Religious festivities are the cultural artefacts of a country

By Ananya S Guha

Festivities in a diverse country such as ours including religious festivities are the cultural artefacts of a country. They help to rejuvenate faith in one another as people of a country diverse but one. These festivals complement one another and create diverse situations, happenings and interaction at various levels: children, students, adults, religious leaders, why even the much berated politician!

What is the diversity we talk about? It has historical antecedents but history determines the future. The recently concluded Durga Puja is a manifestation of a religious festival in some parts of the country, there are similar manifestations in some others. So much for diversity in religion. Shillong celebrates Pujas and Christmas with aplomb, in fact the state of Meghalaya.

In fact ruptures are created when diversity is not accorded respect or politics plays intrusive roles. Hence trouble can arise during a Hindu or a Muslim festival. Then  there is a disruption of a culturally and historically maintained diversity.

The point is that a country cannot be built upon divides or hating the other. This is not an aspect of diversity but an impairment of tolerance. What tolerance, some people say, why tolerance at the expense of some and preference to some? True but this ‘ preference’ or otherwise is the big game of politics. The very people who say something publicly may not believe in it. That is fine, but the danger it does to the body politic or a cultural ethos is at times irreparable.

Cultural bonds can be strengthened but not by separatism. Yes unique features of cultural elements of linguistic and ethnic groups must be highlighted but not disparately,a structural way of evolution must be perceived. Various socio economic constraints can widen differentiation but differentiation must be obviated by means of social and cultural dialogue. And this dialogue involves the entire country and the various groups linguistic or religious which constitute it. Vote banks are determinants for political processes but these processes are ephemeral as well. If there is truth in the current belief that the last seventy years after independence was a lie, then it is possible there will be future lies and many people to point them out.

History can be cold blooded. Historical murders have a way of commuting counter murders. Meddling with history as an assortment of lies can be counter productive and dangerous.

One of course should be optimistic. The present economic crisis could well happen with another government in power as well. The blame game in either way does not work. The best way to sustain progress is to strengthen socio economic bonds in the midst of a cultural diversity. Polemics related to history, religion and cow protection do not affect the common man and does precious little towards betterment of social and economic goals. After all what does the common man want? The answer to this question will negate doubts of discord and division. Once the common man is held to be the edifice and bulwark of the country an autotelic unity or sameness automatically comes into the picture of a nation struggling or otherwise. Prosperity is also measured in terms of happiness which in a way is concrete and abstract. An abstract happiness is dangerous because it could point to only a chosen few. A concrete happiness with an overall improvement in the quality of life is what is desired. But to dismantle this arduous process by building hate is the first detriment to nation building.

Yet the artefact of one country built on several cultural and historical processes is an arduous effort, taking into account the factors of cultural and religious pluralism, geographical dimensions and population. The onus is not only on politicians but also on groups, people living in their own states, religious leaders and individuals. The language of politics is used not only by politicians, there is institutional politics as well and this must be wrested from the overall body politic. Institutions have a great role to play in propagating cultural diversity and unity and should neither be adamantine or rigid.

This great country can never perish but it its true sustenance will lie in acknowledging the grand narrative, and historicity of its diversity.

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.