Understanding Rural and Rurality in Indian Society Part - 2

The article makes an effort to analyse the theoretical meaning of rural areas, rurality, and villages with particular emphasis on Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar's viewpoints. It went on to examine the concept of the caste and tribe social structure framework and the importance of rurality. The module displayed the tribal population's geographic distribution in India.


  1. Introduction
  2. Theoretical Understanding of Rural and Rurality of Indian Society
  3. Indian giant Trinity—Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar views on Village
  4. Theoretical Understanding of Caste System in India
  5. Theoretical understanding of Tribes in India
  6. Geographic Distribution of Tribes
  7. Summary 


It is crucial to recognise the village as a standardised unit for social, economic, and political dynamics and governance at the turn of the 19th century. This may be done without tracing the civilizational and traditional discourse to understand Indian rural life in comparison to urban culture. However, the introduction and slow implantation of tax systems during colonial administration severely destroyed the social harmony and coherence of the community. However, the community had made an effort to preserve its original identity by encasing rural villages that were traditionally oriented. The village evolves through time into a yardstick for measuring the success of colonial policies and the veracity of imperial claims to prosperity and progress. The town, however, became a symbol of its faith in its own power; it refused to submit to the ups and downs of political history and displayed its innate potential for resistance. In the 19th century, educated individuals became more aware of the differences between traditional village societies and modernism, which predominated in urban society.

Theoretical Understanding of Rural and Rurality of Indian Society

Without knowing the perspectives of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar, a comprehension of rurality and rural society in India would be lacking. When recalling Gandhi's perspective on the village, people frequently use the metaphorical phrase "India lives in villages." In contrast to Gandhi, Nehru had a vision for industrialization in independent India, which he planned to achieve through a socialist economic model. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar gave a sceptical opinion of the village and rurality as the third participant. In fact, it serves as the theoretical foundation for understanding the village, the rural, and rurality. The following is a detailed breakdown of the impact that India's "giant trinity" of Gandhi, Nehru, and Ambedkar had on village and rural society.

Indian giant Trinity—Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar views on Village

Although rural life in India has historically had its own significance, after the country's independence rural society gained new meanings that were expressed in the "Indian Trinity" argument between Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Nehru over the village. But what really stood out was the contentious argument between Gandhi and Ambedkar's perspectives on the village. The debates in the Constituent Assembly offer a helpful vantage point for assessing and contextualising the community. The subject of the village as the fundamental political unit of India, which is rooted in social development and Indian civilization, has been contested by sociology experts including Jodhka (2002) and Beteille (1980). The hamlet is seen from three different perspectives: authentically by Gandhi, as a den of ignorance and communalism by Ambedkar (Jodhka, 2002), and backwardly by Nehru (Simon R. Charsley and G.K. Karanth, 1998). Also of these founding fathers of modern India had opinions about the rural and village socio-cultural and economic structure and its functions, and they all had arguments to support those opinions. Gandhi had a "self contained" and "self maintained" vision for the village, and he firmly believed that "if the village perishes, India will perish" as well. India won't exist anymore. Her own purpose in the world will become muddled. Only when there is no exploitation will the village be able to recover. He offered opposing views to Nehru's industrialisation vision. Gandhi thus forewarned that, as competition and marketing issues arise, widespread industrialization will inevitably result in the passive or active exploitation of the peasantry. He conveyed the notion that Indians should focus on making their villages self-sufficient and primarily producing for internal consumption. There would be no objection to villagers using even the most advanced machinery and tools that they can create and afford to use, provided that this characteristic of the village industry is maintained. They should only not be employed to take advantage of other people.

Unlike Gandhi, Ambedkar had a pessimistic view of the village, claiming that it was a lair of ignorance, narrow-mindedness, oppression, and the sins of localism and communalism rather than a place of authenticity. He used the centuries-old caste system that had long been practised in India to support his argument. On the other hand, Nehru's comprehensive strategy of development initiatives was implemented in parallel methods, expanding the economic democracy of industrialisation in the belief that it was a necessary corollary in reaction to the sluggishness of rural society. Nehru, however, recognised the future of India's development trajectory and the self-sufficiency of the rural economy. For Nehru, the actual problems of the countryside were characterised by ignorance and backwardness. These problems were too severe to raise the possibility of a traditional village resurgence or to require extensive renovation along traditional lines.

Theoretical Understanding of Caste System in India

The caste system was characterised by eminent sociologist C.H. Cooley in the following words: ” A. W. Green, defined it as “Caste is a system of stratification in which mobility up and down the status ladder, at least ideally may not occur” Caste is a system of stratification in which mobility up and down the status ladder, at least ideally may not occur," said A. W. Green in his definition. "A caste is an endogamous group, or collection of endogamous groups, bearing a common name, membership of which is hereditary imposing on its members certain restrictions in the matters of social intercourse, either following a common traditional occupation or claiming a common origin and generally regarded as forming a single homogenous community," wrote E.A.H. Blunt. According to Ketkar (1979), a caste is a social group with two characteristics: first, membership is restricted to those who are born into the group and comprises all such individuals; second, members are barred by an unbreakable social law from getting married outside the community. Caste is a closed social group, according to D.N. Majumdar and T.N. Madan's simple definition provided in 1956. The term "caste" has the following other definitions. "Caste is a collection of families, a group of families with a common name, professing to pursue the same ancestral calling, and regarded by those who are competent to provide an opinion as comprising a single homogenous community"

Caste system was regarded as a civil and religious disabilities in society and granted privileges to the upper caste groups (Ghurye, 1961). Although the caste system has its roots in religious rites, it is socially acceptable to practise hierarchical superior positions for higher caste members and inferior positions for lower caste members because of birth status. A severe division of labour along caste lines is imposed, and the higher caste groups enjoy social, economic, and political privileges as well as access to resources and possibilities for the economy. It does not promote learning new skills or engaging in social or professional endeavours. India's Varna system separated society into four hierarchical divisions. Brahmin (scholars, priests, and teachers), Kshatriya (political leaders and soldiers who are responsible for defending the territory's internal and exterior affairs), Vaishaya (merchants who oversee economic activities), and Shudras (engage in menial work and lower rank jobs to offer service to the above categories). Below these four social classes are the Panchamas, who are frequently referred to as "untouchables." These "Untouchables," also known as Panchamas or Ati-shudras, are members of the Hindu holy hierarchy and frequently perform the most reprehensible menial labour (Jayapalan, 2001). Following independence, Article 17 of the Indian Constitution's fundamental rights section outlawed the practise of untouchability. In 1955, the Indian government introduced the Untouchability Offences Act in an effort to end untouchability. The Untouchability (Offenses) Act of 1955 was subsequently amended in 1976 and given the new name "Protection of the Civil Rights Act." Stringent punishments for people who continue to practise untouchability were proposed in this bill.

Theoretical understanding of Tribes in India 

Theoretical understanding of Indian tribes is nothing more than how these social groups were imagined historically by the British government and how sociologists and social anthropologists understood them. Herbert Hope Risley's definition of tribes stands out among the definitions of the tribes that the Colonial administrators envisaged, as shown in the following.
"a collection of families, or groups of families bearing a common name which, as a rule, does not denote any specific occupation; generally claiming common descent from a mythical or historical ancestor and occasionally from an animal, but in some parts of the country held together rather by obligations of blood-feud than by the tradition of kinship; usually speaking the same language; and occupying, or claiming to occupy, a definite tract of country”
A tribe is not always endogenous, meaning that a man of a certain tribe does not always have to wed a woman from that tribe (Risley, 1969). According to Indian anthropologist S. C. Dubey (1960), tribes are "isolation groups kept aside from the mainstream culture" and lack historical depth, which causes early history and mythology to converge. They also place a strong emphasis on tradition. The tribes' unique cultural traits gave them a distinct cultural identity, and they frequently have motivational and value systems that are startlingly different from those of other people (Dubey, 1960). The tribes were described by D.N. Majumdar in the following manner in 1958:
 “A tribe is a collection of families or group of families bearing a common name, members of which occupy the same territory, speak the same language and observe certain taboos regarding marriage, profession or occupation and have developed a well assessed system of reciprocity and mutuality of obligations. A tribe is ordinarily an endogamous unit, is a political unit in the sense that the tribal society owns a political organization”
He in some other occasion defined that the tribes, 
"A tribe is a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous ,with no specialization of functions, ruled by tribal officers, hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect, recognizing social distance with other tribes or castes without any social obligation attached to them as it lies in the caste structure, following tribal traditions, beliefs and customs, liberal of naturalization of ideas from alien sources, above all conscious of homogeneity of ethnic and territorial integration (Kumar A , 2002). Majumdar drawn definition of Rivers and quoted by saying “a tribe is a social group of a simple kind, the members of which speak a common dialect and act together in such common purposes as warfare”

On the other hand Roy Burman (1978) attempted to define the tribe under demographic parameters (Roy, Burman B.K,, 1778). Mandelbaum (1956) defined tribes as 

“The social unit larger than the local group possesses sense of belongingness and social cohesiveness” (Mandelbaum, D.G., 1956). 

On the other hand Roy Burman (1978) attempted to define the tribe under demographic parameters (Roy, Burman B.K,, 1778). Mandelbaum (1956) defined tribes as “The social unit larger than the local group possesses sense of belongingness and social cohesiveness” (Mandelbaum, D.G., 1956). R. N. Mukherjee (1960) opined the tribes as ‘a territorial human group which is bound together by commonness in respect to locality, language, social codes and economic pursuits” (Mukharjee R. N., 1960:43). Gandhiji called the tribes “Girijans” and has referred them as “submerged humanity” (Rao Shankar C. N., 2004:616). According to Imperial Gazetteer of India,
“A tribe is a collection of families bearing a common name speaking a common dialect, occupying or professing to occupy a common territory and is not usually endogamous, though originally it might have been so” (cited Hasnain, 1883:12)”.
The tribal community consultation held at Shillong in 1962 declared, 
“A tribe is an indigenous unit speaking a common language, claiming a common descent living in a particular geographical area, backward technology, and loyalty observing social and political customs based on kinship (Tripathy S.N, 1998:338)
There is a rising worry over how tribes are defined, according to Andre Bateille, who also noted that tribes might vary in size, culture, and affiliation with wider Indian society (Roy Burman B. K., 1977:17-14). Naik (1968) wrote that a tribe must have at least a desire to change for his concept of tribes to be sufficient (Naik T.B., 1968:25). On another occasion, Dubey characterises the tribes as
“An ethnic category defined by real or fiction descent and characterized by a self identity and a wide range of commonly shared traits of culture. They are not egalitarian. They are at least nonhierarchic and undifferentiated (Dube S.C., 1977:29).

However, due to variations in their cultural, economic, political, and structural features, the tribes could not be grouped under a single description. The tribal communities attempt to blend into the larger Hindu society in certain locations, although being secluded and far from the centres of civilisation in others. While some communities are still hesitant to integrate into the mainstream of national life, some are more advanced than others.

However, it seems like one of our time's most obvious anachronisms is the phrase "tribe." Applying the terms "tribe" and "tribal" to specific ethnic and social groupings of people who are characterised by their way of life and existence, remote from the worn roads of civilization, in a world that is sometimes described as a global village, seems to be a mistake of visual acuity . It is obvious from the definitions above that the word "tribe" has a wide range of meanings. Due to the diversity of each tribe, it is very hard to give a single description that encompasses all facets of tribe. The tribes in India's northeast are totally distinct from those in the country's centre and south. 

Geographic Distribution of Tribes

India has a concentration of tribes in a certain region. The states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, and Maharashtra are home to about two-thirds of the tribal people in India. MP has the greatest concentration of tribal people. However, the tribal population in the states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh makes up between 70% and 95% of the state's overall population. The tribal regions The tribes of India are dispersed across the numerous states, not only in one single region. A threefold territorial distribution of the tribes was provided by B.S. Guha in 1931.
1) The northern and eastern region.
2) The Middle or Central zone.

The southern region. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are added as a fourth zone to this list by C.B. Mamoria (1958). The Sub-Himalayan region and the North Eastern mountain ranges of India make up the North and North-Eastern zone. The majority of the natives in this area are of the Magnolia uncommon tribe and speak Tibetan-Chinese languages. Tribes like the Gerung, Limbo, Khasi, Garo, Naga, Mikir, and so on live in this area. According to estimates, this region is home to 13% of India's tribes. The Central Zone's tribes are dispersed over the mountain belt between the Narmada and Godavari rivers. Along with some of UP, it also comprises West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand. The Gond, Munda, Baiga, Bhil, Santal, Juong, and other tribes are the major groups in this region. The tribe members that live here make up 80% of the total.

The Krishna River falls in the South Zone. Along with the two union territories of Lakshadweep and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it also encompasses AP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The tribes in this region are said to be India's oldest inhabitants. Tribes including the Kota, Kurumba, Kadar, Paniyan, and others live in this region. About 6–5% of the overall tribal population resides in this area. The Jarwas, Nikobarese, and Andomanese are the three principal tribes in the Andaman and Nikobar Islands. Indian tribes are divided into three types by Ghurye based on cultural elements and cross-cultural interactions. First, there are the groups that are acknowledged as belonging to a relatively high status within Hindu society; second, there is the large population that has undergone some Hinduization and has gotten closer to the Hindues; and third, there are the hill tribes, which have proven their capacity for resistance to the outsider cultures that have pressed against their border. Additional Features Indian tribal people speak a variety of languages and dialects.

These languages con be broadly classified under three categories: 
1) Dravividian (Southern Indian Tribes). 
2) Austric (Central Indian Tribes) 
3) Tibetan-Chinese (Himalayan region) 

Economic Characteristics are considered for the following classifications: 
1) Food gatherers and hunters 
2) Pastorals and cattle feeders 
3) Shifting cultivators 
4) Settled agriculturalists 
5) Labuorers and workers 

Cultural characteristics help to divide tribes into four groups: 
1) those who live in the post primitive stage 
2) those who load a community life and share a common culture 
3) those who are isolated from main stream communities. In the second and third groups the tribes have more or less contacts with outsiders. 

They tried to keep their social and cultural identity. Racial classification of tribes in India is made: 
1) Mangaloid (Nagas, Chakmas, Botiyas etc) 
2) Proto-Austroloids (Gonds, Mundas, Oraens, Khonds etc) 
3) Negroids (Jarwas, Kadars, Andamanese, Nikobarese etc) 
4) Nordic (Thodas). 

After the caste and tribes stratification, gender stratification prominent not only in India but across the societies, but the patriarchal features are glaring in rural parts of India than urban parts. 


  1. A.W. Green. (1956). Sociology, New York: Mc Grow-Hlll 2nd edn 1956. 
  2. Bayly, Susan. 2001. Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  3. Beteille, A. 1980. The Indian Village: Past and Present, in E.J. Hobsbawm et. al. (eds.). Peasants in History: Essays in Honour of Daniel Thorner, Calcutta: OUP. 
  4. Beteille, Andre. 1969. ‘Ideas and Interest: Some Conceptual Problems in the Study of Social Stratification in India’. International Social Journal, Vol. 21, No. 7 
  5. Beteille, Andre.1965.Caste, Class and Power, Bombay: Oxford University Press, 
  6. Desai, A R.1969. Rural Sociology in India, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 
  7. Dumont, L. 1980. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 
  8. Dumont, L. and Pocock, D. 1959. ‘Pure and Impure’, Contributions to Indian Sociology 3, pp. 9–39


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