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IMPORTANCE OF CULTURAL FESTIVALS

 
Er. Satya Narayan Shahi
B.Sc. Mechanical Engineering (India)
MS (Manufacturing Engineering & Management (UK)
Email: er.snshah@gmail.com; snshah@wlink.com.np

Culture, in simple words, can be said as identity where common values, attitudes,
preferences, knowledge, etc. are the attributes to the behavior in a particular social
group, and that can have a positive or a negative influence on social development in a
given country or region. This identity also plays very important role in making people
self motivated in the social activities/ developmental activities. The recognition of
people as individual or in a group is the main key to such motivation. This eventually,
gives positive impact on the making of better creative environments.

It is worth quoting the definition of culture by UNESCO. It reads: “in its widest sense,
culture may now be said to be the whole
complex of distinctive spiritual, material,
intellectual and emotional features that
characterize a society or group. It includes
not only the arts and letters, but also modes
of life, the fundamental rights of the
human beings, value systems, traditions
and beliefs.”1

In development work, this means that culture needs to be taken into consideration.
This cultural aspect can be strengthened by increasing intercultural competence, by
cultural analysis and by using culture as a tool. Culture is thus a crosscutting theme in
development work. Culture can be viewed as an assessment tool of special importance
in the planning stage for assessing feasibility, making risk analyses and so on.
Knowledge of power relations and variables is of vital importance when planning and
successfully implementing development co-operation.

Culture can also be characterized as an expression. Cultural expressions are tangible


or intangible manifestations of cultures, for example in the form of art, literature,
music, dance, theatre, film, storytelling etc. Such manifestations have a cultural value,
and can also be of economic value. Cultural expressions are also tools for
communication, information and public debate. Cultural goods and services are
                                                            
1
 Mexico City declaration on cultural policies, UNESCO, 1982

 
vehicles of cultural expressions. Cultural activities are actions devoted to cultural
expressions. Culture is also understood as a sector area for policy intervention and
administration, which in this policy is termed the cultural sector. When referring to
culture as a business sector, the term cultural industry is used.

It has been noted at many levels of society that a dynamic cultural sector is a
prerequisite for a well-functioning public
sphere with arenas for critical debate and
the exchange of ideas. Culture is vital for
developing a sense of identity, attachment
to place, and social participation. The
cultural sector also affects the economic
climate of a country or region, for example
through culture and business development.

Cultural factors are also decisive for


political development. Freedom of
expression and the establishment of free
media and other arenas for critical debate and cultural confrontation are essential if
people are to form their own political opinions and become politically engaged, and
are thus inseparable from any real democratic process. The cultural sector also has its
role to play in conflict prevention and management. So the question is perhaps no
longer whether culture can play a role in development, but how, and what
consequences the new emphasis on intangible factors should have for practical policy.
Cultural rights are one category of human rights, along with civil, political and
economic rights, and one category of educational rights. They are central to a nation’s
identity, coherence, autonomy and self-esteem. Understood broadly, culture relates to
all areas of human activity and thereby warrants due consideration.

Globalization and technological advancements have opened up new opportunities for


cultural workers across the globe. At the same time the growing trend towards
homogenization and commercialization puts pressure on many cultures. Minority
languages and cultures, and developing countries with weak cultural institutions, are
particularly vulnerable. Protecting and promoting cultural diversity affects various
policy areas, and is an important item on the international cultural agenda. One of the
main challenges is to strike a balance between a country’s international obligations
and its freedom to develop and implement policies that maintain and protect its own
cultural diversity and identity.

Since culture is human creation, it is always subject to change. But the change can not
be as quick as electric button switch, which can make the lights on and off too quick.
It may take years to bring changes in culture. For that each one of us, each
community, and each cultural minority has rights that deserve respect, and that each
must have a voice in the vital decisions that affect the quality of our lives. For that it
demands Cultural democracy, which inspires a vision of humanity and embraces us
all. Each of us is as complex and fascinating as the multiple factors and influences
which have shaped our own identities. Each of us is creative, gifted and potentially
powerful. Our communities are creative organisms that dynamically change in
response to the appearance of new people, ideas and circumstances. Cultural
democracy calls forth our most loving selves, illuminates places where healing is
needed, and challenges us to develop the best in ourselves, to be respectful of the
harmonious interrelations of all life on the planet.

The concept of cultural democracy comprises a set of related commitments:

• protecting and promoting cultural diversity, and the right to culture for
everyone in our society and around the world;
• encouraging active participation in community cultural life;
• enabling people to participate in policy decisions that affect the quality of
our cultural lives; and
• assuring fair and equitable access to cultural resources and support.

But again, it is very important to note that the rights are well practiced by the
deserving people or group of people only. That means they have to prove themselves
capable of possessing such desires time to time. One of the best ways to show their
desires is through organizing cultural festivals.

Though the Festivals started as religious celebrations and evolved into celebrations of
a specific theme usually as repeated events in one specific time of the year. These
days other celebrations are also being organized as festivals to show their dedications
and honesty to the event.

The word 'festival' comes from the Latin word ‘festivus’. The word ‘festivus’ is
explained as lively, gay, festive, joyous, gladsome and merry. A festival is defined as
“a special day or period, usually in memory of a religious event, with its own social
activities, food or ceremonies, or an
organized set of special events, such as
musical performances or plays, usually
happening in one place”2. In a festival
there are a series of presentations, or a
gathering of exhibitors in one or more of
the fine arts, or crafts, or such a gathering
based on a central theme, food, season
etc.

The different uses of festivals in cultural


life have been able to popularize in many
parts of the world where all members of the religion/society are involved, into
segmented events for specific audiences through selective procedures. In Nepal, these
festivals have been successful to attract domestic and foreign visitors in a great
numbers, which have encouraged people of different societies/ethnicity to preserve
and prosper their respective cultures.

                                                            
2
 Cambridge International Dictionary 
UTILITY AND RELEVANCE:

1. Not only People of the own country but the whole world get an open opportunity to
understand and realize the sublimities of the glorious tradition of Culture. Hence, the
prestige and pride of people are enhanced and expanded in the world.
2. National integration is strengthened.
3. It opens a new prospect for the due recognition of arts, artifacts and artists in the
world. This expands opportunities for cultural exchanges.
4. People have occasions to understand the varied cultures of the world and assess
their own in the mosaic.
5. The importance of the Festivals can be realised in terms of national economy also,
since this can be an endeavour to expand and explore a worldwide market for arts and
artifacts.
6. This is an opportunity to attract more foreign tourists resulting more foreign
currency by the widening of opportunities for export of the art and handicraft pieces.
7. Incentives from different countries of the world can encourage people engaged in
various areas of culture to dedicate themselves more in the development and
promotion of culture. It does not only give new life to the cultural traditions and art
getting obscure but will also give employment opportunities to the artists.
8. The mobilization of a great part of manpower through converting their traditional
skills into income generation can help cultural aggrandizement and be in the interest
of national development.
9. It can help in establishing cultural democracy in the nation’s political context.

THE WAY FORWARD:

Visions of culture, wording, cultural identity, cultural heritage, globalization,


multiculturalism vs. transculturality, cultural diversity, civil society etc must be well
defined in Cultural Policy of the nation.
This is the main uniting and encouraging
guides for the people and artists to
organize cultural festivals. Schools and
community centers can play very lively
role in organizing such events. Schools
must encourage their students to
organize such festivals which can
cultivate a sense of acceptance of the
cultural elements of their own and the
others too. It must be remembered that a
cultural loss is a national loss in fact, a loss of the entire mankind. This necessitates an
effort to protect it from extinction by drawing attention of the people towards their
culture. In this concern the role of the artist and festivals in today's societies must
have to be defined to have result oriented events.

Another very important point to be considered is to have wide discussions on various


aspects of culture and extend them to public, elite and mass audiences. They require a
cultural environment in which dialogue, independence, mutual respect, critique,
creativity and public discourse prevail. Such an environment presupposes appropriate
schools, religious institutions, arts organizations and media of communication. Above
all the attitudes of people count a lot.

                                                            
i
Er. Shah is founder president of Mithila Cultural Centre, Janakpurdham. He has been actively participating in cultural activities. 
He is also associated with many other social and professional organizations.