A systematic and methodical identification, understanding and propagation of the spirit of Desachar, with its noble and righteous, local, sustainable, prosperity and associated art form generating practices need to be taken up as the umbrella plan for preserving the overall Kalachar of the Indian civilisation
D K Hari & D K Hema Hari
Bharat is a glorious civilisation that has survived the ravages of time. It can claim to be the only civilisation that has an unbroken continuity of culture, Kalachar, for the last 8000 years and more. Meaning, many traditions which were practised millennia ago, continue to be practised even today – such as chanting of Veda, reverence of Vedic Divinities, marriage and Vedic rituals, temples, celebration of festivals, Yoga, Ayurveda etc.
It is known as a civilisation that has brought forth and nourished a range of art forms such as Literature in the form of prose, poetry, debates, Painting, Sculpture – on stone, wood, metal and other material, Architecture for construction of temples, palaces, Music, Dance, Drama etc.
Cultural heritage, called Kalachar in India, is today synonymous with all such mediums and forms. But is this all there is to culture or is there more to the idea of culture in India? What caused this land to generate all this art, literature and architecture – its culture? What gave this land such a rich heritage?
Before we explore ways to preserve culture, we need to be clear on what is implied by the word “Culture” as far as India is concerned and accordingly what all form the “Culture” or Kalachar of India.
The methods to preserve them will emerge from this clarity of thought and vision. The word “culture” is phonetically and semantically similar to the Indian word “Kalachar”. Kala as we know, is “art” and “Achar” means a practice, a way of doing something. Kalachar thus denotes practices that have become refined to become an “art”. What is art?
Art is but the technique of doing anything such that the end result evokes a sense of awe and appreciation, has a deep significance and invokes a desire to imitate,
protect and cherish as an heirloom or a legacy.
This understanding of “art” takes away its limited applicability to creative activities such as drawing, painting, sculpture, dance, music and so forth alone – those that we call as “art forms” today.
It extends the notion of “art” to all forms of practices:
- that have been refined to bear a deep significance to existence of all forms of life,
- that have been protected and cherished as a legacy across generations,
- that have been imitated across the civilisation as well as
- that which create a feeling of awe even today when one sees the largeness and grandiosity in the practice.
Tangible and Intangible Culture
Seen from this perspective, the ones that we refer to as “art forms” and “culture” today are only the visually or sensually expressive subset of the overall art and culture of India. They are actually the tangible expressions of the underlying intangible cultural and artistic practices of day to day living practiced by the civilisation.
Furthermore the art forms for the senses have flourished best when the underlying cultural and artistic practices of India have thrived and created the appropriate mental mood.
For example, the temples of India not only speak of the religious fervour that pervaded the land, but also tell us one more important thing. They also tell us that, the people of this land had the engineering skills and the monetary wherewithal to build such huge edifices for their Gods.
For such a varied variety of arts and crafts to flower among the minds of people, across the land, the one thing that is essential, apart from creativity, is the basic prosperity of the land. For, only if there is prosperity and fulfillment of the basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, all round education, sustainable life styles and peace in the land, can people engage themselves in creative pursuits which collectively lead to creating cultural artefacts for the civilisation.
This collective tangible and intangible culture, through the ages comes to be the heritage of the land.
It is prosperity that creates room for creativity and thus fine culture.
But prosperity also needs consistent, ingenious and indigenous practices to get created in the first place and refined over time to become an art and art forms worth preserving, cherishing, emulating and appreciating even many millennia later. Only such wholesome practices can give rise to refined tangible art forms too.
These underlying, intangible, refined, artistic practices become the basic ethos of the civilisation and its innate cultural spirit.
Fundamentals for Preservation
While some steps are being taken to preserve, showcase and educate people to appreciate the tangible cultural assets of India, hardly any effort is going towards understanding, showcasing and preserving the intangible culture of this civilisation.
Not enough has been done to bring out the nature and ways of the people of this civilisation which made this land affluent, noble and refined enough to support the evolution of this rich tangible and experience-able culture that has survived for millennia. This has been one of the factors driving the activities of Bharath Gyan and its compilation on the Indian civilisation and its global ties.
The rich tangible culture of India cannot be separated from the underlying intangible culture which created the mind space for it and also influenced the thoughts that went into the making of the art form and echoed through it. Without this thought and mindset, the visible cultural art forms of India are soulless.
To preserve the culture of India therefore also involves understanding and nurturing the intangible cultural practices of India too, i.e. the sustainable, prosperity and well-being generating practices of India.
The key point to be noted here is that the innate prosperity of the land came, not from exploitation of other lands, but from sustainable practices of harnessing the resources of this land which included agriculture, water harnessing, mining, metallurgy, forest resources and the trade of the same, both within this region and with other regions of India and the world.
It was not an exploitation of the land but a righteous and sustainable utilisation of the main natural resources such as land, water, vegetation and mines that had ensured that this land remained consistently and continuously prosperous for the last few thousand years until the advent of invaders from the Near West and the Far West Colonial powers and their indiscriminate plunder of the land and its people as well as destruction of many of the industries and practices of this civilisation.
It is these, intangible, sustainable ways of the people that also need to be nurtured and preserved as part of preservation of overall culture of India.
Fundamentals of Unity
One of the fundamental expressions used to describe the cultural spirit of the Indian civilisation is “Unity in Diversity”. If we can understand what gave it this diversity and the unity, we will be able to keep this cultural spirit alive.
The intangible, sustainable day to day living practices of the people have formed the various Achar of the people of this civilisation.
But, this civilisation comprises many regions which have their own distinct flavour. This distinct flavour has come up due to the topology and geography of the land, the climate, the people who inhabit that land, the produce of the land, the language of the people and such others.
All these factors and more, collectively bring forth distinctive regional practices. The day to day Achar of the people of each diverse region has been respectfully called and practised as Desachar, the spirit of localism and localisation.
All these factors and more, collectively bring forth distinctive regional features within the composite culture of this great civilisation.
The refinement of these day to day practices, the Achar and the collective Desachar, give rise to the Kalachar of the civilisation.
Vichar behind Kalachar
Simply put, the farsighted and sane thought, the Vichar, to respect and practice the diverse Desachars, formed the basic, unifying Kalachar of this civilisation. It is this which has given this civilisation its Diversity as well as Unity in the Diversity.
It is the collective promotion of the spirit of Desachar which has kept this Diversity and Unity sustained.
Sadly though, this spirit of Desachar, localisation has got lost in the spirit of globalisation, to the extent that the term Desachar / Desacharam has come to connote backwardness and rusticity from a derogatory perspective today.
Redeeming India’s Kalachar
A systematic and methodical identification, understanding and propagation of the spirit of Desachar, with its noble and righteous, local, sustainable, prosperity and associated art form generating practices needs to be taken up as the umbrella plan for preserving the overall Kalachar of the Indian civilisation.
Everything else will flow out of this thought, Vichar.
The following tangible steps will therefore need to be taken to nurture and keep India’s overall Kalachar sustained:
1. A cultural mapping of the Indian civilisation has to be created – of both the tangible and intangible cultural assets. The mapping initiated many years ago and revived recently has to be rejuvenated under a more comprehensive and renewed set of guidelines for identification of the tangible and intangible assets as well as ways to protect them.
2. This has to be done region wise in order to trace back the original practices and produce from that land since these were beneficial to both, the produce and the local environment – something which has got lost with the focus on commercial viability and globalisation alone.
3. The management of these cultural assets, both the tangible and intangible, has to be done in a decentralised manner, one of the moot philosophies behind Indian Kalachar.
4. The management of all such cultural assets has to be done based on a “pull” from a local “ownership and management” rather than a “push” from one common, central “regulatory” body alone, which gives rise to a gap in the preservation and
nurturing of the cultural asset.
5. The focus today, in general, is to talk of intercultural learning and sharing, of promoting intercultural exchange, grants and scholarships. This happens to be a driving thought at both levels – within different regions of India as well as with other cultures of the world. While, this no doubt is a noble sentiment, first, focus will need to be steered more towards allowing the local flavour of the art to get rooted properly after its long hibernation in the last few centuries before opening it up for other influences.
Such steps taken will automatically create a healthy, cultural mindset which will not only preserve the
currently known and available tangible art forms but will also create more art forms in line with present times and technologies for the future. More importantly, it will create them from a balanced perspective of wonder and beauty than from a prevailing trend of ridicule and obscenity.
An additional bonus will also be obtained with these steps. In that, the restoration of the intangible culture of India, i.e. the indigenous day to day practices of living, to generate wholesome prosperity and well-being, will also uplift the spirit of the Indian civilisation, giving a sense of pride, confidence and daring to make a difference.
(The writers are Founders of Bharath Gyan)