Salient Features of Indian Society


To prepare for INDIAN SOCIETY for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about the Salient Features of Indian Society. It gives an idea of all the important topics for the IAS Exam and the Economy syllabus (GS-II.). Important Salient Features of Indian Society terms are important from Economy perspectives in the UPSC exam. IAS aspirants should thoroughly understand their meaning and application, as questions can be asked from this static portion of the IAS Syllabus in both the UPSC Prelims and the UPSC Mains exams.


  • Indian society is a pluralistic society with a complex social order characterized by a multitude of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and caste divisions. It comprises people living in rural, urban, tribal setting and all sections which carry the ethos of Indianness.
  • Amid the complexities and so much diversity among the nation, widely accepted cultural themes, the feeling of oneness, brotherhood, and values of constitution binds individuals and enhance social harmony and order.
  • After independence, several demands of the reorganization of states based on cultural similarity, linguistic identity, and others emerged from different parts of India.
  • Though the government restructured various states and also formed new states, cultural units have been intact in India to this day.
  • Indian society is an exemplification of multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-ideological constructs, which co-exist, at once striving to strike harmony and also to retain its individuality


  • Sociologist Peter L. Berger defines society as “a human product, and nothing but a human product, that yet continuously acts upon its producers.”
  • Society may be illustrated as economic, social, industrial, or cultural infrastructure, made up of a varied collection of individuals. M. Maclver (1937) also defined as a “web of social relations which is always changing” where an individual form the basic unit of it.
  • It consists of groups of human beings who are linked together utilizing specific systems and customs, rites, and laws and have a collective social existence.



The following are the various characteristics of a society, which include society as the largest human group, satisfies the needs of its members, having a

sense of belonging and cooperation where everyone is dependent upon every other member.

  • Population
  • Territorial Base
  • Mutual Awareness
  • Shared Culture
  • Psyche Unity



  • Indian culture has been modified continuously, with times making India a composite culture.
  • Culture during these four phases has been discussed below:
  • Indian society was a stratified society from ancient times.
  • The division of society into Aryans and non-Aryans was mentioned in Rig Veda. The Aryan society was further divided into four groups based on the pursuit of occupations.
  • This division of social and economic activities became a norm, and a part of the social devices.
  • Later from the 12th century onwards, the rulers of medieval India brought new forms whereby Indian culture went through a transformation influencing language culture and religion.
  • The confrontation of Hindu and Muslim culture led to a synthesis with interesting results and mixed culture as a result of Sufi writings, the bhakti movement, Kabir Panth.
  • The advent of the British marked the beginning of a new phase of re-emergence of pan- Indian culture and national and social awakening through the process of modernization.
  • India today (after independence) amalgamated different caste groups religions, race tribes, linguistic groups. It glorifies the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity as its goals in a secular, socialistic framework.
  • Rig Vedic Age
  • Medieval Period
  • British Period
  • Post Colonial Period
  • Brahmana
  • Kshatriya
  • Vaisyas Culture And religion
  • Shudra



  • Multi-Ethnic Society
  • Multi-Lingual Society
  • Multi-Class Society
  • Patriarchal Society
  • Unity In Diversity
  • Tribes
  • Family
  • Kinship System
  • Balance between spiritualism and materialism
  • Balance between Individualism and collectivism
  • Co-existence of traditionalism and modernity


  • An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other, usually based on a common language or dialect, history, society, culture or nation.
  • A society with the co-existence of a wide variety of racial groups is a Multi-ethnic society. India is home to almost all racial profiles.
  • Depending on which source of group identity is emphasized to define membership, the following types of groups can be identified:
Ethno-linguistic: Emphasizing shares language, dialect (and possibly script). example: French Canadians
Ethno-national: Emphasizing a shared polity or sense of national identity – example: Austrians
Ethno-racial Emphasizing shared physical appearance based on genetic origins – for example, African Americans.
Ethno-regional Emphasizing a distinct local sense of belonging stemming from relative geographic isolation – example: South Islanders of New Zealand
Ethno-religious Emphasizing shared affiliation with a particular religion, denomination or sect – example: Jews

  • Most present-day societies are multilingual, having diversity in languages.
  • Language is a dominant source of identity so much so that the present form of India into states represents the linguistic map of India.
  • Various reasons for multilingualism can be:
  • Despite Hindi being the official language of the country, the Constitution recognizes 22 languages.
  • More than 1600 languages are spoken in india.
  • However, the number of languages in use is much higher, and the Census 2011 identified for about 122 languages of Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto – Burmese and Semi to-Hamitic families.


  • The class system is a stratification of society based on education, property, business/work, etc.
  • In general, there are three classes
  • The emerging class system, though closely resembles the caste hierarchy, has provided downtrodden section opportunities for upward social mobility.
  • According to Karl Max– ‘Man is a class animal,’ i.e., his status, age, education, etc. are not the same in society.
  • Migration of labor mobility
  • Cultural contact
  • Annexation and colonialism
  • Territorial conquest, etc
  • Upper class
  • Middle class
  • Lower class


  • Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power and enjoy greater status than women.
  • In this system, men make all decisions in both society and their family unit, hold all positions of power and authority and are considered superior.
  • Indian society is largely a patriarchal society where men tend to enjoy greater status than women.
  • However, some tribal societies are matrilineal societies where women have the dominant decision making power.
  • Women are still paid 20% less than men for the same job. They still experience a shockingly high rate of domestic violence, which highly depicts the culture of the patriarchal society in India.
  • Moreover, Male child preference is also one such example that shows the patriarchal mindset.


Impact of Patriarchal Society in India:

  • However, there are a few places that are more rigidly patriarchal than others were women who have been denied opportunities for growth in the name of religion and socio-cultural practices.
  • Women in India have few freedoms even in their homes, hold an unequal and inferior status in society, and are subject to the rule of male heads of household.
  • Various reports suggested that because of women’s relatively low standing in Indian society, rape, murder, dowry, burning, wife-beating, and discrimination are all commonplace as the expression of male dominance over women.
  • Additionally, about three decades ago, the adult male literacy rate in India was almost twice that for adult females. While this gap has narrowed substantially over the years, the adult male literacy rate still surpasses the adult female literacy rate by 17 percentage points.


  • “Unity in Diversity” is a phrase implying unity among people with diverse cultural, religious, and other demographic differences.
  • It denotes the sense of oneness and we-ness.
  • In India, people of different religions have continued to respect the ideals and values of people of other religions, and hence, India has always stood up as an integrated nation ready to put its arms around everybody in this world.
  • Diversity in India exists at various levels in different forms.
  • Various factors that contribute to Unity In diversity can be as follows:
    • Geographical factor
    • Cultural factor
    • Religious factor
    • Political factor
    • Language Factor

Example of Unity In diversity

  • A great sage Shankaracharya bound the whole country together by asking the priests of south India to worship in the temples of the north and vice versa.
  • The Leaders like Swami Vivekananda, who, himself being a Hindu, had read extensively about the Bible and talked about it at the world parliament of religions, Chicago.
  • People of varying cultures, religious beliefs, and social status, living together in peace and harmony, is a perfect example of “Unity in Diversity.”


Importance of Unity in Diversity

  • Unity in diversity boosts the morale of people at the workplace, organization, and community.
  • It improves healthy human relations and protects equal human rights for all.
  • It gives value to the rich heritage of the country as well as strengthens and enriches the cultural heritage of India.
  • It gives rise to the habit of national integration among people of the country even after being diverse in various ways.



Blood relations and kinship ties enjoy a stronghold over other social relationships.


  • Kinship refers to a set of relationships and relatives formed thereof, based on blood relationships (consanguineal), or marriage (affinal).
  • This social institution ties individuals and groups together and establishes a relationship between them.
  • It is one of the essential organizing components of society.
  • Kinship system represents one of the basic social institutions. Kinship is universal in nature.
  • It plays a significant role in the socialization of individuals and the maintenance of group solidarity.


Types of Kinship

  • Affinal kinship: This kinship is based on marriage. The relationship between husband and wife is also considered a basic form of kinship.
  • Consanguineal Kinship: This kinship is based on blood or birth à the relationship between parents and children as well as siblings. This is the most basic and universal type of kinship. Also known as a primary kinship, it involves people who are directly related.


Types of Kinship

  • Affinal kinship
  • Consanguineal Kinship

Why is kinship important for people?

Kinship determines –

  • Who they marry
  • How to raise children
  • Which land to cultivate
  • Where to live
  • Which property to inherit
  • Provides a sense of belonging and identity


  • Marriage is an important social institution. It is a relationship, which is socially approved and sanctioned by custom and law.
  • It is also a set of cultural mechanisms that ensure the continuation of the family. It is more or less a universal social institution in India.


Structural and functional changes in the marriage system:

The marriage system had undergone radical changes, especially after independence. The recent changes in the marriage system are as follows:

  • Changes in the aim and purpose of marriage: In traditional societies, the primary objective of marriage is ‘dharma’ or duty; especially among Hindus. But today, the modern objective of marriage is more related to ‘life-long companionship’ between husband and wife.
  • Changes in the form of marriage: Traditional forms of marriages like polygamy, polygyny are legally prohibited in India. Nowadays, mostly monogamous marriages are practised.
  • Change in the age of marriage: According to legal standards, the marriageable age for boy and girl stands at 21 and 18, respectively. The average age of marriage has gone up, and pre-puberty marriages have given place to post-puberty marriages.
  • Increase in divorce and desertion rates: Relaxed legislative provisions for divorce have virtually affected the stability of the marriage, particularly in the urban areas. It is mainly due to economic prosperity and internet connectivity. The Internet has exposed people to the different social trends prevalent across the world.
  • Live-in relationships: They are on a steady growth rate in India, especially among the youth in metropolitan cities. The institution also had legal recognition as a three-judge bench of SC in 2010 observed that a man and a woman living together without marriage cannot be construed as an offence and held that living together is a Right to Life and Liberty (Article 21).


  • The family forms the basic unit of social organization.
  • It is the most immediate group a child is exposed It is in the family a child learns language, the behavioural patterns, and social norms in his childhood.
  • In some way or the other, a family is a universal group. It exists in tribal, rural, and urban communities and among the followers of all religions and cultures.
  • It provides the most enduring relationship in one form or another.


Characteristics of Family

  • Family is a basic, definite, and enduring
  • Family is formed by the companionship of the husband, the wife who procreate children.
  • The family may be limited to the husband, wife, or only the father and his children or only the mother and her children.
  • Family is generally smaller in size compared to other social groups, organizations, and associations.
  • Family can also be large in which persons belonging to several generations may live together.


Types of the family


On the basis of size and structure:


  • Nuclear Family
  • Joint or Extended Family
Nuclear Family Joint or Extended Family
· A nuclear family is a family that consists of a husband, wife, and unmarried children.

· The size of the nuclear family is very small.

· It is an autonomous unit

· There is no control of the elders because newlyweds create separate residences for themselves, which is independent of elders.

· It includes members of three to four generations.

· It is an extension of parent-child relationships.

· This family is based on close blood ties.

· It is like the joint family of Hindu Society.

Based on marriage:


  • Polygamous families
  • Monogamous families


Polygamous families Polygamous families may be described as families in which either spouse is allowed to have more than one spouse simultaneously
Monogamous families Monogamous families are those families in which the marriage is limited to one spouse.


Based on residence:


  • Patrilocal family
  • Matrilocal family
  • Bilocal family
  • Neolocal family


Patrilocal family The family in which after marriage wife comes to reside in the family of her husband is known as patrilocal family.
Matrilocal family The family in which after marriage husband comes to reside in the family of her wife is known as matrilocal family.
Bilocal family In this type of family, after marriage, the married couple changes their residence alternatively.
Neolocal family After marriage when newly married couple establish a new family independent of their parents and settled at a new place this type of family is known as neolocal family.


Based on Authority:


  • Patriarchal Family
  • Matriarchal family


Patriarchal Family The family in which all the power remains in the hands of the patriarch or father is known as a patriarchal family. In other words, in this type of family, power, or authority is vested in the hands of the eldest male member of the family who is supposed to be the father. He exercises absolute power or authority over the other members of the family. He owns the family property.



Matriarchal family

It is just the opposite of a patriarchal family. In this family, power or authority, rests on the eldest female member of the family, especially the wife or mother. She enjoys absolute power or authority over other members of the family. She owns all the family property. In this family, the descent is known through the mother.


Based on the descent:

  • Family
    • Patrilineal Family
    • Matrilineal family






Patrilineal family

The family in which descent or ancestry is determined through father line and continues through father it is known as patrilineal family. The property and family name is also inherited through father line. The patrilineal family is also patrilocal and patriarchal in nature.


Matrilineal family

The matrilineal family is just the opposite of the patrilineal family. The family in which descent is determined through mother line or continues through mother it is known as Matrilineal family. The property and family name is also inherited through the mother line. This right transferred from mother to daughter. A woman is the ancestor of the family. The Matrilineal family is Matrilocal and Matriarchal in nature. This type of family found among the Nayars of Kerala and among tribals like Garos and Khasis.


Functions of the family


Primary function

  • Production and rearing of the child
  • The instrument of culture transmission
  • Provision of home
  • Agent of socialization
  • Status ascribing function
  • Agency of social control


Secondary function

  • Economic functions: With economic advancements, the family has become a more consuming unit than a producing one. Members are engaged in earning wages for ensuring the socio-economic well-being of the family.
  • Educational functions: Family provides the basis for the child’s formal learning. In spite of great changes, the family still gives the child his basic training in the social attitudes and habits important to adult participation in social life.
  • Religious functions: The family is a centre for the religious training of the children. The children learn from their parent’s various religious virtues.
  • Recreational functions: Family provides opportunities to parents and children for engaging in various recreational activities such as playing indoor games, dancing, singing, reading etc.



Indian family system has undergone drastic changes in response to the development in terms of industrialization, education, and urbanization. The following changes have been observed in the family system as follows:

  • Changes in the family: Family which was a principal unit of production has been transformed in the consumption unit. Instead of all members working together in an integrated economic enterprise, a few male members go out of the home to earn the family’s living. These affected family relations.
  • Factory employment: It has freed young adults from direct dependence upon their families. This functional independence of the youngsters has weakened the authority of the head of the household over those earning members. In many cities, even women too joined men in working outside the families on a salary basis.
  • Influence of urbanization: Various sociologists have revealed that city life is more favourable to small nuclear families than to big joint families. Thus, urban living weakens joint family pattern and strengthens nuclear family patterns.
  • Legislative measures: Prohibition of early marriage and fixing the minimum age of marriage by the child marriage Restraint Act, 1929, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 have lengthened the period of education. Even other legislations such as the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu succession Act, 1956, all have modified interpersonal relations within the family, the composition of the family and the stability of the joint family.
  • Changes in the marriage system: Changes in the age of marriage, freedom in mate-selection and change in the attitude towards marriage has diminished marriage is not very much considered a religious affair but only a social ceremony. Modern marriage does not symbolize the superior authority of the family head over other members.
  • Influence of western values: Values relating to modern science, rationalism, individualism, equality, free life, democracy, freedom of women etc. have exerted a tremendous change on the joint family system in India.
  • Changes in the position of women: Main factor causing changes in the position of women in our society to lie in her changing economic role. The new economic role provided a new position in society and especially with respect to men.
  • Over the years, various sociologists have affirmed in their studies that the rise of nuclear families — consisting of a couple and their unmarried children — is consistent with rapid urbanization.


  • Tribes have been classified as a group of home-grown people with a little background who were entitled to have a common name, language, and territory, tied by strong kinship bonds, practising endogamy, distinct customs, rituals and beliefs, simple social rank, and political organization, common ownership of resources and technology.
  • There are about 705 Scheduled tribes in the country and constitute 6 per cent of the population of the country, according to the 2011 census.
  • However, in India, many of these characteristics are shared by many other castes. This questions the validity in distinguishing them from other castes. Many conceptual attempts have been made to define tribes.


Geographically, the tribes are centered in five regions as follows:

The tribes in the state are dispersed across the state living in different physical environments, exhibiting varied lifestyles, social habits, religious beliefs, and cultural patterns.


Tribes in India
Himalayan region Tribes like the Gaddi, the Jaunsari, the Naga, etc),
Middle India Tribes like the Munda, the Santal, etc
Western India Tribes like the Bhil, the Grasia, etc.
South Indian region Tribes like the Toda, the Chenchu, etc.
Islands region Tribes like the jarawas in Bay of Bengal, the Aminidivi and the Key. in Arabian Sea


Changes bought by changing economic scenario in tribal regions:

  • Forest resources have declined, and forests have been increasingly brought under reservation. They are no longer the comfort zones of the tribal people except in certain areas of North-East India.
  • Tribal people have been compelled to give away a lot of land to more experienced agriculturists, to industries, and for big projects like hydro-electric reservoirs.
  • Big industries have been established in their areas. So, the bane is they have been displaced by such industries, and the boon is they have been given employment as wage laborers.
  • The impact of the market economy has resulted in the tribal’s production for the market rather than for meeting their own needs.




  • India is a melting pot of races. Indian population is constituted of major races of the world. We find people of different races in India.
  • The most authoritative and plausible racial classification has been given by B S. Guha, who has titled six major racial elements in India.







They are confined to small provinces in the south, the Kadar, Andamanesa, Angami Nagas, and Bagadi of Rajmahal hills (Bihar).

They were the first to arrive in India.

They have short stature, black skin, black woolly hair, thick lips, and a broad nose.






They entered the Indian subcontinent after negritos. The common physical appearance includes Brown skin complexion, short stature, broad nose, curly hair.

Central India tribs like Bhils, Mundas, Santhal, ho, Chenchus manifest their racial characteristics.







They are divided into Paleo Mongoloid (Present in Nagas of Himalayan regions and northeast India) and Tibeto-Mongoloid (Sikkim and Bhutan).

They have yellow skin, straight hair, prominent cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes with the epicanthic fold.

Northeastern Tribal group like naga Khasi, Garo belongs to this racial group.







They entered the Indian subcontinent from the Mediterranean region.

They are characterized by brown complexion, medium nose, medium stature, long and narrow head

They are connected to Dravidian languages and culture

They spread over the entire subcontinent with a major concentration in south India




Western Brachycephals

They are classified into the following:

1. Alpinoid: North and Western India

2. Dinaric: Bengal and Orissa

3. Armenoid: Parsis

They are characterized by medium stature, straight hairs, round face, prominent nose



They were last to arrive in India.

They spread over the entire subcontinent with major concentration seen in Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttrakhand.


  • Caste is a Portuguese word that emerged from ‘caste meaning race.
  • Caste can be defined as a hereditary, endogamous group, having a common name, common traditional occupation, common culture, relatively rigid in matters of mobility, the distinctiveness of status, and forming a single homogenous community.
  • It has origins in ancient India and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj.
  • India’s caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification.
  • The caste system consists of two different concepts, varna and jati, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.


History of the caste system


  • Ancient age
  • Colonial times
  • post-colonial times


During Ancient age:

  • Generally, the caste system is associated with the Hindu religion. As per Rig Veda, there were four categories known as ‘varnas.’
  • Varnas consist of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
  • It is only in the post-Vedic period that caste becomes the rigid institution that is familiar to us from well-known definitions.

During Colonial times

  • 1901 census that sought to collect information on social hierarchy,
  • Land revenue settlements gave legal recognition to the caste-based rights of the upper class that became landowners in the modern sense
  • Government of India Act 1935 gave legal recognition to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes and scheduled caste by marking out special treatment by the state.


During post-colonial times (after independence):

  • The dominant view in the nationalist movement was to treat caste as a social evil, but on the other hand, leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were able to work for the upliftment of the lowest caste – Harijan
  • The post-independence state inherited and reflected these contradictions. While the state was committed to the abolition of caste, it was both unable to push through radical reforms, which would have undermined the economic basis for caste inequality.
  • For Example, Appointments to government jobs took no account of caste, thus leaving the well-educated upper caste and illiterate lower caste to compete on equal terms. The only exception to this was in the form of reservation.
  • Moreover, the growth of private industries, endogamy, and democratic politics proved caste to be the strongest.


Characteristics of the caste system in India

  • Segmental division of society – It means that social stratification is largely based on caste. Membership to a caste group is acquired by birth, based on which people are ranked relative to other caste groups.
  • Hierarchy – It indicates that various castes are categorized according to their purity and impurity of occupations. Just like a ladder, castes are ranked from higher to lower positions. Pure caste is ranked at the top, and impure is ranked at the bottom.
  • Endogamy – Members of a particular caste have to marry within their caste only. Inter-caste marriages are prohibited. However, in urban areas, the phenomenon of inter-caste marriage is increasing.
  • Untouchability – It is the practice of ostracizing a group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom. Untouchability was a corollary of the caste system, wherein the untouchables (those belonging to the lowest caste groups) were deemed impure and polluted.
  • Civil and religious disabilities – These comprise restrictions based on contact, dress, speech, rituals etc. and are placed on every caste group. It was done in order to maintain the purity of specific caste groups. For example, lower-caste groups had no access to wells, they were restricted from entering temples etc.
  • Manual scavenging – Manual scavenging eventually became a caste-based occupation, which involves the removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines. It has been officially abolished by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
  • Caste-based violence in India – The increasing trend of caste-based violence are related to instances of inter-caste marriage and assertion of basic rights by Dalits including land rights, freedom of expression, access to justice, access to education etc
  • The policy of caste-based reservation – The system of caste-based reservation in India comprises of a series of affirmative action measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrollment in higher educational institutions. For E.g. Scheduled Caste groups are given 15% reservation in government services and educational institutions.


Changes in the Caste system

  • Trends for inter-caste marriage – Due to economic and social necessities, inter-caste marriages on western lines are being performed at increased.
  • The challenge to orthodoxy – Orthodox practices of the caste system such as child marriage, ban on widow re-marriage, ban on conversion, insensitiveness of superior class towards the low caste people are being challenged in the wake of urbanization.
  • New food habits – Due to the frequent mixing of the people at meetings, conferences, seminars, etc., food habits have changed. Moreover, people have adapted to new ones.
  • Improvement in the position of lower caste Due to steps initiated by the government, the position of lower castes has improved economically as well as socially.
  • Changes in occupation Leaving behind their traditional roles, Brahmins have become traders, whereas Vaishyas have joined teaching and so on.
  • While the manifestation of the order has changed to a large extent in recent times, the system itself has not changed much.
  • For instance – Even though untouchability and caste-based discrimination are barred under the Constitution of India, occupations like manual scavenging have the majority of workers from lower castes.
  • Even the constitution provisions for reservation of seats and jobs for the people belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have failed to produce the desired integrative effect.
  • Political mobilization based on caste has been increasing. For e.g., Lingayats demand to be considered as a minority community.


Factors Affecting the Changes in the Caste System

  • Sanskritisation
  • Modernisation
  • Westernisation
  • Industrialisation and urbanisation
  • Democratic decentralisation
  • Sanskritisation à Sanskritisation, as a process of change, is the mobility concerned with the positional change in the caste system. By changing the customs and rituals such as by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, people belonging to the low castes are claiming a higher position in the caste hierarchy.
  • Westernization à Due to changes in the spheres of education, food habits, dressing sense, style of eating, manners, etc., westernization has brought occupational changes cutting across the caste barriers.
  • Modernization à It is a process that primarily relies on scientific outlook, rational attitudes, high social mobility, mass mobilization, and specialization in work. It has made the caste system more flexible. For example, in urban areas, castes are gradually becoming classes. The emergence of the middle class with a rational outlook and goal orientation is a testimony to the fact.
  • Industrialisation and urbanization à With the growth of industrial towns and cities, migration has spiralled up. Unlike the source regions, destination areas witness fewer adherence to caste rules.
  • Democratic decentralization à The reservation provided in the Panchayati Raj system has allowed the lower castes.
  • Caste and politics – They both are closely linked to each other. In fact, the link has led to empowerment among the lower castes since they ventilate their feelings through elections and power lobby. Dalit politics is one such example, where Dalits are trying to assert their identities and have become successful in capturing power in various states.
  • Legislative measures à A variety of social legislations have been introduced in the post-independence era, which aims to safeguard the interests of the down-trodden, to eradicate untouchability, and to facilitate the social and economic development of the depressed castes. For instance, Untouchability (Offenses) Act, 1955, provided for punishment against the practice of untouchability.

Difference between Caste and Class

Class Caste
Class is not inherited but acquired through the ability Caste is acquired by birth
It is possible for an individual to change his class It is not possible to leave the caste
Marriage outside class is allowed without being thrown outside of society It is impossible for a person to marry outside the caste without the social annoyance
There is class consciousness among members of the class There is no class consciousness among members of the class
Class system does not hinder the democracy The caste system hinders the democracy


  • India is a big country with different geopolitical conditions prevailing across where diversity can be seen in a variety of things such as religions, languages, food, clothes, races, tribes, etc.
  • A grand synthesis of cultures, religions, and languages of the people belonging to different castes and communities has upheld its unity and cohesiveness despite multiple foreign invasions.
  • Unity in diversity essentially means “unity without uniformity” and “diversity without fragmentation.”
  • Example of diversity existing in India with the help of two very distinct states, i.e., the Ladakh and Kerala.







Ladakh is situated in the northeastern mountainous part of Jammu & Kashmir. A very little agriculture is possible because the place does not receive abundant rainfall and is usually covered with snow. It is famous for pashmina wool. In Ladakh, Buddhism came via Tibet, and because of this, the city is also known as Little Tibet. Some 400 years ago, Islam was introduced in this region.





Kerala is situated in the southwestern part of India. It is surrounded by the sea on one side and the hills on the other side. Kerala practices a diverse group of religions because of historical influences. The place is extremely popular amongst the traders because of spices. The land in Kerala is fertile and suitable for growing various crops. With the advent of globalization, inter-state mobility, the interdependence of various social groups has increased, which furthers strengthens unity and ones among all.


Various forms of diversity in India

  • Religious diversity
  • Geographical diversity
  • Linguistic diversity
  • Culture diversity
  • Caste and Racial diversity

Religious diversity:

  • In India, religion holds utmost importance, and therefore this is the reason that India got the title of “Land of spirituality and philosophy” all over the world
  • India is a multi-religious country consisting of Hindus (79.9%), Muslims (14.2%), Christians (2.32%), Sikhs (1.7%), Buddhists (0.6%) and Jains (0.41%).
  • Further, The Hindus themselves are divided into Vaishnavas, Shaivites, Shaktas, Smartas, etc. and the Muslims are divided into Shias, Sunnis, Ahmadiyas, etc.
  • However, Religious diversity has posed constant challenges in the country in the form of communalism and communal violence.
  • Religious diversity and religious tolerance are both established in the country by the law and custom; the Constitution of India has declared the right to freedom of religion to be a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS.

Linguistic diversity:

  • It is the most outstanding feature of India’s diversity and, in the past, has been a major source of agitation.
  • According to the 2011 census, more than 19,500 languages or dialects are spoken in India as mother tongues.
  • There are 121 languages which are spoken by 10,000 or more people in India. Of than 22 are the official languages have been recognized as official languages under the 8th schedule, and about 197 are endangered.
  • However,71 per cent population in the country has one of the 22 scheduled languages as their mother tongue.
  • India has the world’s second-highest number of languages, after Papua New Guinea.
  • However, on the other hand, linguistic diversity has also been a source of conflict. It has posed many administrative and political problems in India.
  • Recently, Gorkhaland agitation was one of the recent examples of it.
  • Though there is mysterious diversity in languages in India, there is a fundamental unity found in the ideas and expressions in them.


Indian languages are broadly classified under the following families:
Indo-Aryan language family Languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Bengali, Kashmiri, Marathi, etc. are part of this family and are spoken in most of the part of North India
Dravidian language family Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu are the prominent languages under this family spoken in the southern states
Austroasiatic language family Most of the tribal languages spoken in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha are part of this family, e.g., Khasi, Santhali, Meitei
Sino-Tibetan language family Languages of the north-eastern state like Assamese, Manipuri, Bodo, etc. constitute this family
Others Other languages like Andamanese, Sentinelese are restricted to a small number of speakers and therefore face extinction.


Geographical diversity

  • With an area of 3,287,263 square kilometres, India is a vast country with a great diversity of physical features like dry deserts, evergreen forests, snowy Himalayas, along the coast, and fertile plains.
  • The great variety of climate topography and consequently varied conditions of life prepared the Indian psyche to accept differences.
  • The unique geographic demographics also host a unique eco-system rich with vegetation, wildlife, rare herbs, and a large variety of birds.
  • The network of shrines and pilgrim centres spread across the country has been an important source of unity.


Cultural Diversity:

  • Indian culture is one of the oldest and unique. In India, there is an amazing cultural diversity throughout the country.
  • The South, North, and Northeast have their own distinct cultures, and almost every state has carved its own cultural niche.
  • The years of foreign rule, religious movements, and spiritual discoveries in the ancient land of India has given way to a rich culture of social habits, festivals, and customs.
  • Indian culture has never been rigid, and that’s why it’s surviving with pride in the modern It timely imbibes the qualities of various other cultures and comes out as a contemporary and acceptable tradition. The flexibility and movement with time have made Indian Culture fashionable and acceptable too.


Caste and Racial Diversity:

  • Refer to salient features of Indian society.
  • India is a country of castes

In addition to the above described major forms of diversity, India also has a diversity of many other types like that of settlement patterns – tribal, rural, urban; marriage and kinship patterns along religious and regional lines and so on.


  • Constitutional identity: – The same constitution and Parliament govern the entire territory of it. Moreover, the Constitution guarantees certain fundamental rights to all citizens, which contributes to unity among people amidst such diversity in India. The unified judiciary, Bureaucratic, defence structure, Parliamentary form of government providing for the federal structure are other factors that promote unity in India.
  • Inter-State mobility: – The Constitution guarantees freedom to move throughout the territory of India under 19 (1) (d), which promotes a sense of unity and brotherhood among the masses.
  • Religious co-existence: India is a country where people are largely influenced by religious principles and doctrines. Freedom of religion and religious practice guaranteed by the Constitution promotes religious co-existence with peaceful means.
  • Modernization and Urbanization: – A relationship between cultural modernization, urbanization, and industrialization is assumed as a matter of logical necessity. They provide more opportunities for employment and a more modern western lifestyle. These interdependent relationships are supportive of different communities with qualities of instant help.
  • Fairs and festivals: – India is noted as the land of festivals, and Indians too enjoy every festival with much zeal and fervour. Due to the varied culture and heritage of India, there are various religious as well as social festivals that are confined to specific regions of the country. Festival celebrations help in strengthening unity among the Indians. Festivals like Diwali, Eid, and Christmas are enjoyed by all with the same spirit and fervour.
  • Climatic integration via monsoon: – The flora and fauna in the entire Indian subcontinent, agricultural practices, the life of people, including their festivities revolve around the monsoon season in India.
  • Sports and Cinema: These are followed by millions in the country, thus, acting as a binding force across the length and breadth of India.



Salad Bowl Model:

  • In the salad bowl model, different cultures are brought together – like salad ingredients – but do not form together into a single homogeneous culture; each culture keeps its distinct qualities
  • This model of racial integration can be described as a salad bowl, with people of different cultures living in harmony, like lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots in a salad.
  • In this type of model, cultures do not mix at all.
  • For example, This kind of model is followed up in the UK, where regions like Scotland, Northern Ireland are different, and intermingling is less between people of these regions.


Melting Pot Model:

  • A melting pot is for a society where many different types of people blend as one.
  • For example, America is often called a melting pot because, with time, generations of immigrants have melted together: they have abandoned their cultures to become assimilated into American society.


Mosaic Model of society:

  • Mosaic is a form of art where different rocks of different colors are joined together and forms an image.
  • This model is the mix of ethnic groups, languages, and cultures that coexist within society.
  • The idea of a cultural mosaic is intended to suggest a form of multiculturalism.
  • This model emphasizes integration with isolation.
  • Here new identity is created, but the original identity is not lost.
  • For example: In India, different cultures like Bengali, Kashmiri, Punjabi coexist with their original identity of being Indian


  • Regionalism – Regionalism highlights the interests of a particular region/regions over national interests. It has posed constant challenges to the country in the form of communalism and communal violence. If regionalism challenges the fundamental tenets of the constitution like sovereignty, unity, and security of India, it becomes divisive and disintegrative.
  • Divisive politics – Political manipulation has projected one religion against the other, which results in communal riots, mutual distrust, and disintegration of Indian society and country. Communal antagonism has posed a serious challenge to national integration in India. Ascriptive identities such as caste, religion, etc. are evoked by politicians to garner votes.
  • Development deficit – Inadequate economic policies and consequent economic disparities can lead to the backwardness of a region, further threatening the unity of the nation.
  • Ethnic differentiation and nativism – Ethnic conflict is one of the major threats to peace and security. Ethnic conflicts are often accompanied by gross human rights violations, such as genocide and crimes against humanity, and by economic decline, state failure, environmental problems, and refugee flows. Violent ethnic conflict leads to tremendous human suffering. Different language factor also sometimes poses a great threat to the unity of the nation. It can be used for political mobilization in India. E.g. frequent clashes between Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam.
  • Geographical isolation – India has diverse geography from snow-covered mountains in the north to coastal plains in the south. Later, Regional consciousness and regional identity evolved due to geography. Geography, when combined with the ideology of aggressive regionalism, acts as a divisive factor. E.g. The North-East that is geographically isolated from the rest of the country, i.e., the Siliguri corridor (Chicken’s neck) acts as a source of disintegration and conflict.
  • Inter-religious conflicts – Inter-religious conflict not only hamper relations between two communities by spreading fear and mistrust but also hinders the secular fabric of the country. g. Sikh-Hindu conflict in Punjab, Religious riots over Babri masjid and ram mandir, Gujrat riots etc.
  • The problem is not of diversity per se, but the handling of diversity in India society. The problems of regionalism, communalism, ethnic conflicts etc. have arisen because the fruits of development haven’t been distributed equally or the cultures of some groups haven’t been accorded due recognition



  • The Unity in Diversity is disturbed in Indian society due to some communal forces with a vested interest. But India has the strength to overcome communal violence and religious threats.
  • Every Indian must lift oneself up above the challenges and work towards national unity and integrity.
  • The common values of democracy, equality, and justice, as defined in the constitution that we share and cherish as a part of the value system of Indian Society, is India’s strength.


  • “Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, the caste system cannot be eradicated in India.” Comment. (2018) – 10 Marks
  • In the contest of the diversity of India, can it be said that the regions form cultural units rather than the States? Give reasons with examples for your viewpoint. (2017) – 10 Marks
  • What are the two major legal initiatives by the State since Independence, addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)? (2017) – 10 Marks
  • The spirit of tolerance and love is not only an interesting feature of Indian society from very early times, but it is also playing an important part in the present. Elaborate. (2017) (15 marks)
  • To what extent globalization has influenced the course of cultural diversity in India? (2016) – 12.5 Marks
  • Describe any four cultural elements of diversity in India and rate their relative significance in building a national identity (2015) – 12.5 Marks
  • What makes Indian society unique in sustaining its culture? Discuss. (2019) (10 Marks)
  • What are the continued challenges for Women in India against time and space? (2019) (10 Marks)
  • Are we losing our local identity for the global identity? Discuss. (2019) (15 marks)


Practice Questions

  • India is a land of “Unity in diversity.” Elucidate.
  • “The caste system is the bane for the Indian society.” In light of the mentioned statement, examine the evil face of this system.
  • How does regionalism threaten India’s Unity? Substantiate with examples.



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