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ISSN: 0974-892X

VOL. XIII
ISSUE II

July, 2019

 

 

Propagation of Cultural Hegemony and Homogenization in Indian Society

Vijay P. Prince, Assistant Professor, Postgraduate Dept. of English, JPM College Kanchiyar Kattappana, Kerala

 

 

Abstract

The research article entitled, “Cultural Hegemony and Homogenization in Indian Society” addresses the current issue of cultural homogenization in India through the use of our epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The fascinating legacy of our great epics are manipulated through mass media for political gain. The advent of the two serials, Ramayana  and Mahabharata  towards the end of the twentieth century bears testimony for this. These puranic narratives were effectively used as a tool for cultural homogenization in a pluralistic arena. This is a serious contamination of the cultural system for political manipulation and use. These serialized versions of the epics provides the ground for hegemonic representations which reduces the whole pluralistic cultural system into a hegemonic one. Through such hegemonic representations the political authority wins consent to its rule from those it subjugates. Thus, the television serials created a Hindu consciousness and the advocates of this cultural homogenization manipulated the consent of the people for democratic governance. A diverse multilayered, pluralistic India is misinterpreted into a Hindu nation through this cultural manipulation via hegemonic representations.

Keywords:  Contamination of Culture, Cultural Homogenization, Hegemony, Mass Media, Pluralistic Tradition, , Political Manipulation.

 

 

  1. Introduction

In this second decade of twenty first century, India is striving to be globally accepted as a Hindutwa nation. But the nation lives in the present while it is nourished by the unparalleled cultural heritage of the past. So it is quite pertinent to analyze the Hindutwa in the present, of the past and its scope in the future. So this analysis should begin with a consideration of Indian history.

It is impossible not to be wondered by India. Nowhere on earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures, religions, races and languages. Set apart from the rest of Asia by the supreme continental wall of the Himalayas, the Indian subcontinent touches three large bodies of water and is immediately recognizable on any world map. This thick, roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the Indian Ocean to the south. As Mark Twain, the famous American novelist wrote in his non-fiction social commentary Following the Equator: “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.” (67)

India’s puzzle board of 29 states holds virtually every kind of landscape imaginable. With more than 1 billion citizens, India is the second most populous nation in the world. It is impossible to speak of any one Indian culture, although there are deep cultural continuities that tie its people together. English is the major language of trade and politics, but there are twenty-two official languages in all. India has seven major religions and many minor ones, six main ethnic groups and countless holidays. Religion is central to Indian culture, and its practice can be seen in virtually every aspect of life in the country. Hinduism is the dominant faith of India, serving about 80 percent of the population.

India's extraordinary history is intimately tied to its geography. A meeting ground between the East and the West, it has always been an invader's paradise, while at the same time its natural isolation and magnetic religions allowed it to adapt to and absorb many of the people who penetrated its mountain passes. No matter how many Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, British and other raiders had their way with the land, local Hindu kingdoms invariably survived their depredations, living out their own sagas of conquest and collapse. All the while, these local dynasties were built upon the roots of a culture well established since the time of the first invaders, the Aryans. In short, India has always been simply too big, too complicated, and too culturally subtle to let any empire dominate it for long.

The Vedic tradition of India which is traced back to B.C 1500, laid the foundation of Indian life; social, cultural, ethical and even spiritual but not religious. The great epics, Upanishads, Vedas, great pantheist ideas of spirituality were all imbued in the Indian spirit from the Vedic period onwards. This Indian system is not merely a post colonial or post war phenomenon. It is not simply indebted to the outcome of European Renaissance, Industrial revolution and imperialism that emanated from the occident.

India shares a history which is marked by its plurality and diversity at various levels. The notion of India is very much a cultural construct and it is impossible to contain within the boxes of any unifying idea. It is quite impossible to find another nation in the world having the myriad variety, astounding cultural fusion and diverse ethnic tradition as India. However, from the twentieth century onwards, there is a strong internal force within the country that tried to homogenize the nation within the confines of a single religion that is Hinduism. The pluralistic culture of India is consolidated into a single religion by the right wing in order to manipulate power and authority. For this purpose, the cultural heritage of India, including the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana , are appropriated.

 

2.0 Propagation of Cultural Hegemony and Homogenization in Indian Society

Any academic discussions on the topic of India should begin with a very foundational question- ‘What is India?’ In other words, what is this broad term ‘India’ intends to convey? As a nation state, what is its historical cohesion that facilitates the growth of a sect of people, culture, values, ethics and codes over centuries? These basic queries should be properly addressed in order to go deep into the subject matter.

Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities is an apt metaphor for the creation of India as a cultural construct. In his book Imagined Communities, He defined nation as an imagined political community. As Anderson puts it:

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. Members of the community probably will never know each of the other members face to face; however, they may have similar interests or identify as part of the same nation. (6)
 
The name India was originally applied by the Greeks to the geographical area on the banks of the river Indus who served under the Hakhamanishiya or Achaemenid emperors of ancient Persia, or those who came with Alexander the Great. The Sanskrit name for the river Indus, Sindhu. became Hindu, Hidu in the ancient dialect of Iran, which the Greeks turned into Indos, and this Indos is the source of Indus, India.

Historically, India can very well be called a sub-continent rather than a country on account of its extent, diversity of climate, difference in physical features and the variety of races that inhabit the country. Geographically, India is divided into four parts. The first consists of the mountainous country extending from the borders of Persia in the west to those of the province of Yun-nan in the south of the china. Most of the provinces in the region are enclosed within a very long and wide mountain system called the Himalayas and the Hindu-Kush . The second part, on region, consists of the basins of the seven rivers of the Punjab and the flat plains through which the Ganges and the Brahmaputhra flow. This region is bound on the north by the jungles at the foot of the Himalayas, on the east by  the mountain ranges which separate Bengal from Burma, on the west by the mountain of Afganisthan and Baluchistan, and on the south by the jungles on the northern slope of  the  Vindhya range. The third region consists of great plateau in the centre of the Indian peninsula. The fourth division includes a broad belt of fertile land which runs along the sides of peninsula. It is bounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by the eastern or western ghats.

From a historical viewpoint the four regions differ greatly. Since early times the sea coast has been the abode of enterprising foreigners, who have crossed over from other lands. The rich fertile coast land has seen the rise of many different civilizations. The Deccan plateau and the three mountain systems which gird it have afforded a safe refuge to conquered races from time immemorial, and its barren and unproductive soil has repelled invaders, while the broad fertile plain of the basins of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputhra has attracted hungry nomads from outside India from the very dawn of the history of mankind. Like the third region, the secluded valleys of the mountain-girt Himalayan region have sheltered the remnants of conquered races of different historic periods. The languages, manners, and customs of the different inhabitants of these alpine valleys of India afford very great help in the reconstruction of the history of her prehistoric past.

 

2.1 Indian Literary Heritage

India had a fascinating literary heritage which stands apart and exceptional from other literary legacies anywhere in the world so far. The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the oral literature of the Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500-1200 BC.

The ancient Sanskrit epics Ramayana  and Mahabharata are considered as the Itihasa or Mahakavya, a canon of Hindu scripture. The Puranas, a massive collection of verse-form histories of India’s many Hindu gods and goddesses, followed in this tradition.

Epics, or Mahakavyas, are known as the specialty of Sanskrit and are also the earliest forms of literature. Indian literature is thought to be the earliest literature of the world. Literature during this time largely incorporated art. The art was very detailed and included humans, animals, nature and much more. The two most famous epics are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. An epic is supposed to be divided into chapters, or Sarga. Every chapter is composed in an individual and specific manner depending on the subject or theme of the Sarga. Epics are progressive and digressive in narration. Their narrative strategy is comparable with an artistic creation like sculpture or painting. Imagery is widely used to describe festivals, forests, mountains, seasons and so on. Stanzas are composed so they flow with the story line but are also given an individual relevance and image.

The two classical epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata have to do with ideals and values of human civilization. The epics highlight the value of truth and the importance of self-sacrifice. Epics have many moral teachings and are sacred writing to Hindus because of the important discourses and teaching included in them. Although they are originally written in Sanskrit, they were performed orally before transferring epics into writing.

The Mahabharata is a famous Indian epic written by Ved Vyasa and is the longest Sanskrit epic ever written. The epic has more than 74,000 verses and 18 books. The story is set in India is about the conflict of a family, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The two sides of the family have a dispute over who is to rule the kingdom but the Kauravas are exiled after losing a game of gamble. Later on, they come back and have a war. Krishna is a great part of the story as he helps Arjuna drive his chariot. Another very important part of the story is the conversation that Arjuna and Krishna have about the Bhagawad Gita. Krishna gives Arjuna a glimpse of his divine self and reminds Arjuna that he must fulfill his destiny in life.

Ramayana  is one of the most famous and widely read epics of all times. Maharshi Valmiki is the author of the epic. The Hindus have such high respect for this epic, that it is considered a holy book. All children in India know the story of the Ramayana and it holds important values as well as idealistic principles. There are many local versions written and printed across India. The Ramayana takes place in the kingdom of Ayodhya where there was a noble king, Dashratha. The eldest son was Rama and because of his values and outlook, he was considered the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The moral of the epic is that good triumphs over evil, and the values highlighted are the ones demonstrated by Rama. 

The Mahabharata is an important source of information on the development of Hinduism between 400 and 200 BC and is regarded by Hindus as both a text about dharma (Hindu moral law) and a history (Itihasa, literally “that’s what happened”). Appearing in its present form about 400 BC, the Mahabharata consists of a mass of mythological and didactic  material arranged around a central heroic narrative that tells of the struggle for sovereignty between two groups of cousins the Kauravas (sons of Dhritarashtra, the descendant of Kuru) and the Pandavas (sons of Pandu). The poem is made up of almost 100,000 couplets—about seven times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined- divided into 18 parvas, or sections, plus a supplement titled Harivamsha. Although it is unlikely that any single person wrote the poem, its authorship is traditionally ascribed to the sage Vyasa, who appears in the work as the grandfather of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The date and even the historical occurrence of the war that is the central event of the Mahabharata are much debated.

Mahabharata is widely referred as the epic of epics. This is not just because of the enormous length of the epic, but of the emotions, life, struggles, conflicts and complexities that it carries. The epic, with its depth of encyclopedic content and richness of presentation of scriptural values, far outweighed the four Vedas famed for their mysterious and esoteric knowledge. Its sacred quality rests on the virtue it portrays. Mahabharata stories are the stories for life time that it portrays all the struggles and conflicts that one came across in his/her life. The various characters and situations in Mahabharata are reinterpreted by many writers all around the world. Mahabharata as a text has been studied by many scholars irrespective of the national or language boundaries. With its content and narrative, Mahabharata is a text having high literary merit. It can be referred as a cultural saga rather than an exclusive religious text.

The various characterizations in Mahabharata are having high literary merit at any standards. The characters like Karna, Dhritarashtra, Kunti, Bheema, Yayati etc. bear testimonies for this. Several literary works were made in various languages depicting these characters as the major figures and thus redefining the epic.

Karna, the eldest pandava is typical embodiment of a modern tragic hero. The Aristotelian conception of Hamartia or Tragic flaw is well embedded in his life. Tragedy, a very Western term requires all kinds of criteria: a great figure must fall from a great height, and there must be a "catharsis" (a cleansing) for the viewers or readers. Aristotle suggests that the hero of a tragedy must evoke a sense of pity or fear within the audience, stating that “the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity." (Butcher 45) Karna is regarded as the most unfortunate character in the whole epic. Karna was doomed to live with a sense of insecurity because of his anonymous parentage. The life struggles he came across are in fact the conflicts faced by everyman. Karna is equal to Arjuna in valour and archery. He is determined to kill Arjuna, and though he could have easily done away with the rest of the Pandavas, stood by his promise to Kunti. A child who was found floating on the water grows up to become a king.  Karna was the son of Kunti from the Sun God.  Kunti was still very young when she had occasion to serve Rishi Durvasa. She served him with great dedication. Sage granted Kunti Mantras and the God she would think of after reciting the Mantra, would appear before her and bless her with a son endowed with his own godly qualities. Out of curiosity Kunti chanted Surya mantra. The Ordained happened. Sun God appeared before Kunti in his resplendent glory. This is the story of the birth of Karna. Karna’s life was alternately tragedy and sacrifices. Throughout his life he was known for the quality of sacrifice. He would not say no to anybody who comes to him for a gift. Ultimately he was destroyed by this quality of sacrifice.

By all means Karna is a character who is attributed with the classical traits of a tragic hero in Aristotelian terms and a character having vast potential for literary possibilities. The renowned Marathi novelist, Shivaji Sawant’s  novel Mrityunjay redefines Mahabharata tale from Karna’s point of view. This particular novel is an introspection into the epic through the narratives of Duryodana, Vrishali, Shonar, Kunti, Krishna and Karna. P.K balakrishnan’s Malayalam novel “Ini Njan Urangatte”, published in 1973 is a literary tribute to the unsung hero of the great epic. Thus Karna remains an ideal literary figure for writers even today. This shows the literary potential of the the epic and the wide possibilities in the characterizations offered in the main text.

Another remarkable character in Mahabharata is King Yayati. Yayati was a brave king who had to surrender his conscience and dignity to the destiny. He was one of the ancestors of Pandavas. Yayati's father, Nahusha is transformed into a python by a curse uttered by the sages as punishment for his arrogance. Yayati's elder brother, Yati, is initially given the kingdom, but turns it down and instead becomes an ascetic. Yayati then becomes king in his place and prospers so greatly that he is able to conquer the whole world. He appoints his four younger brothers to rule the world's cardinal directions.

In the words of the story, Yayati enjoys all the pleasures of the senses 'for a thousand years' and, by experiencing passion to the full comes to realize its utter futility. Having found wisdom by following the road of excess, Yayati gratefully returns the youth of his son Puru and takes back his old age in return, renouncing the world to spend his remaining days as a forest ascetic. His spiritual practices are, at long last, blessed with success and, alone in the deep woods, he is rewarded with ascension to svarga- the heavenly realm of the righteous, ruled by Indra, that is but one step below the ultimate liberation of moksha.

The famous Marathi novelist V.S Khandekar’s Yayati is perhaps one of the most intriguing and fascinating rereading of Mahabharata. Through the portrayal of Yayati who unabashedly declares, “My lust for pleasure is unsatisfied” (Khandekar 114) Khandekar reflects on the carnal quest of human beings. Yayati had everything that one can dream of, born a prince in the most mighty empire of the time, brave, went around the world with his winning horse establishing himself as the greatest warrior of his times, married the daughter of the most influential sage and had another princess as his wife, had sons that any father can dream of, but could never lead a happy life. At times destiny chose him and at times he chose his destiny. He was played around by his first wife Devayani, who married him but never loved him, but he also got a devoted wife in Sharmishtha. He had a weakness for wine and women and it is in wine and women that he sought answer to his problems or disappointments. He went so ahead in his addiction that he lost account of women who gave up lives because of him. And the nadir of his lust is when he asks his sons to exchange their youth with his old age so that he can go back and enjoy bodily pleasures. On the face of it Yayati is a character you would want to hate, but the story has been told from so many dimensions that you cannot do so. The Author claims that since there are not many references available for Yayati and his life, he has woven the story from his own imagination, and hence is a piece of fiction. But of course whatever has been found through the references is depicted as such in the story. The story is told in first person, by the three main characters Yayati, Devayani and Sharmishtha. Each of them give their own view of things as they happened in their lives, driven as they were to various acts and how they felt through the life.

The renowned Kannada writer Girish Karnad wrote a dramatic performance to the epic tale of Yayati. In this play, King Yayati’s story from the Mahabharata becomes a roller coaster ride of events, sparked off by one sexual encounter. Set against a background of lust, jealousy and social prejudice, six strong characters fight to assert their own rights.

The women characters in Mahabharata are positively empowered individuals. They had the power, influence and will of their own. Kunti treated with much respect in the Epic, was a heroic mother who did not seek anything for herself, she was both an embodiment of Stree dharma and a departure from it. Gandhari was a faithful and most devoted wife and yet she through her sightless eyes wields power. Throughout this epic the true character of Draupadi emanates. She is a victim of patriarchy as well as an empowered woman.

During Mahabharata war, all the parties violate the rules and ethics. Abhimanyu was slain, Drona was defeated by the lie of Yudhistira, Duryodhana was beaten on the thigh to be murdered, Lord Krishna conspired and manipulated for the Pandavas. The devastating and corrupting influence of war is given in the epic. It is also an ultimate analysis of the concept of Dharma. This is the greatest text of all times which has portrayed the conflicts of human existence in its fullest and most agonizing proportion.

The women of the Ramayana , especially Sita, have become benchmarks for Indian women through ages. Besides, Ramayana   can be considered as a deep psychological epic.

Distraught with the consternating devastation of Lanka by a mere monkey (Hanuman), Ravana seeks the ‘scientific’ counsel of his lieutenants, though his innate craving is for their unqualified eulogy of him. When Vibhishana, unlike the other demon leaders, advises him against war by returning Sita to Rama; the demon king, overtaken by his hubris, megalomania and narcissism, rubbishes and alienates his own brother. Ravana’s attitude and reaction are in line with the nature of autocrats who attract only toadies. This is in sharp contrast to how Dasaratha, intending to crown Rama as prince regent, scrupulously takes recourse to hierarchical and wider consultations in a democratic and objective manner. The way Manthara manages to influence and instigate an essentially good natured Kaikeyi uncovers her crafty psychology of sniffing at and manipulating the subtle palace politics.

Tales from Mahabharata and Ramayana  have this quality that we can read them over and over again and every time you read them you get more drawn to them. They are simple stories of characters whose lives are intertwined, leading to a whole set of dilemmas at every point in time. Characters have to make choices all the time, between what they want and what duty calls, between good and bad, between bad and worse, between good and better, between ego and devotion, between family and society, between themselves and their partners, between now or later, between eras and everything that comes in between. The stories are always multilayered and no character is completely white or black, every character has certain things that should have been done, or could been done better, just like they have stories that glorify them. There are all the rasas or emotions that we can feel. We can feel what is going inside each of the characters as they make their choices. We feel for them, identify with a lot of their dilemmas and wish we had the wisdom to take decisions like them and sometimes we wish we never have to face the situations like them where we have to take such tough decisions. The specialty about these stories is that they are well rounded. They are like case studies with the freedom of analysis, just read them and have our own interpretation. These all are the exclusive merits of literature and their benefits over the lives of its readers.

 

2.2 Cultural Homogenization through Hegemonic Representations

The great Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana  are the manifestations of the multi-cultural and pluralistic tradition of India. They are the greatest treasures to the Indian literary canon. Indian identity and literature are highly indebted to these epics. They are synonymous with art and culture of India and thereby an inevitable part of the tradition of the country.

However, there is a misuse of culture and tradition happening alongside. Precisely, it is a serious contamination of the cultural system for political manipulation and use. Both Mahabharata and Ramayana , the literary texts of the cultural heritage of India are being appropriated for the communalist agenda of the Hindutva. Hindutva is an ideology seeking to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life. There is a modern attempt for cultural homogenization by these Hindutva agencies to establish a Hindu nation rejecting the heterogeneous tradition. Here, culture is being equated as well as converted to religion for this purpose. India, a cultural construct having no common religion, culture or ethnicity is being reduced to a single religion, Hinduism. This is made possible through the process called cultural homogenization by Hindutwa. It refers to the reduction in cultural diversity through the popularization and diffusion of a wide array of cultural symbols—not only physical objects but customs, ideas and values.

Though Semitic religions had their influence in India right from the days of their inception, the socio-political influences of these regions became prevalent during the Sultanate and colonial period. Islam was propagated in India by the Sultanate of Delhi and other Islamic invaders. Propagation of religion was a significant agenda of imperial masters also. A hierarchy of religion and the power derived from religious domination were all new to Indians. The agenda of the Hindutwa is very much modeled on the patterns of the semitic religions of Islam and Christianity.

Integral Humanism developed by Deendayal Upadhyaya was one of the initial strategies to establish this cultural homogenization by Hindutwa. It aims to appeal to broad sections of Indian society by presenting an indigenous economic model that puts human being at center of development. Another significant name in the emergence of Hindutva politics in India is that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. He is the one who coined the term Hindutva to create a collective "Hindu" identity as an essence of India. Later, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adopted it as its official ideology in 1989. It is championed by the Hindu nationalist volunteer organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate organizations, notably the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Savarkar’s ideological pamphlet Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu? published in 1923 defined a Hindu as one who was born of Hindu parents and regarded India as his motherland as well as holy land. The three essentials of Hindutva were said to be the common nation (rashtra), common race (jati) and common culture/civilisation (sanskriti). Hindutwa thus defined a nation that had existed since antiquity, Savarkar claimed, in opposition to the historical view that India was just a geographical entity. Deendayal Upadhyaya was infact theorizing Savarkar’s view through his Integral Humanism. This was the beginning of Cultural homogenization in India.

The vital contribution to the cultural homogenization came when Keshav Baliram Hedgewar founded RSS in 1925 on the day of Vijayadashami with an aim to organise Hindu community for its cultural and spiritual regeneration and make it a tool in getting the country free from foreign domination. Hedgewar insisted on the term 'rashtriya' (national) for his exclusively 'Hindu' organization, for he wanted to re-assert the identity of Hindu with 'rashtriya'. Thus, the whole stage is theoretically framed in order to infiltrate the Hindutwa ideology.

A well constructed idea needs a proper channel to inculcate it among the masses. The advent of television in India as a popular medium marked an ideal situation for the propagation of Hindutwa ideals. Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral humanism, Savarkar’s communalist agenda and Hedgewar’s institutional framework finds it an ideal ground to popularize the ideology.

Anderson depicts a nation as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.  It is the media that creates imagined communities, through usually targeting a mass audience or generalizing and addressing citizens as the public. According to Anderson, Media can create imagined communities through the use of images. The media can perpetuate stereotypes through certain images and vernacular. By showing certain images, the audience will choose which image they relate to the most, furthering the relationship to that imagined community.

To be precise, the process of cultural homogenization became far more effective and successful with the advent of two serials in Indian television. They are the Mahabharat (1988 TV Series) aired between 1988 and 1990 and Ramayan (1987 TV Series) between 1987 and 1989 on DD National, the state-owned terrestrial television channel in India. The former was directed by Ravi Chopra having 94 episodes and entered the Guinness Book of World Records by registering 96 percentage world viewership and the latter was written and directed by Ramanand Sagar. The impacts of these serial shows were far reaching. Aravind Rajagopal, in his work Politics after Television quotes that "many people watched it out of devotion. They felt that God was giving them darshan" (5).

The Ramayan epic was serialized on national television in India from January 1987 to august 1989. During the broadcast, the Ram Janmabhumi (Birthplace of Ram) movement, which aimed to demolish a mosque, Babri Masjid (Babur’s mosque) in Ayodhya and build a Ram temple in its place, grew in importance. The Ramayan serial overlapped with the most crucial phase of the Janmabhumi movement, when it changed from an ominous but still relatively obscure campaign into the dominant issue before the country, one that made and unmade prime ministers and ruling parties. The Ramayan achieved record viewership in virtually every part of the country (something no serial before it had done), and made Sunday mornings “belong” to it; any public event scheduled for that time courted disaster. With such publicity given to its pre-eminent symbol, the god-king Ram, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was emboldened to declare, by the middle of 1989, that the Ayodhya movement “had reached a state and status in Indian public life when it was no more possible to ignore its effect in politics, including electoral politics.” The issue was officially declared to be political, with the BJP making it their number one priority that “a grand temple to Lord Ram” would be built at the site of the mosque. In the launching of one procession from Delhi to Ayodhya, Ram’s birthplace, volunteers dresses to look like the television versions of Ram and his brother Lakshman. (5)

The concept of Darshan in Indian philosophy has come to occupy a central place in the studies of India’s visual culture. As a Sanskrit word, usually translated as ‘vision’ or ‘gaze’, it is most commonly used in three different contexts: in everyday religious discourses; in mass media and popular culture studies, explaining cultural differences in the popular usage of visual culture; and as a paradigm considered specific to an Indian or Hindu manner of seeing.

The term Darshan deals mostly with religious contexts of Indian culture and society where Darshan is the term used by the people themselves. As a non-western concept of vision, Darshan also appeals to scholars who explore non-ethnocentric theories, in particular through the study of mass media and popular culture. Darshan is often used to explain cultural differences in the way people looks at photographs or popular prints or watch cinema in India, giving the term new currency as a specific Indian or a Hindu manner of seeing. (Upadhyaya 87)

Although Ramayan was manipulated by the forces of Hindutva, the initial political mileage of this particular television serial was achieved by Congress, under Rajiv Gandhi. It was Arun Govil who acted as Lord Ram in Ramayan was appointed as the political brand ambassador for congress in Utter Pradesh election campaigns. When Congress used the actor who played Lord Ram, Bharatiya Janata Party used Lord Ram himself years later through L.K Advani. The Ram Rath Yathra of 1990 was a political manipulation of a cultural symbol. It was a political-religious march that lasted from September to October 1990, organized by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its Hindu-nationalist affiliates, and led by the then-BJP-president L. K. Advani. The purpose of the yatra was to support the agitation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its Sangh Parivar affiliates to erect a temple to the Hindu deity Rama on the site of the Babri Masjid.

While the 1990s saw the beginning of the confrontation between the Hindutva and the secular, pluralist forces in Indian polity and society, much of the ground was prepared by the creation of a 'Hindu consciousness' through religious serials on TV. During the 1990s, Indian society, polity, culture and economy experienced a break with the past 40 years of post-Independence India, because all secular, modern and moral principles underlying the pluralist and secular constitutional democracy were in pieces before the forces of Hindutva. The Sangh Parivar created a situation where it not only succeeded in destroying the Babri Mosque on December 6, 1992, but also threw a challenge before social formations which firmly believed in upholding the cultural diversity of India in a cosmopolitan pluralist social milieu. This success of Hindutva in a pluralistic nation like India is directly linked to the powerful role played by television serials in making "Hindutva consciousness a reality" because it was for the first time that the powerful medium took the message of Hindutva into the drawing rooms of lower and middle class Hindus. Thus the broadcast of popular serials like Mahabharat and Ramayan inaugurated a new era not only in television but in politics as well. Television in the 1990s created in the minds of Hindus a Utopia of the Rama Rajya of the past and a glorious future for Hindus.

Rama Rajya was originally a system where the society is run by principles of Lord Rama. It is a term popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. It is a democratic system where the ruler rules with the pleasure of people where there are equal rights for everyone and justice accessible even by the poorest sections of the society. In the ideal concept of Rama Rajya, government should uphold truth in its own actions and also expect the same from others and it demands respect for all religions and faiths. In short, Rama Rajya stands for justice, respect and non-coercion. Such a utopia should have prosperity, dharma and happiness.

While the concept of Rama Rajya exemplifies a judicious ruler like Rama and his sacrificial nature along with a sense of equality, the forces of Hindutwa manipulate it for communal polarization for the sake of political gain and to establish authority. What happened in Ayodya is a classical testimony for this. The inclusiveness and pluralistic nature of our cultural heritage is being misinterpreted into an inclusive one-dimensional culture. It is through this misuse and misinterpretation of heterogeneous culture that the Hindutwa consolidates consent and power to rule in post independent India.

The theory of cultural hegemony, associated particularly with Antonio Gramsci, is the idea that the ruling class can manipulate the value systems of a society, so that their view becomes the world view. In Terry Eagleton's words, "Gramsci normally uses the word ‘hegemony’ to mean the ways in which a governing power wins consent to its rule from those it subjugates" (14). In contrast to authoritarian rule, cultural hegemony is hegemonic only if those affected by it also consent to and struggle over its common sense" Here, Television serials created a Hindu consciousness and the Indian State run by Hindutwa manipulated the ‘consent of the people’ for democratic governance. This is where the culture is being manipulated for political use. The exponential increase in the vote share for the right-wing political parties in India can be interpreted through this cultural misuse. A diverse multilayered, pluralistic India is misinterpreted into a Hindu nation through cultural manipulation. An inclusive, all encompassing culture is being strictly homogenized into a Hindu culture. The remarkable pieces of Indian literary heritage, Mahabharata and Ramayana  are well appropriated within the Hindutva ideology.

 

Conclusion

Modern India is said to represent the largest democracy in the world, along with a seamless picture of unity in diversity that is unparalleled anywhere else. The concept of plurality is the core idea of India as a nation. There will be conflicts whenever any agency tries to impose forms of religious, ethnic, cultural or linguistic hegemony in the name of unity. At the same time, people in India lived happily for centuries with the idea of plurality, which is part of the very essence of our democratic polity. Indian Constitution is the biggest safeguard of Indian plurality.

By all western definitions of a nation, India is an outlier- India does not have a single religion, language or race. It is a vast diversity that no other country embodies in itself. So plurality is the heart of the idea of India. Indian Constitution laid down ground rules for keeping India plural. The Constitution of India has many provisions regarding plurality in different spheres. The religious pluralism under the article 25 to 28 ensures the right to religion. According to article 29, minorities can protect their language, script and culture. Though myriad languages are spoken in India, 22 languages are scheduled as official languages in 8th schedule of constitution.  India does not have a national language. The preamble of Indian Constitution contains many ideologies such as socialism, secularism, democracy, republic, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity are some among them. These are taken from various constitutions and ideological revolutions around the world. Thus a composite culture evolved from the notion of plurality.

This plurality, which is the soul of India, is threatened by religious and political movements to homogenize the country. This is a joined effort by the Corporates and the Hindutwa both of which are having entirely different goals. The Corporates manipulate the marketing medium for economic gain whereas Hindutwa used it as a vehicle of political propaganda. The media hours are technically run by the Corporates and it is made into good effect by the Hindutwa. They both cooperate and coexist in order to destroy the plurality of a diverse, multilayered, pluralistic India for their benefits.

For the forces of Hindutwa, it is high time for introspection and embracing the unity, integrity and diversity of India as a nation. Rather than their political gain, they must realize the fact that they had a vast responsibility in front of them. Being the biggest national party of the time, they must consider the decline of Indian National Congress, the national party which propelled the national movement has lost its prominence and is replaced by regional and caste based political parties like Telugu Desam Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party etc. Hindutwa can be an all embracing cultural construct which can accommodate Christians, Muslims and other communities. Such a view ensures the onward march of the nation which was consciously divided by the imperial masters.

The Hindutwa should recognize imperialism as a cyclic process in time. It began in India with the decisive victory of the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and assertive victory in 1857 in the Sepoy mutiny. Muslim invaders and those who came before them attempted to conquer India, establish political authority and also resulted in establishing cultural fusion in the land. But the English East India Company and the British Raj began with trade domination and later established political authority. English East India Company had to hand over the imperial authority to the British government and the remaining is the history of Indian independence struggle and post-independent India. The British exerted cultural domination in India and a blind veneration for the western culture was consciously inculcated by the British Raj. The cyclic nature of imperialism always begins with domination in trade creating consumer addiction. Later on, it imposes political domination. In the present situation in India, the nexus between the Hindutwa leaders who run the nation and Corporates who manipulate the system is very obvious. The political leadership should not forget the fact that the Corporates who transcends territorial boundaries are not motivated by national spirit or the well being of the masses. So we go through a situation of the beginning of the second coming of imperialism. Ideologies and political systems in this postmodern world fail miserably to combat the challenges of burgeoning Corporate raj.

The actual beneficiary of homogenization and hegemony is not Hindutwa but the manipulators of the media who are corporates. This peculiar unfair nexus between corporates and Hindutwa can be drastic or detrimental for the nation. Ironically, it happens in a nation which does not have a common religion, common culture or common ethnicity. On the other hand, Hinduism is not a religion but a cultural system and a pattern of life. If it is merely reduced to a religion, it can be detrimental to the pluralistic existence of the nation. Corporates exceed and excel territorial boundaries and are merely propelled by economic motif. So the interest of the nation and culture should be safeguarded and a vigilance in this regard should be the commitment of the proponents of Hindutwa and cultural homogenization. 

Even the Hindutwa leaders failed to recognize the fact that a liberal and inclusive Hindutwa is a suitable system to counter the cultural hegemony of the west propagated by the global Corporates. It is the narrow minded and compartmentalized agenda of Hindutwa that divide the people of this diverse Hindu culture that becomes objectionable. Hindutwa is our creed, Hindutwa is our culture and it is not our religion. Religion and faith are personal and the heterogeneous system should not permit religion to impede our national life. Besides, Rama and Krishna need not be the sole national symbols. They should recognize the fact that the real enemy is not an Islam, a Christian or a Buddhist living in India, but it is the on-going agenda of domination of corporates in trade, culture and politics. It is very important to retrieve the cultural heritage of the nation despite of the attempts to homogenize the whole system. India is the greatest symbol of heterogeneity in the world of peaceful coexistence and cohabitation, not merely among human beings but with all animate and inanimate forms. This is the true essence of our great Puranic narratives such as Mahabharata and Ramayana . Instead of appropriating this for the purpose of political manipulation and economic motifs through cultural homogenization, it is important to retrieve the Hindu culture.

Indian system does not offer easy or one dimensional solution for the challenges faced by the masses. It should retain scope for its diversity and the damaging influence of homogenization of hegemony is to be approached with an ethical perspective. It should be upholding the ‘Sanatana Dharma’ and also should contribute to the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ that India has a role in establishing tranquility in the entire world.

 

 

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