THE IMPACT OF WEST ON INDIAN CULTURE

The Christian sea-powers in India brought with them western civilisation and culture in the country. It not only introduced many new elements into the Indian cauldron but also disturbed the existing disposition of various forces in Indian society like the last stone which starts an avalanche; a process of change began but it has not yet ended and its future no one could yet foresee.

In the closing years of the eighteenth century channels of Indian culture were getting dry. The culture of the country had become moribund, decadent and effete. The creative spirit had disappeared in fine arts, literature, science, philosophy and religion. India needed a violent shock and a rude challenge to remedy the state of affairs. This was provided by the people of the Western countries and their culture.

THE IMPACT OF WEST ON INDIAN CULTURE

It was in the closing years of the eighteenth century that western civilisation and culture challenged all old values and beliefs of India. Consequently old rites and rituals, customs and tradition, crumbled. India was literally in the melting pot. When the edifice of Indian culture was collapsing the western culture attempted to super-impose its structure on Indian soil. It changed the vision and revolutionized those who came into contact with it. Its immediate result was the indiscriminate imitation and adoption of western mode of life and habits. Fortunately this process was quickly arrested by the forces of the Indian socio-religious reform movement of the 19th century.

(i) Western Influence in Education

The first influence of the west was felt in the realm of education, the western system of education introduced in India the study of western philosophy, science, literature, history, economics, sociology etc. It created literate classes which derived their ideas not from the age long traditions of the land but from the west. They looked to the west for every aspect on their life and imitated a good deal of the western culture. This had the effect of developing the wide gulf between the educated and the uneducated classes in India.

(ii) The impact of the West on the Vernacular Literature

The impact of the West and the English education was keenly felt in the vernacular literatures of India. The best of the writers of the Indian vernacular literatures have been western in spirit, in outlook, in literary devices, in the choice and treatment of the subjects, though they retained a close connection with the west in the literature and life of ancient India. The Indian drama was considerably influenced by the western drama. The details about the stage and the distinct analysis of the individual and social problems in modern Indian drama are the outcome of the study of the western drama. Indian story and novel also were profoundly influenced by the western literature. They were absent in the realm of Indian literature till the first half of the nineteenth century.

Like prose, poetry was also considerably influenced. English sonnet, ode and blank verse were imitated. Madhusudan Datt in Bengali and Ayodhya Singh Upadhyay in Hindi achieved marvelous success in blank verse.

Under the influence of the west many Indian vernacular printing presses were set up and numerous newspapers in Indian languages were started. In 1780 Hickey commenced the publication of the “Bengal Gazette” in English. It was followed by the publication of first Indian vernacular newspaper Bengal Samachar’ in 1816 and the ‘Bombay Samachar’ in Gujarati in 1822. The first Hindi newspaper the ‘Benaras Akhabar’ was started in 1845. Our ancient language Sanskrit was restored to us through English. The first Englishman to learn Sanskrit was Charles Wilkins and the person who clearly realised the significance of Sanskrit was William Jones who came to India in 1783 as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at Calcutta. He founded the Bengal Asiatic Society for the study of the Oriental Literature. The years 1828-70 witnessed the flowering of oriental scholarship and the period between 1870 and 1900 was the publication and circulation of many Sanskrit works like the Sacred Books of the East in fifty volumes, the Harvard Oriental Series, Trubner’s Oriental Series, etc. Wilkins, William Jones, William Hamilton, Colebrooke, Wilson, Williams, James Prinsep, Max Muller and other scholars began to study Sanskrit, edited, translated and published famous works of Sanskrit and thus focussed the attention of the Indians towards the rich heritage of their Sanskrit literature.

(iii) Western Civilisation and Indian Society

We are witnessing a silent revolution in Indian society due to the impact of the west. On one side there was a group of conservatives and reactionaries who warned the people of the insidious encroachments by the west. This group of conservatives and reactionaries also persuaded the people loudly to follow old traditions and customs and maintain social solidity. On the other side there was the group of progressive. They focussed the attention of the people on the major social evils like the untouchability, inequality, backwardness of women, child-marriage, Parda system, illiteracy, polygamy, devdasi system, etc. and induced people to accept good thing of the west. This has aroused our social consciousness and helped in the growth of middle classes.

On account of the impact of the western civilisation and cultural our moral ideas are changed beyond recognition. Our manners and methods, dress and diet, modes of thought and ways of living reveal western traces. The caste system which has been the bed rock of Hindu Society for centuries together is itself collapsing; its rigidity is slackened. Many social evils are disappearing fast. A new view of life and conduct has been introduced in India by the west.

(iv) Indian Religion, Philosophy and the Western Culture and Civilisation

The impact of western civilisation and culture in reduced radical changes in the realm of our religion. Superstition was replaced by reason and conservatism yielded to independent thinking. The traditional explanations of the Shastras were subjected to critical scientific examination. Old beliefs, habits and traditions were critically and rationally examined. In the realm of philosophy we received the western philosophies of materialism, realism and idealism. It created intellectual ferment in the educated classes.

In the modem age contact with the west made Indians realise that scientific inventions lie at the root of the marvellous progress of the west. The west has given us a spirit of inquiry, lure for exploration, method of scientific experiment and invention and holdness of enterprise.

(v) Indian Fine Arts and the West

It is the west which has restored to us our ancient fine arts and made us know the glories of our past. European scholars like Sister Nivedita, Haveli, Ferguson, Hindu Stuart etc., have revealed to the world the salient features of the fine arts of India. Gunningham, Coomarswamy, Marshal, Percy Brown, Smith, Tod, Max Muller and others have written monumental works on the greatness and glories of our past. Thus the successful efforts of the west enabled us to regain our cultural heritage.

 

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