The Bureau of the Census of the United States defines a rural community on the
basis of the size and the density of population at a particular place. In India, on the
other hand, the term ‘rural’ is defined in terms of revenue: the village means the
‘revenue village’. It might be one large village or a cluster of small villages. According
to the Census Commission of India, a village is an entity identified by its name and
a definite boundary.
You may have observed that the Indian villages exhibit a great deal of diversity.
Different states in India have different numbers of villages. According to the Census
of India – 1991, the largest number of villages (1,12,566) is found in undivided Uttar
Pradesh, followed by undivided Madhya Pradesh (71,352), undivided Bihar (67,546),
Orissa (46,553), and Maharashtra (39,354). The smallest villages having the smallest
populations are in the states of Sikkim (440) and Nagaland (1,112).
We see that on the one extreme are the ‘affluent villages’ of Punjab, where many
families receive handsome amounts of money regularly from those of their young
members who live and work abroad. Some writers have preferred to call these
villages ‘gray villages’ because they have large populations of old people whose
children are away. At one time many of these old people also were away working
in foreign lands, and after making sufficient wealth, they returned to their soil to lead
retired lives or to work as commercial farmers
On the other extreme we have the extremely poor villages of Bihar, Orissa, or
Chhattisgarh, where for one square meal, the parents are sometimes forced to sell
their children to liquor vendors or moneylenders. Several villages in arid parts of
Rajasthan are now uninhabited because of inhospitable environment. Villages at the
outskirts of towns and cities are usually known as ‘fringe villages’, which undergo
gradual transformation as they lose their identity by and by, and eventually become
parts of the urban world. Take the example of New Delhi, where many residential
colonies, such as Wazirpur, Patpar Ganj, Mohammad Pur, Chandrawal, etc., are
named after the villages that used to exist there earlier, but have now been completely
assimilated within the expanding universe of urban life. Some villages have now
grown into towns, such as Kohima. All this points to the diversity of Indian villages.
In other words, while speaking about the Indian village, one has in mind several types
of communities, some multi-caste, some having the members of just one caste. Some
are close to the centers of civilization, the towns and cities, while some are situated
in remote backward areas, and some are more developed than others in terms of
material possessions and facilities (such as electricity, schools, dispensaries, etc.). If
you move from one region to the other, from one state to the other, you will come
across immense diversity in the lifestyles and material conditions of villages.
Notwithstanding the huge variations, which are bound to take place in a vast country
like India, there are certain general features that all rural communities have in common.
The term ‘rural’ is used in contrast with the term ‘urban’. Some scholars think of
a continuum, i.e., a kind of continuity from the rural to the urban. The left end of the
continuum consists of the rural, whilst the right of the urban. Societies having all, and
also ‘pure’, characteristics of the rural or urban are found at the poles. In between
are placed societies, which are in bulk, having a mix of the characteristics that are
attributed to the rural and urban worlds. Societies tilted more to the rural end of the
continuum have more of the rural characteristics; similarly, societies placed more
towards the urban end display more of the urban characteristics. Change takes place
from rural to urban, rather than in the other way. This change is called urbanization,
which is defined as the almost permanent migration of populations from rural areas
to the urban.
From sociological point of view, the term ‘rural society’ implies the following:
1-In comparison with the urban society, it is a small society, meaning thereby that
it has a small population and extends over a shorter physical area. Various institutions (such as police stations, hospitals, schools, post offices, clubs, etc.)
may or may not be there, and if existent, they are not available in plenty.
2-Density of the rural population is also low, and it may be clustered according to
the criteria of social status. In other words, people occupying the same status
may share the same neighbourhood, and may observe considerable social, and
sometimes physical, distance from others, especially those lower in hierarchy.
3-A sizable number of rural people are engaged in agriculture, which is the
mainstay of their lives. In addition, a rural society has several other groups,
engaged in various other occupations of arts and crafts, usually known as
artisans and craftsmen, who regularly supply their services to agriculturalists in
exchange for grains and cereals.
4-Rural society has some full-time and a large number of part-time specialists.
Craftsmen and artisans also indulge in agricultural pursuits, especially during the
monsoon and the agricultural produce of such specialists and small agriculturalists
is mainly for domestic consumption.
Features of Rural Society
1. The village is the unit of the rural society.-
Its people carry on the business of living
together within a distinctive framework of caste and social custom. Caste is a
dominant social institution permeating social and economic relations. Traditional
caste occupation mostly prevails. Co-operative labour of different castes is required
not only for agro-economic activities but also for socio-religious life. The large
villages have within its population all the occupational castes, have a comparatively
more integrated and self-sufficient economic as well as socio-religious life than
2-Village settlements are generally governed by certain regional and local traditions.
The layout of the village, construction of the house, the dress, the speech, and
manners follow the set pattern of the cultural area. Each village possesses an
individual of its own. Some have a reputation for generosity, hospitality and fair play,
while others are notorious for their meanness and corruption. Some villages are kown
for their co-operatives, while some are noted for their litigations and factions .
3-Indian rural society is predominantly based on agriculture. Possession of land carries
with it social and prestige value, besides being considered as an economic asset. In
many villages, the land is mostly distributed between two or more castes, or among a
few families, or between one big land owner and the rest of the community. Landless
labourers and tenants constitute a considerable part of the population depending on