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Salient features of Indian Society, UPSC Notes

Salient features of Indian Society: Indian society has a long and intricate history, spanning five thousand years. It is characterized by diverse castes, faiths, ethnicities, communities, and tribal identities, which contribute to a unique culture across the Indian subcontinent. In traditional India, social relations were often shaped by factors such as caste, ethnicity, and race, with extended families, village communities, and the caste system serving as primary societal structures.

However, modern India presents stark contrasts. While remnants of the traditional social classes remain, the middle class has become more diverse and expansive, encompassing a broader range of professions. The small elite class now comprises industrialists, high-tech entrepreneurs, and large landowners, reflecting the transformation of India’s economic society. The evolution highlights the complex interplay between tradition and modernity within Indian society today.

Effects of Globalization on Indian Society

What is Indian society?

Indian society is renowned for its remarkable tolerance, acceptance, and social cohesion, making it truly unique in its ability to sustain its rich cultural heritage. This aspect is further emphasized by the importance given to fraternity in the Preamble of the Indian constitution, which mandates it as a fundamental duty of every citizen.

The diverse nature of Indian society, encompassing a wide array of cultures and regions, highlights the need for individuals to recognize and respect the ideas and aspirations of others, as outlined in the Preamble.

Throughout its ancient history, India has strived to forge a national identity that transcends both universalism and exclusivity. The multicultural conundrum that exists within Indian society has been both a blessing and a challenge.

On one hand, the diverse cultural fabric has contributed to the enrichment and vibrancy of Indian civilization, fostering the exchange of ideas, traditions, and values. On the other hand, this diversity has at times presented hurdles in terms of social cohesion and governance, requiring ongoing efforts to maintain harmony and unity amidst varying perspectives and interests.

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Salient Features of Indian Society

The essence of Indian society lies in its ability to embrace and nurture diverse and distinct identities, including ethnicities, languages, religions, and culinary preferences. It is challenging to summarize the features of Indian society in a few pointers due to its inherent complexity and richness.

Throughout history, attempts by societies to suppress or homogenize differences have often led to conflict and fragmentation. India’s strength lies in its capacity to accommodate and celebrate its pluralistic nature. It provides a platform for various identities to coexist harmoniously, fostering a vibrant cultural tapestry. Indian society recognizes the importance of preserving individual and collective identities while forging a sense of unity and national pride.

Multi-ethnic Indian society

The multi-ethnic Indian society multi-ethnicity is a major salient feature of Indian society. Multi-ethnicity is a prominent characteristic of Indian society, encompassing a wide range of racial profiles. Herbert Risley, a British ethnographer, classified the people of India into seven racial types:

  1. Turko-Iranian: This category includes individuals with ancestry from Central Asia and Iran, reflecting historical connections and influences.
  2. Indo-Aryan: People belonging to this racial type are primarily of Indo-European origin, with roots in the Indo-Aryan migration into the Indian subcontinent.
  3. Scytho-Dravidian: This category combines influences from the Scythians, a nomadic Central Asian group, with the indigenous Dravidian population of South India.
  4. Aryo-Dravidian: The Aryo-Dravidian category represents a blend of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian racial elements, particularly found in North India.
  5. Mongolo-Dravidian: This racial type reflects the intermingling of Mongoloid and Dravidian ancestry, primarily found in certain regions of Northeast India.
  6. Mongoloid: Individuals categorized as Mongoloid have distinctive Mongolian physical features, with a prevalence among populations in the northeastern states of India.

Multilingualism is a Salient feature of Indian society

 One of the prominent features that set Indian society apart is its vibrant multilingualism. India is a land of diverse languages, with a rich tapestry of linguistic traditions woven into its cultural fabric. From the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the sun-kissed shores of the Indian Ocean, the country echoes with a multitude of voices speaking a plethora of native tongues.

  • India is home to a rich diversity of native languages, with 121 languages spoken as mother tongues.
  • The Constitution of India recognizes twenty-two languages as official or “scheduled” languages.
  • Six languages in India hold the title of classical languages, denoting a history of over 1,500 years of recorded use and rich literary traditions.
  • Languages in India are categorized into language families such as Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, and Sino-Tibetan.
  • Regional languages in the southern part of India have grammatical structures and scripts with Dravidian roots, while languages in the central and northern regions belong to the Indo-Aryan family.
  • Different scripts are used across languages, with many central and northern Indian languages employing scripts derived from the Nagari script.
  • Hindi, in its contemporary variations, uses the Devanagari script, while languages like Gujarati, Punjabi, and Marathi use Nagari-derived scripts or variations of Devanagari with slight differences in their alphabets.

India’s multilingualism is reflected in the organization of states, which are largely based on linguistic lines, with each state associated with one or more regional languages.

Multi -Religions Society

  • India is a multi-religious society, where followers of various religions coexist and practice their faiths.
  • Religious pluralism and tolerance are key characteristics of Indian society, with a rich history of embracing different beliefs and practices.
  • The principle of secularism is enshrined in the Indian Constitution, ensuring the freedom to practice and propagate any religion or faith.
  • Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in India, with its scriptures like the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita, and beliefs in concepts like karma and rebirth.
  • Islam originated in Arabia and has a significant following in India, with the Quran as its holy book and five pillars guiding its followers’ faith and practices.
  • Christianity, with the Bible as its holy book, is divided into Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, emphasizing values of humanity, charity, and repentance.
  • Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak, holds the Guru Granth Sahib as its holy book and promotes the principles of Satnaam (belief in one God) and the obligations of the Khalsa Panth.
  • Jainism, emphasizing ethical conduct, rejects caste inequalities and promotes values of non-violence, truth, and non-possessiveness.
  • Buddhism, a universal religion, originated in India and is divided into Hinayana and Mahayana sects, emphasizing the eightfold path as a solution to suffering.
  • The diversity of religions in India reflects the country’s commitment to religious harmony, coexistence, and the recognition of the rights of every citizen to practice their chosen faith.

Caste System in Indian Society

  • Indian society is divided into a hierarchical structure known as the caste system.
  • The term “caste” originated from the Portuguese word “Caste,” which refers to classification based on the purity of blood.
  • The Sanskrit word for caste is “Varna,” which means color, and the caste system finds its roots in the chaturvarna system of the Vedic period.
  • The four primary varnas or castes are Brahmins (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaishyas (merchants and farmers), and Shudras (laborers and servants).
  • The caste system is based on division of labor, occupation, endogamy (marriage within one’s caste), and notions of purity and pollution.
  • Within each varna, there are numerous subcastes or jatis based on diverse occupations.
  • The caste system led to social stratification and the oppression of lower castes, particularly the Shudras and untouchables.
  • Untouchables, also known as Dalits or Harijans, faced severe discrimination and atrocities.
  • B.R. Ambedkar, a leader and social reformer, played a significant role in advocating for the rights of Dalits and initiating the Dalit movement.
  • The Constitution of India provides special status and affirmative action for Scheduled Castes to address historical discrimination and uplift their social status.
  • Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism as a means to reject the caste hierarchy and promote equality.
  • Despite efforts to address caste-based discrimination, challenges and inequalities associated with the caste system persist in Indian society.
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Characteristics of Indian Culture

Indian culture is characterized by its vastness, diversity, and richness. It is a tapestry woven with knowledge, devotion, deeds, emotions, and profound sentiments. The distinguishing feature of Indian culture lies in its broad-mindedness, as it fearlessly embraces and adapts characteristic features from diverse thoughts and ideologies.

Throughout its history, India has absorbed influences from various cultures and molded them into its own unique identity.

Unlike some civilizations, India did not propagate its culture, religion, or ideology through invasion or war. Instead, it has upheld principles of equality and compassion, treating all living creatures with respect and dignity. Indian culture stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of different beliefs, traditions, and practices, fostering a sense of unity in its remarkable diversity.

Features of Indian Culture

  1. Longevity and continuity
  2. Unity in diversity
  3. Tolerance
  4. The amalgamation of Spirituality and Materialism


 The values of Indian culture can be explored through three major aspects: material values, social and political values, and spiritual values. Material values encompass simplicity, respect for nature, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of knowledge. Social and political values emphasize family bonds, respect for elders, harmony, and justice. Spiritual values encompass diverse faiths, belief in karma, compassion, and inner peace. It is important to conduct comprehensive research on Indian cultural values to contribute to international cultural studies and promote a deeper understanding of India’s rich cultural heritage.

Material Values

  • Emphasis on simplicity and frugality in lifestyle.
  • Respect for nature and the environment, promoting sustainable practices.
  • Appreciation for traditional craftsmanship and handmade products.
  • The value placed on education and knowledge as a means for personal and societal progress.

Social and Political Values

  • Importance of family and community bonds, with a strong emphasis on filial piety.
  • Respect for elders and authority figures, promoting hierarchical relationships.
  • Emphasis on harmony and cooperation within society, fostering social cohesion.
  • Upholding principles of justice, equality, and fairness in societal interactions.

Spiritual Values

  • Influence of spirituality and religious beliefs, with a diversity of faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and others.
  • Belief in karma and the concept of actions and consequences.
  • Promotion of virtues such as compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.
  • Emphasis on self-realization and the pursuit of inner peace through practices like meditation and yoga.

It’s important to note that these values are not exhaustive and can vary across different regions and communities within India. Indian culture is dynamic and constantly evolving, influenced by historical, social, and cultural factors.


Indian society has shown resilience and adaptability throughout its journey from the ancient Indus civilization to the present globalized world. It has successfully absorbed external influences while preserving its rich cultural heritage. Despite the challenges posed by various factors, such as communal violence and religious tensions, India possesses the strength to overcome these obstacles.

The values of democracy, equality, and justice, enshrined in the Indian constitution, form the bedrock of Indian society. These values serve as guiding principles and contribute to the cohesive fabric of the nation. They reflect the aspirations and aspirations of the people, fostering a sense of unity and common purpose. While India continues to navigate the complexities of its diverse society, it is the shared commitment to these core values that provides a foundation for progress and harmony. With a collective resolve to uphold these principles, Indian society can strive towards a more inclusive and prosperous future, where diversity is celebrated and unity prevails.

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What are the key features of Indian society?

Indian society is characterized by its diversity, multiculturalism, strong family values, caste system, religious pluralism, and socio-economic disparities.

How diverse is Indian society?

Indian society is incredibly diverse, encompassing a wide range of languages, religions, cultures, traditions, and ethnicities. This diversity is evident in the various regional customs, festivals, cuisines, and attire found across the country.

What is the role of the caste system in Indian society?

The caste system is a social hierarchy deeply rooted in Indian society. It categorizes individuals into different castes based on birth, determining their social status, occupation, and privileges. Although efforts have been made to address caste-based discrimination, its influence can still be observed in various aspects of Indian society.

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