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Village Community In India

The study of the Indian village began in the 18th century with intensive survey work regarding landholdings. Intensive empirical studies of village social life became popular in the 20th century. The studies by Munro, Metcalfe, Maine and Baden-Powell considered the Indian village as a closed and isolated system. Sir Charles Metcalfe considered the Indian village a monolithic, atomistic and unchanging entity. According to Metcalfe, "The village communities are little republics having nearly everything that they want within themselves and almost independent of any foreign relations."

Several anthropologists and sociologists have refuted this view. A large number of studies carried out in the 50s with the assumption that the Indian village was not static, isolated and homogeneous but it is changing had connection with wider society and had social differentiation. Migration, village exogamy,inter-village economic ties, dependence upon towns for markets, division of labour and visits to religious places have also been basic features of the Indian village, breaking its isolation and separation from its vicinity and the wider world.

Mandelbaum writes, "A village is not a neatly separable social and conceptual package but it is nonetheless fundamental social unit."The French sociologist Louis Dumont refers to three meanings of the term village community as a political society, as a body of co-owners of the soil and as the emblem of traditional economy and polity, a watchword of Indian patriotism. Thus according to this view the village community in India has been a part of India's polity and economy. A village is far more than a locale, more than just a collection of houses, lanes and fields.

Village identity, solidarity and loyalty cut across caste and community. There are factions and feuding groups within villages and between villages. Land reforms,Panchayati Raj,sanskritization and other structural and cultural changes have brought about significant changes within its social structure and in its relations with the wider world.Mandelbaum further observes,: A village is clearly an important and viable social entity to its people who also take part in the larger society and share in the pattern of the civilization.

The British themselves created a new pattern of social differentiation by introducing zamindari and raiyatwari systems of land tenure. The zamindars were generally upper caste men who were assigned the task of collecting revenue from village people on behalf of the British government. They received commission for this assignment. The raiyats were peasant proprietors who were granted occupancy rights by the government after they had paid a certain amount of money for getting this right. With the abolition of these systems of land tenure, the traditional pattern of inequalities came under severe strain in the 1950s and 1960s.The village had a new pattern of administration and relations with the revenue officials.

In 1950s a large number of studies were undertaken on the Indian village community. In the year 1955, S.C Dube's Indian village, M.N Srinivas ed Indian villages, D.N Majumdar's ed Rural profiles and Mckim Marriott's ed Village India were published. All these studies have been analyzed structure and process of change in village India. The main aspects covered are caste system, family, jajmani system, religious practices and rituals, health conditions, village and caste panchayats, social mobility among different caste groups and the impact of adult franchise, education, development programmes and Panchayati Raj on the rural people.

The Indian village has undergone significant changes particularly since independence. Caste system is not confined to jajmani based social and economic relations. The jajmani system itself has declined to a large extent due to increased contact with the towns and the introduction of technological devices in agriculture.

Market economy has shattered the traditional arrangement. Caste is still a noticeable source of socio-cultural factor at the time of birth, marriage, death and other social occasions. Caste endogamy, clan exogamy and other allied rules are still adhered to in deciding marriages. While caste endogamy refers to marrying within one's own caste, clan exogamy refers to marrying within one's own caste but outside one's own clan. A given caste or sub caste has number of clans or gotras where marriage is avoided between same gotra.

Despite these patterns of caste continuities, inter caste relations have become segmentary-intercaste interdependence has lessened, tensions have increased and competition between different castes for a major share of the village resources has heightened. At times votes are caste in panchayat elections on caste lines. Castes have been interest and pressure groups.

The economic scene today is different in villages due to education, migration, and change in the cropping pattern, electrification, irrigation and contact with the towns and cities. The traditional pattern of lending has also changed to a large extent due to alternate channels of borrowing money.

The wages of agricultural workers have gone up. They have acquired bargaining power also. Economic dominance of the intermediate castes and classes such as Jats, Ahirs, Kurmis, Reddys and Patels etc has increased due to land reforms and green revolution. The lower castes have also come closer to other sections of people in the village community. Untouchability is not as rigid an institution as it was earlier.

A large number of people have migrated to bigger towns and cities in search of jobs and livelihood obliterating the caste and class boundaries.

Despite these changes in the village's social structure and economy the village remains different from towns and cities in its ethos, way of life and interpersonal relations.