[Solved] What makes the Indian society unique in sustaining its culture? Discuss ( UPSC GS-1 Mains 2020)

Culture is a way of life of people. It includes architecture, literature, art, science, etc. Although Indian society is multi-cultural, plural, diverse having different religions, traditions, philosophies and lifestyles, yet it is able to sustain its diverse culture.

  • According to Ginsberg – “A society is a collection of individuals united by certain relations or modes of behavior which mark them off from others who do not enter into these relations or who differ from them in behavior.”
  • Indian society and its unique culture have by far earned a lot of respect worldwide. Our society is a diversified one, still, we have unity in our presentation and outlook.
  • The Indian society can be considered as a unique one regarding its ability to nourish and sutain its ancient culture till the modern times.
  • Considering how cultures change fast due to influence, this is a significant achievement.

Features of Indian Society which led to is sustainability

 • Principles of Tolerance and Respect: Indian society has been founded upon these principles which result in mutual respect and understanding for each other. The religions like Buddhism and Jainism have been founded upon these.

Assimilation Process: Migrants from the times of Aryans to the Mughals have come and lived in India peacefully assimilating into the Indian way of life, thereby sustaining the culture of the nation.

Spiritualism: Indians have been always curious to find a unique way of life giving rise to spiritualistic elements in the way of life. The various philosophies have given way to a spiritual dimension in the way of living of people.

 • Geographical: The monsoon makes the Indian subcontinent very suitable for the development of agriculture.  Agriculture gives way to tradition, festivals, interaction which over a long period turns into lifestyles of people.

Secular: Indian society has been practicing trends that have not been associated with any particular religion. These practices have been incorporated in other religions as well and have been provided with space to co-exist. Ex: Festivals like Holi have been celebrated without being restricted to religious practice of any particular community.

Governance: It was basically based upon the agricultural aspect. This administration has remained more or less similar from the time of Ashoka to that of Akbar.

Political: The democratic threads have always been in the Indian polity though ruled by the King. Sabhas and Samitis in the ancient times to the Janapadas in the medieval times have always been focused on the promotion of interests of the people.

 • Social: The tribals today are living their unique life depicting that they have been able to sustain their culture irrespective of foreign domination on the country. Various castes also have their unique way of living.  

Continuity

Indian culture is one of the oldest and continuous form of living that has been practiced from ancient times. The main thing we can observe is that there is no break up in cultural trends. The practices of old times still exists.

Ex: Worship of trees and animals is still followed from the times of Indus Valley Civilization.

Adaptation

Ability to adapt and borrow from other cultures has been observed in Indian society. This has made indian society an amalgamation of major cultures but still holding its core values.

Ex: Cultural practices of Indian society has borrowed heavily from Islamic influence.

Dynamic

Indian society has been successful in adapting to changing trends. This has allowed the society to modernize without having to lose its foundations.

Ex: Modern democratic practices like women rights have been adapted easily when compared to societies of middle-east.

Secular

Indian society has been practicing trends that have not been associated with any particular religion. These practices have been incorporated in other religions as well and have been provided with space to co-exist.

Ex: Festivals like Holi have been celebrated without being restricted to religious practice of any particular community ,which is not observed in any other society.

Unique ways in which India sustains its culture

  • A Cosmic Vision: The framework of Indian culture places human beings in the centre of the universe, as a divine creation-which celebrates Individuality and differences of opinion in the society.
  • Sense of Harmony: Indian philosophy and culture tries to achieve an innate harmony and order in the society.
  • Tolerance: In India, tolerance and liberalism is found for all religions, castes, communities, etc. Indian society accepted and respected Shaka, Huna, Scythians , Muslim, Christian,jews and Zoroastrians. Rulers like Ashoka, Akbar have patronized various religions and ensured that there is peaceful co-existence of religions.
  • Continuity and Stability: The light of ancient Indian culture life is yet glowing. Many invasions occurred, many rulers changed, many laws were passed but even today, the traditional institutions, religion, epics, literature, philosophy, traditions, etc. are alive.
  • Adaptability: Adaptability is the process of changing according to time, place and period. Indian society has shown fluidity and has adjusted itself with changing times.
  • Caste System and Hierarchy: Indian Society has evolved systems of social stratification, which in the past helped in accommodating outsiders,but concomitantly it has also been the reason for descrimination and prejudice.
  • Unity in diversity: Despite inherent difference Indian society celebrates unity in diversity which reflects in modern India’s founding principles and constitutional ideals.

Festivals: with elaborate traditions keep alive many cultural aspects. E.g.: Holi, Diwali, Eid,

Christmas etc

Religion: Particular rituals which ensures cultural propagation through generations. E.g.:

Adi, antya samskaras, wedding ceremonies, etc

Collectivism: It makes people respect the family, society more than the individual. E.g.:

children in the family are taught to respect age old cultural practices than

▪ People building an identity based on culture rather than material possessions unlike the west.E.g.: Yoga, linguistic identity in Tamil Nadu etc

▪ Joint families, extended families act as propagators of culture. E.g.: Joint celebration of birth

in the family, organic link between grandparents and children

▪ Indian women acting as a repository of culture where cultural practices are transferred from

generation to generation. E.g.: Cuisines, traditional knowledge of child rearing etc

▪ Tribes in India maintain their identity and culture due to geographical isolation and linguistic

distance. E.g.: Todas, Maldharis

There are some unconventional ways also which have led to maintenance of culture

▪ power distance and authority worship: This has led to young generation becoming agents

of cultural reproduction rather than cultural revolution

▪ Ghettoisation and gated communities of upper classes and castes: relative homogeneity in

dwelling places reinforces the same cultural practices

▪ Concept of purity and pollution: leading to social division of labour that reinforces certain

cultural practices

▪ Jajmani system and social interdependence: As society, culture and economy of the Indian

village were inextricably intertwined, it was very difficult to change the culture without

affecting the other two and vice versa.

▪ Lack of exposure to modern ideas and practices due to rural predominance until very

recently in India has also been responsible for India maintaining its cultural integrity.

Conclusion: Though the foreigners have come to India looking at her as Golden Bird, but they assimilated into the culture of the Indian people and interacted with the commoners in their unique way and settled here as the Indians. This has given rise to the Great Indian way of life depicting Unity in Diversity where everyone would live with dignity and fraternity.

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