CIVILISATIONAL JOURNEYS

– AJEET COUR

If one drew a line from Afghanistan to Bhutan, and another from Kashmir to Sri Lanka and Maldives, one finds that there is no break in communication between any two contiguous points. Communication breaks down only on extreme points of the scale. Given the multiplicity of Languages, Cultures and Ethnic Groups in the SAARC region, an extension of this premise to the entire South Asian region is certainly not beyond the realm of fact.

The SAARC region while apportioned by geopolitical realities, is also united by its cultural realities. The break in communication can only be political and not cultural.
Folklore, as part of our Intangible Heritage, is the most potent civilisational link among nations of the SAARC region, extending to even Burma (Myanmar).
Of all the emotional linkages, our Intangible Heritage and FOLKLORE is of most vital importance, because it emanates from our centuries-old historical memories, and goes back to centuries of civilisational evolution of this region.

Besides sharing our clouds and monsoons, our birds and animals, our oceans and rivers, our flora and fauna, we in the SAARC region share long civilisational journeys, horizontally and vertically, on micro and macro levels.

Folklore and Intangible Heritage represent our ever-green roots, with centuries-old moisture soaked in their entrails, the roots which spread out across the region, and give us our unique cultural ethos.

Our Intangible Heritage and Folklore are vitally important for us, and bringing them to the foreground of our urgent concerns acquires urgency, because in the whirlwind of globalization and vulgar consumerism, it is only the moisture in our roots which sustains us.
Our Intangible Heritage includes Folklore and our Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Historical Memories of thousands of years, since the Indus Valley Civilisation.
The genesis of all cultures is in the oral tradition which has been responsible for passing on, from generation to generation, the pristine grandeur and haunting fascination of memories, narrated in our Folklore. Every SAARC country’s culture bears the imprint of that oral heritage.

With the passage of time, the society gradually changed, and the oral tradition slowly became less visible as some of the human languages acquired scripts. That gave rise to the written mode of human expression, which was a double-edged blessing, sparkling with the brilliance of modern times. But it also lost something very precious and valuable for the mankind : our oral traditions and ancient knowledge systems.

Our intangible heritage and folk culture defines our identity as it is tied up with our historical memory.

The Intangible Heritage and Folklore of the SAARC countries has a strange continuity and similarity of our feelings and age-old experiences, since the beginning of mankind, in this civilisational belt.

This is the culture which does not depend on the elite. It is the culture of the folk: Tribals and Adivasis, and the common masses. It is the culture still living, throbbing, thriving in the mud-huts of villages, in the fields of the farmers, in the forests which are the dwellings of the Adivasis and the Tribals.
The people living in the 21st century must have an idea of the glory of those bygone times, from stone age from where we get proof of folk paintings on the stones of caves in which man lived, when human civilization was in its inspired youthful phase. Ideas were fresh, expression was new, and the zest for life was infectious. Culture was a way of life, something in which everyone was involved – young and old, men and women. It gave a unique dynamism and pristine aura to the existence of man. The youthful exuberance was an expression of the inherent energy and the ingrained aesthetics of the human society. They knew what life really meant and they lived it to the hilt, in unique symphony with nature, birds, trees, animals, rivers, streams, elephants and little ants.

Folklore makes the fabric of a culture more attractive, more intense and more humane. A society or a community which has not been careful in preserving its folklore, becomes a rootless plant or a rudderless boat. The disappearance of folklore is a great threat to culture. The society has to wake up and make all-out efforts to preserve the cherished heritage of folklore.