General Studies Essay Paper: Cultural transition in 21st Century

21st Century

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)


Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: Art & Culture


Cultural transition in 21st Century.



India has over the centuries been a home to many different peoples and cultures and has evolved a synthetic, composite, and multi-culturally constituted common culture. Change is the Law of Nature. Social change depends on many factors, and with the current pattern of time the cycle of human civilization moves. Modern India, too, is fast drifting to a new conception of civilization, which promises her many a new boon in the domain of economic and political achievements.

If we assess the social change that have occurred in the Indian society from the middle of the 19th century, we notice the two directions in which such changes have proceeded.

  • Certain changes in the traditional values and conventions have been wholly beneficial and are the result of the social reform movements which had or marginal influence on the society during the second half of the 19th century but gathered momentum since 1920’s when the Indian National Movement became mass based.
  • The second set of changes which have been increasing in intensity or coverage throughout the 20th century particularly after Independence, constitute the disturbing features of the present Indian society and have generally turned out to be serious problems. Such features are increasing (now explosive) population, increasing disorganization at all levels, crass materialism coupled with religiosity but without morality, increase in sophisticated crimes and socio-economic crimes, etc.
  • And in 21st the age of technology, where digital world is being built, and social life has changed a lot. Now  We are living in a highly privileged society where families have transformed from joint set-up to single, individual or nuclear families. Cultural know-hows of one generation usually gets passed on to the next generation through word-of-mouth and continuous practice.


Some of the major areas in which social change is significant in the post-Independent India are the caste system, status of women, the status and role of backward classes, family, etc

Social change in India may be considered as a process through which definite alterations in the structures and functions of a particular social system result.  A particular social change may be good or bad, desirable or undesirable, sacred or profane, progressive or regressive depending upon the views and understanding of the observer. It is to be understood that when a particular social change occurs it will be evaluated in the light of the ideals, goals and theories of the observer.

The change implies continuity. Only when certain existing conditions, situations or things are partially modified we use the term ‘change’. So change and continuity coexist. Any social change may produce discernible and widespread changes in social structures, functions, behaviour, values, norms, and ways of life, attitudes, roles and status. Regarding social changes, sociologists have made detailed studies and have formulated various theories on the direction of change, factors of change and areas of change.

Modern India is passing through a transition

The term ‘institutionalisation’ refers to the standardisation or making/building a standardised pattern over the years. People living in a society begin to accept these norms or set patterns as part of their living and think that they have to live by these norms each and everyday of their lives.

This is where the concept of ‘institutionalisation’ sets in. Our society relies on education for their fundamental living, for finding jobs and getting better plans in society. It is education that culturally guides them to extend cordial behaviour and live in co-operation and harmony with others.

From our forefathers, we have inherited the spirit of scientific thinking. Science is the abstract knowledge or the core institution that we fundamentally received from our ancestors. The turning point or the application of this knowledge in user specific ways has created more modern society for us.

But the scientific institution from where we received and are passing on the basic fundamentals remain unchallenged. People have moved beyond this institution and not challenged scientific ethics after a certain point. The challengers lie in effective utilization of resources for meaningful and purposeful services to mankind.

The foundation of modern education was laid on the edifice of traditional education whose content was esoteric and metaphysical and which was limited to the upper classes or twice-born castes. Modern education, on the contrary, had a liberal and exoteric content along with scientific worldview, humanism .

Our customs and traditions are changing fast

New beliefs are replacing old ones. The barriers of caste, color, province and religion are gradually breaking. Inter-caste marriages are coming to stay. We even hear of inter-religious marriages.

With time and technological advancement, reasoning and scientific temper replace age-old traditions, customs, religious beliefs and orthodox values. The aspect of ‘questioning’ our customs is not a very healthy motion though. Many traditional practices that were followed still have a connection with the world of science, only if we dug deeper into the subject matter.

The relation or inter-connection would be lost or forgotten in the course of time leading to selective changes and adaptive transformations in the way we see and understand religion and traditions as a whole. Religion should be a part of cultural upliftment and not a barrier in itself.

Indian society on adapting cross culture

The older generations are now opening up to accept good and collective points of other cross cultures as well. We can broadly say that Indian culture to some extent has had a shadow of British influence in the past. Nevertheless our ancestors made sure to pull it back and behold the cultural enigma in a nutshell and preserved if for years. The grandeur of this lost tradition was somehow protected and put in its place.

With time, our people have got falsely attracted to pseudo western values and cultures making them think twice about embracing their own culture. For example, yoga practices are part and parcel of our own Indian culture, slowly making big business in the west. The Indian community embraced yoga to greater levels after the western community gave it recognition. Definitely, Indian society is at crossroads.

Revamping  social life

They say, father is the head of the family and it’s good to have the whole family for dinner. This was a thing of the past. Now, our lives are ruled by gadgets, people work in flexible hours and the cultural togetherness has become more of a matter of social re-union.

Earlier, joint families played a very vital role in our society. The older and younger generations interacted with each other and perceived, understood and imbibed our cultural values. When this set-up got slowly replaced by a nuclear family setup, cultural value transfer took a backseat. Time for daily chores, the need for one’s independence, career boost and gained more and more importance leading to severe social restructuration.

Paradigm shift from selfless to selfishness

India is a country with a lot of social issues. Some have been addressed, others are yet to gain a platform. ‘Giving’ has been a part of our greater culture since years. Apart from the common man who ‘gave’ to society-in-need in the form of charity, rulers, beings and their counterparts donated for the welfare of society and people.

In today’s world ‘giving’ is no more a fancy word found in cultural textbooks, it is part of a greater form of ‘contribution’. NGOs make name and fame by being part of this ‘philanthropy’! People do not necessarily refer to their culture to be part of philanthropy.

They seek relief from their taxable income, so as a means to their financial upliftment too, things have taken a dramatic change. For good reasons and on value based moral grounds, philanthropy has more outreach with advanced technology, people contribute in modern ways and has become a synonymous task with politicians too.

Paving way for new classes

In ancient India when classes where prevailing  on economic grounds, the backward classes or peers classes took the lowest stream in society, followed by the middle class and then the upper class. The cultural values travelled in the other way, the upper class believed to be culturally more significant too.

The situation today is different. We have the modern class which is believed to be flying high with modern waves, yet has a touch of cultural roots attached to it. The ultra-modern classes that are believed to be taken off the cultural radar and living in a liberal society.

The gates-buffet model

People of the younger generation discard their cultural connection, way ahead to see a path of money making. Today, their role models are based on the likes of Gates and Waren Buffet. What makes this model interesting is the five fold theory it is composed of. The first working principle is the glory built with the vision they sought in their minds. People get attracted to the beauty of this glory.

The second principle is ruling out distractions on the way and focusing on the path to success. The third principle exemplifies efficiency, perseverance in our tasks. The fourth principal talks about is social status and well being arising out of his work. The fifth principle exudes inspiration to others on account of our well being.

These words are seen in role models like Gates and Buffet as per the choices of the present generations. In reality, these words can be found way back in our Bhagavad Gita and has been treasured for long in our cultural values.

Decline of traditional education system and values

Religion is different from culture. Religion lays down certain principles that have to be followed in order to practice and preach specific belief. Culture on the other hand teaches a humane way of leading life. No religious text book will go far without the periphery of culture. Religion is the inner stuff and culture is like the extend contact periphery that helps follow religion in the righteous way.

For long, India has been a place of cultural extravaganza and is rich in its value-system. But slowly, due to the mindset prevailing and a bid to take people off their cultural roots, things like corruption and other social evils are thriving.

Traditional cultural institutions in the form of Gurukuls imparted knowledge and education to children in earlier days. The British invasion in India brought along formal education system and also imposed syllabi and rote learning methods.

So, to a great extent, Christian missionaries had a very huge impact on our education system. To a certain known perimeter, our culture and values still found a place in these textbooks but with modernity, that started declining.

India still has its huge share of institutions concerned with the likes of cultural roots of India. Things look bleak when we see the number of patrons and the general public associated with these institutions. Though they impart cultural knowledge in their medium, the number of takers is scanty. There is demand for knowledge in the cultural sphere, but people prefer going the western way.

Social Mobility

Travelling to foreign shores in olden days was considered a taboo. Such practices had no base and were precariously removed. Many such upliftment were a welcome move. Along with this, population shift towards the European and American countries began with a steady rise.

So, we could see cross culture exchanges happening at a fast rate. This mixed with other cultures and gave rise to a new concepts of multi-lingual, multi-ethical culture. These days our cultural system is more accessible, acceptable and mobile too.

Diversity of India

India is not just about Indians. We have people across nations, finding homes here. That is an external bird view. Internally within our own country, we have people from diverse cultures, of various beliefs and values coming together, tying themselves up on the common ground of being an Indian.

The composite cultural makeup of India has led to the concept of unity in diversity. We are one nation but we follow different religions, speak different languages, have cultural difference, yet accept each other on the sole grounds of being on Indian first.

With cross cultural interactions and multi ethnic cultures making in roads and affecting our values in small and big ways, there sure is a long way ahead to be travelled.

Cultural migration in India

Be it festivals, food practices, important days, ceremonies or events, there is a natural cultural affiliation attached to each one of them. Overtime, things change, get more updated with the time and that is when we see a part of our practices seeking a migration.

We can definitely see our cultural systems seeking more modern ways and approaches that suits different mindsets. It is about opening up to allow fresh cease of air. While letting out those threads that seems outdated and irrelevant at present times.

New cities are being planned on western lines

The markets are flooded with Western articles. If we look into our daily routine, we shall find it more akin to West than to ancient India. The articles of our everyday life have been taken from the Western world though many of them are now made in India. Cloth is cut to suit the latest fashion of the West. The day is not far off when even our ladies will not hesitate to adopt Western customs. Our screen is also in tune with Hollywood. Contemporary fictions and stories are full of romanticism, realism and intellectualism, of the Western World. Our poetry is passing through a rapid change on Western lines. In art, we find impressionism as the latest trend.

Modernism & traditional socio-ethical values

When we see modernisation of our culture, it does not mean leaving behind what was there and bringing in something that was non-existent. The concept of modernism in cultural contexts simply mean that we move ahead with our times. In a traditional social set-up, the families refrained from staying differently in individual houses. A joint set up with a primary head of the family was the norm.

Today we have small units living happily in cities. It is a necessity today. We no longer see large, joint family systems everywhere. It has become a rarity now. This concept does not mean that people have forgotten their ethics or customs or traditions. They still follow them. Festivals are still celebrated at homes. Only the way in which it is celebrated must have changed, owing to changing times and traditions.

Occupational diversification

Earlier a son used to carry on his father’s business and this continued for many more generations in the future. Today, if the father is in a particular city, his son may be working on an offshore unit. Times have changed occupations and opportunities have diversified mindsets have also changed accordingly. The bonding and cultural roots remain the same. But that does not inhibit a person to explore out of his boundary.

Cultural values impart good ethics in humans. Indians have always been enriched culturally. Indians are known for their good culture and mannerisms. No matter where we are employed or where we study, we should leave behind our negative traits. We should not forget our cultural setups and values that we are made of.



Transformations happen in the world at every sphere and every aspect of life. With improved science and technology, lives are more modernized. Thinking and reasoning has changed. People go back to their cultures as a reference point.

What is required is a dynamic and not reactionary approach to the problems. It is not the question of Indian or Western, ancient or modern, but the problem of value. And the solution is relative to particular circumstances. It requires a detached and scientific attitude. Truth should be taken from wherever it comes. Forms do not matter much, so long as the essence is kept alive. Above all, the contemporary Indians and have to maintain our individuality in the comity of nations. The spirit of India must be retained. The rest may change according to the needs of the time.


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