Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee | His LifeWorks & Contributions

Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee

Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee


  • Here, we would like to highlight DP’s (Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee) contribution to the following:
    • Personality
    • Modern Indian Culture
    • Traditions
    • Nature and Method of Sociology
    • Role of New Middle Classes
    • Making of Indian History
    • Modernization
    • Music

Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee Personality:

  • DP once told with a sense of humor that he propounded the thesis of ‘Purusha’.
  • The ‘Purusha’ is not isolated from society and the individual.
  • Nor is he under the hold of the group mind.
  • The Purusha establishes the relationship with others as an active agent and discharges responsibilities.
  • His argument is that the ‘Purusha’ grows as a result of his relations with others and, thus, occupies a better place among human groups.
  • DP admits that the Indian social life is like the life of bees and beavers and the Indians are almost regimented people.
  • But “the beauty of it” is that the majority of us do not feel regimented.
  • DP doubts whether the western individual man dominated by the market system has any freedom at all.
  • He is exposed to the manipu­lation of advertisements, press-chains, chain stores, and his purse is continuously emptied.
  • All this does not leave much scope for an individual’s right to choice and consumer sovereignty.
  • Contrastingly, the low level of aspiration of an average Indian, which is moderated by group norms, results in greater poise in life.
  • This should not be missed in our urge for uplifting the level of wants.
  • The Indian sociologist thus will have to accept the group as his unit and eject the individual.
  • For that is the tradition of India.
  • The Indian sociologists will have to understand the specific nature of this tradition.

Modern Indian Culture:

  • The emphasis in Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee’s works has changed through the passage of time.
  • DP was very sensitive and was influenced by the environment around him.
  • He drew from traditional culture as well as modern.
  • Modern Indian Culture: A Sociological Study was first published in 1942 and its revised edition in 1947 – the year of partitioned independence.
  • Synthesis has been the dominant organizing principle of Indian culture.
  • The British rule provided a real turning point to Indian society.
  • The middle class helped in the consolidation of British rule in India but later challenged it successfully.
  • DP’s vision of India was a peaceful, progressive India born out of ‘union’ of diverse elements, of distinctive regional cultures.
  • Reorientation to tradition was an essential condition of moving forward.
  • DP denied that he was Marxist; he claimed to be only a ‘Marxologist’.
  • The national movement was anti-intellectual, although it generated idealism and moral fervor.
  • He concluded: “Politics has ruined our culture.”
  • DP believed that no genuine modernization is possible through imitation.
  • He feared cultural imperialism.
  • Modernization is a process of expansion, elevation, revitalization of traditional values and cultural patterns.
  • Tradition is a principle of continuity.
  • It gives us the freedom to choose from different alterna­tives.
  • Modernity should be defined in relation to, and not in denial of, tradition.
  • DP’s arguments have been criticized.
  • Saran has pointed out that DP does not subject the socialist order itself to analysis and takes its benign character on trust.
  • He fails to realize that a technol­ogy-oriented society cannot easily be non-exploitative and not anti-man, and the traditional and the modern worldviews are rooted in different conceptions of time.
  • DP’s concern is seen as that of westernized Hindu intellectuals.
  • There is a need to read DP, reprint his works and examine his ideas (Madan, 1993).


  • What is meant by tradition? Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee points out that tradition comes from the root ‘trader’, which means “to transmit”.
  • The Sanskrit equivalent of tradition is either Parampara, that is, succession or Aitihya, which has the same root as, or history.
  • Traditions are supposed to have a source.
  • It may be scriptures, or statements of stages (Apta Vakya), or mythical heroes with or without names.
  • Whatever may be the source, the historicity of traditions is recognized by most people.
  • They are quoted, recalled, esteemed.
  • In fact, their age-long succession ensures social cohesion and social solidarity.
    • Dynamics of Tradition
    • Dialectics of Tradition and Modernity
    • Composition of Traditions
    • Sources of Traditions

Dynamics of Tradition:

  • Tradition, thus, performs the act of conserving.
  • But it is not neces­sarily conservative.
  • Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee asserts that traditions do change.
  • Three principles of change are recognized in the Indian tradition:
    • Sruti,
    • Smriti,
    • Anubhava.
  • It is Anubhava or personal experience, which is the revolutionary principle.
  • Certain Upanishads are entirely based on it.
  • But it did not end there.
  • Personal experience of the saint-founders of different sects or paths soon blossomed forth into collective experience producing a change in the prevailing socio-religious order.
  • The experience of prem or love and Sahaj or spontaneity of these saints and their followers was noticeable also in the Sufis among the Muslims.
  • The traditional system gradually accommodated dissenting voices.
  • Indian social action has given latitude to align the rebel within the limits of the constitution.
  • The result has been the caste society blunting the class-consciousness of disadvantaged.

Dialectics of Tradition and Modernity:

  • The strength of the Indian tradition lies in its crystallization of values emerging from past happenings in the life-habits and emotions of men and women.
  • In this way, India has certainly conserved many values: some good and others bad.
  • The point, however, is that of utilizing the forces, which are foreign to Indian traditions, e.g., technology, democracy, urbanization, bureaucracy, etc.
  • Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee is convinced that adjustments will certainly occur.
  • It is almost guaranteed that Indians will not vanish, as primitive tribes have done, at a touch of western culture. They have sufficient flexibility for that.
  • Indian culture had assimilated the tribal culture and many of its endogenous dissents.
  • It had developed Hindu-Muslim cultures and modern Indian culture is a curious blending, Varansankara.
  • “Traditionally, therefore, living in adjustment is in India’s blood, so to speak”.
  • DP does not worship tradition.
  • His idea of “complete man” or “well-balanced personality” calls for a blend of:-
    • Moral fervor and aesthetic and intellectual sensibility
    • The sense of history and rationality.
  • The qualities of the second category are emphasized more by modernity, than by the Indian tradition.
  • Hence, the dialectics between tradition and modernity herein lies in the need for understanding the tradition.
  • DP observes that “the knowledge of traditions shows the way to break them with the least social cost”.
  • DP’s most popular and significant writings on ‘tradition and modernity’ help us in understanding the authentic measuring of these two bipolar concepts.

Composition of Traditions:

  • Indian tradition is the result of certain historical processes.
  • They actually construct the structure of Indian culture.
  • These traditions belong to several ideologies such as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, tribal life and western modernity.
  • The process of synthesis has, therefore, constructed these traditions.
  • In this respect, it would be mistaken to believe that traditions are Hindu only.
  • In fact, they combine traditions of various ethnic groups of the country.
  • How the principles of various religious ideologies shaped the Indian traditions has been interpreted by T.N. Madan as under:
  • In this historical process, synthesis has been the dominant organizing principle of the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Muslim, who had together shaped a worldview in which according to D.P., ‘the fact of being was lasting significance’.
  • His favorite quotation from the Upanishads was Charaivati, keep moving forward.
  • DP tried to provide a classification of Indian traditions under three heads, viz., and primary, secondary and tertiary.
  • The primary traditions have been primordial and authentic to Indian society.
  • The secondary traditions were given second-ranking when the Muslims arrived in the country.
  • And, by the time of the British arrival, Hindus and Muslims had yet not achieved a full synthesis of traditions at all levels of existence.

Sources of Traditions:

  • Indian sociologists have talked enough about traditions but little effort has been made to identify the sources and content of tradi­tions.
  • And this goes very well when we talk about D.P. Mukerji.
  • Admittedly, traditions occupy a central place in any analysis of India’s traditions and modernization.
  • But DP has not given the contents of these traditions.
  • The major sources of traditions are: –
    • Hinduism,
    • Buddhism,
    • Islam and
    • Western culture,
  • But what tradi­tions, for instance, of Hinduism or Islam constitute the broader Indian traditions have not been made specific by DP.

Nature and Method of Sociology:

  • Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee was by training an economist.
  • He was, however, aware of the limitations of the practices of other economists.
  • They failed to view the economic development in India in terms of its historical and cultural specificities.
  • Social reality has many and different aspects and it has its tradition and future.
  • To understand this social reality, one should have a comprehensive and synoptic view of: –
    • The nature of interac­tions of its various aspects
    • The interplay of its tradition and the forces leading to a changed future.
  • Narrow specializations in particular disciplines cannot help this understanding.
  • Sociology can be a great help here.
  • “Sociology has a floor and a ceiling like any other discipline.”
  • However, the specialty of sociology “consists in its floor being the ground floor of all types of social disciplines and its ceiling remaining open to the sky”.
  • Neglect of social base often leads to arid abstractions as in recent economics.
  • Sociology helps us in having an integrated view of life and social reality.
  • It will look into the details but it will also search for the wood behind the trees.
  • DP learned from his teachers and peers the need for a synoptic view of the vast canvas of social life.
  • He, therefore, consistently harped on the synthesis of social sciences.
    • Marxism and Indian Situations
    • Rejection of the Positivism of Western Social Sciences

Marxism and Indian Situations:

  • DP had great faith in Marxism.
  • Marxism gives an idea of a desirable higher stage in the development of human society.
  • But, he expressed doubts about the efficacy of the analysis of the Indian social phenomena by the Marxists.
  • He gave three reasons for it:
    • The Marxists would analyze everything in terms of class conflict.
    • Many of them are more or less ignorant of the socio-economic history of India.
    • The way economic pressures work is not that of mechanical force moving a dead matter.
  • Traditions have great powers of resistance.
  • Change of modes of production may overcome this resistance.
  • But, if a society opts for revolution by consent and without bloodshed, it must patiently work out the dialect of economic changes and tradition.
  • DP’s emphasizes that it is the first and immediate duty of the Indian sociologists to study Indian traditions.
  • And, it should precede the socialist interpretations of changes in the Indian traditions in terms of economic forces.

Rejection of the Positivism of Western Social Sciences:

  • DP was against the positivism of western social sciences.
  • For it reduced individuals into biological or psychological units.
  • The industrial culture of the west had turned individuals into self-seeking agents.
  • The society in the west had become ethnocentric.
  • By emphasizing individuation, i.e., recognition of the roles and rights of the individual, positivism had uprooted man from his social moorings.
  • DP observes, “our conception of man is Purusha and not the individual or Vyakti”.
  • The word Vyakti rarely occurs in our religious texts or in the sayings of the saints.
  • Purusha or person develops through his co-operation with the others around him, through his sharing of values and interests of life with the members of his group.
  • India’s social system is basically a normative orientation of group, sect or caste action, but not of voluntaristic individual action.
  • As a result, a common Indian does not experience the fear of frustration.
  • DP makes no difference between the Hindu and the Muslim, the Christian and the Buddhist in this matter.

Role of the New Middle Classes:

  • The urban-industrial order, introduced by the British in India, set aside the older institutional networks.
  • It also discovered many traditional castes and classes.
  • It called for a new kind of social adaptation and adjustment.
  • In the new set-up, the educated middle classes of the urban centers of India became the focal point of society.
  • They came to command the knowledge of the modern social forces, that is, science, technology, democracy and a sense of historical development, which the west would stand for.
  • And they remained blissfully, and often contemptuously, ignorant of Indian culture and realities.
  • They are oblivious to the Indian traditions.
  • But traditions have “great powers of resistance and absorption”.
  • Even “on the surface of human geography and demographic pattern, traditions have a role to play in the transfiguration of physical adjustments and biological urges”.
  • India’s middle classes, thus, would not be in a position to lead the masses to build India along modern lines.
  • They have lost contact with the masses.

Making of Indian History:

  • The statement of his position was unambiguous: Our attitude is one of humility towards the given fund.
  • But it is also an awareness of the need, the utter need, of recreating the given and making it flow.
  • The given of India is very much in ourselves.
  • And we want to make something worthwhile out of it (1945: 11).
  • In this endeavor, they not only had to be firm of purpose but also clear-headed.
  • He wrote: Our sole interest is to write and enact Indian history.
  • Action makes making; it has a starting point – this specificity called India; or if that be too vague, this specificity of contact between India and England or the West.
  • In all these matters, the Marxian method … is likely to be more useful than other methods.
  • The first task for us, therefore, is to study the social traditions to which we have been born.
  • This task includes the study of the changes in the traditions by external and internal pressures.


  • For Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee, the history of India was not the history of her particular form of class struggle because she had experienced none worth the name.
  • The place of philosophy and religion was dominant in his history, and it was fundamentally a long-drawn exercise in cultural synthesis.
  • The issue at stake was India’s modernization.
  • DP’s essential stand on this was that there could not be genuine modernization through imitation.
  • He feared cultural imperialism more than any other.
  • DP formulated this view of the dialectics between tradition and modernity several years before independence, in his study of Tagore published in 1943.
  • DP views the nature and dynamics of modernization.
  • New values and institutions must have a soil in which to take root and from which to imbibe character.


  • Dhurjati Prasad Mukherjee’s Introduction to Music (1945) is a sociological piece which can be compared with The Rational and Social Foundations of Music by Max Weber.
  • DP’s work even today remains only of its kind.
  • It shows that “Indian music, being music, is just an arrangement of sounds; being Indian, it is certainly a product of Indian history”.
  • He further shows both the similarities and differences between Indian music and western music.

Conclusion: Contributions of D.P Mukherjee

  • Dhurjati Prasad Mukerji was one of the founding fathers of sociology in India.
  • He had a fairly long tradition of intellectual pursuits.
  • First, discovering the sources and potentialities of social reality in the dialect of tradition and modernity, and, second developing an integrated personality through pursuit of knowledge.
  • Indian sociol­ogists, in his opinion, suffered from a lack of interest in history and philosophy and in the dynamism and meaningfulness of social life.
  • DP developed this methodological point in an important essay on the Marxist method of historical interpretation.
  • He embraced Marxism in various ways, ranging from a simple emphasis upon the economic factor in the making of culture to an elevation of practice to the status of a test of a theory.
  • We found an explanatory exposition of a selected aspect of D.P. Mukerji’s sociological writings, using as far as convenient to his own words.
  • The theme of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’ occupies an important place in his work and also survives as a major concern of contemporary sociology.

Last updated: November 19, 2019

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Contributions of D.P Mukherjee PersonalityContributions of D.P Mukherjee  Modern Indian Culture Tradition Dynamics of Traditions Dialectics of Traditions and Modernity Contributions of D.P Mukherjee Composition of Traditions Sources of Traditions Contributions of D.P Mukherjee Nature and Method of Sociology Contributions of D.P Mukherjee Marxism and Indian Situations Role of the New Middle Classes Making of Indian History Modernization Music Contributions of D.P Mukherjee Conclusion