The concept of Sanskritisation as a process of social change in Anthropology and Sociology is supposed to be postulated by Prof. M.N. Srinivas. After doing extensive fieldwork among the Coorgs, Srinivas declares his conclusion as a theoretical paradigm the 'Sanskritisation' in his book "Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India". The definition of Sanskritisation is brought out in his introduction of the book:

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 Sanskritising its ritual and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs, rites and beliefs of the Brahmins, and the adoption of the Brahmanic 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 'Brahmanisation', as Brahmins and the other 'twice-born castes (Srinivas, 1952:30).


However, it has been Sanskritization criticized as an ethnocentric view. As a South-Asian anthropologist how do you perceive this concept?

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Sanskritization was a deservedly important concept in its time, of great utility in the development of the anthropology of South Asia, which in the era of the village study (e.g. Srinivas, Adrian Mayer, early McKim Marriott) was beginning to connect local ethnography with the civilizational complex encompassing it (unlike the earlier isolated ethnographies of South Asia, such as Rivers on the Todas, Radcliffe-Brown on The Andaman Islanders, and Seligman on The Veddas). Besides the ideas of both sanskritization and westernization, Srinivas refined Redfield's distinction of the Great and Little tradition, proposing local, regional, peninsular, and all-India levels of Hinduism.

You might like to read Srinivas' idea of sanskritization in relation to Fox's essay on varna systems:
Fox, R.G. 1969. Varna Schemes and Ideological Integration in Indian Society. Comparative Studies in Society and History 11, 27-45. (available through JSTOR)

You might also be interested in the application of Sanskritisation to the ethnography of Nepal. See:
Jones, R.L. 1976. Sanskritization in Eastern Nepal. Ethnology 15, 63-75. (available through JSTOR)

Regarding your point about ethnocentrism, well that would certainly relate to Berreman's critique of Dumont's Brahmanocentric approach. See:
Berreman, G. 1971. The Brahamanical View of Caste. Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s) 5, 16-23.

Even if Sanskritization may seem a little simplistic now, we have to recognise its stimulating role within scholarly discourse.

Perhaps what is of core utility is the idea that a hegemonic cultural system so implicated in a complex, hierarchical, and unequal world of ranked castes, presents opportunities for emulation if one wishes to advance the interests of one's group (i.e in how your group is evaluated by others, especially the dominant ones). It is about the play of social, political and economic power by means of modifying one's ritual and other social practices. And again with regard to Nepal, you might like to read William Fisher's Fluid Boundaries, in which he discusses the changing circumstances and factional disputes among the Thakali concerning their interests in defining themselves as Hindu or as Buddhist - I would suggest that this is not entirely unrelated. One of the most fascinating developments in the anthropology of South Asia has been its historicisation, such that we have discarded ahistoric structure, instead mapping processes of ethnogenesis, and recognising disputed caste statuses and their (admittedly limited) histories of mobility. Sanskritization takes us towards a view of process in society and culture, and that is its value in retrospect.

Just some thoughts...
Happy New Year, Piers!

I had a great expectation from you, and I am satisfied as before ! Thanks for the bibliography. These are really helpful to me, and hope to others too.

But I have still some questions! For instance, is this theory applicable to other societies? Even, among the societies from India and Nepal, why Brahman model should be a model for so called low castes and tribal population?Does it mean that Brahman people were always Brahmin? Or they also climb on the caste hierarchy through performing or by acquiring the characteristics of a good Brahmin, which are given in the Shastras? What about the Shramanic model of Varna System where Kshatria is on the first rank, Brahmin in second, Vaisya is in third and Shudra in fourth? In the field, how does a researcher determine that this group of people is sanskritized or not? Can Vegetarianism and teetotalism are indicator of sanskritization? What about those who practice vegetarianism and teetotalism out of India and Nepal? I have never seen that whole population of a particular group practice these two precepts but still they claim to be Kshatriays or Brahmins! In fact, not the most of Brahmins follow these two precepts! According to Srinivas, Varna is fixed but jati climbs the ladder, that means Brahimins jatis (not varna) also have sanskritized! The concepts of claimed and conceded status are little bit fussy as I see everyone claims for something! In the scriptures I have read that many of the classical Brahmins whose parents were unknown or low castes claimed to be Brahmins and approved by the kings. In these situations, why to consider the modern Bahuns (not Brahmins) to be model of sanskirtization. Why not to think that those tribes were really Kshatriyas but later they tribalized as Manusmiriti says. Any suggestion?

This group was just going passive! And you made it alive ! Thanks!


:)

Piers Locke said:
Sanskritization was a deservedly important concept in its time, of great utility in the development of the anthropology of South Asia, which in the era of the village study (e.g. Srinivas, Adrian Mayer, early McKim Marriott) was beginning to connect local ethnography with the civilizational complex encompassing it (unlike the earlier isolated ethnographies of South Asia, such as Rivers on the Todas, Radcliffe-Brown on The Andaman Islanders, and Seligman on The Veddas). Besides the ideas of both sanskritization and westernization, Srinivas refined Redfield's distinction of the Great and Little tradition, proposing local, regional, peninsular, and all-India levels of Hinduism.

You might like to read Srinivas' idea of sanskritization in relation to Fox's essay on varna systems:
Fox, R.G. 1969. Varna Schemes and Ideological Integration in Indian Society. Comparative Studies in Society and History 11, 27-45. (available through JSTOR)

You might also be interested in the application of Sanskritisation to the ethnography of Nepal. See:
Jones, R.L. 1976. Sanskritization in Eastern Nepal. Ethnology 15, 63-75. (available through JSTOR)

Regarding your point about ethnocentrism, well that would certainly relate to Berreman's critique of Dumont's Brahmanocentric approach. See:
Berreman, G. 1971. The Brahamanical View of Caste. Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s) 5, 16-23.

Even if Sanskritization may seem a little simplistic now, we have to recognise its stimulating role within scholarly discourse.

Perhaps what is of core utility is the idea that a hegemonic cultural system so implicated in a complex, hierarchical, and unequal world of ranked castes, presents opportunities for emulation if one wishes to advance the interests of one's group (i.e in how your group is evaluated by others, especially the dominant ones). It is about the play of social, political and economic power by means of modifying one's ritual and other social practices. And again with regard to Nepal, you might like to read William Fisher's Fluid Boundaries, in which he discusses the changing circumstances and factional disputes among the Thakali concerning their interests in defining themselves as Hindu or as Buddhist - I would suggest that this is not entirely unrelated. One of the most fascinating developments in the anthropology of South Asia has been its historicisation, such that we have discarded ahistoric structure, instead mapping processes of ethnogenesis, and recognising disputed caste statuses and their (admittedly limited) histories of mobility. Sanskritization takes us towards a view of process in society and culture, and that is its value in retrospect.

Just some thoughts...

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