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Culture & Civilization

Is the Caste System the main reason for the religious conversion of lower castes? : Missionary debates of the Nineteenth Century

It is evident from the missionaries debates that the caste system is neither the main reason for the religious conversion of lower castes, nor is it responsible for their backwardness. Today, if the support of reservation is needed to uplift the lower castes who converted to Christianity hundreds of years ago, then the Church must accept its failure and free these people from the shackles of Christianity.

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The Dream of a Casteless Society

Why is caste which we wanted to eradicate and completely uproot now becoming stronger and more prominent despite our persistent efforts to the contrary? Have we made the mistake of trying to eradicate the caste system because of our inability to comprehend the caste system? After all, why did we assume that caste is a social problem and that it is a hurdle in the path of national progress and unity? From where did we get this perspective? Is this, like our other major beliefs and principles, a part of the legacy of British socialism that we have inherited?

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जाति-विहीन समाज का सपना

क्या अपने लंबे अनुभव के प्रकाश में यह आवश्यक नहीं कि हम नए सिरे से जाति-संस्था को समझने का प्रयास करें? क्यों यह जाति-संस्था समूचे विश्व में केवल भारत और विशेषकर हिंदू समाज का ही वैशिष्ट्य है? भारतीय मिट्टी और इतिहास में इसकी जड़ें कहाँ हैं? यदि इसके पीछे कोई जीवन-दर्शन है तो वह क्या है? यदि यह मानव-विरोधी, काल-बाह्य और अप्रासंगिक संस्था है तो यह अपने आप मर क्यों नहीं जाती? क्या है जो इसे जिंदा रखे हुए है? पर इन सब प्रश्नों में प्रवेश करने के पूर्व आवश्यक है कि हम यह जानें कि यूरोपीय यात्रियों, मिशनरियों, ब्रिटिश शासकों इत्यादि ने जाति-संस्था को समय-समय पर किस रूप में देखा और उसके प्रति क्या रणनीति अपनाई?

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Sylheti-Hindu ‘Lifeworld’ – A Forgotten Hindu Community

Indians, by and large, are unaware of the existence of the Sylheti-Hindus, tucked away in a remote corner of the North-East. They have survived many vagaries of history, including the loss of their homeland. Here is finally a book that provides one a comprehensive introduction to the rich and vibrant, but vanishing, ‘lifeworld’ of the Sylheti-Hindus. Sylhet is now a part of Bangladesh. Very few now know that Sylhet was home to a great Hindu community which had a distinct identity of its own - the Sylheti Hindus. The Sylheti Hindus have a distinct language of their own, as well as a different script which has now fallen in disuse. The Sylheti Hindus have now dispersed through Assam, Tripura and various states of India. The tragic thing about this diaspora is that they are under the danger of losing their unique cultural identity under 'modernization'. Even more tragic is the fact that there is no effort from the side of the State or from even private cultural organizations to preserve the customs and traditions of the Sylheti Hindus for the benefit of posterity. The book discussed under this review is a step in that direction.

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The Cooking Hypothesis

In this passage, Michael Pollan mentions how cooking has been central to human evolution. While scientists have proposed many hypotheses which postulate the reason for the quick development of human brain, Pollan shows how cooking could have been the process which fast forwarded the evolution of human brain. Read this brilliant excerpt from the introduction of his book ‘Cooked’, on the same subject.

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Bagan: The Land of a Thousand Pagodas

Myanmar is a hidden beauty. It is one of the most important Buddhist cultures in the world, preserving the Thervada Buddhist tradition like no other country has. Accompanying its robust culture of monks and meditation, it also has some of the greatest cultural monuments in the world, most prominently displayed at Bagan, the ancient capital of Burma. In this travelogue, Ami Ganatra tells us not only about the art, culture and architecture of Burma, but also its unique tradition of widespread monkhood for a few years in life. Read on to know more about this great cultural cousin of India.

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Dealing With the Gandhi Within

Gandhi arouses strong reactions in Indians. Some love him, declaring him to be the greatest man who ever lived, next only to Buddha. Others hate him too much, calling him the person who deluded India with promises of pseudo-secularism. What is the truth? And was Gandhi the only one to be blamed. Was Hindu society also a culprit? Read this article to know the answers and solutions to these problems.

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KYC – Know Your Civilization: Recognizing the Distinctive Soul of India

In this brilliant and searing piece, Sargun Kaur combines personal experience and penetrative insight into civilizational problems. She explores her own journey of de-colonization of the Hindu psyche, through four defining works. Through these works and her understanding of them, she affirms how India should be imagined or looked at by our younger generation.

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The Making of Ramayana – Mark Tully on Ramanand Sagar’s Epic Creation

Ramayana is the dearest story to Hindus. Almost everyone knows it by heart. In modern times, Ramanand Sagar made a serial on it which was aired on Doordarshan. It was a hit like no other in the history of television. Traffic would stop. Shops would shut. Offices would halt, when the serial was going on. People would cry watching it. In hundreds. And yet, the 'secular intellectuals' of that period called it the most heinous production of fascist, Nazi, rightist, mass-murdering Hindus. That is how vicious, anti-people, anti-human left-liberal criticism can get. In this piece, Mark Tully, in his wonderfully pacifying style, tells us how important the serial was to India. How it connected to the very soul of India. As the serial is once again aired in these hard times, let us read what Mark Tully had to say about the audio-visual rendering of the greatest story ever told.

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The Traditional and the Secular Festival

This article compares the traditional and the secular festival and stresses the need to preserve and propagate the traditional festivals. While the traditional festival exhorts the individual to take part in the wider celebration of Nature, Culture and Cosmos, the secular festival drags him deeper into the mire of individualistic ego bolstering. This article discusses the distinction between the two.

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Centre For Indic studies
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