He defines theterm ‘dominant caste’ as, “A caste may be said to be “dominant” whenit preponderates numerically over the other castes, and when it also wieldspreponderant economic and political power. A large and powerful caste group canbe more easily dominant if its position in the local caste hierarchy is not toolow” (Srinivas, 1955, p.18).
It is interesting to note that he was unconsciouslyinfluenced by the Caste Hindu’s identity throughout his work. The work,”Dominant Caste and Other Essays” is a study on Rampura village in south India andit could be viewed as a collection of fallacious narratives instituted toconstruct a sound base for Sanskritization. It is so because he says “by astrange quirk of fate all the three copies of my fieldwork notes, processedover a period of eighteen years” were in my study at the Centre when a fire wasstarted by arsonists” (Srinivas, 1992) which is mentionedin his work “The Remembered Village”. For Srinivas, everything destroyedcould be extracted from his flashback to corroborate his theoretical frameworkwithout evidence or data. It is not a surprisefor the readers because it has also happened in his anotherwork titled “Religion and Society Among the Coorgs” (1952). According toSrinivas, Dominant caste in Ramapura are peasants owing to the facts that theyare numerically higher, economically sound and politically powerful. They holdthe power over the lands. But they are Shudras, ranked fourth in the castehierarchy below the Brahmins.
They are ritually lower than the Brahmins and thedominant castes are found only in traditional villages. His conceptualisationof dominant caste may in fact be resembled to Forrest’s study on ‘Ruling Class’of Africa (Forrest, 1987).It could be observed further is, hat while developing the concept, he was insentientinfluenced by Pritchard’s observation on dominant clans and dominant lineage amongthe Nuer people (Beidelman, ThomasOwen. & Evans-Pritchard, E. E, 1971). Srinivas observes that, “theritual rank of Peasants is not very high.
While they do rank above theUntouchables and such low castes as the Swineherd, they are well below Brahminsand Lingayats” (Srinivas, 1995, p.98). It means, the dominant caste may actas an ideal model to the lower caste group. He emphasizes that although thedominant castes have had some characteristics of numerical, economic orpolitical elements, their lower ritual rank indicates tthe Brahmaniccomplex of ritual superiority in the caste hierarchy. Therefore, lower castepeople imitate upper caste’s behaviour, ritual pattern, customs etc. In otherwords, he meant indirectly that Untouchables don’t have customs alike the CasteHindus has. To recall, they undergo the process of Sanskritization for being a partof the dominant castes having a higher ritual ranking.
To describe the conceptSanskritization is “Alow caste was able, in a generation or two, to rise to a higher position in thehierarchy by adopting vegetarianism and teetotalism, and by Sanskritizing itsritual and pantheon. In short, it took over, as far as possible, the customs,rites, and beliefs of the Brahmins, and the adoption of the Brahminic way oflife by a low caste seems to have been frequent, though theoreticallyforbidden.” (Srinivas, 1952, p. 29). In this way, they help in cultural dissemination. Srinivas’snotion of dominant caste echoes that the peasants are Shudras and they are neversupposed to be hold land and but they do with their political, economic andnumerical dominance. It is obvious with his statement that, “overthe last fifty years or more, the dominance of Peasants has increased inRampura.
The available evidence indicates that in the early years of this centuryBrahmins owned a considerable quantity of irrigated land in the village. TheBrahmins were the first to sense the new economic opportunities opened to themthrough Western education, and they gradually moved to the towns to enter the newwhite-collar professions. Urban living, the cost of educating children, and thehigh dowries which the new education and economic opportunities had broughtabout, gradually caused the Brahmins to part with their land.
Much of this landpassed to non-Brahmins, especially the Peasants, during the years 1900-1948 (Srinivas, 1995,p.98)”. His general argument aboutthe presence of dominant caste being not particular to Rampura but generallyeverywhere in India is dubious; such as in Mysore the Lingayat and Okkaliga; inMaharashtra, Maratha; in Tamilnadu, Gounder, Padayachi and Mudaliar; in AndhraPradesh, Reddy and Kamma; in Kerala, Nayar or Nair; in Gujarat, Patidar; and innorthern India, Rajput, Jat, Giyar and Ahir are dominant castes. In his work, it appears that it was a feudalzamindari system pursuantly rooted in rural India. It is obvious that they werenot Shudras or Brahmins (Aggarwal, 2009). Forinstance, the Nairs of Kerala is not a lower caste but they are upper caste inthe hierarchy.
Their hierarchical position is equated to the brahmins or kshatriyasaccording to the Hindu social order. His binaryapproach towards the high castes as ‘native’ and low castes as ‘aliens’ or’internal others’ habitually reflects in his work. To quote Srinivas’sstatement, “At the endof World War I, most of the important posts in the Government of Mysore wereheld by Brahmins, and Non-Brahmin leaders realized that they must get Westerneducation if they wanted position and power. Agitation was started for theinstitution of scholarships to help non-Brahmin youths study in schools and colleges,for reservation of seats for non-Brahmins in medical and technologicalcolleges, and for preference in appointments to government posts.
Thenon-Brahmin agitation succeeded, and gradually a number of rules discriminatingagainst the Brahmins were evolved by the Government of Mysore. As a result ofthese measures there has come into existence since the late thirties a Western-educatednon-Brahmin intelligentia” (Srinivas, 1995, p.98-99).