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Paper No: 2005/1 - Sects and Indian Social Structure

Sects and Indian Social Structure


A. M. Shah


This paper analyses, through empirical data and review of literature, the phenomenon of sect in Indian society, and pleads for its recognition as a structural principle of society as a whole rather than merely of religion. It considers the sect/non-sect distinction more basic than the caste/sect distinction, and the long held necessary relation between renunciation and sect as limiting a proper understanding of both. It described the social organization of sect, taking an integrated view of the laity and leadership, contrary to the overwhelming importance given to the latter. It examines the relation of sect with caste, including untouchable caste, and tribe. It tries to place sect in the context of sanskritic culture, including its intellectual life. Finally, it raises the issue of changes in sects in modern times and the problem of their study.

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