“A nation without a cultural heritage is like an orphan who has nothing to feed upon” said Emerson. The individual being, or race, or nation must necessarily have certain roots somewhere. They are not of much value unless they have certain roots in the past which is after all the accumulation of experience of generations. Countries achieve greatness not because of their material prosperity but because they follow traditions. Every country’s culture is peculiar to its own nature.
India is deep-rooted in the culture of her past, the glorious past. Her culture is essentially religious and spiritualism is the breath of her nostrils. Religion is our soul and philosophy is in our blood. The philosopher, Will Durrant says, “India is the Motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. She was the mother of our philosophy; mother through the Arabs of much of our mathematics; through the Buddha of much of the ideas embodies in our Christianity; mother through the village community of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.”
The continuity and vitality of Indian culture is amazing, indeed. Pandit Nehru once stood on a mound of Mohanjodaro in the Indus Valley in the northwest of India and all round him lay the houses and streets of this ancient city that is said to exist over five thousand years ago; and even then it was an old and well developed civilization. There seemed to him something unique about the continuity of a cultural tradition through five thousand years of history, of invasion and upheaval, a tradition which was wide spread among the masses and powerfully influenced them. “The Indus Valley civilization’ writes Prof. Childe, ‘represents a very perfect adjustment of human life to specific environment that can only have resulted form years of patient effort.
And it has endured; it is already specifically India and form the basis of modern India culture.” India culture has provided its vitality through ages. A large number of foreign races invaded this country and tried to destroy its culture, but could not succeed. Men like Ghazi and Ghaznavi plundered the temples and treasures, razed the whole country to the ground. But as soon as they departed, everything was re-built. Greeks, Huns, Parthian and Mongols came to our country from time-to-time, but had no effect. The Arabs conquered Sindh, and the Mughals settled here. But our culture remained unaffected. India influenced these nations and was influenced by them, but her cultural basis was strong enough to endure.
The enduring quality of Indian culture is the happy synthesis of world-liness and renuciation. Indians are developing materialistic attitude, but at the same time they are not neglecting the moral aspect of life. They are equally conscious of treading on the path of Dharma; India, a virtual continent is a land of many people who profess different religions and have to an extent, a variety of culture. Yet unlike Europe, she continues to be a common home for all her people, practicing ‘a rich unity in diversity’. Another remarkable aspect of the Indian way of life is its firm belief in peace and non-violence. Gandhiji simply highlighted through his preachings what already has been practised for ages in our country.
Indian culture has been a powerfully, all absorbing and all embracing process. In the past, it has received, adapted and digested elements of many different cultures—Indo-European, Mesopatatnian, Iranian, Greek, Roman, Scythian, Turkish, Persian and Arab. With each new influence, it has somewhat changed; but it has retained its continuity. India has never lost the pride of her cultural sublimity. Indian culture has proved its strength and maintained her vitality throughout.
Politically and economically India faces many problems of great difficulty, and no one can forecast her future with any certainty. But it is safe to predict that, whatever the future may be, the Indians of coming generations will not be unconvincing and self-conscious copies of Europeans, but will be men, rooted in their own traditions and aware of the continuity of their culture.
Pandit Nehru has remarked that India must break with much of her past and not allow it to dominate the present. Only that which is vital and life-giving in that past, should be retained. Much that was useless in ancient Indian culture has already perished. Widows have long ceased to be burnt on their husband’s pyres. Girls may not by law be married in childhood. In buses and trains all over India, Brahmins rub shoulders with the lower castes. The old family system is adapting itself to present day conditions. In fact, the whole face of India is altering, but the cultural traditions continue and it will never be lost.