This article throws light upon the top seven socio-cultural features of village community in India.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 1. Relative Self-Sufficiency:
In the past, a traditional village was very much self-sufficient in several respects.
The village was a unit of production as well as consumption. Politically there was less interference from outside world.
Conflicts arising in the villages were solved in the village panchayat itself. There were also caste panchayats to give respective rights to each caste.
But gradually, the village community In India has been changed. II is no more static; it has changed from time to time. According to modern anthropological studies, the village community was not and is not self-sufficient. The whole nature of the traditional society is militated against the independent isolation of a village. In earlier days there was a good deal of coming and going among villages.
There were several reasons:
(i) A village is usually multi-caste. The number of castes in each village is not sufficient to carry-out the multifunctional roles a village requires, of necessity.
(ii) The rule of caste endogamy was prevalent. A village, more often than not, is inhabited by a particular sub-caste of the endogamous caste group. This necessitates a villager to seek alliance from other village or villages.
(iii) Markets are a major reason for travel within a locality. People from adjoining areas come to attend weekly markets and interact with one another.
(iv) Village folks, specially the elderly go on pilgrimage to visit certain places like Varanasi, Dwarka, Rameswaram and so on. This brings the villagers into contact with the town people as well as the people of other places.
Thus the village was never entirely a closed or self-sufficient unit.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 2. Microcosm of Caste Society:
The village is usually multi-caste. The pattern of Interactions among the various caste groups is governed by ritual hierarchy which in turn is manifested in rules governing, commensality, pollution, occupation and marriage.
But the British rule in India gave a serious blow to the caste system in the villages. Caste panchayats became extinct. The caste system lost its traditional hold in the villages. But casteism is getting strengthened on account of selfish political interests.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 3. Hierarchy of Settlement Pattern:
The geography of a village follows a fixed pattern. Each caste usually has a separate settlement ward. In Gujarat, such areas are called “Phaliya”, In Karnataka it is “Keri”, in Maharashtra it is “Wada”. Everywhere we find the so called untouchables and Dalits live separately from the caste Hindus. The members of a ward show a strong sense of unity. Inter ward disputes occur occasionally like inter-village disputes.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 4. Jajmani as a system of exchange:
It has been the basis of economic, social and cultural solidarity in the villages. It involved both the relationship of dominance and reciprocity. Under this system some castes are patrons (Jajman) and other are service castes (Kameen).
These service castes generally under obligation to serve I he patron castes and their families. But now-a-days, this system has been weakened due to the influence of market forces, migration, contacts with towns, impact of education etc.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 5. Village Solidarity:
People live in villages with close proximity and close interaction among them. They share the same familiar life-space, share the common experiences of natural forces/disasters/ calamities etc. A villager’s closest economic associates are within his village.
“The villagers have separate hearths and common home.”
Their very life experiences develop a sense of unity and identity. This sense of solidarity is reflected in various contexts. Village solidarity is commonly expressed in village ceremonies. Ritual occasions, for example the life-cycle ceremonies require the co-operation of several castes. The functioning of the village as a political and social entity brings together members of all castes.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 6. Religion:
Religion provides the woof and worf of the community life in a village. The Hinduism that they follow is neither of the high spiritual order nor of the abstract intellectual type, nor even of the popular puranic nature. They worship number of Gods and goddesses such as Durga-Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati etc.
People also worship the village deities. They also worship trees, especially “Pipal” and the “Tulsi” Beliefs in ghosts and witches are also prevalent.
Temple-the place of worship is also a place where the people from all castes get together to celebrate religions and social occasions. It is a place of congregation. Festivals are also celebrated in each and every village with pump and ceremony. Festivals strengthen the association of castes in the villages.
Socio-Cultural Feature # 7. Factionalism:
Every village witnesses elements of factionalism in its daily round of activities. There are many basis of factionalism such as economic, kinship ties, caste affiliation, new political consciousness etc. With the breakdown of Jajmani relations, many kamin (castes) have shifted their allegiance to new groups usually outside the village namely urban businessmen.
Modern politics has led to the strengthening of what sociologists call “horizontal solidarity” that is solidarity of caste. Now castes belonging to different villages come together to act as “pressure group”. This has special bearing on the traditional power structure. Improved means of transport and communication system have further consolidated this trend towards factionalism.