societies in India and later in Nepal. In Nepal scholars like Prayag Raj Sharma and Collin Rosser have used the concept to study the process in which a low caste attempts to rise to a higher caste by adopting the life of the higher caste. The term, for the first time, is defined by M.N Srinivas in his book “Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India” as follows:

“The caste system is far from a rigid system in which the position of each component caste is fixed for all time. Movement has always been possible, and especially so in the middle regions of the hierarchy. A low caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, and by Sanskritizing its rituals and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins, and the adoption of the Brahminic way of life by a low caste seems to have been frequent, though theoretically forbidden. This process has been called “Sanskritization” in this book, in preference to “Brahminization”, as certain Vedic rites are confined to the Brahmins and the two other “twice-born” castes ”.

According Srinivas he found in most Hindu societies the tribal and low caste people trying to imitate Brahmin life style. He called it Brahminization. He later concluded that low caste and tribal people were trying to imitate Brahmin, Kestriya and Vaishya (high castes) life style. He changed the from Brahminization to Sanskritization as the imitation was not limited to Brahmin but high caste Hindu life style itself.

Srinivas has pointed three essential characteristics of Sanskritization:

  1. It is a group process which does not apply to an individual
  2. Few generations are need to successfully complete the Sanskritization
  3. Sanskritization is a process that has never worked for the untouchables because other Hindus cannot accept them as pure no matter how much they sanskritize.

Why Sanskritization is adopted by tribal and low castes:

  • Economic betterment
  • The acquisition of political power
  • Education
  • Leadership,
  • A desire to move up in the hierarchy

Sanskritization in the context of Nepal apply to Janajati and Dalits but mostly janajatis:

From To
    Tribal, Janajati or Dalit birth rituals
    Hindu birth rituals.
    Animist, Buddhist or tribal socialization process of infant socialization
    Hindu scripture focused socialization. Pasne is an example of this.
    Traditional name
    Hindu name
    Tribal ritual to
    Hindu rituals like Bartamana and Gufa
    Traditional form of marriage
    Hindu rituals in marriage
    Traditional cremation of dead
    Hindu death ritual
    Tribal family Matriarchal
    Joint Patriarchal
    Mother tongue
    Nepali and Hindi
    Tribal, Janajati and Dalit dress
    Hindu dress
    Imitation of Hindu life style
    Traditional food such as pork, beef, deer, chicken
    No beef, non pork, Hindu foods
    Traditional occupation that contradicted with Hindu values
    Leaving occupations that are considered by Hindus to be inauspicious and impure
    Traditional village head
    Village headed by Brahmin or Chetris
    Traditional religions: Buddhism, Animism,
    Hinduism Celebration of Hindu festivals.

History of Sanskritization in Nepal

1200-1769 Newar Malla kingdoms flourished in Kathmandu valley.

1743 Prithivi Narayan Shah is officially crowned as the king of Gorkha

1769 King Prithivi Naraya Shah of Gorkha subdues the last Newar Malla kingdom of the Kathmandu valley: origins of modern Nepal

Nathu and Pralad Gurung the two military officers in the Gorkha army had played a key role in the conquest of Kumaon and Garhwal region for the Gorkha Empire.

  • One the very first thing that Prithivi Narayan Shah’s Gorkha empire did was to ban cow slaughter in Gorkha kingdom which was a beginning of Hindu kingdom.
  • Each Gorkha army regiment had a Bahun pujari or priest who worshiped for the regiment thus Hinduizing the Janajatis .
  • In 1761 Prithivi Narayan Shah banned Jaisi Bahun from performing Vedic rituals.
  • The elite within Adivasi Janajati community were inclined to identify themselves as Hindus because they wanted to be closer to the Hindu ideology dominated Gorkha empire during Shah period, Rana period and Panchyat period.
  • This shift to Hinduism or what sociologists would call SANSKRITIZATION made Janajatis SPLIT into Hindu and non Hindu communities.
  • To identify themselves as Hindus the Janajati accepted Kashi Gotra or Aryan ancestry.

  • Janajati who accepted Kashi Gotra or Aryan ancestry were called as follows:

    • Athar Jat among Tamang
    • Bara Thar among Sunuwar
    • Char Jat among Gurung
    • Kutang among Bhotia
    • Pradhan among Tharus
    • Pukanthali among Chepangs
  • Janajati who rejected Kashi Gotra or Aryan ancestry and followed Lasha Gotra or Bodic ancestry system were called as follows:

    • Bara Jat among Tamang
    • Das Thar among Sunuwar
    • Sorah Jat among Gurung
    • Nighin among Bhotia
    • Apradhan among Tharus
    • Kachare among Chepangs

1806: Assassination of Rana Bahadhur Shah and rise of Bhimsen Thapa-Prime Minister

Bhimsen Thapa introduced modernization in Nepali army.

1814-1816 Anglo-Nepal war East India Company restricted the alarming growth of the Gorkha empire.

Nepal lost Kumaon, Garhwal and Tarai entire

1837 Bhimsen Thapa was overthrown.

1846 Jang Bahadur Kunwar stages a coup and installs hereditary line of prime ministers: beginning of Rana period

1850-51 Jang Bahadur visits England and France

1854 Promulgation of Muluki Ain, Nepal’s first legal code.

Muluki ain helped sanskritization and hinduization even further

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