Significance of religion in rural society:
Throughout the present work it has been our effort to discuss different aspects of society with the reference of the historicity and societal needs of rural society. The same argument is raised here and in the following pages an attempt has been made to discuss the importance and significance of religion for the rural people. Following are some of the reasons which explain the status of religion in rural society:
Though agricultural scientists have developed enough scientific knowledge to increase the farm produce, land fertility by applying chemical manure and introducing an appropriate technology for saving manual labour, much of our agriculture still depends on nature. The villagers do not have much of scientific knowledge for the protection of crops. Nor can they afford to spend on technology. All these factors make a farmer to depend on nature.
The history of rural society makes it obvious that the people living in the countryside not only depend on nature for their agricultural operations, but their whole life is dominated by religion. In other words, not only the village economy but the total mindset of the people is determined by religion and rituals. This distinguishes it from the urban life. A.R. Desai scores a point when he stresses the importance of religion in rural India:
The religious outlook of the rural people overwhelmingly dominates their intellectual, emotional and practical life. It is difficult to locate any aspect of their life which is not permeated with and coloured by religion.
Their family life, caste life, general social life, economic and even recreational life are more or less governed by a religious approach and religious norms. Religious concessions also largely dominate their ethical standards; the form and content of their acts like painting, sculpture, architecture, folk songs, and others, as also their social and economic festivals.”
Religion occupies a core place in all the activities of rural life. In fact, the history of village settlements begins with the provision for the worship of a deity. There is a saying among Telugu people that for the habitation of a village settlement it is essential to have economic safeguards, some kind of medical facility, some provision for potable water and some Brahmin to officiate at the religious ceremonies.
Whoever may have been the ruler of the village a Rajput, a jamindar or a jagirdar, the intellectual and economic life of the people was controlled by priestly class. Here priestly class means the Brahmins. The traditions and conventions of the rural life were historically laid down by the Brahmin leaders.
And, hence the life of the village aggregate in all spheres was moulded in the spirit of religious ideas and dogmas and was controlled by religious institutions and leaders. Contrarily, in the urban community, the priestly class does not succeed much in influencing the educated and scientifically awakened people.
Admittedly, the role of religion in rural society even today continues to occupy an important place. In fact, its importance is at the crossroads. There has come a new economic and political environment which strikes at the importance of religion.
More and more people are becoming secular, democratic and oriented to scientific ethics. It indicates that the battle line between religiosity and secularism has been drawn. It appears that soon rural religion would take a course of change which is evident in urban society.