Ram Madhav
October 28, 2019

Conference on Gharib Nawaz – A bridge between Herat and Ajmer (October 28, 2019)

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Text of Shri Ram Madhav’s address at the “Conference on Khwaja Gharib Nawaz – A bridge between Herat and Ajmer” organised by the Institute of Indo-Persian Studies in association with the Embassy of Afghanistan, Chisty Foundation and India-Afghanistan Foundation in New Delhi on October 28, 2019

Excellency Ambassador…. Professor Hussain, my good friend Chishti Sahab, Madam Ramesh, all the Distinguished Scholars and Editor’s present in the audience and Dear Friends.       

Let me at the outset thank Professor Hussain for inviting me to this very important Conference. We cherish our relationship with Afghanistan. As you are very dear to us, we don’t want to lose any opportunity of interacting with people from Afghanistan or people who love Afghanistan. 

A short while ago, Ambassador Khatri was referring to the historic relationship between our two countries and incidentally our topic for this conference is the bridge from Herat to Ajmer. It is actually the bridge from Afghanistan to Hindustan. And this bridge my dear friends is millennia old. We in India cherish this relationship all the way back to the Mahabharata era of Gandhar, the present day Kandhar of Afghanistan. Its ancient civilizational linkages to what we describe as Hindustan or India today date back to several millennia and we are very fond of this relationship because civilizationally we are one people. 

Mohammed Iqbal when he wrote the famous poem “sare Jahan se achcha Hindustan hamara” raised a very important question- “Yunan, Misra, Roma sab mit gaye jahan se, kuch baat hai ki hasti mit ti nahi hamari“. What is the hasti that he was talking about? It is that spirit of innate oneness that keeps this civilizational nation going forever. Political scientists say that politics divides but unfortunately in our case history has also divided us, first they drew the Durand line and divided the people of Afghanistan then they drew the Radcliffe line and divided the people of Hindustan. History has divided us, politics keeps dividing us but it is the civilizational spirit that keeps us united and going. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti represents that spirit. 

Remember the time of the Gharib Nawaz coming to India, it was the very same period when the invading armies were also marching into India from the same direction. Matthew Arnold wrote a very interesting poem “the East bowed low before the blast in patient, deep disdain; She let the legions thunder past, and plunged into deep thought again“.      

We have had two streams coming into India from the west at the same time. One stream was of the legions bringing with them destruction, war and aggression with the sole objective of conquering the land. But at the same time, there came another wave from the West in the form of the Gharib Nawaz coming into India bringing with him a spirit whose objective is to conquer the hearts, the spirit of love that is the civilizational virtue of the East. We are the people and civilization of love.         

Khwaja Gharib Nawaz represented the spirit which is needed to be revived today everywhere in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Hindustan also. Every religion has the potential to produce radicals but it is the duty and responsibility of the society to make sure that it is not the radical ideas that dominate us but the ideas of spirit, love and syncretism against the ideas of hate and violence. For that, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is a shining example. 

Today, people who go to Ajmer Sharif are not necessarily Sunni Muslims alone, not even Muslims alone. People of every faith go there and offer Chaadar to the shrine. It is in respect of that spirit of love and syncretism and of a spiritual and not just political idea of religion that we remember and respect saints like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and Gharib Nawaz. It is that spirit that is the need of the hour. 

Today India continues to love the people of Afghanistan. You have been victims of history, you have had great saints in your country, but history played a havoc, we want you to stand up on your feet again. One way is to help you in your material development which we are doing and will continue to do. India, irrespective of who comes to power is committed to the development and progress on both economic and societal front of the people of Afghanistan but that is not all that is needed today. 

Together with this material development you need to bring Afghanistan back to that great culture and spirit of the time which has made us closer to each other and which was represented by great saints like Gharib Nawaz. This is the spirit that we have always shared. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti became a recluse, a saint where he saw the barbaric evasions from the west on the territory and soil of Afghanistan. He travelled eastwards came to Lahore and Ajmer Sharif. But remember, from here another but similar spiritual gem by the name of Guru Nanak Dev travelled westwards. He went to Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia trying to find this oneness and create a syncretism in our religious beliefs. 

We have done it in the past, we have exchanged this idea of syncretic religion between our two people, it is time that we did it again, we raise the spirit of syncretism and love once again in our own religions. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says “for you to reach that level maybe you will have to rise above your religion also if necessary, Sarva-Dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja“. You may sometimes have to rise above religion to appreciate that great value of the teachings of the great saints like Gharib Nawaz and Guru Nanak Dev or the innumerable Hindu saints. This is the need of the hour today for Afghanistan which is today facing a major historic challenge. 

Just as they did it with the Durand and the Radcliffe lines there can be another effort to create a division again. It is for the people of Afghanistan to stand up as one people and one nation and say that we are committed to bringing back that spirit of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Similarly, Chishti Sahab just mentioned about Kashmir in Hindustan we just have to bring back that spirit. And we are committed to bringing back the real spirit and the religious idea of the eastern world and India especially. The idea of unconditional love, syncretism in religion, respecting diversity and pluralism but committed to peace and nonviolence. 

This year happens to be the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji’s life message has been of non-violence and truthful struggle, struggle based on truth in a non-violent way, this is the idea that we need to bring back and this event, I am sure, will help us re-invent ourselves and re- imagine that society of Afghanistan- the spirit that message of Garib Nawaz to the mankind specially to the people in this region. I am sure this conference will help us bring back that kind of a message and offer it to the entire mankind. 

Let me thank Professor Husain Sahab for giving me this wonderful opportunity and as I said India is always committed to strengthening this bilateral relationship and is standing with the people of Afghanistan in their quest for peaceful development, both material and spiritual. India is always with you, together we have to create a different and peaceful South Asia. Thank you.


Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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