Identification and Enhancement of Cultural Heritage – An Internal Necessity in Management of Development

Guidelines of Project Village India

Identification and Enhancement of Cultural Heritage.
An Internal Necessity in the Management of Development.

In December 1998, the Village India Project was launched. It takes village as an entry point for the identification of India’s cultural heritage. Today, culture is viewed in terms of ‘development’, development is defined in terms of technology and technology is idealized as an instrument of mass production in relation to profit and loss. The thrust of the technocentric development is clearly towards uniformization, homogenization, and globalization. It is unconcerned with the fact that there are other systems of knolwedge and other models of growth. It is this assumption that, this Project challenges and addresses itself to development alternatives. An attempt is made to prepare new materials for determining development parameters, and to formulate a practical guide for the management of development.

On 2nd October, 1999, Prof. B.N. Saraswati presented the Interim Report of the Project. Its analysis is based on the quantum of work completed in North India in the first phase that is, 15 study reports. The field studies have been conducted by Research Scholars under the guidance of distinguished co-ordinators, including anthropologists, sociologists, agricultural scientists, ecologists etc. The data presented here are organized into five chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the Project.

In Chapter 2 of his Interim Report, Prof. Saraswati addressed himself to “Heritage Village” and makes a departure from the village studies conducted by British administrator scholars and post-Independence anthropologists and sociologists.

In Chapter 3, he posits the village as a product of four interacting factors: (1) the constitution of individuals, (2) the nature of the physical environment, (3) the cultural structure of the village, and (4) the unique experience or history of the members of the village. These fuse together to create the personality of the village. Every village is a ‘person’. It has a name, a set of physical features, a quality of mind and an integrated system of behaviours. By sifting ‘group personalities’ the nature and uniqueness of a village can be determined as national characters are determined. Based upon specific natural and cultural factors, this Report says that there are at least 13 types of village personality. The typology includes ‘the artist village’, ‘the scholastician village’, ‘the shrine village’, ‘the epic village’, the ‘ecologically oriented village’, among others.

Almost every village has a number of artistic castes. Not all villages identify themselves as the ‘artist village’, but only those unique and most readily recoganizable for skill and ingenuity make representation of the artist. Ballavpur in West Bengal is an ‘artist village’. Recipient of Rabindranath Tagore’s attention and guided by his poetic vision and artistic hand, this artist village excells in the creative arts of batik painting, kantha weaving, puppet and pottery making. In the world-view of an artist village, Art is central and Man is placed between Art and Nature. The study of Saurath in the Mithila region of Bihar elucidates its long tradition of Sanskrit learning. In this ‘scholastician village’ Knowledge still occupies the central position but Man is placed on the periphery of tradition. In the ‘ecologically oriented village’ Lingthem in Sikkim, animals have a significant bearing on social and cultural life. It mirrors a unified harmonious world-view in which God, Nature and Man are extremely close. Here God stands for truth, Nature for beauty, and Man for consciousness. Dargah Rasoolpur, a ‘shrine village’ in Uttar Pradesh shows that the sacred is not antithetical to progress in secular life. It visualizes three inter-related realms of energy flow – the intangible energy of the sacred (God) at the centre, the tangible energy of Nature on the periphery, and the social energy of Man in between.

Chapter 4, of the Report deals with the village as Cosmos. Villagers view themselves and their world as a grand continuum of concentric circles. As the cells of our body bear smaller versions of the universal cyclical activity, so are the villages self-organized. Ceaseless interaction, spreading and contracting at different levels of organization, both within and between villages, influence cultural cycles of the nation. People cease to connote the village as a spatial entity, rather it is perceived as a circle of marriage and kinship, circle of knowledge, circle of festivals, and rituals, and circle of traditions. Project Reports exemplify that Rameshwar, a ‘shrine village’, is a bindu (dimensionless point) on the conceptually circular Kashi Kshetra. Jakhol, an ‘epic village’ is part of the Duryodhana Kshetra of 21 villages which form a cluster of beliefs, customs and rituals. Bhaini Maharajpur, in Haryana, forms a cluster of 24 villages ‘Mahim Chaubisi’ conceived as a single social unit taking upon itself judiciary functions and political mobilization.

Chapter 5, of the Project Report takes into account the Design for Human Development. It takes a village as a ‘repository world’ containing layers of human tradition, reflecting time and human destiny. The tradition on which this notion of village is based, yields a control system that orders life, subsistence, distinctions and desires. This ordering brings harmony and peace in social and economic life. The ancient sages had visualized a grand design for human development, leading to the formation of ‘self-thinking’, ‘self-organizing’ and ‘self-governing’ village India. In the 20th century, the village India gained inspiration and strength from Mahatma Gandhi’s personal ethics, Vinoba Bhave’s bhoodan movement, and Rabindranath Tagore’s palli unayan. Modern developmentalism has resulted in more evil than good. Promises have turned into perils. Material development is limiting, and planners and reformers, unaware of this, create chaos at the operational level. The village study has recorded several examples of development mismanagement.

In conclusion, the Report presents inspiring examples of villages in Bihar and Assam which show that amidst violence there is non-violence amidst darkness there is light.

Reviewed by

Poonam Mathur



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