In sociology, Sanskritisation (Indian and British English) or Sanskritization (Oxford and American English), is the process by which caste or tribes placed lower in the caste hierarchy seek upward mobility by emulating the rituals and practices of the dominant or upper castes. It is a process similar to "passing" in sociological terms. This term was made popular by Indian sociologist M. N. Srinivas in the 1950s.
In a broader sense, also called Brahmanization, it is a historical process in which various local Indian religious traditions become aligned to and absorbed within the Brahmanical tradition, creating the pan-Indian tradition of Hinduism.
Srinivas defined Sanskritisation as a process by which
a low or middle Hindu caste, or tribal or other group, changes its customs, ritual, ideology, and way of life in the direction of a high and frequently twice-born caste. Generally such changes are followed by a claim to a higher position in the caste hierarchy than that traditionally conceded to the claimant class by the local community ... ."
In a broader sense, Sanskritization is
the process whereby local or regional forms of culture and religion – local deities, rituals, literary genres – become identified with the 'great tradition' of Sanskrit literature and culture: namely the culture and religion of orthodox, Aryan, Brahmans, which accepts the Veda as revelation and, generally, adheres to varnasrama-dharma.
In this process, local traditions ("little traditions") become integrated into the "great tradition" of Brahmanical religion, disseminating Sanskrit texts and Brahmanical ideas throughout India, and abroad. This facilitated the development of the Hindu synthesis, in which the Brahmanical tradition absorbed "local popular traditions of ritual and ideology."
According to Srinivas, Sanskritisation is not just the adoption of new customs and habits, but also includes exposure to new ideas and values appearing in Sanskrit literature. He says the words Karma, dharma, paap, maya, samsara, and moksha are the most common Sanskrit theological ideas which become common in the talk of people who are sanskritised.
Srinivas first propounded this theory in his D.Phil. thesis at Oxford. The thesis was later brought out as a book, which was an ethnographical study of the Kodava (Coorgs) community of Karnataka. Srinivas writes:
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 in the middle regions of the hierarchy. A caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in the hierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, and by sanskritising its ritual and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins, and adoption of the Brahminic way of life by a low caste seems to have been frequent, though theoretically forbidden. This process has been called ‘sanskritisation’ in this book, in preference to ‘Brahminisation’, as certain Vedic rites are confined to the Brahmins and the two other ‘twice-born’ castes.
The book challenged the then prevalent idea that caste was a rigid and unchanging institution. The concept of sanskritisation addressed the actual complexity and fluidity of caste relations. It brought into academic focus the dynamics of the renegotiation of status by various castes and communities in India.
According to Jaffrelot 2005, p. 33 a similar heuristic was previously described by Ambedkar (1916, 1917)[note 1][note 2] Jaffrelot goes on to say, "While the term was coined by Srinivas, the process itself had been described by colonial administrators such as E. T. Atkinson in his Himalayan Gazetteer and Alfred Lyall, in whose works Ambedkar might well have encountered it."
Sanskritization is often aimed to claim the Varna status of Brahmin or Kshatriyas, the two prestigious Varna of the Vedic-age Varna system. One such example in North India is of Rajput. According to historical evidence, the present day Rajput community varies greatly in status, comprising those with royal lineage to those whose ancestors were petty tenants or tribals who gained land and political power to justify their claim of being Kshatriya. The word Kshatriya is hence not synonymous with Rajput.
One clear example of sanskritisation is the adoption, in emulation of the practice of twice-born castes, of vegetarianism by people belonging to the so-called "low castes" who are traditionally not averse to non-vegetarian food.
An unsuccessful example is the Vishwakarma caste's claim to Brahmin status, which is not generally accepted outside that community, despite their adoption of some Brahmin caste traits, such as wearing the sacred thread, and the Brahminisation of their rituals. Srinivas juxtaposed the success of the Lingayat caste in achieving advancement within Karnataka society by such means with the failure of the Vishwakarma to achieve the same. Their position as a left-hand caste has not aided their ambition.
Srinivas was of the view that Sanskritization was not limited to the Hindu castes, and stated that the "semi–tribal groups" including Himalayas's Pahadis, central India's Gonds and Oraons, and western India's Bhils also underwent Sanskritization. He further suggested that, after going through Sanskritization, such tribes would claim that they are castes and hence Hindus.
Yogendra Singh has critiqued the theory as follows:
... Sanskritisation fails to account for many aspects of cultural changes in the past and contemporary India as it neglects non-sanskritic traditions. It may be noted that often a non-sanskritic element of culture may be a localised form of sanskritic tradition. ... Sanskritic rites are often added to non-sanskritic rites without replacing them.
- Aryabhata numeration
- Battle for Sanskrit
- Being Different
- Caste system in India
- History of Hinduism
- History of India
- Indigenous Aryans
- Kshatriyas and would-be Kshatriyas
- Jalia Kaibarta
- List of institutions with Sanskrit mottos
- List of Sanskrit universities in India
- Panini (grammarian)
- Sanskrit cinema
- Sanskrit studies
- The Spitzer manuscript
- Vishwakarma Caste
- Ambedkar 1917, Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development, available from "'Castes in India' reprint". ambedkar.navayan.com.
- Jaffrelot 2005, p. 33 notes that "Ambedkar advanced the basis of one of the most heuristic of concepts in modern Indian Studies – the sanskritization process – that M.N. Srinivas 1952 was to introduce 40 years later."
- Charsley 1998, citing Srinivas 1952
- Srinivas et al. 1996.
- Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica [b]. sfn error: no target: CITEREFEditors_of_Encyclopaedia_Britannica_[b] (help)
- Flood 2013, p. 148.
- Turner 2020.
- Jayapalan 2001, p. 428.
- Flood 2013, p. 128.
- Srinivas 1962, p. 48.
- Srinivas 1952.
- Srinivas 1952, p. 32.
- Jaffrelot 2005, p. 33.
- Xaxa, Virginius (12–18 June 1999). Raj, Krishna; Prakash, Padma; Gavaskar, Mahesh (eds.). "Transformation of Tribes in India: Terms of Discourse". Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 34 no. 24. Economic and Political Weekly. p. 1520–1521. JSTOR 4408077.
Scholars have conceptualised diversely the processess of social change experienced by tribes in contact with non–tribal societies. This is evident from the range of the terms used for capturing the processes, the most common being 'Sanskritisation' and 'Hinduisation'. At times anthropologists have also used 'Kshatriyisation' and 'Rajputisation' as substitutes for 'Sanskritisation'.
- Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica [a]. sfn error: no target: CITEREFEditors_of_Encyclopaedia_Britannica_[a] (help)
- Varadpande 1987, p. 290.
- Talbot 2015, p. 33–35.
- Ikegame 2013, p. 128.
- Bopegamage, A.; Kulahalli, R. N. (1971). "'Sanskritization' and Social Change in India". European Journal of Sociology. Cambridge University Press. 12 (1, Permanent non–Revolution): 124. doi:10.1017/S000397560000223X. JSTOR 23998568.
- Guneratne 2002.
- Singh 1994, p. 11.
- Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ramji (May 1917) [9 May 1916]. "Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development". Indian Antiquary. XLI.
- Bista, Dor Bahadur (1999). Fatalism and Development. Oxford India Press.
- Charsley, S. (1998). "Sanskritization: The career of an anthropological theory". Contributions to Indian Sociology. 32 (2): 527. doi:10.1177/006996679803200216. S2CID 143948468.
- Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica [a] (n.d.). "Rajput". Encyclopædia Britannica.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica [b] (n.d.). "Other sources: the process of "Sanskritization"". Encyclopædia Britannica. The history of Hinduism " Sources of Hinduism " Non-Indo-European sources " The process of "Sanskritization".CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Flood, Gavin (2013) , An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press
- Guneratne, Arjun (2002). Many Tongues, One People: The making of Tharu identity in Nepal. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801487285. Retrieved 11 April 2011 – via Google Books.
- Ikegame, Aya (2013). "Karnataka: Caste, dominance and social change in the 'Indian village'". In Berger, Peter; Heidemann, Frank (eds.). The Modern Anthropology of India: Ethnography, themes, and theory. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 9781134061112 – via Google Books.
- Jaffrelot, Christophe (2005). Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and fighting caste. London, UK: C. Hurst & Co. ISBN 978-1-85065-449-0.
- Jayapalan, N. (2001). Indian Society and Social Institutions. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 428. ISBN 978-81-7156-925-0. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- Singh, Yogendra (1994). Modernization of Indian Tradition – A systematic study of social change. Jaipur, IN: Rawat Publications.
- Srinivas, M.N. (1952). Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Srinivas, Mysore Narasimhachar (1962). Caste in Modern India, and other essays. Bombay, IN: Asia Publishing House. p. 48. OCLC 5206379.
- Srinivas, M.N.; Shah, A.M.; Baviskar, B.S.; Ramaswamy, E.A. (1996). Theory and Method: Evaluation of the work of M.N. Srinivas. New Delhi, IN: Sage. ISBN 81-7036-494-9.
- Caste in Modern India; and other essays (11th Reprint ed.). Bombay, IN: Media Promoters & Publishers. 1994 . p. 48.
- Talbot, Cynthia (2015). The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Cauhan and the Indian Past, 1200–2000. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107118560 – via Google Books.
- Tarde, Gabriel (1899). Social Laws: An outline of sociology. New York, NY; London, UK: The Macmillan Company; Macmillan & Co.
- Turner, Bryan S. (2020), "Sanskritization", International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
- Varadpande, Manohar Laxman (1987). History of Indian Theatre: Classical theatre. Abhinav Publications. p. 290. ISBN 978-81-7017-430-1 – via Google Books.
|Look up Sanskritization or Sanskritize in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Lubin, Timothy. "Bibliography". Department of Religion / School of Law. Washington and Lee University.
- Witzel, Micael. "Early Sanskritization: Origins and development of the Kuru State" (PDF). Laurasian Academy.[permanent dead link]
- "Marxization". Oxford Dictionaries.