Little and Great Traditions

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Little and Great Traditions


In order to understand the Indian society from a systematic point of view, it is necessary that we study all those ‘traditions’ from which the Indian social system has its distinctiveness. The rural social system is even more important from the point of view of traditions. Indian society is composed of many types of traditions, rituals, customs and religious beliefs due to being very diverse. In order to study Indian society, some scholars have clarified it on many traditional bases like Varna, Dharma, Karma, Purushartha, Prashram etc. While some other scholars have considered the rural primary and social system as the basis of the discussion of Indian society. have taken . Such an approach is not correct. In fact, Indian rural system has been able to maintain its distinct identity due to some of its distinctive local traditions and characteristics. Before we study the Little and Great traditions in detail, let us understand what is the tradition?

 What is Tradition ? 


In very general terms, tradition is called the Ways of Behavior. The combined form of ideas, customs, values, beliefs, religions, customs, practices etc. prevailing in the society can be broadly called tradition. James Drever has defined tradition as “that collection of laws, customs, stories and legends which are fundamentally passed down from one generation to another.” Morris Ginsburg wrote that “of tradition”. Meaning is the sum of all those ideas, practices and practices, which belong to a community of individuals and keep on being transferred from one generation to another.” Prof. Yogendra Singh while explaining tradition in ‘Tradition and Modernity in India’ has written that “Tradition is the accumulated heritage of a society, which prevails at all levels of social organization, such as value system, social structure and individual structure. ” 3 | Thus we see that tradition is that non-material aspect of social heritage (customs, customs, practices, ideas, beliefs, customs, religions, laws, etc.), which are the accepted Ways of Behavior. ) and whose continuity is maintained through the process of transmission from generation to generation. There are three major streams of cultural traditions in Indian society which have been called as cultural sub-structures. Doctor . Unnithan, Indradev and Yogendra Singh have kept them in three parts.

1. Elite – Sub – Structure
. 2 . Folk – Sub – Structure , and

3. Tribal – Sub – Structure .

Here we should note that the main area of ​​the folk sub-structure has been ‘rural India’ and ‘urban India’ of elite traditions. It should not be construed as such.

Elements of aristocratic tradition in rural India and folk tradition in urban India are not found? Indeed, both these traditions and their elements are so close to each other that they cannot be understood separately?


Robert Redfield, on the basis of his study, for the first time proved that every civilization is built from traditions. According to the graph, on the one hand, the traditions of aristocratic people or a few thinking people come, and on the other, the traditions of people or illiterate farmers. The former is called the Great Tradition and the latter is called the Little Tradition. Each tradition has its own social by measure. There is organization i.e. there are institutional roles, statuses and workers. Both traditions are understood as symbols of a worldview that represents the unity of civilization. It is clear from the above statement of Robert Redfield that the small traditions are represented by the masses or illiterate farmers and the low traditions are represented by the elite or reflective people. . Therefore, it is necessary that we explain the meaning of small and big tradition and explain the mutual exchange or interaction of these two traditions in the rural society of India.



Meaning of Little and Great Tradition 

Robert Redfield, the architecture of the temples and palaces of the Maya culture of Mexico, refined banana, astronomy, almanac, literature written in hieroglyphs, the tradition based on gods and nature forces and religion, and vice versa, small villages and monasteries. The activities of earning life, crafts, village and its related organization and religion based on nature, found in the cities of the city, were called by the name of small tradition.

According to Robert Redfield, the vast tradition is nurtured in schools and temples. The small tradition develops and sustains itself in the lives of the illiterate of rural communities. The tradition of the philosopher, theologian and literary man is such a tradition which is deliberately declared and transferred. The tradition of small people is mostly considered intuitive and it is not specially rectified and improved. The major and minor traditions develop first because of their own creative power and then they are influenced by the traditions of external civilizations. This happens through historical contact, war, political influence or communication. Redfield believes that civilizations and their social structures also change through these external contacts. You believe that all structures arise on the basis of their own creative power and are subject to change by external contact.


In general terms, it can be said that if any tradition related to cultural or religious life has no relation with the original religious texts, that tradition is prevalent in a small area and most of the people do not understand its real meaning, then such We call the tradition a small tradition. This means that a small tradition has a local area. Beliefs that develop gradually within a small area take the form of a religious act after some time. As a result, such beliefs and religious actions take the form of minor traditions.


Robert Redfield says that generally the tradition of illiterate farmers is considered as a minor tradition. The ego develops in a community of illiterate farmers and it is here that it gets its stability. In India, if we try to see them, then we see that they are gods and goddesses, religious rituals, customs, fairs, festivals, literature, music and various cultural elements which have all India religious texts like – Vedas, Puranas, Mahabharata. Documents written in Ramayana, Upanishads, Gita and other similar texts are found, keep them under Great Tradition. go. On the other hand, those deities, festivals, religious rituals, customs, fairs, folk tales, folk songs, folk dances, magic rituals and other cultural activities, which are not described in written form in All India religious texts and other books. Found and which are mainly passed on from generation to generation in oral form, are found under ‘Little Tradition’. Both these traditions have been observed in India since very ancient times and these traditions also have their own characteristics.

Both these traditions have also been very close to each other, the people related to them have also been in close contact with each other. As a result, there is a constant interaction between these traditions. – Doctor . NS . across. Chouhan has explained the difference between the major traditions and minor traditions by tabulating them as follows on the basis of the study done in the village ‘Ranawat ki Sadri’ of Rajasthan.

Small Traditions In Local Written Unwritten Content Classical and Cultural Unclassical More Systematic Less Systematic More Reflective Less reflective The framework of analysis proposed by Robert Redfield was used by Mackim Marriot, Milton Singer and their colleagues in India. To understand the process of social change. Mackim Marriott, on the basis of his study of Kishangarhi, a village in Uttar Pradesh, has tried to explain the interaction between the Wahat and the minor traditions through ‘Parochialization’ and ‘Universalization’. and Dr. Yogendra Singh has told that in this approach there is a basic idea, social organization of civilization and tradition. This approach is based on the evolutionary view that the structure of a civilization or tradition (which consists of both cultural and social structures) develops in two phases.

1. Orthogenetic or Idigenous Evolution
2 . Hetrogenetic Contacts . with other Cultures or Civilizations



The social structure of these civilizations operates at two levels – first, at the level of the common people, illiterate people and second, at the level of the elite or some thinking people. The cultural processes that come under the first form the minor tradition, and the cultural processes falling under the second make up the great tradition. There is a constant interaction between these two levels of traditions.




Little and Great Tradition – Interrelation and Difference 


By understanding the meaning of minor and major traditions, we can conclude that while there is one more interdependence between these two traditions, there is also a difference between them. As far as interdependence is concerned, it has been seen that both these traditions have been influencing each other for a long time, and are doing the same.


Robert Redfield wrote that “the great and minor traditions can be seen as two streams of thought and action, which are separate from each other but still intertwining and flowing through each other.” The picture of their relationship will be almost like the histomps that we sometimes see, that is, the diagrams which show the rise and change in the chronological order of religions and civilizations.


In relation to how the larger tradition reached the common people, V. Raghavan (V. Raghavan) has written that “Hindu kings-Maharajas used to establish huge funds for singing Hindu epics in the temples built by them.” About southern India, it has been written that “there are Hindu king temples. They used to give donations for the recitation of ancient epics, especially the Ramayana. These stories were not only recited, but were spread through devotional songs by singers on the go. Thus philosophers, religious thinkers, sages and storytellers Through this, the Baht tradition was passed on to the common people of the villages or the people belonging to the minor tradition.


Pro . Yes . Von Unbaum has described how conflicts, associations, and interactions took place between the Islamic larger culture and the local cultures. He writes that “that is to say that one of these ways of life is considered more advanced than the other, that authority is the basis of authority, it is expressed in the creations of the elite as well as in their public activities. Social respect depends on adopting them. The Islamic way of life in Dareslam (Dara-Islam) is generally in a state of high tradition. In contrast, the Lagha tradition is a form of popular undercurrent, its effectiveness is still felt by intellectuals, but formalized: it is not accepted. “Where the sub-fantasies of many traditions are considered as beliefs, the sub-concepts of the minor traditions are considered as superstitions. In reality, the social status of a person depends on whether he falls between these two traditions. Who decides to accept in his life, thus according to you, the major and minor traditions complement each other, and they keep on interacting.


If we consider from each other basis the fundamental values ​​and world-view of small and big traditions, then we know that these traditions are similar but still there are differences in them. Robert Redfield has written that it can be said that the world view of the minor traditions of India is polytheistic, occult and demonstrative, while the intellectual and moral outlook of the various streams of the larger Vedic tradition is different from these. The Vedas are polytheistic and poetic, the Upanishads are abstractly monotheistic and wholly theistic, while the important Vaishnava and Shaiva sects are theistic and moralistic. We can see similar differences elsewhere as well.

Redfield has tried to explain by giving an example from India, how the strong tradition develops and then how the cultural elements of that tradition are found in the form of minor traditions even in the villages. Redfield takes for this a famous religious text of India ‘Ramayan’. According to you, a poet named Valmiki composed this epic on the basis of material stories or fables and this story became a part of the high tradition of India. From the ninth century to the sixteenth century it was translated into many popular languages ​​of India, and in these translated forms it was sung and promoted by professional singers of the cultural structure.

In the sixteenth century, a saint named Tulsidas wrote it in Hindi language, which was read on the occasion of many villages and festivals. This interpreter of the high cultural tradition created a kind of original-source text. It is said that this text is more prevalent in Indian villages than the Bible in the villages of England. But with the passage of time Tulsidas’s Hindi became difficult for the villagers. He added his local popular words to it. Now an interpreter is needed to understand this basic text of Indian village. This interpretation is done on the occasion of the festival of ‘Ramlila’. There are two types of people participating in the act of Rama and Sita and the war stories with Ravana. A pundit from the high or great tradition finds it on the stage and reads from this Hindi text of the sixteenth century, and goes on interpreting it. It is necessary to read this book, because it is a holy book. But it is difficult to understand it. That is why when a pandit is studying, a nut (usually an illiterate rural person)



It is clear from these examples that the direction of cultural flow is not only from Wahat tradition to Ladh tradition but also from the minor tradition to the great tradition. It must be ill-advised that as much as the Small Tradition is taking from the Greater Tradition, that tradition is not as much from the Small Tradition. Even after all this, we have to keep in mind that there is enough difference between these two concepts. Some of the major differences are as follows

(1) Major traditions are generally mentioned in ancient written scriptures, whereas minor traditions have no direct relation to the work of any original scripture. Then these minor traditions are also unwritten and only in the form of a belief (belief) these traditions are followed by the local people.

(2) The great traditions are very widespread, that is, their nature is national. While the scope of minor traditions is limited and generally local, this is the reason why minor traditions of different regions differ greatly from each other.

(3) Large traditions are generally more related to the elite, reflective and urban people, whereas the development of small traditions is mostly done by the people of rural, trained and farming class.

(4) Great traditions are generally found in a very systematic form, the nature of rules, rituals, rituals, prohibitions etc. related to these traditions are very clear. Small traditions are disordered in the sense that the rules of behavior related to them are not completely fixed and determined. Jam

(5) The subject matter of the great traditions is classical. That is, these traditions are very ancient and mythological and last forever. On the contrary, the basis of minor traditions is considered to be unscriptural, their nature is neither mythical nor their effect is compulsive.

( 6) Major traditions are passed on in writing from one generation to another, while minor traditions are generally passed from one generation to another. are transmitted orally across generations. Thus we see that there is a substantial difference between these two traditions. The Great Tradition can also be called ‘Elite Tradition’ and the Minor Tradition as ‘Folk Tradition’. Doctor . Unnithan, Indradev and Yogendra Singh have used the concept of great tradition and minor tradition in the form of aristocratic and folk traditions. According to him, these are two sub-structures of Indian culture, which complement each other. The existence of each of these is related to each other. These two are very closely related to each other. These can be called ‘dimensions’ of each other. It is very difficult to separate these two traditions from each other, although they are fundamentally different from each other. The elite tradition is more systematic, specific and self-conscious than the folk tradition. But in fact, in order to understand any one of these traditions, it is necessary that we should try to understand it in the context of the other tradition itself. Doctor . Shyama Charan Dubey and some other sociologists have criticized the dualisation of traditions in the form of small and large traditions. Doctor . Dubey believes that the analysis of cultural changes on the basis of the concept of minor and major traditions is not satisfactory, because the organization of traditions in India is not in the form of ‘bipolar’ system but ‘multi-polar’. Happened as arranged.

 Dubey says that “as far as the minor and major traditions are concerned, no definite definition can be given. Where there is more than one great or many great traditions, each of them has its own certified texts and moral codes of conduct, makes the situation even more complicated. It may be said that the context framework of the Great and Minor Traditions is appropriate for contemplating the role and importance of regional, western and emerging national traditions, each of which is powerful in its own way. does not provide the field.” ] –


Dr. Dubey has classified the traditions into six forms as an alternative to the above contextual framework.  . According to Dubey these six traditions are as follows:

(1) Classical tradition.

(2) Emerging national tradition.

(3) Regional tradition.

(4) Western tradition.

(5) Local traditions of social groups.

(6) Sub-cultural traditions.

Doctor . In Dubey’s mind the above classification is more representative of Indian cultural realities, and makes a good reference book for analysis. According to you, each of these types of tradition should be studied in rural and urban context.
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