Indian Culture : Traditional and Modern

When I gave this topic of Modern Tradition in India, I actually had this thought of Vivekananda in mind -

Once a foreigner asked him “Can’t you wear proper clothes to be gentleman ?” Swami Vivekananda Replied, “In your culture dress makes gentleman but in our culture character makes gentleman”

I actually read most of the posts written on this topic and what I found amusing was that people actually comparing tradition and modern. Some posts were actually Tradition vs Modern post which is actually a reflection of the general public sentiment.

Interestingly, traditions are not opposite for modern and what most of the bloggers write is a comparison between Indian culture and the western culture. My question to all the readers is that why are you thinking that modern = western. This is the basic mentality which is wrong. I will give the examples of modern Indian traditions ahead. First let me counter these western snobs who think they are modern just because they are wearing a pair of jeans. If this shallow is your modern thinking then keep it with yourself.

I feel a person is modern with their thoughts. If a person has a balanced head, can accept facts and arguments, who is not bound with stubborn thought process and is ready to accept change is actually a modern person.

I think this generation has forgotten the line of “Simple living and high thinking”.

Negatives aspects of Indian culture and traditions

There are some traditions which are wrong in our country and I think most of the people accept that fact. We are still not able to give equal rights to women and minorities. While talking about minorities let me tell you that I’m a probasi Bengali, a person who origin is from Bengal but who is born outside. While growing up in Delhi, I question continuously troubled me. Whenever someone came to know that I’m Bengali, their first question was, “So, where in Kolkata do you stay?” let me answer to all those morons who keep asking this question that I’m was born here, I have my home here and I have never been to Kolkata.” I’m writing this because there is a huge amount of biased against about lingual minorities which is mostly ignored.

The regional divide can also be seen in many parts of the country like what people from northeastern states face in rest of India specially in Delhi and what people from Bihar face in Maharashtra.The biased and the crimes against women is also one of the major threat to our culture.

 I think we all should condemn it and work towards removing it from our culture. My problem is that some people ignorantly wrote that this is Indian culture ? That blogger goes on to say that Divorced women not getting respect is a part of our culture. Though I agree that this is prevalent in our society these days but our culture is what we do and nobody else is responsible for it.

I feel sorry for them because they have actually forgotten the contributions of Raja Rammohan Roy towards social reforms and upliftment of women. If you haven’t read about him then do read, it will be an eye opener for you. My point is that the work done by people like Rammohan Roy is also a part of our tradition and shouldn’t we take them as role models and work towards empowering women in our society.

Positive aspects of Indian culture and traditions

Today the whole world is learning spirituality from India. Ramakrishna Paramhansa and his disciples have spread spirituality and values throughout the world. I feel many new generation of bloggers should devote some time to reading because if you are not well read then it shows in your writing. It actually lacks “substance”. I like discussions when there is valid points to back your argument. Argument for the sake of argument is useless.

Another important part of our tradition is Yoga which is forgotten by almost everyone in India till Hollywood celebrities started telling about the yoga regime. Interestingly, some “Babas” teaching Yoga in TV have made a fortune out of something which we should have been a part of our life. I feel if we don’t value our heritage it will be again like the colonial days when clothes made from our cloth was sold to us at exorbitant price. In future, people from US will come to India to teach us Yoga. Don’t get surprise ?  In Delhi, Mumbai and top cities this is already trend.

Non-violence, respecting our guests and respecting our parents weren’t these part of our tradition. Where it has gone ? Were they not good traditions ? but surprisingly Old age homes in India is increasing every passing day. In metros people hardly welcome there relatives to their houses. The hospitality, love and respect for others have gone. Try to inculcate the positive values and you will find the negative values disappearing from the society. “What goes around, comes around”.Not the Justin Timberlake song :P

Modern Tradition

Our traditions have somehow managed to get inside our modern life as well.

#Choora – A choora is a set of bangles worn by married women after marriage. I have seen many women wearing it over their jeans as well. In Delhi all the women flaunt their choora after marriage. I asked one of the women who used to wear this to our office everyday, “Is this even part of your tradition ?” She said ” No, it’s not but I saw all the women in Delhi wear it and I really liked this tradition.”

#Durga Puja  – I think festivals are the best examples of modern tradition. The inerest in buying new clothes during Durga Puja has remained the same though the type of clothes may have changed. Still traditional clothes scores over anything during pujas.

#Holi – Holi is another festival that has seen many transformations like use of organic colors to limited use of water for water conservation. With time people have changed and so have the festivals.

#Marriages – Though we still want the big wedding but the way we organize it have changed a lot. From theme based marriage celebrations to celebrity performances. These days every marriage ceremony has something unique to offer.

#Connections – With the new age people have learned to stay connected with each other as well. The whole family having the same mobile company’s connection so that they could stay connected with each other all the time. Parents have new methods to track their children these days from mobiles to facebook they are trying to track everything.

Conclusions

So, the gist to the whole discussion is that stop judging people and start accepting and understanding others. A person is modern with their thoughts and not with their clothes. So, be open and embrace the change as this is the only way forward, change is the only constant. Modern is not an opposite for tradition and they could actually go hand in hand with each other. Modern doesn’t mean western and before passing a judgement on people and your own culture please read something about your own culture. :) :D

31 comments

  • Thanks for sharing, I love learning about different/various cultures.

  • Hi Gaurab… first of all I loved this topic.. so thank you very much for submitting it…

    I was stuck at the part where you said modern = western. I agree with you that modern means more relevant to the current times but you cannot deny that in India the western influence itself is a recent phenomenon. So anything that has been a part of the western culture for ages is becoming visible to Indian society now. And thats the reason the modern = western thought has come about….

    I will stick to the sari vs jeans example… my mother wore saris exclusively when i was little. she graduated to salwar kameez in search of more comfort but jeans were still looked at with reluctance. Even in late 90s early 2000s. For her generation it was very modern to wear that…

    Another thing that comes to my mind is children moving out of their homes to live independently. In Indian culture, the child only separated in case of family feuds. No? But eventually, people began moving out for work… now I have seen cases where the child lives separately in the same city. Her logic is that she wants to learn to be independent and make everyday decisions that she cannot as long as she remains in her parents house.. people who know her call her too westernised and ultra modern… but the west has been doing this for ages… what would you call it then? modern or not?

    • To answer your first question I would say you are missing the point, Clothes are irrelevant. I won’t consider a person wearing jeans as modern unless they are mentally modern as well.

      Let me take your case that a person wearing jeans is modern then just spending a 500 rupees in a store can make me modern. Isn’t this a shallow argument ? *Introspect*

      To your second question, the world is definitely changing and that’s why I have said we have to stop judging people and start accepting their view points.

  • just read your views on modernity issue again…was wondering did u refer my post as–western=modern is kind of upsetting, esp western snobs????so before I jump to any crusade of explaining my POV, its best I should refrain from passing judgements even for your views. appreciate ur revert.

    • Though it’s upsetting for me that people consider clothes rather than thoughts for judging modernity but the “snobs” part is not used for bloggers but for people in general who are upset about that.

      I read your post from mobile hence couldn’t comment on that but I felt your post was critical of the people who pass the judgement and that’s the same point I’m trying to put across.

      Thoughts rather clothes will define us and you could be traditional even wearing modern clothes and have modern thoughts even wearing traditional clothes. Isn’t this the gist of your post as well. :) :D

  • @Appreciate ur insights, Am mom of 2 girls, for me as a parents its a daunting task not to put them in any brackets of gender biases. I am based in US, what I wrote is my true experience esp that saree one. Festivals of India & Indian culture has very good points but like I mentioned in my post-we have been busy criticizing dull side? My friends often ask me, nudged me for Indians values am going to instill in my girls while living in western society? My whole post is on that.Phirangicocktail Indian traditions are not solely judged by festivals & traditions & scriptures but the actual significance lies in their meanings & acceptance.Yoga like u mentioned here is offshoot of attaining spiritual wisdom & holistic health.All religions & cultures around the world are unique & Indian culture or Hinduism is practiced in many parts of world I believe & practice Humanism.
    reg your missed critique & feedback, I have many more such posts where you can share your insights. thanks :-)

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Vivekananda are two of my favourite thinkers too. It’s absolutely true that one need not preclude the other in terms of tradition and modernity.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting on it :)

  • Well curated Gaurab and a thoughtful post too

  • Rightly said Gaurab. We can’t judge people from the clothes they wear. Wearing jeans pant and killing people in the name of inter caste marriages. People are modern by their thoughts and ability to judge others. People think Love marriages are modern and western, but they forget even Lord Krishna got in to one (or many). Point is, modern doesn’t mean late night parties, wearing skimpy clothes. and traditional doesn’t mean doing pooja all the time, draped in sarees or slaughtering animals in the name of sacrifice. I definitely second you on what you written. People should come out in open and stop judging others from their physical outlooks, dialects, caste. I even believe education doesn’t make a man modern but his thought process and the true learning as well as implementation from that education.

  • I loved the way you have enumerated both positive and negative aspects of Indian tradition.
    I agree with you that people (and I don’t mean bloggers) have tendency to equate modern with clothes or western ideas. I think they need to read not only Indian but western history as well. Gender inequality was a part of every tradition. In fact, Indian women got the right to vote before their British counterparts.
    Everyone is now putting great efforts to form a modern tradition which would be a blend of good ideas to help humanity progress. It won’t be perfect but it is worth a try.
    Wonderful post Gaurab.

  • Tradition and modernity is very well understood by your post however, culture carries a deeper meaning. I support what you said about modernity, wearing a pair of jeans doesn’t make you modern. Even the US has got orthodox population. I also support the fact that in order to write something substantial, one must read and learn more.

  • Nice post.:)
    Although most of the fellow bloggers have argued over the point that modern cannot be equated to being western(outfit etc) but here the fulcrum of discussion is then why is it that the same is portrayed around.just a very lame example but it needs to be considered..i think most of us must have come across this television ad of nerolac paint or something similar i guess(i don’t remember accurately) of shahrukh khan,,where in he takes a casual man in two different houses..one with glossy walls and asks fr his reviews and a modern family is brought in the vision supposedly wearing a western outfit whereas in the house having dull walls a mediocre family in a loose indian clothing is depicted .Now the question here is Are they trying to equate Advanced and conventional with the outfit.Isn’t the creative team educated enough to understand the difference between the two.The fact that such concept is encouraged is the reason why it is prevalent in the society,no matter how much we claim the two cannot be related.Correct me if i am wrong!
    Your point regarding great personalities holds a firm stand in every aspect.And so i feel rather than arguing that the two cannot go arallel we should rather be discussing why they are equated!

  • suja

    wonderful..as usual

  • I love this information now people will know what they wanted to know about India and thank once again.have a great day enjoy yourself

  • People are too quick to pass their judgement, and I totally agree with the thought that modern is definitely not western ! I love almost all modern traditions, the chooda being the most favourite ! :)

  • A well written post, yes, modernity is never western, its just having an open mind to acknowledge different strains of thought without being judgmental. I echo “probasi bangali” write up actually its a dual sword. When I was out they asked me of my home in Kolkata and now while in Kolkata they doubt my Bengali sanskar status. Funnily enough, my home has always been where I stay and it remains so after that. Being “Western” never equates modernity but over here we have a colour fascination, every the whites do is superior to us that’s the notion we breed in our minds and use fair and lovely :P. Agreed nothing stimulates thinking more than a healthy argument.

  • Most of the people in our country have a dual personality. They criticize harshly a girl who has got divorced saying ” is this our culture ? ” . So what is our ‘culture ‘ …the word has a deep-rooted significance . I don’t consider a person who maintains silence over the issue of homosexuality and secretly hates the trait. ( we’ve examples of homosexuality in our Vedas and other mythological stories but that’s beyond our germane here ) .A real ‘modern’ person is as rare as a 100 carat diamond ! Swami Vivekananda , Raja Rammohan Ray and other members of Bengal renaissance were much ahead of their times ..and perhaps , truly modern in the real sense.
    You’ve correctly pointed out that we tend to mix up modernity with westernism Enjoyed your article ..:-)
    BTW , sotyi kakhono Kolkatay beRate aashoni ? …aare ekbaar ghure jaao… :-D

  • Two things which for me were the best in your post:
    1) The Raja Rammohan example.
    2) Some babas making fortune.
    Overall, liked your post and liked your thoughts. Agree with them as well. The final though is that modernity resides with your mentality and your actions that affects the society.

  • You scored a few brownie points here. Clothes is not equal to modern thinking.
    And being a probasi bengali myself… I understand what you go through with those silly questions.

  • India still needs to come out of the impacts of Macaulayism… That’s why people still think modern=western. We want everything to be told by the western to qualify. We still need to regain, respect and accept scientific lifestyle of ancient Bharatha. Proud to recall that bharatiya scientists were the first to flight an aeroplane, we have introduced ‘zero’ to the rest of the world, yoga-pranayama-mudras-ayurveda, Yunani, Homeopathy are much more scientific than Alopathy.. I believe, modern=scientific and realisitic. Of course, simple living and high thinking are the signs of being modern :)

    Liked your point of view very much!
    Regards,
    Sindhu
    Tantu
    The Arts & Me

  • 1-I agree with your points on clothing.According to me-wear cloths as you are comfortable.
    2.Yoga is on of our ancient knowledge.As i come from a Asia’s Yoga Hub Mysore,I tried learning once and I gave up at one point because I didnt enjoy.Does it make me-a person who disrespects our heritage and tradition?
    3-I even Learnt our classical music for 8 years and I gave up because I wasnt good at it,so does it make me a person who disrespects our heritage and tradition?

  • That’s a really interesting post. I suppose the reason people get Western and modern mixed up is that newer ideas seem modern, and as Western ideas come to India — or other cultures — they are new, And hence, seem modern. But it’s an interesting idea to consider what is new to the Indian culture, but not western, and so “modern Indian.”

  • WHoooaaa .. An extremely interesting post !

  • Very thought provoking. But somehow, I think the rot has set in too deep. We are either being judged or being judgmental all the time. Not just dress, we are critical of language, accent, fashion, job, payscale, gender, color of skin…endless list.

    • Yes, we are becoming a country of critics and cynics. There are too many people who are worried about what others are doing rather than living their own life, this is actually leading to most of the problems. The so called upholders of religion and language have totally divided this country and created a negative atmosphere.

      Now, it totally upon people to allow this thing to keep on going or will they raise their voice. :) :D

  • I dress unique to me, I wear whatever my mood takes me to that day, I will wear bright summer colours in Winter, my Mum says even from being a toddler I would want to mix up outfits, I see clothes more as an expression of my feelings than modern, vintage, trendy or old fashioned :).

    Do you do yoga? when I can’t dance I can at least roll out my yoga mat anywhere, even in this tiny student room I’m in at the moment and work out for a while. I knew its origins were from India and I enjoyed your article.

    • Even I have this habit of dressing according to my mood but sometimes I dress according to occasion as well ;) Sometimes problem here is about continuing some traditions, this new culture in India is still evolving and it will take some time before it settles down. :)

      I actually learned yoga in my young days but now I have several excuses for not doing it like I’m busy with my work and don’t get enough time ;) I have actually become really unfit, some fitness regime is needed now. ;) :)

  • subzeroricha

    Interesting to see that a lot of points resonate with all of us. Perhaps tomorrow we will see most of these cons going away until then the change needs to come from us, within the society..

    Richa

    • Yes, the more stable changes come into force gradually…I find the diversity works extremely well for our country, we just need to channelize the energy at right place. :)

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