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BANC-114: Anthropology of India

BANC-114: Anthropology of India

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

If you are looking for BANC-114 IGNOU Solved Assignment solution for the subject Anthropology of India, you have come to the right place. BANC-114 solution on this page applies to 2022-23 session students studying in BSCANH courses of IGNOU.

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Assignment Code: BANC-114/ASSTTMA/2022-23

Course Code: BANC-114

Assignment Name: Anthropology of India

Year: 2022-2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Total Marks: 100

There are three Sections in the Assignments. You have to answer all questions.


Assignment – I


Answer the following in about 500 words each.


1. Discuss briefly the various approaches to study Indian society and culture. 20

Ans) It is imperative that the scholars who are attempting to study a community are also aware of its history to arrive at a comprehensive picture. History of a society can be recorded through non-written and written sources. The societies that lack written evidence about their history are generally referred to as pre-historic societies, and the scholars mainly depend on archaeological and material evidence such as art, sculpture technique, architecture, coins and so on to narrate and speculate about the history of such societies. The societies that have written evidence are studied by scholars to understand their past. History plays a key role in explaining and understanding any society and its culture.


‘Historical Particularism’ was proposed by Franz Boas, an American Anthropologist as a critic to the evolutionists who seemed to speculate and force their findings to fit their societies into the evolutionary framework. He also points out that the evolutionary approach is invariably a comparative framework where the social scientist takes his/her own society as a yardstick and measures the community and its culture he/she is studying. He offers a solution through the concept of ‘Historical Particularism’ where he emphasises on the necessity of understanding or studying a society both in the present and its past context. The history of any community should be seriously taken into consideration in explaining the present situation.


Understanding the historical texts and drawing interpretations based on these historical sources gave rise to the orientalist and Indological approaches in studying Indian society and culture. With the British taking up the administrative role more vigorously, they faced problems in understanding its diverse and variant social institutions and cultures. Some of the British officers thought by depending on the written records, and the scriptures that are native to India they could throw some light to bring uniformity to the diverse cultures and social institutions. They heavily depended on the traveller’s accounts to understand India from a historical perspective.


Alexander Dow (an officer in the East India Company) published a first translation to the standard Persian histories of India –Tarikh-i-Firishtahi in the name of ‘The History of Hindustan’ in 1768-71. To understand caste, land tenure, and tribes and several other unique cultural factors of the Indian Society, many of the following European scholars depended on the scriptural texts that are available. The translations of the sacred scriptures had established that the Brahmans were the dominant group in the society and seen as the center of the social order.


However, this view was contrary to the existing empirical evidence. Except for religiously derived power, the Brahman in the social order does not have political, economic, and numerical strength, which gave rise to the question that what are brahmans dominant of in the real-life scenarios. The acceptance of the Scripture as historical evidence gave the impression that Indian society is static and uniform in nature, whereas empirically, India provides a contrary view. This particular criticism against the use of the Scriptures as the historical evidence had led to the rise of importance on the empiricism and collecting of first-hand data by the Anthropologists in India.


2. Describe the linguistic elements of Indian population. 20

Ans) Indian constitution in its eighth schedule included 19 languages, which are used for official purposes. They are Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. For official purpose tribhasi formula (or three language formula) i.e., Hindi, English and one of the regional languages is followed.


Out of all the languages Hindi has been most popularly spoken in India (43 per cent) followed by Bengali, Telugu and Marathi (eight per cent each), Tamil and Urdu (six per cent), Gujarati (five percent), Malayalam, Kannada and Oriya (four per cent each), Punjabi (three per cent) and other languages (Assamese and Kashmiri amounting to one per cent each). The people of India display a high degree of diversity in their languages and dialects. The languages spoken by the people of India belong to the following four language families:


The Austro-Asiatic Language Family (Nishada)

The Austro-Asiatic family is represented in India by the speakers belonging to the two main branches — (i) Mon-Khmer branch (Mon-Khmer Group) and, (ii) Munda branch (Munda Group).


Mon-Khmer Branch

This includes the two groups — 1. Khasi group of languages of Assam, and 2) Nicobarese of the Nicobar Islands.


Munda Branch

This is represented by the speakers belonging to the Central and Eastern regions of India. This is the largest of the Austro-Asiatic family. This includes the people inhabiting mostly the hills and jungles of Bihar, Chhota Nagpur, Orissa and Central India. The largest single group is that of Santhali speakers, who alone account for more than half of the total Austro-Asiatic speakers.

  1. The Tibeto-Chinese Language Family (Kirata): The speakers of Tibeto-Chinese family of languages are people of Mongoloid origin. The area of the speeches stretches right from Baltistan in the west to the north-eastern frontiers of the country and further reaching up to the southernmost portions of Assam. The speakers of Tibeto-Chinese family fall into two main sub-families—I. Siamese- Chinese and II. Tibeto-Burman.

  2. Siamese Chinese: It includes the Tai Group of languages which is distinct from Tibeto-Burman, and is represented only by one language i.e., Khamti.

  3. Tibeto-Burman: is divided into three branches — (a) Tibeto-Himalayan Branch; (b) North-Assam Branch; and (c) Assam-Burmese Branch.


The Dravidian Language Family (Dravida)

This language family has been broadly grouped into three areas. They are:

  1. South Dravidian Group: It consists of the speeches: 1) Tamil 2) Malayalam 3) Kannada 4) Coorgi/Kodagu 5) Tulu 6) Toda 7) Kota 8) Telugu.

  2. Central Dravidian Group: It includes 1) Kui 2) Kolami 3) Gondi 4) Parji 5) Koya 6) Khond/Kondh 7) Konda.

  3. North Dravidian Group: It includes 1) Kurukh/Oraon and 2) Malto. Unspecified Dravidian Tongues: A few (6742) persons belong to unspecified Dravidian Tongues, which are 1) Dravidian, 2) Madrasi, 3) Ladhadi and 4)Bharia.


Languages of the Dravidian family are concentrated in the plateau region and the adjoining coastal plains. The speeches of the Dravidian family are also spoken by the Gonds of Madhya Pradesh, Central India, and the Orans of Cota Nagpur Plateau.


Assignment – II


Answer the following questions in about 250 words each.


3. Distinguish the concept of Varna and Caste. 10

Ans) Very often both the terms are used interchangeably. But the distinction between these two is of great importance to anthropological understanding of Indian social structure. Both represent forms of social stratification of Indian society. Let us consider the main distinction between the concepts of caste and varna:


There are four varnas but innumerable castes. As discussed in above section, the four-fold of varna model proposes four varnas namely Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. These four varna represented division of Indian Hindu society into four-fold. But there exists large number of castes and sub-castes in India. Mandal commission listed three thousand seven hundred and forty-three castes in India as mentioned by Beteille (1996).


Varna system is based on occupation while caste system is based on birth. The varna system that existed during Vedic times was based on the occupation or division of labour. The membership to varna group was based on one’s karma or occupation rather than birth. As mentioned above the Guna and karma decided one’s position in varna system. On the other hand, membership to caste is ascribed in nature i.e., determined by the birth of an individual in a particular caste.


Varna system is an open system, but caste system is a closed system. The varna system was more or less open system as it provided ample opportunities to individuals to change their varna on the basis of their profession. For example, a Kshatriya could become a Brahmin or vice versa. We have examples of Parshuram who a Brahmin by birth was but became a Kshatriya, Vishwamitra who was a Kshatriya but later on became a Brahmin and Vidhya’s (author of Mahabharat) who belonged to Shudra, family of a fisherman but later on carried the task of a Brahmin. But caste system is considered as a closed system because membership cannot be changed from one caste to another.


4. Briefly describe the concept Nature-Man-Spirit Complex. 10

Ans) L.P. Vidyarthi’s concept of Nature-Man-Spirit Complex is based on cultural ecological approach in anthropology which explains the constant interaction between man and nature. The concept attempts to understand the adaptation of the socio-cultural institutions with the local environmental conditions. It has been observed that constant interaction goes on between the social organisation, ecological conditions, and religious complex in the whole of tribal India. It’s results and adaptation process has been studied by Vidyarthi with special reference to the Maler (Mal Pahariya)- a primitive tribe of shifting cultivators in Rang mahal Hills of Bihar.


The Malers believe in different types of spirits. The influence of these spirits is all pervading in various spheres of life of the Malers. The spirits are categorised into two; the benevolent spirits that are responsible for health, wealth, increased productivity in agriculture and so on while the malevolent spirits cause sickness, abortions, death, and natural calamities with the presiding spirit Gosain or Gosaiyyan governing over all the spirits. Thus, pleasing various spirits becomes one of their preoccupations. To achieve this objective, they resort to various types of rites and rituals. Since the presiding spirit Gosain serves as the bridge between the Malers and their concept of superhuman and supernatural, it is held in highest esteem.


This concept serves as an important tool for implementation of developmental programmes among tribal communities. It has been seen several times that primitive tribal groups resist or reject totally any attempt on the part of the development administration to rehabilitate them anywhere else or introduce radical changes in their life.


Answer the following questions in about 125 words each.


5. History of village studies. . 5

Ans) Anthropological studies of the Indian village began in 1950s with short essays published in edited volumes. The first full-length book on this topic was Dube’s Indian Village, which came out in 1955. The number of such publications increased in 1960s but declined sharply after late 1970s through 1990s. However, in late 1990s, such studies reappeared in the form of ‘re-study’ of the Indian village. All these studies mainly deal with the cultural life of rural populations. These are considered important contributions not only for understanding Indian rural society and its changing patterns but also as an important source of information to the government, economists and others for planning and development of the nation. From the cultural point of view, the village is seen as a ‘microcosm’ of the larger complex Indian society that has a long history of civilization. Close observation of the village society reveals that the village is not an isolated entity.


6. Dalits movements 5

Ans) Social movement or movement is an endeavour, occasionally unplanned also, with a short- or long-term goal(s) to achieve that a group organises collectively. It should have an ideology and framework besides set goals. The Dalits have been organising concerted movements since the colonial period sporadically or as everyday form of protest or for a longer duration. The forms of protests and agitations of aimed for social and economic equality, dignity, and respect. The goal is to put an end to untouchability, economic exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion. These are popularly known as Dalit movements, and organised at rural, urban level and often at all India level also; in fact, it is a pan Indian phenomenon. Nandu Ram (1998) finds three phases in the Dalit movements: Protests before the religious revivalism, Bhakti movement, and post-independence movements.


Assignment – III


7. Urban Anthropology. 10

Ans) Though the concern for urban issues has increased recently, anthropologists have not been unmindful of urban societies. Robert Redfield (1940), an American anthropologist, should be credited for having started writing about the contrasting characteristic features of folk and urban societies; he was influenced by the Chicago School of Urban Ecology and also German sociologist like Ferdinand Tonnies. He developed the theory of ‘folk-urban continuum’ based on his studies carried out in Mexico carrying out ethnographic research in a tribal area, a village, a town and a city.


A village is essentially a community of peasants having agricultural base with little social differentiation having folkways and traditions which is in other words a folk society, and on the other hand town is an urban society which is different from the folk society with economic diversity and the latter gradually transformed into city which represents civilisation. This theory has greatly influenced several anthropologists across the world to understand the social and cultural changes of societies particularly in the third world.


Anthropologists also focused on the culture, folklore, rituals, family, and kinship, etc., besides the problems of urban residents. On the side of the first British anthropological study of urban society, Michael Young and Peter Willmott, who were actually young sociologists, carried out an anthropological study about the family and kinship among the residents of Bethnal Green in East London.


Anthropologists considered urban as a ‘complex society’ vis-à-vis tribal and small societies, and hence they started discussing ‘complex societies’ in contrast to their tradition studies. Thus, cities became objects of anthropological studies in diachronic perspective tracing trajectories of social and cultural changes and gaining an understanding of complex social, economic, and political processes within anthropological research framework.


By 1970s urban anthropology emerged as a sub-field of social and cultural anthropology in which influence of sociologists such as Ferdinand Tonnies, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Max Weber, Talcott Parsons, Robert Part, etc., cannot be ignored. Apart from Redfield anthropologists like Godfrey, Wilson, Max Gluck man, A. Epstein, etc., focused their attention on detribalisation, politics, urbanization, etc., in Africa in 1940s. The interests basically concentrated on urbanisation, social institutions and problems of urban populations that continued in 1960s.


8. Briefly discuss about the fieldwork tradition in India. 20

Ans) The systematic study of Indian society is recent in origin. During 18th century A.D. the British Government felt the necessity to have an ethnographic account on different tribes and castes of India with a view to rule them easily. Thus, fieldwork and research of anthropological interest were started in India in 18th century A.D. by colonial administration, missionaries, and some orientalists, who wanted to know the cultural history of India. Their accounts were published not only as books, but also as papers in journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal.


The Asiatic Society of  Bengal was formed in 1774 with Sir William Jones as its Chairman. Some British anthropologists like W.H.R Rivers and Radcliffe  Brown came to India to record the customs and tradition of Indian tribes. Rivers came in India in 1904 and studied the Toda tribe of South India, which was published in 1906. Another British anthropologist, Radcliffe Brown came to India to study ‘Onge’ tribe of Andaman Island in 1906 to 1908. Monograph on ‘Onge’ was published in 1922 under the title, Andaman Islands from London.


Among Indian scholars S.C Roy is regarded as ‘The Father of Indian Ethnography.’ He is also regarded as the first Indian anthropologist. Roy was a lawyer by profession. When he settled at Ranchi to establish his practice as a pleader, he came in contact with the tribal people of Chhota Nagpur. He gradually developed interest in life and culture of Chhota Nagpur. He moved in different tribal villages to record their traditions. Besides, as he was a lawyer of Chhota Nagpur tribals, he got opportunities to take group and individual interviews of tribal informants, who used to come to him in connection with cases.


As result, he published his book on ‘Munda’, Oraon, Birhor, Kharia. He also conducted field work among Bhuiyas of Orissa and published his book in 1935. In the field of prehistoric archaeology, his important contribution is digging up of Asura sites. According to him, from material obtained during excavations, Asura were the pre-Munda inhabitants of Chhota Nagpur.


In 1920, the teaching of Anthropology was started in Calcutta University by Asutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University. The teaching of sociology was started in Bombay University in 1919. Now, Indian anthropologist and sociologists were produced and trained in the art of field expeditions. To publish the research work of anthropologist, S.C Roy started an anthropological journal, Man-In-India in 1921. D.N. Majumdar conducted fieldwork among Ho tribe of Kolhan Bihar (Sing hum), which appeared as book in 1937. M.N. Srinivas conducted fieldwork in Coorg for one year and gathered data on marriage and family, which was published in 1942.

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