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Salient features of Indian Culture and values

CHARACTERISTICS OF INDIAN CULTURE: Many things can be included while describing the distinguishing characteristics of Indian culture.

Salient features of Indian Culture and values




Many things can be included while describing the distinguishing characteristics of Indian culture. But it is a fact that India is an amalgamation of various thoughts and ideologies. It is very vast and varied culture rich in knowledge, devotion deeds, emotions and feeling. It is the broad mindedness of Indian culture that it assimilated all those characteristic features witho ut any hesitation to which it was exposed from various other cultures and moulded them in own way.


India did not believe in invasion or war to propagate its culture, religion, ideology or any other thing. It treated all living creatures with same equality and compassion.


Features of Indian Culture:


1. Longevity and continuity

2. Unity in diversity

3. Tolerance

4. Amalgamation of Spirituality and Materialism




In recent years, many scholars and experts engaging in studies of cultural values have emerged in China. As a result, quite a few dissertations and works analyzing the values of Chinese and Western cultures have been published. However, those dealing with Indian cultural values are less, not to mention those that expound Indian culture and its values systematically and comprehensively and conduct comparative research about them in international cultural research. So I want to explore this topic to the best of my knowledge in order to receive advice from experts and colleagues.


According to knowledge about cultural values, the patterns, factors and traits of specific values are determined in many aspects such as politics, morality, religion, nation, equality, justice, truth, goodness and beauty. However, they can still be generalized into three major aspects. As Tugalenov, a scholar of the former Soviet Union, put it in his book On the Values of Life and Culture, all the cultural values can be classified into three categories: material values, social and political values and spiritual values. In the following paragraphs, I will use these three criteria to advance my study of the values of Indian culture.


Material Values


The material value on which Indian culture puts emphasis is the perfect devotion/commitment of humans. Though enjoyment of material values is a part of Indian cultural values, it is only a part and cannot represent the ultimate goal the Indian cultural values pursue, that is, to realize the per fect devotion of humans. Most Indians brought up by the traditional Indian culture care less about the possession and enjoyment of material values: thus there exists a strong national mentality of helping those in distress and aiding those in peril. In Ind ia as well as in other countries, it‘s not surprising to find that a rich person, even a very wealthy one, hands over his fortune for the good of social welfare.


Social and Political Values


The social and political values of Indian culture are that humans should intend to create a harmonious environment, using the eternal law of the cosmos to normalize their own conducts in order to reach the ultimate stage of oneness with Brahman-atman. On the one hand, India attaches some importance to pragmatic interests and desires. On the other hand, more importantly, it spares no efforts to promote that everyone should persevere in his life and undertake the obligations of his family and his nation for the prosperity of the society and the wellbeing of his posterity rather than personal pursuits and gains. People must follow law and submit to it, complying with the social rules and morals prescribed by the eternal law, which is more than mere civil law and covers a whole range of meanings such as the task and justice of man, human relations and the social order. So the Indian traditional cultural values strongly emphasize that only by dedicating oneself selflessly to the society can his behaviors truly accord with the social and political values and can a harmonious environment be created.


Spiritual Values


The ultimate goal that the spiritual values of Indian culture pursue is to realize the oneness of Brahman-atman, which is the only way for final salvation. India is a religious country. As early as the Vedic era, Indians had a strong belief that some kind of individual personality existed after death, which was considered to be the primitive soul of a human. This belief developed into the thought of heaven at the end of this era. It was said in Atharva Veda that the soul of the dead could reside in heaven, earth and midair, but heaven is the most ideal place. While it was believed in Rig Veda that those people eligible to enter the heaven were sadhus who conducted ascetic practices, soldiers who gave up their lives on the battlefield and devotees who didn‘t hesitate to sacrifice their properties to Brahman could also enter heaven.


Then the conception of ‗karma" began to emerge in Atharva Veda, which claimed that man must hold responsibility towards both the good karma and the evil karma on his own, and evil deeds must be punished accordingly. Based on this concept, the idea of the round of death and rebirth came into being. Evildoers must be punished, either being sent to the hell or being transmigrated into such humble things as pig, dog and muck, while those who did good would be rewarded by paradise. It was in the Upanishad era that such issues as the time limit of punishment and reward, soul and salvation were developed and clarified further.


The appearance of the Upanishads had a positive significance to a certain extent because the text was founded on the three major guiding principles of Brahmanism. It was the result of the efforts of some Brahmanic scholars who aspired to seek advanced thoughts to interpret the ultimate meanings of the ‗forest treatises‘, part of the Vedas. These treatises included philosophic thoughts, so they were also called Vedanta philosophy. After it was finalized, the Vedanta philosophy claimed that the dominant in heaven, earth and midair was Brahman.


Though invisible and unrevealed as it was, it would appear in every place at any time. The material world and everything in it were just its illusion. Individual soul was essentially one with Brahman. This was the thinking of "the identity of Brahman-atman". Therefore, Hinduism sees the self-realization of the identity of Brahman-atman as the loftiest goal of reaching salvation. But because of "karma" man can‘t experience and recognize the atman. "Affected by Karma, the atman is unable to return to Brahman to identify with it after death. So man has to suffer from the round of death and rebirth or be reincarnated into a bird, a beast, a worm and a fish." For that matter, Indians consider life to be painful and that they must strive hard to find the way to reach salvation and the identity of Brahma-atman so that the suffering from the round of death and rebirth can be exempted, ‘escaped from‘. In order to achieve this goal, new paths had been put forward in the Bhagavad Gita, the classic work of Hinduism. They were the path of behavior, the path of devotion and the path of knowledge.


Path of Behavior. The believers must abide by the moral norms strictly, devoting themselves to the gods. Actions derive from freedom, so Hinduism encourages people to participate in all kinds of working practices, to love their jobs and to dedicate themselves to their jobs, which quite differs from the Buddhist way of salvation by quitting jobs to eliminate the cause of "karma".


Path of Wisdom. The path of wisdom is very popular among Indians today. To most intellectuals, they feel subconsciously the urgency to master knowledge and open the door of wisdom not only for the sake of finding a favorable living and working condition, but also for approaching God and identifying with him.


Path of Devotion. If a Hindu loves a god and submits to him piously in the extreme, this is also a way of gaining the god‘s favor and reaching salvation. It is an effective way to identify with a god to cherish the god in heart, to do everything for god and to read the name of god silently every minute.

‘Nonviolent’ Thinking in Indian Cultural Values


Nonviolence is the goal and state the Indian cultural values seek to achieve. According to Vedanta philosophy, everything in the world is self deriving from Self, so it should be friendly and equally disposed to others. Everything‘s true nature is divine a nd has the true, good and beautiful moral conduct, so people should be kind to and love each other. Moreover, the spirit of friendliness and love ought to be extended to beasts and birds, flowers and plants. Thus, killing is forbidden.


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