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Indian Culture And Traditions

Bharat, India And Nature
By Sandeep Singh, February 2013 [[email protected]]

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In recent times the nation has witnessed a debate on ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’. The word “Bharat” has been essentially used by marketers to define rural India and unfortunately, this is the only language understood by most in media.

However, for the rest, ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’ represent a cultural difference. The difference of ‘East and West’ has become difference of ‘Bharat and India’ or to a great extent difference between “English” and “Bharateeya Languages”. Not surprising; since language is also part of a civilization. Language can be a good indicator to look at the difference. Following is an example demonstrating the difference in the way nature is perceived in ‘English’ and ‘Bharateeya Languages’ i.e. in the two cultures, two different civilisations.

Couroupita guianensis trees are grown extensively in Shiva temples in India. In Hindi it is called Shiv Kamal or "Kailaspati. (Nagalingam in Tamil). The flowers are called Shivalinga flowers in Hindi; Nagalinga Pushpa in Kannada; Nagamalli or Mallikarjuna flowers in Telugu. Hindus revere it as a sacred tree because the petals of the flower resemble the hood of the Naga. It is not surprising at all, in India nature is considered divine.

One important aspect to be noticed here is that whatever be the language in Bharat, the nomenclature doesn’t changes; the inherent meaning remains the same; which in turn signifies the spread of unity of thought.

Couroupita guianensis flowers are orange, scarlet and pink in colour. They produce large spherical and woody fruits ranging from 15 to 24cm in diameter, containing up to 200 or 300 seeds apiece.

Couroupita guianensis is also grown in tropical northern South America and southern Caribbean where, because of its brown cannon-ball-like fruits, it is known as Cannonball Tree. Strange!!! One culture sees it as source of destruction while for other i.e. Bharateeya culture it reflects divinity.

Bharateeya culture reminds all that nature, in all its forms, is to be worshipped and not exploited. This reverence reflects in the behavior of an average Bharateeya in his/her everyday life. Bharat reveres and recognize the divinity in animals like cow, bullocks, elephant, horse, snake and birds like eagle, cuckoo, plants like banyan, pipal, tulsi and so many others. Bharat worship not only animate but various inanimate forms of nature, like water and soil, mountains and rivers, tools, equipments and instruments, vehicles and weapons, books and pen; and chullahs also.

Practically speaking everything that Bharat interacts with has been a part of daily or occasional worship. When one worships something; it becomes normally impossible for one to misuse it, harm it or mutilate it; actually helps conserve it. This was best explained by a westerner; Sister Nivedita, an associate of Swami Vivekananda.

She said, “had Niagara been situated on the Ganges, how different would have been its valuation by humanity! Instead of picnics and pleasure trips, the perennial pilgrimage of worshipping crowds. Instead of pleasure groves, ashrams, small sylvan homes of hermits, instead of hotels, temples. Instead of excesses of sensuous indulgence, the simplicity and severity of self restrained asceticism. Or, instead of treating it as a mighty means to the end of producing economic utilities by the creation of a motive power, a reaction against objectivity, a more absorbing subjectivity, a detachment from the body and the outward material world to feed the life of the spirit.”

Bharateeya civilization has survived, where others have ceased to exist, because it has learned to respect and live with nature. If the world has to survive it is important to understand what Bharateeya culture says. It is not me who is saying this but Rajendra K Pachuri, Recipent of Nobel Prize as Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said “Growth and development have progressively caused damage to the environment without questioning or evaluating the extent of this damage. A major revival of our traditional culture and tradition is therefore needed now.”

Bharat and India don’t have a geographical or technological difference. It is a difference of culture. And it is all pervasive.

The Author is working on a book to document the differences between the East and West. Readers can email their thoughts to author (see id above), suggest books and names of individuals who could help. So far the author has identified almost 100 differences across fifty categories.

Editor – Bharat is the Hindi word for India. It means ‘Land of Knowledge’, knowledge not about the world but about SELF.

Also read
1. Foundations of Indian Culture
2. Animals in Indian Culture create a inclusive universe
3. Sacred Trees of the Hindus
4. Seven Sacred Rivers

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