TRACING THE SOCIAL MOBILITY OF NON-BRAHMIN BENGALIS IN 19TH CENTURY BENGAL THROUGH BENGALI SURNAMES
Back to Page
Nandini Roy Choudhury
Bengal, social mobility, non-Brahmins, British, vernecular newspapers
In the wake of the 19th century the implementation of education policies under British was an important phenomenon that consolidated the formation of the British Empire. The ideology and psychology of liberalism heavily influenced the standards of education policies in the Empire. Bengal is an important administrative and economic dominion in the 19th century and has witnessed the rise of the middle-class intelligentsia, commonly known as ‘Bhadroloks’. ‘Bhadraloks’ were well versed with the English inspired educational techniques, methodology and mindset. Initially, Brahmins who belonged to the highest rung of the social ladder were exposed to the concept of education which was practiced in pre-colonial India. With the execution of education policies under the British, the realm of education started penetrating the non-Brahmin population of the society. ‘Padabi’ or surname is the suffix used to denote the ranking and identification in the social order. A stable trend of social mobility was noticed among the intelligentsia irrespective of caste status and functionality of the ‘padabi’. Engagement of non-Brahmin intelligentsia in contemporary socio-political events, print media increased gradually. In my paper I intend to show the steady social mobility, upward escalation of the non-Brahmins; the changing social status of their existing padabis and the importance of educated ‘class’ irrespective of primitive caste concept in 19th century Bengal.