The COVID-19 Lockdown has proven that Indian cultural tradition cannot be monopolized and appropriated by anyone particular political dispensation. Indian culture is more syncretic and unifying than the identity based divisive politics played out by various political parties.
The whole world is one family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam) is one of the foundational principles of the Indian cultural philosophy enshrined in the Upanishads. This philosophy seems to be more relevant during the current COVID-19 crisis which has shaken the whole world, the human family in its entirety. Spirituality has been a major cultural practice in India and during the national lockdown, we find ourselves resorting to spiritual practices such as meditation and prayer. Indian culture drawn from various scriptures gives us the message that the internal resources of the soul are more important than external resources. Today, we are cut off from the external economy and we have to rely on our mind, spirit, and body, considering the current national lockdown.
Art and Entertainment
Indian culture has a rich history of various indigenous art forms such as dance, painting, music, and literature. During the current lockdown, we find ourselves reconnecting to Indian cultural art. Our harmonium was put away in a trunk for almost ten years. However, the lockdown made my father take the harmonium out and play classical Indian music on it. My father has rarely cooked since his marriage. However, during the current lockdown, my father has started cooking lunch every day, to reduce the burden of household chores on my mother. The versatility and diversity of Indian cuisine have increased the flexibility with which my father can cook various dishes.
The entertainment industry is a gift of India’s post-liberalization economy, initiated by Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was the Finance Minister during the tenure of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. While undoubtedly the socialist welfare state has regained significance in the current COVID-19 crisis, it is films, music, and books that have made our stay-at-home period tolerable and even recreational during the current lockdown. Cinema has always been a dominant cultural preference amongst Indians. People who are fond of Bollywood movies are catching up on good old Hindi films available on Netflix.
The Indian Family
The Government, due to popular demand, has decided to re-telecast the mythological series of Ramayana and Mahabharata on the DD National TV channel. Ramayana and Mahabharata, which were the first telecast in the 1980s brought together communities to watch the epic series as Television was a rare possession during those times. Today, again, we are reconnecting to the togetherness within a family while watching TV Serials as a way to spend our time during the lockdown. This again reinforces the popularity of the television media as a form of cultural entertainment within Indian families. After India liberalized its market in 1991, there was an immense proliferation in the number and diversity of Indian TV Channels. Traditionally, India consisted of joint families instead of a nuclear family. Pre-modern India had a collectivistic culture and not an individualistic culture; collective cooperation was more important than individual self-interest.
According to the Gita, “By cooperation and mutual help, all shall achieve the highest human welfare.” This principle of the collective cooperation is of the highest importance in the current public health crisis. The current COVID-19 nationwide lockdown has given us the scope to reconnect ourselves to our Indian cultural roots.