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Cultural  
Change 
2
Chapter 2.indd   15 14 September 2022   12:03:07
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


Cultural  
Change 
2
Chapter 2.indd   15 14 September 2022   12:03:07
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
16
We saw in the last chapter how colonialism brought in changes that altered 
the structure of Indian society. Industrialisation and urbanisation transformed 
the lives of people.  Factories replaced fields as places of work for some. Cities 
replaced villages as places to live for many. Living and working arrangements 
or structures changed.  Changes also took place in culture, ways of life, norms, 
values, fashions and even body language. Sociologists understand social 
structure as  a ‘continuing arrangement of persons in relationships defined 
or controlled by institutions’ and  ‘culture’ as ‘socially established norms or 
patterns of behaviour’. You have already studied about the structural changes 
that colonialism brought about in Chapter 1. You will observe how important 
those structural changes are for understanding the cultural changes that this 
chapter seeks to understand.  
This chapter looks at two related developments, both a complex product of 
the impact of colonial rule. The first deals with the deliberate and conscious 
efforts made by the 19
th
 century social reformers and early 20
th
 century 
nationalists to bring in changes in social practices that discriminated against 
women and ‘lower’ castes. The second with the less deliberate yet decisive 
changes in cultural practices that can broadly be understood as the four 
processes of sanskritisation, modernisation, secularisation and westernisation. 
Sanskritisation pre-dates the coming of colonial rule. The other three processes 
can be understood better as complex responses of the people of India to the 
changes that colonialism brought about.  
2.1 Social reform movementS in the  
19th and early 20th century You have already seen the far-
reaching impact of colonialism 
on our lives. The social reform 
movements which emerged in 
India in the 19
th
 century arose to 
the challenges that colonial Indian 
society faced.  You probably are 
familiar with what were termed 
social evils that plagued Indian 
society. The well-known issues 
are that of sati, child marriage, 
ban on widow remarriage and 
caste discrimination. It is not that attempts were not made to fight social 
discrimination in pre-colonial India. They were central to Buddhism, Bhakti 
and Sufi movements. What marked these 19
th
 century social reform attempts 
was the modern context and mix of ideas. It was a creative combination of 
modern ideas of western liberalism and a new look on traditional literature. 
Raja Ram Mohun Roy     Pandita Ramabai    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Chapter 2.indd   16 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


Cultural  
Change 
2
Chapter 2.indd   15 14 September 2022   12:03:07
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
16
We saw in the last chapter how colonialism brought in changes that altered 
the structure of Indian society. Industrialisation and urbanisation transformed 
the lives of people.  Factories replaced fields as places of work for some. Cities 
replaced villages as places to live for many. Living and working arrangements 
or structures changed.  Changes also took place in culture, ways of life, norms, 
values, fashions and even body language. Sociologists understand social 
structure as  a ‘continuing arrangement of persons in relationships defined 
or controlled by institutions’ and  ‘culture’ as ‘socially established norms or 
patterns of behaviour’. You have already studied about the structural changes 
that colonialism brought about in Chapter 1. You will observe how important 
those structural changes are for understanding the cultural changes that this 
chapter seeks to understand.  
This chapter looks at two related developments, both a complex product of 
the impact of colonial rule. The first deals with the deliberate and conscious 
efforts made by the 19
th
 century social reformers and early 20
th
 century 
nationalists to bring in changes in social practices that discriminated against 
women and ‘lower’ castes. The second with the less deliberate yet decisive 
changes in cultural practices that can broadly be understood as the four 
processes of sanskritisation, modernisation, secularisation and westernisation. 
Sanskritisation pre-dates the coming of colonial rule. The other three processes 
can be understood better as complex responses of the people of India to the 
changes that colonialism brought about.  
2.1 Social reform movementS in the  
19th and early 20th century You have already seen the far-
reaching impact of colonialism 
on our lives. The social reform 
movements which emerged in 
India in the 19
th
 century arose to 
the challenges that colonial Indian 
society faced.  You probably are 
familiar with what were termed 
social evils that plagued Indian 
society. The well-known issues 
are that of sati, child marriage, 
ban on widow remarriage and 
caste discrimination. It is not that attempts were not made to fight social 
discrimination in pre-colonial India. They were central to Buddhism, Bhakti 
and Sufi movements. What marked these 19
th
 century social reform attempts 
was the modern context and mix of ideas. It was a creative combination of 
modern ideas of western liberalism and a new look on traditional literature. 
Raja Ram Mohun Roy     Pandita Ramabai    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Chapter 2.indd   16 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Cultural Change
17
Sociologist Satish Saberwal elaborates upon the modern context by 
sketching three aspects to the modern framework of change in colonial India:
 ? modes of communication
 ? forms of organisation, and
 ? the nature of ideas
New technologies speeded up various forms of communication. The printing 
press, telegraph, and later the microphone, movement of people and goods 
through steamship and railways helped quick movement of new ideas. Within 
India, social reformers from Punjab and Bengal exchanged ideas with reformers 
from Madras and Maharashtra.  Keshav Chandra Sen of Bengal visited Madras 
in 1864. Pandita Ramabai travelled to different corners of the country. Some of 
them went to other countries. Christian missionaries reached remote corners 
of present day Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Modern social organisations like the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal and Arya 
Samaj in Punjab were set up. The All-India Muslim Ladies Conference (Anjuman-
E-Khawatn-E-Islam) was founded in 1914.  Indian reformers debated not just 
in public meetings but through public media like newspapers and journals. 
Translations of writings of social reformers from one Indian language to another 
took place. For instance, Vishnu Shastri published a Marathi translation of 
Vidyasagar’s book in Indu Prakash in 1868.   
New ideas of liberalism and freedom, new ideas of homemaking and 
marriage, new roles for mothers and daughters, new ideas of self-conscious 
pride in culture and tradition emerged. The value of education became very 
important. It was seen as very crucial for a nation to become modern but also 
The mix of ideas
? Raja Ram Mohun Roy attacked the practice of sati on the basis of both appeals 
to humanitarian and natural rights doctrines as well as Hindu shastras. 
? Ranade’s writings entitled The T exts of the Hindu Law on the Lawfulness of the Remarriage 
of Widows and Vedic Authorities for Widow Marriage elaborated the shastric sanction for 
remarriage of widows. 
? The content of new education was modernising and liberal. The literary content of the 
courses in the humanities and social sciences was drawn from the literature of the European 
Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. Its themes were humanistic, secular and 
liberal.
? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s interpretation of Islam emphasised the validity of free enquiry 
(ijtihad) and the alleged similarities between Koranic revelations and the laws of nature 
discovered by modern science. 
? Kandukiri Viresalingam’s The Sources of Knowledge reflected his familiarity with navya-
nyaya logic. At the same time he translated the works of Julius Huxley, an eminent biologist.
Box 2.1
Chapter 2.indd   17 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


Cultural  
Change 
2
Chapter 2.indd   15 14 September 2022   12:03:07
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
16
We saw in the last chapter how colonialism brought in changes that altered 
the structure of Indian society. Industrialisation and urbanisation transformed 
the lives of people.  Factories replaced fields as places of work for some. Cities 
replaced villages as places to live for many. Living and working arrangements 
or structures changed.  Changes also took place in culture, ways of life, norms, 
values, fashions and even body language. Sociologists understand social 
structure as  a ‘continuing arrangement of persons in relationships defined 
or controlled by institutions’ and  ‘culture’ as ‘socially established norms or 
patterns of behaviour’. You have already studied about the structural changes 
that colonialism brought about in Chapter 1. You will observe how important 
those structural changes are for understanding the cultural changes that this 
chapter seeks to understand.  
This chapter looks at two related developments, both a complex product of 
the impact of colonial rule. The first deals with the deliberate and conscious 
efforts made by the 19
th
 century social reformers and early 20
th
 century 
nationalists to bring in changes in social practices that discriminated against 
women and ‘lower’ castes. The second with the less deliberate yet decisive 
changes in cultural practices that can broadly be understood as the four 
processes of sanskritisation, modernisation, secularisation and westernisation. 
Sanskritisation pre-dates the coming of colonial rule. The other three processes 
can be understood better as complex responses of the people of India to the 
changes that colonialism brought about.  
2.1 Social reform movementS in the  
19th and early 20th century You have already seen the far-
reaching impact of colonialism 
on our lives. The social reform 
movements which emerged in 
India in the 19
th
 century arose to 
the challenges that colonial Indian 
society faced.  You probably are 
familiar with what were termed 
social evils that plagued Indian 
society. The well-known issues 
are that of sati, child marriage, 
ban on widow remarriage and 
caste discrimination. It is not that attempts were not made to fight social 
discrimination in pre-colonial India. They were central to Buddhism, Bhakti 
and Sufi movements. What marked these 19
th
 century social reform attempts 
was the modern context and mix of ideas. It was a creative combination of 
modern ideas of western liberalism and a new look on traditional literature. 
Raja Ram Mohun Roy     Pandita Ramabai    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Chapter 2.indd   16 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Cultural Change
17
Sociologist Satish Saberwal elaborates upon the modern context by 
sketching three aspects to the modern framework of change in colonial India:
 ? modes of communication
 ? forms of organisation, and
 ? the nature of ideas
New technologies speeded up various forms of communication. The printing 
press, telegraph, and later the microphone, movement of people and goods 
through steamship and railways helped quick movement of new ideas. Within 
India, social reformers from Punjab and Bengal exchanged ideas with reformers 
from Madras and Maharashtra.  Keshav Chandra Sen of Bengal visited Madras 
in 1864. Pandita Ramabai travelled to different corners of the country. Some of 
them went to other countries. Christian missionaries reached remote corners 
of present day Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Modern social organisations like the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal and Arya 
Samaj in Punjab were set up. The All-India Muslim Ladies Conference (Anjuman-
E-Khawatn-E-Islam) was founded in 1914.  Indian reformers debated not just 
in public meetings but through public media like newspapers and journals. 
Translations of writings of social reformers from one Indian language to another 
took place. For instance, Vishnu Shastri published a Marathi translation of 
Vidyasagar’s book in Indu Prakash in 1868.   
New ideas of liberalism and freedom, new ideas of homemaking and 
marriage, new roles for mothers and daughters, new ideas of self-conscious 
pride in culture and tradition emerged. The value of education became very 
important. It was seen as very crucial for a nation to become modern but also 
The mix of ideas
? Raja Ram Mohun Roy attacked the practice of sati on the basis of both appeals 
to humanitarian and natural rights doctrines as well as Hindu shastras. 
? Ranade’s writings entitled The T exts of the Hindu Law on the Lawfulness of the Remarriage 
of Widows and Vedic Authorities for Widow Marriage elaborated the shastric sanction for 
remarriage of widows. 
? The content of new education was modernising and liberal. The literary content of the 
courses in the humanities and social sciences was drawn from the literature of the European 
Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. Its themes were humanistic, secular and 
liberal.
? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s interpretation of Islam emphasised the validity of free enquiry 
(ijtihad) and the alleged similarities between Koranic revelations and the laws of nature 
discovered by modern science. 
? Kandukiri Viresalingam’s The Sources of Knowledge reflected his familiarity with navya-
nyaya logic. At the same time he translated the works of Julius Huxley, an eminent biologist.
Box 2.1
Chapter 2.indd   17 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
18
retain its ancient heritage.  The idea of female education was debated 
intensely. Significantly, it was the social reformer Jotiba Phule who 
opened the first school for women in Pune. Reformers argued that for a 
society to progress women have to be educated. Some of them believed 
that in pre-modern India, women were educated. Others contested this 
on the grounds that this was so only of a privileged few. Thus attempts 
to justify female education were made by recourse to both modern 
and traditional ideas. They actively debated the meanings of tradition 
and modernity. Jotiba Phule thus recalled the glory of pre-Aryan age 
while others like Bal Gangadhar Tilak emphasised the glory of the 
Aryan period. In other words, 19
th
 century reform initiated a period of 
questioning, reinterpretations 
and both intellectual and  
social growth.  
The varied social reform 
movements did have common 
themes. Yet there were also 
significant differences. For 
some the concerns were 
confined to the problems that 
the upper caste, middle class 
women and men faced.  For 
others the injustices suffered 
by the discriminated castes 
were central questions. For 
some social evils had emerged 
because of a decline of the true 
spirit of Hinduism. For others 
caste and gender oppression 
was intrinsic to the religion. 
Vidyasagar
Viresalingam
Jotiba Phule
Find out about some of the social 
reformers mentioned below? What 
issues did they fight for? How did 
they conduct their campaign? Was 
there any opposition?
 ? Viresalingam
 ? Pandita Ramabai
 ? Vidyasagar 
 ? Dayanand Saraswati
 ? Jyotiba Phule
 ? Sri Narayan Guru 
 ? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
 ? Any other
Activity 2.1
Chapter 2.indd   18 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


Cultural  
Change 
2
Chapter 2.indd   15 14 September 2022   12:03:07
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
16
We saw in the last chapter how colonialism brought in changes that altered 
the structure of Indian society. Industrialisation and urbanisation transformed 
the lives of people.  Factories replaced fields as places of work for some. Cities 
replaced villages as places to live for many. Living and working arrangements 
or structures changed.  Changes also took place in culture, ways of life, norms, 
values, fashions and even body language. Sociologists understand social 
structure as  a ‘continuing arrangement of persons in relationships defined 
or controlled by institutions’ and  ‘culture’ as ‘socially established norms or 
patterns of behaviour’. You have already studied about the structural changes 
that colonialism brought about in Chapter 1. You will observe how important 
those structural changes are for understanding the cultural changes that this 
chapter seeks to understand.  
This chapter looks at two related developments, both a complex product of 
the impact of colonial rule. The first deals with the deliberate and conscious 
efforts made by the 19
th
 century social reformers and early 20
th
 century 
nationalists to bring in changes in social practices that discriminated against 
women and ‘lower’ castes. The second with the less deliberate yet decisive 
changes in cultural practices that can broadly be understood as the four 
processes of sanskritisation, modernisation, secularisation and westernisation. 
Sanskritisation pre-dates the coming of colonial rule. The other three processes 
can be understood better as complex responses of the people of India to the 
changes that colonialism brought about.  
2.1 Social reform movementS in the  
19th and early 20th century You have already seen the far-
reaching impact of colonialism 
on our lives. The social reform 
movements which emerged in 
India in the 19
th
 century arose to 
the challenges that colonial Indian 
society faced.  You probably are 
familiar with what were termed 
social evils that plagued Indian 
society. The well-known issues 
are that of sati, child marriage, 
ban on widow remarriage and 
caste discrimination. It is not that attempts were not made to fight social 
discrimination in pre-colonial India. They were central to Buddhism, Bhakti 
and Sufi movements. What marked these 19
th
 century social reform attempts 
was the modern context and mix of ideas. It was a creative combination of 
modern ideas of western liberalism and a new look on traditional literature. 
Raja Ram Mohun Roy     Pandita Ramabai    Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
Chapter 2.indd   16 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Cultural Change
17
Sociologist Satish Saberwal elaborates upon the modern context by 
sketching three aspects to the modern framework of change in colonial India:
 ? modes of communication
 ? forms of organisation, and
 ? the nature of ideas
New technologies speeded up various forms of communication. The printing 
press, telegraph, and later the microphone, movement of people and goods 
through steamship and railways helped quick movement of new ideas. Within 
India, social reformers from Punjab and Bengal exchanged ideas with reformers 
from Madras and Maharashtra.  Keshav Chandra Sen of Bengal visited Madras 
in 1864. Pandita Ramabai travelled to different corners of the country. Some of 
them went to other countries. Christian missionaries reached remote corners 
of present day Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Modern social organisations like the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal and Arya 
Samaj in Punjab were set up. The All-India Muslim Ladies Conference (Anjuman-
E-Khawatn-E-Islam) was founded in 1914.  Indian reformers debated not just 
in public meetings but through public media like newspapers and journals. 
Translations of writings of social reformers from one Indian language to another 
took place. For instance, Vishnu Shastri published a Marathi translation of 
Vidyasagar’s book in Indu Prakash in 1868.   
New ideas of liberalism and freedom, new ideas of homemaking and 
marriage, new roles for mothers and daughters, new ideas of self-conscious 
pride in culture and tradition emerged. The value of education became very 
important. It was seen as very crucial for a nation to become modern but also 
The mix of ideas
? Raja Ram Mohun Roy attacked the practice of sati on the basis of both appeals 
to humanitarian and natural rights doctrines as well as Hindu shastras. 
? Ranade’s writings entitled The T exts of the Hindu Law on the Lawfulness of the Remarriage 
of Widows and Vedic Authorities for Widow Marriage elaborated the shastric sanction for 
remarriage of widows. 
? The content of new education was modernising and liberal. The literary content of the 
courses in the humanities and social sciences was drawn from the literature of the European 
Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. Its themes were humanistic, secular and 
liberal.
? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s interpretation of Islam emphasised the validity of free enquiry 
(ijtihad) and the alleged similarities between Koranic revelations and the laws of nature 
discovered by modern science. 
? Kandukiri Viresalingam’s The Sources of Knowledge reflected his familiarity with navya-
nyaya logic. At the same time he translated the works of Julius Huxley, an eminent biologist.
Box 2.1
Chapter 2.indd   17 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Social Change and Development in India
18
retain its ancient heritage.  The idea of female education was debated 
intensely. Significantly, it was the social reformer Jotiba Phule who 
opened the first school for women in Pune. Reformers argued that for a 
society to progress women have to be educated. Some of them believed 
that in pre-modern India, women were educated. Others contested this 
on the grounds that this was so only of a privileged few. Thus attempts 
to justify female education were made by recourse to both modern 
and traditional ideas. They actively debated the meanings of tradition 
and modernity. Jotiba Phule thus recalled the glory of pre-Aryan age 
while others like Bal Gangadhar Tilak emphasised the glory of the 
Aryan period. In other words, 19
th
 century reform initiated a period of 
questioning, reinterpretations 
and both intellectual and  
social growth.  
The varied social reform 
movements did have common 
themes. Yet there were also 
significant differences. For 
some the concerns were 
confined to the problems that 
the upper caste, middle class 
women and men faced.  For 
others the injustices suffered 
by the discriminated castes 
were central questions. For 
some social evils had emerged 
because of a decline of the true 
spirit of Hinduism. For others 
caste and gender oppression 
was intrinsic to the religion. 
Vidyasagar
Viresalingam
Jotiba Phule
Find out about some of the social 
reformers mentioned below? What 
issues did they fight for? How did 
they conduct their campaign? Was 
there any opposition?
 ? Viresalingam
 ? Pandita Ramabai
 ? Vidyasagar 
 ? Dayanand Saraswati
 ? Jyotiba Phule
 ? Sri Narayan Guru 
 ? Sir Syed Ahmed Khan
 ? Any other
Activity 2.1
Chapter 2.indd   18 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
Cultural Change
19
Likewise Muslim social reformers actively debated the meaning of polygamy and 
purdah. For example, a resolution against the evils of polygamy was proposed by 
Jahanara Shah Nawas at the All India Muslim Ladies Conference. She argued:
…the kind of polygamy which is practiced by certain sections of the Muslims is against 
the true spirit of the Quran…and it is the duty of the educated women to exercise their 
influence among the relations to put an end to this practice.  
The resolution condemning polygamy caused considerable debate in the 
Muslim press. Tahsib-e-Niswan, the leading journal for women in the Punjab, 
came out in favour of the resolve, but others disapproved. (Chaudhuri 1993: 
111). Debates within communities were common during this period. For 
instance, sati was opposed by the Brahmo Samaj. Orthodox members of the 
Hindu community in Bengal formed an organisation called Dharma Sabha 
and petitioned the British arguing that reformers had no right to interpret  
sacred texts.  
2.2 d ifferent KindS of Social c hange In this chapter each of the four concepts, namely sanskritisation, modernisation, 
secularisation and westernisation, are dealt with in different sections. But as 
the discussion unfolds, it will become obvious to 
you that in many ways they overlap and in many 
situations they co-exist. In many situations they 
operate very differently. It is not surprising to 
find the same person being modern in some ways 
and traditional in another. This co-existence is 
often seen as natural to India and many other 
non-western countries. 
But you know that sociology does not rest 
content with naturalist explanation. (Recall the 
discussion in Chapter 1, Class XI book - Introducing 
Sociology. As the last chapter has shown colonial 
modernity had its own paradoxes. Take the 
example of western education. Colonialism led 
to the growth of an English educated Indian 
middle class. They read the thinkers of western 
enlightenment, philosophers of liberal democracy 
and dreamt of ushering in a liberal and progressive 
India. And yet, humiliated by colonial rule they 
asserted their pride in traditional learning and 
scholarship. You have already seen this trend in 
the 19
th
 century reform movements. 
As this chapter will show, modernity spelled not merely new ideas but also 
rethinking and reinterpretation of tradition. Both culture and tradition are living 
While you read the way the four processes are 
used in sociology, it may be interesting to discuss 
in class what you think the terms mean. 
 ? What kind of behaviour would you define as:
 Western
 Modern
 Secular
 Sanskritised
 ? Why? 
 ? Return to Activity 2.2 after you finish the 
chapter. 
 ? Did you find any difference between 
common sense usage of the terms and 
their sociological meaning?
Activity 2.2
Chapter 2.indd   19 14 September 2022   12:03:08
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook - Cultural Change - Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

1. What is cultural change?
Ans. Cultural change refers to any significant alteration in the customs, beliefs, values, traditions, or social behaviors of a particular group or society over time. It can occur due to various factors such as technological advancements, globalization, migration, social movements, or even natural disasters.
2. What are the causes of cultural change?
Ans. Cultural change can be caused by several factors. Some common causes include the introduction of new technologies, contact with other cultures through trade or colonization, changes in social or political ideologies, demographic shifts, environmental changes, and cultural diffusion through media or communication channels.
3. How does cultural change affect society?
Ans. Cultural change can have both positive and negative effects on society. On one hand, it can lead to social progress, innovation, and the adoption of more inclusive and egalitarian values. On the other hand, it can also create conflicts, resistance to change, and the erosion of traditional cultural practices or identities. The impact of cultural change varies depending on the specific context and the perspectives of different individuals or groups.
4. Can cultural change be resisted or reversed?
Ans. Cultural change is a complex and dynamic process, and it can be resisted or slowed down by individuals or groups who are attached to traditional values or practices. However, it is difficult to completely reverse cultural change once it has taken place. The pace and extent of cultural change can be influenced by various factors such as government policies, social movements, education, or economic development.
5. How can individuals or societies adapt to cultural change?
Ans. Adapting to cultural change requires individuals and societies to be open-minded, flexible, and willing to embrace new ideas and practices. It involves learning about different cultures, engaging in intercultural dialogue, and developing skills to navigate diverse social environments. Education, awareness programs, and policies promoting cultural diversity and inclusion can play a crucial role in facilitating the adaptation to cultural change.
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