Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Civilization and Culture

Rajendra Singh Baisthakur

Both Civilization and Culture are abstractions that defy concrete definitions. Civilization is a broader term which includes many things of which culture is one. Civilization is said to be a record of human achievements from the beginning. All inventions, right from a stick/ stone to kill a running animal for food, are part of the evolving civilization. In a lighter vein, it is said that civilization is a result of man’s laziness. It means man went on discovering and inventing things to lessen his strain and lead an easier or more comfortable life. From Stone Age to the day of Artificial intelligence every new thing has been a step forward in becoming civilized. To make it simpler what all we physically possess in the form of gadgets for our comfort today are visible evidences of our civilization.

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Culture is something a set of people have as their identity and character. In other words the way a man dresses, what he eats, the language he speaks, the effect of history of his society, his way of life, attitude, religion, beliefs, traditions, customs, art, relationships etc are his culture. Many cultures can be parts of a civilization. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs have their own cultures but are parts of Indian Civilization. Things/men not connected with god/ religion may also be part of a civilization (agnostics/ non-believers). So religion is only one of the factors, though a very important one, to identify different cultures.

A man is said to be civilized when he dresses according to the standards of his society, speaks in a polite manner, values humaneness and culture. He is said to be a cultured person when he has qualities like tolerance at the misbehavior of others, forgiveness, helping nature, creativity, artistic temperament, empathy, love for humanity and god. Culture is like a beautiful creation of an artist. Civilization is putting that artistic piece at the appropriate place (like an architect) to enhance the beauty of the whole area.

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In common man’s language a well dressed person, preferably in suit, is considered civilized. We don’t think weather such clothes are suitable in a hot country like India. A person in a villager’s clothes is said to be uncivilized and sometimes even called ‘country brute’! In India, if he speaks English, he is branded as civilized! Smoking and drinking have become hallmarks of civilization! With a thousand year domination by Muslims and the British, Indians have lost their real identity. The destruction of Hindu temples, the burning of Gurkuls to destroy Sanskrit teaching (the media of our ancient fund of knowledge) has cut our connection with our roots. Though we got political independence we are still mentally slaves of the Western thought. We are aping western culture and it has become all the more with globalization and movement of our software employees in and out of India. (I doo’t blame software workers abroad as they are now more conscious of Indian culture and are trying to connect with our roots more than the natives.)

Unfortunately there is no attempt to awaken Indians about their civilization and culture which are far better for us than any other. Krishna said, ‘Your dharma is better for you than any other’. Here dharma may be understood as ‘way of life’. The infinite treasure of knowledge in our Sanskrit texts has to be extracted and made available for public. Though other religions teach and propagate their religions Hindus are left unaware of their religion and its usefulness even today. With due respect to Gurus, today no religious person or temple priest teaches or talks about Hindu culture. They only talk about Hindu religious texts are Yoga. Intellectuals too do not take any initiative and are silent. This must change by creating public consciousness about our own culture and civilization. After all you lose your identity in the world without your culture and civilization and have to live like nobody which is distasteful to anyone. 

By way of a simplistic conclusion, we may say civilization is our gadgets and culture; and culture is our humaneness.

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Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur
Rajendra Singh Baisthakur had been a Lecturer in English. He is a poet, critic and translator. His interests are Literature, Philosophy and social media.



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