Literary Shelf

An Understanding of Literary Cultures

1. What is Literature? What is Culture?

What is the relationship between Literature and Culture? What are the functions of Literature? What are the functions of Culture? What are the functions of Literary Culture? I shall make a humble effort to attempt to express my own understanding of Literary Culture.

The Literature means things made from Letters. Did literature NOT exist before origin of Letters? It not only existed, but also created a need and showed the way for creation of Letters, Language and Literature. It is thus the mother of all languages and Literature. It is called Oral Literature or Folk Literature or Folklore.

The term folklore was created by Williams.J.Thomas around 1846. He wrote a letter to the magazine 'Athenaeum' to use it in the place of popular Antiquities and Literature explaining its meaning. He suggested that it might be better to use the term ' Folklore' for the materials and the term 'Folkloristics' for the study of the material. The anthropologists in 19th century defined the word ' Folk' taking into consideration the traditions of the people.

According to Alan Dundes, the word 'Folk' can refer to any group of people whatsoever who share atleast one common factor. It could be a common occupation, language, religion and any the such common.

The group should have its own traditions which help the group to have a sense of group Identity. ( The study of Folklore- 1965- p-2) Alan Dundes further said" The Folk cultures are alive. New Folk cultures are bound to arise."(Essays in Folkloristics- 1978- p-6)

According to Richord M.Dorson, Folklore is an echo of the past, but at the same time it is also the vigorous voice of the present. (Folklore and Folk life- Introduction- p- 17). The Folk literature was classified into many branches with their specific characteristics. From the above clarifications and enlightenment, we understand that Oral literature throws sufficient light on - what is Literature? What is Culture? What is the relationship between them?

It shows that Literary culture existed in Oral literature and that it is not of a new or modern origin.

2. What is Literature? It has many definitions and concepts. A few are mentioned here. Literature is things made from Letters. Literature means written works especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. Literature means writings in which expression and form in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interests are essential features. Literature means any collection of written works, but it is used for writings considered to be an art form such as prose fiction and poetry.

3. We shall attempt now to understand as to what is literature from our own Oral Literature.

The collection of original folk material in India began around the times of 1850 in the beginning of Modernity before the First war of Independence in 1857.

(a). We may call the Oral Literature a hereditary gene or genealogical for Ancient and Modern literature as some of its characteristics were borrowed by both of them.

(b). The Oral Literature takes into consideration the traditions.

(c). The traditions help the members to have a sense of group Identity.

(d). The Oral Literature is an echo of the past, but at the same time it is also the vigorous voice of the present.

(e). The proper destiny of the author of Oral Literature is ignorious obscurity, and it's appropriate place is enshrinement in the heart and memory of the people.( The Ballad in Literature- T.F.Henderson.)

(f). The Oral Literature is mostly lyrical with Epic heart.

(g). The Oral Literature does not observe or follow any order.

(h). The Oral Literature plays a vital role in the rise of New Folk Cultures.

Then, what is literature? We can understand that literature is that which plays an effective and dynamic role in the transformations of Traditions and Cultures in the dynamic flow of social, political and economic transformations.

4. What is Literature?

We will attempt to find the answer from our Ancient Literature.

Rigveda is the First Book in the library of mankind in the world. It was written in Devanagari script and later translated into Sanskrit. It is estimated to be of 6000 years old. There are 21,101 Mantra in total in Vedas of which 10,500 Mantras are in Rigveda. There are many questions relating to the Man and Nature in Rigveda. Did anyone see the First Man who gave First life? When did life come on Earth? Where from did the souls ( Brains) of men come? How did Earth and Sky come into existence? Which one of them came First? Where did Earth end? Such questions are found in Rigveda which had No reply so far! These questions show the Ancient Man' aptitude and efforts to investigate what is around him, what is under his feet and what is over his head ,that is, the Nature and Universe and invented the wonders of those ancient times and wrote history of those wonders. That is Rigveda! Investigate and Invent- is the soul and heart of Rigveda. Now, the Man is on the venture of building human dwellings on the other planets and installing Artificial SUNS on the Earth. On the other hand, Rigveda established a humane human relationship between the Man and Nature as child and mother and developed a code of conduct for harmonious, peaceful and happy social living. That is Rigveda!

Then, what is Literature? The literature is that which stimulates and makes man to investigate and Invent- to make human life and human socia living happy.

5. What is Literature?

We shall make an attempt to know about it from the Ancient Literature of Epic ages. Ramayanam and Mahabharatam are great Epic works which won the praise all over the world. They made a healthy and intellectual beginning of Epic literature. The Epic literature brings to light two great powers, namely Religions and Gods and Kings and Kingdoms. They portrayed the people's life and their social, political, economic and cultural aspects of their social living while focusing on the powers of Religions and Gods and on powers and duties of the kings and kingdoms. They are not only Ancient, but also regarded timeless and contemporary in all times.

The Religions came into existence. Many Gods including women Goddesses came into existence. The Nature created Man. The Man created Religions and Gods. All Religions world over took birth as social code of conduct for harmonious, peaceful and happy social living. In the flow of dynamic times, the social codes transformed as traditions and cultures and became part of life and social living.

Hinduism has its own specific and special feature. It is Democratic since the people have the right to worship any God or Goddess as Hinduism has many Gods and Goddesses. No other Religion has that Democracy. Further, the Ancient Indian Religions, the Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism lived as Daughters of ONE MOTHER, that is, BHARAT and that is SECULARISM. There was No gender discrimination with the creation of Goddesses. There was a mention in Rigveda that women participated in the performance of YAGNAS. All It shows that the roots of Democracy and secularism were there in the blood of our Ancient Bharat itself.

We understand that the literature of Epic Ages throws light on the relation between the Nature and Man and the relation between the Man and Religions and Gods. Nature created Man. Man created Religions and Gods. We now come to the feet of the God. The people worship God in devotion and in fear. The enlightened class of people worship to imbibe some virtues of God as God is an embodiment of all virtues and do some good things and live good life and live happy life and make others live happy without doing any harm to anyone either by Word, or Body or Action.The rest of the people worship God in fear and faith in the words of God." I am everywhere. I witness the goods things you do and bless you. I witness the bad things you do and punish you. So do good things and live happy. Make others live happy." Thus, the religions created Gods to building faith amongst the people .

The Religions and Gods served mankind thousands of years in disciplining and regulating human behavior and making life and social living happy as social code of conduct. They built social groups and communities and afforded people social identity and loneliness to a particular FAITH with the sense of unity and security.

The literature is therefore a strong weapon to create awareness and understanding and win the hearts of the people to achieve the goals.

6. What is Literature? We shall examine the Modern literature to know what it is.

The India, that is BHARAT from the ancient times is of the mind that in the PAST there existed not only rusted pieces of iron, but also diamonds and pearls that should be protected and preserved. Based on this belief, Modernity in India took its roots in the scientific order of transformation. India was under the British rule and that was the history of pre- modern India. The British ruled India for 190 years. The India, that is, Bharat proved to the British and the world that Bharat is Bharat only with its deep rooted traditions and cultures. Modernity in India took its roots around 1850, that is nearly a hundred years before we got Independence in 1947. The salient features and characteristics of our Modernity are Nationalism, Secularism, egalitarian Equality, deep desire for Independence ,Freedom and Democracy. The people's Movement for those goals began and worked from 1850 to 1947 till we secured Independence with sacrifices, dedication and devotion. The non- violent people's movements made the British declare Independence under the Historical compulsion that the British Economy could not afford to rule India further in view of the mounting and uncontrollable people's movements. They divided India and Pakistan, made bloodshed and ran away in the Darkness leaving India.

In India, the Modernity and the people's non- violent movements for social reforms and Independence are one and the same and they worked together joining hands. It is a rare rise of Modernity altogether different from the rise of modernities in the western world.

We shall now examine the Modern literature. The primary need of the modern literature is that it should be in prose. A historical need arose for development of prose writing in India and it developed as a people's movement. The British made an Act in 1813 allowing Christianity to operate in India. The Christianity began to spread by converting Hindus into Christianity by taking advantage of the poverty of the Hindu people. They began to offer incentives in various ways and means to the converts. They set up Christian missionaries and Anglo- vernacular schools and began to intensify conversions on large scale. The middle class Indian intellectuals were quite annoyed and considered it as social and cultural attack. They girded their loins to rouse awareness and consciousness amongst the people on the Hindu Culture and Hinduism to check conversions and it grew strongly as people's social and cultural movement. In this context, the prose writing became essential and unavoidable for use in hand bills, pamphlets, newspapers, lectures, and in literature for activating the common people to join and run the movement. At the same time, people's movements for social reforms and for freedom and independence were roused at high peak and in that context of those movements, prose writing developed rapidly as people's movement. This is the true history of prose- wrting movement.

The movements knew that Literature was a powerful weapon to create awreness and consciousness and they used it in all forms to make people participate voluntarily and actively to achieve the goals and the goals were achieved. The literature thus contributed its might in the people's movements.

7. What is Culture? We have made some exercise on what literature is.

We have to understand what culture is before we attempt to understand what literary culture is. I mention some definitions and opinions expressed on culture.

(a) Culture means the ideas, customs and social behavior of a particular people or society.

(b) Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.

(c) Culture definition is- the customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or a social group. The characteristic features of everyday existence such as diversions or a way of life shared by people in a place or time. The set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.

(d) Culture is a word for the 'way of life' of groups of people meaning the way they do things. Different groups may have different cultures. A culture is passed on to the next generation by learning, whereas genetics are passed on by heredity. Culture is seen in people's writing, religion, music, clothes, cooking and in what they do. Broadly speaking, culture includes all human phenomena which are not purely results of human genetics. Culture means group culture

The Anthropology investigates the discipline of culture. There are many other disciplines also that take a part in the investigation of culture.

We shall now attempt to understand what culture is in our own simple words with our own experiences.

(a) Culture is mainly of two kinds. One is the genetic culture witch is passed on by heredity. The rest is of group cultures which we shall attempt to understand.

(b) Culture means the characteristics and knowledge of a partular group of people of a particular place and particular time. The religious group cultures are the largest cultures, namely, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity Buddhism, Jainism and others. Each religion has its own faith, own Gods or God and own religious practices. But, they respect each other and observe secularism. The population of 130 crores come under these cultures with negligible exceptions. The religious groups are called religious communities. All the people of a religious community share the characteristics and knowledge of the community and enjoy the benefits of sense of security, belongingness and social identity and such other benefits.

Next to religious communities, language community cultures are the largest. Indian states were reformed as language states such as AndhraPradesh is a Telugu speaking state, west Bengal is a Bengali speaking state and so on. What all we said for religious communities apply to language cultural communities also.

There are hundreds of social group cultures such as caste welfare and development cultures, Region welfare and development cultures, women' s progressive cultural forums for eradication of gender discrimination with their specific goals and pursuits. All members share the responsibilities and enjoyment of benefits of those group cultures with social identity.

The group cultures encompass ideas, beliefs, attitudes, values, customs, social behavior, social practices, religion, language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts, social forms and material traits. In brief, culture is a word for the way of life of social groups and the way they do things. The social groups have their own democratic establishments and machinery and constitutions specifying their goals, policies and ethics. Culture is a fundamental right and human right. They are voluntary in nature. The groups respect each other and observe secularism and unity.The members have equal rights. They share the responsibilities and duties to achieve their goals and enjoy the benefits of the group culture to which they belong .

8. Advantages of social group cultures:

(a) Each people and each person who enjoys the fruits of democracy has social responsibilities. The group cultures provide opportunities to serve the people and the society and nation through group cultures and their activities.

(b) They help develop positive and constructive social behaviors useful to them and the people and the society.

(c) They open opportunities to best utilize their ideas, beliefs, values, artistic skills, literary creativity and skills and such many in the service of the cultures. All that are voluntary contributions to the good of the people and the society at large.

(d) They help building cultural unity amongst the people belonging to different and diversified cultures and build the National unity in diversity.

(e) They help disciplining the people to live with tolerance, respect each other, help each other and live with truth, love, security and with unity, peace and welfare in the diversified cultures.

(f) Each and every people and person enjoys the social identity of that particular discipline of culture and all the benefits of that social identity.

(g) If the voluntary and free services of the group cultures are valued, it comes in rupees of lakhs of crores every year.

(h) They help people to make best use of their valuable time and life in the service of the people and derive and enjoy high satisfaction and happiness and avoid wastage of time, talent and life.

These are some of the important advantages of belonging to group cultures.

We have made some efforts to understand what literature is from some important definitions and then from our own literature that came from ancient times onwards. Similarly, we have made some efforts to understand what culture is from some definitions and then from our own group cultures. We have understood some things of literature and culture. We have identified some important advantages and benefits of social identity of group cultures and mentioned them. This is what we have done so far.

9. We shall now make efforts to understand what Literary Culture is. Before that, we shall summarize our understanding of our Literature and Culture.

(1) The Oral Literature throws sufficient light to understanding what literature is. Literary Culture existed in Oral Literature and it is NOT of a new or modern origin.

(2) Rigveda established humane human relationship between MAN and NATURE as child and mother and developed a code of conduct to help mankind live happy. The soul and heart of Rigveda is - Investigate Nature and Universe, enlighten and stimulate mankind to investigate and invent further and further to make life happy.

(3) Our literature of Epic ages shows that all the Religions took birth as social code of conduct for harmonious, peaceful and happy social living. In the flow of dynamic times, they transformed as CULTURES. The Hinduism is democratic and secular in nature from its origin. They built social groups and communities and afforded people with social identity of belonging to a particular FAITH with sense of security and unity. The literature was found as a strong weapon to create awareness amongst the people to achieve the goals.

(4) The people's movements for social reforms and independence used literature as strong weapon to create awareness and understanding amongst the people to participate actively in the movements and make them successful. The modern literature made historic contribution in achieving the goals.

(5) The Religion and Language group Cultures are the largest in India. There are hundreds of Social group cultures such as caste and region group cultures. The people or members of group cultures possess the social identity of belonging to a particular group with sense of security and unity and all the people or members share and enjoy all the benefits equally of that particular group culture. The group cultures provide opportunities to serve the people and the society voluntarily in any form or kind contributing their might through their group culture. They provide opportunities to best utilize their knowledge, skills, rich experiences and management abilities voluntarily in the service of the group culture and people and society at large. What is culture? The answer is what is NOT culture except genetic culture?

The way of life and living and the things we do in life and living in the social order come under culture.

(10) What is Literary Culture? We shall now attempt to understand what Literary Culture is.

(a) What all we said above on Literature and Culture is NOT Literary Culture. Culture is the whole and Literature is part of Culture. On these two things, Literary Culture arose and developed. Literary Culture has its own characteristics and knowledge.

(b) Literary Culture is Culture of characteristic of a scholarly writing. Rigveda and Mahabharatam are Literary Cultures.

(c) A literary discussion, or a literary style versed in or knowledgeable about literature is known as Literary Culture. The characteristics and knowledge of literary aesthetics, literary grammar and any organizing principles of literature are Literary cultures.

(d) The authors who created scholarly writings with their creativity, knowledge and versatility are Literary cultures. The Vyasamaharshi and Kalidasa and many authors who created valuable writings with lasting effectiveness and impact are themselves literary cultures. We see living culture in them and in their writings. They live after their death!

(e) The works of literature are particularly good indexes of Culture, in that they often engage the culture in depth.

(f) Language is determined by culture and Culture is determined by language. Language itself is a part of Culture as Literature is.

(g) The anthropologists viewed that language and it's entire structures were entirely dependent on the cultural context in which they existed.

(h) Mother tongue is a culture of social groups. The literature is reflection of culture and society. Literature is a valuable source of cultural knowledge. Language expresses, embodies and symbolizes cultural reality.

(i) Literary Culture is that which builds history of all Cultures and guide them for useful transformations and rise and formation of New Cultures in the dynamic flow of times.

(j) If literary culture is protected, it protects all other cultures as TREES do.

(k) Literary Culture is mind and heart of all cultures being part of Culture.

11. What should Literary Culture do in the contemporary times?

Consumption was made as dynamic, propelling and driving force of economic development. The globalization grew up and strengthened. The digital world rushed in and became a powerful tool to accelerating consumption growth. The media with national and international news and entertainment programs advertise and give information of all available goods and services and their sources. Online banking facilities for purchases are at the finger tips. people could get anything they want at their door steps. All such transformations built a world of consumption and material world of life and living. Earn, buy, consume and live with comforts - has become the way of life and living for all classes of people. Along with it also grew - No morals, No ethics, No values and Nothing matters! - Live with comforts and material happiness!- such new ideas, thoughts and understanding of life emerged. All such transformations created New styles of life and living. An era of New Material Culture arose.

Then, what is Literary Culture? It is a part of the New Culture! It had its role, play and action in the New Material Culture! Then, what it could do? What should it do? What all we learnt on literary culture could answer these questions.

What did literary culture do in the past on emergence of New Cultures?

The literary culture should do in the present contemporary times what it did in the past. The present contemporary New Material Culture had some useful and valuable things. It had some bad and harmful things. The literary culture should analyze them and create awareness and understanding of them. It should throw light on suggestions and solutions how to improve and develop useful and valuable things and how to eradicate the bad and harmful things. The literary culture is part and organ of newly emerged culture. It has the social responsibility of curing its ills.

The Literary Culture functions to make the New Material Culture healthy to make the New styles of life and living of all classes of people comfortable and happy NOT only in physical terms, but also in psychological terms of human Body and Mind. If body and mind ,both are healthy, then only Man could live healthy and happy and so the people. The literary culture enlightens and suggests solutions for building a healthy and happy world for all the people with peace and harmony.


More by :  Papa Rao Jayanthi

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