M.N. Srinivas



Syllabus Section: 4. Emergence & Growth of Anthropology in India; Contributions of various scholars and anthropologists.


MN Srinivas is known as a field-orient Indological worker with a structural-functional approach. He was strongly influence by the fieldwork of both A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and Bronislaw Malinowski. This interest enable him to conduct his first fieldwork among the Coorgs of South India. This led to the publication of Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India in 1952. He was train by G. S. Ghurye, with whom he often disagree.


Major contributions of M N Srinivas to Indian anthropology:

  • The concept of Sanskritization: MN Srinivas introduced the concept of Sanskritization (1st as Brahminisation) in 1962 as a mode of caste/social mobility. Traditionally Indian caste system is consider as a close and stratifying division of society. The studies done by M.N. Srinivas in the Mysore region introduced the concept of Brahminisation i.e. imitation of Brahmin’s way of life by other castes to raise their position in a hierarchy. Subsequently, he modifying it to Sanskritization as instead of Brahmins, it is the locally dominant caste whose lifestyle is adopt by the lower castes to gain in the hierarchy. In 1966 he added westernization to it as the process of increasing social status through modern education and the western lifestyle.
  • He introduced the concept of ‘Brahminisation’ as a mode of caste mobility for the first time in his Ph.D. work among them. For Srinivas, Sanskritization (a term he introduced in 1962) was a more inclusive term than Brahminisation.
  • Differentiated between the concepts of Varna and Jati: Many believed Varna and Jati as same. But M.N. Srinivas through his works showed how they are different from each other in terms of the classifications made, the relevance of each, and the area of work of the two.
  • Concept of Dominant caste and its role in Indian Village societies: The concept of dominant caste is crucial to understanding Indian rural life. It helps in understanding the hierarchal structure, dispute resolution, and caste mobility in rural setups.
He introduced the term Westernization in 1966.
  • In 1959, he founded the Department of Sociology at Delhi University, through the cooperation of Vice-Chancellor V.K.R.V. Rao.
  • He exposed the two kinds of statuses found in such societies – calling them ritual and secular statuses. To accommodate the two kinds of status the concept of a ‘dominant caste’ was found to be very useful.
  • Srinivas’ major fieldwork was conducted in Rampura in Mysore


Famous Works of MN Srinivas
  • Marriage and Family in Mysore (1942)
  • Religion and Society Among the Coorgs of South India (1952)
  • Caste in Modern India in 1962,
  • Social Change in Modern India in 1966
  • India’s Villages in 1955.
  • The Remembered Village (1976)
  • Indian Society through Personal Writings (1998)
  • Village, Caste, Gender, and Method (1998)
  • Social Change in Modern India
  • The Dominant Caste and Other Essays (ed.)
  • Dimensions of Social Change in India


His works and ideas regarding fieldwork are reproduced in The Fieldworker and the Field written in 1979 with A.M. Shah and E.A. Ramaswamy. In his last years, he studied issues relating to national integration, dowry, bridewealth, the effect of industrialization on villages, urban communities, hospitals, gender issues, etc.

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