If I ask you, ‘What do Indian youth know about Indian culture today, what would be your reply?’ Well, you would probably say that they know very little or almost nothing and if I ask you why is it so, do you have an answer to this? Who’s responsible for such a situation? Are we not? Yes, indeed we are! We have been giving more importance to westernisation in the last few years and now it’s unfair on our part if we blame that the youth is unaware of our culture. The current situation is born out of available choices to the youth of today. Youth have lifestyle choices, dressing choices, living choices, and many more. A century ago cultural choices were not existent, one had to follow what was going on in a family or society, without asking any questions.
Youth today, is obsessed with globalisation effect, peer pressures, societal changes, etc. We often see our grandparents, parents, teachers, etc. complaining as to how we are becoming modernised, westernised, and Occidentalised in our ways of life. People often complain that Indian youth are easily influenced by American and European cultures. In such an environment how can we ensure that youth of today don’t forget the richness of Indian culture, its heritage value and unity in huge diversity? India today, is globally getting strong in terms of economy, culture, and infrastructure. Before we move ahead, we need to understand what is culture and how do we ignite Indian culture with and within teens.
What is culture?
The term ‘culture’ is a combination of varied thinking and attitudes among the people, the different way of lifestyle and behaviour, trends and traditions, repeated actions that exist among the people of the community. Culture is formed when a popular trend or practice is repeatedly followed by people at a particular place. The idea, the trends, the actions, the behaviour of society at a place, and these ways and patterns commonly form the culture of that society.
Our Indian culture dates back to 5,000 plus years old. It is shaped by history, decorated with time, and indicative of our growing progress. Lately, a feeling prevails that an initiative needs to be taken to conserve and spread our culture. As I said, our culture is old and rooted deep from Vedic and pre-historic periods. Despite many foreign disturbances, it remains unshaken till date. That’s the beauty of our integrity and unity! Of late, the young generation who is born in the so-called ‘modern era’ and who is traveling to places is certainly influenced by western culture. As goes the saying – “the grass is always greener on the other side”, so do the youth find it more attractive. They have the misconception that our traditional values and cultural practices are complex and difficult to follow. We have seen that the current language, lifestyle, even belief, clothing, and dressing are all mixed with western culture.
My say is that culture gives society and an individual, an identity. What we are today is certainly influenced by what we were in the past. I am hereby sharing my thoughts and feelings with all those who wish to participate in preserving our ancient Indian culture. Together we all can bring a massive difference with our small steps towards awareness and information. Our culture, our traditions, our values, our heritage is what we live for. The Indian youth of today are ignorant of the vast culture and great heritage of India because of which they are overwhelmed by the western culture.
Igniting the value and importance of Indian Culture with and within teens
Swami Vivekananda once said – My Faith is in the Younger Generation, the Modern Generation, out of them will come to my workers. They will work out the whole problem, like Lions.”
Each and every line holds true even today. The lions of today who have the capacity and ability to lead this country are strong, intelligent, independent, and hardworking. Youth represent the country and have the potential to reach and perform at a global level. With their level of exposure, they can be far more widespread. In fact, the young generation should be imparted the whole knowledge about the great Indian culture during the early periods of their childhood. We, as parents and guardians should try and give knowledge to our kids and youth about the importance of Indian heritage, its richness, the grandeur, the vastness, and traditional values. Even schools and colleges should spread the importance in varied ways – be it through celebrations, folk shows, debates, declamations and talk more about our traditional practices, patterns that have been in practice, since times in our country. Celebrations related to cultural importance – the specific festivals or days when celebrated at school and college level have a large impact on students. When they celebrate festivals with peers and friends it is a memory for a lifetime.
This can be done through different mediums – visually or even through audio or films. Showing referral pictures, recalling the good old stories and connecting its roots, conducting out-door cultural group activities, plays, street plays, cultural and art shows, cultural festivals, etc. can evoke the positive thought in the minds of the youth to follow our culture. Elders of the family, grandparents can tell and teach the youth and children how the cultural practices evolved with time, how and why certain practices are still prevalent, and what is the importance of it. Ignorance is the main cause of why young people are diverting towards western culture. Once they would know that our own culture is so amazing, I am sure they would prefer to explore the greatness of it.
Our Vedic vision is a very important factor for this rich culture. Indians are creative, we have strong spiritual backing, our heritage is rich and it has been carried since ages from generation to generation with respect and regard. The day when the youth force joins this effort with their energy levels, I’m sure India will grow culturally stronger and richer!
In The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 3/Lectures from Colombo to Almora, Swami ji rightly states that – “as long as this principal function of our life is not disturbed, nothing can destroy our nation. But mark you, if you give up that spirituality, leaving it aside to go after the materialising civilisation of the West, the result will be that in three generations you will be an extinct race; because the backbone of the nation will be broken, the foundation upon which the national edifice has been built will be undermined, and the result will be annihilation all round.”
We should not turn from our traditional and heritage values and imitate foreign cultures; we should create systems to disseminate knowledge of Indian Culture to the youth. Indians are proud of their culture and the youth can help us conserve it, spread it, and help it grow to unimaginable heights. The youth is the carrier of the culture and is capable of passing it on to the generations to come. Youth can help in making it grow by various means, by valuing it, following it, spreading it, sharing it and building more enthusiasm in getting into it.
The youth may have certain problems when it comes to following the Indian culture, the reason behind this is the difference of opinion. The youth of today is modern, rational and doesn’t believe in anything which is pointless. We, as their guardians, need to help make this cultural concept significant to them. We need to explain its core meaning to them and make them understand that our culture is as precious a the gold. Also, the fact behind as to why our culture was regarded and followed so passionately should be made aware of. We need to trust our youth that they are and will be proud of their country and its culture. And as I said earlier, they like to show it more than speaking about it. We need to believe in them and their ways.
Collaborating with youth in the mission to promote Indian culture.
Our culture is extremely rich and the assets that our country has is unquestionable. Hence, the older generation must try to dig into our culture and bring out something valuable and then share it with the youth so that they can imbibe and not forget it. This cycle will go on for generations to come if done properly.
Therefore, it is important that we create a system within the family, in the schools and colleges, and in our local societies, which can impart knowledge of the foundations of Indian culture to the youth. We, as mentors need to clarify and resolve their doubts if any so that they will clearly understand the reasons behind the practices, gain interest and faith in it to follow further.
In this world of growing technology, it is almost impossible for anyone to remain unaware of the culture following in different parts of the world, especially for our young generation. Youth are the building blocks of our society. With widespread technologies, we should also be open to learning different methodologies and cultures from different countries from different parts of the world. As of right guides, we should try to incorporate the changes in our culture too, but in a civilised way so that we can also preserve our own culture.
Achieving the motto
As parents, we need to spend time with our kids explaining the importance of festivals and traditions we celebrate. As teachers and guardians to our kids, we need to make them be aware of our culture and its importance. Classes can be organised to make them aware of traditional practices. For example in Pune, Maharashtra sanskar classes are held to inculcate human moral values and teach them our cultural practices too. Kids are taught to make clay idol for eco-friendly Ganpati celebrations, Rangoli making, shlok and aarti recitations, Sanskrit prayers and recitals, values and life skills, as well as many interactive sessions and activities, are held which help to give information about Indian festivals, customs, historical and famous personalities. Such classes and seminars help to learn the core values of rich Indian traditions.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, and guardians need to put in extra time discussing with children and students that can prove valuable to them in understanding our culture and tradition. Explaining the scientific and religious importance to them is also important. When youths understand the logic and reason behind the cultural practices they will have more faith in them and follow it with full trust. Classes, seminars, live sessions, carnivals, or melas should be organised for making them aware of our culture and its value. Modernisation is necessary as times are changing, but not at the cost of placing our culture secondary.
Other than that, in everyday life, we can enroll our kids in classical dance and music classes. Recently, I got to know that the Chinmaya mission holds shlok recitation in foreign countries too, especially for NRI kids. This way it helps in bringing up children and youth who are ready to accept and appreciate our Indian culture with pride. This enables them to be in touch with the Indian culture and values, though they are miles apart. Teaching kids an instrument not only helps in enhancing their concentration but also adds up to preserving our historical music and instruments. Many organisations and institutes like Auro Hamsdwani, Baithak, Littleustaads and Sangeetgurugriha, and many similar ones are working hard to provide the highest possible quality education to the students in varied disciplines like dance, music and fine arts.
Indian Youth should become the Representatives of our Indian Culture
To make this effective, there are some simple points for youth to help protect and spread our culture that are as follows-
Take our culture to a global level
The youth of today has global exposure; they travel and so can promote our culture proudly everywhere. Youth today can spread the word through any social media.
Also in schools and institutions, particularly the young age children should be offered the knowledge of different traditions, customs, and folkways, complied with in our culture. Various ways can be adopted to impart this information in the form of pictures, stories, movies, cultural activities, dances, competitions, etc.
At home, parents, grandparents, elders should educate children about the versatility and richness of our culture and history proudly that the kids become aware of and be proud of it.
Save culture from being extinct by passing it on to the next generation
The youth of India, if value, follow the culture and be proud of it, can be a strong force as the carrier of the culture. They can help make it richer and thus can pass it on to the generations to come by teaching them the heritage value and importance.
Encouragement to Protect the Cultural Heritage
All those who have read history knows that Indian civilisation possesses a huge cultural heritage that includes various cultural monuments, objects, and commodities. Pre and post-independence era which had an influence on many civilisations like Mughals, Aryans, Mauryas, etc. has left our country with the impressions of having a great cultural heritage of traditions and trends that became the symbol of the immensity of our culture. Youth should be encouraged to explore, research, and protect our ancient cultural heritage.
Accept it, believe in it, and trust it, to take it forward
If we expect our youth to take the cultural values forward, we need to make sure that we help the youth in understanding and explaining the importance of our culture and answer their queries so it makes sense to them and they feel proud about our culture and traditional values with a scientific approach. Youth should find our culture as the best among the rest; they should be able to highly regard and respect its values and be passionate as we are.
Our main aim, as a mentor to our future generation, is to increase their participation in the process of cultural development. We all know it cannot be achieved in a day; it’s a process that takes time to evolve and get accepted. We are all following a cultural set up for a long time. We know that there is scope for modification and change in it as per the changing and modern times, in par with the demands and thoughts of the younger generation. A fresh and contemporary way is always welcome to transfer the experience to our children. All this is possible with proper knowledge of culture, participation, encouragement, and respect for the culture. The culture is the mirror of society; it’s our reflection of the past and youth must maintain its purity, integrity with due respect to all those who have treasured and conserved it!