NCERT Textbook - Indian Sociologists Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Indian Sociologists Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

Created by: Uk Tiwary
 Page 1


CHAPTER 5
INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
As you saw in the opening chapter of
your first book, Introducing Sociology,
the discipline is a relatively young one
even in the European context, having
been established only about a century
ago.  In India, interest in sociological
ways of thinking is a little more than a
century old, but formal university
teaching of sociology only began in
1919 at the University of Bombay.  In
the 1920s, two other universities —
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also
began programmes of teaching and
research in sociology and anthropology.
Today, every major university has a
department of sociology, social
anthropology or anthropology, and
often more than one of these disciplines
is represented.
Now-a-days sociology tends to be
taken for granted in India, like most
established things.  But this was not
always so.  In the early days, it was
not clear at all what an Indian sociology
would look like, and indeed, whether
India really needed something like
sociology.  In the first quarter of the
20th century, those who became
interested in the discipline had to
decide for themselves what role it could
play in India.  In this chapter, you are
going to be introduced to some of the
founding figures of Indian sociology.
These scholars have helped to shape
the discipline and adapt it to our
historical and social context.
The specificity of the Indian context
raised many questions.  First of all, if
western sociology emerged as an
attempt to make sense of modernity,
what would its role be in a country like
India?  India, too, was of course
experiencing the changes brought
about by modernity but with an
important difference — it was a colony.
The first experience of modernity in
India was closely intertwined with the
experience of colonial subjugation.
Secondly, if social anthropology in the
west arose out of the curiosity felt by
European society about primitive
cultures, what role could it have in
India, which was an ancient and
advanced civilisation, but which also
had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
Finally, what useful role could sociology
have in a sovereign, independent  India,
a nation about to begin its adventure
with planned development and
democracy?
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


CHAPTER 5
INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
As you saw in the opening chapter of
your first book, Introducing Sociology,
the discipline is a relatively young one
even in the European context, having
been established only about a century
ago.  In India, interest in sociological
ways of thinking is a little more than a
century old, but formal university
teaching of sociology only began in
1919 at the University of Bombay.  In
the 1920s, two other universities —
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also
began programmes of teaching and
research in sociology and anthropology.
Today, every major university has a
department of sociology, social
anthropology or anthropology, and
often more than one of these disciplines
is represented.
Now-a-days sociology tends to be
taken for granted in India, like most
established things.  But this was not
always so.  In the early days, it was
not clear at all what an Indian sociology
would look like, and indeed, whether
India really needed something like
sociology.  In the first quarter of the
20th century, those who became
interested in the discipline had to
decide for themselves what role it could
play in India.  In this chapter, you are
going to be introduced to some of the
founding figures of Indian sociology.
These scholars have helped to shape
the discipline and adapt it to our
historical and social context.
The specificity of the Indian context
raised many questions.  First of all, if
western sociology emerged as an
attempt to make sense of modernity,
what would its role be in a country like
India?  India, too, was of course
experiencing the changes brought
about by modernity but with an
important difference — it was a colony.
The first experience of modernity in
India was closely intertwined with the
experience of colonial subjugation.
Secondly, if social anthropology in the
west arose out of the curiosity felt by
European society about primitive
cultures, what role could it have in
India, which was an ancient and
advanced civilisation, but which also
had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
Finally, what useful role could sociology
have in a sovereign, independent  India,
a nation about to begin its adventure
with planned development and
democracy?
© NCERT
not to be republished
 84 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
The pioneers of Indian sociology
not only had to find their own answers
to questions like these, they also had
to formulate new questions for
themselves. It was only through the
experience of ‘doing’ sociology in an
Indian context that the questions took
shape — they were not available
‘readymade’. As is often the case, in
the beginning Indians became
sociologists and anthropologists
mostly by accident. For example, one
of the earliest and best known
pioneers of social anthropology in
India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer
(1861-1937), began his career as a
clerk, moved on to become a school
teacher and later a college teacher in
Cochin state in present day Kerala.  In
1902, he was asked by the Dewan of
Cochin to assist with an ethnographic
survey of the state.  The British
government wanted similar surveys
done in all the princely states as well
as the presidency areas directly under
its control.  Ananthakrishna Iyer did
this work on a purely voluntary basis,
working as a college teacher in the
Maharajah’s College at Ernakulam
during the week, and functioning as
the unpaid Superintendent of
Ethnography in the weekends. His
work was much appreciated by British
anthropologists and administrators of
the time, and later he was also invited
to help with a similar ethnographic
survey in Mysore state.
Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably
the first self-taught anthropologist to
receive national and international
recognition as a scholar and an
academician. He was invited to lecture
at the University of Madras, and was
appointed as Reader at the University
of Calcutta, where he helped set up the
first post-graduate anthropology
department in India. He remained at
the University of Calcutta from 1917
to 1932.  Though he had no formal
qualifications in anthropology, he was
elected President of the Ethnology
section of the Indian Science Congress.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate
by a German university during his
lecture tour of European universities.
He was also conferred the titles of Rao
Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur by
Cochin state.
The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy
(1871-1942) was another ‘accidental
anthropologist’ and pioneer of the
discipline in India.  Before taking his
law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College,
Roy had done graduate and post-
graduate degrees in English.  Soon after
he had begun practising law, he
decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take
up a job as an English teacher at a
Christian missionary school.  This
decision was to change his life, for he
remained in Ranchi for the next forty-
four years and became the leading
authority on the culture and society of
the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur
region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’s
interest in anthropological matters
began when he gave up his school job
and began practising law at the Ranchi
courts, eventually being appointed as
official interpreter in the court.
Roy became deeply interested in
tribal society as a byproduct of his
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


CHAPTER 5
INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
As you saw in the opening chapter of
your first book, Introducing Sociology,
the discipline is a relatively young one
even in the European context, having
been established only about a century
ago.  In India, interest in sociological
ways of thinking is a little more than a
century old, but formal university
teaching of sociology only began in
1919 at the University of Bombay.  In
the 1920s, two other universities —
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also
began programmes of teaching and
research in sociology and anthropology.
Today, every major university has a
department of sociology, social
anthropology or anthropology, and
often more than one of these disciplines
is represented.
Now-a-days sociology tends to be
taken for granted in India, like most
established things.  But this was not
always so.  In the early days, it was
not clear at all what an Indian sociology
would look like, and indeed, whether
India really needed something like
sociology.  In the first quarter of the
20th century, those who became
interested in the discipline had to
decide for themselves what role it could
play in India.  In this chapter, you are
going to be introduced to some of the
founding figures of Indian sociology.
These scholars have helped to shape
the discipline and adapt it to our
historical and social context.
The specificity of the Indian context
raised many questions.  First of all, if
western sociology emerged as an
attempt to make sense of modernity,
what would its role be in a country like
India?  India, too, was of course
experiencing the changes brought
about by modernity but with an
important difference — it was a colony.
The first experience of modernity in
India was closely intertwined with the
experience of colonial subjugation.
Secondly, if social anthropology in the
west arose out of the curiosity felt by
European society about primitive
cultures, what role could it have in
India, which was an ancient and
advanced civilisation, but which also
had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
Finally, what useful role could sociology
have in a sovereign, independent  India,
a nation about to begin its adventure
with planned development and
democracy?
© NCERT
not to be republished
 84 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
The pioneers of Indian sociology
not only had to find their own answers
to questions like these, they also had
to formulate new questions for
themselves. It was only through the
experience of ‘doing’ sociology in an
Indian context that the questions took
shape — they were not available
‘readymade’. As is often the case, in
the beginning Indians became
sociologists and anthropologists
mostly by accident. For example, one
of the earliest and best known
pioneers of social anthropology in
India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer
(1861-1937), began his career as a
clerk, moved on to become a school
teacher and later a college teacher in
Cochin state in present day Kerala.  In
1902, he was asked by the Dewan of
Cochin to assist with an ethnographic
survey of the state.  The British
government wanted similar surveys
done in all the princely states as well
as the presidency areas directly under
its control.  Ananthakrishna Iyer did
this work on a purely voluntary basis,
working as a college teacher in the
Maharajah’s College at Ernakulam
during the week, and functioning as
the unpaid Superintendent of
Ethnography in the weekends. His
work was much appreciated by British
anthropologists and administrators of
the time, and later he was also invited
to help with a similar ethnographic
survey in Mysore state.
Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably
the first self-taught anthropologist to
receive national and international
recognition as a scholar and an
academician. He was invited to lecture
at the University of Madras, and was
appointed as Reader at the University
of Calcutta, where he helped set up the
first post-graduate anthropology
department in India. He remained at
the University of Calcutta from 1917
to 1932.  Though he had no formal
qualifications in anthropology, he was
elected President of the Ethnology
section of the Indian Science Congress.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate
by a German university during his
lecture tour of European universities.
He was also conferred the titles of Rao
Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur by
Cochin state.
The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy
(1871-1942) was another ‘accidental
anthropologist’ and pioneer of the
discipline in India.  Before taking his
law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College,
Roy had done graduate and post-
graduate degrees in English.  Soon after
he had begun practising law, he
decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take
up a job as an English teacher at a
Christian missionary school.  This
decision was to change his life, for he
remained in Ranchi for the next forty-
four years and became the leading
authority on the culture and society of
the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur
region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’s
interest in anthropological matters
began when he gave up his school job
and began practising law at the Ranchi
courts, eventually being appointed as
official interpreter in the court.
Roy became deeply interested in
tribal society as a byproduct of his
© NCERT
not to be republished
85 INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
professional need to interpret tribal
customs and laws to the court.  He
travelled extensively among tribal
communities and did intensive
fieldwork among them.  All of this was
done on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy’s
diligence and keen eye for detail
resulted in valuable monographs and
research articles.  During his entire
career, Roy published more than one
hundred articles in leading Indian and
British academic journals in addition
to his famous monographs on the
Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias.
Roy soon became very well known
amongst anthropologists in India and
Britain and was recognised as an
authority on Chhotanagpur.  He
founded the journal Man in India in
1922, the earliest journal of its kind in
India that is still published.
Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and
Sarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers.
In the early 1900s, they began
practising a discipline that did not yet
exist in India, and which had no
institutions to promote it.  Both Iyer
and Roy were born, lived and died in
an India that was ruled by the British.
The four Indian sociologists you are
going to be introduced in this chapter
were born one generation later than
Iyer and Roy.  They came of age in the
colonial era, but their careers
continued into the era of independence,
and they helped to shape the first
formal institutions that established
Indian sociology.  G.S. Ghurye and D.P.
Mukerji were born in the 1890s while
A.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were
about fifteen years younger, having
been born in the second decade of the
20th century. Although they were all
deeply influenced by western traditions
of sociology, they were also able to offer
some initial answers to the question
that the pioneers could only begin to
ask :  what shape should a specifically
Indian sociology take?
G.S. Ghurye can be considered the
founder of institutionalised sociology
in India. He headed India’s very first
post-graduate teaching department of
Sociology at Bombay University for
thirty-five years. He guided a large
number of research scholars, many of
whom went on to occupy prominent
positions in the discipline. He also
founded the Indian Sociological
Society as well as its journal
Sociological Bulletin. His academic
writings were not only prolific, but very
wide-ranging in the subjects they
covered.  At a time when financial and
institutional support for university
research was very limited, Ghurye
managed to nurture sociology as an
increasingly Indian discipline.  Ghurye’s
Bombay University department was the
first to successfully implement two of
the features which were later
enthusiastically endorsed by his
successors in the discipline.  These
were the active combining of teaching
and research within the same
institution, and the merger of social
anthropology and sociology into a
composite discipline.
Best known, perhaps, for his
writings on caste and race, Ghurye also
wrote on a broad range of other themes
including tribes; kinship, family and
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


CHAPTER 5
INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
As you saw in the opening chapter of
your first book, Introducing Sociology,
the discipline is a relatively young one
even in the European context, having
been established only about a century
ago.  In India, interest in sociological
ways of thinking is a little more than a
century old, but formal university
teaching of sociology only began in
1919 at the University of Bombay.  In
the 1920s, two other universities —
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also
began programmes of teaching and
research in sociology and anthropology.
Today, every major university has a
department of sociology, social
anthropology or anthropology, and
often more than one of these disciplines
is represented.
Now-a-days sociology tends to be
taken for granted in India, like most
established things.  But this was not
always so.  In the early days, it was
not clear at all what an Indian sociology
would look like, and indeed, whether
India really needed something like
sociology.  In the first quarter of the
20th century, those who became
interested in the discipline had to
decide for themselves what role it could
play in India.  In this chapter, you are
going to be introduced to some of the
founding figures of Indian sociology.
These scholars have helped to shape
the discipline and adapt it to our
historical and social context.
The specificity of the Indian context
raised many questions.  First of all, if
western sociology emerged as an
attempt to make sense of modernity,
what would its role be in a country like
India?  India, too, was of course
experiencing the changes brought
about by modernity but with an
important difference — it was a colony.
The first experience of modernity in
India was closely intertwined with the
experience of colonial subjugation.
Secondly, if social anthropology in the
west arose out of the curiosity felt by
European society about primitive
cultures, what role could it have in
India, which was an ancient and
advanced civilisation, but which also
had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
Finally, what useful role could sociology
have in a sovereign, independent  India,
a nation about to begin its adventure
with planned development and
democracy?
© NCERT
not to be republished
 84 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
The pioneers of Indian sociology
not only had to find their own answers
to questions like these, they also had
to formulate new questions for
themselves. It was only through the
experience of ‘doing’ sociology in an
Indian context that the questions took
shape — they were not available
‘readymade’. As is often the case, in
the beginning Indians became
sociologists and anthropologists
mostly by accident. For example, one
of the earliest and best known
pioneers of social anthropology in
India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer
(1861-1937), began his career as a
clerk, moved on to become a school
teacher and later a college teacher in
Cochin state in present day Kerala.  In
1902, he was asked by the Dewan of
Cochin to assist with an ethnographic
survey of the state.  The British
government wanted similar surveys
done in all the princely states as well
as the presidency areas directly under
its control.  Ananthakrishna Iyer did
this work on a purely voluntary basis,
working as a college teacher in the
Maharajah’s College at Ernakulam
during the week, and functioning as
the unpaid Superintendent of
Ethnography in the weekends. His
work was much appreciated by British
anthropologists and administrators of
the time, and later he was also invited
to help with a similar ethnographic
survey in Mysore state.
Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably
the first self-taught anthropologist to
receive national and international
recognition as a scholar and an
academician. He was invited to lecture
at the University of Madras, and was
appointed as Reader at the University
of Calcutta, where he helped set up the
first post-graduate anthropology
department in India. He remained at
the University of Calcutta from 1917
to 1932.  Though he had no formal
qualifications in anthropology, he was
elected President of the Ethnology
section of the Indian Science Congress.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate
by a German university during his
lecture tour of European universities.
He was also conferred the titles of Rao
Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur by
Cochin state.
The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy
(1871-1942) was another ‘accidental
anthropologist’ and pioneer of the
discipline in India.  Before taking his
law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College,
Roy had done graduate and post-
graduate degrees in English.  Soon after
he had begun practising law, he
decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take
up a job as an English teacher at a
Christian missionary school.  This
decision was to change his life, for he
remained in Ranchi for the next forty-
four years and became the leading
authority on the culture and society of
the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur
region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’s
interest in anthropological matters
began when he gave up his school job
and began practising law at the Ranchi
courts, eventually being appointed as
official interpreter in the court.
Roy became deeply interested in
tribal society as a byproduct of his
© NCERT
not to be republished
85 INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
professional need to interpret tribal
customs and laws to the court.  He
travelled extensively among tribal
communities and did intensive
fieldwork among them.  All of this was
done on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy’s
diligence and keen eye for detail
resulted in valuable monographs and
research articles.  During his entire
career, Roy published more than one
hundred articles in leading Indian and
British academic journals in addition
to his famous monographs on the
Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias.
Roy soon became very well known
amongst anthropologists in India and
Britain and was recognised as an
authority on Chhotanagpur.  He
founded the journal Man in India in
1922, the earliest journal of its kind in
India that is still published.
Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and
Sarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers.
In the early 1900s, they began
practising a discipline that did not yet
exist in India, and which had no
institutions to promote it.  Both Iyer
and Roy were born, lived and died in
an India that was ruled by the British.
The four Indian sociologists you are
going to be introduced in this chapter
were born one generation later than
Iyer and Roy.  They came of age in the
colonial era, but their careers
continued into the era of independence,
and they helped to shape the first
formal institutions that established
Indian sociology.  G.S. Ghurye and D.P.
Mukerji were born in the 1890s while
A.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were
about fifteen years younger, having
been born in the second decade of the
20th century. Although they were all
deeply influenced by western traditions
of sociology, they were also able to offer
some initial answers to the question
that the pioneers could only begin to
ask :  what shape should a specifically
Indian sociology take?
G.S. Ghurye can be considered the
founder of institutionalised sociology
in India. He headed India’s very first
post-graduate teaching department of
Sociology at Bombay University for
thirty-five years. He guided a large
number of research scholars, many of
whom went on to occupy prominent
positions in the discipline. He also
founded the Indian Sociological
Society as well as its journal
Sociological Bulletin. His academic
writings were not only prolific, but very
wide-ranging in the subjects they
covered.  At a time when financial and
institutional support for university
research was very limited, Ghurye
managed to nurture sociology as an
increasingly Indian discipline.  Ghurye’s
Bombay University department was the
first to successfully implement two of
the features which were later
enthusiastically endorsed by his
successors in the discipline.  These
were the active combining of teaching
and research within the same
institution, and the merger of social
anthropology and sociology into a
composite discipline.
Best known, perhaps, for his
writings on caste and race, Ghurye also
wrote on a broad range of other themes
including tribes; kinship, family and
© NCERT
not to be republished
 86 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1893-1983)
G. S. Ghurye was born on 12 December 1893 in Malvan,
a town in the Konkan coastal region of western India. His
family owned a trading business which had once been
prosperous, but was in decline.
1913: Joined Elphinstone College in Bombay with
Sanskrit Honours for the B.A. degree which he
completed in 1916.  Received the M.A. degree in
Sanskrit and English from the same college in 1918.
1919: Selected for a scholarship by the University of
Bombay for training abroad in sociology.  Initially went to the London
School of Economics to study with L.T. Hobhouse, a prominent sociologist
of the time.  Later went to Cambridge to study with W.H.R. Rivers, and
was deeply influenced by his diffusionist perspective.
1923: Ph.D. submitted under A.C. Haddon after River’s sudden death in 1922.
Returned to Bombay in May.  Caste and Race in India, the manuscript
based on the doctoral dissertation, was accepted for publication in a major
book series at Cambridge.
1924: After brief stay in Calcutta, was appointed Reader and Head of the
Department of Sociology at Bombay University in June.  He remained as
Head of the Department at Bombay University for the next 35 years.
1936: Ph.D. Programme was launched at the Bombay Department; the first Ph.D.
in Sociology at an Indian university was awarded to G.R. Pradhan under
Ghurye’s supervision.  The M.A. course was revised and made a full-fledged
8-course programme in 1945.
1951: Ghurye established the Indian Sociological Society and became its founding
President. The journal of the Indian Sociological Society, Sociological Bulletin
was launched in 1952.
1959: Ghurye retired from the University, but continued to be active in academic
life, particularly in terms of publication — 17 of his 30 books were written
after retirement.
G.S. Ghurye died in 1983, at the age of 90.
marriage; culture, civilisation and the
historic role of cities; religion; and the
sociology of conflict and integration.
Among the intellectual and contextual
concerns which influenced Ghurye, the
most prominent are perhaps
diffusionism, Orientalist scholarship
on Hindu religion and thought,
nationalism, and the cultural aspects
of Hindu identity.
One of the major themes that
Ghurye worked on was that of ‘tribal’
or ‘aboriginal’ cultures.  In fact, it was
his writings on this subject, and
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


CHAPTER 5
INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
As you saw in the opening chapter of
your first book, Introducing Sociology,
the discipline is a relatively young one
even in the European context, having
been established only about a century
ago.  In India, interest in sociological
ways of thinking is a little more than a
century old, but formal university
teaching of sociology only began in
1919 at the University of Bombay.  In
the 1920s, two other universities —
those at Calcutta and Lucknow — also
began programmes of teaching and
research in sociology and anthropology.
Today, every major university has a
department of sociology, social
anthropology or anthropology, and
often more than one of these disciplines
is represented.
Now-a-days sociology tends to be
taken for granted in India, like most
established things.  But this was not
always so.  In the early days, it was
not clear at all what an Indian sociology
would look like, and indeed, whether
India really needed something like
sociology.  In the first quarter of the
20th century, those who became
interested in the discipline had to
decide for themselves what role it could
play in India.  In this chapter, you are
going to be introduced to some of the
founding figures of Indian sociology.
These scholars have helped to shape
the discipline and adapt it to our
historical and social context.
The specificity of the Indian context
raised many questions.  First of all, if
western sociology emerged as an
attempt to make sense of modernity,
what would its role be in a country like
India?  India, too, was of course
experiencing the changes brought
about by modernity but with an
important difference — it was a colony.
The first experience of modernity in
India was closely intertwined with the
experience of colonial subjugation.
Secondly, if social anthropology in the
west arose out of the curiosity felt by
European society about primitive
cultures, what role could it have in
India, which was an ancient and
advanced civilisation, but which also
had ‘primitive’ societies within it?
Finally, what useful role could sociology
have in a sovereign, independent  India,
a nation about to begin its adventure
with planned development and
democracy?
© NCERT
not to be republished
 84 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
The pioneers of Indian sociology
not only had to find their own answers
to questions like these, they also had
to formulate new questions for
themselves. It was only through the
experience of ‘doing’ sociology in an
Indian context that the questions took
shape — they were not available
‘readymade’. As is often the case, in
the beginning Indians became
sociologists and anthropologists
mostly by accident. For example, one
of the earliest and best known
pioneers of social anthropology in
India, L.K. Ananthakrishna Iyer
(1861-1937), began his career as a
clerk, moved on to become a school
teacher and later a college teacher in
Cochin state in present day Kerala.  In
1902, he was asked by the Dewan of
Cochin to assist with an ethnographic
survey of the state.  The British
government wanted similar surveys
done in all the princely states as well
as the presidency areas directly under
its control.  Ananthakrishna Iyer did
this work on a purely voluntary basis,
working as a college teacher in the
Maharajah’s College at Ernakulam
during the week, and functioning as
the unpaid Superintendent of
Ethnography in the weekends. His
work was much appreciated by British
anthropologists and administrators of
the time, and later he was also invited
to help with a similar ethnographic
survey in Mysore state.
Ananthakrishna Iyer was probably
the first self-taught anthropologist to
receive national and international
recognition as a scholar and an
academician. He was invited to lecture
at the University of Madras, and was
appointed as Reader at the University
of Calcutta, where he helped set up the
first post-graduate anthropology
department in India. He remained at
the University of Calcutta from 1917
to 1932.  Though he had no formal
qualifications in anthropology, he was
elected President of the Ethnology
section of the Indian Science Congress.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate
by a German university during his
lecture tour of European universities.
He was also conferred the titles of Rao
Bahadur and Dewan Bahadur by
Cochin state.
The lawyer Sarat Chandra Roy
(1871-1942) was another ‘accidental
anthropologist’ and pioneer of the
discipline in India.  Before taking his
law degree in Calcutta’s Ripon College,
Roy had done graduate and post-
graduate degrees in English.  Soon after
he had begun practising law, he
decided to go to Ranchi in 1898 to take
up a job as an English teacher at a
Christian missionary school.  This
decision was to change his life, for he
remained in Ranchi for the next forty-
four years and became the leading
authority on the culture and society of
the tribal peoples of the Chhotanagpur
region (present day Jharkhand). Roy’s
interest in anthropological matters
began when he gave up his school job
and began practising law at the Ranchi
courts, eventually being appointed as
official interpreter in the court.
Roy became deeply interested in
tribal society as a byproduct of his
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85 INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
professional need to interpret tribal
customs and laws to the court.  He
travelled extensively among tribal
communities and did intensive
fieldwork among them.  All of this was
done on an ‘amateur’ basis, but Roy’s
diligence and keen eye for detail
resulted in valuable monographs and
research articles.  During his entire
career, Roy published more than one
hundred articles in leading Indian and
British academic journals in addition
to his famous monographs on the
Oraon, the Mundas and the Kharias.
Roy soon became very well known
amongst anthropologists in India and
Britain and was recognised as an
authority on Chhotanagpur.  He
founded the journal Man in India in
1922, the earliest journal of its kind in
India that is still published.
Both Ananthakrishna Iyer and
Sarat Chandra Roy were true pioneers.
In the early 1900s, they began
practising a discipline that did not yet
exist in India, and which had no
institutions to promote it.  Both Iyer
and Roy were born, lived and died in
an India that was ruled by the British.
The four Indian sociologists you are
going to be introduced in this chapter
were born one generation later than
Iyer and Roy.  They came of age in the
colonial era, but their careers
continued into the era of independence,
and they helped to shape the first
formal institutions that established
Indian sociology.  G.S. Ghurye and D.P.
Mukerji were born in the 1890s while
A.R. Desai and M.N. Srinivas were
about fifteen years younger, having
been born in the second decade of the
20th century. Although they were all
deeply influenced by western traditions
of sociology, they were also able to offer
some initial answers to the question
that the pioneers could only begin to
ask :  what shape should a specifically
Indian sociology take?
G.S. Ghurye can be considered the
founder of institutionalised sociology
in India. He headed India’s very first
post-graduate teaching department of
Sociology at Bombay University for
thirty-five years. He guided a large
number of research scholars, many of
whom went on to occupy prominent
positions in the discipline. He also
founded the Indian Sociological
Society as well as its journal
Sociological Bulletin. His academic
writings were not only prolific, but very
wide-ranging in the subjects they
covered.  At a time when financial and
institutional support for university
research was very limited, Ghurye
managed to nurture sociology as an
increasingly Indian discipline.  Ghurye’s
Bombay University department was the
first to successfully implement two of
the features which were later
enthusiastically endorsed by his
successors in the discipline.  These
were the active combining of teaching
and research within the same
institution, and the merger of social
anthropology and sociology into a
composite discipline.
Best known, perhaps, for his
writings on caste and race, Ghurye also
wrote on a broad range of other themes
including tribes; kinship, family and
© NCERT
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 86 UNDERSTANDING SOCIETY
Govind Sadashiv Ghurye (1893-1983)
G. S. Ghurye was born on 12 December 1893 in Malvan,
a town in the Konkan coastal region of western India. His
family owned a trading business which had once been
prosperous, but was in decline.
1913: Joined Elphinstone College in Bombay with
Sanskrit Honours for the B.A. degree which he
completed in 1916.  Received the M.A. degree in
Sanskrit and English from the same college in 1918.
1919: Selected for a scholarship by the University of
Bombay for training abroad in sociology.  Initially went to the London
School of Economics to study with L.T. Hobhouse, a prominent sociologist
of the time.  Later went to Cambridge to study with W.H.R. Rivers, and
was deeply influenced by his diffusionist perspective.
1923: Ph.D. submitted under A.C. Haddon after River’s sudden death in 1922.
Returned to Bombay in May.  Caste and Race in India, the manuscript
based on the doctoral dissertation, was accepted for publication in a major
book series at Cambridge.
1924: After brief stay in Calcutta, was appointed Reader and Head of the
Department of Sociology at Bombay University in June.  He remained as
Head of the Department at Bombay University for the next 35 years.
1936: Ph.D. Programme was launched at the Bombay Department; the first Ph.D.
in Sociology at an Indian university was awarded to G.R. Pradhan under
Ghurye’s supervision.  The M.A. course was revised and made a full-fledged
8-course programme in 1945.
1951: Ghurye established the Indian Sociological Society and became its founding
President. The journal of the Indian Sociological Society, Sociological Bulletin
was launched in 1952.
1959: Ghurye retired from the University, but continued to be active in academic
life, particularly in terms of publication — 17 of his 30 books were written
after retirement.
G.S. Ghurye died in 1983, at the age of 90.
marriage; culture, civilisation and the
historic role of cities; religion; and the
sociology of conflict and integration.
Among the intellectual and contextual
concerns which influenced Ghurye, the
most prominent are perhaps
diffusionism, Orientalist scholarship
on Hindu religion and thought,
nationalism, and the cultural aspects
of Hindu identity.
One of the major themes that
Ghurye worked on was that of ‘tribal’
or ‘aboriginal’ cultures.  In fact, it was
his writings on this subject, and
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87 INDIAN SOCIOLOGISTS
specially his debate with Verrier Elwin
which first made him known outside
sociology and the academic world. In
the 1930s and 1940s there was much
debate on the place of tribal societies
within India and how the state should
respond to them. Many British
administrator-anthropologists were
specially interested in the tribes of
India and believed them to be primitive
peoples with a distinctive culture far
from mainstream Hinduism. They also
believed that the innocent and simple
tribals would suffer exploitation and
cultural degradation through contact
with Hindu culture and society. For
this reason, they felt that the state
had a duty to protect the tribes and
to help them sustain their way of life
and culture, which were facing
constant pressure to assimilate with
mainstream Hindu culture. However,
nationalist Indians were equally
passionate about their belief in the
unity of India and the need for
modernising Indian society and
culture. They believed that attempts
to preserve tribal culture were
misguided and resulted in maintaining
tribals in a backward state as
‘museums’ of primitive culture. As
with many features of Hinduism itself
which they felt to be backward and in
need of reform, they felt that tribes,
too, needed to develop. Ghurye
became the best-known exponent of
the nationalist view and insisted on
characterising the tribes of India as
‘backward Hindus’ rather than
distinct cultural groups. He cited
detailed evidence from a wide variety
of tribal cultures to show that they had
been involved in constant interactions
with Hinduism over a long period.
They were thus simply further behind
in the same process of assimilation
that all Indian communities had gone
through.  This particular argument —
namely, that Indian tribals were
hardly ever isolated primitive
communities of the type that was
written about in the classical
anthropological texts — was not really
disputed.  The differences were in how
the impact of mainstream culture was
evaluated. The ‘protectionists’ believed
that assimilation would result in the
severe exploitation and cultural
extinction of the tribals.  Ghurye and
the nationalists, on the other hand,
argued that these ill-effects were not
specific to tribal cultures, but were
common to all the backward and
downtrodden sections of Indian
society. These were the inevitable
difficulties on the road to development.
Activity 1
Today we still seem to be involved in
similar debates. Discuss the different
sides to the question from a
contemporary perspective. For
example, many tribal movements
assert their distinctive cultural and
political identity — in fact, the states
of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh
were formed in response to
such movements. There is also a
major controversy around the
disproportionate burden that tribal
communities have been forced to
bear for the sake of developmental
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