(Last Updated on : 14/02/2009)
The blessed Ganges, the sun kissed Thar, the brooking Himalayas, those lush rainforests, the colorful peacocks, the fiery Royal Bengal tiger, India, is an union of all these and even much more. India, the land of color, verve, spirit and tradition is as diverse as its people. Since the remote past, a collage of tradition, a medley of faith and culture and indeed that mosaic of languages, mores and heritage have ideally unified to form a fused totality, a perfect India, one of the world's oldest civilizations. Unity in Diversity is the basic crux of Indian civilization, which further drops its image on Indian culture while making it vibrant.
Difference between civilization and culture
There are some differences between a cultured society and a civilized society. The cultured society is one, which emphasizes the ideals, conduct, relationships, aesthetic and other values, which are cherished in the society. On the other hand the civilized society is that, which is organized under conditions ministering to the welfare of the community. Culture, therefore may be defined as the complex of ideas, conceptions, developed qualities and organized relationships and courtesies that exist generally in a society.
Roots of Indian culture
There is a close relationship between religion and culture. Religion emphasizes certain values of life and according to these values of life a man in a society acts. These actions of man result in the formation of the culture of that society. T.S. Elliot in his Observation on Culture observes that the basis of culture is religious beliefs. There is no doubt that Christianity forms the basis of European culture. Similarly it is Hinduism in India, which gives to Indian culture its special characteristics.
India has a long and continuous history extended over 5,000 years. It has a way of life and culture but as a matter of fact it is modified continuously by outside contacts. These contacts should essentially be Indian, based on doctrines and ideas developed indigenously. This way of life has found expression in classical and modern literature, in architecture and art, which display an exuberant creative energy and have had lasting influence on most Asian countries, in philosophies and religious systems which continue to be vital forces even in the world of today.
In the Upanishads it is stated that man is not merely an infinitesimal part of partless infinite. He himself is the infinite, Tat tvam asi, 'That thou art'. Thus the idea of spiritual unity had been grasped as early as the period of the Upanishads.
The concept of karma and rebirth:
One life is too short time for all to achieve supreme spiritual knowledge. So men must be born again and again, progressing through many lives, from lower to higher forms. They experience the fruits of their past actions, both good and bad and continue to create fresh Karma for themselves by new actions until at last the blot out of ignorance drops, and they become aware of their divine nature. Then they are freed from further rounds of birth and death.
Ever-recurring cycles of time:
Life moves in an endless stream. Creation is the name of the first phase; growth of the middle phase and dissolution is the last phase of the eternal process. The worlds themselves are swinging in vast immeasurable cycles. There is an apparent beginning and also end.
The Aryan society was divided into Brahamanas, Ksatriyas and the Vaisyas. The fourth class of Sudras consisted of large number of original inhabitants who had become Aryanized and had been absorbed into the society on a somewhat inferior footing.
Men were considered born to a particular caste as a result of their past Karma. They were expected to follow the occupation of the caste in which they were born. The caste system produced a remarkably integrated economy in which chaotic competition was eliminated.
The Institution of the Indian village:
In an Indian village everyone was given his chance to earn a living by contributing to the essential needs of the village. There was no unemployment. Carpenters, ironsmiths, washer men, barbers and potters were paid in village grain. Weavers, dyers, metalworkers and others exchanged their wares for the grain they needed. A panchayat, chosen by the people from among themselves, ran the overall affairs of the village and saw to the enforcement of customary laws. The village was thus both self-contained and can also be called as democratic.
The concept of dharma:
The world was accepted as real and each individual had a definite place in it and definite duties to perform. This also varied according to time and circumstances. Caste work was to be properly performed. A king was expected to rule properly, protect the people, and promote their prosperity. Dharma required a man to live in society as a civilized human being, checking his selfish urges in the interests of others. The stability of Indian life has rested on the firm foundations of Dharma from past centuries. So has the integrated Hindu family. A child owed its parents loving obedience. The chaste wife owed her selfless devotion to her husband and family. The husband owed support and protection to his wife and children, and hospitality to who so ever might seek it. Through the inculcation of the spirit of Dharma, high standards of ethics, clear-cut codes of behavior, and a widespread acceptance of non-material virtues had higher importance than possessions. These have come to be the expression in ordinary society of true Indian culture.