“According to the 2021 UNESCO world report of languages, more than half of the approximately 7000 languages spoken in the world, could disappear by the end of the century. Loss of each ancient language, we are losing local culture and substantial literature, history, folklore, dialects, scripts, and wisdom too, which the generations have inherited”.
Speaking at Osmania university in Hyderabad, during the conferment of the honoris causa on him, former Chief justice of India, NV Ramana expressed his concerns recently: " as this global culture engulfs the world, there is an urgent need to protect our rich culture, heritage and tradition and sustaining diversity too. The global culture is becoming powerful and has become a threat to our culture and identities. Social media, television and pop culture glamorise a particular way of life and unfortunately we are blindly aping the same."
The Chief justice of India further said "Mindless copying of global culture is diminishing thousands of years of our rich culture, heritage and ethnic symbols. The time has come for the youth to revive, and explore their links with our magnificent languages, culture, and heritage".
Spiritual force, the backbone of glorious Indian culture
India recently commemorated 75 years of Independence with much agog and fanfare. This Mahotsav, named Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, an initiative of Narendra Modi led government to make India self-reliant. The Narendra Modi government has removed many archaic laws, started by Britishers in India. Recently renamed Rajpath as Kartavya Path and installed a statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the India Gate canopy, under which the statue of British monarch George V once stood, marked only a symbolic elimination of colonial domination. But the most onerous task to overcome and supersede global culture by our national and local culture is still miles to go.
Britishers left, but they left behind their razzmatazz western culture, making us assume that their culture is the most superior culture on the earth. This illusion has been sinking in on Indian roots for the last 75 years. We need to catalyse our spiritual force again to fight this slavery mindset which youth are gradually cocooning themselves. Materialistic progress must grow in tandem with spirituality. It’s pitiful to see a few to believe that religious activities are useless. During 1000 years of slavery under Mughals & Britishers, we Indians were able to fight for our pride, culture, and ethos, only because of spiritual force.
With radical globalization and the advent of the internet, this percolation of global culture has become faster and delving deep down to our marrows. If the next generation are not enlightened, this can annihilate the oldest civilization, culture, tradition, and the entity of Bharat itself.
Sanskrit as the most ancient, sacred, and scientific language, needs to be re-assimilated, and re-endorsed by the masses to strengthen Indian culture:
Language plays a vital role in the shaping of national and local culture. Language is intrinsic to the manifestation of culture. It displays values, beliefs, customs, and behavioural patterns. It plays a vital role in the making of society by inculcating group identity, solidarity, common faith, values, and tradition. In a sense, culture becomes society's personality and language is an expression of culture. In fact, language makes a nation.
Sanskrit, the most ancient language, is the base of Indian culture. It’s assumed that Sanskrit is just a language for chanting mantras and stotras. 90 % of literature has nothing to do with religion. Instead, it deals with philosophy, law, science, literature, grammar, phonetics, interpretation, etc. In fact, Sanskrit was the language of free thinkers and rationalists who questioned everything and expressed a broad range of thoughts on various subjects. Sanskrit was the language of our scientists and the enlightened in ancient India. Once upon a time, India was spearheading science, philosophy, economics, and Vedic science. Sanskrit was not the language of brahmins, but it was a language of Akhand Bharat, where all learned people from medicine, science, astrology, and mathematics, used to communicate.
The order of sounds from our mouths, from the throat to palate to teeth to lips, emphasize the uniformity of the language. A few base or primary words are the foundation of the entire Sanskrit vocabulary. The coders find a system for making words in Sanskrit interesting, as one can work backward to the base or primary root to discern the meaning of the word. In 1985, Brigg, a researcher, and NASA scientist stipulated that Sanskrit was the best platform for programming artificial intelligence and can harmonize supercomputers due to its rigid grammar rules. This language can unwrap any philosophical questions, be it music, poetry, craftsmanship, science, or technology. If there is any literature that is mostly investigated for its structure, it’s Sanskrit. Morphophonemics experts devised a process for paraphrasing Sanskrit that is identical not only in the core, but in the form of current work in Artificial Intelligence. With a lot of syntaxes, which itself is the foundation of any programming. Unlike Vedic Sanskrit, Classical Sanskrit by Panini, is engineered. It's phonetically based rather than spelling. Western and American institutions consider Sanskrit as the bank of ancient knowledge, and many acclaimed schools and universities across the globe offer Sanskrit as a language for study up to the university level.
In the digital era, musicians, artists, and religious preachers are more effective promoters of national (Sanskrit) and local culture than the government.
Sanskrit is attributed as the national culture of India. Despite all our religious functions being held in Sanskrit, this ancient language is losing flavour in India. The youth is reluctant to take Sanskrit as a language. The parents do not advise their children to read Sanskrit scriptures. There are some efforts taken by the Narendra Modi government to promote Sanskrit like making Sanskrit university NAAC accredited, giving a few Sanskrit colleges as university status, and allocating a good budget for the promotion of the Sanskrit language. Parashar Bharti has initiated a few programs through Doordarshan like the “Vartavali” program in Doordarshan and “Bahujan Bhasa Sanskrit Bhasa” and “Sanskriti Saptahiki” on All India Radio (AIR). But this endeavour has not shown any substantial outcomes. The biggest challenge is to change perception and motivate children, youth, and parents to endorse Sanskrit.
Music is a manifestation of culture. Musicians contribute substantially to cultural growth and evoke existing culture. Artists are transmitters of culture. Culture is very dynamic and continues to change, but music always connects the world and shares a special aspect of each culture. Sanskrit is practiced broadly in the Carnatic and Hindustani sections of classical music. Sanskrit as bhajan is used during devotions in Hindu temples as well as in Buddhist and Jain religious traditions.
Amidst the digital era, where global culture threat is looming large on us, there is also a heartening trend to see Sanskrit gaining popularity among the masses through technology. A few Sanskrit singers have sung Sanskrit songs/stotrams, but the best Sanskrit singer and quintessential stotra singers are Madhvi Madhukar, Uma Mohan, Rajalakshmi Sanjay, and Kuldeep M Pai. It's a marvel to see the trend that stotra singers like Madhvi Madhukar Jha getting crores of views for stotra on her own YouTube channel. Singing a Sanskrit song is no cakewalk as pronunciation, segregation, and integration of words are difficult, keeping in mind that composition does not tamper.
India’s finest folk music has kept local culture vibrant and intact:
During slavery for 1200 years, our culture and unity did suffer but survived and arose again because of our unified spiritual force and local culture. Indian culture is intrinsically pluralistic. This is due to India’s diverse culture and this diverse culture became our armour from the Mughals and Britishers. Language, food habits, geography, tradition, occupation, belief, and customs differ in each state and these all together form a local culture. This resulted in the making of folk music. Hence Folk music is the epitome of local culture, a manifestation of their way of life.
Bihugeet (Assam) The Bihugeet is simple lyrics narrating the daily life activities of the Assamese. The themes are often nature, love, social messages, future aspirations, etc. It existed for a thousand years until Bhupen Hazarika put forth the local culture and folk music of Assam and north-eastern states at the national level. Kalpana Patowary, Archana Mahanta and her husband Khagan Mahanta, Sharma Barua, Taralai Sarma, Anima Choudhury, and Kalika Prasad are a few famous folk singers from Assam.
Baul (West Bengal) The Baul folk of Bengal is all about the philosophies of life. A coterie of musicians who travelled across the country in quest of the eternal truth of life is referred to as the Bauls. The lyrics are full of philosophical metaphors. Bapi Das Baul, Basudev Das Baul, Kartik Das Baul, Abdur Rahman Boyati, Kangalini sufia, and Sushmana Das are a few famous folk singers from West Bengal.
Lavani (Maharashtra) Initially this started to entertain soldiers. The folk music of Lavani is performed by women and themes revolve around politics, society, erotical & sensuality. Satyabhamabai Pandharpurkar and Yamunabai Waikar are popular and present-day exponents of Lavani.
Chakri (Kashmir)Theme is storytelling of fairy tales sung on wedding nights.
Henze (Kashmir) The ancient form of singing by Kashmiri pandits at their festivals has certain archaic characteristics which suggest it is the oldest Kashmiri folk singing.
Bhakta (Jammu Kashmir) is Mostly popular in Jammu. Sung when harvesting is completed.
Alha (Madhya Pradesh) Heroic ballad songs sung in different languages like Braj, Awadhi, and Bhojpuri.
Bhuta (Kerala) The theme is rooted in superstitions. Ritual song to keep the evil spirit at bay.
Ovi (Maharashtra & Goa) Songs of women are usually sung during marriages, during pregnancy, and lullabies for children.
Burrakatha (Andhra Pradesh) is- A highly dramatic form of ballad. Tambura is played by the main performer while reciting a story in a stylized costume.
Pandavani (Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh) is the very ancient folk music of India which narrates the characters and stories of Mahabharata through its lyrics. Tambura is a primarily used instrument. Padma Vibhushan Teejan Bai, Jhadu Ram Devgan, Ritu Verma, Usha Barle, Shanti bai have kept this folk music intact and alive.
Bhavgeet (Karnataka and Maharashtra) The most important folk music of Karnataka, Bhavgeet is the music of expressions. Singer expression on music, expressing various themes like philosophy, love, and nature. Popular Kannada bhavgeet singers are Kuvempu, Gopalkrishna Adiga, Shivarudrappa, Chennaveera kanavi, and DR Bendre .Famous Marathi Bhavageet singers are the late Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar, Arun Date, Asha Bhosle, and Suman Kalyanpur
Nattupura paadalgal, kummi paatu(Tamil Nadu ) After Carnatic music the ancient folk of Nattupura Pattu is still very famous in Tamil Nadu. The theme is farming and harvesting. The instruments used are shehnai and drums.
Zeliang (Nagaland) Primitive style of music by the Zeliang tribe. The songs talk about the history of Nagaland.
Ghodi/Khodi (Punjab) Sung during weddings.
Dandiya Raas (Gujarat) Folk dance sung in Guajarati during the festival of Navratri and Holi.
Bhatiali (west Bengal) Sung during fishing.
Rasiya Geet (Uttar Pradesh) Theme is charming actions, and stories of lord Krishna in Braj.
Maand /panihari/(Rajasthan) is Known as both classical and folk music and seems to be similar to ‘Ghazals’ or ‘Thumri’ but is quite different. Sarangi is the main musical instrument.
Mannd song is about the glory of Rajput rulers. Panihari theme is about women fetching water from a well in an earthen pot over their heads. The lyrics are about the life of people in Rajasthan. Mame Khan, Swaroop khan, Rajnigandha Shekhawat, and Rapperia Baalam are famous folk singers in this genre.
Baryi (Arunachal Pradesh) It's the main feature of every social, or religious ceremony. The theme is the history, mythology, and religious lore of Arunachal Pradesh state.
Oppari (Tamil Nadu) is Sung during funerals.
Kajri /Thumri /Birha (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar) The music is performed and sung by women in their longing days when their husbands have been away for a long time. Sung mostly in the monsoon period. Music is often melancholic. Thumri is sung mostly in Brij, and Awadhi is accompanied by dance. Birah is sung to a series of melodic fragments where the theme revolves around the separation of lovers or lament of separation from motherland or spouse. Malini Awasthi, Ajita Srivastava, Sharda Sinha, and Manoj Tiwary are famous folk singers.
Sumangali, Samdaun, Sohar, Chaiti, Fagwa (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh) Sumangali is Sung in weddings, samdaun is sung when a married daughter goes to in -laws home. Sohar during Childbirth of a son, and chaiti sung during ram navami and fagwa during Holi month. Malini Awasthi, Sharda, Sinha, Girija Devi, Manoj Tiwari, Maithili Thakur, Ranjana Jha, Chandan Tiwari, Madhvi Madhukar Jha, Sanjoli Pandey, Hari Nath Jha, Vikas jha and Kunj Bihari are popular in this genre.
Ropni Geet /katnigeet/Pankhida (Bihar & Uttar Pradesh) Is sung during sowing and harvesting of paddy respectively. Sung in other states but the language differs. In Rajasthan, it's called Pankhida.
Jagar (Utrakhand) Is Sung in a religious ceremony for invoking deities. Usually sung by men but this tradition was broken by Padma Shri Basanti Bisht. Chander Singh Rahi, known as Bhishma Pitamah of Utrakhand folk song.
Ravindra sangeet (west Bengal) was Written by Rabindra Nath Tagore hence also called Tagore sangeet. The theme is based on humanity, love psychology, modernity, and materialism. Shreya Guhathakurta, Iman Chakraborty, and Shomlata Acharya Chowdhury are famous Ravindra sangeet folk singers.
Sambalpuri (Orissa) is Sung in the Sambalpur region by tribal and folk communities. Padma Shri Jitendra Harpal is a famous Sambalpuri folk singer.
Chhau/ Nagpuri Sung by forest dwellers at night to keep animals at bay. Madhu Mansuri wrote several Nagpuri songs for the creation of the new state of Jharkhand.
National and state culture acted as our double-layered protection cover from foreign cultures for thousands of years. Sanskrit language, the base of Indian culture, can not only galvanize us from global culture but can overcome and supersede global culture by inculcating a sense of pride and respect. Narendra Modi's rule in India for the last 8 years has only re-ignited the Hindu renaissance and pride. Social media has helped proponents of spirituality and yoga gurus, nationalist orators, and Katha Vachak to reach the masses. Post-Independence, the only quintessential stotra singer, but in Carnatic style was Bharat Ratna M. S Subbulakshmi. Anuradha Paudwal after singing many Bollywood songs switched to bhajans which also included Stotras. But in the post-digital era, Kuldeep M Pai along with his disciple, Madhvi Madhukar Jha, and Uma Mohan have made stotra famous through social media. It’s heartening to see Sanskrit singer Madhvi Madhukar’s Madhuram band, Madhava's Band, and Sanjay Dwivedi ‘s Dhruva band becoming popular among youth. These bands have a tinge of both modernity and tradition. Recently a few famous Bollywood singers like Sanchet Parampara and popular folk singers have started singing stotra. The popularity of Sanskrit songs will certainly enthuse and motivate youngsters about the world’s most ancient, scientific, and holy language of Hindus. Hope in the coming years, Sanskrit day is celebrated with the same enthusiasm as an international language day, the way international yoga day is celebrated across the globe. Nonetheless, it is scientifically proven that mantras and stotras calm the mind and soul. It activates the brain, rejuvenates the body, and eliminates negativity from the mind. Amidst fast-paced life, yoga, meditation, and chanting are a growing trend among all ages, across the globe.
Folk Singers have played and are playing a vital role in shaping local culture and keeping it alive, vibrant, and intact for thousands of years. Now exposure to online is helping them to reach globally. State or regional language has given India a pluralistic culture. According to UNESCO, there are more than 200 Indian languages that are either vulnerable or are on verge of extinction. Preserving, nurturing, and growing these languages and dialects is an uphill task. If any local language is lost, the local culture, vibes, tradition, folklore, local ethos, and myth also get lost. The languages, especially of the north-eastern part of India and the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra, and Jharkhand, need special attention. Amidst the gloomy scenario, a ray of hope has also sprouted. A few youngsters have joined hands to document, nurture and propagate their local folk songs. For example, Tetseo Sisters from Nagaland reviving folk songs in Chokri and getting millions of views on YouTube. Imphal Talkies band documenting and propagating folk songs of Tarao tribes, Bhairavas band from Uttarakhand having Garhwali and Kumaoni grooves. Koloma band from Agartala focussing on the preservation and propagation of folk songs in Kokborok local language with a western tinge. Hope in the coming days, more youngsters will join this revolution.