Culture and Identity in India

Global Cultural Identity

The most dominant and aspirational cultural identity of young and urban Indians is global (driven by western neoliberalism and capitalism). With easy access to global media this generation is primarily growing up on western ideas of how they should look and enjoy their life. Their entire lifestyle right from being consumerist, to going to pubs or having Instagram standard holidays is influenced by global capitalism that promotes celebrity induced “cool” that everyone wants to follow.

India’s #1 Celebrity Couple — Remarkably clean and secular

Hindu Rashtra

The rise of the BJP since the Ram temple movement has brought the Hindu cultural identity into the mainstream. Politicians right from Prime Minister Modi to Ajay Singh Bisht a.k.a Yogi Adityanath proudly flaunt their Hindu identity. Temple building has now become a national mission. This identity that was suppressed under the secular Congress (white) identity of power has touched the hearts of millions of Hindus across the nation who have come out and voted for the BJP.

Prime Minister Modi is very comfortable to show his Hindu identity

Muslim Conservatism

Muslims in India have been very visible in expressing their religious identities too. Reform in Muslim societies has been slow to come because the global political crisis between Islam and the West. Probably the most visible sign of Muslim religious identity is the widespread prevalance of the Burqa (veil) for women. Despite the fact that Muslims account for only about 15% of India’s population, they are way more visible because of this practice. This has even led to a crisis where Hindu nationalists (disguised as secularists) are pushing to end this practice in education institutes.

Veiled women are very visible expression of Islamic identity in every part of India

Indian National Cultural Identity

Throughout the decades of the Indian independence struggle and the first few decades post independence the dominant cultural identity was of the secular Indian. Thinking back, while Gandhi was a devout Hindu, he created a distinct secular identity. Nehru was a western educated liberal who fused his liberal identity with Gandhi’s khadi (hand spun cotton). Along with a national symbolism that was non religious (the national emblem and wheel) they created an identity for a new nation that was rooted in humility and modesty.

Conclusion

With the collapse of socialism and the Indian National Identity (Fabindia notwithstanding) the space for other identities has risen. While the global identity is the most aspirational, those left behind by global capitalism are regressing to religious identities, and being exploited by political opportunists.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rushabh Mehta

Rushabh Mehta

founder, erpnext | the best code is the one that is not written