തര്‍ജ്ജനി

Cultural Pasts and National Identity

The evolution of national identity in India is a result of a long process of inclusion of cultural practices, either internally generated or originating from outside. The cultural past of India is therefore, a celebration of the consequent variety and plurality, although there were tendencies, which tried to negate them. The Renaissance and the national movement recognized the positive significance of cultural plurality for national identity and sought to further the syncretic tendencies already prevalent in the social and religious life. Hence the nationalistic notion of unity in diversity. In contrast, the religious revivalism promoted by the advocates of neo Hinduism in the 19th century and the cultural nationalism of Hindutva, attributes an exclusively Hindu religious affiliation to Indian culture. The national identity and nationalism, in this conception, are therefore rooted in a culture, character of which is essentially religious. It is indeed true that national identity neither evolves nor exists without a cultural basis. Yet, it is not an exclusively cultural phenomenon either, nor is culture identical with religion. Therefore a re-articulation of the meaning the relationship between culture and national identity, at a face of serious threat paused by cultural nationalism to the identity of the nation is called for. This is perhaps one among the many constructive tasks ahead of secularism, if the Indian Republic is to preserve its democratic character.

{From Kappen memorial Lecture By Dr. K N Panikkar former Vice- Chancellor of Sree Sankaracharya Sanskrit University, Kalady. Ernakulam}