If I was asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life and found solutions, I should point to India. – Max Mueller
Culture is the idea, value and beliefs of a particular civilization at a particular period. It is more than anything else, ‘A State of Mind’. Culture is the mixture of several things like fashion, music, artistry, behavior, social norms, architecture and even food and dress sense. India is known as the land of culture and tradition and is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Indian culture is rich and unique in its own ways. The projection of our culture has definitely taken a nosedive but something which has lasted, grown and emancipated over centuries cannot easily be wiped out or disintegrated.
Civilization relating to India goes back to several millenniums and the earliest one on record is the Indus Valley Civilization, Hinduism owes it origins to Vedas and the Hindu Culture laid reverence for these holy scriptures scripted in the sacred language of Sanskrit. It basically had some salient points which were a belief in God in some form, emphasis on rituals, which were believed to unite them in spiritual kinship, belief in the Guru-Shishya tradition of learning, a demarcated caste system based on the work allotted.
Besides the Hindu religion we have the Jains who have claimed their religion to be most ancient of all, even to Aryan Hinduism and presented scholarly support to the existence of Jainism in the Indus Valley. Buddhism, is another religion in our country which is based on the teachings of Gautam Buddha. It is also one of the great religions of the world. Scholars have avoided the world religion for Buddhism and prefer to call it a system of morality or ethics. Islam was brought to India by the invaders and even as they set up their rule in the country, they indulged in propagation and forceful conversion. It is today a religion with one of the largest followings in the world.
The earliest of recorded and prominent invasion was that of Alexander. The major effect of this invasion was that his march produced a land route from Europe to India with the result that Greek and Indian civilizations came in close contact in fluencing each other to a great extent. Later we have had the influences of Christianity brought into India by the French, the Portugese and to a major extent by the Britishers who ruled for nearly two centuries. Further to this we have had a sprinkling of Jews and a good chunk of Parsis seeking refuge in our country.
In the cauldron of this composite mixture of various religions and cultures evolved the Hindustani culture in Northern Indian and the Dravidian culture of the South. The Bhakti movement in the Middle Ages in India were an all-india socio-religious movement. Ramanuj, Nanak, Ramanand and Kabir, Namdeva, Tukaram and Ramdas, Jaidev and Chaitanya denounced the caste system and brought about socio-religious reforms in the Hindus society. The Nawabi culture of Central India and mainly Lucknow brought a different artistic style to the prevalent customs of royalty which filtered down to the middle class. This was famously known as ‘Tehzib’.
The political setup of our country is based on acceptance of this composite way of life with freedom to practice ones own religious and culture in any part of the country. The majority Hindus have always been a tolerant religion and have soaked a variety of this composition into their culture yet several things practiced today are very hard to be categorized. The social fabric of our country has been made strong over the centuries through our varied cultures. It is our religious and culture which is attracting persons of all religious and nationality to the country.
Millions of Indians have left for foreign shores and their second generations are growing up there. These young ones are more susceptible to change and assimilation. They are the ones growing up in an environment alien to us but quiet natural to them. The surprising part is that even after all the exposure to this foreign culture, they continue to retain the basics of the culture their parents had imbibed in them by behaving normally at home. The roots are so deep that it is quiet difficult to strip them off.
Just by singing or strumming rock, Lazzard Pop music does not annihilate our culture. Wearing Western dresses or speaking in a different accent does not mean that our culture is at the point of disintegration. Beauty pageants, which are being violently opposed by a section of our society, are not powerful enough to change or influence our culture. The younger generation has still its umbilical cord connected to their ethnic culture securely even as they become progressively modern. There are millions of youngsters in the metros dancing at discotheques who go back to retain their tradition and culture where it really matters. It is definitely the strength of our culture that it cannot be so easily traded off. It is not the physical being, ‘It is a State of Mind’.
The West has borrowed our Yoga, transcended meditation, Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Ayurveda seems none the worse for it. In fact it grows more strong even like us with our young ones living it up in style. The world is after all heading for a Global Village so let us get the taste of it and continue to emancipate. Our culture can only gain by adding to it. What matters really is our identity and our ethics.
Our Indian Culture teaches us to respect elders and to treat the Guru or Teacher at a rank equal to ones’ parents. This is something which is unheard of in the developed nations. Our culture is slowly being eroded and the day it is considered immaterial, we shall no more have a nation. The beliefs, development of human powers, mental and spiritual training in the background of our religious traditions, all make a concerted move for our culture to be vibrant and a living entity.
Culture unity means a wholesome cohesive undercurrent flowing into the beliefs of people which jointly compose our nation. These perennial beliefs, social traditions and spiritual practices make up our cultural fabric. Cultural unity means ‘Unity in Diversity’ but this has remained a fake rhetoric only. These are the discriminating factors which are slowly growing at the roots of our culture. Our Culture will be wiped out because of this ambiguity. Let us awake and be equal to all transgressions on our cultural unity.