The Indian Mosaic

  • Ramesh Thakur
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


The view of India and Indians that persists abroad is narrow and stereotypical. It is derived from an amalgam of the writings of Rudyard Kipling, the mimicry of Peter Sellers and the heart-tugging advertisements of such charitable organisations as World Vision and Oxfam. Personal contacts with the proprietor and family of the neighbourhood dairy store may be leavened with the romanticism of films and television productions like Heat and Dust, The Far Pavilions, The Jewel in the Crown and Gandhi. The resulting picture that most Westerners have of India is an odd and contradictory mix of falsehoods, half-truths and fantasies:
  • India is a poor country with few resources;

  • India has little manufacturing and industrial capacity;

  • India’s overpopulation causes starvation and hunger on a large scale;

  • India is a land of handsome, charming and rich princes and maharajas;

  • Indians are heirs to an ancient civilisation that emphasises self-sacrificing asceticism, spiritualism and a stable family life;

  • India is full of beggars, child-brides, bride-burners, corrupt officials and self-serving politicians;

  • India is chaotic and disordered;

  • India’s nationhood is fatally flawed by divisions of religion, caste and ethnicity;

  • India’s defence forces are large in manpower but neither modernised nor well-equipped;

  • India is a nuclear power;

  • India is a regional bully;

  • India has little real influence in world affairs.


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Further Reading

  1. Brass (1990). An excellent survey of India’s political history since 1947.Google Scholar
  2. Dumont (1970). A brilliant and highly influential attempt to theorise the caste system around the concept of status, the separation of status and power, and notions of purity and impurity.Google Scholar
  3. Grewal (1990). A balanced account which examines the gamut of political, economic, cultural and demographic developments over the entire span of Sikh history.Google Scholar
  4. Hasan (1995). Written by a leading Indian Islamic scholar, the book is an account of the history of Indian Muslims, their main currents of thought, their fears and anxieties and the effects of social, economic and legal changes on them.Google Scholar
  5. Jeffrey (1994). A study of the changing nature of Punjabi society, and in particular of the impact of ‘modernisation’. The updated second edition also examines the larger themes of ethnic conflict and threats to national unity.Google Scholar
  6. Manushi: A journal about Women and Society. Essential — but not always pleasant — reading for anyone interested in the subject of women in Indian society.Google Scholar
  7. Phadnis (1989). An influential study of ethnic identities and movements.Google Scholar
  8. Rudolph and Rudolph (1967). An enduring study of the dialectical relationship between tradition and modernity in caste associations, the Indian legal system and the personality of Mahatma Gandhi.Google Scholar
  9. Sowell (1990). An excellent cross-national study of the effects of preferential policies.Google Scholar
  10. Srinivas (1962). An important study of politics and social change by one of India’s most distinguished sociologists.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ramesh Thakur 1995

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  • Ramesh Thakur

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