Hi or Namaskar?

namaste.bmpI am sure that right from childhood we have always been cutting a cake on our birthday with our name on it. Have you ever thought why we do it? What is the significance of cutting a cake with our name on it? I do understand that we cut a cake in order to have something sweet so that the whole year goes well, but why do we cut our name? Is it because the west does it? This is not Indian tradition. It is not our culture.

What is culture? The term culture refers to a state of intellectual development or manners. The social and political forces that influence the growth of a human being are defined as culture. Each country or rather each community has its own culture. No culture is superior to the others. Then why do we let western culture take precedence over our Indian culture?

The culture of India has been shaped by the long history of India, its unique geography and the absorption of customs, traditions and ideas from both immigrants and invaders, while preserving its ancient heritage from the Indus Valley Civilization. India‘s great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs, and traditions are examples of this unique co-mingling over the past five millennia. India is also the birth place of several religious systems such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, which have had a great influence not only over India but also over the rest of the world. From the twelfth century onwards, following the Islamic conquests and the subsequent European occupation, the culture of India was influenced by Persian, Arabic, and Turkish and English cultures. The various religions and the multi-hued traditions of India that was created with those amalgamations have influenced South East Asia and other parts of the world.

Indian culture is rich and diverse and as a result unique in its very own way. Our manners, way of communicating with one another, etc are one of the important components of our culture. All cultures are significant in their own way. They all have their own value systems, beliefs and practices that the people like to follow. But why do we try to replace our culture with the west?

The British, when they were ruling India, called us Indians uncivilized and a savage race of people. They believed that they were doing a huge favor to us by ruling us. But are we really that way? Maybe it is time we sit and think what exactly is Indian culture and tradition. According to our customs, when we meet someone, we always join our hands and say namste, namskar or pranam. It is a way of showing respect to the other person. Do you thing saying ‘Hi! How are you?’ Represents the same thing? It does not.

Indian culture treats guests as god and serves them and takes care of them as if they are a part and parcel of the family itself. Even though we don’t have anything to eat, the guests are never left hungry and are always looked after by the members of the family. I know these are basic human values but have you ever seen in any other culture that the host of the house gives the guest his own bed to sleep and he himself sleeps on the floor? How many times do we put the other person before ourselves?

The most important part of the Indian families is the elders of the family. They are, I think, the root and the driving force of every family. We take their blessings by touching their feet. Do you think this respect and honour can be replaced by western culture where the grand children call their grand parents by their name?

I think, Indian culture grind the youth in society. It brings the youngsters closer to their families and homes. It teaches us how to be together yet not dependent. People are under the wrong notion that Indian traditions and customs are out dated. We, ourselves have out dated them. Don’t let this happen. The British ruled over us once. Don’t let their culture conquer us again! We owe at least this much to our fore fathers who gave up their lives in order to free the country.

You are an Indian, which is in no way less than an American or a European. Be proud not ashamed of it! So next time it is your birthday, instead of blowing out candles, light a diya which will bring in light and happiness into your life…

Anjuri Nayar