The social background of the emergence of sociology in India

 The social background of the emergence of sociology in India 

As a discipline of academic interest, it is of recent origin. Though the roots of sociological writings go back to the Greek and the Roman philosophy; it emerged as a new discipline only in the first half of the 19th century, as a response to the crisis caused by the French and the industrial revolutions. Earlier, History, Economics, Political Science, and Philosophy attempted a study of various problems related to society. Later, when man was confronted with complexities of social life, it became necessary to establish a separate discipline for the study of society. The social, economic, political and intellectual background of the 18th century Europe facilitated the emergence of sociology. It emerged in European society corresponding to its socio-historical background which had its origin in the Enlightenment period. This period embodied the scientific, technological, intellectual and commercial revolutions in Europe on the one hand; and the French revolution of 1789 on the other. 

The Enlightenment period stretched from 14th to 18th century and had given rise to force of social change which rocked the feudal monarchy and church in Europe. Similarly, the industrial revolution in England brought about deep rooted changes in the nature of society and role of individual in the society. We find the growth of sociology as a discipline is a product of Western intellectual discourse. However, writings about society can be traced back to the ancient Indian mythological, religious and spiritual texts such as the Veda, Upanishads, Puranas, Smritis, writings of Kautilya and Sukracharya that talk volumes about rites, laws, customs, economy, polity, culture, morality, aesthetics and science. All these writings are replete with insights concerning social order and stability, mobility, human interrelationship and social governance. 

For instance, Kautilya’s Artha Shastra is a monumental treatise on political economy and Shukracharya’s Niti Shastra offers vast wisdom on morality, social customs, ethics, folkways and mores. “Charaksamhita” of 8th century B.C advise the healers to take into account the norms, values and customs of the people who would come to them. Most of the classical accounts of Indian Society can be found in the writings of Meghasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. Detailed socio-cultural description of Indian society is also found in the works of three Chinese travelers,Fa-hien(400-411 A.D),Yoan Change (624-644 AD) and 1-Tsing (671-695 AD). Similarly, a sort of sociological approach may be marked in the famous Aarab traveler Al-Bironi’s (973-1030) description of the social life and customs of the people. 

Valuable information on socio-cultural conditions and daily life of people of India are available from the narratives of Ibn Batutta (1333-1347). Famous Muslim scholar in Akbar’s court (1556-1605) Abul Fazal is known for his work “Ain-i-Akbari”. It gives a wonderful description of society in all its aspects in Akbar’s time. Abd-al-Rahman Ibn-khaldun (1332-1406) the famous Islam scholar is known for his popular treatise “Muqaddamah” where he describes the rise and fall of states and gives stress on geographical and climatic factors as causes of social change. However the above scholars were not sociologists in the modern sense. But they were keen observers of social life and society and thereby providing valuable material for sociology. 

During British period, the rapid acquisition of knowledge of Indian Society and the intensification of missionary activities began to develop from 1760 onward. Missionaries and British officials made earnest effort to study the social life and culture of people of India. Dr. Fran├žois Buchanan conducted an ethnographic survey of Bengal in 1807 which is still considered as a brilliant work of sociological importance. In 1816, Abbey Dubois, a French Missionary in Mysore wrote a book entitled “Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies” which is regarded as a valuable sociological document. Famous social reformer Raja Rammohan Roy’s writings on religion, women and society continue to excite the intellectual discourse for their rich sociological content. Besides, Vivekananda Dadabhai Naroji, M.G. Ranade and many others also added the much needed intellectual stimulus to the larger discourse of ‘individual and society’ in India. The making of Indian Sociology can be traced back to this intellectual climate and its corresponding socio-cultural milieu.

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