Role of Dominant Castes in Contemporary Indian Society



The influence of dominant castes is visible in all are as of social life. Sometimes these influences benefit the society as a whole but at many times they arte for the protection of interest of the dominant castes.

i) In Social Field:

The old members of the dominant caste of a particular locality worked as ‘watch dogs of pluralistic culture and value system. They always exercise control over the different castes not to overtake the traditional occupation of each other. Any one who violated the norms of hereditary occupation was severely punished by them in form of infliction of physical pain, out casting etc.

Even imitation of the dress style and behavioral patterns of high caste by a low caste was considered offensible and was punished. Srinivas quotes the instances from Pocock to show how Barja from Nanugam was severely punished because he wore a dhoti in patidar style and smoked a portable ‘Hookah” while walking through Motagam.

Mostly the leaders of dominant castes were socially conservative; Srinivas has also showed how the dominant caste has been influential in the areas of the ‘principles of descent and adulation.’ In this connection, he has cited the examples of Tarakans (of Angodipuram) and mannadiyars (of Palghat) who gradually changed in about 120 to 150 years from Patriliny to Matriliny.

The dominant castes of a locality ‘set models’ for the majority of the people inhabiting that area. The people at the lower strata always try to imitate the cultural standards, ideological view points and behavioral pattern of the dominant castes with a view to climb up in social ladder. This process has been termed as Sanskritisation by Srinivas.

The members of dominant caste never did encourage such imitation and change in status of lower caste groups. However as Srinivas opines, they “probably ignored minor changes in ritual and life style of a low caste.

ii) In Economic Filed:

Generally the member of dominant caste is comparatively more educated and is engaged in profitable occupation. Due to their dominant position in Rural Society, they exploit all the developmental sources in their favor. The real benefits of developmental sources in their favor. The real benefits of developmental plans and programmes go to them directly or indirectly.

They have got more opportunities after independence. Srinivas writes, they have started bus, lines, rice and flour mills and cloth and other shops, taken up contract work for government. In this way the dominant castes control the rural economy in various ways and means.

iii) In Political Field:

The members of a dominant caste, due to their hereditary role of controlling and directing the social affairs, are generally more shrewd and intelligent. After the political independence or our country many of them have entered into the direct politics and have made it them profession. Their dominance is felt more in the affairs of Village Panchayat. In these bodies, generally the members of dominant caste are elected to different positions and control all the functions of Village Panchayat.

However a great deal of change has already been taken place in the formation and role of dominant castes. Their traditional authority due to ritual purity is gradually fading away. The fundamental rights of Indian Constitution has prevented them from exercising any direct control over the members of lower castes by prohibiting him to take up any job he likes according to his choice.

But now days their role is more visible in the field of politics. With the coming of adult suffrage, the numerical strength has become a significant factor in making a caste politically important. The growth of materialism also has highlighted the role of economic factors in determining the dominance of a caste.