Friday, 11 November 2011

Cultural purity

         I never gave two Knuts about cultural purity. But something I found recently in a Pakistani cultural forum got me thinking. They were complaining about people dancing to hit Bollywood tunes for parties and how it erodes the purity of Pakistan Islamic culture.
        I thought of starting a debate in the topic dissecting so called 'Pakistani Islamic cultural purity'. But then had visions of my Gmail and FB account being hacked and so controlled myself with difficulty and logged off. The people in the forum were complaining about how outside influence is corrupting Islamic culture. For starters, Islam itself is foreign to Pakistan. It originated in Saudi Arabia and spread to rest of the world. Before Islam came into Pakistan, they more or less shared so called Indian/Hindu culture. So where the hell is cultural purity?

          Let us take the case of the Shiv sena fanatics cribbing about so called traditional Indian culture. To start with, are they sure Indian culture is pure? Thing is, Indian mythology is very similar to ancient Greek mythology. Swastika, our symbol of peace, became the symbol for Aryan supremacy. Thus, the obvious conclusion is, all these stuff must have originated in some common place and spread to other places. So at least some part of the so called Indian Culture is foreign to our soil.

         There is also the difficult issue of separating culture from religion. Culture of a particular place is a summation of the learning, experiences, and habits etc. of the people belonging to that area. That can be common to people of the region. And involves the best practices and survival tactics suited /customized for the local society (this ceases to be true if they refuse to change according to the times). Religion is just a way of praying to god (I used to wonder about this as a kid; What if the guy/gal we call as GOD is Satan in reality?) while introduction of a new religion invariably brings about some socio/behavioral changes in the new devotees, there is no need to totally reject the local culture. It does not make sense; the reality is, organized religions evolved to satisfy the needs and counter the issues of a particular society at a particular time. So when it spreads to a totally different region with different issues and different history/culture, it needs adapting. Point I am trying to make is there is nothing like religious purity as such. Though purity is a desirable when it comes to manufacturing/science, it is rather a dangerous element to introduce in socio/cultural scenario.
There have been some wonderful scenarios of cultural integration. The journey of the Parsi’s is one such amazing story. The Parsis migrated from Iran to India around 10th century A.D. Inspire of having a different ethnicity, they integrated themselves deeply with the Indian society. For so small a community, they made truly remarkable contributions to India.
Now if we are considering the spread of religion, I would say that Buddhism is truly remarkable for integrating with the local culture. As we all know, Buddhism originated in India. But when it spread to other regions, it only carried its essential ingredients. It discarded the unnecessary & local elements of India. Subsequently, today we don’t have Pan Buddhism (thank God!). But it integrated so well to the local culture that today we are lucky to have Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism (practiced in Sri Lanka and all) and many other branches. Each with a sweet local flavor of its own. I would say that Buddhism aimed at spiritual invasion rather than cultural invasion

      Cultural evolution is an ongoing process. People belonging to different cultures interact and in the process exchange their ideas and processes. There are dead cultures and stagnant cultures; but nothing like a pure culture unless you are part of some yet to be discovered obscure tribe.

P.S  Knut is the least valued coin in Harry Potter Lingo

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