Culture Redefined, Relations Reimagined (Part 1)

The dream to reimagine the future of relationship between India and UK is an opportune one.But to construe the full implications of this dream, let’s ask ourselves a couple of questions which help bring out the various undertones of the above objective.

The first question of consequential importance is why are cultural relations so important? And this question cannot be answered without understanding what does a culture encompass?  I look around myself for that definition

  • I start with my group of friends, here a unique pattern of behavior exists which I can sense as differentiated. It is manifested in decisions the group makes, topics of conversation they select and preference of certain personality types over other. A the outset, these attributes and norms are self defined.
  • Compare that with the case of a family, where there are certain values which we take for granted without much of choice – these are ingrained in us so deeply as we are growing up that we rarely remember to question them. Here there is a clear imparter of values (typically the parent);there are some values which might be promoted at the expense of rationality just to maintain the continuum as these are the things that have been passed down from generation to generation ;Also the point to be noted is these values are seldom self-inflicted.

Which among the two is culture, is it something which we choose, or is it something which is self-inflicted?

Culture crudely is ideally a blend of both of the above. When a larger group of individuals transcending the boundaries of family, friends, colleagues and even communities begin to identify with some common values, traditions, languages, costumes, art then that common identity created comes to be termed as a culture.

So, we could safely say culture is a way of thinking, way of life, deemed institutions, deemed etiquettes, language, literature which binds individuals together. It is manifested in something as fundamental as child rearing and in something as macro as what laws a culture chooses to be governed by. Such a definition makes us realise that a country has to be confluence of cultures.

It won’t be exaggeration to say that dynamic, evolving nature of human beings is what constitutes the dynamic, ever evolving culture. As individuals change with interactions with the other individuals so does one culture change with interaction with other cultures. Such changes are reflected in the religions we follow, ideals we believe in, music we make, books we read, language we speak, films we create and leaders we idolize. For e.g. India prides itself in being the melting pot of innumerable cultures. And this diversity is the result of very close interactions with Indian civilization. India’s was blessed with natural resources of all kinds, which had been the prime attraction for several countries seeking trade relations. Such relations always benefited India by making it’s culture richer and richer. Few instances which come to my mind are

  • From Mesopotamian culture Harappan(Indus valley) civilization borrowed a powerful invention of wheel
  • The Kushana kingdom  in 1  AD , for example, had diplomatic contact with Persia and even the Roman Empire and China The stimulation the Kushan kingdom received from these different cultures, and the synthesis of art traditions, resulted in the flourishing of Gandharan art and the rise of Mahayana Buddhism.
  • In 16 th century with the coming of Mughals Indian art, literature and architecture reached an apogee with great Persian influences. And of the many monuments we boast of Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort were all built during this period

At this point, I feel we have sufficiently established one or 2 key attributes as to what constitutes the ever dynamic culture.Let’s analyse the importance of cultural relations in Blog #2!

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