Saturday, March 25th, 2023 22:35:02

Nero of Negative Narratives

By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty
Updated: January 31, 2023 10:49 am

The soul of a nation lies in its culture. Despite its multiple meanings culture in its essence refers to ‘the way of life’ of people living in a society, their shared values, beliefs, knowledge and imputed meanings to their actions. Writing on culture in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1931), Bronislaw Malinowski has defined culture as a functioning, active, efficient well-organized unity, which must be analyzed into component institutions in relation to one another, in relation to the needs of the human organism, and in relation to the environment, man-made as well as natural. The history, heritage and tradition form the troika of culture and it is these things provide foundation to the personality to the members of community. Therefore, it is imperative to celebrate these aspects of culture and get defined by them. Unfortunately, the outsiders, naysayers and delinquents make culture their first victim. They know pretty well that by destroying the culture they will be able to establish their order of disorder. In fact, the tag line of Kwa Zulu Natal University in Durban, South Africa states that ‘If you want to destroy one county then destroy its education system’. This means that dismantling its education system you kill the very soul of the society and needless to add, that both Mughal and colonial rules precisely did that by uprooting the indigenous and Gurukul system of India. Lord Macaulay’s education system according to his own admission was designed and was successful in large extent by distancing English educated elites from the sons of the soil, branding a large section of country’s population as uneducated. The attempt to establish cultural hegemony under the self-proclaimed duties as ‘white man’s burden’ resulted in merciless massacre of culture and communities.  As anthropologist Bernard Cohn writes, the missionaries took the path of attacking Hindu culture and practices, its religious beliefs and social ritual as evil and unfounded so that they could introduce Christianity. The missionaries knew very well that unless they are able to create a doubt among the minds of Hindus about their culture and destroy its essence it will be impossible for them to proselytize.

Needless to add that they were largely successful in their nefarious design and as a result the great Indian civilization turned into morass of economic bankruptcy, social conflict and completely bereft of self-belief. The decline of Sanatani civilization and absolute lethargy of Indian youth led Swami Vivekananda to emphatically said that a country cannot develop itself as long as its citizens don’t take pride on its culture and heritage. The triumvirate of Swami Vivekananda, Shree Aurobindo and Swami Dayanand Saraswati played a significant role in re-establishing the primacy of Sanatani tradition and creating self-belief among the Indian population.

India, the economic elephant that is trying to awake from its inertia and slumber has a glorious past and possibly a brilliant future. Its hoary past so beautifully and awe inspiringly presented by Max Muller may not evoke same respect but its freedom from colonial carnage, adoption of democratic constitution and current economic revival has forced others to take note of its presence. India with nearly a billion and half population is full of different communities and each community differs the other in terms of language, ethnicity, economic position and social practices.

Our failure to deal with these challenges emanates as Swami Vivekananda said from our own low self-esteem. Put in other words, we look down ourself and do not take pride in our culture and civilization. This low self-esteem and self-pity make us to look up at other cultures for motivation and inspiration. The derision of our own culture and being awed by other cultures especially western culture does not allow us think and act independently. It means that we question our very identity which in turn impedes our nationalism. Post colonialism, the Congress, Marxists and Bollywood have created a narrative that has hindered the development the growth of Indian nationalism.

The idea of India is not a new one and the concept of Indianness which will be more appropriate to call Hindutva is inherent in Indian tradition. The conceptualization of nationalism in India is essentially culture rather than all the above which makes Hindutva distinguish itself from western concept of nationalism. The detractors often say that India neither had a common geographical entity or intellectual tradition to count it as a nation. In order to counter that I argue that the very name of Bharat means the Land of People who are constantly engaged in the pursuit of knowledge (Bhat means Knowledge and Rat means being engaged). Much before the idea of ‘Knowledge Society’ came into existence it was Chanakya who spelled rather clearly the importance of knowledge and put the knowledgeable person above the King.

Further, it may be noted that Mahakavi Kalidas in his ‘Kumara Sambhavam’, gives a beautiful description of Bharat as the land which is encompassed by the great Himalayas in north and two seas in east and west. He calls this land of great civilization is the measuring rod for the Universe. Interestingly he calls the seas as eternal resources much before environmentalism found its roots in west. If this description is not enough to satisfy the critics of the cultural concept of Hindu nationalism, then we find practical example of unification and cultural assimilation in the form of the contributions of Adi Shankaracharya. By establishing four centres of pilgrimage in the form of Maths (Puri, Dwarka, Badrinath and Kanchi) and twelve Jyotirlingas Adi Shankaracharya established the cultural and spiritual unification of India. Further, most Hindus while taking bath utter a mantra which invokes the seven holy rivers of India so that he gets purified even if uses bucket of water from is dug well to take bath. Another important dimension of Hindu life is to take pilgrimage which is spread over in many different corners of India, in order to get salvation. This understanding of holiness and holism transcends the geographical and historical dimensions of nationalism.  However, these have never been the interest of depiction of social reality for Bollywood. Instead, from Ram Teri Ganga Maili to Piku to Lal Singh Chaddha has got the license to demonize and make a caricature of out of our beliefs. These depictions have certainly played a role among impressionable minds in distancing them from their roots. The result has been growing rootlessness among with, increasing depression and recourse to violence. A certain recipe for social disaster.

Terrains of Culture: Neo Vedantic Discourse

According to Swami Vivekanand, culture denotes the ideological framework that consist of values, ethnics, principles and human consciousness in general while civilizations is the manifestation of human efforts in the form expressions. In a sense culture is the intrinsic values while civilization is manifestation of such values as declared while defining education as the ‘manifestation of divine perfection already in man’. Therefore, there is no contradiction in his professing of classical Hinduism that focused on penance and sacrifice as a mechanism to purify the soul and his clarion call for women education as an instrument of emancipation. Further his focus on spots and physical exercise along with reading Gita was beautiful example of combining spirituality with physical world and the method of collapsing the Cartesian dualism.

Cultural Inclusivity

The culture of Hindutva has the inherent capacity of accommodation and assimilation which makes it both composite and unique. The inclusion of Gautam Buddha as the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu despite his critique of ritualism and Brahminical dominance is the highest form of inclusivity in hotly contested terrain of religion. Further, creation of syncretic tradition that underlined and accepted the differential and definitional contributions of Kabir, Tulsi Das, Ravi Das, Ghasi Das, Bhima Bhoi etc. The assimilation of ideas and choices of Shree Chaitanya and Meera Bai too speaks volumes about the richness and diversity of Hinduism.

Because most of the socio-religious exemplars were against the declining standards of religious practices and were against social exclusion the pinnacle of which is caste system. By bringing Bhakti and asceticism saint poets brought a significant social reform and galvanized society to find its true nature. In the same token it can be said that Vir Savarkar’s early writing were against caste system and like Swami Vivekananda were aimed at transforming India through use of science and technology.

The contribution of RSS (Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh), Ramkrishna Mission, ISCON (International Society for Krishan Consciousness), Aurobindo Ashram through Aurovile has been ignite the energy within and channelize our energy for realization of self which will help us in creating the foundation for knowledge society.

India by 2050 will be the youngest nation in terms of its number of youths while the most of the world will be grey. Youth holds the power the transform the world and energy to achieve the same but sans the necessary caution and skill it could well be destructive. Therefore, the need to make them cultural conscious of their glorious past and the need to carry forward the legacy. The legacy that intends to rule the mind through its knowledge, sacrifice and compassion rather than debauchery, plunder and bloodshed. A State largely a political concept in terms of ‘a politically organized community’, is a physical entity, a body without a soul and the existence culture provide it with a soul. Today’s India needs its soul and tomorrow’s youth requires the experience and exuberance of this experience soul.  Then the task is to dismantle the hegemony of colonial legacy and its vestiges likes that Bollywood who has developed the narrative of anti-Hindu tirade and brigade of perverse Bollywood.

By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty

Comments are closed here.