Influence of western culture on Indian Society


Indian Culture, which is one of the oldest & richest cultures in the world with varied languages, customs, beliefs, ideas, taboos, codes, instructions, works of art, architecture, rituals, ceremonies etc. India’s cultural history of several thousands years old and it shows a continuity and subtle change with strong thread of continuity, epitomised in the assimilative power of culture and unique display of ‘unity in diversity’. With the conquest of European powers and subsequent British rule in India has had a profound effect of western culture on Indian society. Western culture has made its presence in various forms.

Westernization is defined as incorporation of the norms, values and culture of the west into our culture. It has greatly affected our traditions, customs, our family and our respect and love for others. The concept of joint families is fastly decreasing everyone wants to remain aloof from others and has given rise to single families. Marriages are fast breaking down & our tolerance and patience has given the answer.

 Sociological definition of westernization

 M.N.Srinivas defines westernization as “the changes brought about in Indian society and culture as a result of over 150 years of British rule, the term subsuming changes occuing at different levels say technology, institutions, ideology and values”.

 Various impacts of western culture on Indian society

  • There were different kinds of westernization. one kind refers to emergence of a westernized sub-cultural pattern through a minority sections of Indians who first came in contact with western culture.
  • This included the sub-culture of Indian intellectuals who not only adopted many cognitive patterns, or ways of thinking , life styles, but also supported its expansion.
  • This impact of Westernization was mainly in urban areas. But some villages are more westernized than urban areas.

 Westernisation vs Modernisation

  • Westernization is not the same as modernization. Modernization refers to changes in culture under the impact of technology, communications etc. And all western countries are not modern.
  • Indeed Japan has become modernized but by retaining its own culture. But, in   India modernisation has been generally through Westernization.

Characteristics of Westernization

  1. Morally neutral. Many good things and bad things have come from the West.
  2. Westernization is a wide , complex and multi-level concept. It includes all changes consequent upon Western technology and   Science. It is complex since it has had a varying impact on   different sections
  3. It was not consciously integrated into India but has come through mostly through direct contact.

Consequences of western culture on Indian society

  1. Affected caste, joint family,marriage and other social structures.
  2. Introduced new institutions like press, christian missionaries     etc.
  3. Modern values like humanism, egalitarianism, secularism have entered   Indian value systems. Our criminal law   has   been reformed. Evil customs like sati ended , Untouchability abolished.
  4. Concept of welfare state was introduced and thus Governmental activities on welfare measures have expanded.
  5. Far reaching reforms in Hindu society through social reform movements like the Brahmo samaj etc. under inspiration from the Western educated middle class in India.
  6. Many political and cultural movements emerged like movement for     eradication of caste
  7. Spread of mass education. Emergence of a educated middle class as the vanguard of the freedom movement.

Agents of Westernization

  1. British rule – The establishment of British rule brought about deep and far reaching changes in the economic, political, educational and cultural spheres in India. It offered some new avenues of social mobility to the scheduled castes, e.g., new economic opportunities, education, westernisation, conversion to Christianity and politicisation.
  2. Indians employed in government offices or converts   to Christianity.
  3. Those educated in modern schools and colleges. Some of them launched great movements like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Tagore, Sir Syed Ahmad etc.
  4. Those who went to England for study or medical treatment.
  5. Those who lived in port towns.
  6. The tolerant spirit of Indians was largely responsible for the spread of Westernisation.
  7. There was no whole sale but only selective Westernisation. Old styles continued side by side. There was also a movement to preserve Indian values.(eg. The Arya Samaj)

Influence of western culture on Indian society

 Influence of western culture on Caste

  1. We find that the traditional social organisation exemplified by the caste system has undergone several changes yet continues to exist in Indian society performing some old and some new functions.
  2. During the last few decades, as a result of the forces of modernisation, the ideology of caste has become less pervasive in an individual’s day to day life.
  3. Caste rituals have become increasingly a personal affair, rather than public due to changed circumstances of living, forces of industrialisation, and urbanisation. Place of residence and food habits are influenced more by an individual’s workplace and occupation than by his or her caste or religion.
  4. Industrialisation and factory system broke down caste barriers to a large extent.
  5. Urbanisation made many castes live together.
  6. Transport broke down caste restrictions.

 Impact of English education

  1. Changes in dress and food habits
  2. Supply of water through pipes – you cannot ask the caste of the person who sends water down the pipes.
  3. Impact on untouchability

Impact on women

  1. Educational advance of women
  2. Entry of women into all occupations
  3. Social reformers also helped liberation of women
  4. Discarding pardah.

Impact on social structure

  1. Career open to talent and no longer based on caste
  2. Money and wealth regarded important
  3. Decline of rituals

Impact on marriage

  1. Marriage came to be regarded a contract and not entirely a sacrament

Influence on culture

  1. English words came to be used commonly – Daddy, mummy, cutting the cake     culture; contrast the Indian custom of lighting a lamp with the   western habit of blowing out the candle light.
  2. Western gadgets freely used ; Television, washing machine etc

 Impact of western literature on Indian literature, religion

  1. Art – cinema, western dance, musical instruments, modern art
  2. Religion – decline of superstition, ritualism
  3. Rise is scientific belief

 Influence of western culture on Tribes

  1. The Westernisation of tribals had begun during the Bristish colonial rule when they first came in contact with them.
  2. Not all tribes were subjected to the efforts of modernisation. There were many which continued to survive in their traditional modes till India’s Independence.
  3. The fate of traditional material culture and styles of tribes were to be ‘preserved’ as museum specimens.
  4. Attempts were made to synthesise the customary and the modern laws. In all these efforts, the focus was on modernising the tribals.
  • Changes in style of life

 The changes in the style of life have followed two trends. They are

 Changes in relation to the political system

  1. The political system, which developed during the British rule, gave increasing opportunities for political articulation to the people of India, especially those who acquired western education.
  2. This facility was taken advantage of by the backward classes. The advent of Independence and the introduction of adult franchise and more recently Panchayati Raj institutions have increased the access to power, especially political power, to the backward classes.
  3. Such access led to a shift from Sanskritisation to competition for positions of higher bureaucratic and political power.

Social Mobility through Westernisation

The upwardly mobile untouchable castes adopted the life-style implied in Westernisation. This was facilitated by the prevalence of various non-Sanskritic traditions among them—such as, eating meat and drinking alcohol.


  1. Sociology: Society in India by IGNOU
  2. Sociology : The Study of Society by IGNOU

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