Socio-culturally India has been one of the most complex countries. It has a indigenous cultural heritage from time immemorial. It is a country which has probably the largest number and a different varieties of tribal communities, who mostly inhabit hilly and forest ecosystems. Though they live in partial isolation they are in contact with village communities socio-economically.

This contact is, of course, confined to the peasant communities who inhabit the adjacent vicinities. India has been a theatre from which an immense drama of contact, conflict, fusion and fission of a number of ethno- cultural stocks including tribes, castes and religious groups belonging to different stages of development, some are advanced, some are backward, live side by side. It is needless to say that the native communities belong to different religious faiths and speak different languages, yet demonstrate the spirit of Indian nationality. Such ethno- cultural diversities are probably unparalleled in any one country except China.

The rich cultural heritage of India includes the legacy from palaeolithic and neolithic cultures to modern civilization. People speak diverse languages which belong to 4 major language families, such as Indo-Aryan, Dravidian. Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Chinese. It has witnessed the emergence and growth of systems of social organisation, like the caste, joint family and the village communities, based on self-sufficient village economy and it has also witnessed diverse types of feudal order and varieties of feudal culture. The impact of feudalism is so great that even after half-a-century of its constitutional abolition it still persists in the attitudes and behaviour of people.

In Indian subcontinent caste is not only the major social factor but also it is highly pervasive. Its structure is unequal and hierarchic. The hierarchy of castes is based on the Varna order. From the top to bottom, the first position is assigned to the Brahman; the second Varna order is that of the Kshatriya; the third order is allocated to the Vaishya and the fourth incorporates a large number of ritually pure/impure caste-groups termed as the Shudra and the remaining castes who serve the members of the above varna order and articulate with them socio-economically are categorised as Avarna or Asavarna in north India and Panchama in the south India. In the 1931 census, these castes have been termed as ‘Exterior castes’ since they are outside the Varna system, yet an appendage of caste society. The members of the first three Varna orders are known as the Dwija or the Twice-born and the Shudra as Ekaja or once-born.


The implication of the term Dwija is that the individuals belonging to the first three orders are first biologically born and during their childhood they undergo “ritualistic process to be admitted as complete members of their respective castes, which means that one is also ritually born. The members of Shudra order are forbidden this initiation rite of ritual birth. This is the reason for which they occupy the lowest position in the Varna order. Indian social landscape though is based on the caste system, it is unequal not because of the emergence of non-Hindus in the Indian social scene, but because there is unequal distribution of members of different Varna order.

For instance, throughout north India, excepting north-east and north-west, the distribution of castes spatially is more or less uniform. A village community is a mini replica of Indian society which harbours castes of different Varna order, such as the Brahman, the Kshatriya, the Vaishya and the Shudra who live in cluster and nucleated settlement or in compact hamlets. In the same village, member of several Exterior castes, who are treated as Avarna or Asavara live in a separate hamlet, who serve the caste- Hindus.

Members of these castes are so called untouchables prior to independence. Now this abominable practice has been abolished as per laws promulgated by Government (cf. Article – 17). During the pre-independence period the major identity of Hindus in North India was the Varna first and the second identity is the caste which the person belongs. In contradiction to this practice in South India the identity reference used to be one’s own caste.

But since the practice of caste system has been abolished from public life after the adoption of the constitution of India, caste identity has been done away with. The caste system has been impaired although where education is still lagging, the practice is still in vogue in private life.


This is evident in certain practices of socio-cultural life, namely commensal and connubial relationships. When one looks at interdining between different caste- groups one certainly comes across of a great deal of social change and the factors of purity and pollution seldom govern the mind and attitude of the so called higher castes. It is heartening to note that the Hindu social system which was divided within has been showing symptoms of social harmony, intense fraternity and social equilibrium.

It is worthwhile to review briefly the past legacy of Indian society so as to comprehend course of social change. Without this it is difficult to understand the proccess of economic, social, cultural, ideological and political developments that have been taken place in India after independence. For a proper study of the economic, social; political institutions it is necessary to take into consideration certain facts.

A systematic analysis and study of the population of India from various view points is a prerequisite so as to understand the processes of transformation. In the following paragraphs an attempt has been made to analyse the population of India from various angles with a view to providing a background on the basis of which the numerous social currents and cross-currents that are agitating the contemporary Indian society could be comprehended.

The population in 1951 (the first census operation after independence) was 35, 68, 29, 485 persons and it increased to in 2001 census. Indian society is broadly segmented into the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward classes (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes), Other castes and non-Hindu religious groups.