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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Oldest and uninterrupted Civilization of India

“…. What civilization is all about – farming replacing hunting.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

Introduction

Many civilizations, systems and principles have been evolved throughout the world for time immemorial. They remained in vogue for some time, then faded and gave way to the newer ones with new structures, culture, systems and concepts. But India presents one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living civilization in the whole world ((other well advanced civilizations of ancient world were of Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia). While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, India has kept on adapting itself to changing times. Indian civilization has given Indian society a distinguished identity, and a solid social structure with a system of thought, a way of life and a sense of direction.

Origin – evolved in a natural way

The origin of Indian civilization cannot be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It leisurely evolved roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. Its influence on people’s mind is much deeper and much wider in scope than that of a nation state.

It evolved in a natural way, when many small and primitive groups of people came to terms with a more advanced economic and social system. Starting with arrival of Aryans in waves and mixing up of their culture with native culture of the land evolved Vedic culture, which was based on the principles of “Varna”, “Dharma” and “Karma”.

Based on experiences and deep thinking of many learned saints

The experiences and deep thinking of many learned sages and intellectuals belonging to different communities at different points of time together these principles contributed to the growth of Indian society and gave Vedic society a distinct character, defined roles and organized smooth inter-relationship of various sections of society.

Assimilation of multi-0ethnic groups and their value system

The assimilation of multi-ethnic groups and their value system tended to enrich Indian culture. As India passed through various phases in the past, each and every group left its influence on its culture, which came down to the present generation in an unbroken chain of succession, with some modifications and adaptations. It still provides Indian society with a system of thought, a way of life, and sense of direction.

Fusion many cultures

Indian civilization has been a continuous process of assimilation and fusion of many cultures. All sects present in India, whether foreign or indigenous together enriched the culture of India.

  • In the beginning a cultural synthesis took place, when Vedic culture came into being due to intermixing of culture of Aryan invaders with culture of indigenous tribal people of India during 2nd century BC to 650 AD.
  • Then, a major cultural synthesis took place during 6th and 10th century, between Vedic Hindu culture, Buddhism and Dravidian culture.
  • Another assimilation was seen after 10th century, when thinking of Arabs, Turks and Afghan, mainly guided by reason, influenced Indian thought. Sufi and Bhakti movements are examples of this.
  • Once again, during 18th century to 20th century, a major cultural synthesis took place with modernization and industrialization ushered in by the British. Islam and Christianity, these two sects taught the people to love and respect all human beings irrespective of caste or creed and brought changes in the nature of mutual understanding, communal amity and accommodation.

Emergence of social evils and practices in the system

During mediaeval period, continuous invasions of Turks, Afgans and Mugals – Ghazani (998-1030) and others, establishment of slave dynasty (1206- 1030), Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tuglak Dynasty (1320-1412), Sayyad Dynasty (1414-51), Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526) and Mughal Empire (1526 to 1757) – all this resulted not only in the downfall of Hindus’ value system, but also gave rise to religious fundamentalism and emergence of many social evils and practices like child marriage, Sati Pratha, Dowry, Purdah system to save one’s honour, untouchability, Polygamy,   ignorence and superstitions etc.

Intolerance of Mughal rulers

Intolerance of rulers towards their Hindu subjects made it difficult for Hindus to preserve their culture properly. Reaction of Hindus to Muslim excesses resulted in rigidity of rituals and prepared ground for stiffening / hardening / crystallizing social norms, practices and rituals. People blindly followed the dictates of Hindu and Muslim priests, who arbitrarily distorted and misinterpreted tenets of their respective religions. It tended to make people superstitious. Indian society was torn by acrimony between Hindus and Muslims. Sometimes it took an aggressive form.

Also, during this period, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mogul rulers and those at helm of authority, increased disparity between rulers and ruled.

Impact of Modern education on Indian society

During British rule, introduction of modern education brought social awakening. On one hand, it opened up the doors of knowledge, offered key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. It gave birth to many national leaders and social reformers. There emerged a group of Indian intelligentsia, which was deeply influenced by western views and thinking of British rulers, missionaries, writers and historians. It vehemently denounced Indian culture, character and social value system of India. This group of Indian intelligentsia regarded the culture of the land as indefensible, responsible for creating many discriminatory social values.

On one hand, modern education system had attracted the attention of the people towards social evils, that had developed in the system, on the other it disassociated Indian people from their traditional way of learning, classical roots and knowledge. With it, faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions.

Scenario after the independence

The influence of ‘West’ continuously increased. The number of Westernized educated Indians has grown continuously after the Independence of India in 1947. And after the era of globalization during 1990’s. With their number increasing continuously, Indian people have become more intolerant towards their own culture.

Emergence of a neo- rich elitist class

A new neo- rich elitist class has emerged in urban areas. It want to enjoy pleasures of modern life without any restriction. Its culture is only of ‘I, my and me’ and has no concern or ‘time’ for others. All its activities are confined within its comfort zone. Loosening grip of social bondage and norms have made many of them selfish, self-willed and arrogant. Its thinking, style of living and value systems are quite different from the traditional ones. Most of them generally regard traditional values as rubbish and its epics as irrelevant to modern times. Some of them are so intolerant and aggressive, that they discard all social norms and etiquettes out rightly. They do not like any kind bondage on themselves. They set their own rules.

Growth of money culture

Modern generation is influenced in a big way by the social, political, economic norms of Western world. Alarming are the changes in Indian social values and etiquettes, which are being gradually replaced by the western ones. A drastic change is visible in the life style and behavior of modern generation. Money culture is growing. The present yardstick of smartness is interest in stock exchanges, glamour, pubs, parties, discos or late night culture, which gives rise to many kinds of social plus law and order problems.

More stress on rights

Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, caste system evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant.

In modern India, now-a-days people are more conscious of their rights and neglect their duties. With growing cult of materialism and consumerism, finer values of life are disappearing fast. Lust for material gains, comforts, craze for luxurious and glamourous life style has made mankind incapable to cope-up with the challenges or face harsh realities of life. Friendship/relationship only prospers, if it is cost-effective. Otherwise people do not hesitate in showing their helplessness due to lack of time or energy. The persons, who readily helps people in need are considered fools by modern society.

Brain drain

The influence of Western life style is so deep in the minds of Indian youth. Most of talented persons go to foreign lands in search of greener pastures and better work culture. Most of them get settled abroad in advanced countries to make secure their comfort zone. They gradually develop a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society.

‘Indian reformers suggesting to go back to ‘Vedas’

Seeing which way the wind was blowing, many intellectuals and reformers of early twentieth century tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien cultures. Araya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand, asserted the superiority of Hindu Vedic culture. It gave the call for ‘Back to Vedas’, as Vedas were to them the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture. People should neither swayed away by alien cultures easily, nor should they follow blindly the old values. They should not reject outrightly the good intentions and wisdom of their ancestors or elders.

 

Latasinha's Weblog

India presents one of the oldest, continuous and uninterrupted living civilization in the whole world ((other well advanced civilizations of ancient world were of Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia). 

The origin of Indian civilization can not be found in one single authoritative text, nor can it be attributed to one single founder. It leisurely evolved roughly between 2000 BC to about 600 BC and kept on coping with the changes slowly, time had brought in. Its influence on people’s mind is much deeper and  much wider in scope than that of a nation state.

It evolved in a natural way, when many small and primitive groups of people came to terms with a more advanced economic and social system. Starting with arrival of Aryans in waves and mixing up of their culture with native culture of the land evolved Vedic culture, which was based on the principles of “Varna”, “Dharma”…

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November 27, 2014 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma in India

  

Principles of Dharma Varna and Karma are the core values of Indian ethos, which together defines the duties and vocations of different sections of society, ensures social harmony and prevents rivalries and jealousies. These principles still maintain inter-relationship of various sections of Indian society and contribute to its growth as a whole. It gives it a distinct character and prepares an atmosphere for their coexistence – be it ruler or ruled, be it rich or poor. It has served to give Indian society coherence, stability and continuity; and held together different castes and communities having diverse languages and practices for generations – thus making unity in diversity a reality.  

Principle of Varna – Principle of Varna gives the Indian Society a stable, sustainable social structure, ensuring its continuity despite numerous foreign invasions, migrations and assimilation of various groups. It organized orderly performance of various basic functions needed to provide a quality of life to its people. It was based on the assumption that all persons were not identical and differed from one another on the grounds of natural endowments and aptitudes. Therefore, they should be assigned duties according to their natural aptitudes, instincts and qualities.  

Ranking of different sections was done according to social relevance of their work, real contribution of their activities for social subsistence and amount of purity, discipline and training required to perform their duties well. Rules of endogamy, ritual purity, interdependence and hierarchical order of social units were the main features of Varna system. Observance of restrictions for self-discipline, clearly defined rights and duties and specialization were its important traits. Doctrine of Dharma and Karma provided legitimacy to it and prepared a political and social framework for Hindu society. 

Principle of Dharma – Whereas, Western cultures have grown around the idea of `rights forming the natural foundation of human relationship, Indian value system has evolved around the concept of duty, tolerance and sacrifice. Emphasis on duty usually makes a person or a group humble and tolerant. In this system, sacrifice is regarded more important than success, and renunciation as the crowning achievement. 

There was a common Dharma, which was applicable to all. It was nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. All the people in the society were governed by Dharma at all times, be it a ruler or ruled, parent or child, teacher or student or man or woman. The principle of Dharma embraced within itself religion, law, duty, righteousness, morality and conformity with truth”. Along with its being a religious idea, Dharma was also a principle and a vision of an organic society, in which all participating members were independent, yet their roles complimentary.  

The principles of Dharma guided individuals to remain true and to fulfil their duties earnestly, enabled different groups to act cooperatively and regulated the behavior of its component members within the society. It provided universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life and national life.  

Dharma also specified duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. In order to maintain a smooth relationship of its people with nature and society, Dharma prescribed a separate Dharma appropriate to each Varna, each class and each stage of human life. Separate Dharma for different communities was based on inherent qualities, aptitude and potentialities of its members. The Dharma of Brahmin was not that of a Shudra, or the Dharma of a student not that of an old man.  

Separate rules of conduct were aimed to inspire every one to perform sincerely one’s own duties and obligations, giving everybody opportunities- social, economic physical and spiritual . It inspired people to do their jobs well and preserve the tradition and lifestyle of all communities.  

Molding ones life according to Dharma was not an easy task. It required tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties found it difficult to observe Dharma. Dharma along with Karma was the means, through which a person approached the desired goal of life, the ultimate aim being salvation from the cycle of birth and death.  

Principle of Karma –  

Doctrine of Karma made the inequalities, prevalent in the society, tolerable to a common man. It gave hope and inspired people not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances, but to keep on making efforts to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely, which would ultimately strengthen their character and improve social position.  

It offered an explanation for inequality, affluence, poverty and happiness. According to it everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s own doings. Therefore it is not proper to blame others for one’s own failures, miseries, or being revengeful. Such an attitude had prevented ancient India to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip. It stopped people from taking law in their own hands. While other nations passed through many bloody revolutions, Indian value system kept on adapting itself to changing times. 

Doctrines of Dharma and Karma filled the Indian community with a sense of duty and trained them in obedience. It helped the people to adjust themselves, without much difficulty, to most drastic changes in the past. It guided people to lead a disciplined life – to do one’s own work assigned to him/her by the society and not to interfere in other’s work. It taught people that Work is Worship. All types of work were worth pursuing and respectable. Any work done in its true spirit could never be derogatory or a waste. A work was not so much valued for its external reward, as for the intrinsic satisfaction towards realization of ‘Swadharma’. It gave the feeling to all, that each one was an integral part of the society, not an outsider to it. Society itself had assigned everybody a specific task to do; therefore, each person earned a rightful place in the society.  

Knowledge was supposed to be necessary for giving Karma its due meaning, direction and value. Ignorance was considered to be leading to futile efforts destroying direction. Discipline was inculcated amongst ignorant masses, and a sense of direction was given to them through infinite variety of rituals, prayers, practices, customs and meditation. 

Ever since an average Indian has lost faith in these principles, (s)he has also lost faith not only in her/his fellow beings, but also in herself/himself. Almost all persons are heading towards indiscipline, violence and chase of sheer materialism/consumerism based on ruthless competition. 

  

December 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 19 Comments

Tolerance

 

The spirit of tolerance and firm belief in the principle, ‘Live and let live’ has always been the part of Indian ethos.

Tolerance is most evident in the field of religion. Hindu faith in an all pervading omnipresent god, multiplicity of god and goddesses as representing some portion of the infinite aspect of the Supreme Being, inspires it to accommodate people of all faiths. Hinduism concedes validity to all the religions and does not lay down strictures against any faith or reject any religion or its god as false. That is why, all the twelve major religions of the world are present and flourishing in India without much hindrance.

India has always adopted the path of assimilation. It does not believe in conversion or imposing its beliefs, practices and customs on others. Hindu religion has neither repulsed any trend vehemently, nor allowed others to sweep its own established culture off the roots.

 Tolerance is not confined to religion alone. It is seen everywhere in the Indian way of life. Indians believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – The whole world is one family. Truth, Ahimsa, peace and non-aggression are the hallmark of Indian culture.

The people endure injustice and unfairness until they are pushed right upto the wall. John Fischer mentions, Even during Bengal famine, an extreme situation – when necessity knows no laws, people did not take law in their own hands, nor was there any violence. No grocery stall, no rice warehouse, none of the wealthy clubs or restaurants were ever threatened by a hungry mob… They just died with docility, which to most Americans is the most shocking thing about India.”

Many times in the past, Indians had accepted oppression and exploitation without much protest, while such  situations would have led to bloody revolutions elsewhere in the world. Even today, the people are tolerating the corruption, scams, scandals and criminal activities developed in political sphere, as well as inefficiency seeped deeply in administration without much protest. Administration is one such area, where tolerance is harmful, as it not only hinders the development, but also pushes the nation backwards.

 

December 13, 2009 Posted by | General | | 2 Comments

Meaning of ‘Dharma’ (religion) in India

In India ‘Religion’ or ‘Dharma’ means a way of life embracing within itself ‘religion’, ‘sprituality’, ‘law, ‘duty’, ‘righteousness’, ‘morality’ and conformity with truth’.

‘Dharma’ gives common man an abiding sense of purpose to life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class, caste, creed or race distinctions and national boundaries, bridging distance between rural and urban folk and between illiterate and educated. To make ‘Dharma’ accessible to everyone, three traditionally sanctioned ways are prescribed –

  • Jnana Marg (Path of wisdom, search for truth and meditation),

  • Karma Marg (Path of rituals, activities and good deeds), and

  • Bhakti Marg (Path of love and devotion).

A person can choose any of the three according to the dictates of his temperament and life circumstances. ‘Dharma’ of an individual is based on one’s inherent qualities, aptitude and potentiality. Dharma of philosopher can not be the same as that of a serviceman, or Dharma of a young man same to that of an old man. Moulding one’s life according to Dharma is not an easy task. It requires tremendous will power and a strong character. Therefore, persons with weak faculties find it difficult to observe Dharma.

According to Dharma, right and wrong are relative terms, which depend on the total configuration of the following four variables of an action: –

  • Desa (region) – Culture of a place, in which a person is born.

  • Kala (time) – Period of historical time, in which a person iis born.

  • Shrama (Effort) – Efforts required of him at different stages of Life, and

  • Guna (Quality) – Aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits.

As a ‘religion’, ‘Dharma’ is a means through which an individual approaches the desired ultimate goal of life, i.e. salvation from the cycle of birth and death. It helps a person to strengthen one’s character and improve his/her present as well as future. It not only brings satisfaction in one’s life, but also assures a better life after life.

Dharma inspires people to channelise efforts, energies and capacities of people in a definite direction. It inspires them not to get disappointed by their present unfavorable circumstances by telling them that they are neither slaves of circumstances, over which they do’nt have any control nor any of their effort gets waste. Therfore, they should keep on trying to improve their future, by performing their duties sincerely. It prevents people from blaming others for their failures, miseries, or being revengeful, as everybody has to face the inexorable consequences of one’s doings and guides people to lead a disciplined life.

Apart from being a religious” Doctrine, ‘Dharma’ specifies duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately and their relationship with each other. It defines clearly duties and vocations for people belonging different sections of society, which are nothing, but norms and values of good conduct, leading individuals to the path of righteousness. Individuals are taught to lead a simple life free of covetousness, greed or lust. Dharma guides them to remain true, to fulfil their own duties earnestly, to do their jobs (social, economic physical and spiritual) well and to honour principles, traditions and culture of other communities as well. ‘Dharma’ guides individuals to control five faculties of senses and five organs of actions.i According to Hindu philosophy, desires fulfilled, never extinguishes, but grow stronger. Therefore, desires should be directed in proper manner towards proper objectives.ii The purpose of religion should be to train faculties of a person/to channelise his/her energies towards right activities.iii Leading a disciplined is necessary for people to live a purposeful life.

‘Dharma’ prescribes a compact life package, an appropriate common Dharma/a general norm of conduct at each stage of human life, applicable to all through a scheme known as Sanatan Dharma – Program of eternal values. After a deep study of natural instincts, behavioral pattern of human beings and inherent attributes, Indian philosophy has developed it. It nurtures over nature’s basic instincts of human beings and facilitates to achieve Sachchidanand (Bliss, consciousness and knowledge), helps people to follow their Dharma and Karma without difficulty and leads towards an ideal way of life. Messages of Sanatan Dharma are universal, eternal and much above race, caste or creed for all time to come. Even today it is as relevant as it was earlier. (About Sanatan Dharma in next blog)

According to ‘Dharma’, norms of give and take and ‘to each according to one’s needs and from each according to one’s capacity’ guide human relationships within a society . By specifying duties, privileges and restrictions of each role separately, it tries to prevent rivalries/ jealousies. Principles of Hinduism guide people to maintain a smooth relationship with everybody, to live cooperatively and thus ensure social harmony. Principles of Dharma not only regulate behavior of an individual within a community, but also provides universal, practical and eternal guidelines to be followed in personal life, family life, community life, social life, professional life,national life and global life for a better tomorrow.

i Manusmriti, II, 90-92-93.

ii Manusmriti, II, 94.

iii Manusmriti, II, 3 and 5.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

   

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