Friday, February 1, 2013

Lokavidya Tana-bana

Lokavidya Tana-bana  can be thought of as the 'culture' (sanskruti, samskaram, samskara) of Lokavidyadhar Samaj, it is the 'visible' face of the Samaj and identifies the Samaj in an other-than-socio-economic way. The process of externalsation (social exclusion) from the Samaj has been concomitant with the process of delegitimising Lokavidya and that of pushing Lokavidya Tana-bana on the back burner. The members of the Samaj are made to feel and, on increasingly many occasions themselves feel, 'ashamed' of Tana-bana (they tend to look upon themselves as 'uncultured' in the contemporary context).

During the period between the 8th and 12th century , there was a concerted attempt to restablish the supremacy of Vedic thought in Lokavidya (through AdiSankara, Madhava, Ramanuja etc) following the infusion of ideas (knowledge) from Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam. This infusion had resulted in the externalisation of various segments of the Samaj, from 'mainstream' Hinduism . This 'revival' further took the shape of a widespread Bhakti movement, initially in South India (Nayanmars, Alvars etc)which spread rapidly northward throughout the period between the 12th and 17th centuries and had a very visible form through verse and music ( Dnyāneshwar, Namdev, Tukaram, Eknath, Kabir, Meerabai, Annamacharya, ,Purandara, Ramadasu,   Tygaraja etc). [The rise of Sufism (Nizamuddin Auliya , Kwaja Bande Nawaz) also paralleled this movement] The Bhakti movement, among other things, attemped, through music and verse, to set the stage for the social inclusion of those sections of the Samaj that had been externalised while emphasising the inherent unity of the Samaj (through devotion to the 'heroes' of vedic revivalism -Siva, Vishnu(Rama,Krishna)).

With the advent of British rule a system of production and governance came into being, that proved ruinous to the Samaj. Livelihoods based on Lokavidya were systematically destroyed and there was a concerted attack on Lokavidya with a view to delegitimizing it. Every member of the Samaj was made to feel inadequate and incapable of a productive role in society. The focus shifted to the productive activities of the Samaj and attempts were made to preserve the livelihoods and strengthen Lokavidya Tana-bana(the idioms used in the early wars aaginst British rule were all rooted in various aspects of the culture and traditions of the Samaj). The economic disruption in productive activity, caused by British rule, brought inter-caste rivalry based on a seeming heirarchy of 'forward' and 'backward' castes to the fore, while the dalits(untouchables) were 'urged' to circumvent this conflict through conversion and achieve a 'favoured' status in a'modern, social setup. Lokavidya Tana-bana and the unity of the Samaj were,then, cast in the mould of an opposition to caste-based social hierarchy and untouchability (Jyothiba Phule, Gandhi, Ambedkar) and symbolised through a focus on the productive activity of the Samaj: the charkha and khadi (Gandhi). The 'backward class' movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries sought to preserve and protect the Lokavidya identity of these sections of the Samaj while demanding a role for themselves in the new productive order.

Looking back we see that, every time in the past, whenever the Samaj faced a threat of externalisation (in ever-changing forms), it chose to give expression to its Tana-bana and unity, in forms that were sometimes based in socio-economic reorganisation and/or on art & music. In today's times, of great economic deprivation and despondency in the Samaj, it is very pertinent to think about art & music(the humanities) as being a means of establishing the unity of the Samaj and rejuvenating Lokavidya Tana-bana.

Lokavidya Tana-bana is rooted in the life-blood of the Samaj, in its productive, life-sustaining capability; it may thus yet help rejuvenate the Samaj and help it forge the tools for its liberation from its present 'quagmire of rotteness and defeatism' (a very similar phrase was used by Jawaharlal Nehru to describe Gandhi's intervention in the Indian scene in the early part of the last century- and Gandhiji was a 'great helmsman' of the Samaj).


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