WESTERNISATION IN INDIA
Author: Harsh Mangalam, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from School of Law, GITAM University
The concept of westernisation, as explained by Britannica Encyclopedia, is the adoption of Western European practices and culture by societies and countries in other parts of the world, whether through compulsion or influence.Westernisation began with traders, conquerors, and missionaries from Western Europe who felt their way of life was superior to those they visited. The occupied peoples were compelled to adopt western European commercial methods, languages, alphabets, and clothing or were at least encouraged to do so. Additionally, they were urged to adopt Christian beliefs as well as western European educational, literary, and aesthetic norms. Western-style military and administration methods were imposed on several nations.The United States, which was founded as a result of the western European colonisation of North America, is regarded as the most important exporter of Western culture throughout the 20th century. Not just in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, but also in western Europe itself, its films, popular music, and fashion were adopted. Westernisation was both a product of and a transmitter through technology. Some leaders, such as Kemal Atatürk of Turkey and Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, favoured Westernization, but it also sparked significant opposition due to its propensity to erase other peoples’ languages and cultural traditions.
In the context of world history, the term “westernisation” can be used to describe the dissemination and adoption of European concepts, institutions, and ways of life worldwide. The intensity and character of that transmission throughout the time of European colonisation and its attempts to alter the very consciousness of the peoples it encountered have received a lot of scholarly attention. Local traditions are increasingly incorporated (or assimilated) under purportedly “universal” norms, even if the means of transmission, the sites of contact, and the intellectual capital are no longer exclusively associated with Europe.“Westernisation,” which is linked to these uncontrollable and unfamiliar pressures on local societies, is frequently criticised by societies that are unable to deal with the rapid pace of technological change, the fluctuations of an interdependent global economy, or the insensitivity of a “international” community. As a result, the concept of “Westernisation” is still present in twenty-first century historical discourse and frames how researchers look at connections between cultures, regions, and countries.
Westernisation and the Indian Society
India is a secular nation where individuals are allowed to practise any religion they choose and to convert to a different one if they so choose. Therefore, Indians easily embrace and appreciate all civilisations. However, western culture, which is regarded as the most evolved civilisation in the world, began to impose its flavour on Indian origins when the British established their colony in India during the 19th century. Being One of the oldest and richest cultures in the world, Indian culture has a long history that spans many thousand years. It exhibits continuity and gradual change, with a strong third of Duty exemplified in the relative power of culture and singular exhibition of unity in variety. Which has had a significant impact on western culture on Indian society since the invasion of European power and the following British administration in India. Western culture is present in many different ways.Westernisation mostly affected metropolitan regions. However, some rural regions have greater western influences than others.Caste, joint families, marriage, and other social systems have all been impacted by westernisation. New institutions were introduced, such as the press and Christian missionaries. Indian value systems now include modern ideals like humanism, equality, and secularism. Our penal code has been updated. Untouchability was outlawed, and evil habits like sati came to an end. Governmental efforts to improve welfare have increased as a result of the introduction of the welfare state idea. Hindu society underwent extensive modifications through social reform groups like the Brahmo samaj, etc., which were encouraged by India’s middle class of Western-educated people. Numerous political and cultural movements, such as the one for the broad distribution of education and the abolition of caste, have evolved. the rise of a middle class with education as the leader of the freedom struggle. There have been a number of agents that have played a very significant role in increasing the adoption and influence of westernisation in India, namely, the British rule, the western culture, English education and many more.
Features of Westernisation in India
I. The value preferences of the non-western societies
Humanitarianism, which may be roughly defined as active concern for the wellbeing of all people regardless of societal inequities based on caste, economic status, religion, age, or sex, is the most significant virtue, which in turn subsumes numerous other values. The values of humanitarianism also include equality and secularisation. Humanitarianism refers to many of the British reforms that were implemented in the first half of the 19th century, such as the civil, criminal, and procedural laws that ended several disparities that were present in Islamic and Hindu law.
The abolition of slavery and the founding of new schools and colleges—which were, at least in theory, available to everyone regardless of religion, race, or caste—were examples of how the ideal of equality was put into practise. Although caste and other privileged groups who had historically resided in large cities were given access to the new economic possibilities, they really enjoyed significant advantages over others.
II. The introduction of reforms and new laws by the British led to several changes in the Indian customs which were earlier enforced as part of one’s religious duty
If a religious practice was to endure, it had to pass the morality and humaneness criteria. The rational and humane principles were deeply ingrained in the caste-based system as British control spread throughout India. These principles were effectively maintained through the formal education system that the British instituted.
III. Westernisation is an all-inclusive term
It covers a wide range of changes from western technology at one end to the experimental method of modern science and modern historiography at the other. In the field of technology, it has revolutionised the process of mass communication, transportation, industrialisation and improved health care facilities and has made available new comfortable gadgets for better living conditions. These changes are intimately linked with the life of the common man and have proved consequential.
IV. The process of Westernisation in India was uneven
A very small percentage of Indians had direct, face-to-face interactions with the British. Additionally, not everyone who interacted with the British officers was a catalyst for change. For instance, Indian servants to the British may have had considerable sway within their family groupings and local caste groups, but not among others. They frequently sprang from lower castes as well. They were only superficially westernised since the upper classes made fun of them.
V. The process of westernisation has neatly intensified in many ways since 1947
The foundation of Pax Britannica and the changes in communications that followed were the earliest and most important steps towards westernisation. The centuries-old isolation of the many populations living in the country’s distant regions was broken by the expansion of the administrative and trade boundaries. Similar opportunities for new interactions were created by the means of transportation and communication.
As a result, the improvement of connectivity and the reduction of obstacles caused by internal customs united the economies of the country’s many regions. In other words, India’s political and administrative integration, along with the growth of communication, the start of industrialisation, and the development of agriculture, increased the spatial and social mobility of both the elite and the rural poor, laying the groundwork for later national westernisation.
VI. The form and pace of Westernization of India varied from region to region and from one section of population to another
For instance, one group of individuals adopted western science, knowledge, and literature while keeping free from the exterior characteristics of westernisation, whereas another group assimilated western science, knowledge, and literature. For instance, Brahmins adopted western clothes and look, sent their kids to westernised schools, and utilised modern conveniences like the radio and vehicle, but they rejected British food, dance, hunting, and the British way of thinking about population.
Advantages of Westernisation in India
The western culture has had a negative impact on India in many ways, but it has also positively affected India in many others. For instance, it is modernising India. The very old and unchanging Indian culture is presently being altered by the western culture to become more contemporary.
II. Public Health
Sanitation and public health in India have significantly improved as a result of westernisation. Since health care has been more widely available, many western physicians have emigrated to India and created drugs that have contributed to the reduction of illnesses and disorders.
As a result of westernisation, sanitation and public health in India have considerably improved. Since access to healthcare has increased, many western doctors have moved to India and developed medications that have helped to lower the prevalence of diseases and disorders.
Indian education has benefited from westernisation as well. The number of schools built by the British during their occupation of India increased literacy rates and provided education for the lowest socioeconomic classes.
V. Entertainment Sphere
Media has also come to India as a result of westernisation. For instance, Hollywood in America gave rise to Bollywood, which is today one of the most well-known film production industries in India. India, its culture, heritage, and religion are now frequently shown in Bollywood films. In India, Bollywood is currently quite well-known. The influence of western culture has therefore enhanced Indian media as well.
Disadvantages of Westerisation in India
I. Can Lead to Adoption of Negative Practices from Other Cultures
Westernisation has many benefits; it also has negative consequences on a nation’s culture. The propensity to acquire unethical habits from other cultures is one such negative impact. Western society places a lot of emphasis on uniqueness, but too much of it can breed selfishness and make it difficult for someone to cooperate with others. They could view everyone else on the team as a rival and a barrier to their success.
We become less communal than Eastern culture as a result. The practise of placing the elderly in nursing homes makes this distinction clear. For certain eastern cultures that emphasise family and respect for the elderly, this idea is unfamiliar and maybe even immoral. It is customary in Eastern Cultures to provide your parents with as much assistance as you can. This custom can extend to taking care of your parents as they age and living with them.
Citizens who interact with western culture must be able to determine which attitudes and behaviours are advantageous to them personally and to their community as a whole. You should not, however, have a narrow view of other cultures. You must take care to shield oneself from dangerous and unethical views, though.
II. Can Prevent Local Culture from Being Passed on to the Next Generation
For the younger generation, constant exposure to western cultural influences might be detrimental. The biggest issue arises when people come into contact with western notions, lives, beliefs, and customs without being familiar with the culture of their own nation. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to carry on these traditions to the following generation if they do not learn about the beliefs, rituals, and practises of their ancestors. If information is not properly transmitted to these young people, a nation’s culture slips into obscurity, becomes lost, and is forgotten. In the end, the process also results in the loss of the nation’s and its citizens’ identities.
III. Can Cause the Loss of a Country’s Culture
The local population might get curious and awestruck by cultures from other nations. They may incorporate some ideas, customs, and practises into their way of life after learning about them in those other cultures. A nation’s culture, however, is at peril if its residents finally chose to replace their own ideas and customs with those of other countries. In such cases, the culture of that nation gradually deteriorates and could possibly vanish completely.
It’s a good idea to adopt a few customs and beliefs from other civilisations. It may improve and enrich local culture and replace outmoded, detrimental notions. However, citizens must recognise when the acceptance of foreign ideas goes too far and damages their culture.
IV. May cause Brain Drain
Professionals in one nation can think about relocating to another in search of better job possibilities. While this in and of itself is not a problem, the issue arises if a large portion of the workforce in that given nation also does the same. If unregulated, that nation would undoubtedly lose a significant number of highly talented and qualified individuals, which might be terrible for that nation’s economy.
If the majority of a country’s professionals choose to travel overseas for employment, some occupations have more substantial effects on that nation. Engineers and medical professionals in particular are two of the most important human resources a nation may have. Losing these personnel can have disastrous effects on preserving public health and safeguarding public safety through medical treatment and safe construction practises.
Instead of avoiding brain drain, countries must provide their people greater job prospects, competitive pay, and more extensive benefits and packages to entice them to work locally.
The Indian plate has accepted many western meals, and while western foods are gaining strength and popularity in Europe and Indian cuisines are declining in popularity in India, they are becoming more widespread there. The excessive fat content of Western meals is a contributing factor to the rising obesity epidemic in India. Pork and beef are forbidden in the Indian religion, but as western foods have proliferated, many Indians are no longer honouring their religion and are consuming items that are forbidden. This is altering many people’s lifestyles and causing the value of the Indian religion to decline.
Our particular identity is inextricably linked to our culture. We lack identity if we do not comprehend our own culture. Sadly, there is a global trend that jeopardises the continuation of all civilisations. Long-standing customs and traditions are threatened by Westernization, or the adoption of Western cultures by communities that do not typically follow Western traditions. Tezenlo Thong writes in” 'To Raise the Savage to a Higher Level:' The Westernization of Nagas and Their Culture," Modern Asian Studies, "'To Raise the Savage to a Higher Level:' The Westernization of Nagas and Their Culture' is a movement that is establishing itself globally through technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, clothing, and language.
Westernisation or modernisation can have advantages even though it might be seen as a terrible reality. At Paragon, we promote maintaining an open mind at all times. We respect all civilisations equally because ethnocentrism can cause a society to diverge. The globalisation of the economy and the development of more effective methods of manufacturing products and services have both benefited from westernisation. The modernisation of medical procedures, which increases life expectancy, is another advantage. A world with more information and the capacity to connect and exchange ideas internationally at the push of a button has also been made possible by westernisation.
There have been numerous detrimental effects of westernisation on India, but there have also been many positive ones. Overall, the benefits of westernisation outweigh the drawbacks by a wide margin. Nevertheless, as Indians it is our responsibility to keep the effects and impacts of westernisation in check while also trying to increase the knowledge about our culture, nationally and globally.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Westernisation". Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Feb. 2022, <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Westernization>. Accessed on 13th September, 2022.
2. Aung-Thwin, Maitrii "Westernisation: Southeast Asia." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Aug. 2022 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>. Accessed on 13th September, 2022.
3. Shashank Malviya, Influence of western culture on Indian society, Reader’s Blog by Timesof India (September 12, 2021), <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/know-your-rights/influence-of-western-culture-on-indian-society-37332/>. Accessed on 13th September, 2022.
4. Joel LalenglianaDarlong, Westernization-Features and Impact on Indian Society, Sociology Lens (February 18, 2021), <https://www.sociologylens.in/2021/02/westernization-features-and-impact-on.html>. Accessed on 14th September, 2022.
5. Uraib Nadeem, ‘How does westernisation have an impact on India and it's culture?’, <https://advantagesanddisadvantagesofwesternizat.weebly.com/how-does-westernization-have-an-impact-on-the-indian-culture.html>. Accessed on 14th September, 2022.
6. Denwa Sensei Editorial Team, THE PROS AND CONS OF WESTERN CULTURE, Denwa Sensei, <https://denwasensei.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-western-culture/>. Accessed on 15th September, 2022.
7. Westernisation: With the Bad Comes Good, Paragon (October 13, 2016), <https://www.paragonls.com/news-and-press/westernization-with-the-bad-comes-good>.Accessed on 15th September, 2022.
 Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Westernization". Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Feb. 2022, <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Westernization>. Ibid. Aung-Thwin, Maitrii "Westernization: Southeast Asia." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Aug. 2022 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.  Shashank Malviya, Influence of western culture on Indian society, Reader’s Blog by Times of India (September 12, 2021), <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/know-your-rights/influence-of-western-culture-on-indian-society-37332/>. Joel LalenglianaDarlong, Westernization-Features and Impact on Indian Society, Sociology Lens (February 18, 2021), <https://www.sociologylens.in/2021/02/westernization-features-and-impact-on.html>. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Uraib Nadeem, ‘How does westernization have an impact on India and it's culture?’, <https://advantagesanddisadvantagesofwesternizat.weebly.com/how-does-westernization-have-an-impact-on-the-indian-culture.html>.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid. Denwa Sensei Editorial Team, THE PROS AND CONS OF WESTERN CULTURE, Denwa Sensei, <https://denwasensei.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-western-culture/>.  Ibid.  Ibid.  Ibid. Uraib Nadeem, ‘How does westernization have an impact on India and it's culture?’, <https://advantagesanddisadvantagesofwesternizat.weebly.com/how-does-westernization-have-an-impact-on-the-indian-culture.html>. Westernization: With the Bad Comes Good, Paragon (October 13, 2016), <https://www.paragonls.com/news-and-press/westernization-with-the-bad-comes-good>  Ibid.