Gujarat boasts of a unique style of weaving, popularly known as the double ikat patola. It is an ancient and intricate technique of tie or knot dyeing on the warp and weft separately, before weaving. Traditional patterns emerge in jewel colours, mostly from the memory of the weavers, in a spectacular mosaic reflected on both sides of the woven fabric. This serves as a perfect metaphor for the wide canvas of languages and dialects that reflect India’s cultural and linguistic diversity.
India’s rich linguistic heritage is similar to streams that flow separately but often mingle. In that interaction, one regional culture deepens and enriches the other. Languages are specific to the cultural environment and these manifestations of the need to communicate are dynamic. The creation of states in India on the basis of language erected artificial political boundaries between regions. These served to curb flowing dynamic cultures across areas with shared affinities apart from differences in language or dialect.
The history of this ancient civilisation is characterised by an incredible cultural continuity. In each community, the evolution of different languages reflects an imaginative response to geographical resources and spaces. Crossing time and space, communities bonded with each other. There is an inherent societal-behavioural idea of continuity, of constant adaptation and assimilation. When the soul that characterises the country remains unchanged, why disturb the equilibrium?
When cultural identities are structured, there is always tension within the social fabric, and the price communities pay for this politicisation is socio-cultural chaos. For any meaningful cultural policy directive in the context of India, it is essential to constantly keep in view the complex, intricate and multi-layered, multi-dimensional cultural fabric of the country, both in time and space.
There has been much debate over a directive prescribing the use of Hindi in the government’s social media communication, and encouraging the use of Hindi for governmental official communication. Such directives, like many others, ignore India’s intrinsic linguistic diversity and inherent plurality, and appear to be a politicisation of cultural heritage. Although they claim that it is the only way to promote a sense of national pride and nationalism, they defy the essence of what this civilisation is about.
Our sense of nationalism in the 19th century emerged when the British introduced several tools that created networks across the physical landscape, such as the postal and transport systems, and various documentation institutions, for example, the Anthropological and Archaeological Surveys of India. English was a major ingredient in the creation of the sense of being a nation.
As Kapila Vatsyayan says, there are 50,000 unread estampages of inscriptions from our monuments and coins lying in the epigraphical sections of the Archaeological continued…