Features of the Cultures of India and Thailand
Common Features Of The Cultures Of India And Thailand
By Dr. Ravindra Kumar
Culture, which, in Indian terms, is Samskriti, is derived from the word Samskara. It describes or identifies the behaviour of inhabitants of a particular region or a human society, or a particular nation. Simultaneously, it is culture which provides knowledge of those basic sacraments of inhabitants of a region or the nation which guide their lives.
Indian Culture is one of the oldest cultures of the world. There are some evidences of behaviours of the people living in the Indian Sub-Continent during the stone-age, which is approximately four thousand B. C. In those days, as per the available evidences, Indians used to live collectively, and they used to practice Ahimsa-the non-violence. No doubt, collectivity in life and practice of non-violence were the two chief and basic sacraments of Indians in those days, side-by-side they were the main features of the Indian Culture.
We have clearer evidences of behaviours and life-style of Indians of the Indus Valley Civilization, which is approximately two thousand five hundred years B. C. Not only have the both above-mentioned two chief sacraments of Indians come to be known, but, in addition, we find more sacraments in the lives of the people giving an account of features of their rich culture. Indians of the Indus Valley Civilization were marching towards development in various walks of life; they were having good management, planning and uniformity; they had a language and script, they were religious; and they had, more or less, developed a spirit of international co-operation.
The most significant, exemplary and ever inspiring sacrament, as a feature of Indian Culture, developed around two thousand B. C. when synthesis between the Dravidians and Aryans took place. It was due the synthesis of sacraments of people belonging to both of them that Indian Culture attained a new dimension and it was for this reason that the Culture of India could not only maintain itself, but it could leave a deep impact upon inhabitants of the whole of the world.
It will not be out of context to mention here that after the synthesis of sacraments of Dravidians-Aryans not only socio-religious uniformity took place, but the usage of rituals, sainthood and faith began in the life of Indians; era of knowledge emerged, comprehensiveness came in the worship-method; philosophy was visualized and it comprehended liberality. To repeat again the synthesis started from here onwards and subsequently it became foremost feature or characteristic of the Indian Culture.
In the 4th Century B. C. Greeks, along with their cultural attributes, came in contact with the Indian Culture followed by Shakas and Kushanas in the 1st Century B. C.-1st Century A. D., Hunas in the 5th Century A. D., [Muslims] Arabs in the 8th-12th Century A. D. and Mongols and Europeans in the 14th -15th Century A. D. And the Indian Culture patronized all adaptable aspects of all of them without abandoning its fundamental features like collectivity in life, practice of non-violence, co-operation, comprehensiveness etc. in general and the synthesis in particular.
Today, when we talk of the chief features of the Indian Culture, we get that it indicates unity in diversity; it is integrator and comprehensive, away from short-sightedness; it is liberal in outlook and thus grasps pressures; it is all-welfaristic and accords message of ‘Live and Let Live’; non-violence-the Ahimsa and Truth occupy supreme place in it. Simultaneously, the Indian Culture guides a human being to lead a peaceful and successful life through his day-to-day activities, behaviours and conducts and calls upon humanity to achieve peace as the ultimate goal of life by integrating knowledge and action.
The inhabitants of Thailand, earlier also known as Siam, developed many sacraments, Samskaras, thousands of years ago as the others did. The people of Thailand, one of the oldest countries of Asia, started living collectively as the history of this region provides an account of cultural attributes of them. Long ago, the Thais began to live in the family, one of the principal and the most important institutions in Asia; they fixed duties of each and everyone while living in the family; and they had proceeded ahead with sacraments like bun khun [obligation of gratitude] and chai yen [cool heartedness]. Thousand of years ago they also developed the characteristic of welcoming guests and gratitude.
We have before us clearer history of the Thai Culture of the last two thousand years or more in general. In this regards, the eras of Dvaravati Empire [457-657 A. D.], Srivijaya Empire [657-1157 A. D.] and Khmer Empire [957-1257 A. D.] can be mentioned here particularly. But prior to it, Thais had intermingled their sacraments-Samskaras-with the Vedic [Brahmin] Values during the Khom Empire, which, apart from the territories of the present Thailand, included Cambodia, parts of Laos, Vietnam and Malaya. It was the time when the synthesis became the most significant, exemplary and ever inspiring feature of the Thai Culture also. Later, Thai adopted many sacraments of Chinese philosophies-Confucian and Taoism and Indian philosophy-of Buddhism in particular, and gave dimensions to their day-to-day practices.
It was due to the characteristic of synthesis that the Thais adopted virtues like theism, cleanliness, comprehensiveness, gaining of knowledge, forbearance and tolerance in day-to-day practices from Vedic [Brahmanism], or in other words from Indian Culture. Also they started developing relations with others by breaking territorial limits. In the same manner, even before Christ, they adopted virtues like sacrifice, kindness, equality and service for humanity from Confucianism and Taoism. The Thais, time-to-time, welcomed to their land the inhabitants not only from adjourning territories like Burma, Cambodia, Laos, but from India and China.
When during the 3rd Century B. C. the Buddhism was flourishing in India under Ashoka the great, two priests of high stature reached Nakorn Pathom with Hiinayaana school of thought. They were accorded grand welcome and allowed to propagate Buddhist Values, basis of which is Karuna [the Compassion]. And as we all know, later Karuna became an integral part of Thai Culture and life; even today it occupies the foremost place in the Thai Values. Later, during the Srivijaya Empire when scholars belonging to Mahaayaana school of thoughts reached Thailand, many other Buddhist values like five precepts [Panchasheela], three-fold training [Triratna], law of action [Karma] and the middle way [Majjhimapatipada] were adopted in more comprehensive manner by Thais as sacraments-Samskaras.
No matter if today the Hiinayaana Buddhism is the State Religion of Thailand. The most significant thing is this that today’s Thailand is the unique example of the synthesis of various values and the races, and the Thai Culture appears before us with its exemplary features like unity in diversity, liberality, co-ordination, peaceful co-existence and Karuna-the Compassion. It calls upon the people to be honest and fair in their deeds or daily practice; to assist each other in routines and through good deed to reach the goal-peace.
Now, in conclusion we can definitely say that both-the Culture of India as well as of Thailand-are exemplary; they are to be followed for their common feature of unity in diversity. The synthesis or the co-ordination is foremost in them. The Indian Culture is older than the Culture of Thailand and it is composite in nature. But Thai Culture is, too, more or less, a composite one. For thousands of years both of them have been nurturing the high human values like Ahimsa [non-violence] and Karuna [compassion] and remained far from rigidity.
The up-bringers of both the cultures always opened doors to those who came to their fold; both of them, maintaining their identity, adopted basic sacraments of others and merged their values in them. But, simultaneously, as per the demand of time and space, those who could not succeed to unite themselves with the basic sacraments-Samskaras-of cultures of India and Thailand, they separated themselves from the main stream of national progress and went out of the domain of peace. Even today this fact can be well understood in India and Thailand.
For the safety of existence, progress and peace, the common features of cultures of India and Thailand accord a wonderful dimension, which is, definitely, worth giving a thought and deserves to be followed.
*Dr. Ravindra Kumar is an eminent writer, thinker, scholar, political-scientist, peace-worker and educationist, who has more than 150 works on great personalities of the Indian Sub-Continent including Mahatma Gandhi, and on various social, religious, political, historical, educational and cultural issues to his credit. Some of his well-known works include Morality & Ethics in Public Life, Theory & Practice of Gandhian Non-Violence, Non-Violence & Its Philosophy, Five Thousand Years of Indian Culture, Mahatma Gandhi at the Close of Twentieth Century, Towards Peace, Fundamentals of Civilization, Towards Buddha, Gautama Buddha and the Dhammapada, and Mahatma Gandhi in the Beginning of Twenty-First Century. A noted Indologist and the Former Vice-Chancellor of Meerut University, India, Dr. Ravindra Kumar has been associated with a number of national and international academic, cultural, educational, social and peace organizations & institutions. He has visited many countries of the world as a Visiting Professor and Scholar and has delivered more than 350 lectures around the world on subjects related to Asian values, civilization, culture, economic-cooperation, Gandhism, human rights, international understanding, way of life and world peace. Dr. Ravindra Kumar is the Editor of Global-Peace-International Journal. Between 1993 and 2007 he has organized many national and international seminars at various places on Religion & Politics, Morality & Ethics, Education, Peace & Development, Non-Violence & Democracy, Human Rights & Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi. Besides Nirala Smriti Samman, Shan-i-Kaum, Ambassador for Peace, Sardar Patel National Award and other honours, Padma Shri was awarded to Dr. Ravindra Kumar by H. E. the President of India.