Indic Global Village

Next to the Sub-Saharan African global village, the Indic cultural area is unique in its ancient and complex cultural patterns, beginning with the first cultural hearths over 9,000 years ago.

Though cultural patterns are diverse in religions and languages, the Indic Global Village (India culture region) is today very much united in many cultural traditions.

Home of the Indus Valley civilization from about 3,500 BC, India boasts four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.  Not until 1,000 AD did Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity arrive.

As mentioned above, India has a diversity of languages, as well as people.  A study called, “People’s Linguistic Survey of India,” reports that there are 780 spoken languages in India, and that 220 have been lost in the last 50 years.  Prior to this study, 122 languages were thought to be spoken in India, far lower than the study revealed.  The study also says that there are an additional 100 languages that should be added to the total of 780.

A disturbing part of this study, which documented the 220 languages lost, is that older speakers of these various languages are dying off and the young “fail to learn their ancestral tongues.”  The reason behind the differences between the report and what the government officially claims is that the Indian government does not count, “. . . languages that fewer than 10,000 people speak.”  One language, Chaimal, was found to be spoken by as few as five people.

Ganesh Devy supervised the recent study and concluded that, “. . . bringing attention to Indian languages with small numbers of speakers, . . . is a way of bringing attention to the societies that speak them, along with the well being of their people.”  The sad thing about language loss is that it is equated with cultural loss because language is the most symbolic way that people pass on their cultural traits.

The Indic region has, for thousands of years, harbored historic trade routes and vast empires known for both commercial and cultural wealth. Those trade routes have provided exquisite spices and condiments, which have come to be valued worldwide. Even so, various cultures developed in isolation.

Exotic Spices

India has endured centuries of invasions, warfare, and political instability.  Even with such geographic barriers as mountains, water and deserts, occupations of various groups from Central Asia penetrated the Indic land mass.

During the third century the Gupta dynasty ushered in India’s “Golden Age,” when advancements in science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy began to flourish. Later, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Maratha Empire rose in power, but as more and more trade routes opened up, European countries began to take advantage of the disunity of the various cultural groups.  Due to the rigidity of a few religious traditions, as well as the Hindu Caste system, disunity enabled not only the United Kingdom, but also Portugal, the Netherlands, and France, to set up colonies in the country.

The following films show two sides of India.  Although it seems that India is moving ahead to become a Super Power in the world the clips illustrates the gap between the rich and the poor and also shows how the small farmers are struggling.  A recent documentary told of farmers committing suicide by the hundreds, when their farms fail.  Imagine the emotional and economic suffering of families related to such untimely suicides; and the rippling effect it has on communities. Cultural adaptations are taking place at a rapid pace and leaving traditional societies, as well as languages, behind.

The 20th century was a turning point for the Indic Global Village.  In the 1940′s India’s struggles for independence became a nationwide movement of “civil disobedience” whereby millions protested against colonial rule and finally gained a measure of independence, though partitioned along religious lines. This partition, in accordance with the Muslim League, led to a part of India becoming the nation-state of what is now Pakistan.  Border disputes in this area continue today.

Finally, in 1950 India became a republic with a constitutional-style government.  Even so, current India-Pakistani conflicts, over-population, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, combined with lack of individual freedom limits the prosperity of its people.  Just one example is shown in the short clip about the water women of India, known as Panihari.

Women are very much oppressed in India, from arranged marriages, to female mutilation in some areas, to the Panihari.  The film above was made by Indian-American filmmakers who returned to their homeland, in the state of Rajasthan, India to create a documentary about the Panihari.  The clip you have just viewed is a portion of that larger video about Panihari (the women who carry water).

We could not leave India without discussing two major cultural components.  One has to do with the stratification of societies, in which the caste system is the major player in this Global Village.  The second one has to do with technology.  India is a nuclear power, which technology justifies it as somewhat of a Superpower, even though it has many economic disadvantages for its citizens.

When we discuss stratification of societies as a broad category we can talk about achieved status and ascribed status.  The following video describes the ascribed status, which the caste system assigns to people based on their birth and occupations.  Here we see that oppression of women, arranged marriages, along with the caste system, creates many disparities between classes of people.  It has been argued that the ancient caste system allows a place for everyone and everyone in his/her place.

Nuclear weapons stockpiles are a great financial cost to the countries that have them, and with India’s large population to care for, such stockpiles obviously use resources that might be used more wisely to help their citizenry with health care and better education.

Out of the nine countries, which have nuclear capabilities, India ranks seventh among them according to a January 2014 report by Ploughshares, a nuclear guestimating agency who keeps track of such things.  It is hard to learn the exact numbers of Nuclear Weapons, because each nation that harbors them does so shrouded in secrecy.

India began its nuclear research at the end of WW II and over the years since, they have been helped by Canada, France and the U. S. along the path to becoming a member of the “nuclear club,” which includes Russia, United States, France, China, United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.

The Indic Global Village is located in a volatile region, where there are conflicts all along its borders, both with Pakistan and China.  It is also in close proximity to the Middle East, with continuous cultural and religious upheavals.  With these concerns in mind, India plays a major role as a stable democracy in this region of the world.