Rainbow culture: plurality extends to our epics, food, clothing and music as well  

Despite efforts to impose a uniform culture and language, the country’s unique assimilative capacity has defied the onslaught so far

Rainbow culture: plurality extends to our epics, food, clothing and music as well     

Samir Nazareth

The last few years have witnessed sustained efforts by the RSS and the ‘Right’ to re-interpret even festivals like Onam in Kerala. After introducing ‘Krishna Jayanti’ in Kerala during the last few decades, this year the RSS tried to delink Onam from Mahabali, the traditional hero and ‘Asura King’ who returns every year to meet his former subjects. RSS instead celebrated Onam as the birthday of Vamana, a Brahmin, who it is believed had tricked Mahabali and defeated him. Earlier the RSS had tried to introduce ‘Raksha Bandhan’ in Kerala but failed.

Their attempt to impose Hindi, North Indian festivals and even deities worshipped in the North and the West is part of the campaign to impose one homogenous culture, customs, language and even religion. This completely undermines India’s rich diversity

Even a casual reading of the Ramayana shows how the epic celebrates diversity. The friendship between Lord Ram and Sugriva, the King of monkeys or with Hanuman, who hauled the Dronagiri mountain on which the Sanjivani plant grew to save Laxmana, indicate how the Lord embraced different people. It was the divine bird Jatayu’s sacrifice that led lord Ram to Lanka. What would have Hanuman and Ram done without the wise counsel of Jambavan, the King of the Bears?

In Mahabharata, two of the five Pandavas - Bheema and Arjuna - married women belonging to other communities. This revered story highlights the consequences of the caste system, the lust for power and how disrespect for women can invite disaster. But a selective reading of the two epics, as reflected in their conduct and penchant for exclusivity and homogenisation run contrary to tradition and culture. The Right may need to rediscover the two epics in a bid to re-invent themselves.

Our diversity is not restricted to just people, religion or epics. It extends to every walk of life, to food and clothing as well. Potatoes, tomatoes, wheat, chilli, garlic, onions, peas, mustard - part of staple Indian food - did not originate in this glorious land. Tea and samosa are imports too. But Indians played cupid between them, and they are now a much-loved pair. Jalebi and Gulab Jamun, sweets that centuries ago traversed thousands of miles give this land much pleasure. They are all the result of cultural assimilation.

The Right need to take cognisance of the repercussions of their daily intake of such assimilated foreign foods. I am sure they see the nutritional value in this diversity of food. However, could the varied non-Indian antecedents of this food be weakening the resolve of the Hindutva Brigade? Saffronistas will have to put their money where their mouth is and get down to practising what they have been forcing down India’s throat.

Tansen, whose influence on Hindustani classical music is unparalleled, was touched by the music of Sufi mystic Muhammed Ghaus. The aficionados of Khyal may find this genre of Hindustani classical music discordant knowing it was popularised by Niyamat Khan AKA Sadarang (1670–1748). Carnatic music has adopted and adapted the violin, saxophone and the mandolin to name just a few western instruments. How would the Saffronistas’ troubled mind relax, when such actions go against their principles? At this juncture, there is little point in talking about Ghazals, the genre of semi-classical music which has its origins in Arabic poetry.

Although the Constitution does not refer to Hindi as the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ or the national language, it has not deterred efforts to make it the official language as well as the lingua franca of the country. It is called the ‘Rashtra Bhasha’ and whatever the Hindi zealots might say, the language as it is spoken has drawn from various other languages, including Persian and Urdu.

In Hindi words like Sarkar, Hava, Mushkil, Dil etc. are dawn from Persian. There are any number of Urdu and Sanskrit words too besides words originating in local dialects. Given the many foreign influences on Hindi, the Hindutva brigade are unknowingly promoting secularism even when they speak their bigoted philosophy. It is important that Saffronistas recognise that they are their own worst enemy.

It has been said that ‘You are what you eat’. I would go further and say ‘you are what you eat, pray, love and speak. For the greater good of their cause they must extricate and disavow themselves from what is weakening them. They can draw inspiration from Gandhi who said, ‘Be the change you want to see’.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines