thoughts on preserving our cultural traditions
Piyaray Lal Raina
is a lot of discussion going on through all our modes of communications as to
how we can preserve our cultural after our migration from Kashmir. It is genuine
concern. We have a glorious culture of our traditions guarded and developed by
our ancestors over a long period of more than five thousand years nobody would
like to dissociate himself with such an inheritance. The culture of a group of
people does not evolve overnight. It is not philosophy only. It is collective
history; wisdom and thought of a group of people living under similar geographic
conditions. Traditions are the manifestation of that culture. It is natural that
longer the life of a culture the more complex will be its traditions.
components of any culture can be categorized as:
Language of the people through which they write and read
Music, singing and dance
language we speak is known as Kashmiri. It is spoken by about four million
Kashmiris, both Hindus and Muslims. Despite its status as a regional language in
the Indian constitution, it has remained as a spoken language only. No doubt we
have Arabic as an official script for writing this language but in actual usage
it is not used in any official correspondence. It has not developed as a mass
medium for conveying our written thoughts. There is hardly any literary material
available which people would like to read. How can we then preserve this language even as spoken one?
Perhaps the answer is to speak it in the family and familiarize children with
its usage. In the mean time we should develop a Devnagri and Roman fonts which
is accepted by all for preserving whatever literature we have in Kashmiri. We
have few Devnagri fonts but they are not universal in acceptance .As for example
Devnagri font in which Koshur Samachar published from Delhi writes Kashmiri
section is not followed by other people who write in Kashmiri language.
deeply religious people. Perhaps it is due to our groupings as Brahmins.
Although as Brahmins we are supposed to know how to perform their religious
rituals but over a time we have established a subclass of priests called gorus
within our community who guided us in the performance of our religious
functions. Due to social stigma gorus community had shrunk in numbers
while we all lived happily in Kashmir. After our migration, some diasporas of
community are left without the services of priests .The problem is more
magnified for those who have migrated to foreign countries like we are in USA.
Our religious scriptures are all in Sanskrit and we have little or no knowledge
of what goes on the performance of these rituals .We do not have translations of
the books that describe the methodology for the performance of our rituals. A
few suggestions for preserving the religious traditions are as under:
Institutionalization. During good old days we had the privilege of
having priests calling at our homes for performance of our rituals. In the
changed situation we should build establishments at central places where our
community members are living, with facilities for the performance of religious
and social functions. It should have place for installing deities, living place
for a priest and some cooking facilities.
Recruit new priests. To man these establishments we need to
recruit priests .If we can not find priests among our community then we may have
to train priests from other communities who are willing to do the job.
Separate spiritual from social content. Almost all our festivities
in the social life are linked with our religious activities with the result over
the years spiritual content of a religious function has almost disappeared. For
example Yagnopavit, if performed as per our sacred texts should not take
more than three or four hours but as per current practice it takes a full day
from morning to late evening for the performance of this samskara. It is
so partly because priests have developed interest in prolonging the ritual to
gain time to receive maximum possible collection of abid and also because
we keep on serving all sorts of food items while the sacred vedic
recitations are going on. This reduces the sacredness of the ritual. We could
keep both going on if we separate the two. For example if we perform sacred
rituals in the morning three or four hours and then serve all the food items in
the lunch or dinner (depending upon the muhurat time of yagnopavit)
time that would do justice to all.
Simplify our rituals. We have lot of recitations in our rituals.
Even priests from outside Kashmir find it difficult to recite as per our texts
.All karmkandas, (texts used for performance of a ritual) are regional in
character and most of the regional bodies keep on modifying these karmkandas
as per their needs of time. That is the essence of Sanatana Dharma. It is
time for us to revise our karmkanda. We have to simplify it.
Translate texts. We are now in the twenty-first century. During
the last 16 years, since we left Kashmir, world has changed a lot and it will
still keep on changing at a faster rate. Our youth is more pragmatic. They do
not stick to blind faith. They look for the meanings of their actions we must
provide them an opportunity of knowing the sanctity behind the Vedic
rituals by translating Sanskrit texts into the language, which they can
customs are the breath of a community. It is through the social customs that we
share the joys and sorrows of our loved ones. Despite our dispersion into
small-scattered groups we keep up our contacts with our community members and
always feel glad to find a new arrival. A few suggestions to preserve our social
Know your social
customs It is important to
know the customs of our social functions such as those associated with the
marriage in the family, celebrations of festivals and even in the case of a
death of a family member or close relation. This is our great inheritance, which
binds us together. After all humans have been described as social animals to
distinguish them from other animals.
Make global directory
of our community. Almost all
Diasporas of our community have made some sort of directories, which they use
for interaction at the time of performance of social events such as havan or
shivratri. We need to publish them in one volume to serve as our global
Mrityoo Samgri Bhandars. It is said that you know your true friend in
your adversity. Death of a loved one in the family puts family members in great
disarray. In Kashmir, we had a great tradition of having Mriyyoo Samgri Bhandars
(death related material warehouse) in our neighbourhood localities where one
could get all the materials needed for the cremation of a body without any
botheration of locating the available sources of procurement or immediate
payments. The need for establishing these bhandars was recognized
primarily to provide solace to the bereaved family at a time when they it needed
most and was appreciated. Senior
community members managed these Bhandars.
symbols. We have a saying in
Kashmir which states that for finding a place for a night halt in a village look
at the condition of village mosque, meaning thereby that if the community in
that village is generous they would have provided good amenities for halt of a
pilgrims in their mosque. Post migration, our community largely has done well
financially. However, we do not have a tradition or culture of giving for
social or community causes. While we may spend lavishly on marriage function
of our children, we are poor donors when it comes to community activities. There
are many of our community members still languishing in deplorable conditions in
Jammu camps. They have suffered as a result of migration and have not been able
to wean themselves out of the situation primarily because of lack of skills and
they need help in the education of their children, medical care and marriage of
their daughters. We should keep these community members in our minds and take a
lesson from the traditions of Sikhs who have a great tradition of community
life. We should build small community hospitals, educational centers, community
centers, and enhance help in education and job opportunities for our community.
Can we take a leaf out of many communities, who donate 10% of their annual
income or spending in a marriage function or special event for community causes?
great traditions of celebrating our festivals, which are numerous, reflecting
our long historical presence in Kashmir and our faith in Shaivism. We
must educate our children with the background of our tradition of celebrating
our festivals. For example, our children must also know why we celebrate Shivratri
and Janam Saptami (Lord Krishna’s birthday vs other Hindus celebrating
His birthday) differently than other Hindus.
5) Music, Dance, Food, Art
community has had a history of developing great talent in various fields of art
and literature. We should encourage these artistes and strive to develop new
artistes. We should teach our kids our food preparations and continue to have
picnics where we enjoy good food and music.
We should also enhance our repository of music, art work, literary work,
poetry, phrases, dramas, etc.
The author is a regular contributor of articles regarding Kashmir Pandit
traditions. He has recently authored a book Socio-Cultural and Religious
Traditions of Kashmiri Pandits (http://kp-culture-and-religion.blogspot.com)
He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and DLF City, India He can be contacted by email