The word “culture” nowadays is used in so many peripheral contexts that its original meaning seems to have lost its relevance. For example, we have a “popular culture”, by which is meant the collective human intellectual achievements. There is a “consumerist culture”, which is taken by some as a determinant of the status of a person along with his formal educational success and financial strength. To be an integral part of this culture, one has to have a higher spending power, which yields a greater availability of materialistic pleasures and facilities.
To many of us culture simply comprises of the genesis and creative expansions of traditional styles and forms of dance, music and art and may be some social customs.
We also hear of an “emerging culture”, which reflects the attitudes and the behavioural characteristic of a particular social group or media-oriented socialites. An emerging drug or pub culture among the youngsters of today is an example relating to this. Another familiar example of this kind is what one refers these days as “corporate culture” that includes a “competitive culture” and a “culture of advertisement” that help modern industries to strive (may be stressfully) their best and also to market their best.
However, such narrow or adhoc interpretations of “culture” in no way justify its inseparable existence with the history and civilization of mankind. Neither can its relevance and scope be hashed off under the pretext of superficial definitions. So vast are the folds of culture that it embraces almost every horizon of our existence.
Concept and Characteristics:-
Intellectuals and thinkers of the world have defined and analysed “culture” in their own way. The earliest documented and commonly quoted definition formulated in 1871 by Sir Edward Burnett Tylor, a noted 19th century British Anthropologist reads as — “Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.
According to Matthew Arnold, a poet of the Victorian era, culture means “contact with the best which has been thought and said in the world”. He regarded culture as a “study of perfection”. In the 1950s, A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn had collected over a hundred definitions of culture which in sum imply that culture does not refer to the behaviour that is observed but to values and beliefs which generate behaviour. In a deeper sense, culture nourishes and shapes the progress of human life and also reflects the sociology-psychological traits.
The word meaning of Culture, also reflecting its implications is cited by P. Chatterji [in “Knowledge, Culture and Value”] as something cultivated or ripened. He likewise several other scholars refers to “culture” as comprehensive expression of some kind of refinement which is born of education and enlightenment. The Vedic term for culture is sanskrati, which originates from the word sansk³ra. Linguistic and figurative meaning of the word “sansk³ra” imply – process of refinement and purification, and consequent good deeds.'
Thus, culture (sanskrati) refers to the assimilated field of the methods and actions that:
(1) refine and uplift individuals, as well as societies;
(2) teach the art of cooperating and working with others on different fronts of personal and professional life; the etiquette's of civilization and the ethics of social benevolence;
(3) encompass those values and practices which effectuate enlightenment and happy progress of the internal and external realms of people’s life; and
(4) instil sanskras in their conduct along with natural glazing and strengthening of their talents and creative potentials.
The traditions, conduct, behaviour and ethics of a society or system depict the external face of its culture. Civilization manifests the nature of culture while culture is the source of sustenance and expansion of civilization. The future of any organization, society, nation or the world as a whole, thus depends upon the harmony between its culture and civilization.
People, families, societies and civilizations flourish, transform or end with the flow of time but culture is not built or changed in one era. It is evolved in the infinite lap of time, age after age. It enfolds innumerable phases of rise, fall, obstructions, destruction, reconstructions, trends and tides of the social, national and global history, and geographical, economical, political scientific, artistic, psychological and intellectual developments. It expresses the present and guides or moulds the future.
The worth of a culture depends upon the eternity, universality and time-tested relevance of its foundational elements. On their basis, it can propagate in all directions at all times. The enduring utility of a culture also depends upon how progressive it is.
Cultural diversity across the globe is natural. Still each culture has inherent elements because of which it maintains its identity. The expansion and impact of a culture depends upon its core values. A culture would exist and spread with immortal glory because of its universal relevance even though nations may be born on or wiped out from the map of the globe and societies and civilizations may rise and fall.
From all points of views, the Indian Culture (more appropriately known as the Rishi Culture or Dev Sanskriti) stands as the foremost culture of the world. It is a culture of positivity, humility integrity, spirituality and all-encompassing and evolutionary beauty of Nature and its Creator.
In simple terms, it provides a traditional yet evolving basis for civilized, liberal and illuminating progress. It emanates from the eternal philosophy and universal science of Gayatri (divine wisdom) and Yagya (noble deeds) and assimilates those lines of thoughts and values that aim to cultivate sansk³ras to achieve success and ascent in every walk of life. Its manifold domains incorporate guiding principles and practicable directions for value added progress and welfare of today’s corporate world too.
Tylor, Edward B. Primitive Culture. Estes & Lauriat, London, 1874.http://www.wsu.edu:8001/vcwsu/commons/topics/culture/culture-definitions/arnold-text.html
Chatterji, Pritibhushan. Chapter titled “Language, Culture and Man” In Knowledge, Culture and Value.
(Eds: Pandeya RC & Bhatt SR). Motilal Banarasidass Publ. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1976.
Pandya P. & Dass S. (Eds). Meaning & Purpose of Culture. Akhand Jyothi – The Light Divine. Vol. 1 (1). Akhand Jyoti Sansthan, Mathura, 2003.
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya Samagra Vangmaya Vol. Nos. 33-34. Akhand Jyoti Sansthan, Mathura, 1995.
(English Summary in 'Spectrum of Knowledge').