Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Moral and religious changes in an urban village of Bangalore, south India
Author: Holmström, Mark
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1968
Availability of Full Text:
Access through EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access through Institution:
The thesis is about a village which has become a part of the industrial city of Bangalore, the ways in which this change in circumstances is taken into account in social relations and moral judgments and tbe relation between Hindu religion and morality. From this local study I draw tentative conclusions about social relations and movements of ideas in Indian industrial society. In chapter 1 (Introduction) I describe the conditions of my fifteen months' fieldwork. I criticize the view that economic and technical changes cause moral or social changes directly and predictably, that the effect of industrialization and urbanization must be to alter 'folk' or 'traditional' society in the direction of a single ideal type of 'urban' or 'industrial' society and that this must involve great social strain and breakdown of norms. Social change means changes in moral values and ideologies. Changes in economic and other circumstances do not determine ideologies, but are taken into account as reasons for altering social categories and making new kinds of value judgments. It is at this level of ideologies and values, rather than of 'ideal types' constructed out of external similarities, that it is useful to make comparisons between societies. Indian ideologies are expressed particularly in religious terms and the key to understanding social change in India lies in the changing relations between religion and morality. Chapter 2 (History and description) traces the village's history from its foundation around 1800 to its incorporation into Bangalore (pop. 1.2m) in the 1950s, and describes the present appearance of the village and housing conditions within it. The leading peasant families sold their land for building or built on it themselves, and became building contractors or wholesale merchants. Their sons were educated in English, and tended to become factory workers or clerks. Half the village's population of 6700 belong to families of recent immigrants. More than half the village's workers are in positions requiring some skill or responsibility. Bangalore consists largely of a network of such urban villages which are not submerged but become more conscious of their identity as the neighbourhood gains moral significance at the expense of communities of birth. Chapter 3 (Groups within the village) describes the vestiges of traditional relations between castes and the surviving village offices. These things, like village cults and festivals, acquire a new value as the reality of rural life recedes and the village's recent past is idealized in the myth of a co-operating community, associated with peasant virtues. Immigrants as well as old families are attached to the village, as a unit in which relations are moral rather than economic, and particularly as an arena in which claims to respect or status can be defended. The villagers are divided into old families and immigrants, by language (half speak Tamil the rest mainly Teluga or Kannada), by religion (four fifths are Hindus, the rest Giristians apart from a few Muslims), by caste by 'family', which varies in meaning according to the situation, by economic class, by economic relations of creditor and debtor, or of employer and employee in the case of the minority who work for other villagers by education by age, by sex by occupation, by party and faction, by voluntary associations.,by close neighbourhood and by friendship. Wherever possible I give statistics, based on a sample survey of every tenth household. In chapter 4 (Caste and family) I discuss caste ideology, the religious justification of hierarchy, the place of endogamy and occupation, and the relation between castes and 'subcastes'. I describe the main castes of the village, most of which belong to the 'middle' block of castes and are social equals, the situations in which caste counts, and the way in which endogamous groups divide, unite, overlap and change their names. The closed endogamous group tends to be replaced by overlapping marriage circles, which the household may redefine for itself within limits. Ideal relations within the family may be inferred from simple rules about who is entitled to respect, but the content of this respect, and the criteria for giving it, are changing in the direction of equality and autonomy. Chapters 5 and 6 (Religion) describe cults of the whole village, cults of other groups and personal religion. I distinguish three aspects of Hinduism: brahmanism, associated with prestige and auspiciousness, and with the values of dharma (order), permanence, hierarchy, purity and ritual, the religion of groups, for the protection and welfare of closed communities, and the religion of choice, associated with moksha or liberation, renunciation, devotion, the direct relation of the soul to God, and, particularly in the modern form of this kind of religion with conscience, responsibility and service. Brahmanism and group religion are complementary. The thinking that characterizes then is thoroughly hierarchical: men are arranged in a hierarchy of birth and function, the legitimate ends of life in a hierarchy of value. Each item in the hierarchy is justified Dy its association with those above it. Just as castes derive status from their relation to Brahmans, the interest (artha) of groups is justified by and subordinate to the eternal order (dharma) of the whole, and group religion is justified by and subordinate to brahmanism. The religion of choice tends to make universal not hierarchical distinctions, and to regard worshippers as equals. Each of these aspects is particularly associated with one of the three main temples in the village: the ore brahmanical temple, the temple of the village's patron goddess, and a Math or religious institution built over the grave of a Guru. The Math is a centre not only of devotional religion, but of social and moral innovation: its younger devotees organized a night school for village children, and have been prominent in other enterprises associated with the ideology of 'social service'. They transformed universalistic ethical beliefs which were latent and unstressed into the common assumptions of a generation influenced by the reforming enthusiasm, moral fervour and equalitarianism of the Independence movement. In chapter 7 (Respect) I consider the use and meaning of 'respect' and words connected with it ('big man' andc). Respect is a fundamental social value and the form in which economic and other relations on larger scales are projected on to the village's scale of values. It has two main components 'prestige', a given, de facto quality related to birth, wealth and influence, and 'honour', a moral, de jure quality depending on the autonomous moral judgments of others. In modern conditions the second component tends to gain importance at the expense of the first, and the conversion of wealth or power into status conies to depend now on complying with universalistic norms. Forms of organization for common action are compromises between two types: the traditional pancaayat or council, where decisions are taken by consensus and 'big men' respected for their 'prestige' take the initiative, and the modern association, where decisions are voted on and men respected for their personal moral qualities take the initiative. I describe a municipal election, and the two ways in which candidates build up support by acting through dyadic links of 'respect' and by a direct appeal to voters or supporters through ideological arguments. Chapter 8 (Values) I relate values and social relations in the village to the two types which Piaget calls heteronomy aud autonomy. Heteronomy is associated with constraint, hierarchy and unilateral respect, autonomy with aspiration, equality and mutual respect. They correspond to Bergson's closed and open types of morality, religion and society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Industrial sociology ; Working class ; India ; Bangalore