Rebuilding India 4

Understand India’s Cultural Strengths

As Indians, one of our greatest strength is our culture. Many of the educated people tend to either ignore it as irrelevant in the modern context or dismiss it as a burden of the past. Hence much of the thought process of our elite and the establishment continues to be dominated by the alien mindset.

Visionaries such as Swami Vivekananda emphasized the role of culture in the Indian lives. Several intellectuals from across the world have been insisting on the relevance of Indian culture,  not just for the future of our nation, but for the entire world. The well-known British Orientalist Sir John Woodroffe noted about a century earlier:  “The question of the value of Indian culture is not merely an academic one. It has present bearing on the future of India and the world.”

In spite of the good counsels, we have failed to understand the significance of culture in our lives.  In this connection, the modern education plays a critical role to create contempt for the traditional strengths of India. But the contemporary developments at the global level have made the experts from the western world to recognize and understand the role of culture in different national contexts.

For every human being, the families and the societies around him/her are the two basic institutions of life. They play the most crucial roles in shaping the lives of people. In the case of both the institutions, culture has a larger influence than the other factors.

The purpose of human birth is to lead a useful life. Peace of mind at the family and social levels is required for everyone to lead productive lives. Peace is largely the product of culture.  Families and societies strive to develop themselves materially and otherwise. They take the required steps consciously and work hard to achieve their aims.  

The role of culture in the human lives is important. It plays a major role in shaping their thoughts, behavior, world views, approaches and functioning. It has a huge impact on the families, societies and the nation as well.

After subjugating the local systems in different parts of the world, the thoughts and practices of the Europeans came to dominate the rest of the world during the earlier centuries. The writings of their sociologists and economists began to define the social and economic studies of the rest of the world as well. As a result the local cultures of different nations remained out of purview and viewed as a hindrance.

The subsequent developments clearly proved that the western systems and approaches have serious limitations. Different countries in the world have unique systems of their own. One of the major reasons for such uniqueness is the cultural dimensions of different societies.  The impact of cultural factors from the individual to the national levels is very significant. The way one thinks and behaves at the individual level impacts not just the family but also the society and the nation.

Recently a British diplomat highlighted the difference between the Indians and the westerners, in the context of education of children. It reveals the role of culture in shaping the approaches and lifestyles of people living in different countries. To quote his speech: “I would not sacrifice buying a car to educate my child but an Indian would do so. Such is the parental care and affection in building the future of the child. …. Family is everything here. While Indians earn and save money for their family, westerners hardly do so.”

These words show as to how Indians regard their family and children above everything else in this world. This is in stark contrast to their western counterparts. The foreign official is further reported to have noted that “parental affection is the key element of education in India and this is the only country where fathers dedicate their entire life for their children.” (The New Indian Express)

A very wrong notion seems to prevail that cultural influences   revolve around the household and religious matters only. In reality however, they play a bigger role in various aspects concerning all the activities of human life. But their importance in the functioning of societies, business, management and economy are being realized only slowly.

Studies reveal their deep influence even in fields such as modern business and corporate organizations. Pioneering studies undertaken by the Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede and his team for over more than four decades in different countries reveal that culture at the national and regional levels play a major role in influencing the behavior and approach of employees in organizations. 

The following table shows as to how two major human attributes namely individualism and long term orientation vary among the Indians, Americans and the British. The scores used by Hofstede and team are presented to explain the significance of culture on these attributes in these countries. 

Organizational Culture in India, US and UK -Scores

Long term orientation

Individualism indicates the degree of interdependence among the members in the society. The scores show that the people of the United States are highly individualistic. Individualistic tendencies are very high in countries such as the US and the UK, while it is less India due to the family base and society orientation.

India scores high in long term orientation as Indians have a futuristic view of life. But the western countries such as the US and the UK are short term oriented.  The studies reveal as to how the attitudes of citizens get reflected in the functioning of the organizations. 

Hence the role of culture is much higher than what we generally assume.  It enables shaping the behavior and approaches of people at different levels of life. The functioning and progress of organizations, societies and the economies are influenced by factors related to culture. 

The superior culture of India enabled her to progress and perform well since the ancient times. It is said that whenever India was culturally strong, the society was functioning better and the economy showed a higher performance. Studies prove that India’s recent performance at the economic and social levels have been due to her inherent cultural strengths. 

Hence we have to realize the importance of culture in India and her functioning systems.  After studying the history of different civilizations across the world, the noted American philosopher Will Durant underlined the basic nature of the Indian approach in the following words: “India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of mature mind, understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all human beings.”

The higher qualities of India and her cultural backgrounds have always made experts from different parts of world to look to our nation for guidance. In the current context of globalization there has been a renewed expectation for the emergence of India and her role at the global level. While welcoming the rise of India, the management expert Jean-Pierre Lehmann notes: “Perhaps the most encouraging development in this early 21st century is the emergence of India as an increasingly global force, economically, politically and culturally.”

Such expectations from scholars belonging to diverse fields over different time periods are due to the superior nature of Indian culture. It is not just a guiding philosophy for the higher spiritual aspects of life; it has a huge impact on the functioning of families, societies, economies and other aspects connected to the lives of people.

Rebuilding India requires a proper understanding of the time-tested culture of our country and its impact on various aspects of life. One cannot expect the desired results when plans are made without realizing  the underlying strengths of this ancient nation.


John Woodroffe, Is India Civilized: Essays on Indian Culture, Ganesh and Co., Madras, 1922
Geert Hofstede and others, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition, 2010
Mike Nithavrianakis quoted in “British Diplomat All Praise for Indian Parents”, The New Indian Express, Coimbatore, 15 June, 2013
Will Durant, The Case for India, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1930
Jean-Pierre Lehmann, “The Dangers of Monotheism in the Age of Globalization”, The Globalist, March 30, 2006

( Yuva Bharati, Oct 2013)

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