Culture gives us the necessary light. It gives us a sense of purpose in human existence. It embodies values that bind society together. Culture is a kind of lens through which we are capable of knowing and remembering the past that is our heritage. It is revealing the broader horizons of the past and illuminating the future, not in details, but in showing the direction in which the society is moving.
To live without a cultural memory is not to live at all. In the words of William Harrell Mallock culture is not a substitute for life, but the key to it. A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people.
The General Assembly of the United Nations World Conference of cultural policies held in Mexico in 1982 under the auspices of UNESCO proclaimed the period between 1988-1997 as the world decade for cultural development. Concept of culture redefined; culture comprises the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of human beings, value system, traditions and beliefs.
The conference decided to accomplish two things. Firstly, to restore culture to its rightful place in contemporary societies, secondly to sensitise decision-makers and the public at large and to deepen the understanding of the role that culture plays and could be brought to play in all endeavours.
Nepali Culture: Global Relevance
Nepalese culture is a happy home of different experiences of different generations. The interim constitution of Nepal (2063 B.S.) declared, besides other things, that Nepal is a Secular State. This declaration agrees with the historical evolution of Nepalese society but not a non-secular state nor is it a theocratic one. The reason is that the Hindu religion unlike other religions is not theistic; it is fundamentally humanitarian and establishes an inextricable relation between man and nature. Hinduism is a tolerant, basic-values oriented and aesthetics-oriented way of life. I would like to quote here from the Bhagawad Gita “Friendly compassionate and without hatred towards all living forms, devoid of selfishness, non-individualistic and unattached towards pain or pleasure but forgiving. It is very difficult to define Hinduism.
A.G. Mitchel has defined it as follows: A Hinduism is an all-embracing word for which it is impossible to give a definition.” Dr S.P. Radhakrishnan the greatest philosopher of India has rightly remarked, “Hinduism is not a definite dogmatic creed, but a vast complex of subtly unified mass of spiritual thought and realization.” Another Indian Philosopher T.M.P. Mahadevan throws light on Hinduism: “Hinduism regards as it is to any historical personage and prophet. Buddism, Christianity and Islam have founded religions. Their dates are definite, since their authors are known such date founder can be cited as no marking the beginning of Hinduism. Hence it is called ‘Sanatan’ and Vedic, ancient and revealed
Nepal is a religiously tolerant country where not a single drop of blood has been shed in the name of religion. There is a peaceful existence of several religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Bahai etc. So it is crystal clear that Nepal is a honeycomb of several religions, ‘This is the driving philosophical force which could neither be universally practised nor put to absolute application. Even then this philosophy of broadest liberalism in Hinduism has found a place and expression in directive principles of the present constitution of Nepal.
In Nepal, Hindus and Buddhists live together as a cohesive social unit. But the interim constitution of Nepal mentions Nepal as a secular state in 2063 B.S. Now Nepal is a secular state.
The worship of different gods and goddesses is a common feature of a religious country like Nepal. The main motto of worship is always there. Call it Moksha (Salvation), Nirvana (Freedom from the cycle of life and death). The highest aim of human life is to get rid of worldly worries and sorrows and to achieve heavenly pleasures. Orthodox Hindus follow the religion enjoined by the Vedas, Puranas, Smritis and other ancient scriptures and worship their favourite gods and goddesses as laid down in them.
The Vedic Aryans adopted a simple mode of worship. They used to chant hymns in praise of their gods and goddesses. These were the ways of the Rishis or sages or saints. During the puranic age, a large number of gods and goddesses were found in the Hindu pantheon. Temples were erected, idols of gods and goddesses were established inside.
Stories regarding their origins were made, verses in their praise composed and the mode of worship defined. The Nepalese people are very joyous and jubilant especially the Jyapus of the Kathmandu valley are very merry-making people. The people of the North are as rugged as the mighty mountains they like. Here, on the chilly edge of Tibet in the shadow of the High Himalayas live the Sherpas with Buddhist culture. They know how to eat, drink and make merry.
Newars are also highly cultured and well-behaved people. Likewise, the Madheshis and Tharus are also very much civilized. They celebrate different fairs and festivals on several auspicious occasions for relaxation and recreation. The Hindus observe Shivaratri, Vasantapanchami, Rama Navami, Durga Pooja, Holi etc. with great pomp and show. The Buddhists also celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha with great enthusiasm. Lovely Losar is also observed very happily by the Tamangs and Gurungs. Mani Rimdu is ceremonially solemnized by the Sherpas who are considered mighty mountaineers in the world. Muslims keep month-long fasting on the occasion of Ramadan and Christians celebrate Christmas and New Year every year with great fanfare.
The people of the Kathmandu valley celebrate Rato and Seto Macchindranath chariot festival with warm festivity which is typical. Terai people observe Chhatha Pooja (sun worshipping) which is also unique. Thus different cultural communities celebrate their rites and rituals which are living forces of their culture.
Dance and music are also our cultural heritage. Culture is the subtotal of human values expressed through art, religion and literature. Thus the Nepalese culture is our way of life, governed by human values and high thoughts. Simple living and high thinking is the cornerstone of the Nepalese culture. According to the Nepal Mahatmya; “To worship Buddha is to worship Shiva. Buddhists worship Shiva as well as Krishna. Western Scholars wonder at this religious harmonious blending of the Nepalese culture.
Nepal is a colourful mosaic of different races, ethnic communities and languages. Their lifestyles reflect the changing terrain. On the southern Terai plains, the climate is humid, hot and the culture is spicy. There you will find Tharus in their colourful costumes. Maithil women adoring their homes with brilliant wall paintings. In the balmy and beautiful hills, the people are charming as the lush greenery and scenery hillscape of terraces pocketed with villages of the Tamangs, Rais, Gurungs and Magars of Gorkha Soldiers.
The views and values of human life are nicely reflected in both major religions and also in other religions. The Nepalese culture is the culmination of ancient ideals, values and views of our ancestors, handed down to us from generation to generation.
The Nepalese culture is very deeply and densely rooted in human values which are its very foundation but today they are decaying very fast day by day. This is very unfortunate. According to C.D. Lewis, “Human values are in a melting pot.” today. So it is our pious duty to preserve them and try to lead our life following them. It is the permanent promoter of peace and prosperity in the universe. It is the source of goodwill, love, devotion and brotherly feelings and fraternity. Its main motto is to lead from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from ill will to goodwill and from curse to boon. Its main message is to spread good wishes and universal brotherhood to the whole of humanity. In the words of one Nepalese scholar:
Now there is an urgent need for cultural diplomacy in all South Asian countries which can be proved a vital cultural link among these countries. David Linds in his book entitled The Wealth and Poverty of Nations have written that the success of national economies is driven by cultural factors more than anything else. Sociologist and political economist Mrs Max Weber said that social attitudes and values have the decisive say on which economies will succeed and which one will fail
According to Social psychologist Richard Nisbett, the geography of culture plays a significant role in shaping the thoughts of people.
Today Nepalese culture has been highly influenced by western culture. The young generation is fond of celebrating Valentine Day and even Christmas which are not Nepalese at all. This is not a good sign for Nepalese Culture. I would like to quote here “Culture penetration increasingly viewed as an adjunct of any sustained system of global exploitation is an extension of counter-insurgency through non-military means. (Kar, 1996)
Writing about Indian culture Suniti Kumar Chatterjee writes:
“The character of Indian culture may be expressed by one phrase: acceptance of unity in diversity, or a harmony of contrasts, and sometimes violent ones are there, but there is will to see harmony, through nationalism and intuitive realization.”
Source : THE RISING NEPAL,