As a part of the Unesco Chair activities at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, a Conference: 13-16 October 1995, New Delhi, involved some of the highly reputed scholars in a stimulating dialogue on the "Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology". Its presentations are now offered in two volumes: setting out independently the Cultural Dimension of (1) Education, and (2) Ecology.
Focussing on the ecological systems in the mountains, forests and islands vis-a-vis the hitherto-adopted modes of aggressive development, the 15 articles here underscore the urgency of changing the modern lifestyles, of befriending Nature and, above all, of returning to 'wisdom-tradition'. Also included here are case-studies highlighting the aspects of culture that are being lived in the day-to-day lives of people - even today!
This collection is invaluable to environmentalists, social activists, economic planners, policy-makers, and cultural scholars working for the revival of traditional wisdom.
Professor Saraswati's published work comprises a number of books and monographs, among which notably figure Pottery-making Cultures and Indian Civilization; Brahmanic Ritual Traditions; Kashi: Myth and Reality; and Spectrum of the Sacred - besides his edited titles, like Tribal Thought and Culture; Prakrti: Primal Elements - the Oral Tradition; Prakrti: Man in Nature; Computerizing Cultures; and Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies.
THE Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has been engaged for nearly a decade in exploring all dimensions of culture understood in its widest and deepest connotations. 'Culture' here is an all-encompassing and permeating attribute of human living. It penetrates the innermost recesses of the human psyche, individual and collective, as also permeates the social structure to give shape and form to an identifiable, but not easily definable, mode of behaviour, conduct and action. The vertical and the horizontal movements intersect to contain the inner experience and give rise to outer expressions. When they are held together in balance and harmony, cultures are cohesive and creative but not static; when balances are disturbed, then turmoil takes place often resulting in disruption of the flow of movements causing stultification of some aspects and disintegration of others.
The results of many of the lifestyle studies programme of the IGNCA and the series of conferences, seminars and workshops held under the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Development have amply borne out the primary importance of considering culture as an all-encompassing and permeating phenomenon for any future modelling of societies in a post-modern or even post-post-modem world. Each of the studies, seminars and the consequent monographs viz. Interface of Cultural Identity and Development (Culture and Development Series No. 1) or Integration of Endogenous Cultural Dimension into Development (Culture and Development Series No. 2) or The Cultural Dimension of Education (Culture and Development Series No. 3) have repeatedly underlined the need to view the universe and, of course, our earth and the human species as a closely interrelated organic system. Each constituent is part of a whole; the whole is not a mechanical aggregation of the parts. This is as true of the macro universe and the solar system as it is of microman (and microwoman), be it the elementary biological system of his body or mind or the social and economic systems he generates. Any disturbance in the acceleration or overdue emphasis on a single constituent or an attribute within a constituent results in the phenomenon of dominance and subordination and an unbalanced growth of one aspect at the cost of the other, whether in nature or culture.
It is clear that the recognition of the extant knowledge systems and cultural lifestyle and their validity can be or has been more successful than total replacement or uprooting.
In sum, each of the essays in this volume and the field studies carried out by the young researchers of the IGNCA (e.g., Ramakar Pant, Nita Mathur, Rakesh Khanduri, K.K. Mishra, and Richa Negi) and others in the lifestyle studies programme, all point at the need to know, learn and apply these knowledge systems to our contemporary world.
The task is challenging. It is one matter to conduct studies and to deduce principles. It is quite another matter to ensure the transformation of the mindset and the deeply entrenched system of governance, policy-making, planning and most of all ground level implementation. It is heartening to note that the work of Ramakrishnan. Sachchidananda, Madhya Gadgil, Subhash Chandra and T.N. Pandit has been recognised. At the conceptual level it has been accepted; however transformation and restoration can only take place if these investigations lead to a re-orientation of the policies, programmes and institutional structures which so far in this country and elsewhere continue to adhere (alas!) to an earlier mechanist view of linear progressive development and replication of single mono models. Uniformity is not endemic to nature and deadening in life. Both, the world-view of Man as dominant and the consequent systems and the structures for organising life as pointed out by Kingston, have brought us to tread a perilous path. Danger lies ahead in the near future if lessons are not learnt. There are numerous anachronisms and disjunctures: all cause further disturbance in eco-balances. Man (woman) if he wills can restore the natural balance if he can heed and hear the voices of these disempowered small cohesive communities who are human repertories of the other knowledge systems so vital for the future of the earth and humanity.
WE already know what the 21st century will look like: it has been mapped out for us by seemingly irreversible forces. They are not necessarily bad in themselves, but they do hold a danger because no one can control them - and their effects seems to be gathering momentum. Populations are mushrooming, state agencies and free market players are becoming interdependent, and science and technology are taking giant strides.
After 2,000 years of almost universal belief in scientific progress, we are now seeing the price of this progress. The natural environment is being destroyed by the contradiction between technical and social advancement. We risk planetary destruction through the use of new technologies by countries that are philosophically or technically incapable of handling them.
The current concern over the deterioration of the global environment, for example, is a relatively recent phenomenon. One of the first meetings on this topic was sponsored by Unesco in 1968 as the 'Biosphere Conference'. Here, for more or less the first time in history, the international scientific community collectively told the governments of the world that the environment was in bad shape and getting worse. Previous international scientific efforts had tended to accumulate data without seeking to resolve problems of land use, water, the ozone layer, urbanisation, etc. Research tended to focus on one species or to remain descriptive with little attempt to predict the impact of possible change.
But we know that living in harmony with nature has been an integral part of most cultures, including Indian culture. Tradition and ethics in nearly all countries of the world are closely interwoven with the idea of protecting nature. Why, in India we had, from very early times, cave paintings that showed the harmonious coexistence of the human and the natural worlds. Groves would be set aside for the worship of gods and goddesses, certain plants and animals would be considered sacred and would be protected.
THE shadowed aspects of modern civilisation are (a) urbanisation and the technocentric lifestyles associated with it; (b) industrialisation and the environmental pollution associated with it; (c) commercialisation and the degenerated consumerism associated with it; and (d) globalisation and the political violence associated with it. The positive aspect is the growing awareness of all things in the universe. Today, there remains no reasonable doubt that humankind is rushing towards an ecological disaster. Concerned people are questioning the planners of the nation: Where will you take us? To mega cities? We shall find no place for our spirit in that land but rather, desolation. We feel our land as if we are within a mother. Our mountains and rivers are sacred. We live in the forest with trees and birds and beasts. We honour them as our brothers. Here man and beast and plant talk together. Our life is peaceful here; we are protected by the divinities. Can the law of a nation supersede the Law of Nature? Should the rights of the people be allowed to be destructively manipulated by the rules of power? Must the wisdom tradition of our ancestors be shelved to accommodate the flagrant hypocrisies of the planning tradition?
As part of the Unesco Chair activities at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, a conference on the 'Cultural Dimension of Education and Ecology' was held in New Delhi from 13 to 16 October 1995. The proceedings of this conference are published in two independent volumes. Papers related to education are published in the volume The Cultural Dimension of Education. The essays here collected aim at describing the cultural dimension of ecology in the mountains, forests and islands.
Geologically, the history of the Himalaya can be traced to the last pre-Cambrian and earliest Cambrian. There are five structural units in the Himalaya: the Siwalika, the main boundary fault, the lesser Himalaya, the Himadri (central Himalaya), the main central thrust; and the Tibetan Himalaya. Culturally, there are five khandas or segments, from west to east: Kashmir, Jalandhar, Kedar, Kurmachal, and Nepal Himalaya. The great Himalaya, the monarch of the mountains is endowed with sanctity by the streams of the Ganga, the snows of Kailash Mansarovar, the home of God Shiva, and the shrines of Amarnath, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Pashupatinath, and several others. In the Bhagavad Gita, God Krishna describes himself as sthavarnam himalaya, among the mountains: 'I am the Himalaya'. The deuatma Himalaya is the abode of gods. Its fluid holiness makes a fertile land where the mother Ganga pours her life-giving waters.
Events such as the construction of the 260.5-metre-high Tehri Dam over the Bhagirathi, the main stream of the Ganga in a seismic zone, have jolted the common man into a realisation that the planners of aggressive development are threatening the very existence of life on the Himalaya. Hence people like Sunderlal Bahuguna are actively involved with the ecological movement, which is a call to bring change in the modern way of living, a call to become friends of Nature, and a call to return to the wisdom tradition. Bahuguna calls upon us to
• remember the three basic principles of Indian tradition: (i) that there is life in all creation, (ii) that one should have a worshipful attitude towards all forms of life, and (iii) that austerity is the greatest virtue; • follow the practical way to culture from Nature, as shown by Buddha and Gandhi; • educate children and grown-up people, specially politicians, policy-makers and technocrats, in ecology; • use Gandhi's weapon of non-violence against wrong policies, aiming at a change of heart along with a change of mind; and • revive the wisdom tradition of the Visnois who went to the extent of sacrificing their lives to protect trees and wild animals.
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