The Human Cohesion Project — 20 Apr 2022
A friend sent across a video of her students rendering a graceful Kathak performance set to Bulleh Shah’s beautiful poetry ‘Hori khelungi kah kar bismillah’, and it made me wistfully remember the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb of yore. It refers to the syncretic culture that evolved around the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in north Indian plains. It evolved over centuries when the idea of India was that of a larger subcontinent, with highly porous borders between kingdoms.
While the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb mainly refers to a Hindu-Muslim interface, it also included a larger interfaith exchange between cultures that evolved as the eastern religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism — met the ones that came from the west — Islam and Christianity — both through colonisation and trade. The culture held space for accommodation of confluences, resulting in a harmony that gifted the land with many beautiful legacies: Kashmiri Muslim carpet makers began featuring the Hindu goddess Durga in their patterns, while Hindu craftsmen create the Muharram tazia. Syncretic art forms such as the Kathak dance form, poetry from the Bhakti movement which helped to democratise and recontextualise Vedic traditions, etc. evolved in this context.
As fundamentalist interpretations of both Islam and Hinduism abound today, the mind harks back to Kabir’s verse from this syncretic culture:
कोई जपे रहीम रहीम / कोई जपे है राम / दास कबीर है प्रेम पुजारी / दोनों को परनाम
Some chant Allah, some chant Ram, Kabir worships love, and reveres them both.
Ramadan Kareem. May we remember our capacity for confluences.
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