Salient Features Of Indian Culture Biography
The Indian culture is described as 'Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara' --- the first and the supreme culture in the world. It is honored as a divine culture. Today, when the country is undergoing haywire transformations on cultural front and facing cultural diversion and adulteration --- the influence of occidental civilization and commercialization has over shadowed the way of life of even those who vaunt for the great cultural heritage of India…., it has become more important to review the original form and expansion of the Indian culture, analyze its foundation-principles in scientific light and present in detail its different aspects, which deal with the day to day life of people and which are useful for the righteous progress of the worldGreat civilizations of the past–of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria and Persia–have disappeared from the face of the earth and only their sepulchres remain. But the civilization of India has lived through so many cataclysms throughout the centuries and in the midst of dire vicissitudes has preserved the thread of its continuity. And the reason is not far to seek. The former civilizations failed to develop a culture of their own and necessarily culture is less pervasive than the machinery of civilization. But the case of India is different. Here culture is almost as pervasive as civilization itself.
Indian culture has often been misunderstood not only by her foreign critics but also by Indians trained in the Western tradition and blinded by a rationalistic bias. Very often, even the existence of such a thing as Indian Culture has been denied. But the truth is otherwise. Though there is no need to defend our culture today, still, it is imperative that we should ourselves have a clear idea of what our ancestors had achieved for themselves and for humanity.
India has been the meeting place of conflicting races and civilizations. She has tried to achieve a unity out of the heterogeneous elements which make the totality of her life. She has a life-view of her own. This makes up her culture which extends over more than three thousand years and has found expression in her art and literature and philosophy.
Let us now make an attempt to analyse the salient features of Indian Culture which is so vast and varied and has such a long and continuous history.
Spirit of tolerance
An important characteristic of Indian Culture is its attitude of toleration which has fostered simultaneous development of different strands. Jews and Zoroastrians sought and found asylum in India. Christian colonies flourished here in second century A. D. Forty-five million followers of Islam live here in perfect peace and harmony. India has successfully upheld her tradition of religious and social toleration by her unending insistence on the peculiar character of the state.
Whenever Indian religion has been challenged from inside or from outside, it has met the challenge with an open mind. Buddha has been accepted as one of the avataras. The old texts of Hinduism were re-interpreted in the light of the impact of Islam in the 14th and 15th centuries and of Christianity in the 18th and 19th centuries. And this re-interpretation has given birth to vital movements of reform and put new vigour into the body of Hinduism. This spirit of tolerance is responsible for the richness and variety of Indian life and the complex pattern of Indian Culture.
Spirit of Synthesis
India’s power of assimilation, too, has always been remarkable. Her culture has flowed in one continuous process of gradual change and acceptance and assimilation of ideas totally different from its own.
When the Aryans came to India, they took much from the Dravidians and built their culture on its basis. This process has been a continuous one, and very epoch has made its contribution and all these contributions have been fused into an integral whole. Today India represents a true meeting ground of East and West.
Respect for the Individual
Indian people have a firm faith in the belief that there is a connection between the individual soul - Jivatma - and the universal soul - Paramatma. This philosophical outlook has fostered a feeling of universal brotherhood which has expressed itself in tolerance and willingness to effect a synthesis of diverse influences. It has also engendered a deep respect for the individual.
Open Attitude to Science
Indian Culture had an open attitude to science. Indian religion never preached a dogmatic view about the material aspects of the universe. The Indian mind never had a distrust of science and the ideas about the roundness of the earth and evolution, etc., found ready acceptance in India. A strong intellectuality marked the whole ancient spirit. “The mass of the intellectual production during the period from Asoka well into the Mohammedan epoch is something truly prodigious,” said Sri Aurobindo. And this intellectual vitality has enabled us in the present day to catch up with the modern world without having to deny any essential aspect of our culture
Harmouy with Nature
Indian Culture has sought to achieve harmony with Nature. Mountains, rivers, trees, and flowers have a special significance for the Indian people who never had to carry a struggle for existence against the ruthlessness of Nature.
Another distinguishing feature of Indian Culture is its insistence on the unity of all Nature and community of living beings. This feeling of kinship with Nature has given birth to the doctrine of Ahimsa which is another name for tenderness for all living beings. The doctrine of re-incarnation has reiterated belief in Ahimsa for we see the soul of our departed relations in the animals and insects and avoid cruelty to them.
Expression in Conduct and Norms of Behaviour
Culture is not a matter of mere ideas. It finds expression through conduct and behaviour in society. Almost all the cultures emphasise reverence towards elders and teachers, respect and affection towards relatives, courtesy towards strangers, honour towards womanhood and tenderness towards children. But in Indian Culture parents and gurus are recipients of special reverence.
The large joint family forms a special pattern of our culture. Here every member has his place with its fixed rights and duties and an accepted code of conduct towards others. The Indian attitude towards womanhood has always been one of essential reverence. Worship of shakti in the form of Durga and Kali has had a large following in the country.
Marriage among the Indians is a family affair and an inviolable contract of partnership. Even death does not part the couple once they are tied together before the holy fire.
According to C. Rajagopalachari “Indian culture is predominantly ‘self-restraint’: sharing your sustenance with the poor, chastity, the rigours of widowhood, austerity, sanyas, all-round religious tolerance–these forms and aspects of restraint make up Indian Culture.” Indian Culture lays special emphasis on three cardinal virtues–dama, daana and daya which are different forms of self-restraint.
Rich Artistic Heritage
Art is the creative expression of great cultures and a significant characteristic of Indian Culture is the world of beauty in music, literature, architecture and other arts which she has created as embodying her ideals.
Indian art is in fact identified in its spiritual aim and principle with the rest of Indian Culture. The temples of Ellora, reliefs at Sanchi and Amravati and frescoes at Ajanta present a haunting world of beauty and are without parallel. Indian art tradition crossed the frontiers of India and spread to Java, Siam and Cambodia.
The greatness and glory of Indian music is being slowly recognised by the people of the world in the present day.
Indian Culture is deeply linked with Sanskrit literature whose importance as a whole consists in its originality. This vast literature embodies a noble civilization and is practically unsurpassed and unequalled in every field–epic, poetry, drama or lyrical expression.
Civilizations can be and are generally materialistic, but there is no culture which is not essentially spiritual. The pre-eminence of Hinduism in India gives to Indian Culture its special characteristics. Indian Culture has undoubtedly a religious background like all other cultures, still it is not a religious culture, but an essentially secular one.
Indian Culture made spiritual truth the grand uplifting idea of life, the core of all thinking, the foundation of all religions, the secret sense and declared ultimate aim of human existence.
Indian Culture has succeeded in stamping spiritual truths on the earthly life through its insistence the two conceptions of purusharthas and the ashramas, which lie at the root of the Indian way of life. The purusharthas or the objectives of our life on this earth are Dharma, Artha, Kaama, and Moksha. Dharma here means the fundamental moral law governing the functioning of the universe. It is just another name for insistence on high moral life. Artha covers productive and gainful occupations and the promotion of social welfare. Kaama is not only desire or lust, it signifies physical it and artistic enjoyment, the life of the senses in the broadest sense. Poetry, drama, song, dance, music, etc., were all made instruments of the culture of the spirit.
The aim of the social system was a harmony of Artha, Kaama and Dharma, and this self-perfecting process raised the life of the individual beyond this level to the supernal height of spiritual freedom, Moksha. Moksha completes the picture and was to be attained as a result of a full life of Dharma, Artha and Kaama.
And, for this, the individual was provided a framework, a gradation, for his life. Individual life was divided into four successive stages, called the Aashramas: the life of the student, acquiring knowledge, developing self-discipline and self-control and continence; the life of the house-holder; the life of the recluse or the elder statesman, who had attained a certain poise and objectivity, and could devote himself to public work without the selfish desire to profit by it; and lastly the life of the super-social man who lived a life largely cut off from the world’s activities. Through these stages “they adjusted the two opposing tendencies which often exist side by side in man–the acceptance of life in its fullness, and the rejection of it”–Jawaharlal Nehru.
What has been stated in the foregoing paragraphs may be summarised as follows in the eloquent language of Sri Aurobindo: “So founded, so trained, the ancient Indian race grew to astounding heights of culture and civilization, lived with a noble, well-founded, ample and vigorous order and freedom, developed a great literature, sciences, arts, crafts, industries, rose to high ideals of knowledge and culture, arduous greatness and heroism... discovered the profoundest truths of self and the world.”