A Critical Commentary on ‘Changing Cultural and Civilizational Paradigms in Nepalese Society’
After reading ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ of Thomas Hardy, I was much satisfied and comforted that me, my society and the nation are still maiden in every sense; there are no any bitter and unforgettable scars of the World Wars and the changing European and American mode of life and its style, in many contemporariness Hardy’s novel was more than 6 decades old but the message casted by Hardy was as much contemporary as it was when he first jotted down his words to write the novel. The then West was with chaos and frustration of being witnessed the changing game players of the World Wars and Industrial Revolution, revolutionized human his lifestyle, evolving class struggle, discriminatory racism, world civilization and so-called democracy. In the same juncture of time, different political ideologues and ideologies were prevalent and different usages of the philosophies and the doctrines were producing difficult and different dimensions of life and its mode as for example the then United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).
After the Second World War when UN as the governing body of human civilization and its protection from all the Social, Political, Cultural and Religious evils was imagined for the first time by Henry Truman since then Foreign Aid Politics and Aid Governance rules and manages entire globe. Nevertheless, there are arguments that UN is the tool, methodology, and approach for the West to use UN for its vested interests. Through, UN and aid agencies West is exercising power dynamics into the third world like Nepal. Basically, mentioning the above lines I want to admit that the Planned Development Intervention by Planning Commission of Nepal after 2007 BS is the benchmark from where the west started peering Nepal closely.
Taking the reference of various Sociologists and Anthropologists, Culturists, and Historians Nepal was the Closed Society till when Rana Prime Minister Janga Bahadur Rana for the first time in Nepalese history visited the United Kingdom, with this exposure of Janga Bahadur Rana many instant influences and long-term impacts of British culture can be seen and realized in Nepal. British Architect, lifestyle, development, and overall holistic lifestyle were highly influenced by it. Construction and decoration of interior and the outer skirt was furnished with British style as for example Singh Durbar, Lal Durbar, Narayanhiti, Keshar Mahaletcs. After the visit, Rana brought drastic changes in his own lifestyle and way of living and the people of Nepal. After, Junga Bahadur Rana’s visit many other Ranas and the then Royals visited west and brought and accepted significant changes and influences in Nepalese culture, way of living and tradition. Big hanging portraits on the walls of the staircases, radio, furniture, perfumes, dresses etc are some of the examples that were copied from this visit.
If one turns the pages of the history of Nepal and its people then he/she finds one remarkable admission made by different authors along with the exposure.
Political movements are the significant contributors in this series. After the restoration of Democracy in 2007 BS the west particularly the UK had already started having a diplomatic relation in Nepal. The political transitions, Nepali Congress, and its activities in the land and neighboring India and new political climax as the entry of late king Mahendra and banned the party system and rise of Panchayat in 2017, after this political Coup entire political parties were displaced and banned and centralized party politics and activities in exile. This draws the attention of the West and slowly other countries also started having diplomatic relationship with Nepal.
Let me mention one another significant fragment of Nepalese history of Rana and Political Movements to overthrow Rana regime in Nepal. These movements are the byproducts of learning being nurtured looking and experiencing Indian Freedom Movement from British rule, entire colonialism of the world was charged with being inhumane, violating fundamental human rights and being discriminatory in every aspect, shape, and size. Thus, this sense of identity crisis throughout the world and its influence in Nepal also remained remarkable. Together, Nepali people made it possible by overthrowing Rana.
Prof. Chaitanya Mishra, Prof. Krishna Bhattachan, Prof. Dilli Ram Dahal have been agreed and have mentioned in their researches that Nepal started being exposed after the unification of Nepal and the role played by Prithvi Narayan Shah getting engaged with neighboring the then Indian territorial kings. His engagement can be categorized as of two types first creating a new relationship by marriages and having diplomatic relations. Prithvi Narayan Shaha had got very good tie up with the then Punjab King. He used to manage to collect the weapons needed for unification from Indian territories.
Panchayat Period witnessed many other countries having diplomatic missions in Nepal and Nepal to the world. With this new avenue of getting closer and nearer to one human from another human opened up and developed the world bond of being human. Along with it, traveling places and countries by the mankind starts taking place. Nepal becomes open for the rest of the world to be lost in nature and to have adventures of altitudinal activities including trekking, hiking, mountaineering. In this connection the successful expedition of Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenjing Sherpa to the Everest becomes vale add to introduce Nepal to the country of Everest and Himalayas.
The entry of Christian Missionaries in Nepal is also historical. As mentioned by many historians and culturists Nepal has witnessed already, the Christian Fathers in Malla dynasty in Nepal. Since then many such Christian Missionaries entered Nepal as history records it. This was another way of being Nepal exposed to the rest of the world. From ancient past, many travelers have made a visit like Mark Twain in Nepal.
As I have mentioned earlier, Aid starts coming to Nepal from First Plan. Since then many diplomatic missions, UN agencies, by laterals/multilateral, INGOs started being the partner of the government in the development process. Together with it massive and drastic changes were seen and realized in Nepal. Colombo Plan is the landmark that advocates the Primary History of Nepalese development process and Foreign Aid. Those who got the opportunities to receive the Colombo Plan are the real candidates to inject the vested interests of the aid giver into the inland. Together with the Colombo Plan a new generation was constructed in the country that remained a bit different from the crowd. Together with it expats, their families, friends visited Nepal voraciously.
Now, Nepalese society remained no more closed, yes, one should not forget that still in this 21st century one of the chief characteristics of Nepalese society and culture is to be ‘closed’. This closeness brought the significant diversities in Nepalese society and culture.
Inland political and social movements together with political framework were also ongoing in the country. So, its impact can be recognized as being liberal, open. Different change agents brought significant changes in people, attitude and in consciousness but the leadership of Nepalese political parties became unable to grasp this change and to utilize and use these changes for the wider population.
Unemployment, poverty cycle, lack of resource, no access to services, lack of education and ignorance together brought nationwide dissatisfaction and frustration and this dissatisfaction resulted and lead into mass political movements. Thus, Nepalese society is witnessing a huge population being migrated to various countries particularly to the Gulf and Malaysia. Together with it, many new change agents entered in Nepalese society, liberal economy, open market policy, privatization, drastic change in mass media and digital age of technology brought significant changes in Nepalese society.
Social media becomes one of the very crucial and fundamental change makers that governed the system and mechanism of culture; and its practice and its expansion to the wider effect. Hesitant Nepali youths are no more prevailing in the society. A married woman has got serious chats online with a boy or some one’s husband and vice versa.The emergence of social media has been instrumental for organizing, campaigning, lobbying, awareness raising, sensitizing, empowering, information disseminating to the wider public and to wider reach but together with it many ethical and moral values have been endangered and challenged, many such instances can be heard and read in the medias daily.
Therefore, Nepalese society and its chronological development and its manifestation have to be widely researched. Yet, we don’t have such literature that can outline the clear chronological changes that Nepali society faced and internalized. But one thing is true and is equally accepted that there is no more trace left behind to say Nepalese Society as the ‘closed society’.
Yet, we have to realize that diversity is our strength whether that is cultural, sociological, linguistic, diversity of geopolitics and Geography, diversity of nature, biodiversity, our chief characteristic is to be ‘unique’ in itself. But slowly, it is decaying the harmony- that remains underneath the diversity- are being decayed. It has been widely articulated by the so called political parties and politicians and has been made ‘politicalized’. As, I realize it is not the issue, content or the context of politics nor the issue underlying it are political, rather it is part of Hindu and Buddha religion conducting equity practice with Muslim or Christian fellow human.
The diversity makes a Himalayan Sherpa being identified as the climber and practicing ‘Om Mani PeMe Hu’. Hilly Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Magars, Rais, Limbus knew as chief Nepalese castes that are preserving the ‘being Nepali’ culture and the Newars of Kathmandu for its international expansion. Terai people-Madhesi is producing yearlong feeding to this population. Chhat can be realized in non-Madhesi territories too are synonymous to each other from ancient past and it goes with Nepalese society and culture everlasting. But, realizations are made widely that we are under big question mark in the modern political history, we are experiencing ill practices and deeds by one fellow to other only because we are ‘politicized’. Fundamental thing is that ‘being political is human’ but being ‘politicized’ is to be being used by the power structures.
Every change cannot be ‘transformation’-the need in the country is of creating and developing ‘Transformative Learning Process’-where one critically reflects and retrospect based on it corrects himself/herself and changes his/her practice. While these kinds of practices are institutionalized in the society/community it brings social, political, cultural, religious, economic justice to make the society just and democratic.
Just and democratic practices are nevertheless the product of a day it demands a series of time, therefore how we are nurturing our kids determines the ‘Transformation’ and its learning process which in builds a culture, a popular and equally accepted popular culture ( its not Pop Culture), the need of the time and society is of creating ‘Popular Culture’ so let everyone be part of it and get engaged with your children with the process of doing no harm, positive thinking, social harmony, mutual trust and respect so that to develop ‘Popular Culture’, the country demands outright now and is high time to act upon it. Together it is possible.
Let us welcome and invite every change and accept it and act accordingly so that change can be transformed from one generation to another creating participatory culture where irrespective of kin, caste, class everyone can enjoy and access the opportunity as per capacity, in the case society becomes full of harmony where each one of us can get cultivating environment for us.
(Author is Rural Sociologist and Anthropologist)