Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Nation is a cultural concept. People are one

Saptahik Hindustan (May 1, 1977) reported a remarkable event. Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Delhi, was in Mecca for pilgrimage. A local resident asked the Imam, ‘Are you a Hindu?’ Imam was startled and replied: ‘No, I am a Muslim. Why do you ask?’ The answer given by the local resident is instructive: “In Mecca, all Hindusthanis are called Hindu.” The historian Arnold Toynbee calls the nationality of people of India as Hindu. So do US President George Bush and many other western leaders and scholars.

Hindu rashtra will be realised when all citizens of Bharat call themselves Hindu, affirming their national identity, a shared identification, a shared cultural heritage received from ancestors—cutting across regions.

Hindu rashtra has not hankered after territory nor engaged in armed conquests nor sought out territories. What the rashtra stood for—dharma—has only conquered the hearts of many—winning friends across a vast civilisational domain from Eurasia to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and across an expansive Hindumahasagar (Indian Ocean) of rim of over 63,000 miles extending from Madagascar to Tasmania. If Hindusthan takes the initiative to get an Indian Ocean Community constituted as a counterpoise to the European Community, it will be a resounding global initiative for abhyudayam of almost one-third of the people of the globe with a potential 6 trillion dollar combined GDP.

Nation is the atman. Country is the body. State is the protective robe.

A Hindu believes in the fact that every living being and phenomenon on the globe is a divine manifestation. No dogma or doctrine governs the Hindu way of life. The only emphasis is on responsibility, duty: protection of dharma since dharma protects us. The accent is on collective responsibility, not on individual, atomised rights.

Mahatma Gandhi was not a communalist when he said: “Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after Truth. And if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued; and as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps unknown before.” Similar views were echoed by many great Hindus – for example Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Tilak.

Hindu has an adhyatmik mission to fulfil in this globe: to restore the primacy of dharma.

The Hindu nation was not a recent phenomenon. Both Rigveda and Atharva Veda, two very ancient text, note:

Rig Veda III.53.12: Visvamitrasya rakshati brahmedam Bharatam janam (trans. This mantra of Visvamitra protects the nation of Bharat).

Atharva Veda 19.41.1: “Bhadram icchanta rishayah swarvidah tapo deeksham upanishedush agre tato rashtram balam ojashca jaatam tadasmai devah uasannamantu (trans. The sages, aspiring for a higher and better standard, work with diligence and devotion; they inspire people to do their duty with dedication. This is the way how nations and communities grow strong.)

---;s nsok nsolqo% LFk r beekeq";k;.keufe=kk; lqoèoEegrs {k=kk; egr vkf/iR;k; egrs tkujkT;k;S"k oks Hkjrk jktk lkseks¿LekdEczkã.kk.kka jktk izfr R;Uuke jkT;eèkkf; Loka ruqoa--- (YV (trans. O ye divinitiess that invoke the divinities, invoke him to achieve freedom from enmity, to great lordship, overlordship, to great rule for the people). In this text, jaanaraajyaayaisha refers to “the state of the people”.

The use of the words, Bharat and rashtram are instructive. Etymologically, they are relatable respectively to bhrt ‘to defend, protect’ and ‘people’ (organised in a rajya or janapada).

As 7 crore people went to Ma Ganga for a dip in the last triveni sangamam at Prayagraj on Kumbh mela day, all pilgrims of all panthas were fused into one identity of venerating the sacred waters of Ma Ganga which have sustained the Hindu civilisation for millennia. Same goes for 5 lakh people who take a dip in Brahmasarovar on a solar eclipse day or the 5 lakh people who go to Ram Sethu on ashadha amavasya day to offer homage to the ancestors, remembering those elders who have given us our identity.

When the state found it necessary to get rid of the shackles of an external force, say, a colonial regime engaged in colonial loot, the nation rose as one reinforcing this common identity and seek swarajyam, independence—for freedom is the very essence of dharma. The struggles for achieving freedom from serfdom reinforced the unity of the nation of Hindusthan. It is a travesty of history that one nation was broken up, 60 years ago, into two states in a diabolical move by the retreating colonial regime. History will not stand mute; the nation will find itself in its resplendent unity and become that Bharatam of which the jurist, Manu, wrote.

The country which is created by God, which lies between the two sacred rivers, Saraswathi and Drishadvati, is called Brahmavarta. Kurukshetra, Matsya, Panchala and Shurasena are the regions which go by the name of Brahmarshi Desha. The country to the north of which lie the Himalaya mountains, and to the South of which are the Vindhya Mountains and to the east of which there is an area called Vinashana in which area the river Saraswati is hidden and to the West of which is Prayag, is called Madhya Desha. The area which is surrounded by the sea in the east and in which the mountain ranges are located, is called Aryavarta. (Manu

With the rich resources of Hindu civilisational traditions, all citizens of the state can identify themselves with the ancestors who have bequeathed a remarkable culture and a unique value system, a governing order in all human affairs, called dharma. Our states may be many: for example, Afghanistan, Pakistan, now Bangladesh. But the nation is one: Hindu. All the states share common beliefs and traditions – beyond family, beyond village, beyond community, beyond the state—and this commonness, this we-ness (aatmiyata) defines the nation, the Hindu rashtram in a geographical entity called Hindusthanam, the country with distinct boundary-markers of the Indian Ocean (Hindumahasagar) in the South and Himalayas in the North, as noted by Manu. This dharti, this homeland, this punya bhumi is the space for integrated development, called abhyudayam in our ancient textual traditions.

Being Hindu is being simply a national of Bharat, that is Hindusthan. When George Coedes, the famous French epigraphist, wrote about the great world heritage monument called Angkor Wat (Nagara Vatika), he titled his work, in French: Les Etats hindouises d’Indochine et d’Indonesie (Paris, 1948), he meant ‘Hinduised states of Indo-China and Indonesia (now called Southeast Asia)’ a clear account of the influence of Hindusthan in establishing state institutions in this Indian ocean region.

Muslims, Christians and Hindus have grown on the soil called Hindusthan, shared common rights and responsibilities, prospered together using the bounties of this mother earth. Hindu is our common nationality. Being Muslim, Christian or belonging to any sampradaya is not a national identity but a declaration of one’s chosen path for nihshreyad (uniting atman with paramaatman). Thus, the nationality is Hindu in Hindusthan. Hindu is my nation, my pantha or religion may be anything. Thus, the nation or rashtram is totally delinked from religion. This has been the tradition for millennia in this nation of India, that is Bharat.

The Hindu delineation of nation can be traced to vedic texts. The word used in Rigveda for a nation is raashtram ‘national identity’, clearly distinguishable from rajyam ‘state’.

The western concept of ‘state’ is not fully applicable to Hindu civilisational traditions. Social and political structures have existed in Hindusthan for millennia and Hindus have felt themselves bound by an order. That established, eternal order is dharma. Living by dharma calls for a code of conduct.

From very early times, the state administrative apparatus have been in place in Hindusthan. Irrespective of the form of government, be it a janapada, be it a rajya, be it a guild, the national identity has been firmly anchored on one primordial order called dharma and freedom for every individual to practise any chosen path (pantha) for nihshreyas (uniting the atman with the paramatman), one of two facets of dharma. But as a collectivity, the goal was clear: abhyudayam which is the other facet of dharma. This dharma is often called sanatana, that is eternal. Even Gautama the Buddha says: esha dhammo sanantano echoing the fact that Bauddham was only a continuum in this march of dharma, the eternal ethic of righteousness, an order which holds together both the cosmos and collective consciousness.

Rig Veda refers to spash (nrcaksho drashthaaro ‘supervisors’), even the sun is called a spash. (Many titles mentioned in texts and epigraphs point to an effective organisation for public administration from early times. Right from the 10th century there have been officers called mukhya-mantrin (chief minister) (Rajatarangini 8.333, 8.2470). One epigraph refers to amaatya-tilaka in the plural (T.A.G. Rao, EI 9 (1907-08), p. 334). Nishaada sthapati (ranked below the king’s brother or senaani and above the caravan leader) may refer to a consecrated chief by the people themselves. Purohita was ranked above the senaani and was the dharma adviser. The primacy assigned to righteousness in state administration is highlighted by Marco Polo who says about a group of traders called Cetti-s of Tamil Nadu: “These abraiaman are the best merchants in the world, and the most truthful, for they would not tell a lie for anything on earth.” (The Book of Ser Marco Polo, trans. H. Yule, 3rd ed., London 1929 (repr. London 1974), vol. 2, p. 363). Any infractions of conduct were punished by the guilds themselves which clearly functioned as state entities. [K.R.V. Aiyer, JIH 25 (1947), pp. 269-280]. Uttaramerur inscriptions of Chola (9th century) is a village (janapada) constitution detailing composition of wards, committees of elected members to manage the wards, qualifications/disqualifications of candidates standing for elections, secret ballot election. Somadeva dedicates his Nitivakyamrta (1.1) to ‘a rajya which grants righteousness, success and desires’; the term ‘rajya’ is closest to the western concept of ‘state’. Somadeva further elaborates rajyam with an allegory: The king is the root of the rajyam and his people are all the rest of the tree. (17.3-5). Kautilya (1.7.6) regards artha as the basis for dharma and kaama, while elaborating the science of the state or duties of a king of a rajyam. This is one way of stating that there should be harmony among the three goals: artha, kaama and dharma (righteousness). In this perspective, rajadharma is the pursuit of artha or creation of wealth.

It should be noted that dharma is also driven by twin objectives, one at a personal level and the other at a social level: nihshreyas (related to unity of aatman with paramaatman) and abhyudayam (related to creation of wealth).

There are two components in discussing a nation: geographical setting and the world-view. Geographical setting is spelt out in many well-known definitions. The world-view is the order that holds everything, that order is dharma.

Satapatha Brahmana ( notes: raashtram vai ashvamedhah, trans. ‘building up of the nation is ashvamedha’. The exhortation is to build the nation with valour (ashva) and intellect (medha). Medha also means yajna; ashva in Ashvamedha is a qualitative statement related to yajna. Gopatha Brahmana says (3.3.19): sauryo vai ashva trans. ‘effulgence of Sun is ashva’. The etymology of ashva is ash + kvan = ashnute ‘one who possesses fast speed’. Thus ashva is interpreted as connoting ‘valour’.

The yajna is thus a metaphor for building a rashtram using valour and intellect.

This metaphor is augmented by underscoring the order which regulates everything in the cosmos in collective consciousness; this order is dharma. Hindu rashtra is a dharma nation.

What steps can be taken to further promote national unity? Two steps: 1) work for setting up a Hindumahasagar Community (on the lines of European Community) for abhyudayam through projects like Trans-Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway and 2) to create a memorial (rivaling the Arlington Memorial of USA) to celebrate the contributions made by our ancestors (ancestors of all Muslims, Christians and of all other panthas under sanatana dharma who were all Hindu), who defended the nation with their lives and sacrifices. This will be true yajna, pitru-tarpanam (homage to ancestors)– a duty, a responsibility of present and future generations of the youngest nation on the globe (with 35 per cent of the population less than 15 years of age).

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